This Saturday (March 10th) marks the momentuous occasion of the world premiere of
Eric Cheevers’ Las Historias Mas Sexy Del Mundo (2007 installement). It will be shown at 11 pm at the 9.30 club as part of the BYT visual stimulation project with Infamy. Big screen, bigger action and then some.
To quote a review which we (basically) could (And SHOULD HAVE) have written:
“cheevers’ las historias mas sexy del mundo is 15 minutes ofmind-bending dc pseudo porn and rock and roll. dubbed entirely into spanish, and treated to ensure that the film has a genuine 16 mm grungy look,
las historias mas sexy del mundo is nothing short of brilliant.
c’mon – robots in forests? abandoned cabins full of clothes?
an ironic shout-out to bergman?“.
This should basically explain why we are so excited to see it, and for you to see it too
(we are even throwing a dance party and a “Soft Complex” show afterwards to make it all even more festive to boot)
(The installement to be premiered stars everyone from Matthew Lesko to Ian Svenonius to The Raveonettes plus an assortment of local DC heros and heroines).
In preparation for it all, we sat down with Eric (Cheevers, the director) and Scott (Mueller, the producer) and talked to them about everything from sex industry pseudonyms, Tennessee Green, softcore porn, to analog video to working with some of the most colorful and amazing characters around.
With some “Las Historias” exclusive production stills to boot. Enjoy. And we will see you at 11 pm this Saturday.
Q: Tell us how you two met and decided to start working together?
Eric: Scott and I are both UMBC (University of MD, Baltimore County) alumna, a few years apart. So we knew a lot of the faculty and alumna and film community in this area. People involved in film tend to be assholes or egomaniacs or both, which we’re not, so we work well together.
Scott: Eric and I had mutual friends in the DC film scene, and I used to run into him on a fairly frequent basis. I always wanted to work with Eric, so when he asked me to help him out with the first Sexy Stories film, I jumped right in. We’ve been working together ever since.
Q: Where did you find the machines you work with? They create a final product that is rife with the scratches and jumps that are characteristic of older film.
Eric: We got our film equipment from a documentarian who switched over to video about 10 years ago. There’s this one guy on the east coast who travels the country doing the maintenance on these machines, which take up a huge amount of space. The scratches and dirt you see are the end result of editing the film on one of these (circa 1978) flatbed editors. Nowadays this effect would be created digitally in Final Cut Pro or something, but it would look like an effect. You can find the flatbed editors and Magnasync recorders on Ebay pretty regularly, but a lot of them are headed for the junkyard. This is the equipment people edited films on up until the digital era and it’s what I learned to edit on in film school. It’s a lot more time-consuming than editing on a computer. There’s a whole generation coming out of film schools now that have no knowledge of old-school film editing. And you edit differently in the analog world than you do digitally, because you have to physically manipulate the film and move it around. And you have to keep track of what you do, since there’s no “Undo” button when you edit manually.
Scott: One of the advantages of editing the old school way, on a flatbed editor, is that we don’t have to work very hard to distress the film. The film can get pretty scratched up and dirty during the editing process. The rest of it’s achieved during the color timing process of the film. I knew we had the look down when, during the sound mixing for the first Sexy Stories, the audio tech didn’t want to believe Eric when he told him that we made the film ourselves. He was totally convinced we had just found some authentic soft-core porn movie from the 70’s we were trying to appropriate for our own purposes.
Eric: That happened again at a film festival where the film won an award. A jury member took me aside and told me they considered disqualifying me because they thought I had found some vintage sex film I was trying to pass off as my own. Which is a great compliment actually.
Q: Have you/would you ever work in digital?
Eric: (Irritated): Do I have to? I’m kind of a luddite.
Scott: I’m open to using whatever format works best for the project I’m working on. I do think that there’s something about the look of film that video will never quite capture.
Q: Cesar tells me you love softcore porn. How did that come about? Are there any gems we should be aware of, favorite directors/filmmakers?
Eric: Yeah, I love the ˜no pay-off” of softcore. Must be my Catholic upbringing.
Scott: I highly recommend any of the fine movies that played late night on Cinemax in the 80’s and 90’s. Everything I learned about love came from Sylvia Kristel movies, which actually explains a lot about me.
Eric: The “Emmanuelle” series. She was the best sexy investigative reporter-slash-journalist ever. Jess Franco’sstuff is great. I took a few cues from him. Love scenes are hotter when they’re filmed through an aquarium.
Q: Why are you modeling your work after 1970’s Spanish fotonovelas? We love the overdubbing in Spanish, the subtitles, the dialogue.
Eric: I grew up in Spain and France, and fotonovelas were like the cheapest shit at the newsstand. You’d go to the open air market and they’d use old ones to wrap up your fruit and stuff. It’d be lying around crumpled up and walked-on at the end of the day. So I got used to seeing fragments of this kinda-salacious bullshit and liked the artlessness of it. Just poorly-shot, rigidly-composed snapshots in comic book style. Featuring “Starlets” and random dudes who looked like they just walked off the street. It’s awesome. And the style is pretty consistent throughout Europe and Latin America, interestingly.
