I’m back with part two of my interview with San Francisco filmmaker Joshua Grannell who’s first feature film, All About Evil, had its world premier last Saturday. It was a sold out show and a huge success! Click here for Part One of the interview.
When we last left, a crying baby had interrupted Joshua and I and we made our way outside to the patio to continue our conversation. Here we discuss writing, casting, pre-production, the similarities between All About Evil, All About Eve and Showgirls as well as what the future holds for All About Evil and Midnight Mass!
Mike Noyes: How was the writing process for you?
Joshua Grannell: Because of having been an event producer, where I was creating events that I was also performing in, I was used to working with deadlines to get creative work done. I wasn’t the kind of artist who was writing to stick something on a shelf. It was more like, “You have a show next weekend and you better pull it out of your ass because you have sold tickets and you’ve got to come up with something.” I think I perform better under pressure. So I went to a friend of mine, Scott Boswell, a local filmmaker here in San Francisco (this is five years ago) and saying “Do you want to be part of a screenwriting group?” Actually, he may have come to me, I don’t remember. But we hatched this idea to create a writers group for people who are really interested in realizing their screenplays as movies, people serious about actually creating work. Scott and I have stuck with the group for five years.
[The group] was very helpful. If I said I was going to deliver material to a group then I felt like I was responsible for doing it even if it was crap. It forced me to write when I didn’t want to, it kept me on track.
MN: How was pre-production for you, raising the money and getting everything all lined up?
JG: One of the ways we were attracting the money was by putting the team together. So some of the casting and things actually happened early on. I went to friends of mine like Cassandra Peterson and Mink Stole who I had become close to working together on Midnight Mass. When we finally got the financing it was probably four or five months before we were actually in the six-week daily grind of pre-production. I would say that pre-production was as hard or more challenging than production. [It] was intense and now having made a feature I also recognize how hugely important it is and how serious it is. Next time I would ask for more money for pre-production. If I had to choose between another week of pre-production or another day or two of shooting, I’m not sure what I would choose. A day of shooting is so valuable, but pre-production is almost equally so and maybe more so, because it directly effects your ability to make the movie.
MN: You’ve got an amazing cast. Having made connections over the years with Midnight Mass, was it easy to get the likes of Mink Stole and Cassandra Peterson?
JG: I was nervous and terrified to ask them to do it. I know that they had enjoyed doing [Midnight Mass] and we became friends through working together which was such a surreal thing for me because I’m such a huge fan of those two women in particular. So I was really nervous to ask them. But I did and they agreed. They did it because we’re friends and because I think they trusted me. Mink said she agreed to do it before she even read the screenplay. I don’t know if that’s flattering or not [laughs]. I’m not sure, but I think it is, cause it means she trusted me.
With Cassandra it was very exciting because I was asking her to do it in a way that she’s not used to performing, which is outside the Elvira persona.
The rest of the cast, I should mention, came through a series of connections or the casting directors. One of the producers new Thomas Dekker and suggested I should meet [him], which was brilliant. I watched Sarah Conner Chronicles to get a sense for what he was doing as John Conner and I remember thinking, “Well, he’s very good, but he’s so serious and so brooding.” It was very helpful to go to the set of [Chronicles] and meet Thomas there and talk to him about the part.
For Thomas and Natasha [Lyonne] certainly, they… you know I’m this first time director who’s this crazy drag queen. I don’t think their teams necessarily thought this was the best career move for them. So I had to sell them on myself and on the screenplay. It helps when you know people who know people. You can actually get the material in their hands. That’s just part of the struggle right their, because they have people vetting it and protecting them. And in some ways I totally get it. Maybe they shouldn’t have let their client do our movie. [more laughs] I think it is smartest to go directly to the actor whenever possible because they’re the artist and if you can connect wit h them, they ultimately have the final say.
MN: The title is an obvious reference to All About Eve, is there any connection between the two films besides the title?
JG: There definitely is. I mean, it’s certainly not any sort of parody; I wouldn’t even call it an homage. But as far as the theme of a female hunger for fame, that is in both films. All About Eve has been hugely influential in so much that I’ve done and so has Showgirls which is basically All About Eve set in Las Vegas with strippers. It really is if you look at the two movies. And with All About Evil the theme is there of an ego run wild. That’s really how I would describe Natasha’s character, Deborah. It’s just unleashed ego.
MN: Without giving away too much, could you tell me a little about the live show you’ve got planned before the film?
JG: If you’re someone who’s come to Midnight Mass in the past then it will be very familiar to you. It is not going to be a Broadway production, it is going to be true to the spirit of Midnight Mass. Part of it is that you only have one world premier and it became exciting and important to us that the world premier should be in San Francisco, the more we looked at film festivals and who we are and what our movie is and where it was born and how it was supported, it just seemed holy appropriate. And to not involve a Midnight Mass element as part of the world premier almost would seem wrong.
It will be a Midnight Mass style stage show of a group of people celebrating All About Evil, but the twist is: at Midnight Mass you’re sending up films that people already love and are very familiar with, where as at a world premier, you’re creating a stage show for something people haven’t seen yet. So that’s where it gets a little tricky. That’s why even if I gave you some details it wouldn’t really make any sense until you take in the whole evening.
The other thing I can add is we benefit from having a cast where some of the performers are comfortable performing on stage. Mink Stole and Thomas Dekker are actually performing, while Natasha will be doing a Q&A and introducing the film so it’s a mix.
MN: After the world premier you’re going to be taking the film and the live show on the road. So my readers might have a chance of seeing this film and meeting Peaches Christ, what’s the best way for them to find out if All About Evil is coming to a city near them?
JG: We have a newsletter so you can sign up for to be informed on www.allaboutevilthemovie.com or Peaches has a fan club that you can sign up for. Facebook is huge! Become Peaches fan on Facebook and you’re gonna know cause it’ll be promoted. That’s the nice thing with the Internet; we can go directly to our fans. [Do one of those] and you’ll be kept abreast. The show will change depending on what city we got to, but if there is going to be a show, it will involve Peaches. There will be some screenings where there is no live element and we’re hand picking the best cities to bring the live element to.
Note: After our interview, All About Evil’s second screening was scheduled for Saturday, May 15th at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas: complete with a live show starring Peaches, Mink Stole and Cassandra Peterson!
MN: I know Midnight Mass has ended. Do you plan to bring it, or something like it, back after you’ve finished touring with the film or are you planning to be a filmmaker full time now?
JG: This is where it gets confusing. The only thing that ended with Midnight Mass was the summer season in San Francisco. We just did a Midnight Mass in February, Teen Witch. Midnight Mass has not ended, but I won’t come back and do nine back-to-back shows in the summer. We’ll be doing Purple Rain in July and it looks like we’re doing a big Midnight Mass in August, but I can’t say anything yet, but stay tuned.
“Stay tuned” indeed! Come back next week for the thrilling conclusion to my interview with Joshua Grannell where we discuss identity issues, the state of Cult Films today, The Room and much more!
Tags: All About Eve, All About Evil, Cassandra Peterson, Drag Queens, Elvira, Joshua Grannell, Midnight Mass, Mink Stole, Natasha Lyonne, Peaches Christ, Purple Rain, San Francisco International Film Festival, Showgirls, Teen Witch, Thomas Dekker