Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Richard Linklater On Kal Penn And Orson Welles

Director Richard Linklater, Claire Danes, and Zac Efron (Photo Christina Wilkie)

Director Richard Linklater, Claire Danes, and Zac Efron in Georgetown (Photo Christina Wilkie)

For director Richard Linklater, his projects range from the artsy (Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly) to more mainstream (School of Rock, Bad News Bears.) However when the screenwriter visited DC he was here to present a more independent production. But indie doesn’t mean small, in making Me And Orson Welles, he traveled all the way to the Isle of Man in order to shoot in one of the only theatres in the world that could double for the famous Mercury Theatre.

Despite picking up an American distributor, the film was picked up all along the festival circuit with screenings at Cannes, Toronto, and and South by Southwest. Now the film arrives in Washington, DC for a run at the E-Street cinema.

I had the chance to sit down with Richard Linklater to talk about making this film and his time here in The District.

Linklater took some creative steps to making Me And Orson Welles, when he struggled to find funding for the film he took the production abroad and filmed in Europe, “when you can’t get money in the U.S. you go to Europe,” he told me as we sat down in his Georgetown hotel suite. Even though the film takes in the New York City, he shot all of the New York scenes on a backlot at the UK-based Pinewood Studios. “We took some photos but we never shot a single frame of film in New York- a lot of that was filmed with CGI,” explained Linklater, “we used a muddy backlot and built 42nd street, the theatre, a couple of shops on it.”

When it came to casting Linklater was equally as creative, visualizing where his lead actor would be instead of holding auditions or pouring through lists. “I think our Orson is probably British, is probably doing Shakespeare right now- and a month later I got an e-mail from the Novelist, there was a guy doing a one man show in New York.” That guy was Christian McKay, a former concert pianist who was acting in a one-man show about Orson Welles. After flying him to Austin for three days of screen tests Linklater knew he had his man, “the key is that he’s Wellisan himself- he’s a child prodigy, a genius.”

Visiting Washington, DC always eventually leads to talk about politics, and with Orson Welles know for his iconic film Citizen Kane, Linklater offered some thoughts on Welles chances as a politician if it ever happened, “Um no- I think he’d be a great orator… he’s just too gifted an entertainer, too gifted a showman, he had too many artistic gifts… I mean come on he’s the ultimate control freak- politics is about compromise.”

Besides screening his film he also got to visit The White House where he met a fellow actor, turned Obama administration official: Kal Penn. Linklater was really impressed meeting Penn and said if he didn’t know about his acting past he would of thought he studied political science at an Ivy League school, “I was like- wow what a story-he’s called a liaison but he’s more than that. I do different kinds of films and people go, ‘that’s really different.’ Well that’s not really different, different would be working at the White House for a year or two. Making a different film about something different isn’t different.”

Linklater’s film Me and Orson Welles is screening at the E-Street theatre, check out my previous post for details.

PostSecret’s Frank Warren On Twitter (Plus Confessions On Death, Life, and God)

PostSecret_Confessions_on_Life_Death_and_God-61167The creator of PostSecret and friend of DC Metblogs Frank Warren has been busy lately.

Besides maintaining one of the web’s most visited blogs and holding numerous live events, he now has a new book out: PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God. For the 5th book he’s been busy doing various radio and television hits, including an appearance on the Today show. All of the buzz is well deserved, as his book debuted at #1 on the New York Times best seller list and still remains there two weeks later.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to chat with him and talk about what he’s been up to.

Since we first corresponded through e-mails back in January, Warren has expanded PostSecret’s online presence from it’s blog and online community with Facebook pages and a Twitter account. “PostSecret has been doing a lot of innovative stuff online- cutting edge stuff in the virtual world, social media,” says Warren and while his Twitter account is less than a year old he already has over 211,300 followers. He’s already become a Twitter pro, using his new iPhone to capture behind the scenes moments of his first national television interview. “I thought it was a cool juxtaposition because if somebody was following me on Twitter they could see it from my perspective then see it live on NBC like everybody else does- it’s like sharing the secrets behind the show.”

