As the Programming Coordinator for the 2007 Florida Film Festival, I was in charge of dealing with most of the submissions that came in. One lonely day, an envelope arrived with a slim black DVD case inside. Some sort of white-out like fluid covered the front side and spelled out, “BITCH! Written and Directed by Lilah Vandenburgh.”
“This movie is called “BITCH?” I asked myself.
Curious, I looked the film up on IMDB and noticed the character names: Fucker, Bitch, Old Black Dude, Some Dude, Vaguely Hot Old Chick, Shit Head Boss, and Dipshit.
“Shit Head Boss? I think that asshole just fired me a few months ago from my old job. In fact, I know all of these people. I have to see this.”
So I watched it. And then I watched it again. “BITCH” is a hilarious satire on indie culture, as well as a few various political hot topics, and I can’t recall ever laughing so hard at any other short film I’ve ever seen. This short masterpiece is one of the best I have ever seen, period.
Sadly, Lilah wasn’t able to come to Florida to hang out at the festival, so I never got to meet her in person. I had questions that needed answering though, so thank Al Gore for the internet. After you read this interview, make it your mission to see this short at a festival near you.
Michael Ferraro: “BITCH” is easily one of the most memorable characters in short film history. She basically does what everyone of us wants to do: punch annoying people in the face and trip rollerbladers with an arm to the face. How much of this character is you?
Lilah Vandenburgh: I get asked this question a lot. I’d like to say I’m her but I’d be “mad frontin’.” “BITCH” is me with no social filter, about a foot taller and with Lindsay Wagner-esque strength. I only give poseurs the “beat-down” they deserve — in my mind. I’m not as cool as my own movie.
I’m lawful to the point of fearful neurosis. The saddest thing is, I’m one of those people “BITCH” would beat up. An irritating, meticulous, pretentious hipster/nerd, always correcting and informing people about pop-culture minutia and comic book/movie/cartoon/band trivia they couldn’t give a fuck about. But at least I’m aware of it. And I hate myself sufficiently for it. There. I said it. Are you happy Michael?
I am sure there is a little bit of that hipster-trivia-poseur in all of us. I think I am a bit guilty of that in various areas too. Keira Leverton portrays “BITCH” perfectly… how did you find her?
We had an insanely long casting process. I searched for “BITCH” for about 3 months and saw hundreds of girls. In LA it’s hard to someone who doesn’t look altered or too cosmetic. We needed someone who wasn’t perfect and didn’t look like a model. After 3 months I thought, hey I know this great performer in Dallas. At that point, the producer and I realized it was just easier to fly Keira out than keep looking in the wrong spot. Keira is an old friend; we met in Drama club back in high school. We’ve been in a comedy troupe and a theatre troupe together over the years. She’s a professional dancer so I knew she could give me the physicality I needed. “BITCH” says very little but her body language is everything. I really fugged her up for the part though. Keira is incredibly sweet and girly. We cut her hair. She wore basically no make up and I told her to play it pretty flat and intimidating. Her energy in real life is so opposite to that character.
Well, she certainly nailed the part perfectly. How about “Fucker”(Juan Garcia)… did you know him also or did he surprise you during the casting?
We had a lot of trouble with Fucker as well. I wanted a guy that was kind of raw, and all the actors that came in for Fucker were pretty middle-class and not very intimidating. I had this whole insane back story about how Fucker lives with his grandma and the only thing he can relate to is the rescued dogs he keeps in the backyard. He went through one of those animal therapy programs and that’s why he got out of juvie hall early. So after several months of casting – and we went everywhere – contacting theater troupes, the non-traditional casting project and I even went to Cal State Long Beach and put up flyers looking for Samoan kids and stuff – I had basically given up and I was going to cast someone that wasn’t right for the part. This was just about a week before the shoot. We were driving around in West Hollywood and saw this Mexican skinhead guy in a Sav-On Pharmacy uniform, smoking in front of the Sav-On Pharmacy on Santa Monica Blvd. I was like “holy shit! That’s the guy!” I came back and gave him a casting flyer. I never thought he would show up, but Juan turned out to be incredibly professional. Never acted in his life, just a natural with a ton of charisma. By the end of the week, he was all like, “where’s my eye line? Where’s my mark? Tell me how big the frame is so I know how much I can move.” Everyone on set fell in love with him.
