Who Will It Be?

And so the search is on. Who will be our Lady Belladonna? Who will assay the role of our Mistress of Perdition, Top Soul Broker in the Abyss and hostess of Lady Belladonna’s Night Shades? We’ve got a few strong contenders, based mostly on the headshots and resumes we’ve taken in, but we really won’t know for sure until the actual auditions. Hoping to knock those out in a week or so. We hope to have made our choice in two weeks time. Yes, it does seem like a very quick turnaround, but that’s just public perception.

It’s one of the few things about this production that actually appears to be moving quickly. We’ve been working on it for months. It was late October of last year, during the New Mexico Film & Media Industry Conference in Albuquerque, when the germ of an idea began to form. The dark lady as hostess of an anthology series was always the main concept, right from the beginning. Which led to many discussions in the following weeks about how to go about acquiring the short films needed to create an anthology series. Which gave rise to the Sins Of Man Short Film Contest, the winner of which was announced at this year’s Las Cruces International Film Festival in early March.


The winner of the Sins Of Man Short Film Contest, Wolff’s Law by Sheridan O’Donnell, will be the anchor of Lady Belladonna’s Night Shades.

Which led to acquisition and assembly. Add to Wolff’s Law, my short film Perfect, PRC’s short film Last Night On Mars and Jesse Walden’s atmospheric shocker Bone Spur and we’ve got the working lineup for Lady Belladonna’s Night Shades. We’ve also acquired several other films for future installments, because we are that confident in this concept to be picked up by a VOD platform. So, now we’ve got the short films we will be showcasing in the feature length pilot, it was time to write the script.

To be honest, I had been working on that script for several months, writing up character sheets, playing with dialogue and basically shaping the overall atmosphere of the dark lady’s little corner of the Abyss. I couldn’t really write the script itself until I knew a) what the films she would be introducing would be and b) the theme of the anthology. They always have a theme. Something that brings all the stories together, links them in a familiar chain, once I knew those things, it wouldn’t take long to crank the actual script out.


A tense moment from the black comedy Perfect.

And it really didn’t. Once I looked at what we had, it was very easy to come up with a theme. I wrote the script in one day, then took a second day to revise and refine some of the interactions and segues. On the third day, I sent it to my partners at Borderlands Media. There was some initial concern that certain special interest (i.e. religious) groups might take exception to some of the ideas and concepts being introduced via the pilot. Then we thought about it some more and realized we were creating an anthology in which the hostess was a demon. Living in Hell. The chances that people who might take exception to concepts and ideas being presented within the framework of this production will be watching said production to begin with is slim at best. At least, not so they would admit it publicly. Problem solved.

So, now it was early May and, considering my goal has been to have this pilot picked up by the end of the year, I really wanted to get this baby in the can before we lost anymore time. As it stands now, the goal is to shoot the pilot in early-to-mid July. If we can get it edited and turned around quickly, I’m hoping to have a finished product by mid-August. Which is very reasonable and, to be perfectly honest, I feel to be a overly generous. Yes, I know I’m asking a lot, but I also know it’s possible. If we are ever going to be taken seriously by the “film industry,” whoever the fuck they are, we have got to push our limits and set much, much higher standards than what we have grown accustomed to here in the hinterlands. None of these self-imposed deadlines are beyond our combined capabilities to carry out. Barring any unforeseen roadblocks, of course. Knock wood…


Don’t open that door! A scene from Last Night On Mars.

Just so everybody knows, we are being very meticulous in our search for the perfect hostess. It may seem like we’ve thrown these auditions together at the last minute, but I assure you, that is not the case. There is a reason why several weeks passed after the script was green lit before we put out our casting call. We wanted to have all our proverbial ducks in a row. We had many discussions about just exactly who Lady Belladonna is, what she should be like, how she should speak, how she should dress… We didn’t just want to throw something out there and hope for the best. Standards, remember?

It was during this time that I took the character sheet I’d written on the dark lady and – plugging in the ideas provided by my partners in cine-crime, combined with what I knew about her from the script – transformed it into a publicity one-sheet. During that process, the Lady Belladonna became a living, breathing succubus, a seductress of the first order, the personification of sin bait in my carefully crafted, somewhat twisted, screenplay. All we had to do was find the right actress to play her.


Who’s the cat and who the mouse? A scene from Bone Spur.

Now I’ll admit, it all sounds very misogynistic to the uninitiated, especially considering it was three men doing the discussing, but we also brought in the female perspective from our Costume Supervisor Autumn Gieb, who is definitely a woman, and even bounced it off some of our more creatively inclined female friends. I’ve always known that in order to be considered truly sexy, Belladonna needs to be considered sexy by other women. Put a woman in a wet t-shirt and have her squeal drunkenly and you’ve locked in at least three quarters of the adult male population over the age of 13. But women? They’re not so easily impressed. They, too, have got standards.

And now we’re in the process of gathering headshots and resumes, so that we may audition a wide variety of women in the hopes of finding one who can personify the cunning and seductive spirit of loquacious evil. Sounds like a tall order, but I have faith in the quality of talent we have in these parts. Maybe not as refined as we might get elsewhere, but I have never had a problem with raw talent. Far more malleable than the honed variety. And, as if to hedge our bets, we’ve even received submissions from actresses in Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta, which, as the screenwriter, I find VERY flattering. I just hope we can accommodate these ladies and not come across as too amateurish. It is an ultra low budget production, after all.

As a final note, there are a lot of differing ideas, outside of our creative team, as to just what kind of actress we should get for this role. Should she be tall? Should she be short? Should she be curvy? Should she be athletic? Should she be a familiar face? Maybe a porn starlet or a scream queen? It’s somewhat startling to have so many people chiming in on this topic. I mean, it’s not like we’re casting for Wonder Woman, here. The bright side is that there are so many people thinking about it. That implies anticipation.

I’ll take it.

That about sums it up…

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