Horror-on-Sea interview with Blood of the Tribades writer-directors Sophia Cacciola, Michael J. Epstein
Blood of the Tribades (2018)
Directors: Sophia Cacciola, Michael J. Epstein
Writers: Sophia Cacciola, Michael J. Epstein
Stars: Chloé Cunha, Mary Widow, Seth Chatfield, Tymisha ‘Tush’ Harris, Kristofer Jenson
2000 years after the great vampire Bathor established the village of Bathory, superstition and religious violence take over as the men and women battle for control. When the men are afflicted with a mysterious illness, they become certain that the vampire women of Bathory are responsible for their ills, and thus, the hunt begins! Long-forgotten lovers Élisabeth and Fantine find that, with the help of those who were banished, it is their fate to piece together the past and help preserve what little of their society remains before Bathor’s impending return and judgment.
Date & Venue: 12th January 10:00hrs
Park Inn by Radisson Palace Southend-on-, Church Rd, Southend-on-Sea SS1 2AL, UK
Blood of the Tribades is the latest fantasy horror from writer- directors Sophia Cacciola & Michael J. Epstei, which has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival. I got a chance to ask Sophia Cacciola & Michael J. Epstei a few questions about what we can expect from the film.
Q. Blood of the Tribades has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival, what can people expect from the film?
SOPHIA: Classic, gothic vampires, political and religious themes, and lots and lots of nudity!
MICHAEL: We really fell in love with early 70s Euro vampire films, both of the Hammer Horror variety and the Jean Rollin / Jess Franco variety, so we gave our best go at one!
Q. How did the original idea for Blood of the Tribades come about?
SOPHIA: I specifically became obsessed with a few films from the early seventies that have become grouped as, “lesbian vampire films.” These include Hammer films like, The Vampire Lovers (1970) and Twins of Evil (1971), Rollin’s Lips of Blood (1975), and Franco’s Vampyros Lesbos (1971). I wanted to do something in that medieval style-by way of 1970s-aesthetic while bringing some of the feminist elements up to date.
MICHAEL: The films already had such interesting takes on religion and the oppression of women – especially Twins of Evil (1971), so it felt like something due for a revival.
Q. You wrote and directed the film together. What is the process when it comes to writing and directing the film and what do each of you bring to the process?
SOPHIA: We’ve been collaborating for a very long time now – before we made movies, we were in bands together, so we have quite a long collaborative history. The writing process tends to be us talking about what we want to accomplish and developing the overall story and general outline, and then Michael usually goes off to write the first draft. Then I circle back around and give notes for the revisions.
I also then tend to do more of the pre-production. With Tribades, in particular, I did all of the wardrobe/art design/props/locations. Then, Michael did most of the editing and post-production. During production, we shot two cameras, each of us operating, and collaborated on working with actors.
MICHAEL: For the writing, it is sort of hard to sit and write the details together, so I find sequestering myself and just digging in after we’ve agreed on the outline works best. Overall, it works out to quite an even split of contribution and influence over the film as a whole, I think.
Q. What were you biggest changes when making the film?
SOPHIA: One of the biggest challenges was keeping everything period. This meant finding locations that were stone/looked old, and sometimes CGing out unavoidable power lines and cars, to casting people with very few tattoos (we did have to do some coverage), to finding all vintage matching wardrobes.
MICHAEL: Everything is challenging when you are working with very little money. There were many days where we were the only crew members. We had a very adventurous and supportive cast. We’d frequently pile the actors into our van and all drive together to locations, which were scattered across New England. I suspect if we had shot in Europe, finding viable locations would have been no problem, but we looked high and low and shot at just about every stone structure within 300 miles’ drive.
Q. What were your inspirations for the look and style of the film?
SOPHIA: We did our best to capture the look and feel of those influential movies.
Q. What makes Blood of the Tribades stand out in the horror genre?
SOPHIA: It’s a throwback to 1970s vampire films while also being modern in its themes.
MICHAEL: We really hope we managed to make an homage with something new to say.
