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An Interview with William Burke, Director of Sweet Prudence and the Erotic Adventure of Bigfoot

by Mike Haberfelner

March 2012

Films directed by William Burke on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your movie Sweet Prudence and the Erotic Adventure of Bigfoot - in a few words, what is the film about?

 

It’s about Prudence, a beautiful young woman who is trying to get her college degree by snapping the perfect photo of Bigfoot who has been sighted at what turns out to be a nudist resort. A comedic sex romp ensues. That’s kind of the TV guide version.

 

Sweet Prudence and the Erotic Adventure of Bigfoot quite freely takes inspiration from nudie cuties and softcore sex comedies from the 1960's and 70's. What do you find so appealing about these films, and your genre favourites?

 

The two things that are most appealing about the nudie cuties were their sort of innocent naïveté and their very broad comedy. The early nudist camp films were a cross between a propaganda piece for nudism and a beach party movie. Since they were a genre that only existed as an excuse to show nudity (albeit very innocent nudity) they’re pretty much a one trick pony. Producers had to keep finding excuses for the nudity and ways to tell the films apart, so over the few years the genre existed they went from simple travelogues to films set on the moon, where of course everyone is a nudist. They’re a fun time capsule to watch. From my experiences of shooting at a nudist resort I can assure you that the beautiful women you see bouncing around in those films were straight from casting – because the reality is not so nubile.

 

I had seen a lot of the seventies movies over time, and enjoyed them. Those memories all started to come back to when I was working with Playboy in the late nineties. Sadly Playboy intentionally removed a lot of the fun from the softcore erotic genre, replacing it with the dreaded erotic thriller style. I started digging for some of those older sexploitation films and in the process rediscovered that sort of fun romp sensibility that many of them had. It was something that had really been lost. The idea that sex wasn’t dirty, as long as it moved the plot along is kind of refreshing. I had already been a huge admirer of Russ Myer, a genius who even at his most melodramatic had some off kilter mindset that made his films so original and personal.

My hands down genre favorite is Supervixens, an amazing film.

 

Since the genre is so often dismissed I saw no reason not to put a personal stamp all over it, and I thought a B monster movie approach would be fun. Even things like our flying saucer were designed to have a retro look. That’s not to be confused with a cheesy look, which would be mocking the films of the era – I just wanted it to have nice elegant lines; the 1965 Mustang of Flying Saucers, and Alpha Channel FX did a great job with that. I think any film that looks back on a genre with affection will always work better than one that simply mocks it. The sixties sensibility went through every aspect of the film, and even the original temp score was entirely made up of Les Baxter exotica lounge tracks that fit the tone perfectly.

 

We also devised the title sequence to emulate an old school comic book modeled on an EC science fiction comic. Those were really fifties pop culture, but who's counting. I spent quite a bit of time with the artist Aaron Lane devising the sequence, and he came through with flying colors. I thought the comic book motif set the tone for the film nicely.

 

Why did you at all think it was a good idea to fit Bigfoot into a sex comedy?

 

Bigfoot is the last thing you would think of as a good fit for a sex film, which actually made him perfect. In some ways Bigfoot is the Mcguffin, which leads to all the comedy and sexual hijinks. But he’s also a fun monster that doesn’t really get the attention he deserves in movies. I’m also a huge monster movie fan, so he was ideal. The next film might lean more towards little bug eyed aliens like in Invasion of the Saucermen.

 

You have tackled the subject of Bigfoot before, in an episode of Creepy Canada. Did that in any way influence your depiction of the creature in Sweet Prudence and the Erotic Adventure of Bigfoot?

