Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Interview with Filmmaker Maureen "Mo" Whelan

Maureen “Mo” Whelan is a multi-talented and gorgeous woman working in the entertainment industry. She started in animation before moving on to producing, acting and modeling. Right now she is working as a producer for Probell Films and also acted in their new thriller film, Client 14.

We had the opportunity to talk to Mo about her multi-faceted career, her beginnings in the entertainment industry and her love of the horror genre.

Fatally Yours: Tell us about growing up. What drew you to the entertainment industry and when did you decide you wanted to make it your career?

Mo Whelan: My father was Irish (from Ireland) and in the British Army. He was always telling me Irish folk tales and ghost stories. He would tell me about his paranormal experiences while guarding castles in Britain and living in Clonmel, Ireland. In Clonmel, on a small street, there were tales of a headless horseman that rode up and down the street in the midst of the night. He always spoke about The Tower of London where he swore he saw a ghostly women floating over a bridge. He told me about his Army experiences, he served in small conflict wars in Cyprus and Aden. He saw terrible things happen to many of his now deceased friends and counterparts. This inspired me to get into storytelling and one day write a script based around his life.

In addition to this, I’ve always been a creative person. I’ve been drawing, and writing stories since I was a child. As a kid I use to set up scenes with toys, cardboard boxes and act out events. I just kind of lived in my own little world. I loved watching cartoons and the idea that a person could create an extravagant idea on paper and transfer it to a television set for everyone to view was fascinating to me. As a teenager my interests were drawn towards Sci-Fi, horror and war movies. Now you could take extravagant ideas and mix them with live action. I just found the concept exciting and somehow understood how animation /visual effects were created and the basics of story development. It wasn’t until I reached my teenage years that I really wanted to take my creativity to a next level and make it my career. I took my first 3D computer animation class at the age of 17 and started working at a game studio soon after.

Fatally Yours: How did you get your start in the entertainment industry? When and why did you decide you wanted to try many different occupations within the industry? 

Mo Whelan: I moved to Los Angeles as a teenager with a couple of friends, to pursue my dreams of working in animation and the film industry. My family was not wealthy, so I had no financial support or career guidance. I was determined to accomplish my goals, so I began educating myself on film production. At the time I was working at Chief Auto Parts and meet a guy that worked at a game studio. I told him of my interest in animation and he introduced me to the owner of the studio. I ended up interning at the company for a couple of years. During that time, I also came across a catalogue for UCLA Extensions and registered for computer effects course. There I meet my good friend Jody who is a visual effects expert. He also mentored me and eventually introduced me to a person at South Park and I ended up working on South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut. The industry is always changing, especially the technology. So, a person has to keep up to date on everything that happens in the production process of a film. This is why my skill set is so diverse. I’ve had to learn many areas of production to survive in the entertainment industry. Producing just seemed like the natural next step to my career after years of working in animation, visual effects, DVD replication, marketing, production and post-production. Producing gives me the opportunity to utilize the skill set, along with all my industry contacts and create a film of my interest.

Fatally Yours: You’re a multi-faceted professional that works in producing, acting, writing, modeling and more! Which of these did you find yourself drawn to the most? How did your interest in pursuing other careers develop?

Mo Whelan: I’m actually drawn to story-telling/writing and traditional art. Again, this goes back to my childhood experiences and I think its part of my Irish heritage. Irish people like to talk and tell stories, especially to scare people. Plus, stories help people escape from their everyday life and experience something different that they would come across in a daily routine.

I find all areas of production interesting and am constantly trying to keep educated on the latest technology and media trends. I am fortunate that I am able to grasp the technology side of media production and can adapt in a work environment. Others notice my ability to do so and I am often asked to help out on various types of projects in all areas of production which includes animation, internet, DVD, public relations, and other types of media development. I will work on a project if I find it interesting and my knowledge can be utilized efficiently. My friends find me photogenic and like shooting me, so if they ask me to model for them I will.

Fatally Yours: Out of all the different facets of your career, do you have a favorite? 

Mo Whelan: My favorite time in my career was 2000-2003. I was an operations manager for a visual effects and animation training center called DHIMA, Digital Hollywood Institute of Media Arts. The entertainment industry was still striving during my first year there. Plus, not too many schools were training the profession. We had a lot of students come through the school, and many of them went onto successful careers. It was fun to watch the students complete their first student film with excitement and have a drive to succeed. I enjoy watching and helping others achieve their goals. Hearing from one and knowing that you personally helped them achieve their dreams is far more valuable than money or a media spotlight.

Fatally Yours: What has been your favorite/most memorable assignment/role/article/shoot/etc. that you’ve done in your career? 

Mo Whelan: The last scene my crew and I at Probell Films shot for Client 14 was the most memorable shoot. I cast my niece Kathy Carty, to be in the film. I guess you can say she’s a Scream Queen in training. We shot the scene at her high school, The High Desert Academy of Applied Arts and Sciences.  Patrick O’Bell, the writer/director of Client 14, Joseph Garcia, a co-producer, and I also gave a short lecture to the film class. It was a small class but the kids really appreciated it and enjoyed the knowledge we shared with them. The staff also appreciated our time and use of the facility. We gave the school an opportunity to experience a real production.

Fatally Yours: Can you tell us more about Client 14 and about your role in it? 

