Interview - Melissa Mira

The Children of Samhain Exclusive:

The Pinup Dolls on Ice Interviews - Part Seven with Melissa Mira (Co-Director)

If you haven't heard me raving about Geoff Klein and Melissa Mira's sexy homage to the slasher genre, Pinup Dolls on Ice, then you've been living under a rock. And if you haven't been following my nine part series of interviews with the directors, cast and writer, then you've been missing out. After I gave the film a stellar review (that you can read here) in which I describe the film as 'A cross between a traditional slasher movie and a drunken night at Jumbo's Clown Room… that works like a charm.' I jumped at the chance to speak with the people behind making such a brutal old school slasher. I would like to personally thank each and everyone who took the time to answer my questions, and a special shout out to directors Geoff Klein and Melissa Mira who just returned from Madrid attending Nocturna, Festival Internacional de Cine Fantástico, where they screened the film. So here we go. First we featured writer Michael Penning in Part One. Then we featured Karine Kerr in Part Two, Jordan Mae Antoinette in Part Three, Kyla Shinkewski in Part Four, Ashley Almon in Part Five, and last week featured Geoff Klein in Part Six. So here is The Children of Samhain's Pinup Dolls On Ice Interviews: Part Seven featuring Melissa Mira. 

Leo Francis: This is your first film, and still you managed to direct, work special effects makeup, produce and star in it. Did you naturally adapt to the film making process? What parts did you find to be most fulfilling, and which aspects did you enjoy the least?

Melissa Mira: I think that the fact that I didn’t have any experience helped me adapt to the filmmaking process – I didn’t have anything to compare it to, therefore I dove in head first without any expectations. I hate positions, titles, Unions and “rules” when it comes to filmmaking – all of these go out the window on day one. I don’t believe that the person that has a nice looking resume is better than the person that doesn’t have one. I showed up to set with absolutely no experience, besides maybe a few meaningless modeling gigs, and I was eager to learn so I soaked up everything like a sponge. However, my inexperience was too much for some crew members to handle. Of course I blamed their attitude on the fact that I was a woman – which I’m surprised I did since there isn’t a feminist bone in me – but I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t believe and didn’t want to accept that their judgements were based on my lack of experience – how ignorant do you need to be?! I had to deal with everything between being called names to being accused of sexual harassment on set because I fixed one of my actress’ bra (I know, so ridiculous!), but if I had to choose the hardest thing I had to face, it would be that I had to watch Geoff tolerate all of these things because I had asked him to. There was no way I was going to allow Geoff to go down to these people’s level and confront them thus creating a scene, and besides I battle my own battles. My problems weren’t only “male crew members” related, I had the original makeup girls give me problems because the other crew members had already gotten to them – it only takes one rotten apple to spoil the bunch. That’s when I realized that it wasn’t a “woman thing”, but rather that I had to deal with a bunch of low-self-esteem people with a lack of education and that will never go anywhere in life. Geoff and I showed up to set every day, hand in hand, determined to finish our slasher no matter what we had to face – and we did! Today, Geoff and I are traveling the world attending screenings of PINUP DOLLS ON ICE – this our reward for all the hard work we’ve put in.
LF: Many moons ago I lived with a burlesque performer, so I have seen my share of burlesque over the years, and it all looked absolutely amazing and completely authentic. Whose influence is that? Do any or all of you have a background as burlesque performers and if not, did you have to train for the role?

MM: Thank God my role didn’t require any dancing! I look like I’m having an epilepsy episode on the dance floor. My mom forced me to take ballet classes when I was young – still upset about that – and they have not served me any purpose in my life so far. We always knew from the beginning that only Jordan’s character (Vivian) would require dancing. She’s already a performer and she has dancing experience so it came very naturally for her. We asked her to send us a video-audition that would showcase her dancing abilities – she sent us a video performing to one of Jessica Rabbits’ song. She got the part immediately. As for the actual scene in the film, we left it to Jordan to choreograph her own scene. Being indie filmmakers and having financed our film from our own pockets, we didn’t want to spend money on getting a choreographer when we knew that the actually dancing in the film was somewhat “irrelevant” to the action and advancement of the film. Had we been shooting Chicago we would have inquired about a choreographer! We gave Jordan a copy of the song we were going to use in the film (an original song written by Anna-Lynn Williams from Trespassers William and Robert Gomez) and she winged it on the day of. She was excellent and a great sport and I’m sure the couple of tequila shots before didn’t hurt either!
LF: The female roles all seemed to be pretty physically demanding in general, having to run in heels and perform in elaborate fight scenes with Moe, not to mention most of the female members of the cast end up literally 'on ice' and wearing very little clothing at some point in the film. Was it difficult physically shooting those scenes?. Did any of you perform your own stunts or were there stunt performers? Did anyone sustain any 'battle scars' while filming?

