If you’re new, you won’t know this about me so I’ll just spell it out for you- I love helping independent art get created. I also love movies. And TV, but that’s not important right now. What is important is that today’s NerdLush Asks is devoted to an independent film. Well… and some TV and geek speak. But that’s par for the course around here, right?
Well let’s dig in- Film Noir refers to a period or style of film, that portrayed a “darkness and cynicism that was not seen before“. A harsh view of reality and a disillusionment that was felt by the American people following World War II colored the medium; rejecting the happy go lucky style of propaganda previously produced during this period. Interestingly, though the style has decreased immensely over the years, several modern films fit- Blade Runner being one of the stand-outs along with L.A. Confidential (a more obvious choice to fit the category).
I am by no means an expert on film or genre- I like what I like. And I like Noir films. There is something beautiful about the simplicity of films from the 1940’s, but the grittiness of Noir films… stunning.
So why is this a topic of discussion today? Because one of my favorite actresses is currently creating, producing, starring in, and presenting for funding help a piece of noir. Well, actually it’s a noir spoof. Which, honestly, makes me want to see it even more. I had the opportunity to chat with Kirsten Vangsness (best known for her role on Criminal Minds) about the kickstarter campaign for Kill Me, Deadly.
What was the inspiration for Kill Me, Deadly?
Kill Me, Deadly was originally a play. I’m a member of a theatre company in Hollywood called “Theatre of NOTE”, and one of the writers- who’s also a fellow actor- his name is Bill Robens , he wrote Kill Me, Deadly. I was cast in it- the first time I played Mona Livingston was at 11:30 at night, to like 10 people in the audience and then, he kept writing more scenes and it became a full length play. Then, a few months later, we were all talking about it; about trying to do a movie- because I’m lucky enough to have this fancy job now. I’ve been making art with these people for years before I was on Criminal Minds– and we were like, ‘well, why don’t we try to do Kill Me, Deadly’. And we thought well that’s crazy because it’s a period piece and it would have to be in black and white. And we thought we’ll just shoot this one scene.
I basically went to my business manager and I said, ‘I’m taking out a chunk of money’ and I paid for the whole thing. And even though it was a short- just a scene- we made sure that every single person involved was paid. It was a legitimate thing. And then we showed that; we started to show that to people- cuz we didn’t know what to do, we’d thought we’ll just shoot this scene… It was just us, with a couple of people involved that were interested in filming and stuff. Darrett Sanders, who’s our director- he’s one of the actors in the movie, he just happens to have an amazing eye… So like, we shot that and we just started showing people and I remember I went to work and I showed everybody the thing and Joe Mantegna came over to me and said, ‘I will sign a letter of intent in blood’ and Matthew, he saw it and he just pulled me aside and was like, ‘you can’t let anyone does this movie- you guys have to do this!’ And then I was like, ‘OK, I get it’ but I have certain standards which I hold dear, which is I – I was a substitute teacher before I had this job, to me, a lot of money was $350 a week cuz that meant that I worked 3 days. And I could make my $500 a month rent on my shitty apartment that was an hour and a half drive to go into LA because I couldn’t afford to live in LA. So like, I understand exquisitely what it means to be a starving artist. And I could not, in good conscience, ask a group of people who were in the play and were now going to be in this movie, ‘take 5 days off of work and don’t get paid’. So we made it a legitimate, union movie. Everybody who was not union became union. Everyone got paid the same amount- Joe Mantegna gets paid the same amount as Nick Williams, everybody gets paid the same. And that, to me, is the right thing to do. So then when we- I’m launching into this story and you didn’t ask me anything, is that OK?
You’re totally fine, I’m crossing off questions as you’re bringing them up.
OK, thank you, Elizabeth. Thank you for understanding me- I’ve had coffee. So what ended up happening is that we started to make a movie completely backwards, I just went and took as much money out of the bank that I could without getting in trouble. You know… they just… I make a lot of money. But still- when you take money out of the bank, you can’t just … I took as much as I- you know what’s crazy, no one does this! So when I said I’m going to fund the whole movie myself, people were like, ‘no you can’t’ and I was like, ‘I have more money’, ‘but that’ll cut into your…’ ‘ yeah, it will, it’ll be rough to like pay for these things BUT it’s MY thing’.
