Exclusive: “Crazy Bitches” Director Jane Clark On Indie Filmmaking

Crazy Bitches

 

Harbored resentments, a smattering of sex, and death reside in the universe known as Crazy Bitches, director Jane Clark’s look at how seven reunited sorority sisters and their gay best friend reunite at a picaresque (yet ultimately chill inducing) ranch to celebrate a friend’s (Victoria Profeta) birthday.

Their venue is a horrible choice, as it’s the site of a mass murder of teenage girls which occurred 15 years ago. The past has a way of bleeding into the present, as the sorority sisters are picked off one by one by a mysterious killer. Along with Profeta, the project also stars Guinevere Turner, Liz McGeever, and Candis Cayne.

Clark could have shot Crazy Bitches as a sheer guilty pleasure, and it definitely delivers the requisite thrills of a horror genre. The film’s lasting value, however, resides in Clark’s crisp dialogue, as the women are more than just future lambs to the slaughter. Each person is afflicted with their own insecurities and demons, thus infusing Crazy Bitches with a welcome level of depth.

My interview with Clark was just as refreshing, as she candidly delved into the challenges of being a indie filmmaker with an uncompromising vision. Crazy Bitches is currently available on VOD as well as  Amazon and iTunes (and other digital platforms). Our interview with Clark is below:

I really loved the sharp and unforgiving dialogue behind Crazy Bitches. Was creating that tone an easy process for you?

The way I write is a little piecemeal. I start with a rough (draft) and then I start feeding stuff in as I go on walks or when things pop in my brain. But dialogue is the easiest thing for me to do because I used to be an actor, and I think that somehow translates into how to use words.

I’ve always thought (dialogue) would be the most fun to write and then it’s a matter of going and finding the details inside the actual story. Having said that, I’ve never written comedy before. All my films have a little bit of funny – but I never wrote something with the idea of hoping that people laugh. So I’m kind of relieved to sit with an audience and hear it work every single time.

Crazy Bitches
Crazy Bitches

Unlike most horror films set in a remote location, Crazy Bitches is a world that’s actually populated by adults with real problems who are saddled with their own insecurities.

Well thanks – I’m glad you noticed that. I can’t go back and write 20. I guess I could but it wouldn’t interest me because my twenties – well first of all I don’t remember a lot of my twenties (laughs) because it was kind of wild.

But it was sort of a pointless decade for me. So I don’t find characters from that decade all that interesting because there isn’t that much “real” in their lives yet. I can only write what I get turned on by. That was really my impetus for doing it but I also, like you said, they have real problems and these animosities that brood for a long time, and it just gives you more material and the ability to go deeper with the characters, which I really wanted to do.

Your film is entertaining on a superficial level but there are also layers behind that narrative.

Again, it goes back to writing what I really like. I want to make a movie that I want to go see. I want to be moved in a film and I love when a film takes me everywhere. I get to laugh and also feel for the characters. I could feel for their journey.

It also plays to the idea of the film – that nobody is ever just one thing. Somebody, at least on the surface could be a superficial person, but that’s not reality. Everybody has pain, everybody has bad experiences in their lives. And they’re touched by these things. They’re not just always walking around with a shield up.

That was the drive to the whole story.

Crazy Bitches
Crazy Bitches

Your locale plays a big part of your narrative, as the ranch brings a broad, expansive feel to the proceedings.

I got really, really lucky. The setting was more of a cabin in the woods (story). But I wanted a higher end cabin since these girls are not going to slum it in some crappy little wood shack. I wanted a place that was idyllic looking. I wanted a lake because there was a row boat scene.

So when I went to scout for (the location), it was quickly apparent that I was never going to be able to afford it. I was about to go back to the script to see what I could do and at the last sort of pass on scouting, I found this ranch.

I went over there with my producing partner and we spent two and a half hours with the woman who owns it. She completely embraced the idea of the movie and she basically made a deal that was doable for us. But on top of that, I walked through every piece (of the area) and said, “Oh my god, there’s a teepee, there’s a bunkhouse, there’s a barn, there’s animals.”

