Renee came out in a sparkly silvery top,
black pants and high heels. And not just any pedestrian high
heels, but shoes with heels that were somewhat breathtakingly
high, Mt. McKinley high, and were also very skinny. I’m always
amazed when I’m “Outside” (which for Alaskans is how we refer to
any place that’s not Alaska) and I see people wearing high
heels—it’s just not a look you find very often in Fairbanks. And
most assuredly not in the winter.
First of course, Renee thanked us for being
here. All them show folks talk about how amazing to them is our
loyalty and continued exuberance for being together someplace
where they are. She literally said “It’s about you”, meaning
that the con happens because we show up. Which is baldly true,
of course, but I’m pretty sure she meant it also and even more
so in the sense of we’re the ones who are the very public face
testifying’ how the Xena fan base has never totally disbanded,
that we’re still in love not only with this show and the people
who brought it to us but also, deep down and sometimes well
hidden, with each other. Even though it’s been ten years since
the show ended. And by our showing up, we inspire the people who
worked on the show to take the time and energy to be with us
again and celebrate us celebrating together.
Renee said, “I’m going to do a show and
tell”. A small number of us of course laughed lasciviously.
Renee then added, “I won’t show much-but I’ll tell a lot”.
She said she was going to show us some
clips that I thought she called “Byways”. She said, “I’ve been
interviewing other people. Women who are inspiring to me” She
wants to encourage more authentic experiences.
Then she began to show us some clips which
were from a series of what I realized was actually “Five Ways”,
These were fun little bits. There was one
called something like multi-tasking fitness. It opened on Renee
standing with a just about as big as her boy draped across her
shoulders as she did leg lifts and possibly? squats. (We assume
the boy was Miles.)
Then there was a hilarious one that started
with a hand holding a Gabrielle dolly and then throwing it into
an empty dumpster. The shot changes to inside the dumpster and
suddenly the doll is actually Renee dressed as Gabrielle. She
screams out, “I’m a collectible!” Then the camera pulls back and
we see that a Darth Vader dolly is also in the dumpster. They
interact in various very funny ways. (I don’t want to tell too
much—I believe that this stuff is on Renee’s web page and I
think people are supposed to pay to access them.)
A fan asked her about Ark 2. She called the
director I think he is, Trey, up on stage for a little bit. He
essentially just said that there’s a process they’re working on
and right now a sequel is under discussion.
There is a film project she’s been working
on that was called “Fitful” That has been renamed “Dead Rise”.
She showed us clips from it. She asked us not to take pictures
of anything she was showing us. She mentioned that they’d be
entering some of the projects in film festivals.
The clip from “Dead Rise” started with a
woman waking up on a boat. Then we see her having various
reactions to things other people are doing. We see her wake up a
few times and do different things.
When the clip ended, Renee said, “Oh-I
forgot to kind of set this up”. She told us that for the woman
the day kept repeating. Then she told us that after working on
it for a while, she suddenly realized that what they were making
was a ghost story. Eventually her partners on the project came
to the same conclusion.
Then she added, “I’ll try to set up the
next one better”. She expects “Dead Rise” to be ready for
release in about six months or so.
“I promise we’re going to talk about Xena.
I know that’s why we’re here.” She said she knew that was what
we wanted but a number of people assured her that we were
interested in her current projects also. Which is definitely
true. That is a constant question for everyone who
appears-actor, writer, director whatever-“What are you working
Next she talked about “Beyond The Farthest
Star”. She said, “It’s a faith-based film, but it’s heart
strong. It’s about a family completely imploding on itself.
There’s a feeling of shame around the family. I read it and then
I met the film makers and told them I’d love to do this.”
Then she showed us a clip from it. She
asked us not to record any of this either. It looked very well
produced and featured good acting. There is apparently a web
site for it where you can go and somehow request that the film
play in a specific location. The more people request a showing
the better it is for the movie.
Renee said, “I love stories like that. They
tell the truth.”
