The Devil

Erma Kyriakos plays a goofy and out-of-touch Devil, one of the primary antagonists of Hell. She’s also a talented singer, songwriter, musician (she plays the violin for heaven's sake!), and actor. You may have seen her perform around town, or maybe even in Cuba, as Miss Erma. Here are some words that are all about her. 

If you'd like to support the immensely talented Miss Erma, be sure to get a ticket to one of our May 12th show in SF or one of our later shows in June. Or sign up for our mailing list by clicking that button in the lower right. Or maybe even like her new band's FB page

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You’re a singer! Tell me about that!

OK! I’ve always sung in the shower since I was little, but my mom started me on piano. So to everybody else I was a pianist or a violinist, but I always really liked to sing. I didn’t start to sing for people until I went to college, though. I had some friends who were singing at an open mic, so I played one of my songs, and that’s when I really started to do that. From there I joined a Jazz Combo, and I would also sing with my friends who weren’t in the music school who just liked to drink and have fun and get together and play music. That to me was like, where it’s at. That’s what music is for, playing with other people and enjoying yourself.

How’d you end up in San Francisco? 

I graduated college and was living in Miami — which I did not like it at the time — I like it now, didn’t like it at the time. My friend was moving out here to go to the Conservatory of Music and she was like you should just move over here, what do you have to lose? You’d fit right in. And without ever having been here before I was like, “OK! Let’s do it!” So we did and I’ve been here for about six years, singing my heart out. 

Did you already go by Miss Erma when you moved? 

That took me awhile to figure out. Miss Erma was something I was first called in college, in the Jazz Combo actually. They were calling me out on stage for my debut performance as a jazz singer, and the drummer forgot my last name. 

“And now our vocalist, Miss... Miss... Miss… Erma!” 

And that was it, you know. That stuck, so people called out “Hey, Miss Erma!” in the hallways. Then I came here and started teaching and the kids call me Miss Erma, but I was so fickle about it- “I don’t know, is it too much like Cher if I just go by Erma? Or do I need the Miss? Is that like, pretentious or what?” It kind of just settled in. 

When did you become interested in acting? 

Well, when I was eight, my mom put me on a bowling team with my sister. My sister’s older than me and all the other kids on the team were older, probably like twelve. I was really bad at bowling and they were really trying to get ahead on the bowling board, I don’t know what you call it. I once bowled an 8 in a game- that’s really low. So they talked to my mom and told her that maybe I shouldn’t be on the team. But she didn’t tell me that, she said, you know what, let’s try something different. 

She put me in acting classes and at the end of this three week summer camp we had a performance and I was chosen to be Calamity Jane. My mom had no idea, I didn’t tell her anything, she just dropped me off at this acting camp. She came to the show at the end of the three weeks and here I am in this really blonde wig, my brown bangs still sticking out the front, singing “I used to be a plain Jane.” 

So here I am singing as Calamity Jane and I look out in the audience and my mom was balling, she was crying and I remember thinking “stop it, what are you doing!?!” So that was the first time I acted and I really fell in love with it. 

And you’re really, really good at it. I mean, there’s two types of acting: good acting and bad acting. And you do the good kind. 

There’s also levels within that, and I think, if you can tell someone is acting it can be good sometimes but it’s leaning towards the bad acting I just mentioned. But you never seem to be acting, you’re just your character.

That’s good!

It is! What did you most enjoy about working on HELL!

I really enjoyed working with everyone on set and in the film. Jamie and I have acted in live theater together before at The Lost Church, so have grown to be very comfortable and silly with each other. It helps when you're not the only one acting goofy just to get a laugh! I really liked meeting Aviva and getting to know you and George better. Acting in a movie wouldn't be as fun if the cast and crew weren't there to make it an enjoyable experience! 

And we are looking forward to the same thing! Now let’s celebrate the end of this interview with one of your songs:

Roger Oddcock

Jamie Milliken plays Roger Oddcock, the protagonist, and sometimes antagonist, of HELL!. Roger is Jamie’s real life alter ego, honed over several years in solo shows and performances with his band Clamhawk Manor. He’s also one of the screenwriters and wrote / performed all the songs in movie. Plus we’ve been friends for more than thirteen years, which is the greatest gift of all. 

I asked him some questions. He answered them. 

If you'd like to support the beautiful Jamie Milliken, I highly recommend getting tickets to one of our upcoming screenings in SF, LA, and NY, or maybe even signing up on our mailing list using the little red button in the lower right. 

Where does Roger Oddcock come from? 

Roger, the concept, he’s just dumb, someone who is self absorbed, he’s so into himself that he can’t see beyond his own little sphere, but maybe is slightly talented. He’s really a washed up musician, but in his mind he’s still huge. Spinal Tap was a real jumping off point, just in his being a vaguely heavy metal character but so dumb everything washes right over him. 

How long have you been performing as Roger? 

