interrogations by Phrank Castle, Vigilante Poet
"Today I sat down with creative professional Derek Prospero, NYC artist / designer / photographer, and leading contributor to my crusade of vengeance."
PHRANK: Hi Derek. First of all, I must say, I really like your sissy Converse shoes.
DEREK: Thanks man. I really like your bad-ass white boots.
PHRANK: Good. Eyes up here. Tell us a bit about yourself, such as what you do, and why it's not vigilantism.
DEREK: In a nutshell, I'm a graphic designer. I also do photography, and sometimes video work. I do brand consulting, design logos and websites, write copy and content, and I specialize in all kinds of image editing and post production. As for vigilantism, I have a bad knee, so...
PHRANK: I hate people who say "in a nutshell.” But you shoot all my photography, so I'll let it pass. Now, aside from your knee, what else would you like people to know about you?
DEREK: I've been a creative professional for most of my life, working as a designer, photographer, consultant and a college instructor. I enjoy combining my experiences in both traditional and digital art, exploring all different kinds of themes. I also like Japanese food, Italian furniture, and American comics. Recently I've discovered an interest in—
PHRANK: Did you hear that?
DEREK: Hear what?
PHRANK: Never mind. I don't know much about furniture, but I like Italian food. I'm Italian, you?
DEREK: Yeah mostly.
PHRANK: Alright, what else. You work in a cubicle or something?
DEREK: I've worked in a few. Currently I'm a freelancer, so I work at home and on the go. Kinda like you, right?
PHRANK: I sleep in my customized battle van. It has solid rubber tires and bulletproof mirrors.
DEREK: You sleep in a shoebox in my closet, Phrank.
PHRANK: Let's move on. Where are you from? Where you headed?
DEREK: I was born in the Bronx—
DEREK: Don't judge. I grew up near Pelham Bay Park, it’s actually pretty nice. But at the time it seemed like things were getting worse, so my family moved to Florida.
PHRANK: What time was that?
DEREK: The late 1980s.
PHRANK: Gotcha. So you went from the Bronx to Florida. Your family doesn’t mess around, do they? I like that. How was it, going from one kind of crazy to another?
DEREK: It was a culture shock for sure. It felt really dark at night in Florida. And I lost track of time without the seasons changing. It’s basically always summer. And then there's the ants. Ants in New York are like ladybugs, they're cute and it’s no big deal if they crawl on you. In Florida, I learned that ants are tiny monsters designed by nature to inflict pain.
PHRANK: So you moved back to NYC?
DEREK: Well not because of the ants, but yeah. It called me back, and now I live and work here in the Big Apple. The city is very inspiring, but also very intimidating. It can lift you up or drag you down.
PHRANK: Right. You mentioned tiny monsters designed to inflict pain. Can you talk a bit about your collaboration with me, Phrank Castle?
DEREK: Sure! I think we met at St. Mark's Comics, right? West Village. You were in the discount bin, and for some reason I thought you were worth $8. It was a late night of drinking.
PHRANK: Don't get all sweet on me.
DEREK: But seriously, it's been fun to document your experiences, especially paired with your haiku. I wouldn't have pegged you for a poet.
"Haiku is the best.
It's short, but not always sweet.
Just like yours truly."
PHRANK: Speak English please. You write poetry too, don't you?
DEREK: I do. It's a sort of meditation for me. I have an Instagram account for it, @derekprospoems. I'm not much good at haiku. My poems have a lot more syllables than yours. I'm not sure if that makes it easier or harder to write.
PHRANK: It makes it harder to write AND read, punk. Now answer this: were you followed here?
DEREK: No. Wait... huh?
PHRANK: Forget it. Favorite song? Movie? Way to die?
DEREK: I don't really have favorite songs or movies. If it's good, I'm down with it, I don't care about genres. And thankfully, my favorite way to die has yet to be discovered.
PHRANK: So you're a spineless, indecisive pansy who would eat a plate of garbage if someone offered it to you for free. Got it.
DEREK: Alright fine. My favorite song is Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” and my favorite movie is “Death Wish.”
PHRANK: No need for sarcasm. I'll just put down Enya as your favorite artist.