 

Our Creepy Canada segment was influential in a few ways. It was a segment called Bigfoot UFO about an outbreak of Pennsylvania Bigfoot encounters in conjunction with UFO sightings. The segment had Bigfoot, aliens, Men In Black, and every other conspiracy/paranormal theory tossed into the mix. So that certainly influenced my thought process. I had found a pretty good Bigfoot costume that was available for rental, so I had it shipped to Pennsylvania. When we arrived to shoot the segment, a weird April snowstorm caused a blackout in the area, and cancelled production for the first day. So I sat in my little cabin looking at this expensive costume that was not being used and imagined how funny it would be to shoot an erotic Bigfoot story. By the time the power was restored I had filed some scenes in the back of my mind, and a few years later said “why not?”

 


Any other sources of inspiration for Sweet Prudence and the Erotic Adventure of Bigfoot?

 

A lot of seventies films helped inspire it. Russ Meyer has always been a huge influence on me, and you can certainly see traces of that. The overall live action cartoon sensibility always seemed like a natural for erotic films, making them more fun than dirty. There was a German (or Austrian) film called Auf der Alm da gibt's koa Sünd/Bottoms Up that’s practically surreal in its humor, but also featured naturally pretty young women romping around in beautiful surroundings having a great time. That approach felt right to me. The other film that is always an influence is Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein, which perfectly combined comedy and monsters. It’s a really amazing film.

 

How did the project come into being in the first place?

 

Well here’s the long drawn-out version. In the late nineties while at Playboy I had the good fortune to meet John Quinn who became my close friend, mentor and later my co-conspirator on a number of Cinemax “After Dark”-series. We produced Forbidden Science (a sci fi noir erotic series) and Lingerie (a Sex in the City with more sex series) both here in Toronto. Producing these series pushed me into spending more time dealing with banks, lawyers, and business affairs matters and less time being a creative force, so when Lingerie finished its final season I was ready for something new.

 

I wanted to follow up with something that mirrored my own weird ideas of humor and gave some nods to the kind of films I really loved. John Quinn my business partner on the Cinemax shows was very ill (he passed away during post production) and having a project on the go always made him perk up, so I think that also inspired me to write and direct an out of pocket film that he would handle the distribution on – we were an amazing team.

 

Having shot a “paranormal series” for three seasons left me with some great funny insights on ghost/monster hunters, and I just sat back and wrote the script, scouted specific locations, rewrote to accommodate those, counted all the change buried in the couch cushions, conned another friend and co-worker into co-financing and built something that could work within my limitations. Cinemax had said they would license the film as long as it met their standards upon completion, but there were no guarantees, and nothing in writing so it was pretty stressful.

 

It brought me back to the things I missed; dealing with all the creative aspects from writing it, producing, directing, right down to designing the poster. It’s a great exercise that every filmmaker should have to do every few years – going back to your roots.

 

You have to talk about your lead actress Angie Bates [Angie Bates interview - click here] for a bit, who in my opinion perfectly embodies Sweet Prudece, and how did you get her?

 

Angie, and really the entire cast was a dream. Most of them had appeared in the television series Lingerie that I had produced, but only in supporting one or two day roles that never fully used their abilities. Fortunately I attended all the casting sessions for Lingerie, so despite Angie actually being in a smaller role I got to see her range and sense of timing at the audition, and I knew that was somebody I had to use. In fact while writing the script I had already envisioned Angie Bates and Albina Nahar as my incredibly sexy Lucy and Ethel team – despite never presenting the idea to either of them, and them never actually having met each other. Fortunately they enjoyed the detailed treatment (I write ridiculously detailed treatments), so I got my perfect fantasy comedy team. Angie’s distinctive voice and wide-eyed honesty were playing in my head whenever I wrote Prudence’s dialogue.

 

A few words about the rest of your cast, and what were the main criteria the actresses had to fulfill during casting?

 

Well I was very lucky in having just done a whole season of television, because I pulled most of the cast from that talent pool, though they had all appeared smaller roles. I had seen them all do love scenes and nudity and knew that wasn’t an issue, which is a big relief. They were all gorgeous which is certainly important but having comic timing was just as critical. Albina Nahar was just the perfect counterpart for Angie, and the two of them became best friends after one day of rehearsal. There were a few happy accidents such as Heather O’Donnell, who plays Flower. I knew Heather was a very good actress and very fit. After casting her as a character that teaches yoga and swims like a dolphin I discovered that she actually was a yoga instructor and a lifeguard. Call that intuitive casting, or blind luck. I guess our onscreen yoga class is officially certified. Lynzey Patterson was the only main actress I hadn’t worked with before, but she was so perfect in her audition that there was never a question.

