As a lover of all things camp and grindhouse, I recently had the chance to screen Writer/Director Ward Roberts' new DVD release, Dust Up, and was blown away by how beautifully crafted his homage to the genre is. I recently got to sit down with Roberts and the film's star, Amber Benson to talk about filming in their creative process and, yes, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
VB: How was it filming in the Mojave Desert? The whole movie has this sheen of "hotness" around it; you almost start sweating as you're watching.
WR: At one point it was so hot and we'd been shooting for so long that my brain just kinda shut down. I remember being outside with my head in my hands, trying to figure out how to cover a section of the final fight sequence, and for a stretch of time my mind would not form any kind of functional thought. The only thing I could think was that I couldn't think. It was scary there for a few minutes.
Despite that episode, overall I do believe the heat added to the intensity, the brutality even, of the film's aesthetic. [Cinematographer] Shannon [Hourigan] did a great job to capture that "hotness" during production and really brought it out to full-effect in coloring the film in post.
AB: It was so hot during the day on the Joshua Tree sets that I felt like we were shooting in a sauna, but then at night it was freezing -- and I spend most of the night scenes in my underwear, so, needless to say, I was a walking side of goose flesh. Of course, by hotness, you could've also been talking about all my hot co-stars. It was a lot of fun being the "voice of reason," "mother figure" character in a movie full of attractive men.
In your varied careers, did you ever imagine making a film like this?
AB: If a script makes me laugh out loud when I'm reading it then I'm in. There is so little out there project-wise that moves me, when I find one, I insert myself into the process. So, the answer is: I may not have envisioned Dust Up in my future, but I was open to weirdness and that was what I got.
WR: Making any film is such a journey of discovery and hopefully pleasant surprise, you really can't imagine how exactly, it will turn out ahead of time. I wasn't really even sure what kind of film Dust Up was until I was staring at Gaffey, Devin and Travis during the second night of shooting and it looked like the Village People had dropped by for a visit. At that point I was like, "Ah, this is the film we are making."
Ward, Dust Up was a little bit of a reunion for your Drexel Box crew --- what is it like working with a team you've grown so close with?
WR: This is our family that began in college and has been going and growing ever since. Dust Up stands on the shoulders of all the projects and playtime we've had over the last decade plus. So much of what Dust Up is came from this collective sensibility and style we've honing as a team. Telling a story you love and believe in with the people you love and believe in is an excellent way to roll.
Lastly, what's next for you both? Amber, any plans to make millions of fans dreams come true and do an official Buffy reunion? Do you get tired of being asked about that?
AB: Never tired of it, because it means what we did on Buffy moved a lot of people. When you stop getting asked about the show, then you know it's all over. Aside from Dust Up, the last book in my Calliope Reaper-Jones book series for Penguin comes out in March. It's called The Golden Age of Death. And I am also in post-production on a web series called Girl on Girl.
And Ward, on top of the incredible films Little Big Top and Lo, Dust Up is further catapulting you towards indie legend status -- what's next for you?
WR: Well, I just had a blast playing a part in an episode of Hawaii Five-0 that will air in early 2013. It was the perfect time to break away from all the Dust Up madness and get my acting on. From the writing/directing end I'm cooking up a few things, but still no way to know which will be the next into production.
The main contenders are a horror-comedy and an action-comedy, both of which will appeal to those who dig Dust Up. Travis and Shannon's latest film, The Dead Inside, just came out so everybody should view that immediately. They also have a new film that looks close to getting off the ground in a very big way, so we are super stoked about that heading into the New Year.
You can read my full interview with Ward Roberts and Amber Benson (we talk Money-Shots!) at The Donnybrook Writing Academy. "Dust up" is now available on Demand, iTunes and DVD -- seriously give this movie a viewing, it is pure camp in the best and most lovingly violent way possible.
Special thanks to Justin Cook and Breaking Glass Pictures for providing all images.