He certainly was a perfect compliment to Bitch and together they make the ultimate pissed off duo. Any chance of a versus-like follow up? Like those old “Godzilla” flicks or something. I’d love to see “Bitch and Fucker Vs. Lame Spider-Man Fans” or “Bitch and Fucker Vs. George Lucas” or something like that.
Who knows, those characters might come back someday in a larger work, but probably as minor characters. I think Bitch’s main story has been told. It was about the perfect length for her (15 minutes). In a certain way, they’re too cartoonish to really carry a feature. But it makes them perfect for a short.
Although I do like the Bonnie and Clyde aspect of being an ass kickin’ duo. Like if they descended upon an Arcade Fire concert, a Steve Jobs’ lecture or Comic-Con. That could be funny. I wouldn’t mind doing a follow up that was a different format. Like a comic book. She’s basically a fucked up super hero as it is.
“Hero” is certainly the proper term. How did you feel when “BITCH” won a Special Jury Prize for Best Female Role Model at the Florida Film Festival?
Awesome! Florida’s a right respectable festival and it was truly a surprise and an honor. I feel a Special Jury Prize means, “we don’t have an award for this, but we want to give you one anyway!” So it felt very personal. My only reservation was the “Female” part. I wish it had been for “role model” period, not just female. I think “BITCH” is a bit unusual in that she’s a female character that men can identify with as well, since she’s pretty –uh– “gender neutral.” Having said all that, I think the title of the award was meant to be a bit ironic, which I appreciate, since “BITCH” is actually a HORRIBLE role model– as far as being socially integrated—or kind. So I think Florida really got the humor and sensibility of the film, and gave me an award in keeping with the style of it.
I don’t think she is a horrible role model at all. If I taught middle school, I’d show this film to all my classes! I’d even hire her to be a babysitter to my kids (should that awful day ever come to where I would accidentally have those). So, if “BITCH” was indeed a real person, what her top five albums be?
This is a tough one because “BITCH” has a public top 5 and a private, secret top 5. But luckily I’ve had a chance to rummage through her record collection. Here’s what I found.
5. The Boswell Sisters – It’s You (1931): The original Bitches. These chicks wipe the floor with the Andrew Sisters’ stinking corpses. And the lead singer was in a wheelchair. Eat it Jethro Tull!
4. Richard Hell and the Voidoids – Blank Generation (1977): The man from whom Sid Vicious totally stole his style.
3. The MC5 – Kick out the Jams (1969) + The Stooges – Self Titled (1969): Same difference.
2. The Specials – Two Tone (1979): Quintessential 2nd wave ska. Thoroughly un-terrible!
1. Minor Threat – EP (1981): Showing you’re a real fan is always about locking on to a first pressing, indie label EP, before a band went “all corporate and totally started sucking.”
The real Top 5:
5. Wendy and Lemmy (Motorhead & Plasmatics) (1982) – “BITCH” hates sentimentalism or romance, which is why she can’t abide by this the co-joining of yin and yang. At least not out loud.
4. Panic! at the Disco – A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out (2005) – She secretly wants to fuck Brendon Urie but she’d rather gas a room full of “emo” fans with Zyklon-B than tell anyone.
3. Joy Division/New Order – Before and After the BBC sessions: Not because the band sucks, but because “Best Of’s” are totally gay.
2. Kate Bush The Kick Inside (1978) – She knows that Kate rocks but can’t abide by all the pussies that are also into her. The soundtrack to every lyrical dancers college audition piece.
1. Journey- Escape (1981) – Her absolute favorite! Don’t tell anyone.
And believe me, my top 5 are totally different. Or are they?
Posted on November 8, 2007 in Interviews by Michael Ferraro
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