Frank has become a fan of Twitter and believes it is at the cusp of changing the way we communicate, “I think it’s a another unique communication tool that allows us to have new kinds of conversation I think eventually  it’s going to look nothing like it does now I think we are just at the beginning of how it evolves into something more significant.” Warren believes that Twitter still needs to work on ways to help users find the most interesting content easier, “Twitter is in desperate need of tools to raise the awareness of those that are sending the most interesting and experimental tweets.” Frank also came up with a new term for the many registered accounts that are relatively inactive:  Zombie Followers.

The idea for Confession on Life, Death, and God originally started as a PostSecret exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore. Looking at the 300 postcards in the exhibit, Warren noticed how secrets sent into the project have become more spiritual- and it became the theme of his latest book. For the next two years Frank solicited and collected secrets for the book and spent a lot of time selecting and arranging what would be included. Frank shared with me some layouts that stuck out to him, for instance pages 120-127 share a theme with birds and cages (get the book and see if you can find it.) There’s another interesting comparison on page 142 & page 143- but I’ll let you figure that one out. You can see Frank certainly put together this book with a meticulous eye.

After reading the copy of the book he sent to me, I found the book to be as thought-inspiring and insightful as the secrets he posts on the blog or his Twitter account. It is definitely an interesting book to check-out if you are a fan of PostSecret, or if you’ve never even heard of the project.

You can pick-up copies of the book on Amazon, B&N, Borders, or any other fine retailer (except Wal-Mart, where he’s banned- but it isn’t slowing him down.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zA54vb-eCY[/youtube]

Elizabethany: The Real World DC’s Biggest Fan

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Elizabethany's new home: The Real World DC House

A month ago she was just a newly minted West Virginia University graduate. A month ago she was just a waitress, living with her parents in Woodbridge, VA.

Now she’s the face of the Real World DC frenzy that has hit Washington, DC.

And she’s not even on the cast.

Beth Ploger (aka Elizabethany) has become one of the most notable of the stalkers and gawkers who’s fascination with the filming of the MTV reality series borders on clinical levels. Her escapades in following and meeting the The Real World DC cast has made local television, radio, and magazines. Her stalking adventures has even landed her a gig with Metromix DC.

However she’s not at all shy with her recent exposure, and will be the first to admit she enjoys being the center of attention. She is a regular at McFadden’s or Public Bar and it would not be a total surprise to see her dancing on top of the bar when the right song comes on.

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An unlikely hobby: drag racing (photo courtesy Elizabethany)

Another place you can find her is on the race track where she races Volkswagens in Elimination-style Drag Racing. In regards to the surprising pastime, Elizabethany finds the hobby as a change of pace from her journalistic endeavors, “I love the feeling of being in control,” she tells me when describing what she loves most about the sport.

As a self-proclaimed Real World stalker, she says it’s her mission to simply, “get to know the cast better.” Elizabethany has become a sort of beat writer, taking her experiences with the cast and reporting them on her blog or on her new beat with Metromix. The journalistic side of her pursuits has been something long ingrained with  her childhood.

Her dreams of being in the media have been around since she was a child. At the age of 13 she proudly proclaimed to her mother, “I’m a really nosy person, I should just be a journalist!” She grew up producing fake radio shows, delivering DJ-like banter into a home karaoke machine onto cassette tapes. “I still kinda want to find those tapes,” she admits to me.

After graduating from Osbourn Park High in 2005, Elizabethany enrolled at WVU to study broadcast news. However her dreams were not to become the next Katie Couric, but to become the next Maria Menounos. For her, the entertainment beat was more interesting than hard news.

However she wanted to give it a try and took on simultaneous internships with Fox 5 and Hot 99.5. Her days would start at 3:30 AM where she would come into to do work for the Kane Morning Show. Unlike typical interns that were delegated to answering phones, Beth worked her way up, being put in charge of producing the show’s podcast material.

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Elizabethany worked simultaneous internships with Fox 5 and Hot 99.5 (photo courtesy Elizabethany)

After her shift at the radio station it was off to WTTG-TV where she assisted reporters with their stories- and gained some valuable insights on TV News, and how she’s come to realize it’s not for her. The kind of interviewing she wants to do is going to be more casual and less investigative,  “I don’t wanna put anyone in a bad light- I just want to get to know them.” One of Beth’s biggest idols is Ellen DeGeneres, and aspires to one day have a talk show just like hers, “I think we have the same sense of humor.”