So what we are doing on Kickstarter- we’ve shot half the movie. We have 80% of the funding done. Mostly by me and then two other people that have put in smaller amounts, but still certainly lofty. So we’re raising the last 20% outside of me. And why we are doing that is because we’re a producing group of eight people, and it’s like everybody wants to be involved, and well we come from the theatre- and theatre is very community oriented- so it seems like the right thing to do.
This is not, however- although there’s nothing wrong with it- this is not a vanity project. This is a group of artists, I happen to be the well-known one. I do this movie, I do these things, with these people, without anybody watching- I just did a play, you know six months ago with half of them in it- and I do this whether fancy day job is there or not. It just seems like a beautiful way to get people involved. I thought… we had a little moral disconnect for a while- I certainly did- but then I started to see how excited; I mean this has been really great- everyone is so excited! My mom’s teacher friends are, you know, it’s so great for them to be able to go ‘I put $5 in! and I am now involved in the movie!’, in a way that they are comfortable being involved in a movie. Yeah, it’s true you’re not gonna be like a major fancy investor but I don’t know that everybody really wants to be. Like, involved in all the shares- maybe they just want to be involved and get something out if- you know, certainly, if people wanted to be involved in that way then they can drop tens of thousands of dollars.
And someone has!
Yeah! People can put in smaller amounts of money but still be somehow involved in it which I think is really fantastic. And this is not- this is not a typical… I don’t know that this has been done. I don’t know if this kind of thing has been done- where, it’s like, we have a shorthand; we’ve been making things together for years. For years! This is just a meeting of grass roots starving artists meet fancy Hollywood. And I am insisting on the fancy Hollywood part, where it’s like we’re going to treat this like a regular Hollywood film, everyone’s going to get paid, and before anyone gives us money we’re just going to figure it out, with my money until that happens. I don’t know if that’s ever been done. I would really like to see- I want there to be more movies that are created- and art.
And it’s a really neat movie- it’s a film noir spoof, it’s a cross between Airplane and Young Frankenstein in a blender with some Rocky Horror. It’s a very- this is a movie that you will sit in a theater with a bunch of people and want to watch again and again and again. And I’m not just saying that- cuz the scenes that people watch, they want to watch again and again and again. Like I said, we already have half of it filmed, you can see it- and it’s absolutely true to the 1940’s- black & white, the costumes, the lighting, the lingo, everything. The speed of the comedy is very modern cuz if you’ve sat down and watched an old movie anytime recently, you notice how they’ll have a scene and someone will… it’s just slow, you know what I mean? There’s like a shot of their hand holding a letter. And then it will cut to this… and it’s slow. This movie is not; it’s not slow. And it’s a real film- it’s got heart, it’s sweet, it’s got a beautiful ending, but it’s silly as hell.
It’s Noir… is Mona the femme fatale?
Yes, I play Mona Livingston who is the… she’s the black widow of the story. There is a Veronica Lake kind of a female that also is in the movie. The joyous thing about being half done shooting is that we have it almost completely cast that we still are up in the air about, but we only have 11 more days of filming and it will happen in August, so … I play, Mona, she’s called the black widow of the story, and she’s kind of… gosh… well, when I auditioned first when we were doing the late night, I kind of came up with this voice- I do a pretty good Judy Garland and I was kind of messing around with like an old time kind of voice, and I was like, it’s kind of like Judy Garland, but “crazy Judy Garland”. (I cannot describe the voice better than that, by the way- I was laughing hysterically while Kirsten gave an example)
I was like, ‘I’m good at that sound’ and I noticed when I was talking like that it made me act really strange. And that’s how I sort of found Mona, you know that kind of thing- that’s how I work acting-wise, I kind of get a thing and that’s that characters thing, so if I need to kind of get there really fast, it becomes a habit. Penelope’s is… her voice is a little higher than mine; Penelope and I are very very similar so it’s kind of hard to sometimes watch the show and not go ‘come on, Kirsten! That’s totally Kirsten!’ But her voice is little higher than mine, there’s certain physicality things that are different- like, Mona, it’s that voice. She’s like this totally erractic… She’s a nut bag. I can’t even… And she’s constantly killing people. I mean… this movie is so much fun, and I get to play… she’s the funnest.
