Photos -The Making of The Theta Girl
NOT SUITABLE FOR WORKPLACE VIEWING - Adult content ahead
When I walked into the bathroom my friend Jaime Clark was painting a rubber wiener. He looked up, saw my camera and realized his role in the production of The Theta Girl would be identified as the wiener painter. But to clarify, only a very small part of Jamie's role involved painting a wiener and as one of two practical and visual effects supervisors, he made the gore and computer generated visual effects for the film.
The Theta Girl, a self described "psychedelic horror/action/sci-fi film," created by Columbia's Chris Bickel and David Axe, will have it's local premiere November 3 and 4 at Spotlight Cinemas on St. Andrews Rd. Created for less than $15k and filmed in the Midlands during this past winter and spring, it stars Darelle Dove, Shane Silman, Quinn Deogracias and Victoria Donofrio as Gayce, a drug dealing band leader at the center of a violent murder mystery.
During the filming, at times a few blocks from my home in West Columbia, I stopped by to see how things were going.
Photos by Sean Rayford.
I also recently caught up with producer/director Chris Bickel (below, left) to talk about the film.
Sean: What type of film is The Theta Girl?
Chris: If I worked at a Blockbuster and this [movie] came in I would put it in horror even though it's not exactly a horror movie. It' a little bit of an action movie and it's a little bit of a revenge movie and it's kind of an art movie. It's a little bit of all these things so it's hard to pigeon hole it. But if I had to give an answer, it's a horror movie because it's just so violent. It's really brutal and probably nobody is going to be able to sit through it other than horror fans.
Sean: Tell me about your interest in exploitation films.
Chris: That's been one of my favorite genres all my life and I guess since the Nickelodeon [Theatre] asked me to curate the Lowbrow Series over there I think I’ve started to study the genre a little bit more, finding why these movies exist. And by and large, it's because the filmmakers had no money at all. And if you don't have any money, you can't afford name actors and you can't afford big set pieces or really good special effects.
So you have to throw in things that are gonna either shock the audience or titilate them in some way, or keep their attention. And more than anything make them talk about the movie after the fact. So basically, you have to throw in a bunch of stuff that is fucked up and crazy.
Seeing how the great exploitation filmmakers have applied that, it sort of led up to me and David [Axe] brainstorming before he wrote the script with all the things that the movie needed to have. And how often you'd have them. Every five minutes there had to be nudity or violence. Or just something really strange and bizarre. You couldn't have more than three pages of dialogue or else you're going to lose the audience.
So, just hammer it. Like one after another. And with the nudity, a familiar exploitation trait, it's always female nudity. It's always tits and ass. We wanted to make it equal opportunity, so there's a lot of dicks in this movie. Which some people really freak out about. It's fine to have boobs, but they lose their shit if there's a dick. Which great, I want those people to lose their shit.
Sean: Talk to me about the soundtrack to The Theta Girl.
Chris: I think the soundtrack is the most professional part of the entire movie. whereas with the visuals, there's a lot of things that demonstrate the naiveté of the filmmakers and the budget we were working with — in terms of poor lighting in places or some of the set pieces. But as far as the music goes, I think the music and sound design goes head to head with almost any Hollywood movie. Especially with Joe Buck Roberts and the songs he wrote. [They] ended up working so well with the main themes of the film that we brought those to the forefront and it actually takes the movie to a different place. It really, I think it puts it on a higher level than most other movies of it's genre and budget.
Sean: Were the songs created specifically for the movie?
Chris: It was just some recording that Joe had done and I'm not sure he had released them. He just put out some burned CDs out in our free box at Papa Jazz. It's like, 'here are some songs I recorded at home' kinda deal. And I got the CD and listened to it and I was blown away by it and realized that a couple of the songs in particular just fit this movie like crazy. And I asked him if I could use them and he said 'yeah.'
He just saw the movie a couple of days ago and I don't even know if I should say, but it looked like he may have teared up a little bit. I think for him the movie took the song to a place that he didn't even intend - because it all worked so well together.
Sean: Tell me about how your experience trying to make a feature film before creating a short.
Chris: I decided I wanted to make a movie and I didn't want to do a short film. I wanted to do a feature because I just thought there was no point in doing a short film. Because a short film might play a few film festivals but nobody really gives a shit about it. You can't really sell it and there is no shelf life. It's not like ten years down the road people are like, 'Man, that short film I saw ten years ago was so cool, I wanna watch that again.' It just doesn't fucking happen.
So I didn't want to do it but I had several filmmaker friends who were like, "Man, if you've never made a movie you have to do a short first because you don't know how to make a movie. It's such a difficult endeavor, you're just going to be in over your head and you're going to fail if you just try to jump right in." But I was like, "No. I wanna make a feature. I don't want to waste my time doing a short." But the more I thought about it and the more persistent my filmmaker friends were about that, once we decided we were going to do a crowdfunding campaign it made sense to do a short, because you can't ask people for money for a crowdfunding campaign if you don't have any work to show. Why would I give money to somebody if they don't know what they are doing?
So, the idea came up to make a fake trailer for a fake movie just to demonstrate that we could make a movie. And we'd be able to use all of the actors that we'd hired and our crew and that allowed us to sort of test them out and make sure that they were capable of doing the work. And that we could work with them on a personal level. The end result was that we made Teenage Caligula. Which did really well online and helped us raise a bunch of money. And more importantly, it gave me the experience to be able to make some mistakes on that - that I didn't make on the feature.
If I hadn't had that experience I would have fucked up a lot more things on the feature than I did. Which, I did fuck up lots of things, but not bad enough to where it derailed the movie. But if I hadn't had that experience, it could have been devastating.
Tickets for the Nov. 3-4 screenings are available at Spotlight Cinemas box office.
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