InPress Magazine (Melbourne, Australia), 02/07/03, p. 60
Cameron Grace presents a walk-through of highlights from this year’s Melbourne Underground Film Festival. Andrew Leavold, MUFF programmer and Brisbane film archivist, follows him every step of the way.
The MUFF commander-in-chief Richard Wolstencroft is back in top form, cocksure and energized, armed with a skip load of ‘fuck you attitude’, a skull-scraping smorgasbord of features and events and as always, an obsession with the word ‘cabal’. Ever since Wolstencroft crash landed MUFF in 2000, the local film establishment has afforded him the sort of respect you’d give an unexploded landmine. The festival’s short history has proved to be both patchy and problematic - though a cursory glance at this year’s program suggests an organisation which is now just about right on the money.
The 2003 festival has an expanded political agenda, including a selection of new and never before seen feature length films from home and abroad (to be judged by a panel headed by Mark ‘Chopper’ Read) - as well as new shorts, animation, guerrilla film, documentaries and experimental films covering paranoia, conspiracy, globalisation erotica and predatory lesbians. Wilma Smith’s Scottish film Black Coffee is an unusually fruitful grapple with the legacy of Ken Loach. Local features include Bill Mousoulis’s stark, unsettling Lovesick, Scott Ryan’s diary of a Melbourne hit man The Magician, and the much-anticipated world premiere of Lesbo-A-Go-Go, the first feature from Brisbane film archivist, Andrew Leavold. Leavold’s cult video store Trash Video was the subject of a documentary Escape From The Planet Of The Tapes, which screened on SBS recently. His lifelong obsession with '60s cult, B-grade, biker, blaxploitation, sexploitation and dwarfsploitation cinema has crystallised in Lesbo-A-Go-Go - his very personal tribute to '60s trash queen, Doris Wishman.
“Lesbo was something I’d tried to get off the drawing board for about five years,” explains Leavold. “It ended up costing us 700 bucks to make a 60 minute film. Recreating a ‘60s exploitation film seemed to be the cheapest option available to us. In some ways, it’s almost like a ‘Brisbane retro rock’n’roll film’ - we got all the bands we knew that sounded vaguely retro to contribute to the soundtrack. Story wise it’s pure exploitation - a young girl starts off living an ideal life until her fiance gets killed as a result of unpaid gambling debts by a crime boss who rapes her at her fiance’s funeral. He takes her maidenhood and then forces her to work as a stripper in his club. She ends up being regarded as damaged goods so he throws her out in the trash where she is rescued by a predatory lesbian called Kitten. It all goes downhill from there.”
At last year’s MUFF, Leavold unveiled The ABC Of Filth And Smut Australia Style and during a recent visit to Melbourne, he heroically managed to out-obscure Paul Harris on RRR’s Film Buffs Forecast. Chap! This year’s festival also features Leavold’s attempt to put the fun back into fundamentalism by hosting That’s Godsploitation - Christian Paranoia And Apocalypse Cinema 1972-2002.
“That’s Godsploitation includes the choicest moments from around 30 bizarre Christian paranoia films,” says Leavold. “The sort of exploitation films that Christians make to scare people to the pulpit. If The Footmen Tire You, What Will The Horses Do? is a film that tries to scare people into joining the bible revival for fear of America being overrun by godless communists. It's the prime example of Christian paranoia cinema. The film’s creators, Ron and Tim Ormond used to make sleazy exploitation films like The Monster And The Stripper - really cheesy, almost swampsploitation. They became born again Christians during the late ‘60s and then suddenly decided to continue making the same kind of trash they did before, only with a Baptist angle - you can just imagine how insane these films are."
For those cineastes that enjoy wanking off litres of spunk in the name of smut, MUFF 2003 provides plenty to gorge on. Laurence Gartel’s The Art Of Fetish is a candid pervefest that examines the hardcore US fetish scene (Gartel will appear at a post-screening fetish party). From the golden age of American heterosexuality comes Insatiable, the film which shot Marilyn Chambers to stardom - it also stars John Holmes on whom Boogie Nights’ Dirk Diggler was based. Billed as the ‘Citizen Kane of Erotica’, John Stagliano’s squelchtastic Fashionistas features the kind of deviant sexual misadventures even Michael Hutchence would warn you against - if he were alive.
