Film

Actress and Producer Lily Holleman talks The Lady Killers, Anna Biller and the LA Breakfast Club

Q: The Lady Killers is currently screening at festivals. What was your involvement in the project and can you tell us about your experience on the film?

A: I produced and acted in The Lady Killers. This was my first experience producing and I quickly discovered it is not for sissies.

I am glad to have chosen a film I feel passionate about because otherwise I would have spontaneously combusted on the first day of shooting. I almost did, actually, but I cared enough about the project to survive.

The film is a dark comedy about a game of sexual conquest that has gone wrong. We made it in response to how numb society has become to images of sexual and violent exploitation.

The reductive ways in which women are depicted is so prevalent that we have forgotten the messages and behaviours those depictions promote. This promotion is everywhere: billboards, magazines, social media, movies, TV, toys and video games – the list goes on.

These images contribute greatly to why “locker room talk” and predatory behaviour is so widespread. The Lady Killers intentionally omits exploitive sexual and violent imagery to shine a light on the language and behaviour behind them. As the film progresses, so do the ramifications. The result is unsettling.

It is a comedy though, so there are lots of laughs. Depending on who you are, the laughs are in different places. A few couples have broken up after watching the film, based on who laughed at what.

Obviously, this is a relevant film right now. Many people who saw it before the Weinstein story broke said to me: ‘That kind of misogyny does not exist anymore.’

People were in denial. It was like screaming into an empty grave. Now that the collective has woken up to how bad it still is, the conversations about the film are deeply thought provoking and inspiring. I am proud of it and I cannot wait for it to reach a wider audience.

Q: Are you interested in doing more work behind the camera? Would you be interested in directing?

A: YES. I feel increasingly passionate about ageism – not only in the media, but in society.

I have noticed that the elderly are widely discriminated against and no one seems to give it a second thought. This is not only bad for older generations, but all generations. It affects how people anticipate their future, creates a fear of aging and leaves us totally unprepared to deal with death.

I am especially disheartened by the types of role available to women over a certain age. An older man would easily be considered for the role of a law firm partner or CEO, but rarely an older woman.

Also, why do most of the female-driven stories have to be from a young ingénue’s perspective?

I was so pleased when I saw Spielberg’s new film The Post – whose lead character is Katharine Graham, the first woman CEO of a Fortune 500 company. It is set at the time Graham, played by Meryl Streep, made The Washington Post a public company. She was 55 at the time.

The film’s screenwriter Liz Hannah calls it a ‘coming of age’ film. Hannah said she hopes most of us do not become who we are going to be for the rest of our lives when we are 17 years old – the usual age depicted in a ‘coming of age’ movie. I love that. There is so much wisdom and power available from our older generations, but sadly, in Hollywood, ‘older generation’ applies to any woman over age 30.

That leaves 80 years of life experience on the table. I would gladly write, produce, and/or direct a film that helps tell one of those stories.

Q: Speaking of female directors, you have a role in Anna Biller’s eccentric and stylish film The Love Witch. Did you enjoy working on the film and with Anna?

A: I LOVED working on The Love Witch. I have never seen any director, woman or man, do as much as Anna Biller did on that film.

Not only did she write and direct it, but she also created most of its signature production design and costumes. I do not just mean design – she actually sewed the costumes, hand loomed a rug and handmade a detailed book of witch spells. She painted the paintings, composed medieval songs. The list goes on.

Anna had clearly been cultivating this story within her for a long time and on set she knew exactly what she wanted. We were all compelled to trust her vision and go for the tone she requested, whether we understood it at the time or not.

I personally needed no coxing with regards to the stylized acting. I think I come across as old fashioned anyway, so I felt right at home on this set.

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Lily Holleman in The Love Witch

Q: We consider Samantha Robinson’s performance in The Love Witch to be one of the best of this year. Do you have any thoughts on her performance and did you spend any time with her?

A: SAMANTHA Robinson and Anna Biller are a match made in heaven. As I mentioned before, Anna was going for a specific style and tone – and Samantha was able to understand and maintain that for the entire film.

I was on set with her and consider her a deeply kind, empathetic, open person. Between takes, she acted in no way like her character which is impressive. I personally find it hard to drop a character after a project, much less between takes.

Q: Can you talk about your involvement with the historical LA Breakfast Club? I believe you have been credited with a resurgence in its popularity.

A: I DISCOVERED the Los Angeles Breakfast Club in the fall of 2013 when I saw a photo of Red Skelton performing at the club in the 1950s. I noticed the address was in my neighbourhood so I casually looked it up online. Little did I know this would be a porthole to a new dimension in my life.

The club was founded in 1925 by all the big business and entertainment tycoons of the time – Edward Doheny, Cecil B DeMille, Carl Laemmle, Sid Grauman, Will Rogers and more.