 

Bianca Jones, who was the other girl in the lake in the opening scene, was great to work with and a real trouper. Despite it being summer that water was not very warm, but neither actress complained about wading around nude. Of course the camera crew and myself were also in the water, but not nude. That would be a real horror film.

 

Luke Gallo who played Dirk had worked with me for one day on the series Forbidden Science four years prior, and I had written the role of Dirk with him in my mind. So when he said he was interested I never felt the need to read him or consider another actor. I just signed him up despite not seeing him for four years.

Michael Slade has also been in Lingerie and was a good looking, but earnest nice guy leading man, similar to the kind of guy Russ Myer would often feature. Someone the male viewers can watch get all the girls, but still want to have a beer with. A guy’s guy, which I think is important.

 

Sweet Prudence and the Erotic Adventure of Bigfoot is a decidedly softcore film. Has it ever occured to you during filming to push the envelope a little further, or have you ever envisioned more explicit stuff during writing?

 

Not really, one of the retro qualities I liked about the old films was the naïveté and the innocence, which I think would be hard to achieve in a more explicit or sexually graphic film. In terms of just being explicit there was a lot of footage shot that we did not use, like during the four-girl nude yoga class. Those shots just happen with all those poses and all those bodies, but we chose not to use them because it took the film in a different direction.

Though it might surprise people, I find hardcore pornography to be really dull. I do own some of the older films made by Radley Metzger such as The Opening of Misty Beethoven, which somehow manage to be very funny and well plotted despite being hardcore films. But those are pretty rare.

 

A few words about your location, how did you find it, and what made it perfect in your view?

 

We shot here in Ontario, at an actual nudist resort that prefers not to be named. I remembered my Playboy experience of shooting at dozens of oversized soulless Los Angeles Mc-mansions and decided to go in the opposite direction. Ontario, during the summer months is gorgeous and insanely green, which is something that you don’t see very often in this genre. Setting it in a nudist resort (that’s deserted for budgetary purposes) allowed us to shoot the actors nude comfortably in these beautiful surroundings. Being an actual nudist resort meant there were no location objections to that. Try running the suggestion of nudity through your local parks and recreation department – they won’t accept your artistic vision.

 

I also recalled that Herschell Gordon Lewis [Herschell Gordon Lewis bio - click here] and Doris Wishman had shot their films at actual nudist resorts, and I thought it would be fun to recreate that, kind of homage. So I looked up what nudist resorts were in the Toronto area, and visited a few to find the ideal one. But when you visit a nudist resort, as the saying goes “when in Rome”… so I wound up spending time at a few possible locations before making the deal. Thank God I remembered to bring sun block.

 

Given the short summer in Ontario no nudist resort would actually shut down for a film, so it was in operation when we were there, with plenty of naked visitors on site – and the rules of the resort were NUDE, not clothing optional. Fortunately the production crew was allowed to wear clothes while shooting; though some of the nudists referred to us as “textiles”. I will say that the management of the camp was great, and that the crew quickly adjusted to the oddities of the location, like a naked caterer. She wore a hairnet – insert your own joke now.

 

About halfway through the first day much of the cast abandoned their clothes off camera as well, partially because it was a unique experience, and they were comfortable, and also because they wanted to use the Jacuzzi between takes. Occasionally some actual nudists would walk into frame or drift by in the lake, so there are some funny outtakes.

 

As of now, Sweet Prudence and the Erotic Adventure of Bigfoot has hardly at all been released. What can you tell us about critical and audience reactions so far, and when and where will the film be released on the general public?

