IN HARM'S WAY
By Nathan Cherubino
I've been a fan of B-movies from the time I saw Adam West in ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS. However, the last ten years have been disheartening. Every new no-budget production coming out claims to be the next big underground hit. Hey, who died and made you a cult classic? With the influx of Digital Video there's a new breed of filmmaker out there who make Ed Wood look like Orson Welles.
No-budget producer/director Pat Bishow is one of the few filmmakers today making both watchable and enjoyable DV movies. (I know "watchable" doesn't sound like much praise but in this field it's a top compliment.) Creator of many episodes of THE ADVENTURES OF EL FRENETICO & GO-GIRL has returned with a new work, THE GIRLS FROM H*A*R*M. True, his production values and cinematic technique leave something to be desired, but his films are fun and filled with sincere enthusiasm; something very much lacking with his peers. I caught up with Pat and one of his stars Tina Lee and asked them a few questions about this new type of filmmaking.
Norman Cherubino: What kind of equipment do you use to shoot your movies?
Pat Bishow: In the early '80s I shot on 16mm film. When we did EL FRENETICO that was shot on Hi-8 then later on a format called DVC-Pro. H*A*R*M was filmed on Digital Video.
NC: How and where do you sell your movies?
PB: We have a small distributor, Provisional. It's run by one of the guys who used to run SST records, Joe Carducci. He's a great guy! We're working together to get this thing out. We have a homemade web site (www.amusementfilms.web.com) and since August of '99 we've gotten over 36,000 hits.
NC: Tell me about THE GIRLS FROM H*A*R*M!
PB: We joke that it's the sequel to Gerd Oswald's AGENT FROM H.A.R.M., but really we just stole the title. It's sort of a spy spoof nothing like Austin Powers. More like a cross between THE AVENGERS and ORGY OF THE DEAD.
NC: How is it like ORGY OF THE DEAD?
PB: It's not really. I guess it's like what if you shot THE AVENGERS on a budget like ORGY OF THE DEAD (or half that budget). It's sort of a high tech/low tech kind of film. We knew we couldn't make it look like James Bond with all the gadgets, so we thought we'd have fun with it. Let's make the computers and beebers big and clunky. Let's make the remotes look like they're from the '70s. We wanted to have a real '70s exploitation feel to the film. It takes place in the present but the cars are old, the fashions are mod-ish and the music has a real '70s feel to it.
NC: The acting in your films is terrific. How do you get your actors?
PB: Thank you! Yes, my actors are great! Usually, I use friends but this time we used a lot of new talent. The story goes that we were going to shoot another EL FRENETICO but Frances [Lee, who plays Go-Girl - Ed.] couldn't film this fall. We auditioned a lot of actress to see if we could find a new Go-Girl but I just saw Frances as Go-Girl. We were all very depressed. Then our writer, Jon Sanborne, had the idea of doing an old script he had. I read it, loved it, and then we all got excited. Producer Owen Cooper, Jon, and myself each liked a different woman who had tried out for Go-Girl, so we cast our favorites and made THE GIRLS FROM H*A*R*M!
NC: What was it like working in the no-budget film?
Tina Lee: I had a great time! On bigger budget flicks, you end up waiting around all day for a half-hour amount of work. For GIRLS FROM H*A*R*M we were doing something almost every minute, so it was never boring. There were shoots where I delivered lines for the actor and had to hold up the mic or light reflector shield (I have no idea what it's called).
NC: What was it like working with Pat Bishow? How did you get involved?
TL: I love Pat! He and I totally clicked. He's very task-oriented, but also open-minded, which I dig. We always get stuff done, and you can always count on him to do what he says he will. And, he's extremely inventive and creative - I'm so impressed with his stuff, especially knowing what he had to work with.
NC: How did you prepare for the role? What did you think of the costume? TL: Um, I tried to work out. But I didn't really get into shape until after the movie finished, so that didn't really happen. I started to get the hang of the tone of the script after a while. It's not quite camp, but it's not like playing a real life scenario either. I spent a lot of energy trying not to laugh, which was very hard, because the writing is so funny and everyone is always cracking jokes. We had to retake a lot of scenes, because I'd start laughing in the middle of a fight scene or something. I was a little frightened of the costume initially. For one shoot, we had to get changed in a McDonald's on Long Island on an early Sunday morning-that was a little weird. There were all these people coming from church, and we just looked like these Cure concert freaks. By the end of the movie, I got used to it. Now I think I could go to the deli in it. Actually, I take that back. I still feel like a freak in it.
NC: What is your view of this whole no-budget arena?
TL: I don't know - this is my first experience. It was tons of fun, and so different from anything else I've worked on. No-budget films seem like good training ground - you hone your skills to improvise and think on your feet, because there are constantly unforeseen obstacles coming up. I have a lot of respect for people who pull their act together to make a film; it's a lot of hard work.
NC: Did you do your own stunts? There's a scene when you're jumping around fire. What was that like?
TL: Yeah, we all did our own stunts and fight scenes. As for the fire scene, I didn't know I was doing that until I got outside and saw everyone lighting wood on fire. It's kind of like, "Okay Tina, just land around here, and we'll throw these at you." "Oh, okay." I was getting over a breakup at the time, so actually, somersaulting past flames was a welcome distraction.
NC: In closing, Pat, what would you like to say about the production?
PB: It's a labor of love! It's a lot of shooting with no money and trying to get it out. I'm very happy with the result! Louise Millmann usually plays the villains in my movies and Soomi Kim plays the hero, so for this one we switched it around. It worked great! I hope folks will want to see it.