Note: I get to ask questions, too…’cause it’s my page. 😉
I write about very strong, determined women in most of my works, women with what I find are admirable characteristics, and my latest script is no exception. I recently talked to the very talented and focused actress Nicole Fancher cast as the lead character Marion Bullard in my short film ‘Our Own’. She had this to say about the project…
Question: What drew you to this project?
Nicole: ‘Our Own’ is honestly one of the best independent scripts I have read. Based on the writing alone I wanted to be in the film in some way. The script gives just enough beautiful detail and describes Marion Bullard pretty simply, yet author Kim Bergman gives enough of a glimpse into her character that I knew I wanted to play this woman of strength.”
I am so fortunate to be working with Nicole on this project! Thank you, Nicole!!
What does it take?
I chose my debut video blog episode to explain what it takes for a highly unconventional filmmaker to make a film.
The reason why I make films sounds like an objective on my performance evaluation…I make films to have impact. I am not talking ‘impact’ in the global sense. It’s not like I’m out there uncovering social injustices or preserving the arctic ecosystem or spreading awareness about global warming. My goals aren’t quite that noble. I make films to tell a story that I hope impacts someone somewhere in some way. Whether a shot or scene or image I create startles you, shows you something you’ve never before seen, keeps you up a little later because it stuck with you, or even makes you laugh or cry…just a little bit…that is how I define impact. And it is my goal as a filmmaker to achieve this.
Plus, it would be really cool to scare the poo out of you.
I love scary stuff. I have loved scary stuff since I was a young girl. It wasn’t the kind of thing normal young girls of my era and upbringing loved. (There was no real goth counterculture in the small town in which I grew up, at least that I was aware of.) Normal young girls loved…well, they loved Barbies. I never really was into Barbies. I liked to jump off things, the higher the better. And I liked to go at very high speeds. When I was young, my world consisted of leaping off jungle gyms, soaring out of swings, climbing unstable trees, and barreling down the hills of concrete on my blue paisley banana-seated Huffy. Look, Ma…no hands! I had my share of accidents from these endeavors (a fractured femur, cracked and expulsed front teeth, multiple lacerations and abrasions and what I swear to this day was a broken tailbone…a fall I will never forget. The first time something hurt TOO much to cry). But I was fearless.
Maybe that’s it…I was searching for fear. Eventually, I found it. In horror movies and scary stories and the like, I found that feeling I was looking for. That edge-of-your-seat, nail-biting, breath-taking, goosebump-inducing feeling. And it was fun!
Today, when the subject of my filmmaking efforts in the horror genre comes up around my father, or when he’s read one of my stories or watching one of my films, or when I ask him to comb through Grandpa’s old tools for the bone saw he used to slaughter pigs with (back in the day), Dad will inevitably ask the question under his breath, “What did we DO to you??” I am not quite sure how to answer this question or even if he really wants me to answer this question considering the fact that we are products of #1 genetics and #2 environment. I leave the question rhetorical and move on, just as he moves on. But it leaves me wondering why DO I like scary stuff? In tracing the source of my enjoyment of scary stuff, I am struck by the clarity of particular memories from childhood that I believe spurred my fascination with the genre. These memories are of books and movies that scared the little jordache pants off me while I was growing up. In looking back, some of them might not be considered scary by today’s standards of amazing CGI and torture-porn, but as a youngling, I assure you, they were scary.
It all started with the first book that scared me “The Thing at the Foot of the Bed and Other Scary Tales” by Maria Leach. I recently unearthed this book during a massive basement cleaning purge prompted by a “Hoarders” marathon on A&E. My mother bought it for me in 1978 at our annual elementary school book fair. The pages now have a subtle caramel color around the edges and the binding is broken from repeated use. The paperback cover of the book fell off long ago and my attempt to salvage it appears as layers of yellowing scotch tape. Re-reading it as an adult, I realize how “enlightening” this book had been…I’ve told its stories many times to friends in some form or another during sleep-overs as a child or at church camp as a pre-teen. Its illustrations, briskly drawn but haunting images, well…let’s just say I have had quite a few dreams where they or variations of them have appeared. And the section entitled “Do’s and Don’t’s About Ghosts”, little did I know I have been living by these rules as an adult, all the while not knowing where I had picked them up! Lying there reading, I was that little girl afraid to let her feet poke out of the covers because of the “thing at the foot of the bed”, and after I had finished it, I was left with a powerful feeling nostalgia, of experiencing something so much a part of me but something that had been filed away for so long that I had forgotten it was there…a feeling that I now knew where it all started…the birth of my love of the scary.
