Exclusive Q&A with ‘Crazy Bitches’ director Jane Clark

Here at HMUNCUT we are huge fans of the work of Jane Clark. She is a stellar filmmaker and writer who we excited to be able to break bread with. This past week she along with her fellow “bitches” attended this years OutFest and premiered CRAZY BITCHES at the Ford Amphitheater on the 17th. We were able to bother her for a few questions about her latest film and inquire about what other things she is working on in the near future. Read on for our exclusive interview with CRAZY BITCHES, director Jane Clark.

Jane Clark and Guinevere Turner attend the 2014 Outfest opening night gala of 'Life Partners' at Orpheum Theatre on July 10, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (July 9, 2014 - Source: Angela Weiss/Getty Images North America)

Jane Clark and Guinevere Turner attend the 2014 Outfest opening night gala of ‘Life Partners’ at Orpheum Theatre on July 10, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.
(July 9, 2014 – Source: Angela Weiss/Getty Images North America)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So are you a fan of paranormal shows and what was the reasons behind that being used as a backdrop to Crazy Bitches?

I particularly love movies and television that have vampires and witches because they are multi-dimensional, which makes it easier to believe in the possibility that they are real. When done well, it also makes them incredibly complex, and I love characters that are layered and empathetic.

I also love ghost stories. I really loved THE CONJURING. It was just the right amount of tension and scares. Here’s a confession: I am a wimp when it comes to hard-core horror. I get completely terrified. But I enjoy films with tension and I love a good scream.

When I was writing CRAZY BITCHES, I needed to introduce the event that put the current crisis in motion and not only set it up for the audience, but also for the characters. It needed to have an innocence, initially, with just the right amount of spookiness that the characters would later begin to wonder if it was real. A paranormal mystery seemed like a good way to do it.

I was a big fan of the campfire tale associated with Crazy Bitches have you ever been on a camping trip and told ghost stories?

Oh yeah! When I was young we spent summers on Cape Cod and at our house my parents had this odd camper. It was this tin box that sat on wheels so you could tow it. The lid came off and the tent popped out. We kept it parked on the corner of the yard, surrounded by woods. The neighborhood had very few streetlights so it would get pitch black outside. My girlfriends would come for a sleepover and we’d be out in that camper with a little lantern, telling ghost stories and trying to freak each other out. Then we’d try to go to sleep with the owls hooting and the occasional coyote howling and the crickets just blaringly chirping. And it never failed that just as you were calming your nerves, you’d hear a crunch in the leaves, a stealthy step, a scrape of a tree branch and then the flap would fly open, flashlights would blind you and my brother and his friends would scare the crap out of us.  Good times.

When you set up to film the classic “cabin in the woods” type of scene what are some things that you as a filmmaker, but also fan of films, want to accomplish?

I think the atmosphere is most important really. So it’s about lighting and it’s about sound. The thing for me that always makes camping scary is the idea that you are far from civilization, isolated and vulnerable. And the sound of the wilderness is one of the best ways to establish that. I like rain because rain makes me feel like I’m in a cocoon, but the world outside is reckless. If I could have afforded it, I would have had a rain machine and it would have been pouring most of the time. I also would have had a fireplace, because the way a fire flickers on a face is really gorgeous and moody. I’m really into layers in film – rooms leading into rooms types of things, which in this particular case had the added benefit of creating a sense of unknowing – as if anything/anyone could be lurking in a corner. My DP, Cecy Guerrero did a great job of giving me those dark corners and shadows.

Were you involved in any of the music selection for Crazy Bitches?

I am very involved all the music. It’s such an important part of a film. It sets mood, establishes a feeling or a time period. With the source music I pick it all myself. but I have a music supervisor, Jen Corday who is fantastic at culling options. I’ll tell her what mood or style or sound I’m going for and within an hour she’ll have 10 picks back to me. And if none of them work perfectly she’ll keep sending them until I find what I need. She’s a musician herself and tours so she is constantly meeting new people and its just amazing how much talent is out there. I also reached out to friends for a couple of songs and I went back to artists from METH HEAD that I loved, but couldn’t use on that picture. And we re-recorded CRIMSON AND CLOVER with a friend of mine, Edith Crash. My composer, Charlton Pettus, produced that for me.

The composed music was an especially important collaboration because I wanted it to be as unique as the film is. It needed to respect the tension, while also complementing the humor and that is a fine line to walk. I knew I wanted something that also acknowledged the ranch where we shot. I had a very weird idea initially, and Charlton tried it, but it just didn’t click with him. So he composed the first four pieces to get us started. I sat down to listen to them and for me they felt too typical. Until we hit the fourth one. He had written it to lead subtly into a source piece I was using and as soon as I heard it I knew he had hit on just the right tone with this funky country twang. From there it was a joy just to hear what he concocted and throw in my suggestions and tweaks. Charlton (along with Curt Smith) did my music for METH HEAD, and so we already had a lovely rapport. CRAZY BITCHES took it to a whole new level of enjoyment and engagement. He thinks out of the box and is incredibly talented.

When you are creating the characters for Crazy Bitches is there anyone you know who resembles some of these roles?

Each role was written for a friend, so I did borrow from them a bit. Which made it a bit awkward when I gave them the script to read. I had to do a lot of explaining that I, of course, did not think they were vain. I simply chose their best qualities and exaggerated them into vanities.

By the time I had the money to shoot, several people were no longer available, so we ended up with about half the actors that were playing the roles written for them and half who I cast literally days before our first rehearsal. The crazy thing is that each new actor fit their role so perfectly it was as if I HAD written it for them.

