Saturday, February 11, 2017

Digging Up the Dirt with KillDozer and Paul Ragsdale (Streets of Vengeance)

Paul Ragsdale has helmed many an indie movie but with several parts of Streets of Vengeance being shot in San Francisco, KillDozer just had to learn more about this indie film maker visiting his haunt...

KillDozer: Tell me about your role in bringing Streets of Vengeance to the screen. When did idea fist come to you and when did you start making moves to make this dream a reality?

Paul: My girlfriend Angelica De Alba and I make films together as a team; I'm the writer/director and she handles the production/art direction side. I come up with the unrealistic idea and she shapes it into something that we can actually produce. We first starting talking about SOV in 2014. The idea came about while talking with Delawna Mc Kinney about future projects. After our last film together we wanted to do something where Delawna could kick some ass; something physical. I always wanted to make a female revenge movie but instead of having the lone protagonist like in Ms.45 or They Call Her One Eye we wanted a group of bad-ass girls fighting together. We started filming around April/May of 2015.

KillDozer: You have a large cinematography resume under your belt, how did you get your start in film? What experiences from other productions were you able to bring to Streets of Vengeance?

Paul: As a kid I used to make little horror movies with my brother and cousins on VHS. After high school, I took some film classes at a local junior college and that's where I met Angelica De Alba. We started making films together in 2010; I would write, direct and shoot, and she would produce and edit with me. We had created a film making formula where everything was contained between me, Angelica and our actors- which allowed to us to be very productive.

In 2013, we completed our first feature film, a holiday horror film called Cinco De Mayo, and we just kept going. We made 3 feature length movies within 4 years just because we had so many types of films we wanted to try. We made an 80's slasher movie, a french new wave styled movie, and a romantic drug cartel movie. Those films prepared us for all the new challenges we faced with Streets of Vengeance- huge cast, indiegogo campaign, guest star cameos, a cinematographer, a sound engineer and making a film with an overall greater scope.

KillDozer: What inspirations did you draw from for the visual look and vibe of the film?

Paul: I wanted to make something that you totally would've seen late at night on Cinemax or USA Up All Night with Rhonda Sheer. The cinema David Decoteau, Rick Sloane and Fred Olen Ray was just as influential to me as Scorsese or Godard.

More specifically, there's this "stripper/hooker" revenge sub genre that movies like Stripped to Kill and Avenging Angel belong to, that I wanted to emulate. But I really didn't want the main character to be a dancer or an escort because it had been done so many times before. But I knew I wanted something just as lurid. 

I was still having trouble pinpointing the movie's theme and aesthetic until I saw the VHS cover of New Wave Hookers with Ginger Lynn. Someone was selling a VHS copy of the movie on a Facebook group I was apart of. I thought, what if New Wave Hookers wasn't a porn movie but instead it was a thriller/slasher movie directed by Brian De Palma? It all clicked for me. I showed the cover to Angelica and Delawna and said this has to be our aesthetic! So now the setting for the film became a fictionalized version of the porn industry in the late 80's. And after my brother lent me his copies of New York Ripper and Tenebre, the aesthetic went into overdrive. I showed my cinematographer, Dan Zampa these giallo movies to get the harshness of the colored lights just right.

KillDozer: These roles called for very strong female performances. How did you go about casting? Did you specifically seek out people who worked in the sex industry? What were some of the reasons for casting people who work in the porn/sex industry?

Paul: Because we are close with so many actors, we often write roles with them in mind. But for SOV we didn't have anyone else in mind except for Delawna. The casting of the girl gang was crucial. We posted ads on Facebook looking for actresses who could pull off the 80's look and would be up comfortable with the subject matter. Some were brought on by other friends and others I reached out to purely based on their look and vibe.

The use of adult film stars was never part of the original plan. I used Ginger Lynn and Joanna Angel as inspirations for characters and style during pre-production but it never occurred to me to actually seek them out. I had no connections at all. One day I read a Ginger Lynn interview online where she discussed her mainstream work. Right then I decided to just email Ginger Lynn and see what she was doing. I pitched the idea of her making a cameo appearance. We talked on the phone about her Vice Academy movies, working with Linnea Quigley and we had a great conversation. We worked out the details and took it from there.
I contacted Joanna Angel on social media after she announced she would be visiting a nearby city. I sent her a link to the movie trailer and pitched her the idea and she loved it! Joanna Angel was the first adult film star/industry mogul who took a chance on us. We are just so lucky and honored to have them in our film. Having our star, Delawna, share the same scene with Ginger Lynn is one of the greatest things we've ever done.