MM: It got cold, I’m not going to lie to you, especially when you get some fake blood poured all over and your hair is wet! The costumes we knew were going to be “skanky”, but I didn’t what the audience to see the Pinups in those outfits when they first appeared on screen. This is something I discussed with Geoff and Michael (Writer) at the early stages where I told them that I wanted a scene where the Pinups would appear in their “regular every day clothes” before they got into their Pinup outfits. I wanted the audience to be able to relate to these “normal girls” the first time they saw them onscreen rather than trying to relate to “pinups” right from the beginning. The Pinup Dolls are just a group of girlfriends that happen to do burlesque. The burlesque feel of the film is literally only there in order for the characters to get into sexy outfits – it could have been anything else. Geoff thought it was a good idea and went with it and Michael gave us the opening scene at the bar where you first meet the Pinups. The running in the heels (which had to be reinforced with rubber bands around the ankles) was probably the hardest thing to deal with, but the girls were real troopers about it! Oh, the infamous heels! I specifically made the girls wear their heels throughout the entire film. I wanted the audience to yell “take those fucking heels off you idiot!”. It was our take on the usual “let’s go check out what that noise was” in every other slasher or the “hello? Is anybody there?”, which we kept to a very minimum. We didn’t have any stunt doubles and even if we had wanted some, our budget didn’t allow it. Nothing was rehearsed either! I hate rehearsals! There’s nothing like your adrenaline going crazy in your veins and knowing that the camera is rolling, it’s incredible what you are willing to do. I always tell Geoff that being an “On Ice Girl” is as badass as being a “Bond Girl” – you got to be tough and willing to take a few scratches and bumps, bleed and cry and be willing to do it again and again! I’ll never forget having to poor a giant bucket of water on Kyla (Caylin) for her scene with William (Moe) – she literally laid on the ground and let me poor this bucket of bug infested water that had been sitting outside for days – Geoff was about to call “action” and the girl needed to look wet! I also had to cover an enormous bruise on Ashley’s thigh (Kristy) for her skinny dipping scene. When we finally called “it’s a wrap” for the day, we would jump in the shower and scrub the makeup of our bodies really hard… only to realize that it wasn’t makeup, but an actual cut/bruise/blister! I think we’ve all kept a scar or two from our experience! I remember my fight scene being really demanding physically. I looked like a leopard the day after I was so bruised. Whenever somebody asks me how it was to shoot that scene, I always say “Let’s put it this way - no wonder there’s so many dead girls in the world, if somebody would come at you the way Moe comes at the Pinups… you wouldn’t make it either.”
: I tend to prefer indie-horror films to the big budget studio releases, mostly because the indie film makers are able to take risks they normally wouldn't be allowed to take. I also think that the true test of a great director is what they can achieve on a limited budget, and you two seem to have achieved that. Do you feel budget restrictions forced you to be more creative, and do you think that yielded better results?

MM: Geoff and I financed PINUP DOLLS ON ICE entirely from our own pockets. Luckily, Geoff was able to make a little bit of money from his first film, Bikini Girls on Ice, but after the bullshit marketing and sales expenses, commission fees and other ridiculous “expenses” Sale Agents love to charge you for, we were left with almost nothing. So we went ahead and got personal loans, line of credits, maxed out all of our credit cards, got second and third jobs and sucked it up and shot our film. Finding the money to shoot this film became such a “thing” that sometimes I felt like the film was “the other woman” in our relationship! We refused to do any kind of crowd funding, and still feel the same today. If you don’t want to take the risk financing your own project, why should anybody else? Crowd funding is so insulting and I find it completely disrespectful for our fellow indie filmmakers that have taken extravagant measures to finance their film, including remortgaging their homes. Has it forced us to be more creative? Of course it did, but we wouldn’t change a thing since it has allowed us to have complete creative freedom. To this day, we are benefiting from having it done that way since we don’t have anybody talking our ears off about finding distribution or selling the film immediately because “they want their money”. And yes, I believe doing it the way we did yielded better results. Besides the useless stress from some incompetent crew members we had on set, we didn’t have the pressure of having to entertain any kind of producer or investor’s demands. We weren’t imposed any kind of “way of doing things” – we only had each other and our vision.
LF: Have you always been a fan of horror films? If so what was the film that got you hooked? What is it that draws you to the genre? What do you think draws people in general to the genre?

MM: I can’t say that I’ve always been a horror fan. Not that my sisters and I were “sheltered” as kids, but I don’t remember watching horror films that much in our house. Only two incidents come to mind when it comes to horror films in my childhood: 1) My parents allowed us to watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) when I was about 9 years old, only to scare the shit out of us with fake vampire teeth immediately after, assholes; and, 2) My middle sister and her friends decided to watch The Exorcist and bring my youngest sister in the mix. She got so scared and panicked, I kicked my middle sister and her stupid friends out of the house. Later on, I discovered Wes Craven’s People Under the Stairs, Frank Henenlotter’s Basket Case, John Carpenter’s Christine, and the fantastic Return of the Living Dead 3. I have no idea what it is that attracts me to the genre, it’s just one of those things where you just go with it. Sometimes I think that I’m very much like Dexter Morgan where I believe I have a “dark passenger” and making horror films is my “therapy”.