Last September she started her blog, Love, Elizabethany, where she covers entertainment stories in the form of personalized messages to celebrities in the news. Between work and job hunting, she spends 5-6 hours writing blog posts for the blog.

It was when she decided to spice the blog up with video that she came up with her “Finding the Real World Cast” episodes. “I heard that the show was coming to DC and I was thought, ‘I want in that freaking house!’” So she decided to document her attempts to find the Real World cast when they go out on the town.

Her weekly routine involves going out on Thursday nights with fellow RWDC stalker/blogger Martin Mongillo and a “companion” that she chooses every week. “My companion needs to be willing to do anything,” says Elizabethany when listing criteria for the job. Anything for what? Why get into The Real World house of course! It is unacceptable for a stalking companion to refuse to dance with a cast member because of a jealous girlfriend/boyfriend back home. Makes sense considering the cast members are probably willing to do anything as well despite any mates they left behind. Elizabethany has created six episodes of “Finding The Real World Cast” and more will be produced throughout the filming this summer.

You truly get a sense of her new found celebrity when you visit the house with her. Elizabethany and I took a walk down to 2000 S street earlier this month. We stood on the corner across from the house  for only a few minutes before we are approached by two guys.

“Oh my god you are Elizabethany aren’t you?”

They walked over to look at the house and instantly recognized her from her videos. A car slows down in front of us as the driver takes a long look at the house, then recognizes Elizabethany in the crowd.

She is a truly a queen among gawkers, a person made a little more famous by following people a that will barely become famous.

“I like to refer to myself as their BFF… but call me whatever you want, I know inside what I am. ”

Check out the video below to see what it’s like to stalk the Real World House with Elizabethany.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-lCRbbvle8[/youtube]

Q&A With Arlington Rap Creator Remy

untitled1Even though it only has over 600,00 hits (great numbers, but it’s no Evolution of Dance) the video, Arlington: The Rap, has made an enormous splash locally for creator Remy Munasifi. The video is only the latest in a series of successful rap videos and has caught the attention of just about every media outlet I can think of. All the blogs have raved about it. His profile has grown to the point he was a hot date commodity and he has earned himself a page on Wikipedia. I wish I had a page on Wikipedia.

So I had the honor to ask him a few questions and learn more about the man behind the video.

Patrick:I laughed, I cried, I begged for more when I ran into Arlington: The Rap. I went over to your site (goremy.com) and I wanted to learn more about you. After reading your bio I was wondering, do you consider yourself a comedian? A musician? A filmmaker?

Remy: I’m not sure. I’d probably go with, “entertainer.” That’s mainly what I’m trying to accomplish–to entertain. Usually through laughter though, sure.

Patrick: So do you have a day job or is your art truly what you work on day in and out?

Remy: I’m a full-time YouTuber. I’m a content partner on the site and have been for a year and a half now, which has been great. YouTube and Google have been very generous and supportive of their partners and do a great job creating and maintaining a great environment for filmmakers who want a home for their video content.

Patrick: One of the reasons Arlington: The Rap is so successful is the local appeal, after I saw it I sent it to all my Arlington/DC friends and I got it sent to me by other locals as well. You’ve been in all the local papers and TV stations, but have you seen any interest coming from outside the immediate local area?

Remy: Somehow some folks outside the area do seem to enjoy it. My chief concern throughout the process of making that video was that it had no widespread appeal–that it would be too geographically specific for folks to understand outside a one-mile radius of my neighborhood. I was surprised so many people enjoyed it locally though, I certainly didn’t expect that.

Patrick: Do you find that you’ve now created a big inside joke for all of us to share? Now when I tell people I live I Clarendon they reply with questions on my collection of brown flip-flops.

Remy: Somebody was telling me they had noticed a slight decline in the brown flip-flop levels around town. I haven’t seen the statistics. I suspect we’ll have to wait for the 2010 census.

Patrick: I’ve watched a number of your other videos and I have to tell you they are all great. Has Arlington: The Rap helped you get your YouTube channel more viewers? In other words, have other people started checking your other stuff now that you broke through with one?

