Crazy Bitches

By Laura Latzko, Jan. 15, 2015.

This year, Desperado LGBT Film Fest strays into the slasher horror genre with the screening of Crazy Bitches on Saturday, Jan. 24.

For the second year in a row, writer and director Jane Clark will show a film at the festival. Last year, Desperado had a screening of 12-time-award-winning film Meth Head.

Crazy Bitches debuted at San Francisco Frameline Film Festival in June and has played at horror and film festivals throughout the country, including Outfest.

Clark, famed for her 2010 LGBT movie hit, Elena Undone – regularly features LGBT characters in her films. And, during a phone interview with Echo Magazine, talked about the films major themes, characters, LGBT content as well as her own journey making her first horror film.

Echo: What made you go with the title Crazy Bitches?

Clark: I actually was talking to a friend of mine, and they were asking me to describe the movie. We were just fooling around and I, off the cuff said, “It’s just a bunch of crazy bitches.”

There’s something interesting about that title because the phrase “Crazy Bitches” could be used in a derogatory manner, but all of these girls are human beings. It leaves the title tongue-in-cheek because they aren’t really “crazy bitches,” they are like your friends. You can recognize and know them.

I thought it would be interesting to take it back, own the phrase … I always say, “If you are a crazy bitch, own it and love it.” We are all a little bit of a crazy bitch.

Echo: Did you take parts of your friends and exaggerate them for the film?

Clark: This whole thing stemmed from a conversation with a friend because she said something in the course of a lunch. She was trying to make herself feel better about something that was going on in her life, but what she said inadvertently hurt my feelings because it was something that I was insecure about. I never said anything to her, but I just started thinking about that idea of how friends can hurt each other because they [aren’t mindful] when they speak sometimes.

When I started thinking about friends and this idea of putting a film together, I thought, “You know, what I’d really love to do is to fill each of these characters with a friend of mine who is an actor,” so I put that actor in mind to help formulate the character. I took what I’d like to say are some of the best parts of each woman and exaggerated them.

Photos courtesy of Crazy Bitches the movie.

Echo: So you were thinking about actors from your previous film, Meth Head for the characters when writing the script? 

Clark: I believe that actors are their best when they are tapping into what is closest to them, especially when you are making a film very quickly. We only shot it in 15 days. We had a week of rehearsal. Since I wrote for specific people, some of them walked in with a little bit of advance notice. They were in much better shape to get going because they related to the character so well. What was interesting was about half of the actors are who I originally wrote for, and there are four people who couldn’t do it for various reasons…I had one day to cast these four leads, and the minute each of those actresses walked in, I knew immediately. As soon as they opened their mouths, I was confirmed. It was as if I had written the role for them, and in some ways those particular actors were better for the role I wrote than who I wrote it for.

Echo: Was it a challenge shooting in two weeks?

Clark: I hate to say it, because I don’t want to do it again, but it is something I’ve done before. This was the most challenging for me. I produced a film called Elena Undone for Nicole Conn, and we shot that in 13 days. Meth Head we shot in 14. This was actually an extra day, but it was more challenging in some ways. The ranch was very big, so you’d think it was easy making moves, but it was actually more complicated. Then I had a very big cast, which can complicate things. Then you throw special effects in there and fight scenes. .And I’d never done a film with those kinds of special effects and those kinds of fight scenes. That was stuff I needed to spend a little more time with and learn.

Echo: Does a lot of work go into preparing for a fight scene?

Clark: It’s staged. You know, it’s choreographed. I have a friend, who is a neighbor, who is a stunt coordinator. We planned it ahead of time and plotted each step out because somebody can really get hurt if it’s not done almost like a ballet.

Echo: It sounds like staged fighting was a learning experience for you and the actors? 

Clark: I love a challenge. I really appreciate that every film I’ve done has given me a new set of challenges to work through because I don’t want to get stale or bored. All these actors typically get typecast. I think for each of them, I tried to give them something they wouldn’t necessarily be hired to do. I was able to write in things that I knew they’d get a kick out of doing, that I knew they hadn’t had a chance to do before, just to give them a new experience.

