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An Interview with Lisa DeVita, Writer and Producer of Peelers

by Dale Pierce

October 2016

Lisa DeVita on (re)Search my Trash

 

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You recently worked as writer and producer for a film called Peelers. What is the plot for this?

 

Peelers takes place on the closing night of a small-town strip club. Some unwanted guests arrive and ruin all the fun. And it’s up to our leading lady, Blue Jean, to save her bar, her friends and her family and stop the bloodbath that ensues.

 

Is there a web page devoted to this film and/or your works?

 

Absolutely. Check out: www.peelersthefilm.com. We have all the info on the film such as reviews, interviews, screenings, the trailer and more. It also gives you access to all that social media crap people are so fond of.

 

This was your second horror feature, right? What was your first?

 

Second one for Sevé Schelenz (the director) [Sevé Schelenz interview - click here]; his first was the cult hit Skew. But for me, technically, I lost my filmmaking virginity on Peelers. Peelers was my first full length feature film (I’ve done a few shorts). Definitely a memorable initiation process (though it felt more like a hazing). I learned so much and took on so many roles, many of which I had no idea how to fulfill, but I just had to learn as I went along. I often look back in amazement at how we pulled it off. It was a beast but it was also one of the best times of my life.

 

Did you study film in a school or learn as you went along?

 

Both. And I love both methods. I know that many filmmakers say that film school is a waste of time and the best way to learn is hands-on and I totally agree for the most part. I learned more in a week of pre-production on Peelers than I did in my whole entire stint at film school. Hands-down the best way to learn film is to decide to make a film and do it. But there’s something magical about going to school and learning everything you can about movies. I mean, where else do you have a class where you get to sit in a beautiful theatre with your friends and watch classic films and then discuss them afterwards? Plus, it’s the only type of education where you actually get to escape reality. It’s a little piece of heaven. A writer’s dream come true.

 

Getting back to Peelers. Has this film been entered in any film fests or shown to any conventions?

 

You bet. I think we just hit our 50th festival mark. It’s been crazy, an absolute whirlwind. But we’re excited to get Peelers out there and share it with the world. We’ve had lots of positive feedback so far, which is wonderful. Many people from across the globe have reached out to us to say that they saw the film at a festival

and really liked it. But more than just the film, they enjoyed the entire experience of watching it with the audience. Something about the film just gets the crowd going, they’re having a blast while watching it and they all get into it. I’ve been to a few fests so far and I’ve witnessed it for myself. It’s just a fun, gross-out movie that gets the audience excited. I love that they’re totally along for the ride with us.

 

How did you come up with the title, Peelers?

 

Well, we struggled a lot in the beginning with the title. I came up with titles like “The Black Pole”, “Stiletto Slaughterhouse”, and “Strip Down Deadly” to name a few. The director, Sevé Schelenz [Sevé Schelenz interview - click here], hated them all. So we did research on the whole title phenomenon and found that the most memorable horror film titles are just made up of one word, one statement… Jaws, The Thing, Alien, Predator, The Omen, The Exorcist. Hmmm… maybe we should’ve called it “The Peelers”. Anyway, so we both agreed that it needed to be a one-word title. And “Peelers” has so many connotations to it…so many things can be peeled off…like clothes in the case of the strippers, your skin from being killed, your faith in human decency as you watch our film, hehehe.

 

What would you say are the strengths of this film as opposed to other works out there?

 

I think (I hope) that its strengths involve the pacing and the balance of gore and humor. One of the best comments we get from critics and audiences alike is that the pacing is great throughout the entire movie. There are never moments where you’re bored or disinterested. The film moves well from scene to scene and keeps the audience engaged from start to finish. I have to credit this to the director/editor, Sevé. I learned a lot from him in this area. Because if it had been left all up to me, trust me, you would’ve gotten long, drawn-out scenes of just witty dialogue and banter. Sevé has such a great sense of how to keep the story moving along and I’m sure that comes from his editing background. It certainly helped my writing on the second and third drafts.

 

Do you have any other projects in the works?

 

You bet. But I’m all over the map. As a writer, you’re always told to stick with one genre until you master it, then move on to whatever genre you like. Well, I’ve never been one to listen to the “helpful guidelines” for writing, or riding a bike, or sex, or anything else really, so I’m doing whatever comes to me and gets me excited about writing. I’ve finished the first draft of a sci-fi novel, a family comedy feature film script and a children’s book. It sure would be fun to be the stripper-horror writer who transitioned over to writing children’s books.

 

Now that Peelers is finished, looking back, how satisfied are you with the finished project?

 

Not gonna lie, there are always a few passages of dialogue that make me cringe. But I just blame them on the director for having changed it from what I originally had and move on. I’m kidding. Overall, I’m happy with what we’ve got, it’s a fun ride with some over-the-top action. There are moments that I absolutely love, that turned out better than what I had envisioned, and there are moments that I want to fix-up, wish I had written better, wish we spent more time on. In the end, I see it as a semester in my freshman year of filmmaking. My marks were alright but I can do better. So I hope I’ve learned my lessons well so I can ace my exams in my sophomore year.

