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Interview with Leia Gadow                                                    February 1, 2012

ScUMBAG Movies

Leia Gadow and her husband Brandon are the twisted minds behind ScUMBAG Movies; a film company that makes movies for people who want something very different from anything Hollywood is producing these days. Both Leia and Brandon write, produce, direct, act in, shoot and edit all of the movies for the company. At this time, ScUMBAG Movies has released six bizarre, ultra low-budget movies and is currently working on their seventh. You can find out more about their current projects on the ScUMBAG Movies website at scumbagmovies.com or on FACEBOOK or TWITTER.

Film Apocalypse recently had the pleasure of interviewing Leia for the site. Here's what she had to say:

Film Apocalypse: ScUMBAG Movies has released a good number of movies over the last few years. How did the company get started?

Leia Gadow: In 2006 Brandon and I were living in Santa Barbara. Brandon had always had this story in the back of his mind that had been inspired by a friend's dream. Santa Barbara is full of photographers because of the Brooks Institute there. We had become friends with one of the students of the school named Brian Kelly. We told him about the idea and asked if we bought a camera would he give a shot at cinematography. He said yes. So we got our camera and just got to work. We didn't even have a script. Just the story in Brandon's head. We bought our first Mac and it came with iMovie, so we just used what we had at our disposal without having to spend much money. And the money we did spend was a sacrifice. Had to give up going out, live in a tiny little studio, and we ate a lot of rice and eggs. Over the course of filming that first movie we learned enough about operating the camera to then go off on our own with the next projects. With each project we updated our camera or our editing software and slowly we built our ScUMMY arsenal.

FA: You've managed to release films with a amazingly small budgets. Does living a couple hours away from Hollywood help make it easier to find resources for filmmaking or would you be able to make your movies just as easily from anywhere in the country?

LG: I don't think that living close to LA has helped at all. In fact I don't think we've ever even tried to use it as a resource. Anyone and everyone we've ever called on for help has been in the same city as us. Down people live everywhere. And any equipment or supplies that were not available in our city are easily ordered online. We have met other filmmakers from LA, and they are always telling us to move to there, and some day we might, but right now everything is perfect right here.

FA: You are definitely making movies without the intention of blockbuster commercial success, but at the same time, any artist wants people to be aware of their art. What are some of the challenges of promoting non-commercial films without a big promotions budget and how do you overcome those challenges?

Well, actually I don't know that we have over come it. That is definitely something that we just take one step at a time. We handle that aspect of filmmaking as well. Most people in the industry don't really seem to get what we are doing, some do. But we are not making these films for them. We are making them for ourselves and for the few people out there that are like us. Not a lot of people get it, but the ones that do seem to, REALLY get it. So that's who we are aimed at promoting to. I make all our press contacts. Usually to those magazines and websites that are as obscure as we are. We also send out our DVDs to the few mom and pop video stores that are still out there and we sell DVDs and streams on our site as well. We also offer a free stream on our website. We will also do showings in any venue that will have us. We toured one of our films along the west coast a lot like a band would, screening the film in a lot of cool punk venues like The Gilman in Berkeley. That was pretty fun, but a ton of work for just two people. We're still exploring this aspect of filmmaking and trying to find our own way, just like we have with the production itself, to promote and distribute our art.

From what I've seen, all of your movies seem to offer unique stories and target an audience outside of the mainstream. When coming up with a plot for a ScUMBAG movie, what do you look for in an idea?

LG: We actually don't "look" for ideas. The ideas seem to be looking for us. When your just sitting there, or cleaning the house or something, and an idea just pops into your head, it feels more like the idea came from somewhere beyond your own mind. And usually its just an image or a sentence or a color or a texture or something else completely random, but then some time later you get another seemingly random idea but then you think, "wait, that could go with my previous idea and that would be cool!" and you just build and build. Then something starts to take shape and then you just blast off with it. Also I'll notice themes in my life or around me. Something that keeps showing up. That's another way ideas start to form too.

FA: You and Brandon both take on many different jobs when making your films. Are there any significant disadvantages to not being able to focus on just 
acting or just directing?

LG: No, I would say it is a disadvantage to not be working on every aspect of a film. You do have to be able to switch focus easily though. And if you are in front of the camera too, you have to be able to come in and out of character a lot. So you have to be able to flip a switch in your head so to speak, or you could just lead your crew in character, maybe. That way you have complete control. I've read plenty of "How to make a movie" books, and I've never understood. Writing something, then handing it off to a director to put his interpretation on it, then hand it off to an editor to put their own spin on it. It just seems that you wouldn't hand off your child once it reaches a certain age for some one else to finish raising. For us it works much better to just do everything ourselves. Or at least as much as we can. That way it comes out exactly how you saw it in your head, and if it doesn't you only have yourself to blame, or praise. Besides, filmmaking is such fun we WANT to do it all ourselves. We're just greedy that way I guess. We want to keep all the fun to ourselves.

FA: It does seem like ScUMBAG movies would be a lot of fun to make. Are there any funny or interesting behind-the-scenes stories that you can tell?

LG: Oh gosh, every shoot is so much fun. We love our ScUMMY actors and crew. Some times its hard to stay focused and on schedule because we're all such good friends and have so much to talk about. And everyone is so funny too. All of our scenes are improved by the actors usually, and some times the craziest stuff comes out and its hard not to laugh either on screen or off. But I guess the strangest stuff happened while shooting The Seat Sniffer, cause that was all real! This stuff was disgusting and almost unbelievable that people would say and do these things for people with a camera. We actually had to cut some of the footage cause it was too gross even for us.

