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Interview with Director Jane Clark of “Crazy Bitches”

Director Jane Clark

 

Writer Shani Friedman sits down with director Jane Clark on her latest project, “Crazy Bitches.”

Shani R. Friedman: You started your career as an actress – what’s it like to switch gears and go behind the camera?

Jane Clark: If you aren’t a “name” actor, the craft puts you at the mercy of everyone. From casting to final edit you have no control over what people do with your work. It was incredibly frustrating to finally book a job, throw you heart into it and wind up with an end result that fails. When I switched to behind the camera, it was freeing. I love having my hand in all the pieces of the filmmaking pie, and I still feel like I get to participate with the acting process in my collaboration with the actors.

SRF: What led you to write the screenplay for Crazy Bitches? Are you a fan of horror films or do you consider this more of a comedy/satire or a hybrid?

JC: I really was a commercial horror audience member – I saw the films that made it to the theater, but I didn’t seek out horror movies. I am not sure why I decided Crazy Bitches should be a slasher film. It just seemed to suit the idea I was toying with, which is examining how women treat each other – the things we say to each other behind each other’s back, the judgment we lay on other women we don’t really know, the impact of society on our self-esteem. I do know I wanted to make a comedy after the intense experience of making Meth Head,[Clark’s prior directorial stint] so I see Crazy Bitches more as a comedy than a horror film. Having said that, there is a fair amount of people biting the dust in this film.

SRF: With this being your second turn as a director, how was this filmmaking experience different than your previous projects? What was better/easier and what was more challenging?

JC: Every film I’ve done, short or feature, has been its own unique learning experience because each film has had a different set of production and story elements. So far I can’t say it has gotten any easier as a whole. And strangely, this film was more of a challenge than Meth Head. The budget was smaller, the cast was bigger, the story in some ways was more complicated, the location was larger in scope, and our preproduction schedule was abbreviated, leaving a lot of things to be solved on the fly.

SRF: I read that the heat was intense during shooting, with lots of 100 degree days. And that the llamas you had escaped on the first day. Any other high/lowlights from the production?

JC: Well, the llamas were actually a highlight and the heat was brutal, but the lowlights were a lot of little things that can be summed up under the heading – sacrifice. Because of our limited money and staff, there were a lot of times when I just had to say, “Okay, I’ll let that element/camera setup/extra take/sight gag/scene/ go” because realistically it couldn’t be done either because of time or money. As much as the producer in me understands the economic reasons, the writer/director hurts a little with every compromise.

One of the biggest highlights was the fun I had with the actors and the crew. I just finished editing extra material for our DVD release. I went through all the footage looking for clips for the Outtake reel and was reminded of how many laughs we actually had – literally, because you can hear me laughing out loud at the end (and sometimes in the middle) of takes. As difficult as the film might have seemed at times, I apparently enjoyed myself more than I remember.

SRF: How did you come up with the title and how should people take it?

JC: I was hanging out with a friend and I said I had this new script I was working on and she asked me what it was about. Off the cuff I said, “it’s about a bunch of crazy bitches.” It stuck. I didn’t even think that it might be construed as negative until I got push back early on – not a lot – but enough to make me aware it could be an issue. For instance one producer told me I was setting back feminism by 50 years. I respect her opinion, but entirely disagree.

When you meet the women you can easily judge them “bitches” in the negative sense of the word. But once you get to know them you find that they are damaged, beautiful, flawed, powerful, sexy, intelligent, aggressive women. Those adjectives, words like aggressive, have been used by some to cast a woman in a negative light. So Crazy Bitches, the title, like the crazy bitches in the film, initially could land as a negative, but once you delve deeper you realize that everything that makes it initially a negative can, in fact, be a positive. The way I’m using it, Crazy Bitches means a Powerful, Confident Woman. The fact that the women all have flaws just means they are human.

SRF: Who’s the audience for the movie? Are you looking to appeal especially to LGBT fans, with both some of your casting and the plot?

JC: The audience is anyone who wants to take a ride and have a good laugh.  I do have a fan-base in the lesbian community because of a short I made – The Touch – and a film I produced – Elena Undone – so it would be easy to assume that the cast and some of the plot were geared toward that. But the reality is we have played straight, LGBT and horror fests and the reaction to the film – where the laughs come, the gasps and jumps – is always the same, regardless of gender or sexual identity. The reason there are LGBT actors and plot lines is basically because I wrote all the roles specifically for friends who I wanted to work with. For instance the role of BJ was written for Wilson Cruz, who has a lead in Meth Head. I loved working with him and we both wanted to do something together again. Wilson wasn’t available at the time we were shooting so Andy Gala stepped in nicely to fill the role. The role of Cassie was written for my friend Cathy DeBuono. Cathy is a lesbian and I wrote to her strengths. Candis Cayne also had a strong role in Meth Head, and we became friends through that experience. When I was writing the role of Viviana, I wrote it with Candis in mind because she’s sexy, feminine and strong — that she is also transgendered was of no consideration because when it comes to casting I don’t think it should matter. The bottom line is that I cast who I cast because I either wrote the role for them or simply thought, like Guinevere Turner, who is a lesbian actress, but plays a straight, slightly homophobic character, they’d do well in the part.

SRF: What sort of attention has the movie been getting (press, film festivals, etc.)?

JC: We premiered in June at Frameline in San Francisco and followed with an Outfest screening at the Ford Amphitheater for a wild, 800+ audience. That was a crazy, crazy night. After that, we hit about two to three US and international festivals per month until last month where we basically wrapped up the tour at the Fantasporto Film Festival in Portugal and the Syfy Madrid Film Festival in Spain. We do have some international dates still to come, but for the most part we’re finished. We won Best Ensemble Cast at QCinema, were nominated Best Soundtrack and Best Supporting Actress for Nayo Wallace at Macabre Faire Film Festival in NY, and nominated Best Film at Fantasporto. The most positive proof that the film is being received well is perhaps the most frustrating. We were apparently one of the top 10 most downloaded films in our opening weekend…illegally downloaded that is. And we’re talking a very large number. So while I am incredibly pleased that there is an audience for the film and people turned out to watch, it isn’t great news when you have investments to return and you want to raise money for other movies. Having said that, I know better how to protect this film now and other films in the future, and I hope we can keep the interest in Crazy Bitches going while I get Crazier Bitches and Craziest Bitches made!

SRF: What’s next for you?

Crazier Bitches and Craziest Bitches, firstly. The “crazier” bitches are pre-school mommies planning their toddlers’ Christmas pageant. We’ll see where Craziest goes from there. I also have a project called Slate & Kelly, about misfit amateur detectives working undercover to solve a string of murders in a drag club. We have a great French cast already attached and money pending. We just need to find our two US leads. I’m attached to direct a period Western (currently untitled) which we just got through the development phase – I really love the script about this kick-ass chick who is a female bounty hunter in the late 1800s. And I’m working on a slasher script for Candis Cayne.

 

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