Q. Did you have to change or adapt any elements of the original script during filming?
SOPHIA: One thing we realised after we did a test screening was that people were very interested in all aspects of the vampire mythology that we had built up. We had shown how one sect of the vampires fed, but didn’t explain it for the other sect. So, we went back and shot a little scene to explain that!
MICHAEL: Again, with limited money and time – we shot the whole film in 10 days – you just know to adapt quickly on set. We also were very open to locations. A lot of the script was intentionally vague, and so when we came across a location that worked for something, we would quickly adapt the story beats to fit the location. So, it’s not so much that big picture stuff changed, but that the details were adapted to fit the resources.
Q. What was one of your favourite moments during filming?
SOPHIA: One of our actors and frequent production collaborators in the film, Zach Pidgeon, was tasked with building the red X that is used as an image of the religious sect, and as a torture device, which included it having chains and bindings. It was hilarious enough that I had to send Zach to a bunch of bondage websites for references, but it when it came time to burn it down, I thought the easiest thing would be to travel 300 miles to get out of the city and to my parents’ rural house for the privacy that would give us. My parents were interested immediately, my father, who was a contractor, proclaiming that, “someone really cared about the craftsmanship of this thing,” which I thought was the greatest compliment for Zach. He also asked, “what, did you have people tied up to this?!” Anyway, he delighted in helping us douse the thing in kerosene and lighting it up, and it was a nice little family moment for us all, watching the X burn on our lawn.
MICHAEL: So much of it was great fun, and I really appreciated what each cast member brought to their roles and to the movie, but I think the first day of shooting, Chloé Cunha had to give her climactic French rant, and it immediately felt like we were making a movie that captured the things I wanted to capture. I also really enjoyed that I had no idea what she was saying, so I got to just watch the performance as visceral delivery, which was kind of why we wanted it to be in French.
Q. Do you have any other projects which you are currently working on?
SOPHIA: We have a horror social satire film, Clickbait, that’s at festivals now and will come out next Spring/Summer. It’s very different from Blood of the Tribades in that it is very modern, and about how technology and social media dictate a lot about our lives. It’s about a college student who is a famous internet vlogger who sees her popularity fading. When she begins getting stalked and finds her popularity rising again, she isn’t that eager to have the case solved.
We’ve also just begun looking at what film we’re going to make this year. We’re leaning towards a psychological horror a la The Stepford Wives (1975) and The Omen (1976).
MICHAEL: We try really hard to make every project something completely different than everything we’ve done before. Often, people ask us if we plan to do a sequel to a film, and the answer is probably always going to be no to that.
Q. If someone is looking to direct their own movie, what advice would you give them?
SOPHIA: I think the best advice is just to get out there and get involved. Find other people interested in helping you. Go and make something with any gear you have without worrying about all the mistakes you’ll make, because that’s how you learn. Get onto any set you can as a production assistant and really watch and listen to learn. If there’s downtime, go ahead and ask questions about the camera or lighting or sound. Also, the best thing a director can do is become a proficient editor. It’s always easy to find people to work on set, it’s hard to find the same in post!
MICHAEL: I have solemnly sworn to always answer this question by saying to make sure to shoot your movie with 180-degree shutter angle. I keep seeing indie films at festivals shot unintentionally with shutter-speed technical problems. It’s probably because people are used to DSLR photo shooting, in which you likely shoot with faster shutter. Nothing puts me off a film faster than low-angle shutter. If you need less light, get some ND filters – don’t correct with shutter angle! If you don’t know what I mean, read about it before clicking record on the camera! Apart from that, do whatever you want!
You can find out more about Blood of the Tribades on the website: http://www.bloodofthetribades.com/
and future productions on the website: http://launchover.com
You can follow Sophia on the website http://sophiacacciola.com
and following social media pages;
You can follow Sophia on the website: http://michaeljepstein.com
and following social media pages;
You can find out more about the feature films playing at Horror-on-Sea Film Festival and details of tickets on the website.