With the interwebz and geek culture as a whole abuzz about misogyny, yet again, I thought I would take a couple of articles to share some incredibly girl/geek girl positive things with you. Last week I shared with you my love for Burlesque and geeky Burlesque – are you paying attention yet? You should be. Anyway, being the resident admin tramp for Effie’s Club Follies has its perks; boobs, shows, laughter, boobs and meeting new and wonderful people in the community. Before the Geek Girls Are Easy…To Talk To show, I worked with the Effie’s girls on a short film project being made by Gonzoriffic and Andrew Shearer.
These names mean nothing to you, I know – but they will soon! Andrew’s name is one that is thrown around a lot at our weekly meetings, and rightfully so. His microbudget films get huge props from film festivals, his photography composition speaks for itself and his love of women across all mediums is undeniable; not to mention, Andrew is a geek. A film geek, a horror geek, a girl geek (as in, geeky about girls) and a high-camp (a la John Waters) geek. All of this is to say, I’m enthralled with Andrew and Gonzoriffic.
So, this week, you should be paying to attention to Gonzoriffic and Andrew Shearer – and what better way to get you acquainted than with an interview with the man himself…
– Regarding how you use women characters in your movies, what are some of your influences? What about horror films — which are the most influential?
I came of age during the cable television and home video boom of the ‘80s, when the big studios were still shaky about making their hit films available on these platforms. Most of what was available to rent or see on cable were what you’d call “B-movies”, low-budget, that type of stuff. Much like the drive-in or grindhouse eras that came before, as long as there was nudity and/or a monster, these movies were a sure sell.
The secret was, due to the T&A and blood factor, most all these films centered around female characters, and featured some of the wildest, most memorable performances I have ever seen to date. They really stood out and made an impression on me. Since I wasn’t taught that the naked body and sex were shameful or dirty things, I wasn’t as taken with the skin factor as much as young males were supposed to be. Instead, I revered women like Brinke Stevens, Linnea Quigley and Michelle Bauer as superheroes.
“Nightmare Sisters” is one of the greatest from this period. “Sorority House Massacre II” is another. I’ve seen “Frankenhooker” probably a hundred times. Going back further, I would site “Switchblade Sisters” as a massive influence, and anything John Waters made. I’m drawn to outrageousness, audacity, the absurd and the ridiculous. Movies that go extreme with the gore have got it all wrong. Give a woman something big to do, some crazy dialog, let her be sexy and weird, and that is the key to freaking people out.
– Your mission statement reads “Our mission is to provide quality alternative entertainment with a strong focus on innovative, positive roles for women in film.” — how did you arrive at that?
I am a fan of all kinds of movies, but I feel like the women in my life are not represented in most forms of mass entertainment. I am privileged to know some of the most fiercely talented, creative, unforgettable women in the entire known universe, and they deserve to be stars. Technology keeps getting better and better for film, special effects get more and more dazzling every year, but they’re still hung up on the dumbest, most basic rules for women. Age, body type, skin color aren’t exactly diverse when you’re talking about leading roles in most movies and TV.
And even then, there are rules about what women can and cannot do. “Bridesmaids” was a huge hit because men couldn’t deny the women in the movie were funny, and women accepted these actors and liked what they saw. But the movie was still about a wedding. I would have been happier if they were lesbians on the run from some Amazonian cannibal tribe.
Gonzoriffic isn’t part of the studio system, isn’t part of the indie scene either. We don’t owe money to anyone, no producer controls what we do, and we don’t have to think about demographics or target audiences or sponsors. We are truly the most dangerous kind of film making there is, because we can do whatever we want and cast any type of woman in any type of role. Our existence is proof that there is not one way to make movies, not one specific face for a character, and many different ways of being interesting. There are people who want this, and people who want to be part of it, simply because it is the most undiluted kind of entertainment this side of a garage rock band.
– How do you maintain that consistency of vision across so many movies and different creative voices (like however many different directors that work for Gonzoriffic)?
At this point, the kind of crew Gonzoriffic has is one that completely appreciates and understands what it is we do. There’s no grand vision behind it, no style that I’m trying to maintain, and no ultimate goal set. And since we have been around so long, and so much material is available to take in, everyone who gets involved knows the basics.
