Artist Interviews 2021

Shane Coffey, a.k.a CITIZNSHANE  
By Julia Annabel Siedenburg

Shane Coffey, a.k.a @CITIZNSHANE, is one of these creative versatile minds that not even the pandemic can stop from creating great things. Instead, he used this time to create an entire art series simply based on the idea of wearing masks. And they turned out amazing! So now, besides being a great actor, writer and director, he can add Art Director and photo model to his resume. I before had the opportunity to do a Polaroid shoot myself and I was very happy to talk with him further about that great brain of his.

2020 has been an in interesting year to say the least. A lot of people found themselves struggling and being lost. You embraced the idea of quarantine and wearing masks, and with that created Fact Face. The Fact Face series is an artistic product of the pandemic. How did this idea come to you and how long did you work on it?

2020 has been an in interesting year to say the least where a lot of people found them self’s struggling and being lost. You embraced the idea of quarantine and wearing masks and with that created Fact Face. The Fact Face series is an artistic product of the pandemic. How did this idea came to you and how long did you work on it?

I’m interested in the characters we all possess - the ones inside that we usually keep hidden in the shadows. Or masked. There's this Bob Dylan quote I like: "When somebody's wearing a mask, he's gonna tell you the truth. When he's not wearing a mask, it's highly unlikely." That idea is laced in contradictions, perhaps, and could mean a hundred different things (and good luck getting Dylan to tell you), but I was certainly thinking about that while shooting Fact Face, sometimes surprising myself. I started with a self-portrait meant to express one of my leading, internal, shadow-selves and give voice to a character I tend to ignore, afraid he'll lead to my demise. The result? Love, understanding, forgiveness - a few things I'm determined to give myself more of. I wrapped my head in Reynolds aluminum and captured what would later be titled The Foiled Prince. Take this for what it's worth, but it was the most honest picture I'd ever shot. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Truth be told, as I grow on this journey to become the best version of myself during this global pandemic in a country divided, the more I learn, the less I know. But Love has to be the answer, right? And how are you gonna Love the world if you can't Love yourself? One day at a time, they say. One day at a time…… There’s one more quote I want to share and then I’ll wrap up this answer. The late, great Joan Didion wrote, “I think we are well-advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind's door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends.” I’ve been working on myself for years now, in and out of therapy, but, if I’m being honest, before the pandemic, before my Bipolar Type II diagnosis, I was sometimes desperately attempting to Eternal-Sunshine the sides of my soul that were experiencing the deep pain that comes with depression. With Fact Face, I wanted to invite those grimmer sides to the surface, give them a nod like Didion said, and let them know I love them - with hopes that anytime they attempt to take the wheel again, it will be less painful to direct them to the back of ship. I’d be interested to see what other people would create if they were assigned this mask-project. It'd be very revealing - downright beautiful. What are your masks?

You are also an actor, writer and director. Is photography books your current focus now, with the film industry struggling to find their balance and currently again being on a temporary “hold”?

Well, the film industry is alive and well and will never die - not in our lifetime. As much as I miss movie theaters (and if we go back further: Blockbuster), I’m not really sure film is struggling, necessarily. That’s just a fact, right? Features and shorts and shows and sketches and skits and music videos and art films and Instagram videos and YouTube and TikTok and whateverthe- fuck will always exist - pandemic or not. Limitations only make filmmaking and other art forms more creative. Whether I’m known as an actor or not, this profession has paid my bills before and during all of this shit, so I’m never going to be ungrateful and complain about Covid fucking with my acting or filmmaking career. Shout out to unemployment checks too, because, yes, there was a long period of time during the beginning of this shit when all of us movie-makers weren’t allowed on sets and had to ride with whatever the fuck was in our bank accounts. You asked me if “photography books are my current focus now,” and I am struggling with answering that because it’s always been my focus - all of it. Acting, directing, photography, writing, drawing… It’s all storytelling. That said, I grew up thinking actors were the boldest and most insane and inspiring artists on the planet because our instrument is our fucking body - our mind, heart, soul, voice, paintbrush, pen, camera, guitar, knife, sword, gun, cat’s-paw, etc. Acting can be the most revealing and vulnerable and honest art form when done well and true. As someone who dabbles in many mediums, I’ll take that statement to my grave. I say that because I have to admit that every other art I dive into is a form of acting, I guess. Even the book I’m writing is meant to be read out loud as a long monologue. This Fact Face selfportrait project is another example of acting. The way you hold yourself gives the audience knowledge about your character's mood, pain, history - without speaking one word of dialogue. I'd say the same thing goes for Fact Face. Each self-portrait tells its own story, hopefully giving viewers a glimpse into each character's soul. In the end though…after all is said and done… I am nothing. Take that how ever you wanna take that.