DEREK: That works, she’s cool. Always the extremes with you, huh?
PHRANK: You see any gray in this outfit?
DEREK: Only in the hair.
PHRANK: Let’s get back to you. You say you were a teacher for a while. Tell me about that. Now.
DEREK: Sure, I taught web & graphic design for about 4 years, at the New England Institute of Technology.
PHRANK: Got any advice for other non-vigilantes with bad knees who want to get into design?
DEREK: The right school can help, but it’s critical to produce work. A lot of students fall into a habit of school. They rest on it, thinking that all they have to do is attend. But it's really important to create a portfolio. Don’t wait for school assignments, and don't wait for clients. Make up fictional clients and create projects for them. Invent campaigns for fake companies. Create logos and brands and just keep polishing your craft. Stage an interview with a small plastic toy. Employers don’t always care where you went to school, but they do always care that your work is good. And by the way, I encourage all vigilantes to consider a career switch to the arts.
PHRANK: You seem to do a lot of work with cosplayers, AKA nerds who dress up in costumes. What's the score on that?
DEREK: Oh yeah, cosplayers are great. As a fellow nerd, I love the culture, and many of these guys and gals create some really incredible costumes and props. Whether I shoot the photos in a studio or at a convention, I enjoy taking my favorite shots and creating fantasy environments for them. I also do post-production for other photographers, too.
PHRANK: And people really do this? Dress up like their favorite freak and walk around in public?
DEREK: Absolutely. Some of them take it very serious and do it professionally. You know, like performing at events or doing charity work, children's hospitals, stuff like that.
PHRANK: Alright, we got it. Here's a video. You a smoker?
PHRANK: Good. Smoking kills. That's my job.
PHRANK: So what other kinds of work have you done?
DEREK: I’ve been involved in a few start-ups, did some consulting for—
PHRANK: Actually, nevermind. You mention on your website that you sometimes make movies. What kind of movies?
DEREK: Yes. It's more of a hobby, it just feels like a natural extension of my work as a photographer. I'm not at the pro level yet, but it's something I enjoy doing. They're mostly short videos with no dialogue set to music.
PHRANK: How short we talking?
DEREK: Well not as short as you, but—
PHRANK: *gun clicks*
DEREK: —about a minute or two.
PHRANK: You know I’m 5 inches tall, right? You can drown in less water than that.
DEREK: Oh I know, I did all your head shots.
PHRANK: Uh huh. So, why the short format?
DEREK: I think these days people are just being yanked in every direction. ADHD isn't just a condition anymore, it's a standard. But it's also about logistics. I’m a solo crew with only one camera, and I do a lot of other work to pay the bills, so I can’t dedicate much time to making anything feature-length. But I have a passion for the process, so I stick to stories that I can tell quickly.
PHRANK: So not just because you’re lazy?
DEREK: Nah, I would work on bigger productions if I had the means. Plus, short videos are good practice. Shots must be tighter, the story more focused. When you only have 60 seconds, it’s important that every frame serve a purpose. Editing plays a bigger role. A short video cannot hide or dilute its rhythm, so it has to be careful. Kind of like a haiku poem.
You are either smart, stupid,
Or just pretentious."
DEREK: I think I am a bit of each, and they just cancel each other out.
PHRANK: I pulled a video from your website, “Blasts from the Past.” Tell us about this one.
DEREK: Like most of my videos, it's just a short story that helps me remember a moment in my life. I work in a variety of art mediums. In this case I was creating a collage, and I wanted to show the process and inspiration behind it.
PHRANK: Sounds magical. I'm weepy.
DEREK: No shame. It was a fun ride.
PHRANK: And the body count?
DEREK: Zero. But maybe we can work on a director’s cut together?
PHRANK: I'm listening…
DEREK: So what about you, man? How’s the war going?
PHRANK: Oh you know, ups and downs. I killed a drug dealer this weekend. Did some gardening.
DEREK: Damn, really? Killed on sight for dealing drugs? That seems kinda harsh, Phrank. People can be rehabilitated, sometimes they just—
PHRANK: He was stabbing a nun.