Boss Lady: Tamar Halpern

Tamar2When did you know you wanted to be a director?
Probably when I was a P.A. on the Ice Cube music video “Who’s The Mack.”  All the pimp and ho costumes really inspired me. Even when the production was shut down because we were in Blood territory and Ice Cube locked himself in his trailer because of his Crip affiliation, I loved it all – the crane shots, the fast-paced tight crew, the producer handing me a Coke and saying, “Please get Mr. Cube some ice.”

When did you know you were in love with cupcakes? 
Untrue. I am in love with frosting. The cake is merely a disposable conduit.

Why direct comedy?  How is it different from directing other genres of film?
I tend to direct what I write, and what I write tends to come out as comedy. Not in this case, though. There is nothing funny about what I just wrote.

If Chuck Norris were to corner you in an alley and challenge you to a duel, what would be your weapon of choice? 
Easy. I’d pick up my son, aim, and squeeze. His farts are legendary.

Do you have a comedy director you look up to? Why? 
Woody Allen was certainly my first big screen comedy influence. When I was little, and way too young to be watching his films, there were things that were hysterical, but I also remember being tremendously upset when a giant, lactating boob chased characters through the countryside threatening them with streams of lethal breast milk.

cam_tamWhat’s the no. 1 lesson you’ve learned so far about directing? 
Casting! If you have brilliant actors, you have everything!

As a woman, do you note any differences in how you work with your cast and crew versus how a male director does? 
I was told by an Academy Award winner that I needed to act more like a man on set by demanding what I want, regardless. I’m always very budget aware, having made my own films in the past, so when someone says that’s the best we can do or this is all we have time for, I take it at face value, plus I assume department heads know more about their department than I do (unless they prove otherwise). That said, I’m constantly working out alternate plans to get the coverage I need to tell the story I want to tell. If the roof falls in, I figure out a way around it (this scene is now an exterior). Perhaps, some men can yell or throw things or insist that something must be done without being judged as harshly as a woman would. Or maybe women are more open to compromise. Especially those who raise gassy kids.

In a dream gig, which comedy actress/comedienne would you love to direct? 
Well, funny you should ask. I’ve already had the pleasure to make TWO comedies with Betsy Brandt (Memphis Bound and Gagged and Shelf Life), and that was a dream come true. As for others, I’d love, love, LOVE a chance to work with Sally Field, Kristen Wiig, and Aubrey Plaza.

Which character do you most resemble from “The Divas“? 
The hot one. Definitely the hot one.

When you’re not directing comedy, you’re…
So lame, but it’s true, I am writing. Or looking for a cure for cancer, but mostly writing.

What’s your favorite comedy movie or T.V. show of all time? 
Fave comedy movie: Raising Arizona. Fave TV show: Arrested Development.

Title of your autobiography? 
Since A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is already taken, how about Tamar: Girl Wonder.


A little excerpt from Tamar: Girl Wonder:

Tamar Halpern received her MFA in film production from USC and is a Hedgebrook alum. She has written and directed four features, including Shelf Life starring Betsy Brandt of Breaking Bad, and Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life starring Mira Sorvino, Michael Urie and Joey Pantoliano, due out in early 2012. She is finishing a feature documentary about Los Angeles artist Llyn Foulkes and has two short films on the festival circuit. She is currently writing a romantic comedy set in Bangkok and her short fiction, which won Best of the Net 2010, has been published in Joyland. Also, she likes sparklers.


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