Maureen “Mo” Whelan is an actress, model, animator, graphic artist, writer, and (as she puts it), “duct tape film producer.” She tells me she primarily considers herself a creative producer, and one who isn’t afraid to handle legal matters that come with the territory. One of her latest projects, a horror she co-wrote entitled No Service, she’ll be producing and directing with Miss Misery Reyna Young, and will feature Felissa Rose of Sleepaway Camp fame. Among her animation credits is 1999’s South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut, where she spent hours animating Terence and Phillip’s heads.
Before the glitz and glamor of show biz called, Mo managed a large auto parts franchise store, so she’s a lady who knows her way around under the hood of a car. Also a lady with a big heart, Mo actively supports many charitable causes and is often seen at their events and fundraisers around the Los Angeles area. I was recently fortunate enough to get Mo to take some time out to answer some of the questions I had for her, which included her artwork (she also paints), her views on the future of the visual effects industry, and her thoughts on Eric Cartman. Above photo of Mo at last year’s A Nightmare to Remember International Film Festival, courtesy of Oscar Benjamin.
CHRIS CHARLES: It’s a pleasure to be featuring you here, Mo. As you may know, our mutual friend Reyna Young, bka Miss Misery, introduced me to you. How did the two of you meet and how long have you been working with Last Doorway Productions?
MO WHELAN: We were just asked that same question not too long ago and couldn’t remember exactly how we met but it was around 2008. I had just finished producing a low budget indie slasher flick, Client 14 and was writing for Girls and Corpses Magazine. Reyna and I were being interviewed by the same horror media journalist. She decided to make a documentary about women in horror, Welcome To My Darkside, and asked me to be an interviewee in the doc. We decided to start making films together last year because we have a similar vision when it comes to film stylization.
CHRIS: I’m looking forward to seeing Monster of the Golden Gate. What locations have you shot that one at, so far?
MO: My scene was shot in Los Angeles because that is where I reside. However, most of the film was shot in San Francisco.
CHRIS: Do you do also spend a lot of time up in San Francisco?
MO: I try to visit San Francisco as often as possible but have only been able to visit once or twice a year due to my schedule. I plan on spending more time in San Francisco this year.
CHRIS: I read that your hometown is Münster, Germany?
MO: I was born in Munster, Germany. My father was an Irish Guard in the British Army and was stationed in Munster at the time I was born. My family and I lived in Folkstone, England for a few years before coming to America. My mom was born in California and missed her family. So, we moved back to be with her parents. I’ve personally lived in Los Angeles for almost 19 years. I’m a British and American citizen.
CHRIS: Besides horror, what other type of genres would you like to be involved with?
MO: I’d like to be involved with more real life stories. Some people’s stories should be told and I’d like to help them tell their stories. I also have a war story concept based on a small war my father was involved with. War stories are hard to write especially when basing on facts supplied from different resources. I’m sure you can understand this having served in the American Army. So, that will take some time to develop.
CHRIS: As this goes to press, how many projects do you have in pre-production?
MO: The main project that’s in pre-production is No Service. Reyna and I co-wrote, co-produced and are co-directing together. Felissa Rose, Max Wasa, Victoria De Mare, Michelle Tomlinson, and Marv Blauvelt are a few names currently attached. Reyna is currently planning out her new film, Forgotten Tales. She’ll start shooting that film once production on Monster of Golden Gate is done.
CHRIS: How about post-production?
MO:The Divine Order directed by Patrick O’Bell, is currently in post-production and should be finished by end of year to submit to the film festival circuit. I produced the film along with Andy Gates. Dave Vescio, Tamzin Brown, Jonathan Erickson Eisley, Victoria De Mare, Michelle Tomlinson and Reyna Young star in it. Bring Me the Head of Lance Henriksen directed by Michael Worth is in post. I acted in the film and have a scene with Tim Thomerson. Michael will have a few announcements coming up within the next few months. Fear Clinic directed by Rob Hall, starring Robert Englund, I believe is still in post. It was recently picked up by Anchor Bay and should be released by end of year. I was a crowdfunding backer for the film and am happy to support talented friends.
CHRIS: Before you got into show biz, one job you held was managing the Redondo Beach Chief Auto Parts. Did you grow up around cars, learning what was under the hood?
MO: My grandfather had an old 70’s Dodge Dart. He worked on the car and I watched along with handing him tools. When I was 16, I had a ’67 Chevy El Camino with a 250. I loved that car but sold it in my mid 20’s. I have a ’62 VW Bug that was my grandmothers. It sits at my mother’s house. My friend owned a ’70 International Scout. He told me I had to learn about cars if I was going to have classic cars. So, he taught me basics and I took an engines and drivetrains class at a local college.
CHRIS: Any project cars you’ve restored or worked on?
MO: I did rebuild a Chevy 350 with a few other students for a class project.
CHRIS: Mmm, I do like a girl I can talk cars with, but moving on; you’re credited with more roles, both in front of and behind the camera, than anyone I’ve ever interviewed. Of all those roles, which do you consider yourself first and foremost?
MO: Thanks, I think… I’m more of a creative producer. I like building teams and creating a final product. I also deal with legal concerns such as clearances, drafting agreements, and negotiating. I’ve been referred to as a ‘shark’ when it comes to legal matters.
CHRIS: Have you ever been called on to do a job on the spot, that you had no prior experience in?
MO: I’ve been asked to take on new tasks in most of my day jobs. Whether it’s learning a new scheduling or tracking program for production management or searching out content for acquisitions. Taking on new tasks in the industry is common. I’m use to being thrown into the boiling pot and having to figure things out, or fix an issue. I also created most of the non-complex SPFX for Client 14 and they came out fine. I just accredit my artistic eye for the SPFX outcome.
