How many people love cult movies? And how many others have dreamed of making a movie? Not high art, perhaps, but campy good fun, midnight movie fare with the occasional serious overtone.
Two long-time Capitol Hill filmmakers have followed their bliss. Their first feature film, "Gory Gory Hallelujah" is the result of the creative partnership between Sue Corcoran and Angie Louise, who together are the Von Piglet Sisters. While the pair wear many hats, Corcoran takes on the role of director, producer and co-editor, while Louise is the writer, actor and co-editor.
"Gory Gory Hallelujah" follows the exploits for four Jesus wannabees - actors, actually - as they head from Seattle to New York to audition for a production of "Jesus Christ, Superstar." None fit the typical profile of the Son of God: One actor is bisexual, another black. One is a woman, and the last Jesus is, in fact, a Jew.
Seems straightforward enough. But perhaps not quite. Follow closely: En route to the Big Apple they stumble on a gang of Elvises in a bar and a murder results. Soon they are arrested in a small town on charges of indecency, are pawns in a real estate scam, get attacked by zombies and unwittingly cause the apocalypse. There are musical numbers, sexual flings, bar fights and plenty of blood.
Both Corcoran and Louise admit to having watched more than their share of cult movies late at night.
The film features a large ensemble cast of Seattle actors. Corcoran and Louise also star in the film - Louise plays Jessie, the female Jesus, Corcoran plays Prudence, who later leads Jessie to her first lesbian orgy.
Both Corcoran and Louise were born and raised in Oak Park, Ill. But they didn't know each other growing up. They met during a production of "Hair" during their senior at the University of Illinois in Champagne.
"Angie was already a theater diva, but it was my first show," said Corcoran.
"I've always been an actress, since childhood," said Louise. "That's how I make a paltry non-living now."
The pair later performed in all-girl rock band Plump Harriet, playing suggestive AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Dead Kennedy covers. Plump Harriet, during its brief, one-year lifespan, actually won an Illinois Battle of the Bands contest.
Louise moved to Seattle 12 years ago despite not having been to the Pacific Northwest before, drawn to the region's natural beauty and a sense that Seattle had a strong artistic community. "I just didn't want to stay in Chicago after college," she said.
Corcoran followed 18 months later, as planned, once she'd found a job in video production. While the Von Piglet Sisters are the duo's primary creative outlet, Louise makes "a paltry, non-living" in musical theater, while Corcoran works as a producer and director of corporate videos. She's also worked in commercial films and as a TV news photographer and producer.
The duo created three short films in the '90s before setting out to make their first feature.
A melting pot
"Gory Gory Hallelujah" has been described as "Rocky Horror meets Life of Brian meets Dawn of the Dead." Such a description suits the Von Piglets just fine.
"We wanted to make a movie we wanted to watch," said Corcoran about "Gory's" genesis three years ago "Angie's boyfriend had a vision of four Jesuses and the apocalypse. Angie took off on the idea and started with the people Christianity has typically left out."
The writing took place over a swift eight months. During that time actors were rounded up, locations scouted, film stock obtained. As for money....
"It was mostly my own money," said Corcoran. "I have no retirement funds now. I maxed out my credit cards. This is not for the faint of heart."
Filming took place during August and September of 2001. Locations included the Little Theatre on 19th Avenue East and the Hot House on East Pike Street. Other scenes were filmed in Ballard, and the more rural scenes were shot in Snohomish. Editing work was done at the 911 Media Center.
Additional filming was needed in June 2002. The filmmakers determined that the zombies needed to come out of the graves, that the Elvis bar fight had to be longer and that a bit of gratuitous nudity was in order.
"We had to play by the rules of our genre," said Corcoran, who, dedicated filmmaker that she is, offered her breasts to the cause. "We had to dirty up our act."
"The reason it works for us is because we really work hard to communicate with each other," said Louise. "Sue is more visual, I'm more verbal. But there are times when we're exactly on the same page, like when we're editing."
Much of the past year has been spent in, as Corcoran said, "post, post production." Meaning marketing and promotional efforts take center stage for the Von Piglets. "Gory" has been well received at several film festivals and has had showings in London and Switzerland. With hi-quality DVDs in hand, the Von Piglets are working to secure a distributor. Corcoran spends much of her time in Los Angeles working with a producer's representative who's been on board since October.
Beyond finding a home and an audience for "Gory," Corcoran's also trying to secure funding for the next film. And it won't come from credit cards this time.
"We need more than just family money. We need money from people who do this full time," Louise said.
The pair is confident that "Gory" will find its way out of the festival circut.
"Part of the appeal of this genre is that people who aren't interested are unlikely to look at it in the first place," said Louise. "We get serious attention and have had one offer, but it wasn't a realistic one. We need to find the right match."
Other projects are in the works. Corcoran is working on the story line for the next film, initially titled "Destination: Fallopia!" Louise will soon flesh out the script.
"It's a sexy, sci-fi feminist fantasy feature," Corcoran said, though the project is still in its formative stages. The pair also is working on the soap opera "Shuddering Pines," a TV pilot. A movie-musical is also being charted. For the Von Piglets, it's important to have a grab-bag of ideas at the ready.
"We have a simple plan for next year," said Louise. "Have "Gory" shown at a few more festivals. Have it picked up for distribution. And have someone fund the next project. Simple!"
As for the daunting task and countless hours spent in pursuit of a successful career making films, the Von Piglets are undaunted.
"This is what I want to do," Corcoran said. "It's fun and challenging. And I don't really know how to do anything else. I'd have to be retrained."
"The process is completely absorbing," said Louise. "You spend all your time trying to get it right. Making a film keeps me in the moment."
"Gory Gory Hallelujah" will be shown at The Little Theatre, 608 19th Ave. E. at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 26. For more information, call 329-2629 or go to www.wiggly world.org/littletheatre/. Or check out the film's Web site at www. gorygory.com.
Doug Schwartz is the editor of the Capitol Hill Times. He can be reached at 461-1308 or email@example.com