If you would need to choose only one of your professions, which one would you choose and does the current situation influence this decision?

That’s a terribly hard question to answer so bear with me. Writer? I suppose. Yeah. Writer. My dream is to get paid to write what I want to write. I wanna travel with my alma-gemela and be in a fucking Brazilian or Egyptian or Indian home-awayfrom- home writing novels and short stories and haikus and scripts and whatever-the-fucks. I wanna be in a cabin in Big Sur with my laptop. I wanna be in Lone Pine’s Alabama Hills with a notebook. I wanna be completing manuscripts in Puerto Nuevo, taking breaks to fuel-up on lobster and ceviche. I wanna work from the road, is what I’m saying. Someone else just recently asked me, “Who are you? Actor? Writer? Producer? Photographer? Explain.” Truth is, I don’t know. He asked me that and I spoke: “These days, I'm inclined to just say human.” You know? The pandemic has really made me examine my life, my work, the things I hold important. I've been acting my whole life, from the first time I picked up my mom’s Panasonic VHS Palmcorder. I’ve been experimenting with and becoming characters on stage and in front of a lens for decades. Whether or not I like the projects I’ve been lucky enough to have been cast in, it’s what has always paid the bills, so it's what most people see me as, I’m guessing. Writing is my true love, but I've yet to get paid for that - as if getting paid for something means you are that something. I'm not sure I agree with that anymore. I've been telling stories since I could talk, wearing the hat (or mask) of the writer, the actor, the photographer, the director, the whatever-the-fuck. It's all story-telling. I'm currently sending my latest short film “McCrorey Rd.” to all the festivals. We’ll premiere in Austin in June. I directed and co-wrote this one. I don’t know, when you see an old friend or meet a stranger, you're always asked, “What are you working on?” I usually answered with a list of things that relate to the entertainment business in one way or the other. Now I just say, “Myself.”

Can you briefly talk a bit about your upbringing?