 

The film’s postproduction was only officially completed a month ago, but two months earlier I released some unmixed, non-color-corrected screeners to critics and festivals, which was a risky thing to do. Fortunately everyone got the humor and ignored its work-in-progress appearance. It really got a nice pre release buzz going and we were named an official selection of the Cinekink International Film Festival. So the risk paid off. We just had a theatrical screening as part of the Cinekink Festival in New York and it was great. Angie and Albina came out to NYC and the audience really enjoyed the film, and meeting the stars. In fact we won the Audience Choice Award for Best Narrative Feature. And I just found out we are now an official selection at the 2012 Erotikos Film Festival in Jamaica. The irony of a film like this having Laurel leaves around the title and the words “official selection” next to it is not lost on me – its pretty funny. So the audience response has been great and seeing it with a live audience is an invaluable experience for any director.

The big news is that the film will be premiering in the USA on Cinemax April 6th at the witching hour of midnight. That will be the big moment when a few hundred thousand people form their opinion.

 

Sweet Prudence, as played by Angie Bates, is such an incredibly loveable and versatile character she almost seems to demand a sequel. So, is there any chance we will ever get to see Prudence in another movie?

 

Yes, myself and the cast and crew all want to shoot another Prudence movie, and I have a number of fun scenarios in mind. I picture her landing in a different B-movie cliché in each film, ranging from Sweet Prudence and the Curse of the Haunted Vibrator to Sweet Prudence and the Lost Virgins of Voodoo Island. Lately I have been kicking around a script based on the real life “Kentucky Goblin Siege” which we covered on Creepy Canada. Of course it would have that distinct “Sweet Prudence”-twist. I think the possibilities with a loveable character like Prudence, and her best friend Veruca, are limitless, and much of that springs from the two leading ladies who just bring so much to the screen. I would love to team them up with some of the Japanese cult starlets like Maria Ozawa and Asami, because I think the Japanese market would get a kick out of these films.

The real test will be in April when we see what the viewers think, and how the overseas market responds at MIPCOM. If the first reviews are any indication it will be hard to keep Prudence off the screen. If you catch the film on Cinemax and like it don’t forget to tell that to Cinemax via email – you’d be surprised what an impact that can make.

 

(Other) Future projects you'd like to talk about?

 

Well, making a small scale completely independent film really immerses you in the process straight through post production and into the promotion and sales end, so I’m finally coming up for air. I have a bunch of television projects on the go, ranging from documentary to dramatic, so there are several balls in the air. I do this for a living so there’s always something coming down the pike.

 


What got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive and formal training on the subject?

 

Much of my training has been on the job, learning as I go. My primary education was in video engineering. I think that was my attempt to live a more normal life, as a television engineer, but it didn’t pan out that way.

Film was always my passion as a kid, and like many I can thank magazines like Famous Monsters and The Monster Times for fueling that fire. Later in life after a stint in the Air Force I studied video engineering and wound up working at the United Nations as a cameraman and engineer, mostly shooting Security Council meetings and interviews for overseas broadcasters. Cutbacks in funding led to many of us getting laid off, which was good in retrospect. That put me back on the course I had really wanted and I veered into assistant directing and production managing low budget New York films, in fact my first feature film job was as the PM on the infamous Beware Children At Play which was eventually released by Troma.

After relocating from New York to Los Angeles I worked my way up to producing, and spent several years as a producer for Mystique Films which was owned by Playboy. So my career path has always been learning as I went and absorbing everything I could. Even when I wanted more direct creative control of projects I sort of had to create the opportunity myself.

