When you hear about a crowdfunding campaign for a project by Buffy the Vampire Slayer Amber Benson, you check it out. Especially when it’s about a group of ladies. Benson’s newest project is Shevenge, which you can check out on their Indiegogo page, or on the Shevenge website.
Here is the synopsis: “Directed by Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Amber Benson, Emme Rylan (General Hospital), Megan Lee Joy and Jessica Courtemanche are set to star in the dark comedy Shevenge. The film follows a group of young ladies as they embark on a journey of revenge and empowerment! While at a killer slumber party, these ladies drink wine, paint their nails & pay back their crappy boyfriends – played by David Blue (Stargate Universe, Ugly Betty), Eugene Byrd (Bones, True Blood) and Dove Mier (Dig). All the while paying homage to their favorite genres of film & television. With a mix of horror, fantasy & action, the ladies of Shevenge invite the audience to come right along into their deepest fantasies!”
I talked to Benson and star Megan Lee Joy about the film. Check out what they had to say below.
Benson told us about how a revenge film with all women changes the game. “I’ve been sitting here trying to think of other films where you have ladies in the driver’s seat, like you do in Shevenge, and I can’t think of anything off the top of my head. I know those films are out there, but there’s such a dearth of non-men-centric modern revenge films that I just can’t pull one out of my head. I think you have to go back to films like ‘All About Eve’ – which is more of a treatise on ambition than revenge – before you see women being allowed to play fully fleshed out, interesting characters with dark intentions. Also, often times when you talk about women getting revenge, it’s by very subtle, insidious means––which we make fun of in Shevenge when one of the characters keeps trying to push poison as the revenge delivery method and the other ladies are like: Too trite. We wanted something darker and funnier and richer for our ladies, so their revenge fantasies are pretty outlandish and kick ass and gross.”
Joy told us about why it was so hard to find women for this project. “The entertainment industry is oversaturated with men. It was simply hard to find women. God knows they’re there, but the women recommended to us were either just starting out, so they didn’t have the experience we needed, or were the few who had just gotten their big breaks so were super busy now. I saw few because women just aren’t being hired remotely as much as men. In fact, the percentages have been going down every year. But people want to hire someone with on-set experience, so it ends up being a catch-22. Frustratingly a lot of the drafts submitted by female writers were actually more stereotypical and comedically safe. In the end, I co-wrote with David Greenman, who writes women beautifully and his dark comedic edge really vibed with what we wanted.”
She talked about her role in the film: “I play Taylor – the comedic relief, though the whole piece is comedic relief! Stereotypically, it’s easy to view her as “the dumb one,” but it was important to us that all of the characters be a real, complex human beings. A huge reason we created this project was that we wanted to create strong, realistic (even hyper-realistic), multi-dimensional FEMALE roles and not the common clichés. Taylor was a blast to play because she vibrates on a different frequency than the other two girls — or most people, for that matter. She’s the kind of fun that leads to a hangover but also the remedy for it the next morning.”
Benson gave us a look at the rest of the cast as well. “Well, the ladies – Emme Rylan, Megan Lee Joy and Jessica Courtemanche – wanted to create something for themselves to act in where they were playing interesting characters that weren’t just scream queens, best friends, or sex objects/girlfriends. They came up with the conceit for Shevenge and brought in writer, David Greenman, to give life to their ideas. I’m still not 100% sure how my name got thrown in the ring, but the ladies approached me about directing the piece and I read the script and thought it looked funny and would be neat to shoot. I’ve done so many ‘talking head’ movies and Shevenge was the antithesis of that: Lots of action, fighting, blood and evilness. Right up my dark and twisted mind’s alley.
“The awesome David Blue was already attached and we dragged in Dove Meir – who is handsome AND can act AND can fight. He’s a triple threat and, boy, did we make him work his butt off!
“The last piece of the puzzle was adding Eugene Byrd as one of the revenged upon boyfriends. He and I worked together on the TV show, Promised Land, like, a zillion years ago and I totally forced him to read the script for Shevenge because he’s one of my favorite actors to work with, period.
“We shot the film in three days – and that included a super tricky fight sequence that America Young (she’s amazing) choreographed for us. I’m not really sure how we got the film in the can, but now we are in process of finishing the film and we’ve got an Indiegogo campaign going to help with that.
“I’m super proud of what we made. It looks like a million bucks and that’s because of our DP, E. Gustavo Peterson, and our editor, Don Money. I can’t wait for the film to play festivals, so I can see it with an audience.”
She also talked about transitioning from actor to working behind the camera. “Well, I get bored easily,” she said. “Being an actor means you do a lot of sitting on your ass. So I sat on my ass and started writing. I’ve made a few films (some I wrote and some I didn’t, like <em>Drones</em>) and I write a couple of book series for Penguin, including my new one, “The Witches of Echo Park.” I feel like if you are a lady and you want to have some control over your life, your art, and your finances, you have to create your own content and make your own opportunities. That’s why I appreciated what the ladies were doing with Shevenge. They were trying to have some control over their own creative destinies and I totally support that.
I asked Joy what the process was like. She said, “Draining. But passionately draining. When you are making your own film you’re basically a machine, doing everything yourself. Then when you’ve finally hired everyone, it’s hard to let go. But until you’re at a point in the project when the crew is set to do their jobs, you’re the driving force: the producer, location scout, casting director, line producer, publicist, and more, all in one. Even more-so with an independent film where money is tight. It’s exhausting, but it is the cinematic education of a lifetime. Creating, writing, producing and acting in your own project is heart wrenching. Hopefully the second time around it’ll be far easier. There are a lot of difficult compromises you have to make when you are so involved, which is why I needed an Amber to make those decisions. I have a new level of respect for actors who also direct their own films. Being the boss is tricky, even when you’re lucky enough to share the responsibility like I did with my producing partner Jessica Courtemanche. But it sure was a relief to throw the reigns over to Amber. ‘TAKE IT DEAR GOD TAKE IT!’ Ha ha!”