Creator Spotlight

Parasitic Puppets and Magic Abs

Parasitic Puppets and Magic Abs

Bri Castellini

May 31, 2017

Parasitic Puppets and Magic Abs
Nate Steinwachs (left) and Nicola Rose (right) in "Callie and Izzie"

Dating is hard, but dating with a horny, garbage-eating parasitic puppet growing out of your arm makes it next to impossible. Such is the absurd and often raunchy premise of Callie and Izzie, created by and starring Nicola Rose.

Rose, who plays both Callie and the parasitic Izzie, is no stranger to speaking two parts. She's bilingual, having studied French at Columbia University and theatre at the Université Paris III Sorbonne-Nouvelle, and, when not working on her own projects, works as a professional puppeteer, translator, and freelance producer.

Bri Castellini: How did you get into web series? Did you always intend on making Callie and Izzie a series?

Nicola Rose: I have always enjoyed telling stories episodically. My father is a cartoonist which may have somehow influenced my gravitating towards a short form web series. it'ssimilar to writing a daily comic strip the same economy of space and story.

Tell us about Callie and Izzie- what inspired the show? How did you pitch it to friends and collaborators, especially as you entered into the crowdfunding phase?

Callie & Izzy is the story of an ordinary young woman (Callie) who comes down with Puppetitis B a rare disorder that makes a living, talking puppet grow out of her hand. Naturally, the puppet (Izzy) promptly ruins her life. When pitching, I was very pleased with myself for coming up with the tagline: "Callie's got a problem. Izzy is always on hand." I also, quite frankly, wanted an excuse to write the character of a shirtless male therapist who solves problems with his magic abs. This last sentence is actually my artistic M.O. in its entirety and you may quote me.

When did you start working with puppets? What appeals to you about them?

I started working with them in 2010 when I started impromptu studying puppetry in France. I like that there are no barriers with puppets. People drop their guards entirely with puppets; they tell them their hopes and problems and fears... "puppets reinforce our humanity" and "puppets can get away with doing pretty much any vile thing you can think of."

In the show, we can see you voicing Izzie when she talks- did you ever discuss hiding that, or adding the puppet voice in post?

Izzy and Callie share a mouth. Such are the ravages of Puppetitis B! As to the discussion sure, people told me to hide it. An equal or greater number told me I shouldn't; that they preferred it as is. Others still told me Izzy should be voiced by a man or that the show was a metaphor for schizophrenia.

Did you know your cast and crew before filming? If so, how? If not, how did you find them?

Most of them I knew through other work. For example, Brandon Ascari (one of our DPs) was the director of a prior project I had worked on. I admired his straightforwardness and meticulousness .... Another good friend, Nate Steinwachs (Dr. Salverson), was in a play I directed, playing the smallest role, and I said to myself, "I have to use this person to better effect in something some day." Our wonderful sound operator, Rob Vincent, was someone I had worked with for many years, and I was pleased to be able to put his voice talents to use by also making him our Arrested Development-style narrator. Many of the actors in smaller roles were cast via Actors Access.

What was the most surprising part of producing this show?

How much people believed in the puppet. When I took her off my hand and tossed her somewhere, cast and crew would become "creeped out" that she was "dead."

What was the most rewarding?

Seeing people come on set as cast and crew and leave as friends.

What does the future hold for Callie and Izzie? Is the epilogue the end, or do you have something else planned?

The epilogue is the end unless it isn't.

What's next?

My current project is the bilingual short film Creative Block, which was filmed on location in Paris and New York, and is a lighthearted look at creativity lost and found across two countries.

Can you recommend some of your favorite web series?

I'm a big fan of Jarod Facknitz' and Erin Flynn's puppetry work on How Do We Sing?. I also admire what Alex Spieth and co. are doing with Blank My Life and laughed out loud at Taylor Coriell and crew's pilot for you're The Pest. Jackie Forbes is a very funny writer-creator with whom I worked on J.M. Nells, and a shout-out is also due to my talented friend Carmen Rio's Bound.

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