Get To Know: the one & only Princess Hollywood
Heather Sheridan Ferreira was born in New Jersey in 1968 to a schoolteacher and her federal employee husband. Ferreira began making Super-8 films and audio movies in the 70s. She was brought on board by Warner Bros Pictures in November of 2019. She is multiracial and of part-Portuguese descent. Now she turns her attention to music-making...
Princess Hollywood, it’s a pleasure to chat to you here at CFM!
"A pleasure back. It's great talking with you today and thank you."
Firstly, who is Princess Hollywood
"A PR campaign to bring Hollywood back. To make people remember and fall back in love with the movies: the greatest, most interesting industry known to man. Princess Hollywood is my stage name because directors traditionally are camera-shy and avoidant of attention. Princess Hollywood shows audiences how movies are made and how it's really done, and my songs are from the directors' point of view. I'm here to open a door. Before Alfred Hitchcock, the American public had no idea who or what directors even were. I'm just taking that to the next level. Hitchcock made our profession visible. I intend to make it a household word. You know, how actors have been 'the star', always the center of attention to people the last 100 years? This next century, directors have got to be. It's time for the lies and actor bullshit to stop. If it isn't me who makes that happen, trust me, some other director will."
Tell us about your journey into music.
"See, this was the thing: I had two masters. I was always into music and at times the two muses fought each other and me for who would control my destiny. I'd get an idea for an album, start working on it, then Lee Daniels or someone would contact me wanting a script, or I'd get an idea for a movie to direct. So then I'd get started on that and then boom, the perfect song would appear - even in a dream, I dream songs, so this wasn't fair. The two disciplines both wanted me, and I loved them both. I played and wrote music as a child, and played drums and piano. Then as a teen I got into synthesizers and bass guitar. I was very aware of pop and listened to it studying it. My very first record was 'Sugar Sugar' by The Archies and I remember informing my parents, like some kind of self-declared expert, 'This is the perfect pop song.' My parents probably were like... 'who is this kid...'
"But I wasn't wrong. Fifty years later, it still is. 'Sugar Sugar' may very well possibly be the perfect pop song. I think Don Kirshner produced it, right? It was on Calendar. Orange record label with a big K with knobs on it. I still remember that! (laugh)
"'Sugar" was the first pop song I recognized as a kid to be a pop song. But I was very aware of pop music before that and have strong memories of music, certain songs from the year I was born, playing on my parents' radio, or their stereo. Later, in the Eighties, I started performing live in a few places, singing lyrics to existing instrumental stuff by Andreas Vollenweider and Paul Hardcastle and such. Then I started programming my own songs. MIDI appeared about then and it made it easier. No more having to deal with musicians' jealous wives and that sort of thing. Now I have to deal with that on set and there's no MIDI for that yet. (laugh) But when MIDI and drum machines came along, a great deal of internal politics that can shatter a band, and often got in my way, were eliminated. We all never looked back and it was the same for me. But to answer your question, the Eighties."
We love the video you directed for your track ‘Everything Is Dynamite’ - tell us about the idea for that!
"Well, the track is my attempt at straight up Seventies disco, and I put on my musician and singer hat to make that. You know, to record the track. Once those hats were off, I had to look at it as a director: what, visually, will get across what people FEEL when they hear this song? I initially considered shooting a roller rink party: people skating, eating Pop Rocks and Space Dust and having a good time. But too many lockdown restrictions and a general inclination towards using as few extras and actors as possible - being in midst of also directing a feature film I've had about enough of those people at the moment (laugh) - made me wonder, 'So now how can I shoot this thing just starring Princess Hollywood?' Because unlike most actors, I, meaning she, will just show up and hit the marks and say the lines and then go home and not cause any trouble. My alter ego is a professional (laugh).
