Filmmaker Q&A Venita Ozols-Graham

by Phillip Wilcox "Our Movie Demon"

Comment

DCP:

I would like to commend all of you who worked on Black Widows! What a great movie! Where did the story stem from?

 

VG:

Hi and thank you Phillip. We're glad you enjoyed it! I was approached by a young woman who acted in a short I directed about a script she'd written called 'Widows'. She said it was based on an experience she had...she was date raped by a young man she'd had sex with already. There was no way she could explain that to the police so she and her friends devised ways to get revenge on the rapist. Their plan was a good one but illegal and she decided to write about it instead of actually doing it. Hence, 'Black Widows' was born.

 

DCP:

Can you take us through the process of what it took to get the film made?

 

VG:

Blood, sweat and many tears. After I helped her develop the script for about a year, I told her she was ready to pitch it. She said, "Great, now it'll sit on producer's desks with the other 26,000 scripts submitted. Why don't we just make it ourselves?" I'd completed producing and directing that short so I knew I could do it. But the chief obstacle was that a movie is far more expensive than a short film. But her determination and my desire to direct a film lit the fuse and we agreed to do it. I started by making an crowd funding video and page and off we went. That was enough to start us filming. I've worked in Hollywood for a long time and have a lot of friends and connections, so I called in every favor (and then some) to pull this off.

 

DCP:

The cast was fantastic! What was the casting process like, especially for the three friends; Darcy, Nora, and Olivia?

 

VG:

One of the interesting things about this movie is that the three lead actresses were already friends. In fact, Jordan (the author) wrote the characters exactly as the girls really are in real life...Nora eats all the time, Olivia is somewhat prim, Jordan has a unique sense of style. The three leads were already cast right out of the gate because the characters were based on them. The rest of the cast were either actors we knew plus we had a casting session to lock in a few of the other's.

 

DCP:

Was there anything specifically about the story/script that you responded to the most, that just got you excited to direct the film?

 

VG:

Yes, the very dark and real humor that comes out of the situations they find themselves in. This movie felt a little like one of my favorites, 'Very Bad Things', in that just when you think it can't get worse, it does. I also especially liked the female friendships. The girls were so bonded that they'd walk off a cliff for each other.

 

DCP:

What was the most challenging part about the making of Black Widows? What was the most fun?

 

VG:

The most challenging thing was EVERYTHING, lol! I  felt like Sisyphus, pushing that boulder up hill. When you don't have a lot of money, you're beholding to the kindness of people. Locations dropped out, crews drop out when they get paying jobs, etcetera. I had to do craft service (feeding the crew) as well as produce and direct. One day I counted 11 hats I was wearing.

 

The most fun was EVERYTHING as well. Every day was a challenge and a victory. And there were moments of absolute hilarity. At one point, one of the actresses did something so funny none of us could stop laughing for five minutes. Slowed down production, but it was worth it. Oh, and watching three beautiful women running down a hillside at night in high heels is hilarious. Lucky no one twisted an ankle but God, they looked like Praying Mantis's on speed, working their way down.

 

DCP:

What made you want to be a filmmaker?

 

VG:

From the time I came out of the womb, I've been directing. I directed anything that would allow me to direct it :)  I was an art major in college and had to take an 8 mm film course as part of my major. It was there that my never ending love affair with filmmaking began. I flew to California and got into the Directors Guild of America's Assistant Director's Training Program and was off and running in a life long career.

 

DCP:

What are some films that have influenced your work as a director?

 

VG:

I've been a horror movie fan since childhood. I've seen almost every one ever made. But my biggest influence was Roman Polanski's early films. Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby, Knife in the Water, Cul-De-Sac. Horror and comedy married is difficult but brilliant when it works. Rocky Horror Picture Show is one movie I can watch over and over.

 

DCP:

What inspires you as a person as well as an artist?

 

VG:

Working with fellow artists to create something bigger than yourself. Kindness. Crazy senses of humor.The outrageous beauty in nature (i.e. parrots and flowers). People who help one another. Animals (I'm an animal rights activist).

 

DCP:

Can you tell us about any upcoming projects you may have on the horizon?

 

VG:

Oh yes! That short I made? It was actually a segment from a horror movie I wrote called 'Used Body Parts'. We are in the midst of getting funding to make the whole feature. Additionally, I wrote a thriller called 'Spider lake' that is ready to be produced as well. I'm hoping next year will be a two-fer for me!

 

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