Interview w/ Princess Hollywood

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Heather Sheridan Ferreira was born in New Jersey in 1968 to an ESOL schoolteacher and her federal employee husband. Ferreira began making Super-8 films and audio movies in the 70s. She was brought on board by Warner Bros Pictures in November of 2019. She is multiracial and of part-Portuguese descent.There were not many opportunities to make films in the small southern town her family moved to (to be nearer the base where her father worked), but Ferreira was rescued by NBC and United Artists who set up camp there In The Heat of The Night. She was selected as an extra but cameraman Peter Salim, ASC, overheard her asking how to learn to operate a Panavision camera. Salim whistled “hey” and summoned her over to his operating chair to ask questions. This began her film career.Ferreira and Salim devised a trade: after reading her action feature scripts, he offered to teach her cinematography if she would write an actioner for him to direct. When Heat wrapped, Salim suggested she move to Hollywood. Ferreira took the advice, drove to Burbank, got a job as a D-Girl at a talent agency and began writing and pitching screenplays.While on a typewriter on at Petite Patisserie (now North End Pizzeria) in Burbank, she was spotted in its window by a post production supervisor for PM Entertainment, who asked what she was writing. It was again an action script, and since PM specialized in action, the PPS requested a copy. After reading it he introduced her to Joseph Merhi, his producer, and she was hired on the spot as senior screenwriter, becoming the highest-paid writer in PM Entertainment’s history.While at PM, Ferreira signed to management with Lee Daniels and Game of Thrones executive producer Vince Gerardis became her agent. The late Michael Chapman, ASC, Scorsese’s cinematographer, mentored her while and after she was at NYU. Over time actors as widely different as Roshan Seth, Michael Madsen and Harvey Keitel became first-look fans of her work.Ferreira earned admission to and attended NYU, earned a 4.1 GPA, then returned to Los Angeles. She directed and wrapped several proof of concept episodes of Movieopolis, a television series depicting Coppola and Scorsese as youthful director-detectives solving Seventies Hollywood crimes. Both directors learned of the series in 2014 and voiced no objections to the production. One of the two in fact was said third person to have been “tickled” by her depiction.In November of 2019, just before Covid, Ferreira was tapped by Warner Bros Pictures to join their ranks, and began submitting screenplays as possible feature projects for their consideration. The Fisherman has been designated by WB as her directorial debut. The Fisherman is currently in principal photography.

Interview by Tim Brown

When and why did you start playing?

I was always musical but started singing and recording in earnest in 1984. The first group I tried to be like was Scritti Politti. Being a girl my ability to imitate a lot of the bands I liked was limited, but I could do Green Gartside’s. He sounds a bit like Michael Jackson: very high voice, almost a girl’s breathy soprano. That was easy. But over time I began singing along with other groups I liked, like Depeche Mode, Duran Duran and Heaven 17. I got comparisons to Phil Oakey from Human League, and to Marc Almond of Soft Cell. But by this time all my extra cash from jobs was going full time to studios and recording. I owned an Estey Organ but it wasn’t enough for me. Pretty soon I was well into the DX7 and, of course, into bass guitar and bass programming. No bands local to me sounded like I what I wanted to do, so I wound up doing a great deal of it solo and still am.

Which famous musicians do you admire? Why?

I’m a big fan of the late Mark Hollis, from Talk Talk. I thought he was a physically beautiful man and he had a gorgeous voice. Gwen Stefani’s cover of It’s My Life makes me physically ill. That’s the one song that one should never cover: Mark did it perfectly. But he was strong, graceful and uncompromising. He never sold out. I was lucky in being a filmmaker which gave me unusual access to many great bands and musicians. They let down their guard with Hollywood because they unwisely all wanted to be in movies. Duran Duran were the one exception: their management and they were snotty to me the entire time, but then they’re known for being rather above it all! They’ll change their attitude probably once it’s proven they’re not the only musicians who can write and sound like that and they can be replaced. Their meanness to me actually somewhat spurred me to do my current LP (laugh). Revenge! But some musicians I knew fairly well and hung out with were Bob Cranshaw, Bob Dorough, some others. Bob (C) taught me to give closer attention to bass and listen more closely for it, to think like a bassist. That was invaluable because bass is the absolute backbone of music. My other Bob (D) taught me always have a sense of fun with music. That music is fun and we should be grateful for it. It’s beautiful. Music is not the place for arrogance.

Were you influenced by old records & tapes? Which ones?

My parents had a wonderful vinyl record collection and I listened to it all, from Blue Note to The Platters to The Drifters, to everything. I remember really liking listening to my Dad’s records by Hugo Montenegro.

Who are your favorite musicians? Groups? CD’s?

Nothing modern. Everybody between 1980 and 1985. That was Gen X Motown to our Big Chill. I love so many Seventies groups, too, though. I love music so much it’s sometimes swayed me away from making movies and TV shows. I notice whenever the movie business becomes tedious or stressful, I make an album. It’s a big stress reliever for me. My favorite groups though, Siousxie and the Banshees, Adam and the Ants, Heaven 17, Talk Talk, Scritti Politti. Early Duran Duran. All their stuff before Liberty.

Have you been in competitions? Fleadh’s? Any prizes?

I won two music performance competitions as a kid. I was singing onstage and in the last one, some kind of national teen contest, I was in kimono and sang a Japanese pop song. I won.

Do you perform in public? Describe those occasions? Concerts, radio, TV

I stopped performing live after getting more serious about film. I began getting concerned my cast and crew might not take me seriously on set if they knew their director was a pop singer, so I quit. I also noticed it became compulsory for you as a woman to dress like a Seventies hooker to perform. I don’t mind being skinny, cute and near-naked onstage or in photos and videos, but don’t tell me I’ve got to be. I’m a former punk and don’t take orders kindly. Let me have the option to do that. The thing of not wanting to yank my clothes off in every photo or at every performance, coupled with the pressure to hide underneath a Panavision cap and slouchy dark boy clothes on set, made me stop performing live. My boyfriend is pushing me to go back to it. He thinks I should. “Don’t think about it, just do it,” he says. I might when it becomes legal to be outdoors like normal people again.

What makes this kind of music “good” to you?

I love icy synths and ice cold drum sounds. Don’t get me wrong, the warm analog Seventies sound is good, too. But something about, for instance, the opening eight bars of “Come Live With Me” by Heaven 17 just simply do something to me. Instantly it’s 1984 again, the sky is heavy, cool and gray, I’m in punk boots and all black, and smoking a clove cigarette, there’s no such thing as Millennials and life is optimism. It felt like humanity had a future then, in the Eighties. There was the sense you could do anything. Eighties music, mostly Britpop of that era, the icier more new wave and gothic stuff back then, that and the sheer craftsmanship behind most of the songs then, that’s all missing now. I’ve heard newcomers try but you had to be there to know just how it sounded and render it right.

Why did you choose to play this kind of music?

Because somebody has to.

Let’s Talk about your music and your last work…

Several things made me do this album. So far the title is “They Are Singing In Their Rocket” and that’s a reference to the poem the little boy wrote, Nael, age six, who influenced its main single “The Tiger Is Out Tonight”. I’ve done three recent albums, a goth one under the stage name Hono Lulu, a second one with an Eighties Madonna sound, and now this one which has aspects of early Duran Duran. The little boy’s poem inspired me because it makes me think of rise-ups and revolutions. It’s kind of “New Moon On Monday” in a five or six line poem. It makes your blood start rising. Amazing a little boy wrote that. I say his name in the middle of the song: “Nael”. It’s my way of crediting him for his genius, making sure audiences know it was his. But yeah, I was tired and angry when I recorded Rockets. I was in the midst of directing a feature for Warner and half the cast were idiots. Yeah I said that. Sexist, racist idiots. They behaved like monkeys. The other half of cast were and are wonderful but the assholes know who they were. I kicked them off. While I was regrouping, then my first assistant director walked off the picture because I would neither move in with him and his wife, nor accompany them to a certain massage parlor. Stuff like this had me really tired of the movie industry. So I took a week off and cut the album, then felt refreshed by that and finished the movie. Another thing was just general impatience with Duran Duran releasing song after song but none of it like their original core sound that my generation put them on the bloody map for. Sure, Ordinary World and One Of Those Days, those are great songs BUT THEY ARE NOT DURAN DURAN. Who the f–k knows WHAT that is? I speak for many when I say most of us would like the Sing Blue Silver tour sound to return. But these are busy playboys and they’ve no time for that. Meanwhile I want more music like that. So I sat down and asked, what made Duran sound the way I liked it so much back then? And the entire bloody album downloaded straight in my mind. It’s not surprising what anger and frustration will do. Maybe it was simply just time the world had another record like that. This was just my humble take on it, an attempt at that sound.

How do you feel about the internet in the music business?

Not optimistic. It’s atomizing people and reducing their ability to be taken on a journey by music, by an album. The experience of music is becoming more mechanical and less holistic. On the recording side of it there’s perks, such as being able to launch your own label pretty quickly and I’ve done it. Verbatim is everything good I learned at Capitol with everything stupid subtracted I saw everywhere else. The emphasis is on music. It’s A&R. “Is this music good?” “Do I hear a hit here?” “Will audiences like this? What will be their experience?” “How can we give them that experience?” I don’t see overall the internet doing that, though. I see less of the internet music industry wanting to give listeners an experience and too much of them wanting to create themselves a “let’s scam Millennials out of money and use social engineering to sculpt where we want them to herd together” sort of experience.

What are the plans for the future?

Make movies, make more music.

How has your music evolved since you first began playing music?

I rely less on putting a band together and more on putting a good digital audio workstation and realistic sounds together. Bands can be tedious for same reason actors are: narcissism, being mental and uncooperative, the drummer being a flake, and the vocalist’s girlfriend. (Laugh) That stuff KILLED more bands back in the Eighties and Nineties… (Laugh) Apply it to actors and you have the average film experience. The bad people. Digital music solves all that. It’s you and the computer. Audacity isn’t gonna want to sleep with you. I refuse anymore to put up with crazy artistic types than I have to. I put up with enough of it as a director. They’re not ruining music for me.

Could you briefly describe the music-making process?

Listening. I hear a song in head or a stem or loop suggests one to me. Then it’s all a process of listening until suddenly the song is completed. I’m no genius. I’m just a Hollywood type who got into music.