Working outside of Hollywood’s money-backed studio system has its perks, according to three independent filmmakers debuting new projects at this year’s SF IndieFest. (See our full preview here.)
Award-winning Canadian auteur Bruce LaBruce (Gerontophilia, Pierrot Lunaire) notes that “Necessity is the mother of invention,” forcing him to “get creative” with sets, costumes, and effects in films like his latest porn, The Affairs of Lidia.
First-time director Moby says his Punk Rock Vegan Movie documentary, featuring interviews with music royalty like Ian Mackaye, Dave Navarro, and Captain Sensible, was another vital vehicle for the longtime animal rights activist to get his message across.
“I guess I’m like Sisyphus, where every day you have to wake up and do whatever you can and hope somehow you do something that moves the needle,” adds Moby.
Writer-director, Geoff Marslett, says outside-the-box movies like his trippy animated western, Quantum Cowboys, enable him to explore radical concepts “that you might not otherwise if your main reason for making a film is that it is a business proposition.”
For 25 years, SF IndieFest has spotlighted fiercely uncompromising titles like these. The line-up of this year’s silver-anniversary edition—showcasing 20-plus films over 10 days (Feb. 2-14) at the Roxie Theater and online—is no less audacious.
I spoke to cast and crew members of three of these silver-screen must-sees, The Affairs of Lidia’s LaBruce and porn star Markus Kage, Punk Rock Vegan Movie’s Moby, and Quantum Cowboys’ Marslett and actor David Arquette, about bringing these passion projects to the screen.
The Affairs of Lidia (Thu/2)
48 HILLS Bruce, can you tell me how The Affairs of Lidia came together?
BRUCE LABRUCE I made three short films for [indie pornmaker] Erika Lust. Then a year ago, they approached me to do a feature film. I always wanted to make a film set in the fashion world.
48 HILLS Markus, what was your familiarity with Bruce’s work before working on this film?
MARKUS KAGE I don’t think I have ever seen any of it. I’ve heard his name a bunch and that he’s done great work, so I was excited when I heard about this project.
48 HILLS I saw all these classic movie references in the film, like Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Eyes of Laura Mars, and Liquid Sky—that would never make it into mainstream porn movies.
BRUCE LABRUCE Yeah, it was a pastiche, combining references to a lot of fashion movies, too. I actually stole some lines from them. So it’s an homage to fashion films but also a gentle critique of the fashion world.
48 HILLS Talk to me about the role of fashion in the film. The Mondrian jacket, in particular, was pure sex.
BRUCE LABRUCE I had an amazing costumer. In terms of the clothes, we used some newer designers, but we also have a friend who has a vintage clothing store in Toronto and they provided a lot of fashion. The Mondrian jacket was one of these items.
48 HILLS The brutal confrontation at the end of the film reminded me of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Boys in the Band.
BRUCE LABRUCE Yeah, the best two films that I reference all the time in my
movies. Originally, I wanted to have a runway show at the end, but we didn’t have the budget or time. So I did this. But I came up with the idea of having a runway when they come in to take their bows at the end. So it is done as if it’s on stage.
48 HILLS Speaking of budget, you’ve always done so much in your films with so little. How do you manage?
BRUCE LABRUCE Necessity is the mother of invention. The limited budget makes you come up with ideas to compensate for the lack of budget.
My early films are all guerrilla style, and you feel that in the movies—that improvising and flying by the seat of your pants and catching whatever you can with the camera.
With The Affairs of Lidia, it was like a couple hundred thousand—a lot for a porn film and a normal budget for me. I just find producers like Joe Balazs, who did an amazing job of producing it.
I’m just very used to getting a lot of bang for my buck making movies. Locations matter a lot. They add value to the film and the costumes as well. So there’s a lot you can do to go against the constraints of the budget.
48 HILLS Markus, what did you enjoy most about starring in this movie?
MARKUS KAGE I’ve never done stuff like this before. It was a nice way to ease into it. It wasn’t super stressful and Bruce was patient with my lack of acting skills, which was pretty cool.
48 HILLS What are the misconceptions about working on a porn set?
MARKUS KAGE It’s not like you just set up a camera and do your thing half the time. It’s ridiculously awkward positions that would not feel very functional or realistic. So there’s a lot of stopping and starting and just forcing shit to work.
48 HILLS Could you see this film breaking into movie theaters like Deep Throat or Brown Bunny?
BRUCE LABRUCE In all my years of making films, I’m stuck in this weird gray area where my films are too pornographic for the arthouse scene or too arty for porn. It’s kind of a twilight zone.
This film has played half a dozen or more film festivals. So that’s a good way of getting it seen beyond a pure porn context. I think it fits in with the rest of my work. It has the same kind of style and thematic obsessions. So I hope it finds a cult audience in the future.
Punk Rock Vegan Movie (Sat/4)
48 HILLS Moby, why make a punk rock vegan movie?
MOBY My introduction to animal rights and veganism came from the punk-rock scene of the early ‘80s. I was playing in a hardcore band called The Vatican Commandos, and the first and only time I went on tour with them, we drove to Akron, Ohio, to play a show for 10 people in a pizza parlor. While we were in Akron, we stayed at a vegan squat. I was a 15-year-old kid. I barely knew what vegetarianism was and certainly didn’t know what veganism was. So that was my introduction to the idea that if you’re troubled by animal suffering or by killing a trillion animals a year, you probably shouldn’t be involved in any industry that supports that.