Englishman Jack Sargeant is a renowned author and expert on transgressive cinema. This year he presents the Mondo Cane series and discusses their impact an the exploitation industry. “Jack and I are big fans of each other,” says Leavold. “I personally love the Mondo Cane stuff purely because the Italians didn’t tend to labour the point. They always tried to inject as much irony into the production as they could and it doesn’t always transfer well into English. These films were just tame enough to get past the censors during the ‘60s, but it just makes you wonder what constituted big screen entertainment in those days.”
Trash Video is part of a fellowship along the east coast with Sydney’s Mu-Mesons and Melbourne’s Isosceles collective, both of which contribute to MUFF 2003. The Mu-Mesons are screening a program of 16mm and video The Foundations Of Control which looks at manipulation of the media, from the birth of television right through to the war in Iraq. Isosceles presents Fun With Nazis And Farmyard Animals, which includes Hitler Lives (anti-Nazi propaganda from Dr Seuss) a World War II propeganda cartoon, Daffy The Commando, and Pasolini’s parody of French new wave cinema, Pigpen.
“MUFF happens once a year, but you’ve still got places like Splodge and Isosceles who week-in week-out are unearthing stuff people have never heard of - only the most adventurous people tend to support these things,” says Leavold. “MUFF is purely an underground concern because they are playing films which have almost no commercial or critical appeal. I use the words ‘critical appeal’ as a term of abuse because the films critics fawn over have no appeal whatsoever. I like the idea of no-budget guerrilla filmmaking where you can create something out of virtually nothing and make it more entertaining than something like The Tango Lesson - that kind of miserable fucking self-indulgent vanity cinema which tends to pass as arthouse these days. MUFF is really important to the overall scheme of things because at least the media will find a focus on this form of invisible filmmaking and it will become known as a result. It’s also a kind of forum for like-minded idiots, who can come together, watch each other’s work and think they’re important.”
Interview in Q News (Brisbane, Australia), 08/08/03, p.15
Lesbo-A-Go-Go pays homage to Doris Wishman, director extraordinaire of the 1960s exploitation movie genre. Lesbo focuses on the sad story of Sugar who, after the death of her cross dressing boyfriend, falls victim to a series of unfortunate events that lead her on a path of sex, drugs and underground clubs (the Furry Oyster scene is a classic). Sugar is quickly befriended by Kitten, a poisonous, predatory, lesbian pimp, but her life spirals deeper into despair and debauchery. Lesbo-A-Go-Go is kitsch, it’s camp and it was made from the heart by Andrew Leavold, owner/operator of Trash Video.
Andrew has crafted this this tribute on the cheap with production costs for this rough and ready sleaze-fest coming in at under $700 ($698 to be exact!). Its debut screening was this year’s Melbourne Underground Film Festival (MUFF). Lesbo-A-Go-Go blew the other self-professed guerilla filmmakers’ budgets out of the water. A proud Andrew boasts “every cent is up there on the screen.” As word got around, Lesbo quickly grew to be the underdog at this year’s MUFF.
Pulling off a period film for $700 with cast and crew not only took a lot of “arsy-ness” as Andrew puts it but also an inherent passion for the subject. While lazing away many teenage days watching 60s porn, Andrew noticed common themes. “When you watch 60s porn there always has to be this ‘punishment of the strayed’ theme, that’s all the wway through this (Lesbo-A-Go-Go) movie. By having this overly moralistic streak running through; it’s a moral lesson to those who go astray from the path of righteousness.” Andrew’s passion for all things exploitative began at aan early age. “As soon as video came out, I went nuts,” Andrew adds. “As soon as I was nine, video came out when I was living in the Middle East. It wasn’t like in Australia where you had the same 20 Betamax tapes to choose from, instead there was all this stuff they were taping off late night TV in England and sending out to video shops. Literally hundreds and hundreds of these cheap ‘schlocky’ films I just consumed at a rate of knots.” Opening its doors in Fortitude Valley back in 1995, Trash Video (now situated in West End) is home to over 10,000 rare and obscure videos. The monumental task of sourcing out these rarest of the rare B grade shonky films fit for Trash Video shelves is no easy feat. “You’ve probably gotta go through 20 movies to find that one gem where you go ‘Ugh! What were they thinking?’”
