Thursday, September 22, 2011

Interview: Dear God No! director James Bickert Part 2

Here's the second part of my interview with James Bickert, the director of Dear God No! (REVIEW) If you missed part one, CHECK IT OUT HERE. What are you thinking? Why the hell would you start reading part 2 first? Come on now. I swear, sometimes I wonder about you people...

SOC: All of the actors looked pretty comfortable on those bikes. Were they bikers turned actors or actors turned bikers?

JB: They were dirtbags turned bikers. They were mainly musicians. A lot of us had experience with motorcycles just because we’re goofballs who grow up in trailer parks and drink a lot of beer and hang out at drive-ins. Jett actually dressed like Evel Knievel and jumped a bunch of flaming bags of popcorn at one of the Drive-Invasion’s (get info about that event here). We did get lied to by one of our actors who said he knew how to ride a motorcycle and hadn’t ever ridden one. He learned that day, and luckily we had insurance and he didn’t kill himself or anybody. The one guy who had the most experience was the only guy who dropped a bike.

SOC: I’ve been involved in shooting a rape scene and sometimes it’s hard to get the actors and actresses to give you the intensity necessary to make it believable. Was the rape scene in Dear God No hard to shoot in that respect?

JB: No, the only way that thing was really hard to shoot was that we were exhausted. That was our longest shooting day. I think we shot for 20 hours. That was a brutal day. The whole point of us shooting 20 hours that day was that we didn’t want to go back to that set, so we just had to get it done that night. By the time we were shooting that we were all loopy as hell, and I think that added a lot to it. It was kinda like the stories from Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the dinner scene where they were all going nuts because it was such a long day and it was hot and they could smell the pet crematorium next door. So the actress started thinking they were really going to kill her. We just wanted to get the f**k out of there at that point. I think the women were like “Yeah, rape me, please, do anything, just say wrap!”

SOC: One of the times I laughed hardest in the film was at the Corman’s Malt Liquor. Are there more of those type of homages that viewers will catch on subsequent viewings?

JB: Yeah. I’m a graphic designer, so I filled the film full of little subtle things like that. In the Larry’s office scene there are these boxes that say R.A. Meyer Bra Company like they’re stock left over from one of Russ Meyer’s films or something. The bait store had a ton. There were cans of Jess Franc-O’s on the shelf. (He told me about quite a few more, but it just wouldn’t be any fun if we gave them all away now would it?)

SOC: After you finished shooting, you took to Kickstarter to raise your completion funds. How did that work out for you and would you recommend it to other indy filmmakers?

JB: Yeah I would. It worked out great, we raised it really quick. It kinda slowed us down because we raised the money in, like, 10 days and then we had to wait 45 days to get the money because of that. We could have gone into transferring the film into digital a lot faster if we could have known we’d get that kind of response.

SOC: The poster is amazing. That’s another thing that’s becoming a lost art in the movie industry. How important is a good poster?

JB: It’s very important. We did a trailer and got a huge boost across the internet, but when we got Thomas Hodge to do that poster and that thing got released, man, the whole thing just went ape shit. It went f**king nuts. It’s ridiculous when you look at modern movie posters. One thing I don’t get that I noticed they started doing about the mid 90’s is they’ll have a photograph of, say, four actors, but their names won’t be in the order of their faces. They’re in some weird order. What the hell is that all about? You understand this, what lured us in and got our money was VHS boxes and the old one-sheets that were geared towards drive-ins and grindhouses. It’s like David Friedman said, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” Well, we’re trying to give you the sizzle and the steak. We need to give you the sizzle with the poster so you’ll eat our steak. Yeah I think it’s a lost art and I think that’s a shame. I mean, even the McGinnis James Bond posters that were so amazing. Now they’d just rather have some pretty boy up there pointing a gun in a photograph. Man, f**k photography and I’m a photography major. I collect movie posters. I’ve got a huge collection. I really like a lot of Belgian movie posters. They would have their own artists in Belgium doing these posters, and they wouldn’t be based on the American artwork. The same with some of the Italian Localinas. If you see some of the Polish ones they’re f**king insane. They look like some US ad campaign for recycling or something from the 70’s if someone dropped a bunch of acid. I love it. I’m a huge fan, especially the AIP stuff. It’s a big part of a film. It’s huge.

