INTRODUCING MALA FOREVER – THE MULTI-PURPOSE PLATFORM OF 2019 0 251

As a platform that as a whole is a hugely impressive creative lab for the radical femme revolution, with original film projects, an editorial digital magazine and commissioned work, Mala Forever, set up by Nina Reyes Rosenberg and Jessie Levandov and launched in November of last year, is leading the way when it comes to new and upfront platforms that champion the art of creativity and expression. With a busy year ahead, ThisIsTheLatest caught up with Nina and Jessie to find out more about the creation of Mala Forever, the power and impact of social media on its audience and their two upcoming film releases.

TITL: Please introduce yourselves if you would.

Mala Forever: We are Nina Reyes Rosenberg and Jessie Levandov, the co-founders and directors of Mala Forever – a radical feminist film studio, digital platform, creative agency, and community.

TITL: How do the two of you know each other and how did you come up with the idea for Mala Forever? Why did you feel that now was the right time to launch the platform?

MF: Mala Forever is a concept we have been dreaming up pretty much the whole time we’ve known each other – we met as film students at NYU where we bonded through our love of queer feminist stories, and have been best friends and creative partners ever since. Mala is the culmination of our diverse leadership experience in film and video, community-based social justice, and fine art and design.

We are part of a unique cultural moment, in which sexism, white male supremacy and heteronormativity in media and entertainment are finally being discussed at the level of national discourse. Now is the time for us to band together and build lasting creative infrastructure, not just for ourselves but in community with marginalized creators.

TITL: What would you say the other brings to MF? Do you each put your own ‘stamps’ on the site and its content in some way?

Nina: Jessie is a very earthly being. She keeps me grounded with a lot of warm energy and her genuine love of people. She’s amazing at documentary and verite filmmaking, and super crafty. We each have really distinct personal aesthetics, and it’s been fun crafting a brand that satisfies both of our sensibilities, kind of like a shared, essential feminist language that we both have. It’s always helpful to have each other as thought partners, and I think we both understand that the most brilliant ideas we have tend to be the ones we’re both really excited about.

Jessie: Nina is brilliant and fierce and I feel lucky every-day to have her as my vision partner. She brings fire and conviction to decision making – which is grounding and inspiring for me and something I struggle with. I love her aesthetic and sense of color – and have always been not only her collaborator and bestie but such a big fan and admirer of her work as an artist. We each bring distinct strengths and experiences to the table, and our shared core values, politics, and vision for Mala Forever makes it really exciting to be building this together – the work is better for it and so are we.

TITL: How would you sum up Mala Forever in a few words?

MF: Bold creative fempire.

TITL: What makes Mala Forever different from the many other online platforms/sites that are out there?

MF: We are not just a film studio, a digital content platform, or a creative agency – we are all of the above! It’s important to us to build a creative engine that truly addresses our audience and customers’ needs, puts resources directly into the hands of marginalized filmmakers and creators, and builds community around radical feminist stories and values. There’s a lot of lip service to inclusion and representation, but not enough creative companies are building community equity into their business structure, and are still falling back on the same systems and modes of production that have contributed to our industry’s toxicity all along. As Audre Lorde said, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” We have to do things in a radically new way, and that’s what we’re doing.

TITL: Who/which age range(s) is MF specifically targeted to and how are you ensuring you accommodate to the needs of those individuals?

MF: Our core audience is intersectional, millennial, and engaged in political resistance. There is a real hunger in our community for representation that crosses cultural boundaries and reflects our community as a complex but powerful coalition of people who share a feminist world view and lived experience of cultural otherness.

TITL: How important is and will social media be in order for you to grow your audience? Do you think eventually all physical content platforms might fade into obscurity and EVERYTHING will be online?

MF: Both the physical and digital worlds offer important possibilities for how we can connect with our community. Social media is critical to how we build and grow with our community; that being said, the physical realm is where our sense of home and community is born, and where many of us are threatened simply for being who we are. So it’s equally important to invest in physical spaces where we feel safe, can share stories and create together, as it is to invest in the digital spaces where we can communicate in revolutionary and evolving ways.