Andrew’s collection has come from video stores, warehouses and other private collections. “Then in the back of my mind I always wanted to make my own movie.” Having never made a film in his life Andrew revealed a cathartic experience in making Lesbo. “When I started Lesbo I thought OK, if I was doing a tribute to Doris Wishman, who is one of my favourite 60s exploitation filmmakers, (technically) we have to do this and we have to do that. Then I just thought hang on, fuck it, I’m going to shoot it the way I want to.” While Trash Video is Andrew’s love child, his true calling is filmmaking. “It kind of hit me that this is what I’m meant to be doing, an experience I want to do over and over again.”
Andrew’s next film project will be about a lesbian biker gang who run a town in the outback, Heehaw! As for the lesbian theme, “60s exploitation genre is riddled with lesbianism, it (the third sex) was shocking and taboo for them,” Andrew explains. “Even if they were just groping each other that was tantamount to on-screen cunnilingus. All of these shocking things - graveside rape, savage beatings and a young innocent getting hooked on tranquililizers by a predatory lesbian - oh how shocking! It’s simply 60s idealist sleaze.” It’s kitsch, it’s fun, it’s Lesbo-A-Go-Go and Andrew Leavold has made the world of cinema a more beautiful place. Don’t miss the Queensland premiere of this instant cult classic.
“Trash Takes A Turn”
Interview with Lawrence English in Timeoff Magazine (Brisbane, Australia) 13/08/03, p.40
For Andrew Leavold, the screening of Lesbo-A-Go-Go (his directorial debut) this weekend is the realisation of a dream that began over half a decade ago.
Anyone who happened to ask Leavold (Stumpy, to his friends) about his filmmaking aspirations in recent years would’ve been pummelled by his passion for what was (up until earlier this year) just a fictional concept with its roots in classic sexploitation.
Seven hundred dollars, many hours of shooting and editing, even more volunteers and some life changing experiences later, Leavold is the proud father of what could well be one of the most unusual films to spray forth from this fine city.
“It’s my attempt to make a fake 60s porno for $700!” Andrew exclaims when asked to summarise the film’s intent. “Shot on DV in black and white, it chronicles the downhill slide of young innocent Sugar (Cari Withercy) into drugs, degradation, delirium and ultimately damnation.
“Every possible bad thing that can happen does happen to the poor girl – she’s raped at her fiancé’s funeral, hooked on tranquillisers by a predatory lesbian (Eileen Surepuss)… of course, being a fake 60s exploitation feature, you can’t actually show any flesh on screen, so you have to make the story as sordid as possible to convince the audience it’s witnessed a lot more than it has. It’s an exercise in audience manipulation – now that’s exploitation!”
In the age of million-dollar budgets, the notion of creating a $700 film seems literally impossible. Considering most independent films are funded with a minimum of $50,000, the successful completion of Lesbo-A-Go-Go is no small feat.
“Lesbo clocked in at $700,” Leavold says proudly. “I never want to go through the nightmare of making a film on the smell of an oily rag again. There are low-budget films and then there’s Lesbo…, which is a no-budget movie! I want at least a couple of thousand to make the next one.”
So which inspirational filmmaker impacted on Leavold so much to see him create such a film? Who do we have to blame for this feast of exploitative goodness?