Echo: What would be an example of something you wrote in for the actresses?

Clark: Cathy [DeBuono], for one, has always wanted to play a heroine or somebody who does those kinds of high energy, athletic-type stunts. She’s a very strong woman and she used to do stunts on Star Trek. She was a stunt stand-in and the regular stand-ins for one of the characters on the show. She really liked it a lot, and she learned a lot. She never really got to apply it as an actor. I knew that was something she wanted to experience, so I wrote it in for her.

Mary Jane [Wells], I don’t think has had sexual content before; I thought it would be fun for her. She usually plays the best friend, I thought it would be fun for her to have that new experience.

Interesting enough, coming on board, I don’t think Andy Gala had ever done fight scenes. It was all new for a lot of them, even the ones that were new to me.

Echo: I know the horror genre was new to you as well, but I noticed that you followed a number of horror conventions in your film.

Clark: I think that anytime you are writing, you do a lot of research. I watched a lot of films to get it in my bones. I didn’t necessarily take notes, but there’s a rhythm that crops up in most horror films, if you can get an idea of that. Any of the bigger commercial films I would have seen anyway. I do watch horror on my own without it being research. I like “The Conjuring.” I love the “Scream” series. Obviously you see all of those old school “Friday the 13th” films. But I did do a lot of research because what I do know is that horror fans, they love their genre. I wanted to make sure that even while I was breaking a few rules, I was having fun in a way that respected their world.

Echo: How do you feel like you break away from horror conventions?

Clark: I think there is a little more character development than you find in most horror films… Because I like writing dialogue, because I’m interested in character, the genre sort of came along after the idea of the story and the characters started developing. It seemed like a good way to tell the story, but I really love how people interact, the psychology behind behavior, so I think that is different from not all horror movies but a lot of horror movies that I watch… I think some of the LGBT content is different than you would find. A gay person in another horror movie would be represented in a different way.

Echo: What made you decide to include LGBT characters in this horror film? Did you feel audiences would respond to their experiences and stories in a universal way?

Clark: I write what I know – even when I am going off into a horror genre – so, when I’m writing characters, I’m writing characters based on what I know of people. My world is very mixed. It’s mixed ethnically, it’s mixed by gender and it’s mixed by sexual preference. I have everybody in my world, so I incorporated everybody into my movie.

Echo: I noticed you have bigger themes, such as bullying, that different audiences, including LGBT viewers, can relate to.

Clark: I don’t know if anybody is immune to bullying, I think there are different degrees of it. Even some of these unconscious conversations we have with friends can feel like someone has just bullied you, even if it wasn’t intended. Then you have the degree of verbal bullying that is just somebody trying to take power over a situation. And then you have real aggressive bullying, which I think extends mostly from people’s own insecurities and their own sense of feeling threatened or vulnerable. I just think it’s something that most people can relate to on one level or another. I think it’s important to keep talking about.

Echo: Your film has characters that audiences can come to care about. Even when they are mean to each other, you can feel the love and closeness for each other. Was that what you were going for? 

Clark: One of my goals was to write characters that you really come to understand and that you care about. If you don’t care about them, at least you can empathize. You can see their hurt. Each of these girls and BJ have pain under their attitudes. There’s reasons why they behave the way that they do or why they are vain about what they are vain about. My goal was by the time each of them was killed off, you care about them. Strangely enough, even though do you care about them, I that there’s something about horror that when you are allowed to laugh, and you know the film has humor, and you are going with it, you get into one of those tense situations where you know it’s coming, you don’t know exactly how it’s coming, but you know it’s coming. The tension is building, and you are just waiting for that moment. I think the laughter afterwards is almost just just that nervous laughter because you have that moment of “ah” and then you laugh. It’s almost a release rather than an “Oh, I’m glad those girls are dead.”

Echo: Did you base your relationships off real love/hate female relationships in the real world?