Also the scene in Holy Shit where the characters are preaching through the bull horn on the street was pretty nerve raking for us. We didn't have any filming permits for that , and we were right down the street from the police department. People started coming out of buildings to see what all the noise was about. But no one bothered us and they all had big smiles on their faces, guess they understood what we were acting out. One woman who worked at a battered women's home stopped to make sure I wasn't being forced into the "preaching" but once we explained what we were really doing, she even agreed to be in the scene.

FA: Are there certain jobs that either you focus on more than Brandon or vise versa (for example, maybe you do more of the directing or Brandon spends more time on editing)? 

It depends on the project. But usually Brandon takes on most of the post production aspects, editing, any effects, graphics, as well as director of cinematography and I will do the second camera work. I usually focus on writing, artistic direction and the business duties. I also take care of all our web stuff, the site etc. On set I'd say the the direction is usually pretty equal. Neither of us are afraid to voice our opinion on how the scene should be carried out, and some how we usually come to an agreement.

FA: What is the best thing about being an actress?

LG: Well, I've always been a ham since I was kid, putting on plays for my family or dancing to my parents old records. I like feeling like that kid again. But I think it gets to being able to escape reality. I get to be a whole new person, sure this new person has their own set of problems, but at least they're not mine for a while. Its almost like getting to be in another dimension or something. When I'm acting its like nothing else even exists, I'm not even aware of the crew, only me and the other person in the scene. I also like seeing the smiles on the audience when we screen.

FA: What is the worst thing about being an actress?

LG: Mmmm, I can't really think of anything negative about acting. At first the nudity was weird for me. Not because I had to be nude in front of the camera, but because then I would have to see it on screen later. I'm pretty critical of myself physically. But what girl isn't I guess. And at the same time it has helped to liberate myself some from the critical voice in the head.

FA: I'm sure this is a difficult question to answer, but which of your films was your favorite to make?

LG: Yeah you're right that is difficult. With each one there are fond memories and reasons to love the experience. But I guess for me it's Home Made Monster. That was the project where I felt I finally came into my skin. That was also the project where I had most of the control creatively. That's probably our most hammiest of movies too, which I love to be. We also filmed that in a weekend, so we all just stayed at that house and shot everything we could till we dropped. Then we'd wake up the next morning and do it again. Also it was a musical. So I got to sing and dance a little.

FA: Is there a ScUMBAG movie that you are the most proud of or that you would recommend as your best movie?

LG: We're proud of them all for different reasons and I'd say whatever our most recent film is at the time is the one we'd recommend because each one seems to be a little better than the last. Production wise, writing, acting, everything. I'd recommend our first film Grape Jelly: Memoir of a Teenage Cannibal if you're into bad lighting, weird angles and the mythology of the Knights Templar. ScUMBAG the Musical if you like fucked up love stories. The Seat Sniffer if you liked the Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia. Holy Shit if your into fecal fetishes. Home Made Monster if you like silliness and rockabilly, and Trantastic if you like mocumentaries and irony.

FA: What projects are on the horizon for ScuUMBAG Movies?

LG: Right now we are in production on our first sci fi exploitation called Nazi Alien Time Travelers. It features our usual group of ScUMMY misfits and of course some great music. We're hoping to have it out by the end of the year. 

We're also working on a series of animated shorts, the first of which will be seen in Nazi Alien Time Travelers.

FA: ScUMBAG Movies must keep you very busy. Have you ever worked on any films that were not related to ScUMBAG Movies?

LG: We both work for an independent 3D film company. That's what pays the bills and for our own productions. We mostly work on nature documentaries which can be seen in museums and some come with the new 3D tvs.. We've gotten to do a lot of traveling and met a lot of awesome people. Though its not the same style of film we do on our own we do love it. 

Brandon also works with another guerilla filmmaker by the name of David Rickerd on his project called The Creepers Show.


And we also do commissioned pieces. We've worked with numerous bands like ∆amion, Erleen Nada, Damn Laser Vampires, The Jim Rowdy Show and Sparky of Demented Are Go with The Train Wreckers Inc. and also with Spike and Mike's Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation. 

FA: Are there any people in the business that you haven't worked with, but would want to work with if you had the opportunity?

LG: Well of course we'd love to work with our heroes. Though most have passed on, if we got a chance to reach out to any one it would be Ivy of The Cramps, our biggest influence is a band. But our biggest film influence would be John Waters. We also really love Harmony Korine, and David Blyth.

FA: You probably stay busy with writing, acting, editing, etc., but what are some of your other hobbies and interests outside of filmmaking?

LG: Brandon's into silkscreening and has a lot of pieces as well as refinishing furniture. I like to sew and play with music, though I rarely share any of it. But mostly we like to be lazy and play with our dog Luxy.

FA: If you were going to a Halloween party next year, what would be your ideal costume?

LG: Every year we go as zombies.

FA: What does the future hold for Leia Gadow?

LG: I ask myself that very same question everyday. And so far I haven't been able to answer that fully. I think I'd like to just keep doing more of the same. More weird movies and some travel. But for now I'm happy just living in the now. I try not to think too much about the future, it makes me anxious. But I know Brandon will always be around.

FA: Since I review a lot of horror movies here on Film Apocalypse, Im obviously a big fan of the horror genre. For my final question, Id like to ask what are some of your favorite Horror movies? 

LG: I'm actually not huge on horror. I always have nightmares. But I do love the classics. Night of The Living Dead, all the Universal Monster movies, and Videodrome, though I don't know if that counts as horror. It scared me. One of my more favorite movies of all time is Female Trouble, Bring Up Baby and Glen or Glenda

Brandon is a huge horror fan though. His favorites are Texas Chainsaw Massacre (the original) Man Bites Dog, Tetsuo and Clownhouse.

Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions! I wish you the best of luck with your future projects!