“Cheapo 60s female porn director Doris Wishman (Bad Girls Go To Hell, Nude On The Moon), that’s who. I wrote the script as a tribute to her, inspired by her predatory 1966 masterpiece Another Day, Another Man. She died the week we started rolling, but her presence is in every frame – her pointless cutaways, the moral downward spiral of the characters, and the way she shot the backs of actors’ heads so she didn’t have to sync the dialogue in post production! Genius.”
"Cheap Peek At Lesbian Porn"
Interview with Alison Mason, Courier Mail (Brisbane, Australia) 14/08/03, p.20
It’s either the tackiest film ever made or the most infantile piece of cheap-trash cinema you could come across. Lesbo-A-Go-Go also is one of the funniest low-budget films to come out of Brisbane, and creator and director Andrew Leavold, appropriately the owner of cult video shop Trash Video, says that was the intention in making it.
The film is a tribute to '60s exploitation porn queen Doris Wishman, and premieres at the Dendy Cinema tomorrow night.
Leavold says its timely lesbian angle was unintentional - the chick-on-chick flick was pure imitation of 60s porn film plot devices. “It’s a kitsch plot device rather than a ride on the lesbian wave. Luckily gay people get the joke,” he says.
In the film, Sugar (Cari Withercy) is a naive and pretty young woman who idolises her boyfriend, a wrestler who unbeknown to her has a sleazy past. He is paid to throw a fight but fails to, and the heavies murder him after dressing him in women's underwear. At the funeral Sugar is raped by the murderers on a fresh grave, losing her virginity and sending her on a path to destruction from which she is resued and cast out again by sundry lesbians.
Brisbane lesbian cabaret performer Eileen Surepuss, who co-wrote the script with Leavold, plays her first saviour, Kitten.
The first and last parts of the movie are shot in black and white, its only pretence to arthouse cinema, then it turns to colour as Sugar hallucinates a vision of hell after being drugged by lesbians.
Also appearing in the film are various Brisbane bands: Brisbane chick band Gazoonga Attack play a delinquent girl gang; Geoff, the singer from Sixfthick, the gangster who rapes Sugar; Rollo from Blowhard, a Mexican wrestler, and The Aampirellas play themselves miming to a Gammarays song.
The rape scene was filmed on a fresh grave at Toowong Cemetary, Sugar’s subsequent backyard abortion at Wooloowin and the lesbian strip club at West End’s The Winery - familiar locations with tantalizingly shocking content - but the film is shot in the naive style of a 60s porno. “They couldn't show much flesh so they had to make the storyline as sleazy as possible to make the audience think they were seeing something really provocative,” Leavold says. "In the '60s there was nothing more shocking than lesbianism."
Leavold says Wishman died two weeks before shooting started, but the cast and crew of Lesbo-A-Go-Go felt she was looking over their shoulders in spirit. "There were so many freaky coincidences. We were filming the rape scene in the old part of the Toowong Cemetery and. brought along a bag of potting mix to dummy up a fresh grave," he says.
"What are the chances of finding a fresh grave in that old part of the cemetery? But there was one - which we used. The whole cast and crew were really freaked out."
From start to finish the film, shot on digital video and edited on producer Kimberley Colwell's home computer, took six months and $700 to make. It premiered at the Melbourne Underground Film Festival, at which Leavold was the opening and closing MC. “We offered it to BIFF (Brisbane International Film Festival) but they said it too cheap and nasty. It was too late to be entered into the MUFF prizes," he says.
"Chopper Read was the president of the film jury and he introduced Lesbo and harrangued the audience as a bunch of art fags, basically saying ‘None of you made a decent movie’,” Leavold says.
"I gave it an award myself for the most judicious use of the word ‘lesbo' in a film title.
"It was also the cheapest film ever screened at MUFF, which is basically a playground for low-budget filmmaking and where I was congratulated on a feat of atrocious arsiness which was an audacious act to actually screen.”
