There’s a kind of magic that happens when putting together a feature film project. Sure, everybody says that, but having been on the inside, both now and years ago when I worked for Paramount Pictures, I can tell you, watching a project like Lady Belladonna’s Night Shades take shape is truly marvelous. To go from barely legible brainstorm notes, jotted down on a napkin during a film convention dinner, to a fully formed production in less than a year is a type of thaumaturgy. An experience unrivaled by any other field.
The magic really begins to happen when so many creative people begin building on what others have already produced. Oh, it takes a lot of hard work on the parts of those people, too, but in the end, we’re all doing what we love best and that makes all the difference in the world. Filmmaking is one of the few truly collaborative artistic processes out there – with no small amount of credit going to every individual involved in that process.
Now ten days out from our scheduled shoot date, pre-production on Lady Belladonna’s Night Shades is progressing right on schedule. It’s far too easy to get caught up in the minutia at this stage of the game, especially at a busy office like PRC Productions, where producers Troy Scoughton Sr and Troy Scoughton Jr have been planning, plotting and making decisions that will directly impact the future of this production. Director of Photography Kent Harkey and I have sat down and hashed out shot lists and storyboards. Music has been recorded; teaser trailers have been cut; posters, websites and social media pages have been created; press releases have been sent out and brought back returns. Yet, beyond all that, a growing list of creatives have been making preparations of their own outside the office.
Featured actors Tawyna Bass, Donny Prosise and Jack Lutz have been rehearsing diligently to capture the essence of their characters, stunning costumes are coming together under the meticulous eye of costume designer Autumn Gieb, the makeup designed by Heather Deshea Harrison is magically transformative, production stylist and all-around go-getter Sabine Green has lined up beautiful background extras in the form of Sara Elizabeth, John Crowe, Joyce Vasquez and Ricardo DeBello. We even have Shibari expert Dov E. Kupfer lending his considerable talents to the mix. Honestly, it couldn’t get much better than this!
You see, despite the fact that this is an ultra low budget offering, it has been very important to the Scoughtons and myself to pay close attention to details. That’s one of the very reasons we have partnered with Frank Villasana at Back In Black Creative Services (BIBCS). Not only has he given us access to his beautiful Nequim Studios, but also the fetish equipment that will make up the dark lady’s torture dungeon. Sure, we could have built facsimiles of the equipment we will be using, but there’s just something to be said for authenticity. It’s important to us that our audience isn’t cheated.
For her part, Sabine Green of Local Eyes With Green – a marketing business that promotes local, ethical practices – has brought a tremendous amount of support to the project. Contracted to provide set design, props, resource management and craft services for the production, she has also played a key role in making sure local “flavor” is provided “all the way through.”
“With props made locally by collaborating artisans, the set is sure to be unique and fun to work in,” Green says. “Space procurement for a team of 25 made the set area of BIBCS a no brainer, as we have all the fun toys in our prop room.”
This “unique” outlook is also where Kupfer’s talents will lend themselves. He is an expert in the art of Japanese rope bondage, something I personally have been fascinated with for decades, thanks to the very accommodating and generous fetish community in Phoenix, where I spent many long years. Because he can do a much better job, I’ll let him explain the origin of this wondrous artform:
“The meaning of ‘Shibari’ in Japanese is ‘to tie.’ This artistic form of rope bondage had its origins from Hojo jitsu, the martial art of restraining captives. The modern version of Shibari is Kinbaku, or the art of Erotic bondage. Together they are known simply as Shibari.
Proper Shibari technique creates intricate geometric patterns and shapes of rope designs on the body. It can be compared to painting. The body of the subject is the canvas, the rope is the paint and brush it is applied with and the person doing the tying, the rigger, is the artist.
When done the right way, the bound subject looks like a piece of art or sculpture. The rope is artistically applied and tied with patterns and knots that enhance the beauty of the body. The texture of the rope melds together with the tied up individual to create an artistic presentation.”
None of which is meant to imply we’re shooting a fetish video – we’re not – yet if one wants to capture the details of a true torture dungeon, but do it in a beautiful way, it’s always best to turn to the modern experts. Rather than simply chaining our dark lady’s victims to a wall, like sacrifices to the Inquisition, we can present them as an artistic backdrop to her diabolic designs. As a Shibari enthusiast and artist for over 25 years, Kupfer lends credibility to the atmosphere we are hoping to create for Lady Belladonna’s Night Shades. His aesthetic will add layers to the performances of the actors involved.
“Shibari bondage is precise, most times symmetrical, and must be done right, in order for it to be appreciated by the viewer,” Kupfer says. “It is an exacting art, and needs to be done with absolute precision. It must remain authentic and capture the look and feel of its origins when used in fetish art.
“In a mainstream production such as Lady Belladonna’s Night Shades, any subject that is bound should be someone that is beautiful to look at. The artistry of the bondage, as well as the visual impact that is created by the ropes, will add that special ‘something’ to that moment in the production. You should be able to feel the vulnerability as well as the fear of the tied up individual.”
Can you see why I am so excited to be working with the people involved in this production? As the old axiom goes, the devil is in the detail. You’d better believe we have even more devilish details up our copious sleeves to make Lady Belladonna’s Night Shades an anthology film like no other. On this or any other side of the Abyss.