I came up with the idea in 2009. I was at kind of an unhappy place creatively and wanted to shake things up. The original idea was that he was more of a lounge singer and I’d write these songs and have these backing tracks and do karaoke of my own songs up on stage. I wanted to do something sort of bawdy and get into the burlesque scene in San Francisco, maybe even involve some aspect of burlesque like have tearaway pants, which I did once. But Roger evolved into a hair metal dude pretty quickly.

When did you first start playing music? 

My friend Salad and I started playing music together when we were about 12 or 13. Neither of us knew how to play any instruments, but we both had casio keyboards. We’d program a little beat, hit some keys, and make up some words to go with it. Then we’d record ourselves doing it and try to get our friends to buy the tapes. That band was called the Gymnoblastics. It was actually around a long time, I started taking guitar lessons so I could function better in that band and my friend Salad continued to play the keys and we got a real drummer, played a couple of shows in high school, so that was my first main experience. 

How many bands have you been part of? 

Not a shit ton, but probably like ten or twenty. 

Richard’s non-musician note: that sounds like a shit ton.

Some of them serious about playing shows and some of them just recording projects or like a one-off kinda thing. Closer to ten if you want to talk about bands that actually played shows and then quite a bit more with bands that were more of a concept than something you could buy a ticket to go see. 
 
Any favorites? 

There’s definitely been some great ones along the way. I really like Clamhawk Manor and I felt for the first time that the band was a real incarnation of my vision, even though my vision of Roger had kinda changed along the way. I felt very proud of that. There was another band when I was in college, we were called the Meat Lincolns. We’d get together and come up with a song practically every night. We recorded a 14 song album in one day in my mom’s garage. It was a lot of fun. It was really stupid. It was pretty fucking out there. 

What did you most enjoy about working on HELL!?

My favorite part about filming HELL! was probably the people we got to work with. I love doing scenes with Erma because we get along so well and make each other laugh so easily. It was a real treat to see Dan Sukara almost every weekend and we'd always try to out-pun each other. Working with Scott Vermeire made me have to up my confidence game. I think there were some other great people too who I would totally remember if I hadn't been drunk and/or hungover for the whole shoot. Wasn't there a lady in overalls?

My least favorite part may have been eating a half stick of butter in one go. Even though it was my idea. I get a little queazy thinking back on that.

Be sure to come out and see Jamie at one our shows!  

George Sukara

George Sukara is the co-director and co-editor of HELL!. He also wrote more of the script than anyone else. And he acted in a very funny scene because he’s good at that too. Not to mention he’s one of the world’s most beautiful people. Some among us are just incredibly lucky and talented, while others are even luckier and more talented than that. George belongs in this second group. As do Jamie and Erma and Dan and Aviva and pretty much everyone else who'll be interviewed about this motion picture. 

I emailed George some questions and he emailed me back some answers. You might think based on this being an online interaction that we haven’t seen each other almost every single damn day of our entire adult lives.

George at one of our writing retreats

George at one of our writing retreats

If you'd like to support everyone's good friend George, I highly recommend getting tickets to one of our upcoming screenings or maybe even signing up on our mailing list using the little red button in the lower right. 

Anyway, here’s the interview! 

You’re from Ohio, but grew up in Los Angeles? 

Yep. My dad got a job as an animator, so he moved to L.A. My mom stayed behind, loaded the covered wagon, and we eventually headed West.

You were born in the same hospital as both Steph Curry and LeBron James, yeah? 

Yeah. And… uh… Mark Mothersbaugh, Chrissie Hynde… Jim Jarmusch. Probably one of my family members too.

I can’t remember, are you the second or third biggest baby ever born in that hospital? 

In ‘78 I was the second biggest baby born in the hospital. Last I checked I was bumped to third. Kids be getting big these days.

Do you get notified every time a bigger baby is born? Like a Guinness Book of World Records kind of thing? 

No, I just knew someone who worked there. Shit, now that I don’t have a mole on the inside, I’ll never get updates on my ranking!

It's better that way. It'd be a huge blow to your ego to hear you dropped to fourth. You were an extra on several shows right after high school weren’t you? 

Yes sir. Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Clueless, Crusade, America’s Funniest Home Videos (yes, the audience is made up of paid extras)… I’m blanking on some others.

For a while Land and I would book gigs together. We did the Mad About You episode with Macho Man Randy Savage. That was great. We did a show called Providence, and the call was for poor people, so my plan was to smear a little charcoal on our faces, to make us look more like street urchins. We decided to not go that far with it. We always tried to get on Power Rangers, but the call was always for people to play Putties. That would have been full costume and mask, filming way out in the Valley in 100 degree weather. Aka a death trip.

What was the biggest part you played when you were extraing? 

Wow, the way these questions are posed it’s as if you’re leading me… Zoe, Duncan, Jack and Jane. Short lived WB sitcom. I was just booked as an extra and they had cast an “official” actor for the part of Norman, the Stalker. The director took one look at him (leather jacket, “cool guy” hair) and said “No, he’s not right.” Then he looks across the room, locks eyes on me, points and says “That guy!” It’s the perfect old-timey Hollywood story, except my career went nowhere.