Mo Whelan: Client 14 is a 1980′s style slasher film, with a psychological twist. The actual plot is about a group of beautiful escorts who brutally murdered in a local city. Detectives are baffled by the lack of physical evidence or motive of the unseen Killer. The events soon traumatize a Private Investigator as he is unable to protect the escorts he befriends.

I’m a co-star in the film. My characters name is “Crystal” and I play a free spirited, kind of flighty escort whose friends are killed off.

Fatally Yours: Does Probell Films have any other horror/thriller movies in the works after Client 14

Mo Whelan: Yes, we have two films slated for release at the end of 2010 and more to follow in the next few years.  We also have two horror webisodes in development and are planning to release them by mid 2009. Our 5 year business plan also branches in other areas of media development.

The next feature film lineup is as follows:

Forgotten Souls – Based in New Orleans, an ex convict finds an old friend working in the cotton fields.  The only problem is that his friend died several years ago.

The Drifter – A crooked undercover narcotics cop almost loses his life in a drug bust gone wrong.  The world becomes a dark unrelenting nightmare as he struggles to find who set him up and his place in the world.

Fatally Yours: You’ve also worked for Girls and Corpses Magazine. What kind of articles have you written there and which was your favorite? 

Mo Whelan: I love Girls and Corpses Magazine. Robert Rhine, the founder and publisher, has been very supportive of my writing skills. He discovered my writing through my blogs and likes my writing technique. I am very appreciative of Robert giving me the opportunity to write for his magazine.

I’ve written a couple of articles for the magazine.  The first is “I’m Going to Get My Samosex! Hot 3D Sex in the Cyber World.”  It was a risky review of the website The recent article I wrote is “Trannywood.”  It was about some of the local transsexuals that wonder the streets in my Hollywood neighborhood. This was my favorite article because I stayed up on Saturday night and hung out with a pimp and a transsexual prostitute and listened to their stories and watched the girls worked the streets.

I’m planning on writing more articles for the magazine; I just haven’t had the time to recently.  When I do it will be something that’s a little different from the daily newspaper article.

Fatally Yours: What drew you to the horror-side of the entertainment business? Have you always been a horror fan? 

Mo Whelan: Yes, I have always been a horror fan. Again this goes back to my memories of my father telling me folk tales, ghost stories, and war stories. He was also a fan of horror movies, sci-fi movies and war movies. I use to stay up at night with my sister and him watching them. My mother would fall asleep. I was always fascinated by how the effects were created, loved being scared and scaring people. Now I can scare a large audience on the big screen instead of just sneaking up behind one person and jumping at them just to scare them.

Fatally Yours: Is there any other career you find yourself drawn to or at least want to try? Like directing, perhaps?

Mo Whelan: I’ve been fortunate enough that I have been able to accomplish all my dreams and goals I’ve had since I was a child. I’m pretty content with my life and career.  I could maybe co-direct one day. I wouldn’t mind traveling and filming in less fortunate areas, to allow people who are curious about the art of filmmaking to experience it in person.

Fatally Yours: Having had experience both in front of and behind the camera, what are some of the pressures that you and other women in the entertainment industry face?

Mo Whelan: As a woman, working in the technology side of production for years, I’ve had to always keep up to par on the latest technology and trends in the film business.  I’ve always had to prove my knowledge and speak intelligently towards my male counter parts to gain their respect as a female techy. I’ve had many supportive film industry people in my life and wonderful mentors. So, luckily I haven’t run into too many bad seeds during my career history.

Most female actresses and models have the pressure of appearance on film. Today’s media has focused mainly on super-skinny, over-processed women as being beautiful.  When in reality these women are just characters created to draw attention to them. The classic icon never was super skinny, sporting an orange tan and over-process yellow blond hair with extensions. They were just natural beauties. I’m comfortable with who I am, and how I look. Everyone has their own ideal person they’re attracted to and I know not everyone is going to be attracted to me. Honestly, I’d rather be remembered for my knowledge, talent and personality rather than if I have tight abs and big boobs.

Fatally Yours: What advice would you give those that want to enter into the entertainment business? 

Mo Whelan: My advice to others is to keep following your dreams, don’t give up and don’t get distracted. Never feel like you’re stuck in a situation. You can always get out of a situation you don’t want to be in. Don’t listen to others negativity. You must take responsibility for your own life and take action to achieve your goals. I’ve had to work hard to accomplish my career goals; 13 years later I’m producing my first film and answering interview questions for the media. Stay focused on what you want and you will also achieve your goals.

Fatally Yours: What projects do you have lined up next?

Mo Whelan: My next projects are to focus on the webisodes, the next two Probell feature films, to finish writing my own feature length script, do some curriculum advising for a school, shoot with a few more photographers and I’m having my first traditional art exhibit at a local underground Goth club in March 2009.

I will also still be acquiring short animated films for I also am currently in charge of Film Licensing and Acquisitions for So, for my animation filmmaker clients, I haven’t forgotten you. I will still be at AWNtv to help you out with your needs.

Fatally Yours: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Mo! Best of luck to you in the future! 

Mo Whelan: Thank you and the Fatally Yours staff for this amazing opportunity to share my life with you and your readers. I really appreciate your time and your interest.  Have a wonderful day.

Visit Probell Films’ Official Site!

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