I had the pleasure of interviewing Alicia Slimmer: Director, Writer, and Producer of CREEDMORIA! CREEDMORIA is a 12x award-winning festival darling (Cinequest, Brooklyn Film Fest, Dances With Films, and more) endearing 1980’s Queens, coming-of-age girl power throwback. It stars Stef Dawson, Rachel DeBenedet, Ray Abruzzo, Ryan Weldon, James Kelley, Steve Cavanaugh, and Giuliana Carullo. She started writing the script around 10 years ago, and since then hasn’t stopped, raising the money, getting amazing actors, fighting for the perfect music… Here’s a little Q&A with Filmmaker Alicia Slimmer!
Joanna: This really encapsulates first-hand teenager turmoil. Did you write this when you were a teenager, or about a specific teenager? What inspired you to write this?
Alicia Slimmer: I was inspired to write it when I was pregnant with my first and only kid, because it had me thinking about what it meant to be a mother, and my mom, and I don’t know… I guess a lot of my teenage years came flooding back to me. So I was taking the train back and forth to the city to dance classes and listening to classic rock on my headphones; a song called Starship Trooper by Yes. I just played it on repeat because I kept getting an image of a teenage daughter and a mother fighting, and doors slamming, and the end of that song was kind of choreographed in my mind to slamming of doors and fighting between these two people. So that was kind of the impetus for writing it in the first place.
JP: Were there any scenes or parts that you cut that you wish you could have left in?
Alicia: No, I mean we really didn’t cut a whole lot. We have a new soundtrack though! The soundtrack we originally had was filled with classic rock and new wave from that time, and there was a scene that was perfect that was cut to a song by Aerosmith… but we couldn’t get the rights for it even for the festival run. I always felt like that was the biggest crime. I actually sent the scene and the song to Joe Perry and Steven Tyler. Someone on my film had a friend who was really close with them. So I don’t know if they actually ever saw it. But as far as regrets go, I regret that I never got the rights to that song.
JP: How did you recruit all of these incredible actors?
Alecia: Thank you for calling them incredible because I think they’re really amazing! Ray Abruzzo who played Ernest, he was kind of a family friend. A friend of a friend. I was really nervous about asking him to do the role because he saw me in LA with a short film I had in a festival, but he didn’t really know if I could make a feature film I guess. And I sent him a script. I was asking this actor who has had an amazing career to do a role where I kill him off in the first 25 minutes. But to my great joy and happiness he said yes and he was incredible. He was probably the most seasoned actor on the set by far.
Stef Dawson who plays Candy is Australian, and she was living in LA, but her manager in Australia actually saw the ad I posted in Backstage. And she just sent in a mind-blowing audition. Every other audition paled in comparison. She was in costume, she was in two different locations, she had someone shoot it on a 5d, she looked the part, she just blew us away. We had probably auditioned maybe 30 Candys by then, and were sooo grateful when she came along.
And Rachel is a Broadway actress.. and she is the best friend of my makeup artist. I knew she was an amazing Broadway actress with this incredible career… she sings, she dances, she does the whole thing but she never did a movie before. She was the first one I brought in to audition. She’s just phenomenal. I find that in the scenes where the mother has anything to do, she’s a bit of a scene stealer; I can’t take my eyes off of her! She’s so crazy gorgeous, and she’s so commanding with the material.
Everybody else I found through a website that used to be called Let It Cast – which was like a free service for Directors to kind of go and look at actors, and you could post your casting notice. So I found some actors through that. Steve and Jimmy both were through Let It Cast. They sent in amazing auditions, which if I ever release like an extras/bloopers – I should put their audition tapes on it because it’s kind of amazing to watch now.. how far they’ve come and what they’ve done differently. But yeah, I lucked out! Acting is everything.
JP: Do you consider yourself more of a writer or director? Or equally both?
Alicia: I just got hired on a job doing both. They reached out to me to direct actually, but when I read the script I told them I had issues with the script. And long story short, I drew up an outline with the potential of the movie that I saw in the script that they had. And they loved it, and asked if I’d be interested in writing it. And I am. It’s so hard for me to write without directing. My writing has a lot of direction in it, which may not make it for such a good read. I probably am a writer personally because it’s the thing I’ve been doing my whole life. I’ve been doing it the longest. But the minute I found a voice (I was probably 5) I was directing everyone around me, so they go hand in hand!
JP: How long did it take you to make this from start to finish?
Alecia: 10 years. Because I was pregnant with my daughter when I came up with the idea, when I gave birth to her I found a nanny to help me 3 days a week, and I went and wrote the script in a month in Starbucks. Then it took the next 7-8 years to pull a crew together and the people who could make the movie. Then I spent another year raising money… and having a failed crowdfunding event, and then having a successful crowdfunding campaign. Then when I shot it and it was in the can, it took another year to raise money for post. And another 5 months after that to raise money for the music licensing, because that turned out to be a good quarter of the budget of the whole film.