 

When I grew tired of the Playboy genre, or at least that “erotic thriller” version of the genre, I wanted to explore some new ideas creatively. So I created and directed an out of pocket television pilot. It couldn’t get made in the USA, but CTV offered to produce it in Toronto under the title Creepy Canada, where it ran for three seasons. It was a paranormal travelogue show, before the myriad of Ghost Hunter type shows. I was the creator as well as directing the bulk of the episodes, and traveling around gypsy caravan style, directing different reenactment segments was a great opportunity to “shoot from the hip” and make something work despite low budgets and short schedules. It was also a strange show in that so many reenactments involved decapitations, murders and other ghastly moments that you rarely have a chance to create in sane television – like a giant weekly B-movie. So that was how I learned to direct. That sort of experience comes in very handy on a film like Sweet Prudence and the Erotic Adventure of Bigfoot, which had to be shot in a matter of days.

 

Prior to Sweet Prudence and the Erotic Adventure of Bigfoot, you have worked as a producer on several erotic TV series like Sin City Diaries and Lingerie. Want to talk about those for a bit, and did that aspect of your career at all influence you when making Sweet Prudence and the Erotic Adventure of Bigfoot?

 

Well working at Playboy and meeting John Quinn led to the erotic series, which have been pretty good to me. Though many people pigeonhole that genre we always try to do something different. Forbidden Science was a science fiction, noir erotic series and I’m pretty proud of it. Sadly it only ran thirteen episodes and creamed me financially, but I still have a genuine fondness for it. Being comfortable with the genre and understanding what makes it work certainly helped me in making Sweet Prudence and the Erotic Adventure of Bigfoot. That aspect of my career certainly had a big influence on my deciding to make Sweet Prudence.

 

On the other hand, you have also worked on a handful of documentaries, right? What can you tell us about those, and how do they go together with your erotica? And which do you prefer, factual or fictional filmmaking?

 

Documentary filmmaking is fascinating, but it’s a whole different animal from fictional and each has its charms. Overall I like telling a story, so whichever genre I’m working in becomes my current obsession until the next project. So in terms of film projects I fall in love easily.

 

Any other films of yours you'd like to talk about?

 

No, I’ve tortured your readers enough in the self-aggrandizing department.

 

Filmmakers who inspire you?

 

Russ Meyer, Roger Corman (for his innovation) [Roger Corman bio - click here], John Waters for revolutionizing the no-holds-barred, non-PC comedy. Werner Herzog for always surprising me, and Mario Bava for being such a genius with minimal resources [Mario Bava bio - click here].

 

Your favourite movies?

 

Here’s a list which has no rhyme or reason to it– King Kong, Kill Baby Kill, Supervixens, Eyes Without a Face, Alice, Earth Vs the Flying Saucers, Aguirre – The Wrath of God, Sex and Zen, Goldfinger, Bride Of Frankenstein, The Great Silence, Dr Jekyll Sister Hyde, Alucarda, Alice (the Czech film), Zombie, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

If you can make any sense out of that list please let me know.

 

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

 

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I can’t think of any I really hate, almost every movie has something you can take away from it, even if it’s what not to do. The only thing I really deplore is when you see a horror film and you can tell that the filmmakers really didn’t like the genre, didn’t understand the genre and were looking down their nose at their own audience. I don’t know why they do it because it’s like becoming a Veterinarian even though you hate dogs. The titles are not jumping to mind but if you asked your readers they could probably send you an accurate list because I don’t feel alone in this opinion.

 

Your website, Facebook, whatever else?

 

Our main website is www.sweetprudence.com, where you can see the trailer, stills, reviews and updates.

On Facebook we have http://www.facebook.com/MySweetPrudence, where someone pretending to be the fictional character writes inane postings and updates. I think that person is me.

And for people in the USA, keep checking www.cinemax.com for the showing times and watch Sweet Prudence and the Erotic Adventure of Bigfoot every time it’s on so I can get great ratings. April 6th at midnight is the premiere.

 

 

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

 

No, except that the real reason you can get a film like this made is the people around you. I was really blessed with a great cast, an amazing crew especially director of photography Juan Montalvo and the editor Chris Brown. That’s really what you need. Also thanks to the people reading this, because I really did try to make a film I would want to see which hopefully is a film they’ll enjoy.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
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WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

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directed by
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written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
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