As 2012 comes to a close, it is time to unleash a new feature on Dan's Movie Report: Interviews with independent producers and directors who take the plunge and make their own film. Forging their own path, at times the road is bumpy, but the journey is NEVER dull, these risk-takers often reap rewards far beyond their dreams. Rena Riffel has been acting for two decades, but recently decided to take on the task of furthering her own character in Showgirls "Penny". Rena has a great attitude, tinged with a salacious sense of humor and sexuality, and she brings her own views on the production of her film Showgirls 2: Penny's From Heaven exclusively to Dan's Movie Report.
Chat about your background, when did you get involved with acting?
In highschool, I was determined to be a dancer and choreographer. I moved to "Hollywood" and began auditioning and got on a dance scholarship. But, then began taking acting class and became an actress. I always wanted to make my own films, but it seemed too hard. My friend and I began videotaping what I thought would be a web series, but then I kept filming and turned it into a feature film. After I made it though the production process, I realized that I can produce films. I had taken a few courses on making films, but I learned the most from being on sets working with such great directors and producers during my career.
How did you come up with the idea to continue Showgirls, concept, story?
Well, Paul Verhoeven had suggested to me that he it would be fun to do a movie all about Penny, back in 95. Of course, I got very excited about the idea. I kept waiting for years and years, and then realized that I would have to make it happen if it was ever going to happen. I wrote my first script, titled "Stardancer" and sent it to Paul. But, Paul wasn't interested in directing it, but wished me luck with the project. I admire him so much. My story idea was based on things I have experienced in Hollywood, and when I came up with the plot, it was very free-flow writing.. I didn't know where I was going with it, it kind of wrote itself.. but, I wrote many different endings, I think I have about 7 different endings.. and I wrote 28 different drafts, they all were emphasizing different characters. I wrote with a bigger budget in mind, which I had to scale down when I began shooting.
What was the time frame from concept to pre-production then shooting schedule of Penny's From Heaven?
I began writing the first draft back in 2004, but couldn't make up my mind on the tone.. if it should be a campy comedy or drama, what theme to go with, etc. When I completed the script, I began working with my girlfriend to raise millions of dollars, and another friend in Los Angeles were trying to raise 8.5 million. After a year went by and no finance was raised, I realized I should just shoot it the way I shot Trasharella (Trasharella Ultra Vixen), my Micro-Budget movie I made, almost a No-Budget film. I know how to make movies for micro-budget, so that's what I did. There wasn't much pre-production, I pretty much was in pre-production and shooting at the same time. It was hard to plan things in advance on a micro-budget. I had a loose shooting schedule, and followed it pretty closely when I looked back at my filming calendar, the shoot actually went very smooth. We shot 28 days over a 4 month time, and we filmed mostly for only a few hours a day. A few days were longer towards the end, trying to get this movie in the can.
What roadblocks did you run into, resistance from others etc?
I needed a castle, this was the hardest location to find. I couldn't find a castle to rent. And the day of the castle shoot, we thought we would shoot just a quick scene outside of a castle in Beverly Hills which is a public park. We all walked up in big fancy gowns and immediately the guard told us we have to leave and we were not aloud to film there, he wasn't very happy about our guerrilla style ideas and had no sense of humor. We were later kicked off the sidewalk in front of my apartment, and eventually made a castle set inside my apartment. That was the only location we tried the gorilla style, and it didn't work out. At the Motel Room scene we also ran into an upset motel front-office attendee, we were accused of being real prostitutes as we were outside the room in the parking lot, we had to explain to him we were dressed in fur coats, high heels, and mini skirts because these were our costumes and we were only playing prostitutes in the movie we had told him we were shooting there. We couldn't shoot in the motel parking lot any longer.
We had so many wonderful people help with the production and assist in many ways. Tim Taylor really got the ball rolling by locking down the first location for the first 4 days of filming, and it snow balled after that. Oh, side note, after we finished shooting, I finally found a castle I could have rented in Hollywood.
There were some other problems that came up, post production challenges, wrong codecs, continuity problems which made editing difficult, and some other emotional draining things happened, along with some heartbreaking tragedies. But, I am trying to block that out and look at the silver lining. I learned a lot on this film, what not to do and what to do better next time, and what worked. But, I am lucky I had my great Producers and the crew and actors, they were all so great, talented, and amazing.
Two and a half hours is long for an indie film, do you feel David Lynch influences, Paul V Influences? Was this a story you felt needed to be told in 2 1/2 hours as opposed to the 90 minute time frame?
Yes, the actual movie is 3 hours long. I cut 35 minutes of scenes, I cut out the sub-plot.. the sub-plot is still mentioned in the film, but these were the scenes that actually show the human trafficking and fairy tale pagan rituals. I wanted the movie to be a melodramatic epic saga, more like "Gone With The Wind" opposed to the 90 minute formula. At one time I was considering making it a Part 1 and Part 2, or having a formal Intermission during the ballet lesson scene. I was worried about the long length of the film, but in my opinion, I think the film moves very fast, and lots of films are 2 and a half hours long or longer.
How about additional casting, friends, or was this an casting call looking for specific people?
All the actors are my friends, or friends of my friends. I had many talented friends who fit the roles, and if they didn't exactly fit the character description, it was actually more interesting to see what they brought to the character. I am very happy with the casting.
