Women in Horror Month has a very simple – and very sensible – goal: a world wherein all individuals are equally given the opportunity to create, share, and exploit their concept of life, pain, and freedom of expression. It’s no secret that the world of horror — and horror films in particular — has been dominated by males, and initiatives like Women in Horror Month — and the efforts of some incredibly talented women who are unwilling to be marginalized — have slowly pushed the doors open. Film-makers Marcy Boyle and Rachel Holzman (collectively known as DPYX) certainly have some strong opinions on the subject, and poured some light on the limited options of women horror directors last year with their open letter to MsInTheBiz.com (which was later reprinted on Jezebel). After checking out their feature debut NOBODY CAN COOL, I chatted with the pair about how they met, their experiences working on a microbudget, and what’s coming next for DPYX.
Sweetback (SB): February is Women in Horror Month. How important do you think it is for fans and writers recognize the female contribution to the horror industry, and what do you think it’ll take to shift the boy’s club mentality that dominates the genre?
DPYX: Fans and writers who are clued in to Women in Horror Month (WiHM) seem to appreciate being turned on to films that aren’t getting mainstream attention. Success in this industry depends not only on the quality of the film, but also the number of people who see it. Right now, women who make genre movies are underground filmmakers. Executives who greenlight studio films don’t realize how many women love horror, thrillers, sci-fi, action movies, and grew up watching them as their favorites. It’s natural that this female audience would produce some filmmakers (like us) who want to kick ass, blow things up and direct a James Bond movie.
In terms of what it will take to change the “boys club” mentality and give women more directing opportunities, women directors need visibility. “Visibility is credibility” was a slogan used by a group of women in the DGA in the 1980’s who were fighting the same prejudices. Progress comes when you can build on a success. Women who have directed well known hard edged movies are seen as exceptions, from Ida Lupino’s noir THE HITCH-HIKER (1953) all the way up to any Kathryn Bigelow movie. But these exceptions never inspired the search for the next big edgy female director in the same way that say, the success of Quentin Tarantino, paved the way for Darren Aronofsky, Eli Roth, Robert Rodriguez, etc.
SB: Speaking of that issue.. At the end of 2013 the two of you got significant attention by writing into MS. IN THE BIZ (later picked up by Jezebel) about the lack of opportunities and respect for the female impact on horror. Were you surprised at the amount of attention the article(s) got? What prompted you to write-in in the first place?
DPYX: As a micro budget movie with no marketing budget, we were grateful for the attention. We wrote the article because it’s hard to believe with the numbers of female directed indie films out there (in 2013 the DGA had over 1,100 female members–and we like many other indies, are not even members), almost none of the women are being hired for bigger jobs. The studio heads and many indie producers can’t even name female candidates for directing gigs. A lack of visibility-the publicity leading to name recognition, has prevented all but a literal handful of women from even being considered.
To repeat ourselves: women in 2014 are underground filmmakers. We want access to the big show. As movie fans, aren’t we glad one time underground/B-movie filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, and Brian De Palma (and almost every other interesting director) were given bigger budget opportunities?
SB: The two of you met while attending Columbia University. What initially drew the two of you together? Was there an immediate recognition of similar interests? What do you see as your individual strengths and weaknesses?
DPYX: Our friendship started with our mutual interest in films. We went to movies together all the time – especially double features at Film Forum, Cinema Village, and the old Chinatown theater in NY.
New York City has a vibrant revival repertory scene from museums like MOMA to back alley pop-ups. We both liked the experience of going to the theater and watching films with an audience, especially when people were shouting at the screen, and we also liked mining places like Kim’s Videos for hard to find movies.
SB: You’ve combined — Voltron-style — to be credited as DPYX. Why the singular moniker, and how did you come up with the name? Is is a conscious attempt to break away from the expectations and labeling that can come from a traditionally male or female name?
DPYX: Haha, Voltron…love that. Gender didn’t play into it at all. The name was whimsical, and we hope easier to remember than our two names. It also reflects the inherent collaborative nature of filmmaking and that we work together to make a singular vision. “DPYX” itself was inspired by the Karen Black movie THE PYX (1973) filtered through a New York accent. It also reflects an appreciation for the digital production methods that gave us the means to make a feature for very little money.
