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An Interview with Izzy Lee, Director of Legitimate

by Mike Haberfelner

July 2013

Films directed by Izzy Lee on (re)Search my Trash


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Your movie Legitimate - in a few words, what is it about?


It's about a group of women who become vigilantes because they are sick of the abuse of a certain party; in effect, they take revenge on a specific senator who is the main offender.


"If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down." - you just have to comment on this quote by Representative Tom Adkins that you've put at the beginning of your movie!


Rep. Todd Akin said some ridiculous things, including the above comment, which really illustrates why he and his brethren should NOT be in office. This film is knee-jerk reaction to that.


Other sources of inspiration when coming up with the concept of Legitimate?


Karin Webb, "The Dancer" in the film has become my muse. I saw her perform her rope dance at a local restaurant, oddly enough, the same week that Rep. Akin made that silly statement on rape. Her rope dance begins with her being completely tied up and seemingly submissive; she even gives you the rope to hold while she shimmies around and untangles herself. It's really mesmerizing to watch, and a perfect metaphor for what a LOT of women I know are feeling and experiencing these days: certain people and groups (and our patriarchal society in general) think that women are there to only serve men. And I know many, many intelligent guys who are also feminists, which some consider to be a dirty word. In fact, the first time I was asked --- on camera --- if Legitimate was a feminist film, I panicked. But yes, yes it is. Deeply. The thing is, feminism means that women stand up for themselves. There is "militant feminism," which is pretty much a myth, there are independent women, and there is "third-wave feminism", which simply means that you stand up for the rights of women, no matter what gender you are. The term doesn't have to be so politically loaded, but the fact that it is means that we still have a very long way to go in terms of gaining true equality.


So --- Rep. Akin's unbelievable and scientifically preposterous statement on what real rape is, combined with seeing Karin's amazing dance --- kept me awake long past two a.m. one night, and Legitimate was born. I had made one film festival bumper previously for Fantastic Fest, but this perfect storm of both shit and subversive beauty made me a filmmaker. If we were having a conversation a year ago, I never would have believed you if you told me I'd be making films. NEVER! It was something that I'd always believed was past the scope of my artistic and financial abilities. I simply got pissed off enough that I made a work of art in reaction to severe and dangerous ignorance.


Besides making a statement, Legitimate can also be seen as a horror film - a genre at all dear to you, and why (not)? And what made you choose exactly this genre to bring your point across?


It's absolutely horror. Besides the fact that it's horrific to live in this society as a woman, I ADORE horror. I'm addicted. Women have to deal with so much craziness. Our bodies do things that betray us, we bleed a ton every month and experience pain. The fact that we can grow and pump out smaller versions of us, to me, is truly Cronenbergian and completely horrific. Childbirth is terrifying. We die from that. Women in other countries are mutilated in order to not feel sexual pleasure. It's truly fucked up.


But on the lighter side... horror movies are the best movies. Ever since I was little, I was attracted to being scared and to weird things. I'm very happy to have discovered that I'm not alone, and that all the people that I know who love horror (in general), are the sweetest, kindest people I've ever known. From time to time I write for Rue Morgue and Diabolique magazines under a different name. I've also been a film festival programmer specializing in underground, sci-fi, and horror films. Horror is innately part of who I am. I would hide in the shadows if my parents ever watched a horror film when I was young. I have a memory of doing that during a showing of An American Werewolf in London, and I got scared and ran down the hall. Of course, I came back to see what would happen next. I fell in love with Vincent Price [Vincent Price bio - click here] and Edward Gorey at a very early age as well. I was the little girl in pretty dresses having rock fights and playing with Legos, army guys, and Transformers with the boys. While I liked Barbies, none of that other traditional girl crap appealed to me. I really haven't changed. Happily, I've now found other women like me --- and guys who appreciate us! 


You just have to talk about your special effects for a bit?


Karin Webb

Katrina Galore

I made them in my kitchen. I have an artistic background; I've always been a painter, and have done two sculptures, but not lately. The film was really a chance to put my skills to work and learn some new ones. I made an armature wire skeleton for the pig puppet, then put clay over that and sculpted its features. From there, I applied several latex paint layers and painted the thing with several colors of acrylic paint. You don't see too much of it in the film, but I sometimes like it when you see less of a monster on film. It can be even scarier than seeing everything.