And how did he get it past the censors? “I rang the film censor and said, ‘Look, I’ve got a fake 60s porno I want to show at the Dendy.’ He said, ‘Oh God. All right, it’s unrated is it? All right, we’ll pretend it’s a filmmaking seminar and we’ll let you play it as long as you don’t play Ken Park,’” he says.
There will be a seminar on low-budget filmmaking after the screening, with a Q&A session with the cast and crew. Following the Dendy, it will tour the country.
Next Leavold moves on a decade. He plans to shoot a 70s girl biker movie Birds Of Destruction, in Pittsworth which “looks like it’s stuck in the 50s” with independent funding.
“The fact that we’re playing a $700 fake porno at the Dendy is all part of my ongoing campaign of cultural terrorism.”
Interview with Katrina Fox in SX News #134 (Sydney, Australia) 21/08/03, p.22
This is the title of a new movie by director Andrew Leavold, which has its Sydney premiere next week. But you won’t see it in the usual venues and it's on for one night only. Oh, and it cost just $700 to make! Leavold says Lesbo-A-Go-Go is about "a young girl's unwitting descent into drug addiction, delirium, depravity and damnation.” Set in the l960s and filmed in Brisbane, the movie centres around poor innocent Sugar who is beaten by gangsters and attacked in a graveyard before kidnapped by a gorgeous but predatory older woman called Kitten (think Joan Collins on acid) who plies her with pills and takes her out on the scene.
The film is Leavold's tribute to Doris Wishman, who he describes as the queen of 60s exploitation (movies that are one step removed from porn). "Once you get a female film-maker who’s making exploitation for a male crowd it changes the rules a bit," he explains. "So the focus is not exactly on tits and vulva, you've got all these other weird things coming into place. It's more about the morality of the situation or the emotions of the characters."
This was the spirit that Lesbo-A-Go-Go was made in. "We have this constant figure of a priest who appears in a funeral scene and looks at the main female character disapprovingly at the end of the film. He paints an upside down cross on her forehead while quoting a line from the Old Testament about the death of Jezebel and how she was nothing but dung in the fields after being confined in the insides of dogs." Not the sort of thing you'll see at your local Hoyts then...
Leavold, who owns and manages Trash Video, a store specialising in cult movies in Brisbane, admits that Wishman used lesbianism as a plot device to try and get around the lack of flesh being shown. "She wasn't a lesbian but she kind of exploited lesbianism as a plot tactic to titillate the raincoat brigade, which is why her films are beyond feminism because they don't play by the rules. She was definitely out there on her own."
Lesbo-A-Go-Go is already the centre of controversy interstate, generating complaints of offensiveness to women. Leavold's response? "It's more of a parody of outmoded sexual politics but it's done with a very straight face. If you take it on the surface, of course it's a very negative portrayal of women - doe-eyed innocents who are just playthings at the hands of predatory lesbians and vicious gangsters, but I certainly don't think of women in those terms, I'm more making fun of outmoded gender portrayals. I guess it depends on your sense of humour." Mine's obviously twisted. Forget Chutney Popcorn, girls and go for Lesbo-A-Go-Go!
Interview from Over Easy Magazine (Melbourne, Australia), August 2003
What inspired you to open a Trash Video store in Bris-Vegas?
A mixture of blind optimism and the need to find a home for the growing mountains of ex-rental videos in my lounge room! Brisbane’s not the cultural backwater you big city ser-fisticates think. It’s just big enough, and for that matter just small enough, for a place like Trash to work.
What defines “trashy” videos?
The “get fucked” factor. If you can find the right balance of insanity and goofy storytelling, and you feel compelled to scream “Get fucked!” at the TV set, then THAT’s the trashy gem that makes the journey worthwhile.
Is there a typical type of person that comes to Trash Video?
Not at all. We used to get Valley bums, speed freaks and street urchins - since we moved to West End three years ago we get FAMILIES! And bums and film nerds and Trekkies and...
Do you have a favourite trashy video and what makes you love it so much?
