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Click the cover below to order Conversations Magazine's July/August Issue
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Monday, July 27, 2020

[To You, From Me] Navigating the New Normal

If 2020 has taught us anything it is to expect the unexpected.

For many people this year has meant a loss in employment and security. For others even a loss in life. We all know someone who has been impacted by the events of this year, but the question remains: What will it all mean?

There are those who are using this as a reset for themselves, an opportunity to realize what they want to do and may be able to do moving forward. For others they are picking up the pieces and trying to make sense of where they are and what to do next.

In this issue of Conversations Magazine we wanted to remind you of one thing: No matter what this 'new normal' has done to you don't allow it to stop you! Those profiled in this issue could have allowed their lives to be paralyzed by the uncertainty of it all. The truth is, though, they have realized how to use what is at their disposal and keep going.

Whether we are talking about the Coronavirus pandemic or the racial unrest and conversations about inequality, what all of us have in common is the ability to put one foot in front of the other and keep making strides in the right direction. It doesn't mean you are going to move as quickly as you would like or even in the direction you initially thought was right for you. What it does mean is that you are determined to figure it out.

That is what acting on faith is all about. Believing that with hard work and dedication our best days are still ahead.

Want to share with me how you are navigating the new normal? Feel free to reach out to me at cawebb4@juno.com. Would love to hear your stories.

Until next time, Happy Reading!





Cyrus Webb, Editor-In-Chief
Conversations Magazine

[MOVIE REVIEW] The Conversation

When I was introduced to THE CONVERSATION it had my attention from the very beginning. It's a simple yet powerful message about how two people (played by Ashley A.Williams and Michael Cory Davis) can have two different perspectives of one event---and the importance of understanding the other person's perspective.

To be honest when I watched it the first time I could see parts of both sides, how one might get the wrong impression. But the overall message is clear: listen to what others are saying. Don't go by what you think. Go by what is being said and expressed.

The film itself is less than 20 minutes long, but it is packed with so much to digest that it will have you talking about it long after the credits roll. The overall message is clear: If we are open to understanding the perspective of others and not making everything about ourselves then we will definitely avoid problems and misunderstandings that can lead to disaster.

Watch THE CONVERSATION today on Amazon.

[MOVIE REVIEW] Street Survivors: The True Story Of The Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash

by Cyrus Webb

Raised in the South I have known of the group Lynyrd Skynyrd for some time, as well as the tragedy that befell the group in 1977. What I didn't know is what life was like for the group, their music and what happened after the crash to the members left behind. THAT is the story that STREET SURVIVORS tells.

Through the voice of band member Artimus Pyle we see his passion for music, what it was like for him to join the talented group and the antics that were a part of life on the road. We also see the passion for the fans and performing, and the connection the group shared through music.

The film gives us a look at the tragic crash and life afterwards for Pyle, but it really shows the heart of someone who was part of something that seems almost bigger than life.

STREET SURVIVORS is the Lynyrd Skynyrd story that we have been wanting, and is sure to give us a new layer of understanding why the group's music continues to live on.

Rent or buy STREET SURVIVORS on Amazon.

Jared Cohn: Pursuing His Passion While Telling Stories that Matter

by Cyrus Webb

There are few people I have been introduced to that are as passionate about creating as Jared Cohn. He is a Writer, Producer, Director and Actor that has made a name for himself and doing the work (and telling the stories) that he is passionate about.

We were first introduced to each other back in 2016. During the time he was promoting his film that he wrote, produced and starred in called Wishing For A Dream. It tells the story that so many creative individuals can relate to: having a dream and what it takes to see that dream realized, both the good and the bad.

We reconnected in 2020 as he was celebrating the release of his powerful film STREET SURVIVORS: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash and gearing up for the debut of his Lifetime movie HER DEADLY GROOM.

Our chat was inspiring and shows why Cohn is such a respected figure in the entertainment industry.

JARED ON WISHING FOR A DREAM:
"It's still like an ongoing struggle.  I'm still in character. It's very real... Making the film was kind of like a documentary---but not a documentary. When I write a script I try to invoke something that makes the viewer think. I wanted to make something personal, hopefully that would resonate with some people."

JARED ON THE BUSINESS:
"If you go on the internet and you're looking for feedback, you have to have thick skin. I'm so grateful that there are people who are supportive. It's a tough business. It helps to know some of your work is received well."

"It's like a roller coaster: Some days you feel unstoppable, and other times you're like why am I doing this? It comes in moments. It's a crazy town...it's a crazy industry, but I can't do anything else. I selected this path, because I am a fan of entertainment. That's what I wanted to make my life about."

JARED ON WHAT KEEPS HIM GOING:
"You have to have that sense of this is possible and believe in that. If you don't believe in yourself no one else is going to believe in you. You have to keep going."

"It's always about the next thing. If you're just focusing on what you're doing right now when it's done you're going to be idle. I like to have multiple things going on. I'm constantly writing, looking at other projects. I'm a creator. It's all about content. At the end of the day that's all that matters."