The skin that the puppet pops through is also several layers of colored latex paint, coated with different shades of red acrylic paint. The sutures I glued on with black twine.


What can you tell us about your cast, and why exactly these people?


You know why I cast Karin, at least on the surface. But she also has an amazing presence that I've rarely seen in this region. I've seen her perform for years in different shows; both theatre and burlesque. (If you're ever in Boston in December, you HAVE to see The Slutcracker --- it's a burlesque version of The Nutcracker that is very funny and has very high production values, like a real play. Nearly every show sells out, and people actually fly across the country to come see it every year. She's usually in that.)


Michael Thurber

Izzy Lee

Michael Thurber is an interesting character. He's been a theater director for thirty years, but in the last decade, has popped up in a lot of genre films, mainly shot in New England and New York. He's a very old school thespian and is fun to be around. I first saw him in Richard Griffin's Murder University [Richard Griffin interview - click here], and he captured my attention because his performance reminded me so much of Tom Atkins' character in Night of the Creeps, which I love --- both the detective character and the film. When I asked Michael if he would be in Legitimate, he asked me where I'd seen him, and I described the story above --- he told me he'd based his performance in Murder University off of the Atkins detective in Night of the Creeps! It was so weird, I thought he was lying, but now I know that he wasn't. Insane, right?


Katrina Galore, like Karin, is also a long-time artist and performer here in Boston. I've also seen her in a number of performances and knew she could pull off The Madam. She also co-own's Torrent Engine 18, an 1868 firehouse in Dorchester, MA that she's restoring. That is where I shot the second scene of Legitimate with The Senator waking up. There was no heat --- it was around 19 degrees when we shot it in January, and after we wiped the fake blood off of Michael with baby wipes --- there was also no running water --- I warmed him up with my hair dryer. DIY!


I cast myself as the Masked Woman, because I have a bit of experience, was readily available, and am a total weirdo when I want to be.


Do talk about the actual shoot and the on-set atmosphere for a bit?


Collaborative, but quick and no nonsense. When you're dealing with actors who need to perform with no heat in winter, or who drive an hour and a half for a midnight call time, you need to remember that they're human beings. Having been an actress in the past and getting into it again, however little, I care very much about my cast and crew. When I first met with Karin to describe call times, set-ups, locations, etc., I told her that she would be fed good quality food, not pizza, and asked if she had allergies or other needs. She smiled and said, "You can always tell who's been an actor if they promise to feed and take care of you."


Acting is harder than it looks. There's so much mental, spiritual, and physical energy that gets burned through quickly; it can be exhausting. While pizza is awesome, it's just as easy to go to Trader Joe's and stock up on healthy, individual salads, nut and berry mixes, coffee, tea, water, and energy bars. That's a free tip, filmmakers. Your cast will love you. Take good care of them and they'll jump to work with you again.


The $64-question of course, when and where will the film be released onto the general public?


Legitimate is in the film festival submission and acceptance phase right now, so for that reason alone, I cannot release it. However, once its run is down, which should be the middle of November, I'll put it online.


You recently also worked on Skip Shea's Ave Maria, right [Skip Shea interview - click here]? So what can you tell us about working on that one, and how did you get involved in the first place?


I did. Skip and I are two filmmakers living in New England making horror. We are two of four main subjects being followed by Wicked Bird Media (an all-female, Boston-based production company) in the documentary Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is in production now. Actor Kip Weeks is also being profiled and followed as he gets back into horror and goes to conventions; he's best known as having starred as the masked man "Baghead", which is an unofficial name, in The Strangers with Liv Tyler. 


Anyway, Skip Shea! Skip is awesome. He's this dude living in the woods making horror films which have a tone similar to mine, specifically in terms of vigilantism and righting social injustices. Skip and Kip decided to meet, so I was like, "Hey!" I set out to meet Skip, and eventually I'll meet Kip, too, probably when we all go to Rock 'n' Shock in October, in Worcester, MA. Anyway, I asked Skip if I could shadow him as a director, since I'm a novice. We started talking online. That led to me volunteering for a part in one film, then he asked me to act in Ave Maria! I gave feedback on the script and characters, and also became a producer. It was a great set. We were all of one mind, "wise women" of the woods who see these awful men of the cloth acting in ways that are rather ungodly, and decide to do something about it in a pretty gruesome manner. Having had experience killing another older white male onscreen recently, I was perfect for the role!