That’s easy - For Your Height Only, the Filipino James Bond ripoff starring a three foot Weng Weng as Agent Double O. A beautiful hybrid of midget jokes, lame Bond pastiche, loopy kung fu capers, and the worst dubbing you have EVER heard (all the bad guys have Peter Lorre voices)! Plus you get to see a midget battle a dwarf in the final reel - I would have paid money for a plane ticket to Manila to find out the winner of THAT contest. I just recently found out Weng Weng died in the 80s - for the last 10 years my life mission was to track him down and pat him on his little head.
What top five movies would you recommend for a first time trash video viewer?
Evil Dead, Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, Pink Flamingos, Bad Taste and Meet The Feebles. That’s only five out of a VERY long list of Trash essentials!!! My current favourites: 1) If The Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? (1971) A Baptist gore fright film with a vision of America under Godless communism; 2) Love Me Deadly (1972) An American necrophile shocker about a woman obsessed with funerals, shot like a TV movie!!! 3) Mystics In Bali (1984) Indonesian horror with a fetus-eating flying head! 4) Any Jeff Krulik, Andy Kaufman, Ron Ormond or George Carlin stuff; and 5) The Impossible Kid Of Kung Fu (1982) The triumphant return of Weng Weng in the long lost For Your Height Only sequel! Only ever in French so I paid someone free rentals to translate it, and now we redub the film live on stage!
Who are you favourite Australian directors?
Richard Franklin, Jon Hewitt, John Lamond (Felicity, Pacific Banana), Brian Trenchard-Smith (Turkey Shoot, Man From Hong Kong), John Hillcoat, Richard Wolstencroft, Tim Burstall, early Bruce Beresford, Sandy Harbutt (Stone), George Miller for the first Mad Max, Phillipe Mora (Mad Dog Morgan), Wayne Groom (Maslin Beach), and a horde of other Aussie cinematic underdogs.
Why do you think you where invited to Melbourne underground film festival?
I’m cheap and forgiving! No, seriously, the MUFF crew and I share a similar philosophy - they are unmitigated cultural terrorists intent on putting a boot in the face of mediocre cinema culture and the arts nazis that populate it. They look for kindred souls (Mu Mesons from Sydney, Jim Knox in Melbourne, UK author Jack Sargeant) to realize their vision of a truly “underground” event, and despite the constant harpings from certain disgruntled folk, I believe the elements came together beautifully this year.
Could you tell us a little about you latest movie Lesbo-A-Go-Go?
It’s my attempt to make a fake 60s porno for $700! Shot on DV in black and white, it chronicles the downhill slide of young innocent Sugar (Cari Withercy) into drugs, degradation, delerium and ultimately damnation. Every possible bad thing that can happen DOES happen to the poor girl - she’s raped at her fiancee’s funeral, hooked on tranquilizers by a predatory lesbian (Eileen Surepuss)... Of course, being a fake 60s exploitation feature, you can’t actually SHOW any flesh on screen, so you have to make the story as sordid as possible to convince the audience it’s witnessed a lot more than it has. It’s an exercise in audience manipulation - now THAT’s exploitation!
Are you worried about shocking anyone with your films?
No, I welcome it! But if someone finds the film offensive, I want a reasoned response and not some ill-informed knee-jerk reaction. And if it’s a particularly witty rebuff, I’m gonna put it on the poster!
Could you tell us any funny stories that happened on set?
The Toowong Cemetary shoot was the strangest one. We were in the oldest part of the cemetary to film Sugar’s fiancee’s funeral, and we thought we’d have to tip a bag of potting mix on an old grave to freshen it up - amazingly, we found a NEW grave without a headstone, just a mound of dirt with a little wooden cross in the top. Jarret the cameraman said, “Andrew, we can’t shoot it from the front, you can see the name.” I said, “No problem”, plucked the cross out of the dirt and turned it around. The rest of the crew were mortified - they thought we’d just committed an act of desecration! We filmed the rape sequence straight afterwards: Sugar is grabbed by her fiancee’s killer and dragged through the graveyard until he throws her against a huge stone cross and violates her. The cross looked sturdy enough, but when we shouted “Action” it started rocking and looked like it would collapse on Cari and Geoff, crushing both of them to death! Of course we kept the cameras rolling.
