On this evening, as the drugs begin to take hold, I sit down to write what you are more than likely skimming through right now. I was asked earlier by FilmJerk, editor of this website and capricious filmsloth, to contribute material to his causes. When it turned out that my crude genetic materials were not a valid “contribution,” I turned to my much abused-and-neglected writing skill. So welcome to my mind, the mind of Dark Savant. This is my column. Be warned. This week, I had the pleasure of my first victim: lovely Canuck filmmaker JESSICA HUDSON. Jessica is an indie filmmaker currently in pre-production on Drop Dead Roses, scheduled to star Brian O’Halloran (Dante of Clerks fame) and Eddie McGee (the winner of Big Brother). And like every good interviewer should, I found out how to find naked pictures of her online.
DS: Jessica, thank you for taking the time to do this interview. To start with, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your background in the industry?
J: Sure thing. Let’s see, I have worked in so many different aspects of this industry I don’t know where to start. I started as an actor, doing stage all through school and I was pretty good at it too. I hit age sixteen and thought I’d make the jump to film — that’s when I realized that I was a very bad actor. I [did] some directing in high school as well. The first play I directed was called “A Taste of Honey” and I was fourteen. I got deeper into directing when I started doing set work as an extra. I’d get on the set of a film and everyone there would be fawning all over the stars, while I’d be in there talking to the directors and AD’s, learning from anyone who would teach me. This is when I decided I must own my own camera. I got my first camera at nineteen, some shitty [handicam], but it made no difference. I went out and shot my first feature — if you’d like to call it that — called “Normal.” It was terrible and never made it to the editing room. Since then I’ve done a forty minute short called “Taste,” a few music videos, two shorts, a five-part serial which I’m still working on called “Perfect Bottoms” and a series of documentaries on Haunts in Canada. I studied directing with John Greyson and producing with Damon D’Olivera. At the moment I work for FOX-TV and TVA International, who did the recent film “The Art of War” with Wesley Snipes and the [indie] film “Ginger Snaps” that got critical acclaim at the Toronto International Film Festival.
DS: Like, wow and stuff. Tell me about the project that you’re currently working on, “Drop Dead Roses.”
J: Well we haven’t told anyone what the film’s about yet, so you’ll be hearing it here first.
DS: Fuckin’ A.
J: “Drop Dead Roses” is about [two] guys, Shawn and Jason, who run a flower shop, but this isn’t your normal run-of-the-mill flower shop.
DS: Is it the flower shop of DOOM? Sorry, continue.
J: For a price, they will send dead roses or a box of slightly abused chocolates to whomever you desire and tell them to drop dead for you. The story takes a nasty turn when Shawn ends up having to deliver dead roses to a girl he’s just met, but is interested in dating. It’s a very dark, romantic comedy with a nasty undertone.
DS: At what stage of production is the film in? Any problems so far?
J: Besides a few rehearsals, the film is ready to go. “Drop Dead Roses” has been in production for the past two and a half years, so we’ve had plenty of time to get prepared for the shooting. The only real problem Tracey — my partner — and I have encountered is financing.
DS: Now, about your cast, how in PMS hell did you get Dante from “Clerks” (Brian O’Halloran) and the winner of “Big Brother” (Eddie McGee) attached to your project?
J: I feel it was fate. I met Brian on Kevin Smith’s web site, View Askew, where Kevin has set up a posting board for everyone to talk about what he’s been up to. [Clerks: The Animated Series] had just aired on TV so I thought I’d pop in and see what everyone was saying about it. I happened to pop in on the same day Brian posted on the board — which later he mentioned that he rarely posts. He had a fan e-mail address attached to his name, so I wrote to him. He got back to me, I sent him a script and the rest is history. [I met] Eddie in a similar situation. He had just won the show “Big Brother” and was doing all kinds of press. I went to one of his fan sites and there was an e-mail address for his mom. I wrote her about the film and she wrote me back telling me to give Eddie a call, that he was interested in talking to me. When I first thought of Eddie I had another part in mind for him, but as soon as I talked to him, I knew he was meant for a [starring] role. His personality is infectious, and I had watched “Big Brother” so I had seen the different aspects of his persona. I knew he had to play my villain Trevor, even though he was so kind and light-hearted. Tracey and I went down to New York to audition him and he was perfect.
