‘Mandrakes Feel Pain! And Other Magical Vegan Myths’ - Interview with Courtney Crisfield of Northern Star Productions
The first episode of Mandrakes Feel Pain! is set to launch on Saturday, October 2nd, 2021 at 9:30am AEST (Friday, October 1st at 4:30pm PST), so be sure to follow Northern Star Productions on YouTube to watch! The trailer is available for viewing on their channel, along with trailers for the other vegan projects within the Lights Up series.
Courtney is the mastermind behind Mandrakes Feel Pain! She is credited as the writer, producer, director, performer, and video editor for the project. We absolutely cannot wait to see what she’s come up with!
We had the pleasure of sitting down with Courtney to discuss this exciting new series and Northern Star Production’s take on activism through fiction. Here’s what she had to say!
The Protego Foundation: Thanks so much for joining us, Courtney! To start us off, can you tell us when you first became a Harry Potter fan?
Courtney Crisfield: I feel like Courtney and Harry Potter have been synonymous for so long! When I first became a fan I was just starting school age, so like four or five years old. I was read the books by my mum and my stepdad before bed each night, and I tell you what, on the nights when I'd been a bit naughtier and I wasn't allowed to have Harry Potter read to me before bed, I would cry and scream. I think you can tell by that how much I was just in love with the series from the start.
It's been a whole journey where I feel like my life and Harry Potter just keeps weaving in and out and we keep crossing paths in the best possible way. It's always the thing that’s so comforting - you can always read the book and watch the films and you just feel like, “Oh, I'm home.”
TPF: What led you to going vegan?
CC: In 2015, I moved out of home properly for the first time and I was really getting into fitness and trying to be healthy and I got into cooking for the first time in my life. Myself and my partner were both gym junkies at that time and I was always interested in looking up something healthy that I could try. Somewhere in that time, I realized that dairy milk was just not doing my digestive system any good at all, even though ice cream was my favorite food growing up. I had to sort of let that go bit by bit because it just made me feel gross all the time.
Then I just started doing more research and in 2017, What the Health came out, which is awesome and covers so much. It was the biggest glass shatter of my life. You can be super healthy by eating beautiful, colorful, fresh plants. I would say I initially went vegan for my health, but after researching more, I realized how everything is connected and the damages that animal agriculture does to our planet as well as the whole ethical side of things, which is definitely what has really sustained and amplified my passion for helping everyone understand what veganism is.
TPF: How are the vegan options at the Wizarding World in Universal Studios Japan?
CC: I loved to go into the Wizarding World whenever I had time. [At] the Three Broomsticks, when you ask if they have anything vegetarian, they call the manager of the restaurant and they come over with their charts for allergies. When I was first there, it was a bit of a challenge, but I just used my trusty Google Translate. After I went back a few times, I [was] able to communicate a lot more effectively and easily. I just took a photo of everything that I had and I would just show it to them.
The vegan spread that they can make is so great. It's fresh steamed vegetables, massive corn cobs, potatoes - really, really good.
TPF: That’s fantastic! So how did Northern Star Productions come to fruition?
CC: My partner and I are both performers with acting and theatre backgrounds. We are both really ambitious and have a lot of ideas and a lot of plans all the time [about] stories we want to tell and movies and theatre shows we want to make.
When we were together in Japan, [the pandemic] made us more sure than ever that we really wanted to make our own work all the time, no matter what. We're more in control of what we get to do and try next, rather than waiting for someone to give us an okay or waiting for a different opportunity. So we founded the company last year and now [we are] really focusing on a massive passion of ours, which I think is why it's been met with a really awesome response so far.
TPF: What is Mandrakes Feel Pain! And Other Magical Vegan Myths all about?
CC: It is a Harry Potter fan exploration of veganism series. We follow the protagonist, Emilia, who is a young, British animal activist. She receives a Hogwarts letter and finds out that she's a witch. But as [anyone who] has ever even just thought about Harry Potter through the lens of animal ethics [knows], there are a lot of different dilemmas that come up with going to Hogwarts and being in the wizarding world. So we're going to follow Emilia through her entire journey.
CC: There are a lot of documentaries on the topic and there’s a lot of information and research, but in terms of fiction, there's really not a lot available. I think that with veganism, it's like everyone's got a lock inside [their] mind and everyone's got a different key that's gonna unlock that realization. I normally find that if [you are] reading a book, watching a TV show, or watching a movie, you can have really profound realizations [that] can really stick with you a lot more than seeing a whole bunch of research on a screen.
I just want to contribute to activism through everything that I love, which is storytelling. I think that for the people who [are] not going to hit ‘yes’ to the documentary but they will hit ‘yes’ to the comedy series, I think it's going to open the door for a whole bunch of people who never would have had an interest in the topic before.
We are vegan filmmakers who are making this for anyone. It's not by vegans for vegans, it's by vegans for anyone who's interested.
TPF: What are your future goals for Northern Star Productions?
CC: We have a lot of aspirations and things that we want to try and places we want to go and things we want to create, but the main goal is [that] we really want to be that production company that, whenever [we] do a film, all of the catering and craft services is vegan. Just having a fully vegan-friendly set would be so nice and so fun.
We do have an idea for a Black Mirror meets veganism type of TV show, which I think has a lot of potential. We'd like to cross mediums as well because we both have a theater background. I really want to do a live vegan comedy show, maybe next year or the year after.
What do you think about this new series? Will you be watching it on October 2nd?
Written by Valerie Short
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