I think that nudity and horror go together like peanut butter and chocolate... a delectable pair. Really, horror has always had a certain sexuality to it and I think there are a few reasons. First off, it's about the audience. Who do horror movies cater to? Well, predominantly younger males, probably aged 18 - 34 and if you're trying to cater to that audience, give them more of what they want... boobs. I'm betting that this was the thinking throughout most of the 80's and early 90's. Then there's artistic reasons... when someone is naked, they're at their most vulnerable. So, when you're in the shower, getting changed or going for a skinny-dip, these are the times that you DON'T want to get attacked. Adding to that, there's a reason that one of the most common nightmares involves not having your clothes on, it represents vulnerability. Lastly, horror and sex are just linked... they're both primal. Hey, it's why guys take girls to horror movies, even though those girls don't like them. We hope they close their eyes and hide themselves in our arms. However, half the time it's the guys that are hiding and the girls that are cheering on the killing, but I digress...
Having said all that, there's a big difference between adding a couple topless scenes to appease the younger males and get that "contains nudity" rating and heading out and making soft-core porn. Now, I have nothing against soft-core porn, I passed out every night watching Cinemax in college, but I don't know where that line between teen boobie-horror and soft-core porn is crossed. Harry Sparks' "Rotkappchen: The Blood of Red Riding Hood" is one such film that rides the line between the two. Without question, the film is well done. Sparks stretched his budget to put together a wonderful looking film that gives us a very unique take on the story of Red Riding Hood. Further, simply from the perspective of cinematography, it's amazing. He really created a unique look and feel that works for the story. However, the film definitely pushes the erotic boundaries... and has excessive nudity. At the end of the day, the film is definitely worth checking out and, if you're interested, you can go to its page on Amazon here, to read more about it and/or buy it. Before you do, though, I recommend checking out this interview that we did with Harry Sparks, the writer/director of the film...
Tell us a bit about "Rotkappchen: The Blood of Red Riding Hood"
Rotkäppchen: The Blood of Red Riding Hood is the story of a German teenage girl named Rose who is brought to America by her mother to stay with her Grandmother. After her first day at her new school, Rose discovers that she just does not fit in with the other students and retreats into her own fantasy world of her favorite childhood story, Red Riding Hood. It is a fairy tale come to life.
You definitely went heavy on the erotic route, tell us a bit about your thoughts behind that. Was it an artistic decision or a business decision?
It was an artistic decision. I determined very early on, after extensive research on the Little Red Riding Hood story that it needed to be an erotic film. I discovered that the story was really about the loss of virginity and about sexual awakening. It was about travelling the road from childhood to adulthood and I wanted to explore that aspect of the story since we have not really seen that before. I felt telling the story from that perspective- exploring the emotions of a sexually adventurous girl dealing with the joy and terror of puberty, would be an interesting challenge. I know that there will be some people that, as soon as they see nudity or a sex scene, will dismiss it as porn or soft porn. But I don’t agree with that way of thinking. We are all sexual beings so why the false modesty? I feel very strongly that the film is as graphic as it is because it needed to be. So ultimately, I couldn’t worry about any criticism that may come my way and just make the movie the way I envisioned it.
If you don't mind us asking, what was the budget and how did you go about securing financing?
I think the production budget was around $30,000, which was a combination of contributions from friends, family, personal income and personal savings. But I think it looks like it costs much more than it actually did. Part of that is because we had the opportunity to shoot in several countries in Europe while visiting family in Germany. It gives the film the epic scope that I wanted. One of the interesting things about being an independent filmmaker with limited resources is that it forces you to be inventive. You don’t have to have a big budget to make good film. The challenge is how to get your vision from the page to the screen and I think we were pretty successful in doing that.
You got some great performances out of your actors, not to mention putting them in some compromising positions. Talk a bit about casting and your directing style...
Actually, some of the actors inspired the writing of the script before it was even written. The character of Rose for example was written for Stefanie Geils. I saw her one evening wearing a red dress, and felt inspired. And the character of Summer was written for Sativa Verte because I knew her as well. The rest of the cast, like Nicole Vuono and Chris O’Brocki, helped shape their characters after they were cast. After meeting Nicole and speaking to her, I knew she could play a great villain, although in real life she is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. And Chris s a great character actor who can play just about any role and I knew he would make a great David. I like to come to the set with a plan-either storyboards or I have a sequence planned out in my head. But I learned that part of directing is listening. Actors can contribute some great ideas, so if someone comes up with a great idea and if it works, I will use it.