They would ride horseback through Griffith Park early in the morning and eat breakfast around a campfire before work. This evolved into founding the Los Angeles Breakfast Club which had its own horse stables and clubhouse.

They would invite huge stars to entertain at breakfast. They created silly rituals about ham n eggs, and the Warner Brothers donated radio time to broadcast their weekly Wednesday meetings nationwide. It was a massive deal throughout the 20th century.

As soon as I read this story, I felt strongly compelled to go. I fell head over heels instantly. The membership had dwindled to 15 members, but that did not diminish the magic that was there. It was like discovering the Lost City of Atlantis. The live pianist accompanies a delicious breakfast. There is a retro slide sing along, secret handshake, goofy rituals and a different speaker and entertainer every week.

As soon as I joined, the predominantly senior citizen group revealed to me the club’s imminent demise. They could not figure out how to find new members. I was so in love, there was no way I could let that happen.

I knew that when more of the right people discovered it, the club would return to full vibrancy. In February 2015, I took over as president and chairman of the board of the club – and with the help of a mighty few, began my quest to revive it. We are now up to more than 60 members.

My favourite part of the membership is the diversity in age. As I mentioned before, the integration of generations is important to me. The ages range from 25 to 90. Everyone is from widely different backgrounds and is hospitable to all who come.

No one has an agenda. It is just about celebrating friendship, fun, and learning new things. As an artist, it gives me a constant connective touchstone to community and a deep sense of Los Angeles history.

It is non-sectarian and non-political – and has to be experienced to be fully understood. Per the radio show tradition, the club has a podcast if you want to learn more: www.labreakfastclub.libsyn.com and we meet every Wednesday morning from 7 to 9 at 3201 Riverside Dr. LA, CA 90027. All are welcome.

the lady killers
Lily Holleman in The Lady Killers

Q: You have a great gift for comedy. Do you enjoy working in the genre and do you have any comedy idols?

A: THE reason I am an actress is because of Lucille Ball. I would pretend to be sick on week days in elementary school to stay home and watch I Love Lucy reruns on TV. I have seen every episode multiple times.

Another idol I had growing up was Tracey Ullman. It was a surreal thrill not only to get cast on her show, State of the Union, but then to recur on it – I am still not sure that actually happened.

The last sketch we did together was about Candy Spelling interviewing a young lady to be her assistant. Tracey let me wear one of her wigs in it. She had one of the top wigmakers in the world personally crafting a different wig for her in every sketch. They were precious commodities and she entrusted me with one. I was honoured!

When I began to pursue acting professionally, I thought I would only do comedy. Then I got a few really compelling parts in dramatic plays and I became obsessed with getting good at grounded truthful acting.

I got tremendous stage opportunities with world famous directors and playwrights in LA and Orange County – I am still in shock over some of the people I have worked with.
I noticed as I went along dramatically and returned to comedy that my comedic skills vastly improved. I am now starting to increase my comedic output, so stay tuned.

Q: 2017 is fast coming to a close. Do you have any goals or ambitions for 2018 and beyond?

A: 2018 should be cut in half. Enough of it already, let us get to 2019. Just kidding.

In 2018, I would like to stick it to the man and get funding for my one-woman rap musical about Alexander Hamilton.

But in all seriousness, Phil Leirness – also from The Lady Killers – wrote a feature film about suicide. This was born from witnessing the different ways in which a friend’s suicide affected the people in his community. I am set to produce and star in it – and our goal is to shoot it in 2018.

I would also like to do a play in New York City and increase my singing gigs which have so far been limited to family weddings and the breakfast club.

Q: On that note, what has been your favourite film and performance of 2017?

A: MY favourite film of 2017 is The Florida Project. It is everything I hope and dream for in a film.

Sean Baker seamlessly integrates this whimsical allegory with unflinching realism. It perfectly explores the tension between the fairy-tale fantasy versus the grim reality of life. The world he depicts is specific, but relatable and universal.

Sean Baker’s sense of restraint should also be applauded. He knows exactly how much of something to include. The 7-year-old lead, Brooklynn Prince, gives a spellbinding performance whose heartbreak is well earned and deeply felt by the end of the film.

Every actor in it is spot on. It also features one of my favourite things: programmatic architecture [programmatic architecture is a building in the shape of the product it sells- there is an ice cream building and an orange building in this]. I cannot stop thinking about it. I wholeheartedly encourage everyone to see it.

I will also give a quick vote of admiration to the film A Ghost Story. It is a true work of art that will also stay with me forever.

Q: Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

A: I WILL appear in two 2018 movies by long-time collaborator and director Michael Gallagher. The first is an indie feature dramedy called Funny Story in which I play a new age crystal-wielding, chakra-cleansing woman named Moon River. That will start showing at festivals soon.

The second is as a reporter in the highly anticipated sequel to YouTube Red’s The Thinning called The Thinning: New World Order.

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