TITL: You’ve shot a short film, “Baby”, set for release in June and a feature film, “The Wild Ones” in the works. Is there anything you can tell me about either of these two projects?

MF: Baby​ is a queer coming-of-age love story set in New York City that confronts themes of LGBTQ identity and toxic masculinity. Shot stylistically as narrative cinema verite, Baby introduces us to the world of Ali, a Dominican teenager from the Bronx, on a Saturday afternoon. ​Baby​ will be released to our community during PRIDE month, June 2019.

It was the first film we produced together as Mala Forever, and was very much made possible by the support of our community. Jessie has spent the last ten years working as a youth media educator in New York City public schools – and this work was inspired by her deep love for making media with young people – many of whom starred in the film!

The Wild Ones​ is our first feature-length film, which we are co-directing. It is a coming-of-age road film about two best friends who go on the ride of their lives with a nomadic tribe of lesbian separatists. We co-wrote the screenplay, and are currently shifting into early development, building the project and community around the film from the ground up.

TITL: As two people who create original content, run a digital magazine and complete commissioned work for/with brands and organizations, how do you find time to unwind, and when you do have a minute or a period to yourself, what do you like to do? 

N: Honestly, work has never been more fun! But making time for myself and the people in my life is key to my happiness. I journal a lot. I love to sing and dance. When I’m feeling emotional, I’ll write poetry or paint. Exercise, home cooking, meditation, and getting enough sleep all do wonders for my health. And of course – watching movies!

J: I’m an Aries, and thus historically have had a hard time being still – so stillness and quiet is something I am excited to cultivate more of in 2019. When I’m not working on Mala, I love making things with my hands (I have a secret life as a jewelry and clothing designer), spending quality time with people I love over meals and on dancefloors, seeing art and films that inspire me, and taking long walks in Brooklyn.  

TITL: What’s the long term goal for Mala Forever? As a newly launched site, how worried are you about the competition and market, and how do you plan to overcome any bumps in the road you might face?

MF: We are building the creative studio our community has been waiting for, brick by brick, by any means necessary. The challenges are manifold, but we keep each other strong and grounded in our vision. Our radical, inclusive, feminist, queer audience is much larger than we’ve been led to believe, and is growing rapidly. The whole landscape needs to change, through a communal effort that goes beyond any individual company or artist. So when it comes to fellow filmmakers who are telling authentic stories from our community, we are rooting for them. Our real competition is not each other, but the existing systems of power and oppression that we’re all working to change.

For more information on Mala Forever, visit the website. You can also follow Mala Forever on Twitter and Instagram.

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THE BAND GOOCH TALK ‘MODERN HIGH’, FAVOURITE ARTISTS & ULTIMATE COMPLIMENTS 0 23

They say siblings share most things. For the majority, that means clothes and other day to day items, but for Jared and Jordan, aka The Band Gooch, the one key thing they share and bond over is their love of music. Inspired first and foremost by Green Day, the two brothers have just dropped their new album ‘Modern High’, and are currently working on putting together some tour dates. They spoke to ThisIsTheLatest and spilled the beans on the two venues they’d love to play, their views on social media and how they’d like to start a revolution with and through their music.

TITL: What sets The Band Gooch apart from all the other acts out there today?

TBG: I think there are a couple things that set us apart from other acts out there today. First, we are not making music simply to get rich and famous. That is not our goal and never has been. Our band to us is more than just a rock band, it’s a lifestyle, a culture. To us it’s a symbol of freedom and liberty, meant to inspire people to do and be more. To us it’s a community of people brought together by music, living their best lives, being completely free. The other thing that would set us apart would be our musical taste. There are a lot of acts out there who are into a little more electronic type music. We write music with the idea that, it needs to be able to truly be played live, and sound just as good if not better live. No BS. You don’t see that anymore. 

TITL: As siblings, do you find or have you found that your musical tastes are very similar or different and how have those tastes and influences filtered through into the music you make?