A fan asked if Renee’s own faith (hmm-I
think it was something like, “Informed”) the way she played the
character. “Not so much. She’s walking around with a mask. She’s
the good church wife. This is more about her heart. She wants
her husband to love her daughter the way she is.”
Fan: “Where was it filmed?”
“Leonard Texas. We shot there for three
weeks.” She talked about the actors and crew living in each
other’s pockets. They were on set together all day and then they
all stayed in the same motel. “There was nowhere to go”. She
talked about eating at a Sonic drive-in “a lot”. The Sonic was
very close to their motel. The first time she went over there,
it was raining heavily and she had her boots on and a hoody on
and was all bundled up. She walked up to the Sonic and they
said, “Where’s your car?” She said she had just walked over from
the motel. They said, “But this is a drive in.” Since it was a
drive-in, they made her walk around to the drive in window in
the pouring rain to order. She got to the window and said,
Renee said Leonard was very good to them.
“They handed us the key to the city.” I believe she said there
was some concern about these out-of-towners, but “These
filmmakers are honorable men. They came through.”
Renee had warned us when she started her
appearance that she had some very heavy duty material that she
was going to show us. She kept saying that some people might not
want to stay for this and especially if there were children
there, their parents might want to take them out of the
auditorium. She told us it’s a film about PTSD and the effects
of that trauma on a soldier and through them, on their family.
She made it to highlight the dysfunctional violence and disarray
of our society.
Renee repeated the warning just before she
started the film and said she wasn’t kidding. That we should
take the kids out now. She talked about how it showed a horrible
thing happening to a child.
The film was both very powerful and very
awful. It dealt with a man (whom I think was played by Jed Sura,
Renee’s partner) coming home from Iraq I think it was, with
severe PTSD. Renee plays his wife and their daughter Iris played
his child. It showed him suffering through his delusions and
paranoia. And what happens to himself and his family because of
his reactions to these.
It was shocking. I was personally deeply
affected by it. Now I don’t have a lot written down about the
movie and the audience reaction to it. I was just listening to
what other people had to say about it. Not many people got up to
talk. Those who did were passionate about the topic whichever
side they were on.
As I had watched the film, I got upset and
felt some anger. Primarily because I didn’t think it was exactly
appropriate to show it in this venue-it didn’t really fit in
with the mood of the con nor people’s expectations of what the
entertainment will be here. But again, Renee did repeatedly warn
us about how serious and horrific this film is before she showed
The audience reaction was mixed. The room
was mostly silent when it ended. It took a while (and I think
some questions from Renee) before people began to express
opinions on it. Some people said they were angry because they
had personal histories with PTSD effects and were upset to have
those memories brought up here. Other people were very
supportive of the film and said that we need to have these
problems brought out in the open. That if we keep sweeping this
under the rug, we’ll never be able to deal with it effectively
and protect people from it. At least one of the people who said
this also had a personal family tragedy as a result of
war-induced PTSD. She was very moved and very supportive of the
film precisely because it is so rare that this problem is
highlighted in a humane and tragic way.
Renee said I think both before and after
the film that we have been sweeping this problem under the rug.
That our society is traumatized and our military and their
family are paying the price of the trauma. I think it was Renee
but it might have been a person in the audience who mentioned
that just recently a family tragedy that was a result of PTSD
had been in the news. Someone near me in the audience mentioned
a mother killing her children near Seattle.
I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the
people who saw the film are still thinking about it. After
listening to the comments from other people, I was less angry
and more thoughtful. While I’m still not totally certain that
the con was the place to show this, I think it is a tribute to
the film and how well it captured and presented its message that
it did generate such strong feelings. That’s one of the
functions of art, it's the work of art-to stimulate thought,
discussion and passionate responses. And I repeat, Renee warned
us that it was an unusual and very serious and very gritty film
and that some of us might choose not to stay and watch it.
That was the end of Renee’s time alone.
Next she showed the welcome clip Lucy had filmed for us that we
had already seen twice before. But this time, as the clip ended,
Lucy walked out from behind the curtain and strode up to the