Saturday, December 5, 2009
Amusement Films: a conversation with Pat Bishow
I recently had the pleasure to talk to filmmaker Pat Bishow about his career, influences and his latest project. Mr. Bishow is a independent writer/director of such films as The Adventures of El Frenetico & Go-Girl,The Girls from H.A.R.M.!, and It's a Haunted Happenin'!
What was your inspirations to go into film making?
4th grade…watching Planet of The Apes on TV-I wanted to be Charlton Heston (an actor). Then my brother (10 years older than me) told me what a director does and I thought “THAT’S WHAT I WANT TO DO!!” Then I realized I really wanted to be Franklin Schaffner, not Chuck Heston! I loved all those great old horror films (Hammer, Universal, etc.) then as I got older, Welles, William Castle, Sam Fuller etc. In high school I moved on to Scorsese, Michael Richie, Godard etc. And in college I discovered the B-Movie! That’s when I came to the conclusion that I loved film! All kinds of movies. '30s classics, Toho, Fellini, Spike Lee, William Wyler, Don Coscarelli, the list goes on and on! My tastes are very varied. I’ve been told many times that I’m too artsy for the exploitation market and too exploitation for the artsy market. So basically I appeal to no one. Though, over the years I’ve become very comfortable with that assessment.
What kind of cameras do you use for filming your movies?
Well…back in the day I started on Super 8 (yes, I am old). Then 16mm to DVCPro. Now I shoot on DV. My latest project (Three Cases for CC Brite) was shot on the Cannon XL2.
Your films incorporate a very retro feel and some cool music. What decades are your favorites for film and music?
I’m a rock fan. I love '50s heavy guitar and thumbing piano (Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Buddy Holly), 60s Mersey Beat, psychedelic, soul and Motown--Beatles, Standells, Beau Brummels, Pet Clark, Smokey Robinson, Wilson Pickett, etc.--70s-80s punk (Clash, Ramones, Richard Hell, DEVO etc.)…after that…well, I got too old. So now it's just what I hear on the radio (how embarrassing!)
What can you tell us about your character CC Brite? What inspired her creation?
Gosh, how much time do we have? When Jessica Jolly (who plays CC) worked on another film of ours, “It’s A Haunted Happenin’!” ,she would always captivate us with her stories and jokes in between takes. She had a very funny way about her that we didn’t feel we were really utilizing on Haunted Happenin. Jon Sanborne (my co-writer) and I would often talk about this idea of a spunky/funky Nancy Drew/Tracy Beldon/Kim Aldrich type of character. Growing up, I read my sister’s mystery books. Originally, it was the covers that intrigued me, but as I read these books I’d get these huge crushes on these girls. They were so brave, smart and cute (and all at the same time!). We wanted to create a character in this vein. We thought Jessica would be perfect. Actually, at first it looked like she wasn’t going to be able to do it (conflicts with her schedule) so we dropped the idea. We couldn’t picture anyone else playing that part.
Jessica really brought CC to life. She had amazing instincts about the character. I remember a scene where the bad guy pokes her with a sedative needle and she was supposed to say “damn!” but Jessica said ”CC would NEVER curse.” So instead she said “Dang!”-that was a really great touch. The character had to be old-fashioned yet at the same time, hip. The big mistake in the Nancy Drew movie was to take a condescending view of Nancy--they made her so goody-goody that the audience could only laugh at her. CC is cheesy, but she’s cool and modern too (with a dash of nostalgia that’s her own doing). It’s on her terms. Another touch Jessica added was when it came to CC’s friends. She felt CC was a loner. She worked with others, but really she kept to herself. That’s the way CC liked to play it.
CC Brite has bit of hand-to-hand combat in it. Do you guys choreograph the fight scenes?
To be honest, we used to. El Frenetico & The Girls from HARM! (early films) had a ton of fighting. I had a friend Paul Lazo who choreographed those fights (he did the fight choreography for the Batman Stunt Show at Great Adventure). So we kind of used his old routines and shaped them more for CC. We felt CC was very scrappy, but not really a martial artist. She can kick and punch but not in a trained way. More of a “fast on her feet” kind of fighter.
The first thing I saw of yours was a youtube video for a It's a Haunted Happenin'! What was your inspiration for making it?
Always a fan of those old 60s movies, I tried to combine the flavor of a “Beach Girls and the Monster” with a “Beach Blanket Bingo” musical. So we had the mad doctor, pretty girls and a gorilla and they would break into song for good measure. I would say the inspiration came from the idea I have these two influences running through me. One is the nostalgic appeal of my childhood with crazy colors and pop music to my punk dirty adulthood with movies like Taxi Driver and A Clockwork Orange. The truth is I love both. The Soultangers (the punk band) and the Darlings (the sweet 60s group) are both parts of me.
Any plans for It's A Haunted Happenin sequel?
I would love to….I was soooooooooo lucky to get that cast. Most of the actors in my films are my friends. I usually bring in one or two new people into each production. This was the first time I brought in seven new actors. And they were ALL AMAZING! I was very lucky. They were all younger than me but yet they still got the joke. I’ll never really understand that, but I felt very fortunate. That was the best cast I ever worked with. I’m also happy to say that I’m still friendly with most of them (and three of them show up in CC Brite!!). Maybe someday I’ll get someone to finance a big budget production starring the original cast!
What your creative process like when you’re coming up with a film?
It usually starts with Jon (my co-writer) and me talking about something we’re thinking about. Slowly the idea comes from there. Sometimes Owen Cooper (my producer) or Doug Roussin (my Art Director) will have an idea or will chime in on what we’re talking about. But it’s usually Jon and me fleshing out the idea.
Were can we pick up your movies?
There used to be so many ways. Right now I would say either write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our myspace page www.myspace.com/ccbrite.
So what's next for you guys?
You know, Shane, I’m getting too old for this. I have a family and that takes up most of my time. But never say never. I never thought I would finish Three Cases for CC Brite…and it did take me a long time…but never say never!
Any final message for our readers?
My advise is MAKE the film!! Just get out there and shoot. The technology has really changed from the days when I started. You can really do great stuff on limited budgets. Don’t worry about what others think. Just make sure you like it! And start filming…NOW!!
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Great interview. I have watched and enjoyed very much two of Pat Bishow's earlier projects (the El Frenetico compilation and the Girls From H.A.R.M. feature). Glad to see he's added to his canon, and happy to see the contact information so I can try and order copies of his newer stuff.
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