When did you start wanting to make movies and shows of your own? 

Since I was a kid. I didn’t do little league. We rented three movies a weekend ever since I was really young. The first movie I saw in the theater was Empire Strikes Back. I was 2.

Plus my dad worked in animation, and was in a short film made by the Disney animation team called Luau (co-directed by Tim Burton). So that helped.

I first tried to make short films when I was in fifth or sixth grade on a borrowed video camera. The first one (“It Bites From Below”) was a blatant rip off of TerrorVision - but the monster lived in the toilet and not the TV. The second was just my brothers chasing me through the desert, over abandoned burnt out cars and stuff. I didn’t finish either of them.

You hosted an internet TV show for a while called Toobin' with George and Land. Tell me about that. 

Uh, Land came up with the idea. Basically, we presented weird videos we found online (dissimilar from the Tosh show, in that these were usually more obscure or esoteric videos). The show mutated from there. We did little sketches, filmed segments. We had an audience and a drunk Santa for our Christmas Special (Richard, Riah and Santa Oddcock). We did an after-show: Toobin Nights aka Toobin After Dark… shit what was the other one? Toobin’ High Voltage? High Octane?

We did that for three years or so. When I look back at those episodes it’s terrifying how young and full of hope we were. What happened?

Pretty sure the computer simulation we all live in is simply decaying. What other movies inspired what you’ve written and how you envision HELL!?

My initial take was a cross between Citizen Ruth and The Three Amigos. I can only hope we can make a movie as weird and ridiculous as Three Amigos. I just love John Landis’ output from the 80s.

I love a good bonehead (good bone) protagonist. It also helps that Jamie has created such an easy character to riff on.

So yeah, those two movies with a sprinkling of Medium Cool. Maybe.

That reminds me, did you know in the UK they used to call Cool Ranch Doritos, Cool American Doritos? When I first saw that, I thought, “finally, a chip named after me.”  

But what have you enjoyed the most about making the movie so far? 

I don’t know. Probably our writing retreats. Turns out I don’t hate collaboration and I don’t mind writing in a group setting. I’m not a big picture or storyline kind of guy. I can write episodic scenes and dialogue, but I fucking suck at plot. So it was nice to let the others hash out the structure of this fucker. 

Dear god, such language. 

Honestly, it’s been amazing watching the performances emerge each day of filming. I’m not just trying to kiss the collective asses of our cast, but I’ve been blown away by how talented everyone is.

Also, I loved getting puppet updates (Puppdates?) from Dave.

Me too. Let’s close with that. Goodbye interview!   

One Year Later

A little less than a year ago I yelled "Action" for the very first scene on our very first day of filming at The Lost Church Theater in San Francisco. And now in one month, we'll premiere HELL! to a crowd at New People Cinema, also in San Francisco. If you're in SF, be sure to check out one of our May 12th shows

Back when we were still filming I'd sometimes lie in bed wondering if leaving my fancy job in its fancy office with its fancy kitchen and gym and massages was a dumb decision. I was fairly poor when I was a kid, so my instinct is to hold tight to a nice job so big piles of cash can stack up around my house. Though that probably wouldn’t be a terrible instinct even if I’d grown up as a delicate little man of leisure. 

I wondered why I even wanted to make a feature movie. I certainly wasn't getting rich from the process. The work was pretty stressful. It ate up a ton of energy and time. Why couldn't I just be happy watching other people’s movies? That’d free up a lot more evenings for cocktails. 

Why bother?

Why bother?

Besides, most movies are bad. Even movies with lots of Hollywood funding and a crew of hundreds. Who are we to think we can make something worth watching, almost entirely independent of that system?

I'd set up shots during filming and wonder if the composition was boring or brilliant or dumb, cliched or interesting or needlessly weird, flat or strikingly composed or second year film student style pov-shot-from-inside-a-garbage-can nonsense. 

Are our scenes varied enough, I'd wonder? Are our locations interesting enough? Will the atmosphere of the movie live up to the script and what we see in our heads? Is stuff we shot two months ago going to match up properly with scenes we're shooting right now? 

I now have the answers to these questions. And, at least for me, they're a resounding yes. 

Will people laugh at the jokes in this scene? One thing's for certain: I laugh at them. 

Will people laugh at the jokes in this scene? One thing's for certain: I laugh at them. 

When I'm listening to one of Jamie's amazing songs, when he or Erma or Aviva or Scott or Riah Toby or Bryan or Kelly or Mark or any of the many other actors in the movie delivers their lines even better than I had envisioned them in my head, when George and I put the last touches on an edit for the day and all the jokes are still landing on our thirtieth viewing... I really feel like we might just maybe have something here. 

So thinking back on those nights when I used to lie in bed wondering if leaving my fancy job in its fancy office with its fancy kitchen and gym and massages was a dumb decision, I eventually always come around to the same answer: No. It wasn't a dumb decision. It was the best decision I've ever made.  

Richard Something
Co-Director