How hard is it to write something as dramatic as cancer into a film?

It is a delicate balance to use cancer in a comedy. You have to be careful not to let the pathos inherent in that word bring the mood down. So I worked through the script a lot, making sure I was showing and telling just enough to understand this particular character’s condition, without making it depressing. It also helps that the actress, Nayo Wallace, embodied it in a very subtle but realistic way.

Are you ever worried you may lose an audience with too much character development?

I personally think the best movies have characters I can understand or empathize with. And for that to happen it takes character development. And when I write a script, I write what I like. I figure I’m not that much different than any other moviegoer, so if I like to invest in the characters I see in film, so would other people. Do I worry that might not be true? I don’t really think about it, honestly, because what I’ve learned is, I am never going to please everyone. I can only hope that there are enough people out there who like what I’ve done and can give life to a film. Because a film is only as good as the audience it pleases, I think.

What’s your favorite kind of scares to produce and what direction did you have in mind with Crazy Bitches?

I like scares that are of the jump and scream variety. With CRAZY BITCHES part of the scare was also the humor of the film. With every decision involving story or shots I was thinking about how to balance the scary with the funny, and I love when the film screens and the audience has both reactions within seconds of each other. There’s something really powerful about the juxtaposition of humor to pathos (or violence, or fear)

Do you agree that this film has a feel similar to a dark drama you may find on television with the depth of the characters?

Some of the coolest shit is coming out of television and I love me some TRUE BLOOD, HOUSE OF CARDS etc. But what I would say is that those great dark, twisted dramas are borrowing from films past, when filmmakers were commercially able to tell stories that were intense and emotionally challenging. I think that’s why you are seeing all the best actors migrating to television. They are in search of true challenge. I actually think the success of those television shows might begin to turn film back around because film producers will realize that audiences are embracing that type of work.

Crazy Bitches has a little bit of everything a slasher fan would enjoy are those giallo type films something you grew up watching?

I tended toward classic horror/thriller – Hitchcock, old school like THE SHINING. I loved the psychological aspect of the killer in films like those. That stuff really got me, because they had really great stories and well-defined characters that just sucked me into the emotional experience.

With CRAZY BITCHES the thematic idea came to me before I knew how I was going to express it. Once I latched onto the idea of girls being murdered by their vanity, and the decision of who and why it was happening, it was the question of how to best illustrate that, which drove the similarities to giallo style horror. In some ways, I honor that tradition and in some ways I turn it on its head. And that’s always the best part of tackling an established genre or style — the challenge of pushing the boundaries of what people’s expectations are, while still making the journey satisfying to fans.

What type of horror fan do you think Crazy Bitches will appeal to the most?

This is a hard question for me to answer. The truth is, because I edit the film, I lose some perspective on the way it impacts the viewer. If you like heavy gore or torture porn type stuff you will be disappointed. But I think the elements are all there to make the ride fun for most horror fans. There are some cool murders (one of which I personally still get creeped out by). There are horror movie touchstones that are built into both the murders and the comedy. And it’s also really funny, so you can watch it with a bit of glee.

Is it about time we return to films where we are unsure of who the killers are?

Why not? I don’t think enough filmmakers give their fans credit for having a brain and being up for the challenge. And for the most part the script has clues all the way through it about who is responsible, so I back it all up. But there is a last little moment that throws doubt into the mix and honestly, I had a lot of people tell me that the ending might cause me some trouble. But here is the reason I did it. One of the things I had in mind with this film is to punch holes in our expectation or perception of others. You know, how, when we first meet someone we subconsciously tally up the exterior appearance and the behavior of that person and we form an opinion. That person is stuck up, that person is a nerd, that person is an egomaniac, that person is player. If you never get to know someone, that surface opinion will stick. But many times if you do get know someone deeper than that first impression, you might discover that they aren’t solely the sum of their superficial parts. The end moment is simply a capper on that idea and I think a fairly surprising one, which to me makes it fun. I could have bowed to tradition and wrapped things up neatly or I could stick with what I wrote and take a chance in asking the audience to go a little further. I took the risk. I like taking risks.

What’s one thing you hope moviegoers will take with them after watching Crazy Bitches?

There are two answers to this question. I ultimately want people to take a smile with them when they leave. Have some fun. Laugh a little.

But as a writer, I always have a deeper point or issue to express in my scripts. Sometimes it is overt like in METH HEAD. Other times it is subtle as it is in CRAZY BITCHES. I wrote the script to talk about women and our judgment of each other and how that can express itself in thoughtless words, or in a more hurtful mean-spirited way, or at some point cross the line into bullying. And how so much of that is driven by our own insecurity, which is, in my mind, the flip side of vanity. If audiences get it and it drives discussion, that’s excellent. If audiences have a great time, laugh their asses off, get a kick out of the gleeful kills, and walk out telling their friends it was a great ride, then that makes me happy too. If I get both, then I hit the jackpot.

Anything you can tease about the upcoming horror comedy you are working on?

I am writing a horror/comedy for the ever fabulous Candis Cayne to star in. It’s basically LIVING IN OBLIVION meets SCREAM. A low budget film crew is shooting a film in a haunted house and hi-jinx (ie murders) ensue. I’m hoping to raise the money to shoot this fall or winter. Always a tricky proposition, but I have faith.

 

We would like to thank Jane once again for her time. Look for announcements on CRAZY BITCHES soon and check out Jane Clark’s METH HEAD starring Lukas Haas that you can watch right here on Horror Movies Uncut. Read our review of CRAZY BITCHES here.

 

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