From soup to nuts, 10 years. And I don’t plan on taking that long for this next one!!
JP: Creedmoria received 9 awards at Film Festivals. Even 1 award at a Film Festival is no small feat!! Be honest, because it seems like you really put alot of work and thought into this film, were you expecting it at all? Even just a little? Or were you only hoping for the best?
Alecia: I think we actually won 12 awards at 9 festivals. To tell you the truth I expected to win an Academy Award. I don’t mean to sound like an asshole, but my dream was to make the movie, get accepted into Sundance, be courted at a boozy dinner with Harvey Weinstein (and I’m so grateful that didn’t happen!), and I always wanted to be a Best Screenwriting contender at the Oscars. I didn’t see the movie winning, I saw my name being thrown into getting the Best Screenwriting nod the way that Sofia Coppola did for Lost In Translation and Diablo Cody did for Juno. But that wasn’t the trajectory for the film, and it took me a while to figure out what the next move was because I didn’t really have a plan beyond Sundance.
And I’m really happy how the movie went, and really couldn’t be happier. I can’t imagine I’d be in a better place, who knows.. but the festivals we played at are all my favorites; all these little towns where the townspeople come out for the films and the music and you get to know the same people over a long weekend. It’s an extraordinary experience. My cast and crew traveled all around the country together, then the UK when we played in Manchester, and took home the best director award there, and best production design, and nomination for best actress. Wherever we went it was a very gratifying experience and I’ve made tremendous connections with other filmmakers, talent, and crew, and then the festival programmers. They’re a very special bunch of people. So I have to say I’m just grateful. I’m grateful for getting to watch it on the big screen dozens of times with different audiences, and then have talk backs. It was really rewarding.
JP: Did their father Ernest really die of a heart attack over the stress of Danny, or is that meant to be left for people to decide?
Alicia: The beauty of films is that the whole thing is left up to interpretation. It’s whatever someone thinks. It was slightly autobiographical. My dad did drop dead in front of me while we were having lunch together when I was a senior in high school… and it was complicated because the last thing I said to him was a bunch of lies about ‘how great school was’, because I cut out the whole day with my psycho boyfriend. He had just retired and never really got to enjoy his retirement. I did have a brother struggling with drug addiction and alcohol. Even though the movie’s different than what happened in my life, I kind of built that scene drawing from the experience that I actually did have. I am hoping some audience out there that thinks his pain in the ass nagging wife just got the better of him!
JP: It almost bothers me to not know what happens next. Because when people break out, something a lot of people are afraid to do, will it turn out for the better or worse?? If people show enough interest and there might be a sequel, would you even want to do a sequel? Or ever aim to?
Alicia: That’s an interesting question that nobody’s ever asked me. Hmm. Someone asked me if I’d want to do an episode on TV, especially since the 80’s are so hot right now. I think I’d explore that more than a movie, only because I find that the market is so oversaturated right now.
Every filmmaker I know has films going straight to VOD.. we didn’t make it to be seen on your laptop; we make it to be seen on the big screen.
But when you think about TV and episodic TV, I’m working on a lot of TV shows at the moment and I’d just prefer to see it go there. It’d be interesting to see what happens. I’ve had people speculate that things didn’t turn out so great for Sean (Cahill) at the end of the day.
JP: What do you hope that people take away from this film?
Alicia: It’s the classic underdog story, or rising above the social stratosphere and world you’re born into, and that nobody’s limited. We’re lucky to be who we want to be and do what we want to do if we can stay true to our nature. The whole movie’s really about Candy figuring out what her true nature is. Her younger brother already knows, but his struggle was a little tougher because society wasn’t really ready to accept him. So the whole breaking out is them becoming more of themselves. It’s really just a movie about hope. Staying true to yourself. Not letting the crazies keep you down!
JP: If you had no limitations, what would be your next dream project?
Alicia: I’m already working on it in a sense. I have a limited TV series. It’s only one season because everybody dies. Spoiler alert! Everybody dies. It’s another period piece; set in medieval France. It’s quite different than Creedmoria. It’s very dark, and life is really about survival. And it’s another mother daughter story, and the music factors in it in a very big way…. the way that music in Game Of Thrones is really spectacular. That’s my next baby that I’m shopping around, and will find a way to make it maybe here, or hopefully with a co-production and shoot it abroad somewhere.
And the fantasy is I get paid copious amount of dollars to do it!!
JP: :) Big thanks to Alicia for interviewing! She was really entertaining. Creedmoria is releasing May 15th on VOD – 2 days after Mother’s Days as the ultimate unMother’s-Day movie. Below is the trailer and more info.