I was extremely impressed by the visuals of the film. You mix black & white with color, you use lots of different effects and lenses. Talk a bit about creating the look and feel of the film.
The visual style evolved while researching the story, I discovered that the red cape actually symbolizes her menstrual blood and her readiness for sexual awakening. So I wanted to isolate the color red and desaturate the world around her. Notice in the film, Rose becomes infatuated with Summer only after she sees her wearing a red towel. For the fairytale world, I wanted very warm, saturated colors since this is supposed to be Rose’s imagination and for her this world is much more comforting than the real world. “Jaws” was the main inspiration for the wolf. One of the main reasons that movie worked for me was that for most of the movie you witness the attacks from the shark’s point of view. That is much more terrifying than seeing the whole shark, and I actually prefer that approach to seeing a CG monster because it forces the audience to use their imagination.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you into indie film?
I have always loved movies and going to the movies but I think I became interested in making them after seeing the original “Star Wars” in the theater. It must have had an impact because after watching The making of “Star Wars” on television, I set out to try to make my own “Star Wars” film using my classmates at school. I was only nine years old at the time so I eventually dropped that plan! But then when I saw E.T.-The Extra Terrestrial” in the summer of ’82, everything changed. That movie had such an emotional impact on me…I guess it was the right movie at the right time, but I said, “This is what I want to do. I want to be a director and I don’t care what anybody says.” You have to be stubborn and singled-minded if you are going to be a director. So I made my first short film at the age of 14, which didn’t turn out that great. But instead of getting discouraged, I became even more determined. I checked out filmmaking books from the library and studied them, while continuing to make short films with my friends throughout high school. So Steven Spielberg was and still is my biggest influence. He is such an amazing storyteller. I also admire the films of Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Tinto Brass, and many others.
Film school: Yes or No?
I think film school is very useful because you have access to a lot of equipment you may not otherwise have. It is also a great place to make contacts. I had some of the basic skills before entering film school, but film school helped me hone those skills. The thing to keep in mind though is that simply getting a degree in and of itself does not guarantee a job in the film industry. You really have to work hard and if you have the opportunity for an internship, you should take it. In the end, your reel will say more about you as a filmmaker than anything.
Did the film screen at any festivals? If so, how did it do? What are your thoughts on the indie horror festival circuit?
We haven’t entered this film in any film festivals yet, but may enter a few next year. It’s customary to let your film play the festival circuit for about year and then find a distributor, but I didn’t want the public to have to wait a year to see the film. We started building buzz almost two years ago through social networking, so we knew we had some interest. The entry fee for film festivals can be quite high, and after awhile that adds up. So we’ll choose the festivals we do enter very carefully. When I’m making a film, I’m really not thinking about winning awards. The person I am trying to please is myself and the audience.
Talk about distribution. What lessons have you learned and if you could pass on a word of advice to other indie filmmakers, what would it be?
The main lesson I have learned is that you can distribute your movie yourself. I have heard so many horror stories about distribution companies ripping off filmmakers it’s scary. If a filmmaker does go with a distribution company, they should hold out for a deal they are happy with and not always take the first one offered. But if you are like me and like to retain control, you may want to consider self-distribution. It is a lot more work and responsibility, but it can be more rewarding.
Talk about the indie horror scene. Where do you think it is now and where do you see it going?
I think this is a great time for indie horror. The success of “Paranormal Activity” shows that you don’t need a big budget to make a successful horror film and I’m sure that will inspire a lot of filmmakers. But I think if you are an independent filmmaker, you should try to push the envelope, which is what I tried to do with this film. Many studio films costs more than $100 million or more to make, so they have to take fewer risks to earn that money back and try to appeal to as broad of an audience as possible with a PG-13 film. But an indie film usually does not cost nearly as much and you can afford to take more risks without compromising your vision as much. If you feel in your heart of hearts that your film needs to be an R or NC-17 film, then that is the movie you should make. Eventually, your film will find an audience.
Where can people find out more about "Rotkappchen" or, better yet, buy a copy?
To find out more about Rotkäppchen: The Blood of Red Riding Hood, people can visit the official website, RedRidingHoodMovie.net. The film is currently available at Amazon.com and will soon be available through Filmbaby.com, and eventually Netflix. If people want to get the movie through Netflix, I encourage them to contact Netflix and demand it.
What's next for you?
There are so many different types of stories I want to tell, its hard picking my next project. I really like erotic-fantasy and erotic-horror so I would like to do something else in those genres. I would also like to do a ghost story and a science fiction film. But whatever I do next, I am going to continue to push the envelope.