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An Interview with Christopher Bickel, Director of Bad Girls

by Mike Haberfelner

March 2021

Films directed by Christopher Bickel on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Bad Girls - in a few words, what is it about?

 

It's a psychedelic delinquent road movie about ex-strippers on a crime/mayhem spree.

 

Your movie draws strongly from yesteryear's B movies of the bad girl variety - why that, and some of your genre favourites?

 

My favorite movies are genre films. Particularly from the decade between 1974 and 1984. I think that time period was the pinnacle of Western art, music, and culture. I particularly love genre film and all the things I love seep out into my own work. Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat ... Kill! Kill! predates that decade, but it's an obvious influence on Bad Girls. I love Jack Hill's women in prison and blaxploitation movies. His work is a big influence.

 

(Other) sources of inspiration when writing Bad Girls?

 

Aside from Faster, Pussycat ... Kill! Kill! I could point directly to Greg Araki's Doom Generation as an inspiration for Bad Girls. I like the sense of absurdity in that movie. I like to work in absurd worlds that are similar to but not quite our own.

 

What can you tell us about Bad Girls' co-writer Shane Silman, and what was your collaboration like?

 

Shane had written a stage play many years ago called Girl Gang Rampage which was sort of a campy parody of a Russ Meyer-type story. We were both going to produce and star in it as a stage play, but the theater where we were going to stage it pulled out of the deal. I don't know if they found it offensive or what. The script ended up on a shelf for a long while. I was looking for ideas of things to work on after my first film, The Theta Girl, and I remembered Shane's play. I asked him if I could take a crack at re-writing it for the screen. I ended up keeping some of the characters and set pieces, but took it in what I thought was a less campy and more "cinematic" direction. Shane was happy with the changes (I think), and so it was decided that that would be the next movie.

 

Of the three lead girls in Bad Girls, who could you actually identify with the most, and why?

 

There's honestly some of myself in all three girls as well as the three main guys. I am Val's foolhardiness, Mitzi's questioning of authority, and Carolyn's easy-going spirit. I really identify with Rusty, the motel clerk.

 

With Bad Girls (also) being a road movie, what were the challenges of finding all the right locations for your film?

 

Making a movie for $16,000, you are basically writing the movie around things you have access to. So every location is something nearby that I could reasonably ask permission for or guerilla-shoot. We guerilla-shot the Mexico scenes at a local tourist trap. We were kicked out when they figured out we were filming. We shot in a local biker bar -- we had a 7 AM call time and the bar was supposed to be closed. We show up and there are like 50 or 60 people there. They kick out MOST of them, but allowed about 20 people to stay who had been drinking (and I'm pretty sure doing coke) all night. So it was like going into war to try and shoot a scene in a limited amount of time with 20 drunks just outside of camera frame.

 

What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

My "directorial approach" is also borne of the ultra-low budget. Basically, I am trying to get all of my shots done as quickly as possible. With more money and time, I surely would have done more takes. Some of the performances needed more time I think. I'm not knocking anyone by saying that. I love the work everyone did. But I always wish there was more money and time to take off the rough edges. I could have a slicker production if I had less actors and locations, but I don't think that would have made for as fun and kinetic a film. I like to keep things moving.

 

Do talk about Bad Girls' key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

I live in a fairly small Southern town and usually anyone with any acting talent gets the fuck out of Dodge as soon as they graduate high school. It becomes difficult to find talented actors with commanding screen presence who STAY in South Carolina. So casting is something that takes a while -- just to find the people who stayed in town and who have talent -- and who are willing to work cheap. I'm extremely picky with casting -- everyone I cast was the person that I thought was perfect for the role.

 

A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

The shoot was relatively painless. It was a good vibe on set. No ego problems or hassles. Everyone was someone I'd gladly work with again. All of the shoots at the motel were a bonding experience for the cast/crew, and I think it comes across in the movie. When you are working with such a low budget and paying people very little, there is no room for assholeism. 

 

The $64 question of course, where can Bad Girls be seen?

 

We are doing total DIY distribution on this. Right now the way to get it is via our IndieGoGo page: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/bad-girls-a-feature-length-underground-film/x/19403641. We will add outlets such as Amazon later, but for now we want to keep this an "underground film" -- the people that enjoy this sort of thing can find it.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Bad Girls?

 

So far it's been all positive, and I'm grateful for that. I think it's a movie people are having fun with in spite of the rough edges. It's not for everyone, but the people that enjoy this type of entertainment have been enthusiastic about it. I think some people are enjoying the fact that it's not a major Hollywood franchise, sequel, or reboot. People are burned out on what Hollywood has to offer.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

The next movie will be a horror film, but that's all I can say about it at the moment.

 

What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you recieve any formal education on the subject?

 

I've wanted to be a filmmaker all my life. It was ultimately access to cheap technology that made it possible. I have a totally useless degree in Media Arts from the University of South Carolina that didn't prepare me in any way for filmmaking. Everything I know about making movies came from YouTube.

 

What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Bad Girls?

 

I did one feature, The Theta Girl, prior to Bad Girls. Other than that, I just have a couple of fake movie trailer shorts and some music videos.

 

How would you describe yourself as a director?

 

I try to work beyond my experience level but below my budget. I'm still learning how to even make a movie. The Theta Girl and Bad Girls are essentially "student films" -- though I'd never subject an audience to "student work" if I didn't believe that the work was, at the very least, entertaining.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

Jack Hill, Greg Araki, John Waters, George Romero, Herschell Gordon Lewis [Herschell Gordon Lewis bio - click here], Refn, Kubrick, Noe, and John Carpenter. Roger Corman [Roger Corman bio - click here] is a major one.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

My top 20:

1. Taxi Driver

2. Harold and Maude

3. The Shining

4. The Exorcist

5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

6. Night of the Living Dead

7. Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS

8. Female Trouble

9. Blue Velvet

10. Fast Times At Ridgemont High

11. Pulp Fiction

12. Commando

13. Doom Generation

14. Possession

15. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

16. Female Convict Scorpion: Jailhouse 41

17. Valley Girl

18. Pink Flamingos

19. Over the Edge

20. Star Wars

 

... and of course, films you really deplore?

 

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The only bad movies are boring movies. Hollywood comedies are usually at the bottom of my list. I also don't care for "intentionally bad" movies. A lot of so-called "Troma" movies fall into this category -- where they are self-aware and trying to make something "shitty on purpose". I think it's corny and I hate that. If anyone sees one of my movies as a "bad movie" it's not because I intended it to be. On the other hand, I tend to love movies that fail due to low budgets or director/actor inexperience but you can tell THEY TRIED to make something good. At least they're honest.

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

http://www.badgirlsmovie.com/

https://www.facebook.com/BadGirlsTheMovie

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
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written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
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Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD