Director brings Craig Clevenger novel to Cinequest screens
This is our interview with director Ross Clarke.
1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of Dermaphoria, from concept to financing.
I had read Craig [Clevenger]’s first novel The Contortionist’s Handbook – loved it and was interested in it as a film but at the time Leonardo DiCaprio’s company had it. So I talked to Craig’s fantastic agent Jeff Aghassi and he told me Craig was about to publish his 2nd novel – he sent me a copy – I loved it so we went to see Craig in San Francisco and my producer Teryn Fogel persuaded him to take a chance on us – she’s very persuasive and a huge part of the film from start to finish. I wrote many drafts of the screenplay and financing was tough – it’s a tricky adaptation and a niche story but it has these fantastic characters and story and eventually we got 3 different people to back us from the US and the UK.
2Q: Dermaphoria has done quite well at other film festivals. Will you be less nervous now at Cinequest? Does this process ever get any easier?
Well we had a huge opening and response in London which is my home turf. But for this one it’s Craig’s home – he’s very well known and loved in the Bay Area – and in a way even though we reset Dermaphoria in New Orleans that town today has something of San Francisco or Venice Beach before gentrification took hold. So we hope it will be another home coming for the film. And then we move onto a New Orleans screening and later in the year a full release.
3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making Dermaphoria?
The whole thing was fantastic – I think meeting and getting to work with Ron Perlman, Walton Goggins, Craig, Kate Walsh and Joe Morgan (who worked his arse off in every scene and didn’t complain once). Ron and Walton are legends to me and they’re very generous and committed – they really owned it all. Discovering and understanding New Orleans was literally life changing. The city is magical and I wanted to put that on scree which I think we did. And all the crew there were spectacularly good and a lot of fun. The worst part was we shot in July and the heat almost killed me. It was brutal. It was a 19 day shoot and so we shot 30-35 set ups a day at 30 locations across the city. In hindsight that’s pretty stupid. But we did it but moving fast in that heat was tough for a pasty English guy. My DP was a legend – Pedro – a Uruguyan – the heat didn’t bother him – he kept us going.
4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?
I think see this film if you love poetry and mystery and great acting. See it if you love New Orleans or if you’ve never been there see why you should. See it because Walton eats Craw fish like nobody else and Ron’s accent is fantastic. See it because Craig’s dialogue leaps off the page. See it because it’s visually an English / South American eye on a Southern American city and it’s beautiful. See it because it’s not trying to fit into a box and it wasn’t made by committee. It’s a real Indie art movie with an Indie spirit and I’m very proud of that.
5Q: Time to pre-plan: You just won the Oscar for Dermaphoria. Give us your acceptance speech.
I’d just stumble and cry and thank a lot of people – and say really ? I still think Boyhood is a little better. And then I’d wonder if someone slipped them some Derma to loosen them all up to vote for us.