Husband and wife filmmaking teams are not a new idea. Cruise and Kidman, back when Tom wasn’t crazy and the two were married, made Eyes Wide Shut and The Others. Chris Kentis and Laura Lau made Open Water. Pam and Tommy Lee made a vacation video. And now, writer/director Dave Lawler and producer/actor Bronwyn Knox have gone into the dark mind of Edgar Allan Poe to create the equally sexy and macabre “Ligeia”. Dave (DL) and Bronwyn (BK) took some time to talk to Mark Bell on the eve of the major Film Threat DVD retail release of “Ligeia.”
When did you start filmmaking and what did you make?
DL: I can’t remember – I know it was a Super 8 thing with no sound, but it was just for my own pleasure. I made about 10-15 Super 8 films between 1986 and 1988. I started making movies with a newly acquired JVC camcorder and I did a 16mm film that cost upwards of $25,000 and was never finished. The advent of DV and computer-based editing was like a breath of fresh air.
What made you decide to become a filmmaker?
DL: I started out as a writer because there were no film schools, but there were established creative writing programs. I wrote a lot of short stories. I started writing screenplays when I was 15. I wanted to be able to tell stories on my own terms. I wanted to push the narrative and change the form. It’s frustrating because the critics don’t get it. They want to continue to review the same films and the same variations without deviation, and if there is deviation, they get confused and start trashing the films.
What drove you to make “Ligeia”?
BK: We wanted to combine the hard-hitting realities of marriage in the new century with a fun, sexy romp. It was important that the film have a sense of humor as well as an uncomfortable streak of violent unpredictability. The film is a very minor exercise, but it was technically proficient for it’s time. Dave just wanted to make a violent, nihilistic film with terrible characters doing horrible things. It was good fun.
What was your budget and how long did it take you to make it?
DL: The budget was non-existent; we own all of our own equipment, the actors worked on deferred salaries. I would say under $5,000 easily. It took a while to make because of constant delays and some last-minute rewrites. Our production partner’s mother died during production so the shooting was delayed even further. Some of the actors were very upset that the film was taking so long to shoot.
BK: Dave started writing early drafts of the script in the Spring of 2001. It was originally written as a suburban fantasy piece, but then he rewrote it as a Los Angeles film. Shooting started in April of 2002 and concluded at the end of July. We didn’t screen the film for actors; we sent the film off to various festivals as well as the Sundance Channel’s programming people – it was soundly rejected. Sundance called it “provocative”, but refused to acquire it. We were told the film’s style and content scared off any prospective interest in the film festival market.
How did you go about casting a film like this?
DL: We put out an ad in Backstage and got some referrals from writers and performers in New York.
What do you think drew the actors to the script?
DL: Real world answer – honestly, we have no idea. We like to think the actors were drawn to the material because it was something fresh, it was witty, it didn’t feel like every other film being made at the time. It was a dangerous story. Of course, several people dropped out because of the content, but we just moved on.
So you wound up having problems with some of your cast?
DL: One of our actors complained that he had to wait a whole hour before we shot his scenes, even though he had to be made-up first. He was complaining as he was getting his make-up applied. Unbelievable. In addition, it was one of the hottest summers on record for New York (where we shot our interiors). The ceilings of the sets we shot in were leaking water from bad plumbing. That was fun.
Have you made any other films beyond your first and “Ligeia”?
DL: We made a film called The Tell-Tale Heart based on the Poe story, very much like “Ligeia,” a contemporary adaptation of Poe with the requisite sex and violence. It was the first film we made to get favorable reviews. Film Threat enjoyed it. Distributors told us it wouldn’t sell because it was in black and white. “They Only Come Out At Night” was the next film. Mixed reviews, but we got a television deal and it played on B-Mania; we didn’t get paid for it, despite the fact that we provided much-needed programming to a fledgling basic cable operation. We were very angry about that.
What opportunities do you feel your film will be awarded due to its distribution through Film Threat DVD?
DL: Well, obviously seeing your DVD up there in a store in Saginaw’s pretty cool. Seeing the artwork everywhere. Film Threat’s presence in the Industry is starting to make all the suits in Culver City a little nervous and we like that. It will be interesting to see how well the film does on DVD; “Ligeia” seems to have a polarizing effect on those who watch it – they either love it or hate it.
What’s up next for you both?
DL: We finished “American Punk NYPP” in April; it’s a feature-length documentary on the punk and pop-punk scene in New York, and the first chapter in a trilogy which will cover the scene all over the country. At the moment, we’re finishing up the paperwork. We just finished “Vortex”, a science fiction-drama we shot simultaneously with “Punk”. That one is ready to go. We’re in the process of shooting a mockumentary called “Vote Stump” based on Joseph Langham’s long running stage show, “Gilligan Stump & Tha Perfesser” about a pot-smoking hillbilly in a red jumpsuit who’s running for president this year. We’re in pre-production on a horror-comedy called “Music de la Diablo” featuring a hard rock band called Pretty Suicide.
Dave and Bronwyn’s film, “Ligeia”, will be released in major retail chains throughout the United States and Canada on June 14th, 2005 and will be available online at the Film Threat Shop.