About the same time “The Thing at the Foot of the Bed” was added to my pre-adolescent library, I was introduced to Creature Feature and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Alright alright, I confess…it was my mother. She did this to me. She loved horror movies and I loved that she let me stay up late to watch with her what she watched, which included a nightly episode of Hitchcock and weekly Creature Feature. It was our quality time together, I guess, something the two of us enjoyed alone, since my sister was just a toddler and Dad was a wussy when it came to anything remotely scary or gory.) I remember random yet indelible images of the first horror films I saw when I was probably slightly too young to see them…The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Amityville Horror, The Omen. (Note: I remember only bits and pieces of these because I am sure I most likely came across them while flipping channels past things I wasn’t supposed to be watching or while sneaking around the house when I was supposed to be asleep and catching a glimpse of the ‘forbidden’ programming my parents were watching). But the first horror movie I remember watching in its entirety was “The Howling.” Sometime in the late 70s/early 80s, we got cable. Paying a monthly fee for the privilege of watching television was unfathomable to my father at that time, despite the fact our reception of programming through the massive set of ‘rabbit ears’ on top of the Zenith left much to be desired. After dad’s quick trip to the local Radioshack to pick up the latest in antennae technology, I soon realized that we got more channels than we had before. And there was one called Home Box Office and it had MOVIES and these movies were on ALL DAY non-stop and some of these movies were (shhhhh) rated “R”! (Pre-big brother era of ‘parental controls’ obviously, a gloriously free time when cable stations broadcasted greater than PG-rated material throughout the day regardless of the audience that was likely watching in the summertime at 1:30 in the afternoon.) While I flipped stations, periodically parking it on HBO, I encountered “The Howling”. And I knew I had to see it. But watching it behind my parents back was not an option (I was a good girl), so me and my best friend Jenny decided the best thing to do was to just ask Mom if we could watch it. Heck, Mom liked horror movies as much as we did. She understood. Surely she wouldn’t turn us down. So, we asked. And she asked what it was rated and we said we thought it was rated “R” and she said “Wellllll…(long pause)…ok but I am watching it with you and you have to close your eyes when I say so.” We knew it was too good for her to pass up. So we watched The Howling with my mom, and we watched it in its entirety, because when she said to cover our eyes, we peeked. And I saw the reporter meet the werewolf in the adult bookstore, I saw werewolves mating by bonfire, and I saw the most AMAZING special effects I’d had ever seen.
Then, I became a teenager, one with all of your normal teenage struggles of inclusion, expression, self-esteem…all the struggles that made things so cloudy and difficult. Although I was distracted, I managed to hold on to that passion for the macabre by reading Stephen King and sneaking into theaters (or our basement) to get my scare on (Friday the 13th, Motel Hell, An American Werewolf in London, Silent Night Deadly Night). But alas because I was a teenage girl and because “biology” was taking over at the time, my literary focus shifted to the fantasy world of the Harlequin romance and the 80s fashion statement that was pastels. And what I now know is a passion of mine, reading, watching and eventually writing and filming horror, took a back seat, where it stayed for about 20 years.
Now that I understand what I am truly passionate about and have realized the significance of the horror genre in my life, it empowers me. I feel like I can do anything…publish a horror novel…write a horror screenplay…make a horror film. I can make my mark on the genre that has given so much enjoyment to me, all the way back to The Thing at the Foot of the Bed. And when my father asks “What did we DO to you??”, I can answer honestly…
“You helped me realize that I can do anything…even if it is making people pee in their Jordache jeans.”
P.S. You really didn’t think I was kidding about the bone saw, did you???
Who inspires you?
A simple question and yet it couldn’t be more thought-provoking nor its answer more diverse. I could give you a list of mentors, each having molded my professional presence to present day. Or I could throw out a list writers and directors who have influenced my artistic tendencies and whose creative genius I admire and strive to attain. Individuals who had qualities I admired or characteristics I respected. My heroes, so to speak. But to be honest when I asked myself this question, I struggled. And when I struggle, I research. I turned to the yellowed pages of my reliable circa 1964 American College Dictionary to provide guidance. Inspiration: a divine influence directly and immediately exerted upon the mind or soul. I felt no certainty that I could define who inspires me to that degree…until a random and auspicious conversation with a friend.
“Puker” is a documentary I filmed in 2010 about my friend Tim Whistler (aka Puker). Tim is a skater. He was immortalized by photographer/artist Glen Friedman on the cover of Thrasher Magazine in 1983 when he was a mere 20 years old. As I sat listening to Tim share his experiences as a once local legend on the Washington, D.C. skate scene and as a member if an infamous band of rebellious young men known as the East Coast Toke Team, I was immediately hooked. But, the best part of his story wasn’t his humble beginnings as an embassy brat skating the streets of Santo Domingo. It wasn’t the phenomenal tricks he mastered on the utopian vert ramps of rural Virginia during the peak of his skating career. And, it wasn’t his fall from grace into the painful depths of a devastating injury and subsequent period of substance abuse, which ended any hopes of going pro and consumed a great portion of his life. The best part of Tim’s story, the most inspirational part, is his ascension from these depths and his return to skating after almost 20 years.
I am in awe of my now 50-year old friend Tim, husband, plumber, cat-lover, the legendary Puker. His return to the one thing he loved so completely, knowing full well he could never physically recapture the skills and experiences he once possessed, inspires me. I found this story of a man named Puker and his perseverance, his maturity, his courage worthy of sharing with both young and old and it was my great pleasure to tell his story in my first documentary.
With this film I challenge you to look closely at the things, the people, the lives around you. You will find inspiration is much closer that you think.