But most of all, I think the consistency comes from the kind of people who are drawn to it in the first place. Fans of queer cinema love us. Fans of punk love us. Riot Grrrl and zinesters. Anyone who makes something from nothing, who can’t find a place or outlet for what they do because they’ve been told it’s bizarre. Or they’ve been made to feel like they shouldn’t do this because it’s gross or dirty.
It’s responsible, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s progressive. I’m pretty proud of how well it finally seems to be working after all this time, and I credit the crew with that.
– What’s been the most challenging aspect of your approach?
I work with my friends, and I have a habit of spoiling people. I’ve had some very good creative relationships go south because I make them feel special, that they’re important, and they belong somewhere. Certain types of personalities don’t do well with it over time, and it can become a very volatile situation. They become possessive, feel entitlement, and lose sight of the good thing that’s happening. But I would never change a thing, and I don’t regret the way I handle people. Usually it’s fine, but there have been times where it imploded.
– Have you had any bad experiences, any push back from other creators or fans, given your approach?
I’ve been called a pornographer on multiple occasions because my movies are sexy. I think when you make low-budget movies these days, what people expect is women being murdered, zombies in the backyard, that type of thing. They want to see some dime store attempt at what the big movies do so they can laugh at it, or applaud its tenacity. What they don’t want is to see real people saying and doing things that make them uncomfortable. The typical horror audience would much rather see a decapitation than they would an orgasm (unless the orgasm is then punished by a decapitation).
Dee Flowered & Andrew Shearer at the Buried Alive! Horror Film Fest
I’ve also been called out for being a feminist. One person actually told me, “no real man promotes women over men”. But probably my harshest criticism came from a female audience member after one of our screenings. In an angry e-mail addressed to me specifically, they said, “If any of your female friends think you are a feminist, I need you to tell them that they are wrong.” I didn’t write back because the address they gave was a dummy account. Pretty cowardly, I thought.
And then there are the people who think I’m very talented, and I’m wasting it by doing these films instead of trying to make something more sell-able. There are actually people in the movie business who stopped talking to me because they realized they couldn’t get anything from me, and I was never going to be what they thought I should be. I’ve been told I willingly hold myself back from artistic growth and bigger success because of my goddamn punk rock attitude. The truth is, I would love to sell out if anyone wanted to buy me.
-What would be the single most noticeable difference between our world and a Gonzoriffic Utopia?
In a Gonzoriffic utopia, you would be able to rent microbudget films in Redbox and Netflix, multiplexes would be playing films like ours right alongside the latest blockbusters, and television stations would give equal air time to basement-level productions. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be quality standards. All I’m saying is, we need to examine what our definitions and standards are.
Ideally, people would see the value in things that were made cheaply. That passion, creativity, and imagination are worth just as much, if not more than, what is spent on a “Spider-Man” sequel. It’s like that scene in “Freaks And Geeks” where Sam gives Cindy the heirloom necklace, and the first thing she asks is, “How much did it cost?” Success and money aren’t the same thing, just like happiness and money aren’t the same thing. Fucking art and money aren’t the same thing either.
– If you could retool an existing horror franchise with an all-female cast, what would it be and who would you cast?
This is possibly the greatest question I have ever been asked! I would begin with the original “Night of the Living Dead” and make all the characters women, and all the men would be zombies. The series would be about their ability to get past their shit and work together, or be eaten alive by these rotten motherfuckers who run the world. I would pair people like Mo’Nique in scenes with Monique Gabrielle. Cynthia Rothrock and Helen Mirren. Michelle Yeoh and Emily Haack. We would find Laura Gemser, wherever she is, and make her the president of the United States.
And the grand finale of the series would take place in a maximum security women’s prison in outer space where the warden and guards are all zombie dudes. Pam Grier, Dyanne Thorne and Mary Woronov have taken control of the escape. See where I’m going with this?
– What is your Preferred Apocalypse?
It would be like “Mad Max”, only everyone’s killing each other over Wi-Fi instead of gasoline.
– What is your weapon of choice?
My sense of humor. Never needs re-loading, can never be taken and used against me, and will keep me alive forever.
– When someone asks you if you’re a god, what do you say?
There ya have it, folks. Find Gonzoriffic online, friend them, support them, love them. I do.