DS: Let’s talk about Brian… what kind of a guy is he? If you were locked in a room alone with him that featured a shotgun, a cheese grater, and a triple-headed battery-powered gelatinous device, would you still trust him?
J: Would I trust Brian? Definitely, but the real question is, would he trust me? (she grins in an evil manner that is undoubtedly turning me on) Brian is a fantastic guy. I was very lucky to have gotten in contact with him and even more fortunate that he liked the script. He was my pipe dream leading man, the one I thought I’d never get but wanted badly. He’s a brilliant actor with a wickedly sharp sense of humor, which keeps us all laughing when we’re together. Does the gelatinous device have to be battery-powered? Couldn’t I get an adapter?
DS: Well, then it would a completely different toy, now, wouldn’t it? I personally love beads errr, speaking of eroticism, what’s this I keep hearing about a semi-nude calendar that you’re selling, featuring the cast of the film? Is it true, and if so, why are you doing this?
J: Oh yeah, it’s true. The cast and crew got together and stripped down to raise money for the film. We made an “Almost Nekkid Calendar” in the style of “Austin Powers,” where anything you’d want to see is being covered by an object – shucks, I know. We hope to raise part of the money for the film through the sales of the calendars and promote the film at the same time, since they’re Drop Dead Roses calendars. We are also having a contest that goes with them – for every calendar you buy you’re entered into a [drawing], on January 31st, we draw a name and that person will win a phone call from the cast member of their choice.
DS: Did anyone object to being photographed in the buff? Was anyone a bit too enthusiastic? Come on, I don’t believe everyone was actually NUDE during the shoot.
J: Strangely enough, no one objected. I guess they’re all actors to the core. I thought I might have some problems convincing everyone to do it — I was having problems convincing MYSELF to do it — but I would never ask my actors to do something that I wouldn’t do myself, so I gave in and stripped down. Some of my actors were enthusiastic about it, but most of us were just nervous since we all didn’t know each other very well. Some of the people that were posing in the calendar, Eddie and Brian had met just that night! Were we all actually naked you ask? Well if I told you, it would take away from the fantasy of the calendar. (smiles)
DS: How much financing are you hoping to raise for the picture, and what specific methods do you plan to employ to raise the money?
J: Well, the film is budgeted for just under $150,000 for a month of shooting, and even that is a little much. As you know we’re hoping to raise a good portion of the budget through the sales of the “Almost Nekkid Calendars”. The rest of the budget is going to come from private investors and some serious fundraising events. We have a few aces up our sleeves that we have yet to play.
DS: Switching gears here: What methods did you use while writing the script to keep the budget down?
J: The main thing I did while writing the script to keep my budget low, was I made as few location changes as possible, so I could cut down on permits, location fees and time. Another thing I did was kept the script mostly dialogue, no special effects, shit that I really didn’t need. I also kept my cast small, with five leads and only ten other small speaking roles.
DS: Let’s talk about female directors for a minute, since there are unfortunately so few of you around. What does it mean to be a female director today, and what advice would you give to other aspiring women in film? Do you have any favorite women filmmakers that you look up to?
J: The woman director I admire most is Lynne Stopkewich who directed the film “Kissed” starring Molly Parker. (DS’ NOTE: This is a fucking trippy film about NECROPHELIA! Woo hoo!) A woman just has such a different view then a man, whether it be beautiful or filthy, you can see the difference in a film. Now I’m not a feminist or anything like that, I love male directors like David Fincher, but because of the lack of women behind the camera, when you actually see a film being directed by a woman it makes the film even more interesting. For aspiring women filmmakers, I’d have to say: “Honey, you’re in for a rough ride so make sure you’ve got a bad ass film.”
DS: Preach on, girlfriend! (Uncomfortable silence.) As a director about to go into production, do you have any set way that you want to shoot the film? Are you concerned at all with visual style and camera blocking, or does all of that take a backseat to the actor’s performances? How do you see yourself directing both the camera and the talent in front of it?