Stay connected with Jared and Trap Light Media on Twitter at www.twitter.com/traplightmedia and Instagram at www.instagram.com/jaredcohn1.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

TAKE TEN with Steven Manchester, author of THE MENU

by Cyrus Webb

For years I have been a fan of author Steven Manchester. Through fiction he is able to share not just some entertaining stories but some real-life lessons that the reader can take away from them. His newest, THE MENU, is so different. Though a tad different in subject matter the message is one that is typical Steven Manchester. We discuss his literary success and new book in this Take Ten. Enjoy!


Steven, great to catch up with you again. Congratulations on the new book THE MENU. We’ll get more into it soon, but I want to begin with this writing journey for you. What has it been like for you to do what you love from book to book and see the response from readers?
It’s been a dream come true. It really has. From a young age, I wanted to be a writer. Twenty-five years ago, I  embarked on that journey and never looked back. Even during the failures, it’s been worth every second of my time and effort. The love I’ve received in return from my readers is the icing on the cake.

You have definitely given us some great stories, but there are some themes that seem consistent: family, faith and forgiveness. Is this just a part of who you are, or do you find they just find themselves naturally into your work?
I would have to say both. I write reality-based fiction and, although it’s a bit cliché, we can only write about what we know, who we know, and where we’ve been. Family means everything to me. I believe that we’re all connected.  As long as I’m writing stories for my children, I figure I can never go wrong, and I would never waste their time with anything that doesn’t have meaning.

With THE MENU the faith element is probably the strongest we have seen. How did the story come about?
When I first started, I knew I did not have the skill set to pull off a story of this scale and depth. The Menu is a story of hope and healing, of finding real peace. Originally, I wanted to write a story that had the potential to break my children’s fear of death. That naturally evolved into a spiritual work and, in my opinion, the best story I’ve ever written. None of us are ever alone, not ever, and The Menu was written to show that.

Like some of your other characters Phinn is definitely flawed yet so relatable. What was it like to navigate the world through his eyes and experiences?
Phinn was an easy character for me to develop because he is so flawed. I don’t think people relate to characters that are perfect. The trick to pulling off a story like this is to make the characters as real and relatable as possible. By doing that, the reader is able to feel the character’s joys as well as his sorrows. And as soon as we move from thinking into feeling, we have a novel worth reading.

One of the big messages in THE MENU is the importance of making the most of each and every day. How has that message served you well? 
As you know, I served in the first Gulf War. It was a brutal experience. But sometimes in the shadows, I think we’re able to see what’s truly important in life. Being an optimist and seeing the glass as half full has allowed me to live a joyous life, filled with hope and purpose. I’m trying to teach my children to approach each day the same way.

I mentioned your readers earlier. What has that part of the experience been like to see how they have gotten the message of THE MENU?
I’ve always been blessed to receive some amazing feedback for my novels. The Menu has been at a whole different level. I am incredibly humbled by the kind words that people have sent me when providing feedback on this novel.  The story is clearly affecting most folks at a deeper level. Conversations about purpose and passion, faith and forgiveness, have all been a part of the book’s discussion. I honestly feel blessed that I was able to write the story, and I feel equally blessed that my readers have been willing to jump into the deep side of the pool with me.

You and I haven’t met each other yet, Steven, but social media has kept us connected. How have you used that tool in your marketing as an author?
We haven’t met in person yet, though I do feel quite connected to you and your work. At first, I hated social media. There’s so much hate and divisiveness spread on these platforms—where courage is not required for people to express their biases. I’ve since learned that we can also use the platforms to unite and spread positive messages. Social media has been an effective tool for me to get the word out about my work. If it wasn’t for Facebook and Twitter, the kids I graduated from Kindergarten with would never know I’m a writer.

2020 has been a different kind of year for all of us. What has it been like adjusting to promote a book while dealing with a pandemic?
Writing time has been in surplus thanks to being quarantined. Promoting books, however, has been the opposite. Social media is fantastic for marketing, but it doesn’t come remotely close to meeting my readers face-to-face and discussing one of my books that they’ve just read. With The Menu, I intend to promote the story long after we’ve all been vaccinated for the Coronavirus. I’m remaining optimistic.

You’ve been able to consistently deliver great work. You don’t stop. Unfortunately so many out there haven’t even started doing what they are passionate about. Any advice you want to share with our readers about the importance of going after their goals and dreams and not giving up?
The simplest advice I can give is this: For me, it’s all about the three P’s—Purpose, Passion, and Perseverance. I believe that the trick to success and joy is to first find your purpose. Once you do, pour all of your passion into it. Perseverance will take care of the rest.

Always a pleasure, Steven. How can our readers stay connected with you and get their copy of the books?
The pleasure is mine, my friend. I can’t thank you enough for your continued support. I love to follow your successes and accomplishments, as well. I’m proud to count you amongst my friends.
The best place to get The Menu—in both print an e-book—is on Amazon.