All the characters are fantastic in this movie. We have Paul F. Tompkins is in it. He plays “Jaime”, who is the gardener of “Lady Clairmont”, who is played by Leslie Ann Down- who is this very beautiful, just you know sexually powerful, mother of the Veronica Lake character. The characters in this are fantastic.
And it’s great because it’s all theatre actors, everybody we cast are all theatre people, so when Joe- Joe Mantegna plays “Bugsy Siegel”- when we had Joe do his stuff, he’s the same as all of us and I knew that, ya know, when we cast him. I was like, ‘oh, he’ll fit right in’. We do one take. That’s why we’re only gonna need eleven days. We shoot so fast because none of us understand in our minds that you get another turn like you do in television and movies.
You might’ve noticed that I did not ask a lot of questions about Kill Me, Deadly and the Kickstarter campaign- I didn’t have to; I’m pretty sure Kirsten was reading my mind. She answered everything I was going to ask before I could. But I still had questions.
How do you feel about the trend of Video on Demand, Netflix, and Amazon Instant creating content? Does it make it easier for you to create?
I don’t think that impedes art in any way. I get concerned about the distribution of wealth. I get very confused about that- where I find that the people that have the least amount of lines and the smaller part, it’s inordinately more difficult for them to get a paycheck that’s worth anything than it is for someone like me, with a show that’s been on for 9 years. I get a little worried about that because the fact that people can, like I can just get on my iPad and watch Netflix and you watch something again and again and again and those ads pop up. I always think about that- I remember I got this commercial like ages ago for like Borders and it just ran on the computer and I remember being like, ‘I just got paid’- it was a good check; you could live on it for like maybe a month or something, but people could watch it like a million times and I don’t get paid for that, not like you do for- you know, the distribution thing, like… who’s getting that money? I really hope that part works out. I feel like the more ways, you know, to do a thing- I don’t believe that that hurts anything. I actually think that the prevention of having stuff out a million different ways is sometimes the problem. You know?
Right, right, so all these new web series and what not coming out- Vampire Mob, Shelf Life, etc- that’s of the good because we’re getting it out there, more people are having an opportunity to create and what-not but it comes back to money.
Yeah, I think that that’s great. I mean, it’s great that we have all this technology now that let’s you do web series and short films and all that stuff, online, with a community of people, with much less money, using your ideas… like theatre. You know what I mean? It’s cool because you get to reach out to people and they get to see your wares but in terms of like- maybe, I’m wrong, but a community of people. I think twitter is grand, obviously cuz I am all up in its business- and I think that all that stuff, I think Instagram, Facebook, web series and things and all the different social media stuff that we can engage in, is fantastic. It’s its own world; it’s like a virtual city and country and universe and it’s great to play in, but it’s not… there also is a more separate world; it’s a sensorial world that’s based on the way things smell, and feel in your hand, and people being physically close to you that is also important.
And it’s the disconnect between things happening so much from the neck up, I feel like it’s important; and that’s why I think theatre is so cool, because it’s much more neck down. You know what I mean? And I mean, you can watch a TV show, you can watch a web series , you can see something on twitter that someone sent you and you can have a feeling that happens from your neck down, absolutely. I just feel like it’s a slippery slope.
You know, I can go on a thing and post a picture of myself with grand lighting and a filter and people think that that’s me, you know what I mean? I’m shooting these videos for Kickstarter and a lot of times I’m shooting them, I’m running out the door, whatever, if I had shifted the angle of the iPhone one inch, people would see the kind of squalor that I am living in right now, because I haven’t had time to clean my little house.
That’s what I love about Kill Me, Deadly– we’ve always said it has to be in a movie theater. Human beings are going to have to go to a movie theater and sit down next to each other and have a sensorial experience of feeling; and air hit them, and watching the film, like that’s important, you know? We already know we want to do “curtain raisers” and stuff with it, so we can incorporate theatre with it, because it’s so much in our blood.