What is the budget like for your movies?
Lesbo clocked in at $700. I never want to go through the nightmare of making a film on the smell of an oily rag again. There’s low-budget films, then there’s Lesbo which is a NO-budget movie! I want at least a couple of thousand to make the next one.
As a filmmaker what is your motivation, what possesses you?
The madness of the shoot, and the cast parties afterwards! That and the intense adolescent glee of shocking the shit of people on a constant basis.
Has anyone in the production team had any formal training?
Just about everyone behind the camera had film school experience - except me that is! It sounds like a Tarantino-inspired cliche these days, but I seriously sat behind the counter at Trash and soaked in B-grade movies until I figured I could make one. The effects guy Steve Boyle worked on Undead and Star Wars Episode Two, but he still made us a pair of devil horns for free!
Who would you credit as being your greatest artistic influence?
On Lesbo? Cheapo 60s female porn director Doris Wishman (Bad Girls Go To Hell, Nude On The Moon etc). I wrote the script as a tribute to her, inspired by her predatory 1966 masterpiece Another Day, Another Man. She died the week we started rolling, but her presence is in every frame - her pointless cutaways, the moral downward spiral of the characters, and the way she shot the backs of actors’ heads so she didn’t have to sync the dialogue in post production! Genius.
Is it hard finding the right people to work in your films?
No, there’s a willing stream of hopefuls filing past the counter every day! The lure of “fake porn” is incredible - I’ve already got the cast and most of the crew together for our next project, a five minute trailer for an all-girl biker film set in outback Queensland in the 70s, called “Birds Of Destruction”. I’m pitching the film to producers as “Faster Pussycat meets Prisoner Cell Block H”. Most of the “Lesbo” gang are back and they’re badder than ever.
We notice you use a lot of musicians in you films, what sort of people to you prefer to work on and in your films and how do you approach them?
I think half of the Brisbane band fraternity is in Lesbo, and for a good reason - they’re all great performers in their own way, and if you can find a character that suits their personality, they’re going to deliver the goods like a seasoned professional. Geoff Corbett from Sixfthick is a stage actor so we knew he’d look like Cape Fear-era Robert Mitchum on screen, but we took a punt on some of the others - the Gazoonga Attack girls are fucking awesome as a gang of juvenile delinquents, Trixie from the Aampirellas is outstanding as the drug ravaged guttersnipe Candy Mountains... I’ve watched Eileen (Kitten) for years doing her Abigails cabaret shows so her lesbian drag act was in the bag, and most of the crew were friends who did it for kicks. The real surprise was Cari Withercy in the lead role of Sugar. She was a shop regular who volunteered to be on the crew. I asked her if she wanted the lead, and she almost fell over! We seriously put her through hell on the shoot. She had her face pushed into a plate of baked beans before getting flogged with a belt, she was “raped” in a cemetary, forced to lie on the road covered in chocolate sauce, and still she gave her all. For an untrained actress she’s truly amazing on screen.
What is your connection to the Melbourne music scene?
I’ve been going to Melbourne gigs for over ten years, I LOVE Melbourne punk, scuzz, rock etc, love the people involved on and off stage. It’s like the tight-knit band community in Brisbane, only the bands aren’t as shithouse. Our abominable cowpunk caberet act They Might Be Vaginas has toured Melbourne a few times with Fred Negro’s band The Twits, and we’re Fred’s backing band in Brisbane (the dubiously titled “They Might Be Negroes”!!!). Trash also toured the Gammarays, The Fuck Fucks and The Twits through Brisbane.