J: My main concern is the actor’s performances. I map out every shot I could possibly want beforehand and storyboard the hell out of the film, that way by the time I get to set, my main focus can be the actors. I’m a little like Hitchcock that way. Usually, I’m so well prepared with my shots that when I’m on set there are very few changes or additions to the shots that I had planned. I’m extremely organized and like to stick with the plan, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have room for creative input. There’s always room for growth.
DS: Let’s take a step back and look at harsh reality in the face for a moment. The truth is, most films never find a home, never find a distributor, either foreign and/or domestic. The overwhelming majority of films, especially ‘indie’ films, will never see a dime of profit — this is cold, hard fact. I personally have been to the AFM — the American Film Market, held in Santa Monica, CA annually every late February — and have seen, firsthand, the graveyards of films that forever linger in obscurity, being screening to uninterested foreign investors looking for B-movie filler. Hundreds, thousands of these films, some of them with true name talent attached. For every “Blair Witch Project” or “Clerks,” there are a hundred you will never see, nor hear of. So how do you intend to ensure that your project will succeed and see distribution, and not end up in ‘indie purgatory’ like so many others?
J: That’s a great question. Well we have a few companies that are already interested in the film, [so] I don’t foresee any major problems. I also work for a distribution company, I’m sure we’ll be pitching here first. Gotta give the home team first shot. We’ll go through all the normal channels of looking for distribution, the festival circuit and that sort of thing. Low budget, with stars, makes for a great return.
DS: Lately, I’ve been involved in an bitter discussion about the so-called ‘responsibility’ of filmmakers to be discreet when dealing with taboo subjects, such as rape, hateful violence, incest, or homosexuality… the last of those being the easiest target, since it is the most commonly shirked. Do you believe that a filmmaker has a right to subject their audience to anything they want, or that the filmmaker should take care not to offend anyone, even at the cost of realism or the story?
J: A filmmaker’s job is to tell a story, whatever that story may be. If a filmmaker wants to tackle a subject as hard as incest — “The War Zone” is a great example — then I say go for it. I feel that you’re not subjecting an audience to anything that they don’t want to see, because they have the choice not to watch your film. I myself find it difficult to watch movies with [storylines] such as rape or incest, but if a film makes me feel something, anything at all, even anger or disgust, then the film has done its job.
DS: This interview is quickly becoming too intellectual. So do tell, what’s the strangest place you’ve ever had sex in, and will it ever make it into a script of yours?
J: Why do I always get those questions about sex? Do I have a big sign on my head saying that I’m a sex pot?
DS: You do have a huge sign on your head, and I would read it, except that I’m too busy staring at…
J: A much more interesting question would be: “Who’s the strangest person you’ve slept with?” I think I’ll have to pass on that one since the strangest place I’ve had sex would probably get me arrested. Would I put it in a film? Definitely. Watch some of my next features and check out where my characters are having sex — maybe one of them is mine!
DS: What’s your favorite film of all-time and why?
J: I have two. The first one is “The Shining,” for no other reason then it scared the hell out of me. The second one is “Faster Pussycat, Kill! Kill!.” Faster Pussycat was just such a fun film, it has everything, murder, betrayal, lust, go-go dancing, car races, sassy babes and hunky guys — that movie was a gas.
DS: What’s your least favorite film of all-time, and why, and do choose carefully as FilmJerk.com has elected to send a team of rapist ninjas out to find the director and have them strapped to something that Ed likes to call “the Mad Ferret of Love.”
J: Ed would do that? Then tell him to go and get the guy that made “Showgirls.”
DS: How DARE you blaspheme against the great Verhoeven! That’s it, interview’s over, I’m pullin’ the plug. Thank you, it’s been a pleasure, and I wish your cast, crew, and project all the best.
J: Remember: well-behaved women rarely make history! Thanks [Dark Savant, my svelte Lord and future God] (DS NOT’E: She used my real name, which the very mention of it will drive Ed into dangerous orgasmic fits) you’re great as always! Love And Smooches. Come on over to www.darkfeatures.com and buy yourself a calendar, support indie films!