AMATEUR PORN STAR SNUFF: INTERVIEW WITH MICHIKO JIMENEZ

The ultimate movie-related urban legend, the snuff film, is the center of Shane Ryan’s visceral feature “Amateur Porn Star Killer.” Ryan directs himself as a serial killer with a taste of cinema, and his victims wind up the unwilling stars of his snuff films. “Amateur Porn Star Killer” follows the cat-and-mouse game between the killer and his next potential victim during a hotel room liaison.

The very-low-budget production, originally shot in a four-hour span in 2004 but only now getting a DVD release, is fueled by the astonishing performance by Michiko Jimenez as Stacy, a teen who finds herself in an eerie situation that slow escalates out of her control. Jimenez captures the full spectrum of emotions that turn her character in a fully-dimensional character who finds an evening’s carnal diversion veering wildly into grisly mind games. What is even more startling is to realize the entire film was improvised, with Jimenez bringing Stacy’s dilemma to life in an extraordinary display of improv skills.

Film Threat caught up with Jimenez at the Los Angeles offices of Cinema Epoch, the DVD distributor for “Amateur Porn Star Killer,” to discuss her involvement in this unusual project.

What was the origin of “Amateur Porn Star Killer”? And how did you hook up with filmmaker Shane Ryan for this project?
I met Shane when I was about 16. I was at the home of my sister’s boyfriend’s, Jerell Gray, who was also a filmmaker and a friend of Shane’s. I think they were making Jerell’s film “Tammy’s Slumber Party” about that time. Shane starred in it. I don’t think we even said anything – he was into whatever he was doing, but he seemed pretty cool.

Then a few weeks, maybe it was a few months later, I was at Pizza Hut, where Shane was working. I hope he doesn‘t mind me giving out that info! I was there with a girl he liked and he was just getting off work, so the three of us hung out and then went to his house and watched a movie. He didn’t really seem to connect with that girl, so he ended up just talking to me more and about his films and stuff. I saw that he was an obsessive, huge Jean-Claude Van Damme freak, and also a Brandon Lee and Dolph Lundgren fan. To end up doing a horror film with him was surprising – I would have thought it’d be a kung-fu movie.

After that, I didn’t see him for a couple years. Then Shane was getting ready to make a couple films. For one, “The More The Better” he needed a girl over 18 to play a 15 year old who was discovering she was a lesbian. He also needed a girl for “The Cold Heat” to do a lot of sex scenes. Shane had mentioned to Jerell that he thought I could pull it off, but Jerell said I would never do it – w hich was the main reason I choose to! I really wanted to prove him wrong. I also really love to act. I had only done some plays in high school, so this was a chance to have some fun, and my first time acting for the camera.

For the first movie, a feature mockumentary, I got to improvise everything. I thought it was loads of fun and pretty easy, and we did a kinky lesbian sex scene! But for “The Cold Heat”, a five-to-six page short film, it was a lot different. Shane had it in his mind exactly what he wanted, but I wasn’t doing it right so he had me do it about 50 times from several angles. Eventually, we both wanted to really kill each other. But I loved the finished product of “The Cold Heat,” so it was worth it.

How did you prepare, both physically and emotionally, for this intensive role?
I hate to say that I went through something similar that the victim did. It was a slightly different approach, and I obviously got out alive, but I had stuff I could relate to. Even though it’s a shitty memory, it really helped me. I just went back in time to when it happened and was experiencing it all over again as I was in character. I was very shut-down, not that responsive. At one point we had to change tapes – our only break – and Shane said he needed to take a break or he was going to puke. He said he couldn’t keep pretending to be a rapist/psycho for so long, it was making him sick. So, we took a break, and he watched cartoons. It was his way of dealing with being in a bad place. I sat on the bad and didn’t even really watch the TV. I didn’t say anything when he talked to me, I just wanted to stay in character.

Then, we put in the second tape and finished the movie. Whenever it got really bad I would just tell myself, “it’s only a movie.” Otherwise, I just went with the flow. It was really weird because I know Shane, and had had relations with him in real life, and felt completely safe with him, so to act like he’s Ted Bundy or something was scary. And the way he talked to me, with this creepy, sleazy voice, was terrifying. That doesn’t sound like him at all. But, thankfully, I bet that really helped keep me in character. The whole thing was done in one take. Nothing was really planned or staged, other than the killing. It was just, we need to get from point A to point B.

How long did it take to shoot the film? And was it an easy film to shoot?
I think it was about four hours total. We took only about an hour to prepare, and then we shot about two hours worth in real time, plus took that hour break.

I’m not sure whether to call it easy or not. As far as the time involved, that was a piece of cake. And nobody bugged us at the hotel, though some sleazy old guys tried to hit on me while I was waiting for Shane to pick me up, which is ironic given the whole idea of the movie. I looked about 14, max, and had 50 year olds trying to pick me up at midnight or whenever it was, really late.

The film has received both positive and negative reviews. How do you feel about the critics’ reaction?
It’s flattering to hear good reviews, but I don’t really care a whole lot. Shane always calls me up to tell me, “these people loved you, check this out!” Sometimes people say ridiculous, hurtful things, but you can’t let it get to you – many people are bored and have nothing to do. They see you doing something and all they have is their mouths. But for the most part, people seem to like the film, and that’s awesome. I think the average review is like an 8/10 or 3½-4 stars out of 4-5 stars, which isn’t bad for a $50 movie made in a few hours.

What are your next projects?
Well, if Shane gets around to editing it, we made a feature back in 2003 called “The More The Better.” I think it’s been through three editors. It’s an improv project and has more takes than “Amateur Porn Star Killer,” so I think it’s been a little difficult to edit because of all the different improvised dialogue and continuity. Right now, Shane and I have been talking about doing another improv movie called “I Hate Me, Myself, and I Want to Die.” Shane’s also shooting sequels to “Amateur Porn Star Killer” right now, so maybe I’ll do a cameo, as long as you can’t tell it’s me. But it’s been three years since the first, so I look pretty different. As far as anything else, I’m not sure, I pretty much just act with Shane unless I come across somebody else in Lompoc, or in the area, shooting a movie, then I might be up for something else.

Finally, there is one question I am eager to ask: Is that your bare backside on the film’s DVD cover?
You may or may not notice that the girl on the cover is not me. I was unavailable at the time of the photo shoot, so Shane had Emily Nishimoto, sister of co-executive producer Nikki Nishimoto, double for me. I think they came out really great, so I’m glad it worked out.




Posted on October 31, 2007 in Interviews by
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