Amazing. I have to say that I am flat out floored by how passionate she is about this project. If I hadn’t already been interested in it because a) I love creating art, b) Kirsten is one of my favorite actresses and artists and I think she should be in everything or at least in most things, and c) how could I not support a noir spoof???? Anyways, the point is that her passion and excitement for the project are infectious. Go now. Seriously. Go to the kickstarter page right now and donate. Choose the funding level that you are comfortable with- every $1 helps! You can even base your decision according to what incentive you like best- want to own a copy of the film on DVD/Blu Ray? Donate at the $50 or $60 range. You want a personal video from Kirsten? Donate $250. Got an extra $3,000 burning a hole in your pocket? Well, you could come out to LA and have an old fashioned Indian Leg Wrestling contest with Kirsten. Seriously. I don’t make this stuff up. And there are tons of other options. But time is a factor. Please, go now and donate. This project needs to happen.
But before I turn into a telethon host for PBS, let’s get back to my interview with Kirsten. There are always more questions to be asked!
What is the flat out geekiest thing you own or know?
Flat out geekiest… well, I’m a different kind of geek… I’m looking around, uh… I’m a different kind of geek. Like Penelope is a technophile; I am like a total Luddite. So it’s like, I’m looking around and… because of Penelope I am that person, I’m like ‘OK, what is the new fangled what-not’; I’m actually sad, I have to get her- I don’t feel sad, but I have to get her another phone, I have to get an Android (YAY!) cuz she doesn’t have an Android.
I love Android.
I know! She has an iPhone but she needs and Android, so I actually have to do that- that’s on my list before I go back to work. Um… really the geekiest thing that I have is the sheer amount of books that I have. You could walk into my house and be like, ‘oh she’s a nerd’ cuz the sheer amount of paper and um… oh! You know what it is, I’m staring at it right now- I have basically, since I was in fourth grade I’ve written in a journal- I’m staring at… I have a bookshelf of, I don’t even, just I guess… and I write in it almost everyday, so I have probably 200 journals in there.
That’s probably my geekiest thing; that I write. I do a lot of journal writing.
And I have a lot of books. I have dictionaries. I have a lot of dictionaries, and thesauruses, and pieces of paper. Like the sheer amount of paper- I’m not even talking about books now, you’re making me look around my room, I’m like… I’ve got a whole piece of paper that’s got like, “a murder of crows”, where’d it go?, it’s got like all the different collections of things. I like to know what they are. And I have a whole list of French verbs. I have a whole thing, stapled together, of French verbs, so that’s probably like my geekiest thing- the sheer amount of paper.
And right here I have a “communications chart manual”. Yeah, I have things like that. I have books about… I have about 16 books just about vaginas. Um, yep… yep. I have a lot of books. I have a “Harry Potter cookbook” right next to that. Vaginas.
Um, yeah, I guess what I’m saying is that wherever I look in this room right now, I’m a nerd and a geek. Now I’m staring at my giant poster from Scholastic Books, that I’ve had since I was in fifth grade- the map of Narnia. Yeah, so really… I’m a nerd.
Love it, I love it! I was looking around my living room as I was listening and the geekiest thing in my living room right now is… I have a painting of a bed bug that Tom Lenk did.
I have a Ren & Stimpy doll that I’m looking at that Tom Lenk gave me, right next to my Power Puff Girl. I’m a… I’m a… Yeah.
That made me think, I was looking at my Kickstarters before I got on the phone with you, cuz I had to see how my Kickstarters were doing- including Kill Me, Deadly– and I just found one. A girl is doing an illustrated copy of slime molds (note- hopefully this is the right campaign!) and I got so excited, I was like, ‘this has to be done! We need this!’ So yeah. I’m a nerd because I really think the world needs an illustrated copy of slime molds, which they do.
They do. I agree. I love it.
Apparently that project is successfully funded, however, the examples of art are truly beautiful- you should click the link and check it out. But now I have to turn serious- time for some girl power!
In the last 20 years, we’ve seen women in action roles go from cheesy to fun to powerful- think VIP or Sheena on TV, to Buffy and the ladies of Smallville, to Lara Croft and the ladies of Criminal Minds. What do you think is behind the shift and the acceptance? Or has it not been accepted fully? Is the damsel in distress no more?