Jared: For the most part our music tastes are very similar. We are both very into classic rock, punk rock, a lot of 80s and 90s stuff. That’s the foundation of what we do. We differ in other things. For example I’m into Enya, I love Brad Paisley and things like that. Jordan is way into Lord Huron, Young The Giant and other acts like that. Having a foundation of similarity with different flares really makes creating music fun and interesting for us. We go the same direction, but keep it interesting. 

TITL: What would you each say the other brings to the band? 

Jared: We each bring personality I think. I bring passion I think, sometimes probably a little too much for the band! I can get a little OCD with things, but that’s okay. I do a lot of the melody work, a lot of guitar and bass, foundation work and lyrics. Jordan brings the flash and style. He is really good at spicing up bass lines, adding good guitar solos or spicing things up a bit. He also brings a lot of passion in his own way. He is more relaxed and easy going which is good to have, it keeps it loose and we all have fun. 

TITL: Family relationships are hard at the best of times, so how do the two of you deal with any personal or artistic differences that might cause tensions within the band? 

TBG: We are super close in age and we are extremely close but also have always had differences growing up. We prefer it this way. We can have a huge fight and disagree on everything, which has happened multiple times, but at the end of the day, we are still brothers so things get resolved easy. Anyone else is not so easy, people get pissed, bands break up and that’s that. 

TITL: Which three bands, collectively, would you say TBG is most influenced by? 

TBG: First and foremost Green Day. We love their music, and their live presence is second to none. Second would be Metallica, for the same reasons. Third would probably be a general collection of 80’s rock mixed with artists ranging from Enya to Metallica new or old. 

TITL: What can you tell me about your new album Modern High?

TBG: Modern High is a rock album about Modern Society. It talks about the good the bad and the ugly about life in the modern age. We have more luxuries than ever, yet people seem to be more stressed out and anxious than ever. People seem to care more than ever what other people think about them, they have distractions everywhere they look, expectations to manage, and life is just chaotic all the time. Modern High is an album of anthems preaching liberty. Fuck the modern age, what other people think, it doesn’t matter. What matters is doing what you love, being your best, and being happy. Too many people spend time living for someone else. Fuck that. It’s your life, live it your way. Start the business, make the album, marry that girl, do whatever you want. Just don’t spend your life trying to please everyone and stop measuring your life by likes and follows. Modern High is a classic punk album preaching liberty.  

TITL: Could you pick a favourite track from the collection? What is it about those songs that mean and matter so much to you?

Jared: Mine would probably be “Rebel Inside”. That is one of the more personal songs I wrote. It’s about my wife, and finding perfection in her imperfections. 

TITL: Are there any summer/fall tour plans lined up to promote the album? 

TBG: We are working on that now! We are going to be booking some shows around the west coast later this year and/or next.

TITL: Which venue anywhere in the world would you most like to play and who would you choose to support you?

TBG: Probably the Emirates Stadium or Old Trafford, both in England. We’d of course want to play with Green Day but I think they are a little too big to support us, so we’d support them! If we had to choose a supporting act, I don’t know; I think we’d find someone we like who puts on a good show and bring them along. 

TITL: You’ve already been praised by the likes of Ghost Cult Magazine and PunkNews.org, but what’s the biggest thing anyone has or could write/say about you? What is or would be the ultimate compliment? 

TBG: The best thing is when someone who has never been to a show before, or hears our music for the first time reaches out or comes up after a show and says; “I just found this song, it is AMAZING!” OR “You guys are way better than I expected – I had no idea you guys were this good. I thought you’d be okay but you guys are an actual band rock band!” Or: “You guys sound way better live than you do on your album!”Or: “You guys put on an actual rock show, that was amazing, I feel bad I haven’t come yet! I did not expect this at all!” These are all real quotes from people, and these are the best compliments. When someone listens to our music, or comes to a show and has a great time. 

TITL: To what extent has and does social media impact your ability to reach an audience? How much of your following might you say has come as a result of you posting/sharing your music on the likes of Twitter and Facebook? 