SB: While featuring three-dimensional female characters, NOBODY CAN COOL doesn’t do much to explicitly say that it’s directed by women. Would you prefer to include a more explicitly feminist tone (or content) to your features, or is that less of a concern than simply making interesting, engaging genre pictures?
DPYX: Our goal is to make entertaining and visually dynamic movies. Genre movies often lend themselves to a subversive voice and we like to push the envelope, too. We think it’s important that women on screen are allowed to be depicted in a wide variety of behaviors: “the good, the bad, and the ugly”. We want to make movies for a wide audience, so it’s great that men and women respond equally well to NOBODY CAN COOL. Most people who have seen our movie don’t realize it was directed by women, and when they find out, they get excited. There are so many men out there who do support women and have helped get the word out about our movie.
SB: Let’s talk about the more traditional difficulties of creating low-budget cinema. You filmed NOBODY CAN COOL over 14 days in what appeared to be a fairly limited number of locations. How did you get a hold of the main cabin location, and was it difficult to keep things visually interesting considering how much of the action takes place in just a few rooms?
DPYX: Finding a location was a ballbuster. We needed a 2 level cabin within the 30 mile radius of Los Angeles so we wouldn’t have to provide housing for the cast/crew. We looked for weeks without any success. Finally, through cruising the real estate ads for houses for sale or rent, we found our location.
We spent a lot of our pre-production time choreographing the camera and designing lighting with our DP, David Starks. We’re big fans of Kubrick and Frankenheimer, so we had plans for more elaborate dolly shots and long takes. Shooting in only 14 days, some of those plans had to be simplified.
SB: More-so than most low-budget horror/suspense films; NOBODY CAN COOL relies heavily on the quality of its acting. How difficult was it to find the right actors for these characters, and how did Nick Principe find his way into the film?
DPYX: One of the great things about casting in LA is that there are a lot of talented people. We worked with all the actors after the casting. “Len” was probably the hardest to cast because the character is a hard edged criminal, but also thoughtful.
Nick initially read for the smaller role of “Mo” and we asked him to do the audition in Russian accent and he did other accents, too. He was able to switch gears quickly. We asked him to come in again and read for “Len”. Nick nailed it.
SB: What’s coming up next for DPYX? And what were the major lessons learned from the creation (and marketing) of NOBODY CAN COOL?
DPYX: Coming up we have some scripts finished (one is a murder mystery set in Jamaica) and we are working on two more right now (an epic Game of Thrones adventure, and a science fiction/horror film). We are very open to directing other people’s scripts, too.
The biggest lesson we learned is to start PR campaign as early as possible. We should have reached out to journalists/critics/bloggers before we finished editing, but we waited until after we had distribution.
SB: For those looking to check out the film.. What’s the best way to do so? Any upcoming screenings readers should look out for?
DPYX: We are available on DVD in the US and Canada at Amazon, CD Universe, some Walmart stores and other major retailers. Our distributor, Osiris Entertainment, just signed a VOD deal, but we aren’t sure of the schedule or specific outlets yet. We’ll have that info when we get it on our Facebook page, Twitter- @nobodycancool or @dpyx and on our website:
We are having a UK Premiere in Edinburgh, Scotland at the Jennifer’s Bodies film festival (Feb. 21-22nd) more information on the schedule and location is on the website: www.jennifers-bodies.blogspot.co.uk/
SB: Anything else to plug?
DPYX: Not that we can announce yet, but please check out www.womeninhorrormonth.com for all the information about filmmakers, writers, and artists involved.
SB: Finally.. NOBODY CAN COOL was your first feature. What advice do you have for other young or inexperienced filmmakers looking to tackle their first feature-length project?
DPYX: The famous advice is to “write what you know”, but we would add to that to write what you have. If you have an old chevy, use that in your script. Live on a farm? Set your movie there. Limit yourself as much as possible, and work within them. Think logistically and acknowledge that moving people and equipment will take up the bulk of your time on set.
- [NO-BUDGET NIGHTMARES] PODCAST #80: PLAGA ZOMBIE (1997) - July 25, 2016