Scott: I’m just hoping we get that deal with Univision.
Q: Who do you employ to do makeup and wardrobe? A lot of the people that you film already have this retro look to them. Do you find that makes your work easier?
Eric: That’s due to a network of friends/acquaintances/housemates in DC and NYC. The casts/crew for both films were people I’ve known over the years. Mostly music/film/art people. The wardrobe and props for Sexy Stories were from Meep’s in Adams-Morgan (owners Leann Trowbridge and Danni Sharkey were featured in a segment from that), supplemented with some of the actors/actresses’ clothes as well. We had a stylist in NYC (Jennifer Church) for Sexy Stories 2. But a lot of it is serendipitous, in that a lot of the people I know kind of look like this anyway and/or understand the aesthetic.
Scott: Our shoots tend to be a bit on the guerilla side, so it’s nice to have actors who don’t require a lot of additional make-up or wardrobe work. They pretty much show up ready to go, allowing us to shoot a lot quicker than we would normally be allowed to. It also helps to cast actors who are pretty much living the mood you’re trying to capture 24-7.
Q: Where (the hell) do you find the music for your work?
Eric: Actually, the music I used for Sexy Stories 1 and 2 was salvaged from a dumpster behind a recording studio. They were emptying out their cache of public-domain incidental music years ago and a friend of mine who was working there snagged a bunch of it. It’s anonymous stuff by session musicians, I guess. Probably European. When I first heard it I thought this must be the soundtrack to some movie about sexually-liberated secretaries or airline stewardesses in Sweden or something.
Q: Were you ever employed in the sex industry?
Eric: I think Scott was, but he went by “Oliver Clotheszoff”
Scott: I try not to talk about those years too much. If you’re trying to make new friends and meet interesting people, you can’t do much worse.
Q: What is it about Ian?(Svenonius)
Eric: He’s even better in 16mm. It’s awesome.
Q: What is Matthew Lesko like in person?
Eric: He rules. He’s Matthew Lesko 24-7. The guy you see in those infomercials is the same guy in the flesh, same wardrobe and all, even when he’s out running errands. Some friends of mine in NYC even made him a new question mark outfit. He has a lot of those. I treated him to dinner and he came as Matthew Lesko. During dinner, between interruptions by some Matthew-spotters who wanted their picture taken with him, I realized even the rims of his glasses have question marks on them. When dinner was over he took off in his question mark-covered moped. He’s totally his own creation, and he’s fun to hang out with to boot. And he was Mr. # 99 in that Bernard Goldberg book “100 People Who Are Screwing Up America”. So yeah, when I grow up I wanna be Matthew Lesko.
Scott: Filming the scene with Matthew Lesko in full get-up definitely counted as one of the more surreal experiences of last year. I had a great time working with him, and he proved surprisingly popular with all of the ladies on the shoot. I am, however, still waiting for some of that free government money he promised me.
Eric: I can lend you my copy of “Free Stuff for Busy Moms”.
Q: How did you end up making a video for the Raveonnettes?
Eric: I knew the guy who books their tours. I met up with them, talked about it. We set up a shooting schedule for a 16mm shoot in Brooklyn. Knocked it out in a day. Their segment, anyway.
Eric: I have a recording of this deranged guy called Tennessee Green who made a demo tape for a music industry “fat cats” to make him “well-off and famous”. The song is called “I Sing About Blue” and it’s just him yelling:
EVERYBODY EVERYBODY EVERYBODY!
EVERYBODY SING ABOUT BLUE!
I SING ABOUT BLUE TOO!
I SING ABOUT BLUE! BLUE!
FIVE FOOT TWO! CUTIE Q!
TWIST IT SHAKE IT! YOU CANâ€™T BAKE IT!
YES I SING ABOUT BLUE! BLUE! BLUE!
BLUE! BLUE! BLUE! BLUE!
BLUE! BLUE! BLUE! BLUE!â€.
I totally want to do a video for him.
Scott: I think that Billy Ocean is one good video away from a come back.
Eric: Claudine Longet doing that “Bang Bang, My Baby Shot Me Down” song*.
Q: Favorite directors/filmmakers?
Eric: Robert Altman. Robert Bresson. Larry Cohen.
Scott: Richard Lester, David Lynch, Robert Altman, Stanley Kubrick and David Cronenberg.
Q: What’s next? Have you considered making a full-length feature in the same style as “Last Historias Mas Sexy…”?
Eric: Hell, no. Less is more, you know? We’ll probably do the next Dead Meadow video in LA after this. Then it’s on to a feature that Lou Castel apparently wants to be in. I want to do a third Sexy Stories movie, with Captain Beefheart. Then I can die a happy man. With a dubious legacy.
Scott: I think Las Historias works best in small doses. A feature length version might be pushing it a bit. Besides the various projects I’m working on with Eric, I’m writing my first feature length screenplay as well as helping some friends of mine on their documentary.
Q: Wonderful. Good luck and we are looking forward to the 10th and beyond