In celebration of the NewFilmmakers Los Angeles screenings at Sunset Gower Studios this month, we're conducting a series of Q&A Features and this week we're bringing you Screenwriter Dan Spurgeon of "BUGBABY" as he discusses the film, goals and upcoming projects.
Tell us a little bit about your project and how long you've been working on it.
BUGBABY first began its life as a short play, written for a benefit performance in Summer of 2009. Struck with the swine flu shortly after being given a week's deadline to write the play, Dan's fever somehow produced this weird tale of a sitcom family with a newborn that just happens to be a giant insect. Although he was asked, Dan prefers not to direct his own stage work, so the producer found Becky through the sponsoring theatre company. Becky responded to the material and brought a lot of creative new elements to the staging. The play received a great response from enthusiastic audiences, and Becky and Dan began talking about making it into a short film. Annick, our producer, and Drew, our executive producer, were brought on board shortly after, money was raised through the generous donations of family and friends, Mink Stole graciously accepted the role of Mrs. Tottifot (which was rewritten for the screen with her in mind), an intrepid and talented crew was assembled, and the project was shot in February 2010 and completed a few months later.
Is there anyone you'd like to thank for helping out with this film?
Literally everyone who worked on BUGBABY did it for peanuts or less, and they all deserve thanks for their fantastic work. Specifically, though, our donors deserve kudos for their unwavering and generous support of such a peculiar little film, and we are forever grateful to the wonderful Mink Stole for agreeing to appear in the movie.
How does it feel to have your film part of the NewFilmmakers Screening at Sunset Gower Studios?
It's great! Although BUGBABY has screened at dozens of festivals internationally (and even won a few awards), many members of the LA-based crew have not yet been able to view the finished film. We are extremely grateful to NewFilmmakers LA for giving this chance not just to them, but for also for even more audiences to experience our odd and amusing story.
What inspires you?
The glory of the world around us that allows each of us to see god in each and every piece of his creation... Nah, I'm bullshitting you. This film was a collaborative effort, and I'm sure each person involved would have a different answer to that question. However, as the old adage goes, inspiration isn't nearly as important as perspiration in creating quality work.
Who are your influences and who do you admire?
BUGBABY has many, many influences - I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and other mid-century TV sitcoms; Tales from the Darkside; Eraserhead; Little Shop of Horrors; and about a bazillion exploitation grindhouse flicks watched in grainy quality on VHS, lost save the indelibly weird images that flicker through hazy, drug-addled memories. And as you can see merely by the casting, the work of John Waters was a huge influence from concept through execution, and probably the most collectively admired by the filmmakers.
What lessons have you learned from the industry so far?
None, obviously, because we're still doing it. Or, perhaps, the lessons are plentiful, and we are simply morons.
If you could collaborate with anybody, who would it be?
I'm sure all the core team members would have different answers on this, though I'm sure they would have one thing in common: extraordinarily talented and respected artists who try to change destructive cultural mindsets with their art, or have succeeded in doing it. That, or literally anyone with money who's willing to pay us.
What is the toughest experience you've ever had to overcome?
What, like, in the movie biz? Or with that "ever" included in the question, is this finally a chance to tell you about a childhood raised by blind immigrant alcoholic lesbian prostitutes in a twister-savaged double-wide filled with bloodthirsty housecats, which was overcome in a comfortable ninety minutes because (thank god) everyone realizes the dork is really a model once the eyeglasses come off?
The story is a natural tour-de-force of obvious audience manipulation, transparent themes, shallow emotions and less satisfying content than a rice cake. And Tyler Perry has expressed interest - or something resembling interest, or possibly disdain, it's hard to say. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.
Seriously, though - the cast and core crew are all educated, comfortably middle-class, able-bodied people with jobs and families. Whatever obstacles we may have overcome just don't rank that high when you look at the bigger picture of the world, and what hundreds of millions or even billions of less fortunate people have to endure on a daily basis for years or a lifetime.
What is the best piece of advice someone has given to you?
Well, this is a question that everyone would have their own answer for - so, lucky readers, you get two answers instead of just one!
Don't take a job in entertainment just to get into the industry, unless you're doing what you really want to do. I didn't listen - and totally understood a couple of years later, when someone referred to me as "the receptionist who writes plays" instead of a playwright.
What advice would you give to new filmmakers starting out in the industry?
It's in your best interest to be related to someone in the industry, or a have a large amount of familial wealth to start yourself off. If you do not have these qualities, set aside a few months to acquire them before embarking on your career. It'll be smooth sailing for you from then on!
Where can we expect to see you next?
Dan and Drew are currently concentrating on the primary work of The Visceral Company, which is live theatre focusing on the strange and macabre. Their next project, a two-actor version of Henry James's terrifying classic "The Turn of the Screw," opens May 10 at the Underground Theater in Hollywood.
Let our readers know where they can find more information about you and your projects.
The Visceral Company is online at www.thevisceralcompany.com, and BUGBABY has a dedicated website at www.bugbabymovie.com. You can also find us on Facebook and Twitter (though having a staff of two, we're often not as active online as we probably should be!).
For more information on the screenings in Los Angeles, see below:
NewFilmmakers Los Angeles invites you to join the Monday April 16th 2012 film screening series and after-party event at Sunset Gower Studios in Hollywood with a filmmaker lounge throughout the evening.
5:30PM Shorts Program Pre-Screening Reception
6:00PM Shorts Program #1 Screening:
* Dumpling (Dir. Wesley Du)
* Bugbaby (Dir. Rebecca Lorenne)
* Ticket to Hell (Dir. Enrico Natale)
* The Contract (Dir. Ryan Goldstein)
* A Very Office Christmas (Dir. Maital Falkovitz)
7:00PM Feature Film Program #1 Pre-Screening Reception
7:27PM Shorts Film Program #1 After-Party
7:30PM Feature Film Program #1 Screening:
* The Maiden Danced to Death (Dir. Endre Hules)
9:15PM Feature Film Program #2 Pre-Screening Reception
9:35PM Feature Film Program #1 After-Party
9:45PM Feature Film Program #2 Screening:
* The Mighty Mavericks (Dir. Casey Kriley)
11:20PM Q&A with Feature Film Program #2 Filmmakers
11:35PM Feature Film Program #2 After Party
You will have the opportunity to meet the directors of each film, the actors and other crew + participate in a live audience Q&A.
There are pre-receptions and after-parties for each program. Admissions to the programs are only $6 which includes the screening ticket and access to the filmmaker lounge. Visit the NewFilmmakers LA Official Website at www.NFMLA.org for more information and to purchase your ticket now! http://www.newfilmmakersla.com/tickets.html
About the Author
Formerly an editor at Demand Media, writer at Citysearch, The Examiner, LA Youth Newspaper and proofreader at The Los Angeles Daily News, Christy Buena decided to start Disarray Magazine because she missed writing what she wanted. From hiring writers, to contacting publicists and making assignments, Christy is responsible for the editorial strategy of Disarray Magazine. Get to know the team of talented contributors.
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