 

Do you have any interesting behind-the-scenes tales to tell about the filming of Peelers?

 

Too many to count. But the one that comes to mind off the top of my head is the day I had to pick up one of our lead actors from the airport. He was not only the main bad guy in the film, he was also our stunt coordinator. He was coming in from Los Angeles and I was waiting for his arrival in my car at the airport. We started shooting in two days. An hour goes by and he still hasn’t shown up. I call  Sevé to see if he’s heard anything on his end. Nothing. No information on the guy’s whereabouts. Finally, my cell phone rings, it’s our actor. He sounds pretty shaken up. He’s being held by customs and is being denied entry because he doesn’t have the proper documentation to work in our country. I tell him to explain to the officers that he’s not working, he’s volunteering. It doesn’t matter, they won’t let him in. So it’s two days before we go to camera and we’ve lost our main bad guy and stunt coordinator. When they say that the film industry is all about hustling, in that moment I finally understood why. We had to hustle our asses off and find a replacement within 48 hours. And amazingly, we did. Sometimes you just get lucky.

 

What do you think constitutes a good film script?

 

For me it’s all about set-up and payoff and emotional resonance. Anybody can write about naked dwarves dancing in the rain talking backwards but if there’s no reason for it, then that’s not good storytelling. Because there is no story. You’re just being weird for weird’s sake and that’s easy, anyone can do that. It’s also pointless and boring as hell. The challenge is giving purpose and meaning to your weird elements. And that’s not something everyone can do. But the one’s who can do it, that’s true talent. Take a movie like In Bruges for example. Great characters, biting dialogue, elements of eccentricity (aka the weirdness) and a story that sets up everything for the brilliant payoff at the end. Now that’s a great script. Film is visual storytelling, so while I understand that beautiful or weird images on the screen are there to entice the viewers, I don’t believe that it should be the only element to the medium. There has to be a great story too. In fact, I’ll take a great story over great visuals any day. I’m a writer so I’m used to letting my own imagination come up with the images so I don’t rely on the ones on screen. I do appreciate them when they’re there of course. But if you’re all about the images I say go paint still life and hang it in an art gallery. I want a story that resonates with me, something I might never have given any thought to, but suddenly I’m fully invested in it. I want to see how these characters come out on the other side.

 

And a bad one?

 

It involves a simple test. And it works for me every time. I call it the “So-What” Test. If by the end of the film you’re left feeling “Yeah, so what?”, you’ve got a stinker on your hands. Take any film, Pulp Fiction for example. You watch that movie and at the end your face is melting and you’re screaming, “Oh my god, did you just see what I just saw? That just blew my fucking mind!  What was in the brief case?” You’re searching for the answers, you care, it hits your smack in the guts and you want to know more. But you watch a film like Ishtar, which stars two great actors, and you’re wondering why these two characters are sitting atop a couple of camels riding along in the desert with barely enough energy in the scorching heat to carry on a conversation. By the end you’re left scratching your head and rubbing your eyes to stay awake, wondering what the whole point of it is… So what? Exactly.

 

In the future do you plan to produce more films from your scripts alone or are you open to producing scripts from others?

 

While I fully support and encourage all my fellow screenwriters to keep writing and getting their work out there, I have absolutely no desire to produce other people’s scripts. I have way too many stories to tell and get out into the world. But, I definitely would help out a friend who wanted to get their script produced if they asked. I just wouldn’t seek it out as my “next project”.

 

Do you see the independent films scene growing, weakening or remaining as is?

 

I’m not going to sugar-coat it, independent filmmaking is brutal. And I’m not complaining, I’m just making an observation. I love what I do. But every single day you have at least one, if not twelve, moments where you just want to throw in the towel. That’s the reality of it. Being an indie filmmaker is like being a baker. Everyone wants a piece of your pie but you’ve already run out of eggs, milk, flour and sugar. And all those ingredients have to come from you because no one is going to get them for you. You have to lay your own eggs, milk your own tits dry, pound the dandruff out of your hair into flour and squeeze every drop of sugar out of your own bloodstream. But no one cares what you did to finally make the pie, they just want access to that pie. It ain’t for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.

 

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But just like everything these days, I see the indie film scene becoming oversaturated. Thanks to Big Brother and his love-child known as technology, waging the war on inconvenience. So by making everything more convenient and more accessible to everyone, there’s a lot more crap to sift through out there. Whether that’s growth depends on how you look at it. Weeds grow but nobody wants an overabundance of them around. And then you have to be on top of all this ever-changing technology, which just makes it an ongoing, hair-pulling venture of trying to keep up. Rather than focusing on the storytelling, we focus on who has the latest tech toy. So, on the flip side, is this easy access making the industry weaker?  I don’t know, but it sure as hell makes it overcrowded and therefore much harder to get any sort of recognition. But who doesn’t love a challenge, right?  It keeps us on our toes.

 

Closing comments?

 

Never. Ever. Give. Up.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Dale Pierce


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

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
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
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