Are you happy with the final product (I love it) If you had to change something what would it be? If given a 20 mil budget how would the film change, more costumes, lavish sets?
I am very happy with the final product. I worry that if it would have gotten a 40 million budget, it may have not turned out as funny. The financiers (who never came through with finance) had told me they wanted to have a big star-name actress, Reese Witherspoon, to play "Penny Slot" and bring in a big Hollywood director, like Michael Bay. But, I refused the offer (it was just a suggestion, anyways, no money on the table)... it didn't make sense to me, I wanted to make my movie, not sell off my script.
Something very magical happened with this film, I didn't plan it to be exactly as it is, but instead, I let it unfold before my eyes. I trusted the process as we were filming, instead of fighting what I couldn't control. I think it could have gone either way, one way being a very serious intense drama, and the other being a comedy of errors. I saw "The Room" after "Showgirls 2" was completed, and I love "The Room", it's hilarious. I think "Showgirls 2" has some of "The Room" going on in it, "so bad, it's good", but I do love my script and think my story to tell is very worthy.
The only thing I would change is the dialogue sound quality. Robert Rodriguez's movie, "El Mariachi", was released with a bad temp sound mix and after he got a big distribution deal, he could afford to go back in and fix the sound, syncing up sound files, ect. I am hoping I will get the same opportunity.
We have the perfected sound files, but I ran out of time and money to do anymore post production. But, I love the sets, I think the locations we got are lavish and perfect, and I think the film is shot beautifully. I wanted the shots to be very simple like film noir, nothing fancy and no shaky camera.
I love the fashion and costumes in the film. Most are actual vintage 90's dance costumes, some are right out of "Showgirls", since I supplied my own wardrobe on "Showgirls". And Shelley Michelle (Katya) had amazing boas and feathered costumes, she has her own clothing line. Paula Labaredas(Maria) had very cute skimpy sexy costumes, very campy couture. Peter Stickles (Godhardt) had great costumes, we wore matching sailor outfits, mine is a vintage Gaultier. And Glenn Plummer's (Jimmy) T-shirt and hoodie business was actually designed by Mark Gray, he paints on the fabric and adds tons of swarovski crystals and silver, skulls, very edgy and cool. I love the over the top show girl make up, too. Oh, one thing I wish I would have had if I had a bigger budget is more technical help in post, an art director, more production assistants to help carry things, make phone calls, scheduling, ect., this is important to a production, and someone to do craft service other than me, lol.. I was busy with too much. But, that's indie film making.. there is also something great about just DIY, it's empowering and as they say, if you want something done right, and you can't get someone else to do it right, do it yourself. That's how it feels when you put your heart and soul into making a movie.
What are some of your future film goals either acting and producing?
I have written a lot of scripts over this last year. I want to produce them. I have the sequel to "Showgirls 2: Penny's From Heaven" written, and would love to make that very soon. I might be doing a Kickstarter to raise money for it and offer a DVD of the 35 minutes worth of deleted scenes along with the short film "Showgirl" and possibly Penny Slot dance action figures, ect... I also would like to film my "Marie Antoinette" script, it needs a bigger budget, so that is always challenging to get off the ground. And I want to continue as an actress, I would love to work with Paul Verhoeven and David Lynch again. I would like to work with a great team and work on great projects that I am inspired by and that inspire others. Basically, the same dream I have always had. I hope this dream can come true.
I will end this Q and A with a few special inspirational quotes from "Showgirls 2 Penny's From Heaven". "There's a price to pay for success, dues to be paid, sacrifices to be made at every imaginable level, and it all come down to how bad you want it?" ... "I'm a dancer!"..... "Goddess power!"... "I know I got an F in economics, but this doesn't add up very well."..... "Dancing keeps me sane in this insane world".... "Next time we'll get the penthouse."... "Here's bubbles!".... "I don't know what's worse, your dancing or your camel toe.".... "There can only be one Star Dancer.".... "You used to call me your love sponge, now all you call me is a good cook!"... "Tell me, how did you win it.. a wife beater soak in beer, a bikini, or topless?"... "Topless."... "See darlin', you are a star f*@$er."... "Have ever considered becoming a male stripper?"..... "I need to face the music, the real music."...."snuff, I know what it is, cowboys sniff it like chew.".... "Frickin' A!"... "It's hard out there. Everyone's got AIDS and shit, H1N1 and all kinds of shit, Swine flu.. bitch, I'm dancin' with you the best way I can.. got arthritis, my knees are bad.. dancing don't pay no rent!"... "Fire that bimbo!"...."I'm just some kind of jungle animal now. Which one? A cougar, Helga!".... "They've called the asylum to take me away!"..."Tonight, I want you to teach me to be the whore"... "You're much more than a whore, you're Goddess. But I'll teach you anything you want." ... "Keep going. The end of the rainbow, Helga"... "Red hot magic heat!"... It's actually a story of overcoming obstacles by having faith, but being led down the wrong path, but then finding your way out of the dark hole, only to get on a path again.. let's see if she now finds her way to the end of the rainbow, or once again, gets lost.
Thanks Rena, great work! For further information on Rena point your browsers to http://www.showgirls2movie.com/