How much writing had you done prior to coming up with Prey For Rock & Roll?
I have pretty much always fancied myself a writer. Well, more of a storyteller than a properly trained writer. I know nothing about sentence structure or punctuation, and my spelling is terrible (thank God for spell check!), but I have always been pretty decent at telling a story. Dark humor, smart-a*s humor and realistic dialogue seem to be my strong points. I’ve always kept personal journals and ideas for stories and movies. I have a self-published book of poetry and short stories, and I wrote a column called “Hollywood Trash and Tinsel” for LA Rock Review in the ’80’s.
This screenplay actually started out as a play that was performed in New York at CBGB’s. How did it end up as a film script?
Very cliché. An investment banker, Donovan Mannato, who produces indie films on the side, saw the play, loved it, thought it would make a great movie, and approached me–and the Producer/Director of the play, Robin Whitehouse. A few other people had talked about making the play a movie, but I got a good feeling about Donovan. I knew he loved it for all the right reasons and in his heart wanted to do it right. Plus, I said I wouldn’t do it unless I had script control and could be on the set and he agreed to that. I often had to remind myself of those luxuries because Donovan and I would go at it pretty good on a regular basis. Most times the writer is left completely out of the loop and someone is hired to do a rewrite and it’s a nightmare what can happen to your story and script, so you just have to fight for it. At the end of the day we both got what we wanted, a great f*****g rock and roll movie.
You had your own all-female band prior to all this. How much of the story was culled from that? And did you have to sort of take a bit of dramatic license with the facts?
I had a band forever in Hollywood called “Lovedog.” We never quite hit, but were part of a great time and music scene in LA. All the rock and roll references were culled from my years and experiences in music, and most of what transpires in the story happened during that time period. What I did for the play, and then the movie, was take the events that had a major impact on me and assign them to different characters and tell them in a different way. I was careful not to tell the personal stories of my friends and band mates. In the movie when my drummer is assaulted by the bass players boyfriend in a sick twist of events, that exact event didn’t happen. However, and sadly, friends being sexually assaulted – and some by people they knew – did happen, and inspired the song “Every 6 Minutes.” The band plays the song at rehearsal in the film as part of their healing. It is a pretty heavy scene in the movie and conveys the real emotion felt by those events. At the same time, the scene at the dinner table with Jacki (Gina Gershon’s character) and her family is pretty much word for word true. And Punk Rock Girl is real, as are the tattoo customers. The “hero” of the movie is a heavily tattooed, ex convict, skinhead named Animal. The name and personality and look of Animal was based on a roadie we had who was murdered on Hollywood Blvd. over drugs. The story is not his, but it’s my tribute to him. He was a sweet guy, a great roadie, and nice to have around when it came time to get paid.
What were the difficulties in translating what you’d written as a stage production to a feature-length movie?
It was actually much easier to write the screenplay from a story telling point. In the play we broke the “fourth wall” a lot. I would, as the lead character Jacki, address the audience directly in monologue or song to move the story ahead or give back-story. The play actually started out with the band playing a song, then Jacki would step to the edge of the stage and do a 2 or 3
minute monologue to set things up before any dialogue was exchanged. It worked quite well. In the movie we could actually “show” a lot of things, as opposed to “tell” them, which was very cool. When the time came to write it as a screenplay, we knew the characters and their stories so well it was just a matter of taking advantage of the medium of film and opening it up. Robin Whitehouse co-wrote the script with me, and Beth Nathanson, who also helped with the play, lent us her expertise and was very generous and helpful in getting the script in great shape. The difficulty was constantly adjusting/rewriting scenes to accommodate the million things that come up all the time while filming. It wasn’t so much creatively difficult as it was being under that type of pressure. “Hi. We need to rewrite this scene and we’re filming it tonight.” And you’d just do it, man, because the alternative was … who knows? We just did it!
The interview continues in part three of ROCK ‘N’ ROLL HEART: CHERI LOVEDOG’S ROAD TO SUNDANCE>>>