By Kirk Starratt
It seems so surreal that sometimes, actress Leanne Bishop has to pinch herself.
It was hardly overnight success for Bishop, who grew up in Port Williams, but the actress, writer and producer is on the verge of landing a TV series in the United States that involves one of the most bizarre success stories of the New York entertainment scene.
“You struggle for years and years, so to see it come together is wonderful,” Bishop said. “Nothing happens overnight. Sometimes I totally have to pinch myself.”
Bishop, a self-described nomad, has been living and working in New York, as well as travelling to Los Angeles, Toronto and Vancouver for meetings. She said she was recently to Los Angeles to pitch the idea for her TV series and will be going back in January. Bishop said that’s the place to be to get a series off the ground.
“New York has been great to me, it’s a great place to start out,” Bishop said, adding that the theatre is one of the best training grounds.
The TV series, tentatively called “You, Me and Radioman,” grew out of her time in New York and the second short film she wrote about a New York entertainment enigma, known as Radioman. She’s starting to submit “On the Radioman” to film festivals now.
Bishop said the man was a homeless alcoholic living on the streets of the city who had a strong love of film. He’d hang out where movies were being shot, befriending people while riding around on a bicycle with a radio dangling around his neck. He’s now appeared in more than 100 films and is considered a good luck charm by Hollywood A-list stars shooting in New York. There is a currently a documentary about Radioman’s life making the film festival circuit.
“It’s so wonderfully bizarre,” Bishop said. “He’s the star who’s going to be in my TV series.”
In the series, Bishop’s character is an aspiring network TV producer who can’t get anything off the ground. She sees Radioman and decides to create a show about him. A lot of quirky comedy arises from her efforts to convince him to do the show.
“For me, this is a really big project,” Bishop said.
If someone else hires her for a role and the project flops, there are a lot of other people to blame, she said, but when you write, produce and act in your own films, you’re on the hook for it.
The first film Bishop wrote that was produced was shot in Wolfville in 2008. “Gyno” is a short, comedic film is about a woman who finds true love at the gynecologist’s office. The film didn’t make money, but was screened at numerous venues and generated a lot of exposure for Bishop. She said there was a definite trickle-down effect from the project.
“Gyno was great, but this is really turning it up a notch,” Bishop said of her Radioman project.
She said a lot of actors create their own work in order to be seen and she doesn’t want to be sitting around waiting for the phone to ring.
“I think doing (“Gyno”) made me realize how much there is out there when you create your own work,” Bishop said. “It was really exciting to come home to the Valley to do it.”
Feature films take longer to get off the ground and Bishop said she would always come home to Nova Scotia to shoot if possible. There is such a great atmosphere of support here, including the tax breaks offered for film production, she said.
Her goal is to become more “bicoastal” because you have to be where the work is: on the east and west coasts.
Social media is important these days because if you can get a fan base on Twitter or Facebook, you already have a built-in audience to take to the networks, she added.
Acting isn’t always glamorous and many people with aspirations of becoming TV or film stars get discouraged fast. You really have to love it, she says.
Bishop said she is really grounded and remains very close to her family and friends at home in Nova Scotia.
“My friends came to New York and crashed in my apartment,” she said. “It was great.”
In addition to the new TV series, Bishop is currently writing two feature films, a comedy and a thriller, and has been acting in a film currently in production called Arkon Games. They were shooting in Massachusetts this fall and will resume in the spring. Bishop said the film is sort of in the vein of The Hunger Games.