Actor/Producer Jamison Jones: Acting on Faith While Paying It Forward

by Cyrus Webb

Jamison Jones* has been able to do work that he loves on stage, television and film as well as expanded his brand as a writer, producer and acting coach. While many movies were being shuttered in 2020 due to the pandemic he also starred in the film THE WRETCHED which has gone on to be a #1 film at drive-in theaters. 

During his first visit on Conversations LIVE radio show we discussed his success and the movie. "With THE WRETCHED it's been a very strange blessing in disguise," he told me. "It's been such a joy to see people's response to the movie." (THE WRETCHED is currently available on your favorite streaming platform.)

When I asked him about the 'strange blessings' of his career and what led to where he is today Jamison offered this insight to his success. "As an actor it's always challenging to know which is the right project. You have this team around you encouraging you to do certain things or not do certain things. At the end of the day you have to follow your heart." 

Following his heart and his listening to his gut is what led Jamison to THE WRETCHED. "I loved this script when I read it," he explained. "For me it was a story about a father and a son trying to reconnect after a difficult time. It was great for me to play a character like this."

In discussing what led him to want to be involved behind the camera, Jamison says it was something he was missing from his time in the theater. "In theater you're a part of the entire creative process," he says. "I really do enjoy being a collaborator in the creative process."

Outside of pursuing his own career Jamison started the Jamison Jones Acting Studio as a way of paying it forward to the next generation. "It took me 15 years to really work and find a way to stay connected to people," he says. "It was important to me looking back at that time to help other actors coming up." Speaking of having the opportunities he told me: "It's all about the creative aspect of it. Being an actor without opportunities is like being an artist without paint. There's nothing you can do if someone doesn't give you the opportunity to do it." He does see the independent projects as a plus, with more creatives taking their career into their own hands.

Whether pursuing his own projects or helping others do the same, Jamison Jones is a perfect example of how acting on faith can lead to some amazing opportunities. 

Stay connected with Jamison on Instagram at www.instagram.com/realjamisonjones.

* Photo by Joanna DeGeneres

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Actor Preston James Hillier: Taking One Step at a Time Towards His Goals


by Cyrus Webb

It’s easy to look at where someone is now and think “I wish I was them”.  The real question to ask is are you willing to do what they did to get to where they are today? When it comes to actor Preston James Hillier* he is someone who has been on a nice climb in his career. The point to remember is that it’s been a CLIMB. Nothing has come easy.

The two of us connected in 2019, one of the biggest years of his career. He’s had the privilege to grace the screen for television and film—and there is more to come.

In this conversation we discuss the journey to where he is today, the challenges and the reward for not giving up.

What has it been like for you to see how everything you've done has led up to this year?
You know, it's a very fickle business. There's highs and lows. There's ups and downs. There’s always transitions. I think looking back at some of those times where you're the right age and the right look for a certain time, and then you have a little bit of a lull. Then you're into the next category…the dad or whatever. It's those times in between the work that really test you. As an actor in this business a lot of people don't have the tenacity. It'll break you as a human being sometimes when you're not working, and just trying to get to that next level and you keep thinking, ‘When is that time going to come?’

I think that's always the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow for every actor. You’re waiting for that moment, and hoping that it's going to come. And when it starts pulling together, and when you can kind of take a step back and look at what you've done—from  where you are to where you started—you do say I guess I really have done quite a bit of stuff. At the time it doesn't seem like it. You're just constantly fighting and trying to get to that next level.

So glad you shared that. It really shows that you have to be willing to do the work. So my question would be, I guess, did you know going into this industry that it was exactly what you said:  fickle with some highs and lows?
Yeah, to an extent.  I moved out here when I was 24, and everything I ate, drank and breathed was about moving to LA and pursuing this business. Nothing was going to stop me from doing that. And as you get here and look at things your friends are doing and you look at other people's careers, you kind of get a better idea of the scope of what lies ahead. I didn’t get to the border of California and they were handing out TV shows, but you just start chipping away at little things here and there. You realize there's a lot to this. There's no such thing as overnight success.

It’s been two decades now, Preston, that you’ve been able to do work in front of the camera. That is amazing. There have been some people who have come and gone in the time that you have been in the industry. As I look at where you are and how you kept pushing, what is it that helped you to do that? What is it that you think helped you to keep going even when it seemed difficult?
It's a good question. You know, I think a lot of it is surrounding yourself with good people. You know it can be a competitive business, and I have a lot of friends that are in my categories and we go out for a lot of the same things. When you can find those people you just keep pushing each other and helping each other up the ladder. That helps immensely, because you need a good support group. Otherwise it can be really difficult. Getting a little bit of work here and there satisfies you and makes you want more. I think that those are the little things to keep you going.

Follow Preston online through Instagram at www.instagram.com/prestonhillier and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/prestonhillier.  


*     Photo by Rob Nixon