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A Rather Lovely Thing: An Interview with Casey Mensing

Tell us about yourself. How did you become a writer?

That’s an interesting question. I started writing poetry as a teenager after reading William Blake and Dylan Thomas. But I think those early poems were more influenced by Bob Dylan and Gregory Corso. From there, I got into writing fiction and eventually drifted into screenwriting. Currently, I’m circling back to poetry more and more.

What was your first job in the art field?

My first job in the art field was selling programs at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center before shows when I was sixteen or seventeen.

What makes you want to tell stories? In other words, what are the themes/issues you want to incorporate into your work?

I’ve had the compulsion to tell stories since I was a child. Back then, they were mostly elaborate lies. I don’t set out with any themes or issues in mind, it’s usually the plot or a character that starts things off, and I follow the story as it unfolds, and everything grows out of that.

Please tell us about your vision and your method of approaching a new project?

That is kind of what I touched upon already. An incident or a character will come to mind, and I’ll daydream about that for a while, building up in my head before I put anything down. Then, I’ll make notes and write snippets of dialogue and scenarios. Once I have a clearer picture of what or who I’m writing about, I will start putting down words on the page.

Who are your filmmaking and script writing influencers? What are the films and books that were influential for you?

Some important influences are Federico Fellini, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, Hal Ashby, Shinobu Hashimoto, and Waldemar Young. I think most people are aware of Fellini, PTA, Jarmusch, and Ashby. Hashimoto worked with Akira Kurosawa and wrote a great book, Compound Cinematics: Akira Kurosawa and I. Waldemar Young wrote primarily during the silent film era. My favorite films of his were the ones directed by Tod Browning and starring Lon Chaney Sr.

How do you think the industry is changing? How has COVID affected independent filmmaking/creation?

I think that filmmaking, like all art forms, is constantly evolving with new technology, and how we experience those forms also changes. Almost everything moving into a digital platform has changed significantly—streaming movies and music at home and on portable devices. Being able to shoot digitally, edit, and upload your film onto the internet, offering it directly to the audience, has had a major impact on independent filmmaking. I think Covid impacted how we watch movies more than how we make movies. People have grown more accustomed to watching movies at home at their convenience and no longer feel as compelled to see them in the theaters unless they are blockbuster spectacle-type films. This has changed the entire independent film marketplace. There’s so much more I could say about all of this and in a multitude of directions, but I’m going to leave it at that.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists? What are some of the things they must follow/avoid?

The best advice I can give is to stay focused and determined. Always push yourself to grow and change as an artist, especially after you’ve had some success. It’s really easy to be comfortable.

Do you think films/stories can bring about a change in the world?

I think films/stories, songs, poems, works of art can move and change an individual, but not the world as a whole. People are going to stick to what is familiar. For thousands of years, people have more or less acted the same. Picasso painting Guernica didn’t stop the Second World War.

What do you think people like to watch these days? Has the pandemic changed people's taste?

People seemed to be attracted to nostalgia and the collapse of society. I don’t know if that’s really any different than before the pandemic.

Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

I have two feature length screenplays currently in the research stage. I’m trying to finish writing a novel and putting together a new collection of poetry. But mostly, I’ve been doing a lot of visual art.


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