I couldn’t have imagined this location on my own. I didn’t realize any of this existed and then I rewrote this script specifically to make it a character in the movie and really embrace the immense gift I had (with the location).

Crazy Bitches
Crazy Bitches

Do you feel you’re constantly swimming upstream as an indie filmmaker?

Look – our budget was $200,000 and we had 15 days to shoot the film. Those limitations have to be respected. There’s always sacrifice – and you’re always swimming upstream. In the course of shooting, I had to drop gags that I had layered in there – subconscious (elements) that people would have picked up on the second or third screening of it.

I had to drop big chunks of a couple of scenes because I didn’t have the time to finish shooting and stay on some kind of reasonable schedule. That’s the producer in me that’s making sure I’m staying on budget and staying on time. So you’re making sacrifices, but the key to it. Well there’s two parts. The fact that I’m a writer, director and editor I can make those quick decisions and have a very big overview of where it starts and where we’re going in post (production).

The other thing is when you hit a wall and you realize this thing you need is just not going to happen you have to say, ‘Okay, I accept it’s not going to happen, what are the decisions I can make that will be as or more creatively interesting that still gets the job done?’ (Oftentimes) it’s the cooler and better choice than what I started with.

As much as I don’t want to make another film at this budget level (laughs), it definitely has taught me, between Meth Head and this one, it’s taught me a lot that I hope I can take to other projects as more money comes in and I have more ability to fix things.

Crazy Bitches
L. to R. Mary Jane Wells, Jane Clark, Traci Dinwiddie – photo by JD DiSalvatore — at Majestic Crest Theatre. (Crazy Bitches)

What if you get offers to do studio driven projects? Is that an easy “yes” or do you want to stay on a more autonomous filmmaking path?

As much as my husband hates this idea, I don’t have this huge interest in doing studio films. Mostly because I’m scared I’ll get in there and my personal voice will be stripped away. I’ve gotten very comfortable being autonomous to some degree and that’s not always great. And I do reach out – we do a lot of focus groups when we’re editing and I send the script out to a lot of people before I shoot.

So I don’t act in a vacuum, but when you have a lot of money at stake, there’s a lot more parameters that are set up. And I’m not sure I’m going to be happy living within those parameters. I would just like to have a 25-day shot (laughs) and $2 million! That would be like heaven to me – a luxury. Then I could still tell the stories I wanted to tell and let them be a little bit different.

If you look at the studio films these days there just aren’t many that are unique anymore. They just feel derivative of films we’ve seen before – albeit a lot of them are very well made and acted. But I’ve been sitting around these last few years saying, “somebody, please excite me.”

I’m not saying that I can accomplish that – but it’s certainly a goal to be able to keep expressing myself in as clear a voice as possible and let the people I trust guide me through my projects that tell my own stories. And I have scripts and script ideas so I’m well taken care of that way into the future.

Crazy Bitches
Crazy Bitches

There’s an assumption with digital cameras, Final Cut Pro, as well as various streaming platforms, it’s much easier to make a film these days. 

I’d say it may even be harder, mostly because there is a glut in the market. There’s just too much stuff and not a lot of good stuff. Everybody is looking for product. You find, when you’re working with distributors, when you get to my lower end – when you don’t have stars – you get a lot of offers. But they’re all the same, and you have to really wonder whether they’re filling their library or if they’re going to get behind that film and be excited about it and want it to do well.

We landed with a good company with Gravitas. And with the trickle down to the filmmaker – once you get through the platform percentages, the distributor percentages, if you’re manufacturing DVDs, the cost of the DVDs and all that other stuff – the filmmaker’s the last (one) to make the money.

While VOD is great, you have to really get out there and have a marketing plan and you really have to push hard just to return money to your investors. When you start taking in a profit, it maybe three, four, or five years down the line and that’s fantastic  – but it’s a very hard world to break out of and break through the noise to actually be a hit.

