WICF Interviews Sophia Cacciola on her award winning comedy short
By Christine Cannavo
The goal of this particular competition was to go beyond the Bechdel test. In the original challenge (based on a 1985 cartoon by Alison Bechdel) a woman put forth the following requirement for any film she would agree to see – the movie had to have at least two women in it who talk to each other about something other than a man. The Co-Producers of WICF, Michelle Barbera, Elyse Schuerman and I were unanimous in our decision to award Best Comedy to the film WEEKEND VAMPIRE. We loved this film!
My interview was with the Weekend Vampire’s producer, director and writer, Sophia Cacciola.
WICF: Can you briefly give me a description of what Weekend Vampire is about and where our readers can see your film?
Sophia: An ancient vampire is awoken and goes on a night on the town with a chatty millennial. Will she find a way to fit into her new life?
WICF: Tell me about how you got into making films?
Sophia: I started primarily in music, and the desire to have affordable music videos for the band meant that I had to learn to produce and direct my own. The first music video for my band was a really ambitious project that took about two years, with very complex pre-production and 11 days of shooting. We were recreating the opening sequence to a classic British TV show, The Prisoner: Watch Sophia's Music Video. That shoot taught me a lot about everything from pre-production to shooting to the final product. I had done a bunch of camera work back in high-school, but this reignited a filmmaking bug for me and I quickly lept into making shorts and then features (I’ve done three features - two have been distributed and are out on streaming platforms: Magnetic and TEN; my third film, Blood of the Tribades, is on a festival run currently). All of my projects have had a focus on giving interesting parts to women. It has always been important to me to see women on screen in good roles, and I want to do my part in putting them there!
WICF: What drew your team to the Flicks4Chicks contest?
Sophia: I was encouraged to participate by my friends in Women in Film New England. They are a great group and hold many classes and social events for women in the industry. I was excited to participate and curious to see everyone’s women-focused shorts! It also gave me an excuse to do one more small project in Boston before moving to Los Angeles. I also co-produced the project with Allix Mortis, star of my second film, Magnetic, and the contest gave me an excuse to work with Allix again.
WICF: What was your inspiration for your short?
Sophia: The prompt we were given was “A female vampire arrives in a new community and must negotiate how to present herself and to fit in.” Allix and I wrote a story about an ancient vampire waking up in contemporary Boston. We thought it would be fun to deposit her in a sort of caricature of millennial culture, while letting her try to feed and adjust to her new circumstances, which weren’t quite what she thought she would be waking up to! It was fun to blend sort of classic horror concepts with the current manifestation of vapid culture.
WICF: Did you improvise scenes to help you with the writing process?
Sophia: We really cast Sake Toomey because she has a sort of persona that she presents on social media that we thought would be perfect for the story. She is very quick-witted and funny, so we gave her a lot of freedom to create dialogue (or often monologue), while we had Stabatha, our vampire, stick to a sort of physical comedy. In most of the scenes, we had a few beats of narrative, and then the actors would riff on things. After a few takes, we’d start to say, yes, make sure to include this joke or that joke, and have this little quirk. We tried to make sure to have a pretty solid dialogue path so that we could cut together different shots and takes. All of this did make the editing a little more difficult, but we tried to be conscious of that while shooting, and ultimately, we did manage to make it work as we had hoped.
WICF: Tell me about your fabulous cast!
Sophia: Stabatha la Thrills played our ancient vampire. I had worked with her previously on our vampire feature, Blood of the Tribades, and I was keen to work with her again! She carried so much of the film with her physical comedy and facial expressions! Sake Toomey was our chatty millennial friend. This was my first time working with Sake, but I was a huge fan of her burlesque work and her instagram feed. This was her first film role and she killed it! Allix Mortis (my co-producer) played the party host, Lisa. When we were going over the character, trying to decide who might be good for the role, Allix kept doing the voice and slaying me, and I decided it would be impossible to cast anyone else and have it be as perfect! Allix and Sake improvising their dialogue cracked me up every time. We also had a host of amazing extras who showed up dressed to the nines at both of our parties (a goth party and a jazz-age party). We really wouldn’t have had much of a film without their help and willingness to be part of the project. In general, most of our actors come from the theatrical burlesque and music scenes. As a director, I have had a lot of luck working with people that come from performance backgrounds, but not necessarily from traditional film acting.
WICF: What are your hopes for your short? Where will you take it next?
Sophia: We kind of did the whole thing just for fun and didn’t have plans to do much with it after the contest, but we had so much fun and the response was very positive, so we’ve rethought the original plan to just post it online. Now, we’ve submitted the film to a few festivals, and we’re deciding when to actually release it publicly. At some point, it will be available on streaming and VOD sites like Amazon Prime.
WICF: What were your biggest challenges working with the parameters set by Flicks4Chicks? Sophia: I have a lot of experience doing 48-hour film projects over the years, so the time limit (a whole month!) wasn’t too difficult, though because of scheduling issues, we did wait until the last weekend to shoot an entire scene, so editing was going right up to the last minute. Finding locations and extras is always a logistical challenge, but that came together through the generosity of friends. The editing on this film was a little trickier than most of the more solidly scripted films I’ve done, but it was a fun challenge.
WICF: What was your biggest surprise working on this short?
Sophia: I was actually surprised at how funny it did end up being! I expected it to be fairly whimsical, but as we were shooting I was having the hardest time not laughing during takes, so I was happy to see it working better than I had imagined.
WICF: What advice can you give to filmmakers about how to get material out there?
Sophia: Getting in front of people’s eyeballs is probably the hardest part of filmmaking. Festivals have been huge for me. You meet a lot of like-minded folks and other filmmakers. Attend local fests, events, and film competitions, and meet other people. Find natural collaborations and do as much knowledge-sharing as possible. It’s also good to really hone in on what you have made and reach out to publications/blogs that cover whatever specific genre/niche you are doing.
WICF: What is your perspective on gender inequality in Hollywood over the lack of female directors, writers, editors and female driven storylines?
Sophia: I hope and I think that it is slowly changing. It is certainly already getting better in TV and independent film. I think it is so important for people of all genders to see a more equal distribution of roles. Stories need to be told from more perspectives, for the benefit of everyone. As far as mainstream Hollywood goes, it either comes down to forcing hiring changes through legislation or other pressure or waiting for the old guard to die out. Women in more historically male positions in film often get selected out in the same way that happens to women in STEM-fields. There is still an, often unintentional, boys-club culture, and women on sets deal with a lot of micro-aggression. It creates an experience that is more tiring and more challenging than it is for men, and results in a sort of attrition of women. The solution is not only more women in production roles, but more men acting as active allies and confronting inappropriate behavior and responding negatively to “harmless” jokes. I do think it’s happening and it’s getting better, but it's a slow process. There is also a wonderful community (groups, festivals, meet-ups) being built-up by and for women in film, and it has been very supportive and encouraging, and it certainly feels on that level like we are making change from within.
Check out Sophia’s website: sophiacacciola.com
Weekend Vampire is now available on Amazon Prime:See Weekend Vampire on Amazon Prime