Remy: Thank you for saying so, I appreciate that. I can’t imagine the video hurt anything. It’s the 12th most popular video on the channel, so there are some other videos that folks seem to like more, at least by that measurement.

Patrick: Also I noticed you do a lot of raps, is there anything that makes that your genre of choice? I think it’s funny that you have a lot of Raps yet your favorite iPod artists are mostly country artists.

Remy: After I made my first rap video, “Two Percent Milk,” I got a lot of positive feedback from people who said they really enjoyed it. I had enjoyed making the video, so I decided to make another rap and, two years later, it continues I suppose! Still having fun and I hope folks are still enjoying those videos.

Patrick: So I know you are busy with tons of video projects, what should we expect next from Remy?

Remy: I always have a list of ideas in my head, but it’s always tough to pick the next one to go with. I’ll probably decide in the next week and take it from there. I just hope folks will like it!

SilverDocs 2009: Interview With Facing Ali Producer Derik Murray

I also had the chance to talk with Facing Ali producer Derik Murray, you can listen to the poorly recorded phone interview here (hey I’m a blogger- not an audio engineer!)

In the interview Murray talks about his past work doing Hockey films, “you’re based in Vancouver, you’re based in Canada and you don’t do Hockey- you don’t get a lot of work.”

He also talks about his relationship with director Peter McCormack and how the two came together to make Facing Ali a reality. Besides McCormack, Murray put together a dedicated crew, “the people I select to work on the project were passionate about and they never left my side… they are passionate about the project to this day,” and tackled the challenge of contacting families and acquiring the archival footage that em compasses the majority of the film. Murray says after SilverDocs, the film will be going to LA and NY and with luck it could reach a wider audience release.

Facing Ali premiered to a sold out crowd at SilverDocs last week, for those that haven’t had a chance to see it can catch it tonight as the festival wraps up.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3o1XKax-aw[/youtube]

Facing Ali
Showing at AFI SilverDocs
Monday June 22nd, 8:00 PM
AFI Silver Theater
http://silverdocs.com/

SilverDocs 2009: Q&A With The Filmmakers Of "The Shutdown"

shutdownThis past week I met Scottish filmmakers Adam Stafford and Peter Gerard. They were excited to have their short The Shutdown, screen earlier at SilverDocs. The piece is described as, “a mesmerizing portrait of the influence of an oil refinery in a Scottish town.” What really interested me was the fact two quarter-lifers were already running a production company making films, so we exchanged some e-mails and here’s a little Q&A I had with the duo:

Patrick: Reading Adam’s Q&A on SilverDocs it looks like you’ve always wanted to be involved and work in film- what led you two to choose this kind of career?
Adam Stafford: To me it’s not a career; there are career film makers, but for me it’s something more than that, it’s a case of finding the truth and the narrative and bringing the two together. It’s a case of pushing the framing of the images to a point of unacceptability. Werner Herzog said you should work as a bouncer at a sex club or a car park attendant to raise money to make films. I work as an operator for the emergency services to raise funds to make mine, and that won’t stop until someone comes along and offers us money for the next project. Until then, I will work and build up my projects from the dirt.

Patrick: You talked to me last night about the unique story and approach of The Shutdown, but what do you hope audiences walk away with after they see your short?

Adam Stafford: With a sense of something that they’ve never seen before: a documentary featuring no people, but with a stunning narrative coupled with a soundtrack of ambient drone and pink smoke.

Patrick: I also commented talked how I was impressed that two young guys like yourself decided to start a production company and push stuff out there- what led you two to decide to form this group of artists? This kind of work isn’t guaranteed to pay at all and I’m sure it’s not the 9-5 job that most people do after college…

Peter Gerard: I started Accidental Media while I was still in high school in Missouri. I moved to Scotland in 2000 and eventually turned Accidental Media into a full-on production company with a focus on documentaries, short films, and innovative shorts. “The Shutdown” is our first collaboration with Adam and we see a lot of potential in developing his talents along with his collaborator, the writer Alan Bissett.

Patrick: What kind of advice would you give a person looking to get into film making but doesn’t exactly know where to start?