I grew up in Spring, Texas - a suburb 30 minutes north of downtown Houston. When I was two years old, I was already attempting to get the hell out. My brothers and I shared a power wheel. Remember those? Wearing nothing but a diaper, I found my way out of my mom’s sight and into the garage. My poor mother, oh how I love her so! God bless you Jeanie! My dad worked a lot - then he got in a terrible car accident that kept him in and out of the hospital and in and out of pain after - so Jeanie had four wild boys to often look after alone back then. From time to time, one of us could disappear behind the couch or in a kitchen cabinet or inside the washer machine - or on a power wheel, hitting the streets like a baby Jack Kerouac. I traveled about three miles down Cypresswood Drive to the Morse’s house - family friends who lived on the opposite side of the neighborhood. I don’t remember any of this, but it certainly makes sense considering I still have the desire to pack up my stuff and leave like a character from a Sam Shepard play. That bug in me grew especially large as a teenager when I was pouring great cinema and theatre all over me. When people would ask me who my favorite writer was, I always said Sam Shepard. In one of his short stories - titled “Berlin Wall Piece” - he wrote from the point of view of his youngest son - it’s about a middle schooler who has to interview his father about the 1980s for his 7th grade social studies paper. The only problem is: his father doesn’t remember a goddamn thing about the 80s except for meeting his wife and the births of his children. When the son tells the father that the interview isn’t “supposed to be about personal stuff, [the father] says, ‘What else is there?’” The son goes on to listen to the father tell him that everything else - style, fads, music, clothes, what was going on in the country at the time - is basically a lie. “None of that has anything to do with reality. Reality is an internal affair and all the rest of that stuff is superficial.” Sam Shepard, to me, was as real as it gets. I knew this at a young age after reading True West. I remember where I was: my childhood bedroom. I remember the posters on the wall and the color of the carpet. I remember spilling a cup of Coca-Cola and ice onto my sheets during act two. I remember not wanting to take a piss-break until I finished reading. This was around the time I had gotten into acting - memorizing scenes and monologues for drama competitions in and around Houston. Soon after True West...there was Fool For Love, Cowboy Mouth, Curse Of The Starving Class, A Lie Of The Mind, Angel City, Seduced, Action, Melodrama Play, Suicide In B Flat, Buried fucking Child.

While many of my fellow students in high school were working on lighter stuff like Barefoot In The Park or Into The Woods, I remember cutting a pivotal conversation in The Late Henry Moss so that it read as one long monologue. This monologue, accompanied with a piece by Euripides, would eventually get me into every single college I auditioned for. I felt as if I had found my guy, you know? I was a Shepard-guy. That was me. “Hey, Shane, who’s your favorite playwright?” — “Sam Shepard, duh.” - I related to everything he talked about and didn’t talk about, real and imagined. I thought life itself was Shepardian. The occasionally violent brothers, the occasionally drunk father, the occasionally worried matriarch - this wasn’t exactly the same, but it was all relatable in one way or the other. The home - or lack of a home - or lack of feeling at home while in this place everyone else calls “home”. Gotta get outta here. Gotta get outta Houston. Gotta find this place they call “home”. The road - the veins of this country, stretching across the land like concrete rivers. Tobacco and horses and lassos and coyotes and weathered furniture. Stepping on anthills then feeling bad about it. Taxidermy. Dad’s cabinet of booze above the microwave. Ice cubes on a black eye. Bloody elbows and broken branches. Broken windshields looking like spiderwebs. Lemonade in the summertime. The moon glowing like pregnancy. Yellow sweat stains on my white t-shirts. Wasp stings and stepping on a rusty nail. Going to juvenile halls for making dry-ice bombs. Freckles after a sunburn. Sneaking out of the window and jumping off the roof to meet up with my first love. Biting my fingernails and playing with matches. The Gulf of Mexico. Hank Williams. Peeing on a jellyfish wound. The smell of burnt toast. The taste of sex. Spinning on a carousel, turning the world into a Pollock painting. Searching - always searching inside and outside and all around. Tracing one’s life all the way back to the beginning - all the way back to the first family member and beyond, before borders separated humans. Before church and state. Before America. Before Judas betrayed Jesus and Cain killed Abel. Before the Dead Sea Scrolls and God! Before dinosaurs and constellations and Time itself. “Straight back into the corn belt and further. Straight back as far as they’d take me.”

And what made you want to become/ start as an artist?