Clark: I actually think one of the interesting parallels in the film is Taylor and Princess because they are sort of the opposites. Taylor wants to be Princess because nobody thinks she’s smart, and Princess wants to be Taylor because nobody thinks she’s pretty and sexy. Their relationship is complicated because both of them admires what the other has and wants what the other person has, and then they end up using that thing against the other. I think for me it’s for me the idea that we are all shades of gray. There’s all these dualities about us, these things that we feel good about and the things we don’t. In a strange way, those girls are the opposite sides of me. I think that’s why I find them interesting too. I’ve always been the kid who got really good grades, but I never thought I was pretty. And then I got to a point where I realized, “Ok, I’m not so bad looking here,” but then I started doubting my intelligence.

Echo: Do you feel like you relate to those two characters more than others?

Clark: I can’t write a character without putting something of myself in it because I think for me that’s the only way to make the characters feel real to the audience. I can’t write out of nowhere. A lot of the characters are much further removed. For instance, when I was writing for Cathy, I was using who she is and what I know about her and her goodness as well as her strength… So I used a lot of her, but there’s going to be pieces of me because I can’t write otherwise.

Echo: It noticed you explore these deeper issues in different ways than other filmmakers. Like the skin whitening cream BJ uses, that’s something you don’t see too much in other films.

Clark: It’s funny because I’m putting together a shorts collection for my Indiegogo to raise money for marketing, and so I had gone back and looked at all of my short films, and I just was reflecting on how you can kind of sense me through all of my movies, even as I was growing and learning and getting better. I was thinking about how I make a movie and why I write what I write, and I think maybe part of it is I wasn’t trained as a filmmaker. All my early shorts were driven by personal experience, something that happened to me that I thought I needed to express. I think maybe I approached filmmaking in a different way….I’m just being me and muddling through the best that I can to tell a story of something I care about.

When you are trying to get your start as a filmmaker, what you do is go to film festivals. I struggle to get into film festivals when they are looking for the AFI graduate with the artistic vision, and I’m just trying to tell a story that people walk away and go, “Ah, I know what person, or oh that was me.’ It’s just a different approach, I think. I do find that once I get in front of an audience that people respond well, that it’s a journey that people usually like to take. When I got to a movie, and I can’t relate to anybody on the screen, I usually walk out disappointed that I even bothered to put the money down on it. Whether it is to make me laugh, make me cry, make me feel or make me think, those are the things I love and look for in a good movie, and that’s all I’m trying to do.

Echo: Is it a challenge with a film like Crazy Bitches not having that film school background or do you find it has worked better for you?

Clark: I think it’s a benefit for me. If you don’t know that you are doing something wrong or different or you’re breaking a rule, you don’t have to worry about failing. What I’ve found is that when things go wrong or when I don’t know what I’m doing, sometimes I make better choices than when I have more experience in something because I’m thinking outside of the box and I’m not scared to fail.

I was an actor for awhile, and I spent a lot of time on set. I was the kind of actor that I didn’t go back to my trailer between setups. I would sit on the set and say, “What do you do? What is this thing called? Why are you making that choice?” I sort of used the work on the set as my learning experience.

Also I am a huge film fan. From the minute my mom would drop me off at the mall, I would just go all day long, and I would jump from movie to movie to movie. I would watch tons and tons, and it really didn’t matter to me what kind of movie it was. I was just interested in whatever was out there. I think that you are a sponge, especially when you are younger.

Echo: How have different audiences responded to Crazy Bitches?

Clark: It doesn’t matter whether it is a regular audience going to see it in the theaters or a festival group or a horror group, the laughs always come at the same place and the reactions to the murders are always the same. It is really fun because if you go in with the right attitude, if you are ready to just go in there and have fun with this movie, it snowballs. The humor snowballs, and the murders start gathering, and it really has this fun momentum…It’s a fun comedy horror film. Yes I have a message in it, yes I’m speaking to something that is important to me, but if you walk away with that, that’s my bonus. But It’s a fun ride.

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