Interview by Bears Fonte

You may remember a few years ago I covered the hilarious LGBT horror film CRAZY BITCHES, an underground slasher comedy about seven women and one fab gay guy on a weekend trip who, one-by-one, are killed by their own vanity. After premiering at Frameline in San Francisco, the film screened at the prestigious Ford Amphitheater as part of Outfest, packing the house with 800+ screaming fans. “Crazy Bitches” went on to play 25 festivals in fall of 2014, and was released on digital platforms on February 13, 2015.

Writer/Director Jane Clark is back at it again, launching an Indiegogo campaign to make CRAZY BITCHES 2: MOMMIES BEHAVING BADLY. Intending to go into production in February, Clark promises this film will be “sexier, funnier, creepier, scream-ier than the first.” Perks include opportunities like lunch with one of the Crazy Bitches (starting with Candis Cayne), a private reading of the script, the chance to watch a horror effect created and shot on the set, a featured extra role with your child or your dog. Or simply do a little shopping for “Crazy Bitches” swag to put under the Christmas tree!

“Crazy Bitches” has already become a bit of a cult classic, but with that comes the reality of piracy. Clark conservatively estimates the film was downloaded illegally over a million times. “I’ve been discovering most indie filmmakers don’t realize the extent of the problem,” says Clark, “horror is particularly vulnerable, but everyone suffers from it and there are things you can do to protect prior to release and through release.”

I had a chance to talk about the new project and the piracy issues as the Indiegogo campaign launched – link after the interview.

BEARS: You basically killed everyone off in the first film.  And now you have the same task as most horror films, to reinvent the ensemble.  What was the focus of what you wanted to keep from the first installment, guiding you to this one?  Any overall mythology that helped you shape the story?

Clark: I knew wanted to continue building on theme of the first film, the idea of vanities and insecurities we all have, which are born of pressure to live up unrealistic expectations our culture promotes, and how those characteristics drive our behavior toward others. In “Crazy Bitches”it was how they can cause us to be hurtful to our friends. This time the idea applies to how parents can unwittingly project insecurities onto their children, which can do harm, too, obviously.

I was luckily left with the sisters, Minnie and Alice, and Alice’s husband Eddie, at the end of “Crazy Bitches.”  So I knew I could build on those characters. Alice had a 2 year-old in the last film, and that kid would now be in pre-school. That started me pondering the idea of setting the story around a pre-school and mommies, and that setting and those characters provided more than enough character types that I could infuse with insecurities such as fear of aging, acceptance, and questions about gender identity, sexuality and body-shaming.

And because I adored all my bitches from the first film, I am bringing a few of the actors back in new roles, like AMERICAN HORROR STORY does. (Specifically Candis Cayne, Guinevere Turner, John W. McLaughlin, Eddie Daniels, and Nayo Wallace.)

BEARS: What was most surprising to you about the original film’s reception?

Clark: I don’t think I expected the audiences to be as verbally engaged as they were. In theaters, you can hear gasps and ‘ews .’ You can watch people jump and grab their friend. There are points where the audience is laughing so much you can’t hear lines that follow. Eventually people start guessing out loud who the killer is or who they think is going to die next.

It’s just a lot of fun and actually took a little getting used to – and how reassuring. I’m sure I’m not different than any other filmmaker who wants their film to work and believes it will, but is scared to show it that first time (and second and third!). Because you never know if you succeeded until an audience shows you have.

BEARS: Anything you didn’t get to do with the first film that you seek to rectify in this one?

Clark: Two words: A lot. “Crazy Bitches” was a bit of a learning curve – learning what horror fans like, how to budget shooting time for things like stunts and blood gags and sex scenes. I’m going to push the sex appeal and the tension more in CRAZY BITCHES 2 – I think there was so much farther I could have gone on the first one, if we had planned things out better and made better use of our time.

Obviously, the low budget and the shortage of shooting days was an issue, and because of that we needed to be much more planned out ahead of time than we were. We had a shortened preproduction period, coupled with other major issues (I lost 4 cast members and a $50000 investor right before we were supposed to start pre-production.) That meant time I should have had with my shot list and planning out elements and actions with key crew was taken up with finding more money and auditioning new cast members.

This time around, because we’re amping up the blood and sex and comedy, it’s going to take more planning – and cash!

BEARS: I’d love to ask about the piracy issue.  How do you know you’ve had all these downloads?

We embraced a digital-only release and found a distributor focused on electronic sales. We relied on ourselves to promote the film, hired our own publicist who got us 60+ press impressions the month of release, and funded an ad campaign that saw 2x the average click-thru rate for a movie our size and release.

Little did we know that many popular torrent sites also time their posting to your release and leverage your ad campaign spending as their own marketing. On the day we released legitimately, the torrent sites also released the film.

We hadn’t hired a takedown service, which uses computer software to send out the thousands of DMCA takedown notices, because our distributor steered us away from it. The first weekend, my cousin called and said, “you guys are all over the Web” and the buzz was good. He sent us a link to one torrent site where we were one of the top 10 most downloaded movies of the weekend. I began trying to remove the URLs. Some sites showed 1000s of downloads per URL. Some were as high as 3000. Meanwhile, our legit sales flatlined.

I was contacted by a takedown service that noticed the same thing. We hired them. They removed 625 URLs on top of the 75 I removed myself in the first 10 days of release. They estimate, conservatively, about 300 downloads per URL for an indie film, but said they thought we were skewing much higher. Considering we saw our numbers in the 1000s, I think they were right. This summer I actually found an old torrent link that list the downloads on one URL at 12844. After a few months, we couldn’t afford to keep paying the service. At that point the URLs were still popping up at the rate of 5-7 a week.

I don’t want to slam anyone for watching “Crazy Bitches.”  I’m really glad people wanted to see it and I hope they liked it. But I don’t think they realize the damage they do. It’s an obstacle to getting the sequel made, not being able to show a return on investment. So, here we go, IndieGoGo campaign No. 2, and even then, it’s hard to get the kind of money to amp up the comedy, the horror and get the story out. Studios can absorb those losses – its not ideal for them either, but they can. Indie filmmakers and financiers can’t. And if indie movies are forced to be made super cheap, then making them becomes really just a hobby. If you need to make a living, you might need to find another career.

There you have it. A true indie filmmaker feeling the effects of piracy. But its very easy to make a difference here, just contribute to the campaign. https://igg.me/at/CrazyBs2

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