"I decided to use green screen, on just me alone, and get around actors, extras and location costs entirely with just imagination. I aimed to make the video look like disco made me feel in 1977 and 1978. A shimmering, sexy, glamorous feel, almost completely over the top. The song reminds me of cocaine. So I wanted the music video to visually look the way cocaine makes people feel. I don't use cocaine, but I have certainly been in proximity of people who do and did. I based the entire look and feel of the video on that euphoric air I directly observed in coke users dancing and schmoozing in nightclubs. Add to that my own feelings about disco. Disco is pretty much the best dopamine source in the world. You cannot feel depressed if Chic is loudly playing. I dare you, try it. Disco is the world's best antidepressant."
How do you find the crazy music scene in L.A, where you’re based?
"LA's music scene is so dark. It looks gothic on surface but underneath is pretty debased and Satanic. Lizards run it. It's dated. I swear Guns n Roses or Red Hot Chili Peppers is still on these people's minds. 100 percent of musicians here are still sounding and dressing that way. It's a very dated, late Eighties, Jane's Addiction look and sound. Not that any of those bands are dead but LA needs to be inspired. But I'll be frank with you: it's the sound and look of heroin. Straight up. It's what happened to Los Angeles after cocaine got driven out and smack took its place. Cocaine is a much better look and sound. LA needs happiness. It's so dark now.
"The music industry here is dead. DOA. Nobody's signing anything, nobody knows what A&R is or does, they don't even know what the letters stand for. The clubs are all locked down, the music of the clubs plays in your car. Everyone spends so much time in our cars here, that's where the party is now. It's a sad time, but you know, often when things look the worst that's when something starts. LA would be a great place for a brand new brighter happier sound to emerge out of. I hope it happens."
For someone who’s never heard your music, which song of yours is the best introduction to you?
"Now that is an interesting question. Probably 'Everything Is Dynamite'. It sets the stage for all else, I guess: audiences hear that voice that's singing and immediately say it's a boy, you know, a sexy white English boy, a sort of Simon LeBon type, and then watch the video and be like (amazed expression) 'Holy shit that's A GIRL? And wait, a black girl? A part black part white and Asian GIRL, singing that? And, um, an American? But I thought...' (laugh) yeah, that song is a doozy. It's also catchy like all the shit I write. And it's straight up retro. So I would say 'Everything Is Dynamite" cos it says it all. I may not be perfect, but I'm gonna hit you with a hook, you can count on it. I think my music may be the hookiest shit out there."
What artists have you been listening to during all these lockdowns?
"Tons of things, as much as I can between shoot days. Let me see... (looks upward, thinks) well, um, Duran Duran obviously. Early Madonna. Lots of Chic. Sister Sledge, early Jackson Five, a ton of Motown. Eighties new wave: groups like Talk Talk, Tears For Fears to some extent, Heaven 17, Human League. Some Kraftwerk even, and other German groups like Propaganda. I fucking love Propaganda, always have. I've also paid attention to early Valerie Simpson and Kim Weston. Those are some of the artists I like. That's according to YouTube. With that algorithm they would know."
What can we expect from you for the rest of the year?
"Continued struggles in the movie business. Actors being mad at me because they either wouldn't hit their lines and I fired them or they or some crew member came onto me or some other person, and I let go of them for that. They'll shit talk me online when this music stuff appears. But then anyone reading here will probably suspect and be right why they're shit talking (laugh). I catch a lot of heat online. And it's always white guys from former cast or crew who asked me to sleep with them and I told them no and then fired them. Straight online to their little Twitters it goes. I used to care about this. Now I only care just enough to piss back at them like here then move straight on. I'm way too busy.
"But yeah, I'm obligated to Warner Bros Pictures right now to deliver a feature film to them, and it's on paper so I've got to. So I'm completing that. I have a few other films to do as well. So you'll see those, if we're lucky, and I've got a ton more songs and albums coming out for you shortly as well. I plan to go all the way with this. The whole idea of Princess Hollywood is 'here is what used to be fun about movies'. 'And here is how we make them'. The veil is off. It's time for a director to be the star, the biggest star in the world. We've all seen and heard how the actor feels and how she or he thinks. Ad nauseam, I think. Well, now you are going to hear the thoughts of the movie directors. Put to beat, yes, in the forms of a pop song. With all the music videos directed by me. That's never been done before. There has never been a movie director pop star before.