TBG: Twitter zero. I think we have one but we are never on it. We do most our marketing on Facebook and Instagram. The thing with social media is it’s an amazing tool for reaching people all over the world. We can share our brand and our story and connect with fans and that is really fun. We love talking to people that find and like our music. The problem is, everyone is always getting crap thrown in their face and it is distracting, so the market is super saturated. Also on a personal note, we hate social media because it is addicting and we think at this point it’s more of a problem and a distraction to society than a solution. So it sucks. I am not sure how much of a following comes from it, probably a pretty good amount. But we really don’t spend as much time on social media as we “should”. 

TITL: Looking further down the line, where to you want TBG to be five, ten years from now? When they write the history book of music, what would you like to see written about the two of you and the music you left/shared with the world?

The Band Gooch: Good question. At the end of the day, we aren’t doing this for money and fame. If we wanted that we’d do pretty much anything else, there is almost no money and no fame in this business. We do this because it is WHO we are. This is our life’s work, and whether or not it works out for us tomorrow, next year, five years or after we are dead it doesn’t matter. This is WHO we are and it is what we do. We are doing it because we want to show people you CAN do what you love, and you SHOULD do what you love. That there is more to life than money, likes and follows. The world needs a revolution, it needs to get back to its roots and that is why we exist. We just so happen to make awesome rock music, so what better way to start a revolution? 

For more information on The Band Gooch, visit their website or give their page a like on Facebook. Their album Modern High is available now.

COOPER VAN GROOTEL TALKS NEW FILM ‘GO!’ & ACTING INFLUENCES & INSPIRATIONS 0 35

With his latest film GO! premiering at Cinfest Oz later this month, there’s little doubt that Cooper Van Grootel’s career is on the rise. Having been acting since before he was a teenager and as an individual heavily influenced by the great work and legacy of the late Heath Ledger, Cooper’s passion for what he does comes across in every role he takes on and every performance he gives. Ahead of GO!’s premiere, he spoke to ThisIsTheLatest about his favourite memories on set, the one TV show he’d have loved to have starred in and the one piece of advice he’d pass on to upcoming actors.

TITL: You’ve been acting for several years now, but was there ever a time, growing up, that you considered taking another career path or has it always been about performance and film/TV work for you?

Cooper Van Grootel: I began acting when I was about 11 years old, but before then I always wanted to be an AFL player, which is the Australian Football League, equivalent to the NFL in the USA. However, once I started acting, I couldn’t think about anything else and it’s been my passion ever since.

TITL: Which one film or TV series, you watched, made you ultimately realize “Yeah, I want to do that”?

CVG: This is a funny one. I was actually extremely fascinated by the movie Coraline; its story-line, the characters, the way the film was created and put together so well. It kind of sparked a fire in me that made me want to do what these characters were doing. Whatever that meant. So I began my search for a film school, where I found Filmbites, a film school in Perth run by Hallie McKeig. I stuck with Filmbites for 7 years up until I was 18 and that’s when I left for America.

TITL: Which actors might you say most inspire and influence you when it comes to your career and your work? What is it about them that encourages and motivates you so much?

CVG: Heath Ledger. I think I can really relate to that guy in a lot of ways. We’re from the same home town, we left Perth for America with the same burning passion, Hollywood. Heath Ledger is a really motivating person, proving that if you set your mind to something, it can be achieved.

TITL: Can you recall the first project you ever auditioned for?

CVG: I’m not 100% sure what my first audition was for, but it might have been a short film back in Perth, when I was 11 years old. I didn’t get the role, but the whole process of auditioning in front of people, with a camera, a blank room and just your imagination, fascinated me. 

TITL: Do you find the audition process comfortable or is there always an uncertainty/air of pressure around each one?

CVG: For me, it’s a bit of both. I find it super exciting just being given the opportunity to express my ideas in this craft and give it a shot, but at the same time, it can make me nervous and anxious. I just try and have fun with the whole process.

TITL: Your break-out came in 2014 with The Legend Of Gavin Tanner. Can you recall your favourite time on the show, and are there any lessons/particular experiences you’ve taken from that period and continued to learn/grow from as a result? 