I feel like it would depend upon your audience. I feel like some people are comfortable with a woman as long as she looks pretty, and her body looks a way that it can both hold strength but also you could put her in a little black dress and she could be soft again. I feel like there’s a difference between masculine and feminine energy, and I’m not talking about male/female, I’m talking masculine and feminine energy and it living together.
And power and what power is… I don’t really think that power is a real thing, meaning power implies that you can overpower someone, I feel like… I don’t feel… what am I trying to say? There’s a difference between having a woman who is like, ‘I am so potent in my sense of self; I am so centered, I am so authentic, you’re doing a bad thing, I happen to do a bunch of dead lifts on a regular basis so I can kick you in the stomach and prevent you from doing that bad thing, and that’s what I’m going to do, but also, I’m not completely removed from all of my feelings, I haven’t manned out- I’m not like that inside, I’m not just a guy’. That sounds bad, cuz I love men.
They are wonderful, I do enjoy them.
Yeah. I’m trying to say that, you know, that a woman is really powerful but then her insides are all numbed out and she’s not a human being, I think is not reasonable. But it depends on how the person looks at them. I mean on our show- you know, Elizabeth, I don’t have an answer.
[Referring to some recent representations of strong women] But I do think that they’re emotionally manipulative and don’t totally… they glamourize violence, and sort of twist the power because you can say, ‘yeah, there’s a girl and she’s kicking ass’ and also you can say, ‘yeah, and their kicking ass against a guy who just took another girl and she’s scantily clad…’ it’s like, it’s doing both things. Which is a very confusing message.
You know, the thing I always liked about Buffy is that it’s so outlandish. We’re talking about me, personally, this is my personal opinion. Buffy is so outlandish, I’m like all in because she went, ‘I’m gonna kill you, demon! And then I’m gonna make out with my vampire boyfriend’ and it’s all good. And on my show- when Bailey Chase was on that show it somehow seemed one thing and then Bailey Chase is on my show and he’s shooting me… it’s… but it is the same thing.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vjqq0njFF-c]
It’s just sometimes harder for me to process because it feels more real, harder for me to understand that female power thing. And that’s one of those things that happen, you know, out in the world with each other, where we need to spend more time interacting with each other because I do think it’s amazing when people have beautiful legs that they’ve done a lot of wonderful things with, that’ve made them really strong, and help them to kick someone to get them to stop doing something. I think that’s amazing. So… I want more of that.
I also want people to not have reasons to kick people.
I think that women do have more powerful roles but I don’t know if it necessarily helps because boys are writing a lot of those things… not enough girls are writing those kick-ass things. But I do think that on our show, like, AJ Cook has been really bad ass. JJ has been taking names!
Yes. She kicked some ass this year.
I don’t know what I just said, so hopefully I made some sense.
At NerdLush, we like to end our interviews with a round of random questions~
What food would you recommend to someone to try even though you know there is something about it that would squick them, but you know they will actually love it?
Canned Jack Fruit, cooked down, with barbeque sauce. You get it at an Indian store. Tastes like shredded pork. It’s amazing. I’m a vegetarian- it really does taste like shredded pork, you can make carnitas out of it, everything.
What is your favorite color?
Blue green black purple
What is your favorite flower?
Rhododendron roses. I just made ‘em up.
Pirates or ninjas?
Coffee or tea?
Coffee. Tea. Oh, god! What time of day is it? Shit. Fuck, fuck fuck! Um… coffee.
Sweet or sour?
Scuba diving or sky diving?
Oh god! I’m afraid…Scuba diving. I just did both in my imagination.
Spring or Fall?
Oh… god! Which one??
You should’ve heard when I did this with Tara and Yuri and they were giving opposite answers and I’m like, ‘oh shit, did you guys just divorce over this?’
Yeah. I’m gonna say… I’m gonna say fall.
Childhood ambition – oh, to be an actress.
Soundtrack – what isn’t my soundtrack? OK, one of my big soundtrack songs is “Confidence in me” which is from the Sound of Music soundtrack
If you haven’t already gone and donated- please do, time is short and I really think this is a worthwhile project.
Oh, and I have to point out… that scene where Garcia gets shot? It leads to one of my favorite scenes- and eventually my favorite adorable nerd couple ever. ❤ And I swear I’m not biased at all.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqtbN_VHXVA]
ETA: The campaign was successfully funded