"I figure bring it. If I'm sexy enough that actors and 1ADs keep ruining their careers and delaying my productions because they want to sleep with me THAT BAD, well then I'm sexy enough to be the next Madonna. Cinemadonna, if you will. Fuck yeah, it's time."
So you’ve lived through the 70s and the 80s… tell us about how this has shaped your own music.
"I saw the whole Seventies and Eighties. I don't seem to look it, but I was born in late 1968. So I'm a Generation X-er. I witnessed both decades front to back. How it shaped my music is hard to elucidate... we all know it did, we know something about being alive as a child and then older kid through then, and experiencing all the forms and genres of music, and all the artists, that arose and were marketed and became heard and famous then, did something... had an effect on us all, and I would say it was profound. But what precisely it did, I mean in specifics, is hard to say.
"I've been asked this question before and the closest I've found to almost answer it is by describing what happens in the absence of those experiences. Take Lady Gaga for example. An okay artist but I think she'd be much more original and interesting if she fucking owned the fact that she is a Millennial AND NOT ONE OF US: a Generation X-er. She seems really infatuated with a time period she did not witness or hear. And that's dangerous when you expect to start music off of it because without that direct experience you come off not legit. She aped Madonna when she came out but it was an indirect hit: none of her songs or looks were quite PRECISE Madonna. They were overtly a person's 'take' on what Madonna was by having read about Madonna quite intensely on the internet and in books and magazines. That's not the same as having been there in 1985 when Madonna was on top of her A-game and the entire fucking world was obsessed with her talking about her.
"When you are there in a decade you can even tell the smell of different decades is different. You got to see a time period as what it was instead of reading about it, you know, Googling Images. Gaga clearly was Googling pictures of Madonna and reading up on her - very obsessively, one can tell - and thinking herself an expert mastering how to replace and defeat Madonna from all that. But now how can you architect a PR and marketing strategy, costume strategy, and singles release strategy and how those things will affect audiences, based upon an artist who became famous before you were even born when you weren't there? You didn't see, feel and experience the fame that your target had as it was HAPPENING.
"It's like saying to yourself you're an ice cream manufacturer out to beat Ben and Jerry's, right? But if you've never tasted Ben and Jerry's ice cream and were not around in the late 20th or early 21st century and you do this 25 years after Ben and Jerry's, let's say, folded, and were born a year after it was gone...? So how do you do that? And to me that's what having been there during the heyday of the music and movies you're making does for you, described by how its absence, your not being there, will affect you, and using Gaga as an example.
"She never got to see specific aspects of how exactly famous Madonna was between 1984 and 1986 yet wanted to capture and replicate that. Well, you're a Millennial, you fucking can't. You weren't there. She doesn't know what it felt like to be in fingerless black lace gloves and a bustier when those things were brand new and not only all your friends were in that getup, everybody on the New York subway was, too. It was everywhere. Girls were adding a black dot to their upper lip using liquid eyeliner pencils. Madonna was an absolute fucking worldwide phenomenon in a manner similar to 1977 Star Wars. This kid figured she could rip that and it didn't work. She tried but none of her songs sound like Madonna.
"Try that to my single 'Kiss And Tell'. Now Kiss And Tell sounds like fucking Madonna. Tell me it doesn't. Because it captures an elusive something in the air back when Madonna emerged. If you weren't there, and Gaga wasn't, you can't capture that or replicate that. It was gone by when she and her generation were born. See, if I wanted to 'wreck Madonna' I absolutely could because I was there and saw directly in person how she did it. I know what the tools were. But I love Madonna. So I would love to see Gaga focus on who and what era she is, and reinvent Millennial music. She'd be great at that. At trying to be a Gen X-er like me, and try to rap about our streets, not so much.
And I think that perhaps answers that, though in a longwinded way. My music, my movies, are designed to recreate a specific bygone era but it's one that I lived through. So there will be a certain very strong authenticity in them audiences will recognize. Because listening to streams and reading Smash Hits as .PDFs is not gonna get you there in a time machine, into a time and place you never were. Only those of us who were there in the Seventies and Eighties can replicate that era. And I was there."