I never wanted to become an artist - it just happened - it just made sense to me. It fit me better than any of the other masks I tried on during my salad days. I’ll go further and say I never wanted to be born, I don’t think - I don’t remember what happened before I was cut out of my mother’s stomach and took my first breath - I was just born. It just happened after my parents had sex one night. We all come from an orgasm - ain’t that something? But I digress. It all just happened. And I don’t say that like an asshole - I’ve thought a lot about this, actually, and still: I don’t know why I am who I am. For some reason, at a very young age, I cared about certain things that the people around me - in Houston, Texas - weren’t necessarily caring about. I found friends there, sure - in theatre, in sports, in rooms dressed in weed-smoke and beyond. Houston is filled with artists and a healthy amount of social challenges. That city certainly shaped me - 100 percent. But it definitely gave me a different perspective of what an “artist” is. To be an artist is the desire to ride this fucking life-thing out to the end - to pay attention to Love and accept hate and pain with grace and wisdom. To have the desire to grow and be the best version of self. To Love with a capital L. True blue Love. To truly live as an eternal student. To take the steering wheel away from the ego and experience life to the fullest and, hopefully, sharing that life with others without regret. To live in the Now. What was your question? I seem to have gotten off track again (it’s the blessing and curse of being an Aquarius sun, a Taurus moon, and a Gemini rising - what a psycho). What made me want to become an artist? Shit, I don’t know. And I don’t know. And I don’t know. And…I don’t know. It’s my soul’s fault, perhaps - it entered the physical realm and used my body - failing and succeeding to be a creative polymath - for better or worse - I suppose. It just happened, thank God. Let me attempt to be more specific: I saw John Leguizamo’s solo show Sexaholix in March of 2003 - live at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown L.A. - front row center of the mezzanine. I was 16 years old. Now 34, it remains one of the best shows I’ve ever seen in my life. What a night - like being electrocuted. I felt the same thing the first time I stood inside of the Cy Twombly Gallery on Branard Street in Houston. Or when I first perused a book of Diane Arbus photographs. The hair on my arms was reaching Heaven when I saw Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon. My parents let us watch whatever we wanted when we were kids. Blockbuster was church. I spent hours in there on that blue, dirty carpet, walking down every aisle, giving nods to the cardboard cut-outs of young Leonardo DiCaprio or Eddie Murphy, putting my hands on every DVD and VHS cover, reading the backs of movie cases, deciding whatever experience I wanted to have that night. My soul exploded when I was introduced to French New Wave. The way these filmmakers found structure through seemingly spontaneous or even impulsive decisions would forever change my life. “Them. There they are. My people. My artists. This is film. This is truth. This is me.” I would say these things - alone, out-loud, inhaling and exhaling slow and deep in front of my childhood TV. I started making my own films with my mom’s Panasonic VHS Palmcorder. I wanted to surround myself with artists and people smarter than me. New York or Los Angeles - I needed to get to one of those places and find my people. And I found them.

You directed a movie staring Jaime King, which looks very promising. When will we be able to see it? What is your goal for the future? What’s next?

“McCrorey Rd.” is based on true events from writer/actor Gloria Cole’s life, detailing how childhood sexual trauma affects a teenager struggling to cope with her past. Gloria and I wrote the screenplay together, using her original short story as a guide. Moving from flashbacks to the present day, we follow Gloria navigating through harrowing recollections, pushing away her only friend (Nikko Austen Smith), and struggling to detach herself from her mother, Kate (Jaime King), who unintentionally grows absent in her search for companionship outside of their Texas trailer home. Moreover, Kate's latest boyfriend Frank (Kick Gurry) serves as a reminder of past abusers, complicating Gloria's emotional and mental health. We’re proud of this project and can’t wait to share it with the world, hopefully helping others feel less alone. You won’t be able to watch it until it completes the festival circus - which has been delayed and pushed back due to Covid. Soon, though, soon. Other than “McCrorey Rd.”, with filmmaking, I’m currently acting in more episodes of NBC’s Good Girls and working on finishing a script for a feature. My main focus, however, is finishing this book I’ve been writing about mental illness. The goal is to just keep breathing, learning, listening, growing, creating, and surrounding myself with people smarter than me. The goal is to carry on with Love. As the 14th century Persian poet Hafiz said, “The subject tonight is Love. And for tomorrow night as well. As a matter of fact, I know of no better topic for us to discuss until we all die.” Anyway, take care of yourself. It’s a crazy world out there and it’s only getting crazier.

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