SOC: Now that the movie is done and out how happy are you with the finished product?

JB: I’m ecstatic. I think we pulled off something really terrific and I have no complaints about it. It came out perfect. It’s just what I wanted and the response has been great. The people I’ve been working with are fantastic. I just want to make more, and we’re going to.

SOC: In the past few years grindhouse/drive-in/exploitation films have had a big resurgence in popularity. Why do you think they’re becoming so popular again?

JB: Because Hollywood’s remaking everything and they don’t have any ideas. They’re just redoing the same things. There’s also this thing where everything is getting so hi def that they’re losing some basic elements of what drew people to movies to begin with. Old movies, especially from that late 60’s and early 70’s era, they had it. I go to movies to see what I can’t see on TV.

SOC: What is the difference between a grindhouse movie and a drive-in movie?

JB: With a grindhouse movie you look over your shoulder, you wear a raincoat, you go and jack off, and you slink away. With a drive-in movie you take a bunch of buddies and your girls and a cooler full of beer. You get drunk as hell, you raise hell, and you have a good time. The only way a drive-in movie can fail is by being boring. I’ve learned a lot from bad movies, but I don’t learn anything from boring movies.

SOC: Other than almost burning down the drive-in, because I already told that one, give us a good story from the shooting of the movie.

JB: The day with the squibs was the most fun on set. You would squib all of these extras up, they’d go off, and they’d all start clapping. Unfortunately because of how long it was taking to film they were waiting in the rain outside of the bar because at first the girls didn’t want to be naked in front of strangers. Then we started giving them booze, and they were all like “Alright! Let all the extras in!” I didn’t want the extras to get drunk and rowdy. The way I curbed that was that I made all of those Corman’s Beers. They were all Yuengling Light, but we left them all out in the sun. They were all hot as f**k. So I said “free beer”, it was out on all of the tables, but this shit was so hot you couldn’t drink it. You couldn’t get it down. So I knew they would be manageable. I’ve been on a film set where they gave free beer away, and it got way out of control. But anyway, they would get squibbed up and they would all go off and it didn’t matter, everyone was so happy.

SOC: When will the movie be available on DVD?

JB: I’m hoping the beginning of the year. We’re making screeners and adding all of the special features. I don’t want anyone coming back to me and saying “Well, it’s going to take this much money to put it together” when I can do that shit myself. Then I’ll have a total package to go on blu-ray or DVD. We’ve gotten a ton of offers. First I want to see if we have any big American interest, but if we get somebody really big then they’re probably going to want the foreign territories, but I’m going to try to talk them out of it. I finally got an entertainment lawyer. I learned my lesson after the debacle with that other company.

SOC: You’re getting ready to start hitting festivals. Where can people see the movie?

JB: Arizona, Las Vegas, Ottawa, Mobile Alabama, that’s what we’ve got cooking so far. Toronto, come on! What’s wrong with you? You know you want it!

SOC: What’s your next project going to be?

JB: What I want to do is the sequel to this because this was so much damn fun. I’ve got a bunch lined up that I want to do after this. I was thinking that this would be the end of it, but I had so much fun doing this. I know how to make a sequel that will totally freak people out. I want it to progress a people of years in style too. I want to progress in style up to maybe the early 80’s; have it progressing in production value and music and everything. Like you’re watching a chain of sequels that start in 1973 and make their way to 1985 or something. I’ve got so many scripts written and so many ideas. One thing I’m dying to do is a women in prison film. They’re an obsession of mine. (To see how much of an obsession, check out his site

SOC: Do you have any last words for the readers?

JB: Stay tuned for Frankenstein Created Bikers. For this one I want to go Naschy on it, and I want to go a little Philippino on it too.

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