CHRIS: I understand you’ve be in animation a long time. What was your first job in animation?
MO: I was an intern at a small 3D computer animation company based in Los Angeles. As a teen, I took a 3D modeling and animation class which helped me get the internship. Animation trivia: You can find 3D models of me on TurboSquid.com by searching “Maureen.”
CHRIS: I read your article you wrote last year, about the downsizing of the visual effects industry. Do you feel there are jobs in the industry now that will soon be outsourced to other countries with cheaper labor, just like with the manufacturing industry?
MO: Cloud based and file sharing software has made several industry jobs vulnerable to outsourcing. If you can digitize it, you can outsource it. Even some call center jobs are being outsourced along with hardware manufacturing. ADAPT (Association of Digital Artists, Professionals and Technicians) has been taking steps in an attempt to convince government officials to help regulate digital outsourcing and subsidies.
CHRIS: What advice would you give someone fresh out of college looking for a job in the visual effects or animation field?
MO: In today’s economy, have a backup plan.
CHRIS: In that article, you also mentioned how so many production companies are now making reality shows because of their relatively low production costs. What reality shows would be on your “best” and “worst” lists?
MO: I would rather not comment on this topic. However, I will say reality production companies need to focus more on real life, inspirational stories to help motive the younger generation to rebuild the economy.
CHRIS: Fair enough. So, I’m a South Park fan and something on your resume really grabbed me. You were an assistant animator on South Park: Bigger Longer & Uncut. What was it like working with the South Park staff?
MO: Many late night and early morning hours, but it was fun. Everyone just did their thing to get the movie made.
CHRIS: I know the paradox of the “crude” animation and cute-looking characters combined with the clumsy handling of controversial topics and the kids’ foul mouths, is, what makes South Park, well, South Park. So, from an animator’s perspective, is it that much easier to create a show like South Park as opposed to, say, a Disney animated feature?
MO: It really depends on the style, type of animation, 2D or 3D, traditional or computer generated, complexity of scenes, script, team, and deadline. Not to mention input from executives involved; producer, director, distributor, MPAA, etc.
CHRIS: Just for fun, I’d like to throw some names at you and ask that you give me the first word that pops into your mind about them.
MO: I’ll give you the words that pop into mind. CHRIS: Okay. Cartman. MO: Respect My Authoritah. CHRIS: Chef. MO: Chocolate Salty Balls. CHRIS: Terence and Phillip. MO: Hours of animating their heads. CHRIS: Mr. Garrison. MO: Pervert with a hand puppet. CHRIS: Kenny. MO: In Hell. CHRIS: (Laughing) Awesome. So, I understand you also paint and have had some of your works in galleries? MO: I’ve exhibited my traditional art pieces at several underground clubs, art shows and retail stores in Los Angeles. My art was also part of a Woman in Animation show that was held at The Animation Guild, I.A.T.S.E. Local 839. CHRIS: You’re also involved with some charitable events, such as Bowling for Boobies and the Britticares Toy Drive. Please tell me about those. MO: Yes, Bowling for Boobies is an event for breast cancer. I have a few friends that are breast cancer survivors and one who passed from it. Britticares and Toy’s for Tots are charitable events I try to attend around Christmas to provide toys for kids in need. I also attended a walk for the American Heart Association about a year after my father passed from a sudden major coronary attack CHRIS: Wow, that’s very admirable. So, moving to a lighter subject; from photos I’ve seen, you seem to get around to quite a few hot spots in LA. Any favorites you’d care to mention?
MO: I like dancing to Electronic Dance Music (EDM). My new favorite spot is OHM Nightclub at the Hollywood and Highland mall. The owner did a good job remodeling the location and just opened it this year. So far, my friend DJ Scotty Boy has spun there along with Dirty Vegas and The Cataracs. I will always be a fan of Superclub LA and The Writers Room. Reyna and I plan on having a screening of No Service at Supperclub once the film is done. However, if I feel like just going to a bar and having a beer, I’ll go to Five0Four Hollywood. A scene for The Divine Order was shot there.
CHRIS: Any favorite haunts in San Francisco?
MO: Boudin, because I love their clam chowder in a bread bowl. Yum.
CHRIS: My intel also reveals that you love to relax on your bed with some wine and cheese. Are you partial to any vintage or kind of cheese
MO: I’m a Merlot drinker, but will accept other red’s if Merlot is not available. I’m also a fan of Jameson Irish Whiskey, thanks to my Irish heritage. I like all cheese except for goat cheese. The taste reminds me of the smell of wet goat.
CHRIS: Where have you smelled a wet goa….oh, never mind. So do you have any hobbies or interests that most people don’t know about?
MO: I’m kind of boring. I like going out but I also like my alone time.
CHRIS: So with that, I thank you again for doing this, Mo, In closing, any plugs or shout-outs to anyone?
MO: Thank you Chris for your time and the interview. Thanks Reyna for hooking us up and being my film partner in crime. Thanks to all the cast and crew I have or plan on working with for being a part of my mad creations. I also have to give a shout out to Corpsy from Girls and Corpses Magazine for encouraging my writing career. Thank you all for reading this interview and for your support. I appreciate everyone!
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Chris flirted with the music business there and in Nashville before joining the U.S. Army and serving in South Korea. He remained in Asia for several years afterwards, teaching English and covering the regional entertainment scenes. Currently in a mindset between Seoul and San Francisco, besides Idol Features, you can also catch his writings in the print edition of the quarterly magazine, Effective.