CVG: The Gavin Tanner set was just a whole bunch of fun, everybody was having a great time. I think with every role you book, you learn a lot about yourself. I remember having to get up at 6am to shoot and my mum was there with me every day to watch over me, so I learnt that my parents are so loving and supportive of this craft. I am very grateful for that.

TITL: You are perhaps best known for playing Brayden in the series Mystery Road, which was and is a huge hit with an impressive cast. What was and is it about the series, do you think, that has helped it to become so popular?

CVG: Mystery Road is an incredible TV show with some of the best acting I’ve ever watched, it truly blows me away. I think it has done so well because of its suspenseful moments and heart-breaking issues which are highlighted in the show about Australia’s society. It really does keep you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next. I’m so grateful to have worked on such a professional shoot.

TITL: Your latest film GO! is having its world premiere on August 28th at Cinefest Oz. Do you ever get nervous ahead of big events like that and feel at all anxious about what those in attendance, including critics, and what they might think?

CVG: 100%! I’m very excited and nervous at the same time. I hope people enjoy the film as much as the cast and crew enjoyed making it. I think Cinfest Oz will probably be one of the biggest film festivals I’ve been to so it’ll be a whole new experience for me; I can’t wait! 

TITL: What can you tell me about the film and who you play in it?

CVG: A good way to describe GO! is kind of like the original Karate Kid but go karting instead of karate. A teenage boy, Jack, moves to a small town with his mum. Jack discovers a passion for go karting, where he meets a mentor who shows him the way of the sport. I play Dean, the antagonist of the film. It was an amazing opportunity and I tried my best to find the heart in the character even though he was the antagonist, as my goal was to do this character justice. One of the craziest parts of the experience was having my hair bleached white – it added to the character and was a lot of fun going through that experience with production.

TITL: How did you find working with the likes of director Owen Trevor and your co-stars Francis O’Connor, Dan Wyllie and Richard Roxburgh?  Any fond or favourite memories from your time on set?

CVG: Working with such professionals was daunting, but at the end of the day everybody wants to do a good job and I think it’s important that you feel comfortable and relaxed. That’s what Owen and the other actors brought to set. I could really be at ease and was able to explore and play with my character. I remember one of the first days shooting, I had to punch Will Lodder, who plays Jack. After I delivered the punch, I slicked my bleached white hair back into place and from that point on, it kind of became a character trait where in multiple scenes, I slowly slicked my hair back in a menacing way. I think it worked well and Owen loved it.

TITL: Of all the roles and characters you’ve played so far, which one stands out the most and why?

CVG: I recently shot a short film here in LA, called Pink Elephant. I think this role stands out the most because I proved to myself that I can achieve my goals over here in America; it’s just a matter of believing in yourself and setting your mind to it. I made so many great friendships on set, life-long ones I hope. That and I finally got to play the protagonist!

TITL: If you could star in any TV series or film, past or present, which would it be? Which actors/crews would you most like to work with?

CVG: I would love to have been on Breaking Bad. Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston are two of my favourite actors. They made that show so exciting – I am truly envious of their work. Heath Ledger was going into directing before he passed; he had an amazing vision, so I know he would have been an incredible director and it would have been an honor to have the opportunity to work with him.

TITL: Are there any upcoming projects in the pipeline you can tell me about?

CVG: I just had an audition in LA sent to a director so I have my fingers crossed at the moment!

TITL: Away from acting, and particularly after long periods away from home/on set, what activities or hobbies do you like to pursue? How important is it for you to have that “unwind, me” time?

CVG: I love to surf. Surfing is another passion of mine, but I never wanted to pursue it professionally though. It’s a great way to clear your mind and rid bad energy or thoughts. I think it’s vital that you have an outlet away from acting. Acting can be physically and emotionally draining, so for me, surfing helps keep the balance. I also like to play the guitar. 

TITL: Finally, as someone who is gradually becoming more established in the industry, what advice would you give to those starting out? What one piece of advice that you were once given or have heard would you pass on as encouragement and for motivation?

CVG: Try not to worry too much about the future, focus on giving your best performance and enjoying your time in the now. 

You can keep up to date with Cooper by following him on Instagram.