So a couple of years after that, in 1984, I became a vegetarian, then in ‘87, vegan. And my approach with ideally almost everything I do is to try and be a good and effective animal rights activist. It’s the only thing that really matters to me.
I love making music and find great comfort and refuge in it. But if someone held a gun to my head and said, “What is your sole purpose?” I’d be like, “Well, simply to end the use of animals for human purposes.” That’s the only reason I am alive as far as I can tell. I guess I’m like Sisyphus, where every day you have to wake up and do whatever you can and hope somehow you do something that moves the needle.
48 HILLS You have promoted veganism in almost every conceivable way, whether it’s through tattoos, books, albums, festivals, restaurants, and now this movie. Is there a tactic you haven’t tried yet?
MOBY So one of my tactics that I’ve wanted to figure out how to pursue, but just can’t figure out the right way of going about it is pursuing the billionaires because, as we know, the billionaires run the planet. I just don’t know any billionaires.
But I’m hoping to maybe get an invitation to Davos to something that enables me to talk to the ruling class and say, “Look, you all want to do the right thing.” A lot of billionaires pride themselves on being smart and rational. And I’m like, “What’s smart and rational? Not using animals for food.” That is one thing that for years I’ve been trying to do.
Unfortunately, I went to the Aspen Ideas Festival to talk about this, and I don’t think I’m invited back because they had me speaking in the Charles Koch Pavilion. And so, unfortunately, at the beginning of my speech, I compared the Koch brothers to spawns of Satan. And I don’t know if that necessarily endeared me to the people at the Aspen Ideas Festival. If I go to the World Economic Forum, I might not begin my speech by saying everyone in the audience is a demon.
Quantum Cowboys (Mon/6)
48 HILLS Geoff, how did you approach David to be a part of this picture?
GEOFF MARSLETT Indie filmmaking is always sort of a miracle that it even happens. You never have enough money to do what you need to do. I had to be my own casting director, which is a bit of a drag. But I was lucky. One of our producers, Melodie Sisk, had worked with David’s management in the past and helped connect me. Essentially, we did a pitch to them saying, “This is the project, this is the rest of the cast attached, and is it something David would be interested in?” We were lucky enough that it resonated.
48 HILLS Geoff, you’ve said that locations are such an important component of your movies. Why is that?
GEOFF MARSLETT In making independent films, you don’t have the support and the resources that more commercial projects have, so it can be difficult to make them happen. But along with that lack of resources, sometimes you’re given a little more freedom to explore ideas, concepts, and reasons for making a film that you might not otherwise if your main reason for making a film is that it is a business proposition. But where you are—the temperature, the sights, the sounds, the people—influences what it’s like to exist in such a strong way that that’s one of the things I hope to convey in cinema.
48 HILLS David, in this film, you and your villainous partner are traveling across this big, vast frontier. Did you tap into what your frontier ancestors had experienced before you?
DAVID ARQUETTE Yeah, my ancestors were frontier people. We came through Canada and colonized part of Canada and then came down through Ohio. So I did feel a connection to my ancestors and a connection to the universe.
Dude, even though we’re shooting the barn with the green screen, you could feel transported for a second. That’s powerful. It’s wild.
48 HILLS This film has been described as an interdimensional search for redemption along infinite timelines. David, what would you like redemption for?
DAVID ARQUETTE I’m on that same journey. I look back at some of my behavior that’s just so weird. You know, just the ego and energy. That’s probably what I need to be forgiven for, although I’m in a business where you need a healthy ego to have the confidence to make certain choices as an actor, even if those choices are that your character is sort of lost or has a hard time or a lot of problems.
48 HILLS You’ve always seemed so good-natured. What’s it like for you to play a murderous con man like Colfax? And where do you draw from when you’re playing a villain?
DAVID ARQUETTE My philosophy is that we’re all part of something way bigger than us. My version of God includes everything light and dark. So it’s just part of human nature. You could tap into that scary stuff.
The older I get, the less interested I am in it. Like the mobsters aren’t as cool to me anymore. But when I was younger, there was some kind of honor in it. And I understand that, too. I understand that gang philosophy, why people are in gangs, and what they need from it. It all goes back to love. It’s connection and brotherhood. But violence is this crazy thing that some people get off on. It’s pretty intense, but if you tap into who this person is and what they love, you could go a lot of places.
GEOFF MARSLETT I try to write films in my own view. There are very few villains, people who are doing things because they’re evil. These are mostly people who have prioritized their own needs over other people, and they end up looking like villains.
I think David was so good as this character because even though ostensibly they’re the villains of this movie, they’re never particularly cruel or coming from this terrible space. They just happen to be the problem for these other characters. I think David’s way of looking at the world, including that version of God that is everything, is what made him so good at Colfax, where at the end of the day, we still sort of love Colfax. I think he’s a crowd-favorite when people watch the movie.
SAN FRANCISCO INDIEFEST runs through February 14. For tickets and more info go here.
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