LF: Will we be seeing Moe return to the screen anytime in the not-too-distant future? Are you working on anything else at the moment, outside of promoting this film?

MM: Right now Geoff and I are focusing on promoting the film. After all the bullshit we went through making it, the festival circuit is the light at the end of the tunnel. We try our best to attend every screening as we find it rewarding to experience our film with a large crowd. More often than not, Geoff and I will purposely put our film “out of competition” in certain festivals so we can have the best time slot possible and a full house. We love meeting the horror community and shooting the shit with them, but most of all we enjoy watching them watch our film. PINUP DOLLS ON ICE is very much a festival film and we get a kick out of watching the people get up on their seats, yell, laugh, clap and then get very quiet when the shit gets real! Wherever we are in the world, we always feel at home because the horror fans make us feel so welcomed and we take the time to listen to them. After all, they are the reason and the people we make our films for. So even if we are “living la vida loca” in Los Angeles or Madrid, we are still working at some degree. Moe’s rampage has just begun and we have a lot of surprises coming your way! We are planning on financing the next “On Ice” instalments ourselves, but we have a feeling it’s going to be much easier this time around! As for other projects, we have a lot of offers on the table, but none of them have been able to excite us. At the end of the day, Geoff and I are horror fans, therefore our films are made by horror fans for horror fans, and we don’t want to take “gigs” just for the sake of taking “gigs” and delivering a project that we’re not completely proud of. Also, taking “gigs” would mean that we have “bosses” and having to respond to somebody… I don’t think we’re ready for that just yet. Doing it our way has served us very well so far and we count on doing it that way for a very long time.

LF: What scares you? We're all scared of war and disease and things like that. But when it comes to horror films, what genuinely scares you? 

MM: I have a very high tolerance for fucked shit, so “imagery” doesn’t affect me anymore. I’m extremely inquisitive and curious by nature and I’ll look for fucked shit on Internet just for fun. So when it comes to horror films, heads being crushed, eyes popping out of their sockets and all that stuff, it just doesn’t do it for me. I’ll say music. When I close my eyes and believe, hard as a rock, that a giant white shark is coming toward me in the middle of my living room - you got me, I’m scared. I always turn the volume down or mute it when watching certain films, Jaws being one of them. I love it when music becomes a character, when you can close your eyes and know whats happening or what’s about to happen. So yes, music scares me when it comes to horror films.

LF: Name a film you walked out of at the theatre.

MM: "The Mexican” with Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt. What. The. Fuck. First of all, they tried to make me believe that these two were in a relationship - please, go fuck yourself. I took my skittles and went home.

LF: If you could punch one person in the face, who would it be?

MM: I’m going to say you, and only because I want to punch everybody in the face and since I’m talking to you and you asked, you’ll be the first one! Everybody, I want to punch everybody in the face. We’ve all been douche bags at one point in our lives and if you say that you haven’t, then you’re the biggest one of all. We all deserve a punch in the face. I totally deserve one for all the people that had to suffer with my “cuntish” attitude in high school. The film “Mean Girls” was somewhat of a rude awakening: “holy shit, that was totally me!" I acknowledge. So Leo, you can punch me in the face right after I punch you… except I’ll probably take a while to wake up. However, I’d like to line up the people that have ever shown cruelty toward animals… somebody line them up, please! Except those people I wouldn’t punch… I would shoot in the face.

LF: Has anyone ever made you feel 'star-struck'?

MM: Suzi Lorraine. When she got out of the van after arriving on the PINUP DOLLS ON ICE set, I needed to get it together. Shooting this film was my first experience ever on a set, being around cameras and lighting equipment, so when Geoff told me that Suzi "was here”, I got nervous and it was a huge deal for me. Today, we’ll talk with Suzi over the phone or catch up with her when we’re in New York and it’s always refreshing to see that people like her exist - people that are down to earth and seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that they’re kind of a “big deal”. I felt the same when we met Tobe Hooper a couple of weeks ago. He’s so down to earth and the fact that he says “dude” every five words, makes him even more awesome!

LF: What's your favorite horror film of all time and / or the scariest movie you've ever seen?

MM: I’m going to say Wes Craven’s People Under the Stairs. That film has everything; the fucked up family, virgin good girl, zombies, cool kid you’re rooting for, etc. It’s the first film that made me go “WHAT! People in the walls… no, no, no, nope, thank you.” Honestly, I can’t pick just one. Every year, I have to watch Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Jaws, People Under the Stairs, Return of the Living Dead 3, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, sprinkle that with some Dario Argento and you got yourself some crazy cocktail!

LF: Thanks again, Melissa!!


- Leo Francis