I believe the last person being chronicled in Something Wicked This Way Comes is actor Derek Mears, who was recently added.


How did you get into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


No formal training whatsoever. I got pissed off, decided to create something. I've been a film festival programmer for the Boston Underground Film Festival and the Boston Science Fiction Festival, as well as the marketing director of the Viscera Organization, which puts on the Viscera, Etheria, and Full Throttle festivals throughout the year in different cities. More so, I've seen thousands of films; that's been my school. Having been a painter and illustrator, I can see the way that scenes should play in my head. For everything else, I lean on skilled individuals -- DPs like Bryan McKay and Nolan Yee for fantastic shooting. I like to collaborate. Nobody is going to want to work with you if you're a selfish asshole.


Any past films of yours you'd like to talk about, any future projects you'd like to share?


I've shot some very silly film festival bumpers. The first was for Fantastic Fest last year, and it played on opening night with American Mary! That was Christmas, hearing that. I did one for BUFF, just shot and played The Brattle Theatre's annual trailer competition, Trailer Treats, and am planning on shooting a festival teaser for Celluloid Screams, which incidentally, will be judged by the Soskas [Soska Twins interview - click here].


As for real films, I do have a few brewing: Picket will be straight, serious horror, and is a reaction to a certain hate group that likes to spout bullshit and announce their intentions to picket funerals of the children victims of the Newtown, CT massacre, and the Boston Marathon bombings, among others. They are despicable. Something More Comfortable, written by Mike Snoonian, was just born, script-wise, a few days ago. It's a creepy clown short, which is all I'll say. There's also a comedy short I've written called Gaypocalypse. I plan on helping out with Skip's feature, to which Lynn Lowry is attached, hopefully this fall. And in the distant future, I plan on co-directing a neo-giallo feature with my friend and fellow female horror director, the wonderful Maude Michaud.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


Collaborative. Strategic. Caring. Fun. No nonsense and efficient. Cut, shoot, print! 


Filmmakers who inspire you?


So many! Both David and Jennifer Lynch. Cronenberg. DePalma. Friedkin's done some awesome things lately. The Soskas [Soska Twins interview - click here]. And Robert Rodriguez always looks like he's having a total blast. He's a very "power to the people"-type of filmmaker, which is of course, empowering. Karen Lam is someone who's name isn't known yet, but should and will be. She's awesome. Katheryn Bigelow is very inspiring, as well. Mario Bava [Mario Bava bio - click here]. And Guillermo del Toro!


Your favourite movies?


So many. In addition to the ones I've already mentioned, I adore The Brood, Evil Dead 2, and American Psycho. Pet Semetary is terrifying, as is The Shining. While Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula has some real issues, I can't help but absolutely love it. It's so beautiful and lush, as are Argento's older films and Bava's movies. Anything starring Vincent Price [Vincent Price bio - click here] or Peter Cushing. I love old Hammer and AIP films dearly. And John Carpenter's The Thing is a perfect film. I love it so much.


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


I had a hard time with The Woman. While I'm not sure I "deplore" it, I was so pissed off leaving the theater, so Lucky did his job! In fact, it was a screening with the director, producer, and some of the actors present, including the boy, who exited the theater right next to me. I ran to get away from him! What is more upsetting is Michael Bay's bullshit remakes and the Asylum-ripoffs. Those have absolutely no soul and are there just for the cash grab. You want real deplorable? Try the 1998 production of Godzilla - it's a fucking travesty. Or also from '98, the Psycho remake. Every Michael Bay Transformers-film. Shamalamadingdong's The Happening He had such amazing promise, too. Christ, those films are terrible. 


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


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Twitter: @nihilnoctemfilm, and of course, which is currently under construction.


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Legitimate's world premiere will be on Friday, August 16, at the Brattle Theatre, in Cambridge, MA, as part of the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival! The next night, its Candadian premiere will be hosted at Mascara & Popcorn in Montreal. Because I'm insane, I'm attending both. There's also something very exciting happening in Montreal again, in September, which I cannot announce yet. The film is in consideration for Fantastic Fest, which I'm attending whether or not it plays, and several other festivals which are still in the deliberation and programming stage. Stay tuned to my pages for details, and thanks for reading!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD