Once known as "The Robot Lady" for her penchant for building some pretty awesome robots, Liza Trainer has always had big dreams and gone after them with a zeal and enthusiasm that’s quite infectious. After having her whole life, including all of her possessions and the open source film project she had been working on wiped out in a hurricane, she’s now back with a brand new web series and plans to turn it into a feature film! In this interview, I asked Liza about her past disasters and her current and future projects. She had a lot to say, so without further adieu, here we go.
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DLM: It’s been a long time since our last interview, so let’s start off by having you tell everyone a little about yourself.
LT: By day I am in aviation and by night I am a struggling independent film maker. I have lived in south Florida most of my life, and the economy here is crushing me. Business has never been this bad in my entire life. I have been in tight scrapes plenty of times but nothing like this. I am a fighter and I will not give up my dream.
DLM: A while back, you were basically wiped out by a storm. Tell us about that and how you managed to get through it and get your life back in order.
LT: After Hurricane Wilma , I took what little savings I had and got a huge warehouse, and moved what things I had left into it. This wiped out most of what I saved, so I was forced to sleep in the warehouse on the floor in a pile of wet clothes. I got a futon to sleep on the next day and continued on, crying my self to sleep every night. Why can’t I just live a normal life and have a normal job? This is in my blood, Im a film maker.
DLM: You were/are known locally as "The Robot Lady" because of your ability to build some really cool robots. What happened to your robots in all the turmoil? Were they lost as well? Have you, or do you plan to continue to build them in the future?
LT: They were all lost but one, he was broken into three large chunks of twisted debris, but I loved him. He was the one in my last articles and I was not going to leave him…funny how you get attached to things, lol. Currently there is no budget for toys so no there are no plans, but damn that would make a killer show.
DLM: Back then, you were working on a rather interesting, open source film project. Tell us about that project and what ultimately became of it?
LT: That project was completely wiped out with my studio after the hurricane, all the equipment, footage, cameras, computers, lighting and everything to do with that project was destroyed. The project was scrapped. But the flame never went out, I picked the ball back up a year ago. It took THAT long to get my new studio built. The new show "Sister Marys Fun House" has opened all kinds of new doors to me, and the Internet is now a playground for my kind of thinking. It was never like this when I had my other project. In this show I use skits… as adds for a sticker I designed to go on the bottoms of bottles or glasses. Its a joke that people can play on there friends and they can film it and post the prank they did on the net, ten minutes after they shot it! The trick is… where do you get the stickers? Well from me of course, lol. I think this will be a land slide if I could just keep going. The open source part will be in the film, we will bring people who interact with us on line to the studio and do stunts with them. We will use footage of us at our computes talking to all these people, and do cutaways to the live action we just brain stormed on with a total stranger somewhere elts in the world. It’s like my old project on crack. What’s really exciting is that we now have a man in Ireland working on music for the movie, and one in Estonia doing a skit for us, all via the internet. Man if the net was like this back then I would have made it for sure. This is so exciting!
DLM: Now that you’ve recovered, you’re back at work with a new web series that you’d like to turn into a film as well. Tell us first what gave you the idea for this series? What were the origins of it, and how did you start to put it all together?
LT: An Idea came to me while eating dinner with my partner Dino. I wanted to make a show that everyone would enjoy and would run on a zero budget, that would generate enough money from a consumable product to be sold on every show. What I came up with is like jack ass using strippers and lesbians on crack. The stunts have to be cheap, fast and easy.
DLM: So tell us about the cast. Who are these people and how did you go about casting the show?
LT: "Skippy" is our lead character. He has no formal training of "ANY" type. He is a natural born comedic genius! Steph, has no formal training either. She manages a business by day and at night when she comes to the studio she is in charge of all photography and image alterations on every level imaginable. If that is not enough, she is part of the cast and is one hell of a grip! Dino, the business manager of the Fun House, gets us our money and is an important part of the cast as well! Amber, aka Wamber, is heading up our movie/documentary on this project. She also does cinematography and helps with editing. Monte, an old friend of mine who has helped us financially, believed in us and has actually played in the show as well.And that leads to me… Liza AKA Sister Mary!!! Welcome to my fun house!
DLM: What are some of the crazier stunts you’ve done on the show, and what kinds of stunts do you have planned for future episodes?
LT: The best stunt was performed with a hot young woman with a golf club and an apple. You guessed it! 100 MPH Apple to the face starring "Skippy"!! Following that is "Taking out the trash"…one of our most famous skits. Someone hid in the trash and then we ran into it with the truck on accident. It was all caught on film. Disturbing? YES…but hilarious.
DLM: Have you ever had a stunt go bad, where someone got hurt?
LT: Yes! almost all of them! Some funny, some not so funny. This is where Amber got her nick name… "Wamber".
DLM: Will the film version of the show include stuff you’ve already shot for the web series, or is it going to be all new material?
LT: Yes and Yes! It will be modeled after Howard Stern’s "Private Parts". Let’s just say….all of the good guys who’s stood with us and supported us will get their recognition. And all the jerks will be exposed! This movie will be produced with real footage shot during the stunts and candid interviews.
DLM: Who comes up with all the different stunt ideas? Do you think them up yourself or are they more of a collaborative effort?
LT: I do, 90% of it. We don’t use scrips or story boards. As you probably know I’m illiterate, and never made it past the 8th grade. The way I work is I come up with an idea, I design it, build it then, test it. Once I have the final product…. I invite the crew in! And… that’s when the fun starts! The crew helps out with sets and props as well. NO reading or writing is required! My favorite saying is… "What’a hell am I going to do with a script, can you draw it on a napkin please?"
DLM: What’s the current status of the film project, and where can people check out the web series, so they can get a taste of what to expect in the film?
LT: The film project is an ongoing thing and footage is being stock piled in a brand new G-5 just for this. You can check out the Web series at www.sistermarysfunhouse.com. Now take into consideration that this is a new project and we are not professionals, we are just struggling people trying to make it work! We are making and breaking the rules as we go.
DLM: Have you been working on any other projects aside from the film and the web series, or has your focus been entirely on these for now?
LT: This is all I eat, drink and sleep for now… from the moment I wake up in the morning, I’m like a pitbull with a bone in his mouth, no one is going to take this one away. When I shop for food, I way out the price of food, against something I need for the next shoot.
DLM: Do you have any ideas floating around for things you’d like to work on in the future?
LT: My heart and my roots are in drama and I’d like to get back into it! However, if an opportunity presented it self to work in a REAL television show "I will jump at the chance!!!"
DLM: What advice would you give film makers just starting out in their first projects to help them avoid some of the pitfalls you’ve had to deal with in the past?
LT: Refuse to give up, refuse to surrender, follow your dreams. Take risks, if you don’t the answer is no. Better to ask forgiveness than permision. keep your Tumbs handy and your cammera dry. You can take down the bigest tree in the forest with a spoon, if you just stay with it.
DLM: Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap this up?
LT: Yeah, if you think this sounds like a cool project, I have an idea for a show that will blow this away, but once again at this point in time I have no funds to give it life.