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An Interview with Lisa Van Dam-Bates, Director and Star of Marla

by Mike Haberfelner

November 2019

Lisa van Dam-Bates on (re)Search my Trash


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


Marla is about a woman who has her agency taken from her through a number of unfortunate circumstances. Something that I think a lot of women can relate to right now.


In a horror manner of course, Marla revolves around female contraception - so what made you choose this topic for your film?


I find it pretty strange that contraception in general is a female responsibility. I think there are a lot of scary and fucked up things tied up in that topic, so that definitely made it an appealing setting for a horror movie. I actually came up with the premise for the movie after a particularly uncomfortable gynecological visit. In Texas, Planned Parenthoods often have to be behind really tall barbed wire fences to keep out the religious psychos and while you know itís for your own protection, thereís something unsettling about driving into what feels like a military fortress just to get a medical exam.


With Marla being in essence a body horror movie, is that a (sub-)genre especially dear to you?


I actually wouldnít classify Marla as a body horror movieÖ And no, that sub genre is not particularly dear to me. I can see how there are elements of that, but Iím mostly scared and fascinated by losing control of our own selves - mentally and physically. Iíd say that Marla is more of a psychological horror than a body horror.


Marla is a movie that sure has its bloody bits - so do talk about the gore effects in your movie for a bit, and how were they achieved?


Iíve always been a huge fan of gore in horror movies, specifically blood. I make all of my own blood and in Marla we used about five different recipes for different purposes. I also built some prosthetics, which was fun. I used to be really into art, so I had the necessary skill set to execute some of the craftier projects. I had a lot of technical help from Raleigh Salazar - he came in to audition for a small role and let slip that he is an engineer - so he coached us through and helped us with some of the bigger explosions. Raleigh played the jacked bartender who we see after Jake dies.


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


I knew that I was going to have my hands full on set, being in front of the camera so much and covering so many departments, so I had our cast do rehearsals for a couple of weeks before we started filming. That was invaluable because I got to work out some of the kinks and get performances where we wanted them without burning through time on set. This was actually my first time acting or directing - so that was all the more reason to get the rest of the cast where I wanted them before filming.


You also play the title character in Marla, which was according to my information your acting debut - so why did you choose this rather difficult role to break into acting, and how did you prepare to bring Marla to life?


I do play Marla! When I was initially writing Marla, I intended to play her. Iíd been wanting to try acting, and playing someone that I created and understood seemed like a good place to start. But I realized that I was censoring the story, envisioning myself having to act out these scenes I was writing - so, I kind of put that on hold and thought that maybe I would cast someone else. Had we found the perfect person during casting, I probably wouldnít have played her. I think that after spending so much time with the script and with Marla in my head, I didnít need to do anything special to bring her to life, sheís somebody that I understand very well.


Do talk about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?


The rest of the cast is a collection of really close friends and people that I found on Craigslist.

Jake is played by Travis Johnny Ware - heís someone that Iíve known since middle school, we dated for a couple of weeks in 6th grade and have been friends ever since. He actually moved to Austin, TX, where I was living when I finished writing the script. We hung out and I found out he had done a little acting and was interested in helping out. He did an awesome job, and it was really nice to have someone that I knew so well and was so comfortable with to do some of the more intimate scenes.

Jules is played by Katie Hemming - someone I found online. I just really loved her audition, so she was an easy choice. Katie was really flexible with insane shoot days and what was asked of her and she brought a lot to the character, which was awesome to see.

Palmer Chase, who plays Detective Wirtz was actually one of our first people cast - I initially auditioned him for Dr. Lourdes, but decided to go a slightly different route for that character and he was a perfect choice for the detective. Itís always interesting to me when people audition for one role but bring something to it that works really well for a different role.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


We got so incredibly lucky with our cast and crew. I think we had a good mix of seasoned professionals who were willing to teach, and hard-working newbs, happy to learn. (I am obviously in the newb category on this one.) The last week of filming was at my momís house. It was really cool to have most of our crew sleeping together under one roof during the day and filming under that same roof overnight.


The $64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?


It will be available on Amazon on November 5th - hereís a link for preorders.


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


We did a couple of festivals, which seemed to go well. I actually didnít sit through the screenings at the first festival - I felt so uncomfortable. At the last festival we did, I sat in the back, away from my friends and just watched people watch the movie. It was crazy! People laughed at parts that I never intended to be funny and recoiled in horror at parts that seem tame to me now. That was cool to see. The only review Iíve seen on YouTube is really negative! I thought that I would care more, maybe have my feelings hurt by the bad review, but I understand where they were coming from. This movie is not for everybody and that was intentional. So far a lot of female horror fans that have seen it have been really supportive, and thatís what I was going for - so thatís awesome.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I am actually co-writing a horror feature right now with a really good friend of mine, Jeremy Berg [Jeremy Berg interview - click here]. Heís written and directed a number of horror features and weíve worked on a couple of sets together. Weíre still fundraising, so no production dates yet, but itís a Civil War era horror about this Confederate soldier who has an unusual gut-wound that attracts the interest of a sociopathic doctor. Itís going to be really bloody and Iím pretty excited about it.


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


I would like to say that Marla is my very first film project - first time writing, directing, acting, being on a set etc. I went into it knowing that I wanted to be involved in film and not knowing exactly in what capacity. Throughout the course of doing lots of different aspects of production I was able to find a couple of things that really interest me and make me really happy. So I will say, if you want to be a filmmaker, just do it. You wonít know if you even like it until after youíve tried.


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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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
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
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Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
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... 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