Ahead of the debut of their new comedy series Human Telegraphs on November 15, one star and behind-the-scenes force of the comedy trio behind the laffer pulled up a seat with us to give us the exclusive 411.
Lets welcome actress Fern Lim to Geek Vibes Nation!
GVN: I can’t believe we’re talking to Violet Beauregarde! Of all the great roles you’ve played on stage, please tell me she was a hoot!
Fern Lim: Oh, she most definitely was! Plus I got to wear an inflatable blueberry costume, which was a great hit with the actual kids in the show. Though, it was perhaps *too* much of a hit… while we were testing the costume’s inflation, I got swarmed by a gaggle of Oompa Loompa kids jabbing at the ballooning costume (and thus my body) from all sides with their little Oompa Loompa fingers!
How did you break into the business, Fern?
Honestly, I just keep following breadcrumbs! Little intuitions here, serendipitous opportunities there. Making Human Telegraphs is definitely the biggest breadcrumb of saying “Sure, let’s produce and star in a webseries!” despite having zero idea about how to go about doing it. Overall, it’s a lot of straddling the balance between openness to serendipity alongside having focused attention and discernment.
Did you have encouraging folks?
Yes! They were a bit perplexed by this shy kid who suddenly wanted to join a theater competition in elementary school, and again when this not-so-shy adult wanted to quit her day job to spend more time on acting. But in the end, they always trust that I’ve got a good head on my shoulders. I am immensely grateful for them!
You’re based in NYC?
I was based in NYC, but during post-production of Human Telegraphs, I got a little gut feeling that it was time to move on to a different city. Now I’m based in Los Angeles, but part of my heart will always be in NYC.
Do you feel the city is as much a star of the series as the fleshy players? It’s very much a NYC series!
Oh 100%! We filmed in three of the five boroughs and had to do company moves across boroughs within the same shoot day (from Coney Island to Alphabet City was a big one). For me, especially now that I’m not based there, the series feels like a love letter to the city, all the quirky characters smooshed into it, and the magic that happens when personalities collide (as they must in smooshed places)!
And the cast are all locals? Folks you’ve worked with before?
Yes! Everyone was based in NYC. While we knew some of our cast prior, everyone went through the same audition process.
You juggle so many hats here— is there one you prefer?
At the end of the day, acting is the biggest driver for me across all my projects. But for Human Telegraphs, I have to say I stumbled upon the greatest joy in making props! I was up till 1:30am dipping printed prop pamphlets into trays of coffee to get that gorgeous aged sepia-tone look. I had purchased sepia paper but didn’t find out til nearly midnight that the paper jammed my printer 9 out of 10 times. (So keep an eye out for these coffee pamphlets at the end of Episode 3—they were a great triumph in midnight problem-solving!)
We also realized that perhaps we shouldn’t trash talk an actual real-life brand of water, so I designed “Asani” water bottle labels, printed them on this gorgeous light blue vellum, and got a PA to help me replace the real labels with ours! Oh, and I’m particularly proud of the bird wreath at the beginning of Episode 3. Our 1st AD was going to ask me for art director input on set but when she saw how happy I was putting the bird wreath together, she decided to save her question and leave me in my happy flow! I could keep going with prop stories but I’ll leave you with those three highlights.
How helpful are those festival screenings to you? Have you been through this before with another film or series?
This is my first festival circuit for my own work. I’ve been to festivals before, but as an audience member or as a representative for someone else’s film. My co-producers Rachel Kay Barclay and Kayla Conroy have really been taking our film festival game to incredible heights. I’m actually back in NYC right now for our very first film festival and world premiere at the Big Apple Film Festival! So check in with me next year and I can tell you how helpful these will be. Fingers crossed we’ll have oodles of film screening experiences under our belt to share!
Tell me about Acceptance – you just shot that right?
So this was shot closer to the beginning of the pandemic. Writer/director Maisa Chiang was mulling on different ways to keep creating in a way that would keep everyone 100% safe with zero COVID risk. When she thought about what actor would be game to experiment, act, AND wear a bajillion hats as every in-person role on set, she thought of me! She and our cinematographer Emily Lin are based in New York, so we mirrored my iPhone and FiLMiC Pro to my computer and Zoom so that they could direct and guide me through lighting and camera placement. (Though I was on my own for hitting record, which got pretty hilarious for some over-the-shoulder shots where I was contorting myself to jab at a screen I couldn’t see to hit record without messing up the carefully-constructed camera frame.) It was an intense few days and my studio apartment was a complete wreck on the non-set side. I was constantly in motion during the shoot, whether doing hair and makeup for myself or resetting props or adjusting lighting or setting up the next shot. (The latter two based on Maisa’s and Emily’s direction of course.) There’s so much that went into it, so you should check out the behind-the-scenes peek that Maisa created!
And you’re working on a stop-motion short. Wow. Time-intensive, I imagine? So you’re going back to the old Harryhausen ways of doing it?
Time-intensive and so much fun! I love details, and stop-motion is incredibly detailed. An earlier version of the short actually had me in it, though in a stop-motion style versus actual Dynamation. But it ended up being far more magical with just books and childhood toys. That’s actually why there’s just a teaser available to watch right now versus the full short. I had to scrap all the footage with me in it!
What will the short be about?
Books and a life through death story told through their titles! I’ve always loved reading. My homes were filled with books as a kid and they still have a very prominent place in my life now. One day, I was absentmindedly looking at my books when I realized that a lot of the titles were conducive to telling a story about the various stages of life from birth through death. So the teaser shows these initial stages, from The Berenstain Bears’ New Baby to Thich Nhat Haht’s How to Eat. Future to-be-filmed stages include, for example, getting a bit naughty by using kids’ and young adult books with out-of-context titles to indicate a teen’s sexual awakening! (Hint: they include YA books by Louis Sachar and Roald Dahl!)
Thanks again to Fern for taking the time to sit down with us and talk about her wonderful career plus the new comedy series, Human Telegraphs which is out now!
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