I’ve been listening to Fred’s music since high school (the I Spit On Your Gravy days!). He’s one of the most inspirational artists I’ve ever come across - the fact he isn’t more widely known is a fucking disgrace. He also has the sort of face that screams out to be used in a drug hallucination sequence. We shot that scene at the Greyhound Hotel in St Kilda with Fred Sounds director Rohan Pugh, using a gimp mask fashioned from a leather jacket, an upturned bar stool, a pool lamp and a red tablecloth which caught fire mid-shot on the light bulb!
What are the after affects of working on one of your films?
To tell you the truth, during the six months shoot I went on a two month bender, had a nervous breakdown and walked out on my 13 year relationship. I suspect it was the film’s doing - the brain-fried madness is all there on the screen, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who can pick it!
Is there any hidden messages in you films?
“Spill the blood of the innocent”. But you have to rewind the video to hear it.
How would you describe your sense of humour?
An unholy mixture of absurdist gallows humour and poo poo jokes. Like Bazza McKenzie at a car wreck.
“NINE THINGS I DISCOVERED MAKING FAKE SIXTIES PORN”
Originally published in Damian Kringas (ed), Tales Of The Cinematic Experience (Independence Jones Guerilla Press Division, Sydney, 2004)
- Try not to be a one-trick pony, and if you’re making low-budget genre or exploitation, for fuck’s sake deliver the goods. Sure, our first feature Lesbo-A-Go-Go was “an experiment in audience manipulation and generic convention” but there was NO flesh whatsoever, even for 1966 standards. Our next film Birds Of Destruction, a Baptist biker gore film, is all about (you guessed it) tits and blood.
- Don’t tell how much your movie cost. No-one will work with a cheap bastard who won’t even shell out for beer and pizza at the film shoots. Plus no one wants to see your shitty $700 home movie no matter how much lower than El Mariachi the budget was. Rodriguez had $100 grand to clean up his mess and wipe out any original copies from existence. You don’t. Rodriguez hangs out with Salma Hayak and Cheech Marin. You don’t. Rodriguez has three mega-successful Spy Kids features under his poncho. You don’t.
- Permits are for people who follow rules. You are a guerrilla filmmaker, not an AFC buttboy. Sign nothing and don’t EVER show them even a page of the script - they may want to dig deeper and ask questions about insurance, award wages, even the morality of the whole film. Tell the Brisbane City Council you shot in Sydney, tell Sydney it was Adelaide and so forth.
- Rakish behaviour is encouraged or at worst tolerating during the production, but please remember you’re making FAKE porn. In the quest to cherchez la femme, keep your dick in your director’s pants and above all, fermez votre bouche.
- Don’t give away editorial control your actors, particularly if they are concerned how ugly they may look face down in a plate of baked beans. Rule the set with an iron fist inside a steel glove and have them quaking in fright at the prospect of upsetting you. If you work in a slaughterhouse, you don’t hand over the boltgun to any old pair of sad brown eyes. Human cattle are the same.
- Don’t promise free copies of the movie to your cast. Extras comprise around 60% of your audience. Fill your screen De Mille style with hundreds - no, thousands - of extras, and watch those Dendy seats fill up on opening night.
- Make your debut feature a period piece. By putting the “art” back into “heart attack”, your film will have a ludicrous penny opera feel, and in the middle of your breakdown you can fool yourself into the belief you are making an important social document that will live forever.
- Whore yourself to whoever will listen: community radio, Quest newspapers, even the lowest midden of all media bottomfeeders, the student press. Do NOT, however, get drunk on red wine and call the Courier Mail in a shambolic attempt to whip up fake outrage. Words tend to lose their ironic inflection through a thick crust of tannin and cheese crackers, and the OFLC is not renowned for its sense of humour. Also watch how fast “simulated rape scene in Toowong Cemetery” becomes “gang bang on open graves”.
- Lie, cheat, steal, do ANYTHING to get your feature finished. “Exploitation” is the name of the game - exploit your cast, crew, friends, media acquaintances, and tell them whatever it takes to get the word out you need slave labour and free shit. Then give a tearful Oscar-winning speech thanking them at the premiere and they will not only forgive you, but pledge their undying support for your next project. Rinse, and repeat.