KillDozer: Your film deals with some very controversial topics from "slut shaming" and women's rights to vigilante justice and the exploitation of women. What kind of feedback have you received from screenings? Did you go into this project knowing it would upset some in a very real way? How do you deal with negative backlash?

Paul: When we first starting making the film there were alot of misconceptions. People saw half naked girls and assumed we were making something trashy. Ironically no one cared about the violence; the sight of sexy women being sexy makes people uncomfortable. I really didn't want to issue some sort of statement saying that we were making a movie about strong women who were fighting against rape culture and misogyny designed as an exploitation movie, even though it was true. I wanted the trailers and the movie to speak for themselves. All the controversy actually helped us, it made people want to see it. The reception has been really positive so far, especially from women.

KillDozer: Was it easy to write and direct the exploitation side of Streets of Vengeance? Is there a real life connection in the emotional and dramatic elements throughout the film?

Paul: The exploitation and genre side was fun to write because there are a lot of cool movies to draw from, but with the social commentary side we were drawing from real life and that was kind of sad. While I was writing the script I used real life events as inspiration; the Santa Barbara shootings, the Christy Mack assault and encounters that our female friends have had with disturbed individuals. I spent a lot of time reading what MRA guys thought about women and took some of the dumb shit they said and put into the script.

KillDozer: With the subject matter being what it was, did you find it hard to receiving funding for the film?

Paul: We didn't raise a whole lot of money with our indiegogo campaign, and I don't think it had much to do with the subject matter. I feel that the few people that did contribute were really excited about the potential of the project. We raised around $2,000 and we put in $1,500 of our own money. We were really happy with what we raised; it was more of a way to get some exposure and gain some interest.

KillDozer: Do you have any new projects in the works? Where can fans keep in touch? 

Paul: We might develop some of our fake trailers into a short or a feature length film- we have a Pit Fighter (the arcade game) type of action movie called Tough Guys, the trailer that interrupts Streets of Vengeance, that has some potential. We are also developing something completely different; a film noir set in central California. I've been watching a lot of 80's and 90's neo noir films for inspiration like Bad Influence and 52 Pick Up. Originally SOV was going to be a little more like 52 Pick Up

If you want to keep up with our latest stuff we are on Facebook and Instagram.

KillDozer: What do you hope the audience walks away with at the end of Streets of Vengeance?

Paul: Even though the film deals with a serious subject, I really want the audience to feel like they had fun. The movie is not gory, it's not going to shatter your soul; it's all about bad ass chicks killing misogynistic motherfuckers, 80's synth and hair metal music, and finger-less gloves! The message is there for those who are looking for something deeper, and the sex and violence is there for those just looking for entertainment.

KillDozer: Did you keep anything from the film? Props? Specifically does the mutilated penis still exist somewhere?

Paul: Yes the mutilated penis is still intact and I have it saved in a box with all the other movie props! We have the razor, the killers leather gloves, a broken whip, various fishnet stockings and costumes. Bloody chains and bats, most of the weapons.

KillDozer: If you could have a personal screening of Streets of Vengeance set up for any film maker who would it be and why?

Paul: I would love to show it to either Dario Argento or Dave DeCoteau; Argento for his reaction to my thievery and DeCoteau because he would probably appreciate the camp and its humor.

KillDozer: If this film were ever remade, who would you want to star and who would do the soundtrack?

Paul: Man, it was really hard to come up with some names. I kept thinking who would star in it if it were made back in the 80's and 90's- Monique Gabrielle, Michelle Bauer or Ginger Lynn herself.
But if it were to be remade now, realistically I could see Lady Gaga as Mila, Giovanni Ribisi as the cult leader Garret, and Mickey Rourke as porn producer Ivan. Synth soundtrack by John Carpenter and metal soundtrack by Grim Reaper. That would be a pretty badass movie

KillDozer: What 3 films blew your mind in 2016?

Paul: I can only think of 2 things this year: 

The Muppets Christmas special where all characters from Sesame Street and Fragle Rock show up at Fozie Bears' mother's house.

Nocturnal Animals.

KillDozer: What was the last thing you read that you would love to make into a film?

Paul: Lately I've been reading Twilight on the Line by Sebastian Rote. So many great stories about the Mexican drug cartel wars from the 90's. I've been coming back to it for years now.

Find out more about Streets of Vengeance and Paul's upcoming projects on Facebook and Instagram.


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