Peter Gerard: Always start with a good story, and make sure it’s well told. It’s also essential to create a film with cinematic beauty. There are too many films these days that ignore visual aesthetics, and really that’s what film making is all about.

Adam Stafford: I agree with the above. But I would also recommend just watching films. Don’t sit around reading books about how you should construct a narrative, or how this person did that, or what this person recommends you to do to better yourself as a filmmaker. Watch films by the masters! Go out and experiment and then decide for yourself! Listen to every kind of weird music! Look at art and photography! Read Richard Brautigan, William Burroughs and Flannery O’Conner. You can be as surreal and as experimental as you like, as long as there is an honesty in your vision.

SilverDocs 2009: Interview With Facing Ali Director Pete McCormack

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Joe Frazier, one of the many that faced Ali

This morning I had the pleasure of talking with Pete McCormack, director of Facing Ali, a special feature last night at SilverDocs.

The bio piece on Muhammad Ali was done in a very unique way that I haven’t seen before. The entire piece tells the story of the famed boxer not through his words- but the words and stories of the people he fought. McCormack interviewed ten boxers that fought Ali throughout his career, each person bringing insight into the boxer dubbed, “The Greatest.” Each boxer tells not only his story and his encounter with Ali, but how their lives have changed because of it.

In a phone interview with McCormack, he tells me about his approach on adapting the book that the film is based on. McCormack included additional boxers that weren’t profiled originally (like Leon Spinks)  in order to create a complete time line that encompasses Ali’s entire boxing career.

“I used them as a conversation in the piece,” McCormack describes. ” On dealing with Ali’s current battle with Parkinson’s disease McCormack didn’t have any trouble bringing the subject up with his opponents because of the respect Ali has earned with his fighters. “They felt compassion for him… and he’s also changed their lives…” McCormack also reveals that he’s not only a film maker but he also dabbles in music and writing as well.

Facing Ali
Showing at AFI SilverDocs
Monday June 22nd, 8:00 PM
AFI Silver Theater
http://silverdocs.com/

DC Video: LeBron James And Cast Of "More Than A Game" Arrive At AFI SilverDocs

Last night I attended the opening night of AFI SilverDocs which kicked things off with a screening of “More Than A Game.” Director Kristopher Belman and the complete cast (including King James) walked the Red Carpet for the press and fans that tried to enter the Press pen to snap photos and scream questions. Sorry guys but I don’t think LeBron is here to talk about Kobe or the Orlando Magic. Also folks, leave the questions to the actual press.

Here’s the some video I shot while I was on the Red Carpet (trust me it sounds cool but I’ve done press lines like this one before, it’s always a fight.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEPdJtqG6q0[/youtube]

As of the film I’ll be posting a complete review of that later today, I just got off the phone with director Kristopher Belman and I’m currently trying to finish the piece up before I have to go back to Silver Spring- but I will say this: never has a basketball movie ever made me cry. Ever. Not even Air Bud.

This is an amazing film that’s really more than LeBron, and yes, more than a game. The film will be screening again this weekend, check the SilverDocs website for the complete schedule and ticket information.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzYzcYQ-bII[/youtube]

Frank Warren: The Man With All The Secrets (Part 2)

As the front house staff let me in to the jealous looks of the crowd outside I felt a little extra special that night.

After our first conversation, Frank Warren encouraged me to come out and experience one of his PostSecret Live events and I agreed. So my friend Wendi and I trekked down to the Lisner Auditorium where he was about to speak in front of a sold out crowd.

I walked in and saw him onstage, playing with his MacBook as he tested some videos and slides to be used. At the moment I found him he was playing the Dirty Little Secrets video that features his PostSecret postcards.

I wasn’t the only one there to hang out with him, a camera crew was nearby busy filming his routine, a sign that his fame is growing by leaps, not bounds. Warren’s story is so unique: a man who collects secrets sent to him to share with himself and the world. As they are posted on his PostSecret blog, he becomes not only the most trusted man in America, but perhaps a conduit and sounding board for thousands. He is always willing to listen to anything that anyone would like to share with him.