You can get the deal, have it up online, but finding the audience, letting them know it’s there and getting the actual click throughs and purchases is a whole other game.

When there was less choice, you could have ten movies to pick from and you can watch them all if you wanted. Now if you have 400 movies to choose from, the pool of money gets smaller.

Or you can shoot a great film, land a horrible distribution deal, and the film never gets seen.

I think it happens a lot. I have a lot of people saying, “Wow, you’re so lucky you have distribution.” And I’m sitting there thinking, “Well that’s the least of what I should have had, you know?”

Honestly if you want to make  a good movie – I have friends who’ve made movies for $50,000 – but they look like movies made for $50,000. It’s very hard to get production value off that kind of money.

The other problem I have is I tend to write big instead of small in terms of my cast size and the way I like my films to open up and the challenges I like to put in front of myself. I don’t have the interest in shooting a two person, sitting in one room movie and that’s really what it takes for $50,000.

Two hundred thousand dollars is not much money at all but trying to raise it is hard because there is this weird. . . I’ve had producers say “Yeah – why don’t you make it for $500,000, wouldn’t it be a better movie?” They feel better giving you $500,000 than $200,000. It’s strange.

And then there is this nebulous area when you hit $10 million and it’s all odd to me because it’s based on whether you think you have a name that can sell your movie. I think it’s a weird business right now. Some distribution companies haven’t caught up with the VOD model – I still see sales on DVD.

Interestingly enough, Meth Head has made more money on DVD than it’s made on download. One of my cast members is on a Soap and he goes to a lot of conventions and he has people walking up to him with the DVD asking him to sign it.

I’ve had a lot of people with Crazy Bitches asking about the DVD, saying that they’re happy to download but they want to own it.

Crazy Bitches
Crazy Bitches

Is it any kind of consolation that people may love your movies, even if it takes them several years to see it – as is probably the case for Meth Head?

To be perfectly honest, Meth Head is a very powerful and important film. And I hate saying that because it sounds so pretentious but we’ve known people whose lives have changed – they’ve gone to rehab after seeing it and I’ve had addicts writing and thanking me for the film.

We didn’t understand the necessity of social marketing and when that film came out it just whispered. It has some pretty decent sized names but we didn’t have a big distributor and we didn’t have a marketing budget. Now that I understand things a little bit better, I’ll probably go back and see if I can relaunch the movie in a way that it gets out there.

It really is terrifying because you wish that you could show the film, show it to a couple of people, hit a couple of festivals, confirm that it’s something that people like and then move on to the next project and know that it’s going to get out there and people will know it exists.

But that’s not the reality I live in, and I’ve spent as many months getting prepared for this release as I did with production.

Is there one filmmaker who’s been an inspiration from the get-go?

I have a million films that I love and not one director that I follow. As a kid, my mom used to drop me off at the mall and I would just start in the morning with the first screening and I’d go into the first movie and sneak into movie after movie (laughs). I could sit there the whole day and gladly watch four movies in a row.

I feel like I absorbed what was happening as opposed to breaking down this director and a style I really liked. That’s one of the reasons why I want to do a whole bunch of different kinds of genres. Jane Campion is an amazing director and The Piano just blew me away. I didn’t know how to feel after walking out of that movie. Alan Ball’s (writing) with American Beauty. They’re completely different films.

What I tend to do is once I’ve decided what I want to write I tend to go back (and find)  directors that have really impacted me all these years later. And then I go back and see what they brought to the table, and I also watch a lot of movies to see what didn’t work to try and avoid some of (those) pitfalls.

For me, it’s on a film by film basis regarding directors that I admire in a particular genre. I’m dying to do a romance. I would love to do period piece some day (laughs). I’ve got a detective story I’m working on – I have another biopic that I want to do. I like writing about people that actually lived.

Thank you so much for your time!

Thank you. Have a great day.

For more info on Crazy Bitches, check out: http://www.thecrazybitchesmovie.com/

And for Meth Head, which stars Lukas Haas, go to http://www.themethheadmovie.com/

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