As other press outlets show up and line up for interviews there’s still a sense of humbleness to the man behind the Germantown-based blog. Before retiring to his dressing room for interviews he walks to the back of the house to personally thank all of the ushers and staff working the event.

The dressing room backstage is a plain white room with leather couches. Frank invites special guests, press, and myself to sitdown with him as he gathers his notes for the presentation. There’s a coffee table in the middle of the room with a copy of the Washington City Paper. It was open to a photo of Frank and a story on tonight’s event opposite an article on former VP candidate Sarah Palin. As I point it out he dismisses it casually, “When I see my photo in the paper I don’t really see me, I see PostSecret.” He’s simply glad to see the project get some publicity and once again displays his humbleness.

After asking for a Coke he proceeds to talk to the various press members that fire off questions and record quotes to use later. A writer asks if he ever felt a burden to be the one that is sent so much personal information and thoughts. He jokes that while he doesn’t see it as a burden,”I have been having some recent back pain- maybe it’s from carrying all these secrets for so long.”

More questions probe into the secrets themselves, “Do you ever think some of the secrets are made-up? That people are making up secrets in hopes of making the blog?,” one reporter asks. To respond to that question he pulls out a small gray box and opens it. Inside are various e-mails and postcards. He pulls out an e-mail and reads it to the crowd, “Dear Frank, I sent you a secret awhile ago but I wanted to tell you that it’s no longer true.” For Frank the act of sharing secrets with him is just as important, if not more, as the secret itself.

“The act of sharing is one step in a personal story or journey.” He hopes that even just the act of sharing a secret with someone else is therapeutic and one step closer to helping one face one’s true fears.

Meanwhile the lobby fills with GW students and fans from far and wide that wait for the doors to open. At the head of the line are Carla and Katie, two students from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore. Not only are they fans of the website and art exhibits, the two trekked down the Beltway in hopes of meeting Frank to deliver him postcards of secrets they had designed and had tucked away in their bags.

Daria, a GW sophomore, traveled a bit further to see Frank. A native of Trinidad, she was a fan of the site back home before coming to the US to study at George Washington. Going to college in DC brought her that much closer to her favorite blog, “I’m a nerd for PostSecret… as soon as I knew I was going to GW, I wanted to meet Frank and maybe intern for him,” she said.

The house opens, the auditorium quickly fills up, and Frank walks out to the cheers of hundreds of adoring fans. His talk explores the PostSecret project further, with videos and postcards that weren’t allowed to be published, what Frank calls “the secret Secrets.” Along with the visuals, Frank offers his own personal thoughts and insights on the impact of his project and what he’s learned about humanity and the idea of sharing one’s intimate details.

At the end of the show he shares with the audience a personal secret of his own, but there is one secret that is left to be discovered after the show is over. Before the show Frank took 200 actual postcards sent to PostSecret and inserted them into the PostSecret books that were for sale in the lobby. As fans pick up copies to have autographed at a post show signing, a surprise awaits them between the pages of secrets.

Kristen Adams and Lisa Lustig from Fairfax, VA are two George Mason alumni who decided on attending to the show after hearing about it days before. They were lucky to grab tickets before it completely sold out. After getting their books signed they thumbed through the newly purchased items and ran across the postcard. At first they take it for as a promotional item. “I thought the secret was fake, but when I took it out, I realized it was a real secret. I feel special that I’m not entrusted with someone’s secret!” remarked the surprised Lustig.

Tamara and Rebeka, two GW freshmen were so excited to find an actual PostSecret postcard that they are reconsidering the purpose of their recent purchases- as gifts for family members. Rebeka explained, “This was going to be a gift for my sister but now that I have a real PostSecret secret- it’s mine now!”

Frank Warren: The Man With All The Secrets (Part 1)

With the FBI, NSA, CIA, and all the other acronyms it goes without saying that Washington DC is home to a lot of secrets.

But the secrets I’m about to tell you about are much more interesting than those you’d find at the place above.

They are the secrets held by you and; I, the secrets held by the person checking out your groceries, your neighbor, the waitress at Applebee’s. I’m talking about the secrets of the everyday person.

Frank Warren doesn’t know all of them, but he does get an awful lot of them. (more…)

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