Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Interview with Producer Nicole Williams

Nicole Williams has produced numerous feature films under the Cinema Threat Productions banner, including the La Llorona series, The Hood Has Eyez and Horno.

After attending film school at El Camino College and Los Angeles Southwest College, Nicole got her start after wearing many hats (including script supervisor, special effects coordinator, and wardrobe girl) on the independent graffiti drama, Transit. Nicole then partnered with director Terrence Williams to produce her first feature, The River: Legend of La Llorona.

Nicole is a driving force behind Cinema Threat and its films and continues to fill many different roles ranging from producer to special effects artist, still photographer, prop girl, and even making sure everyone is fed on the set.

Fatally Yours: How did you fall in love with the horror genre?

Nicole Williams: It all started with my favorite movie as a kid, Child’s Play, besides the fact I got teased for being a Chucky look-a-like (I’m reminded even to this day about the similarities), put all that aside, it’s a great horror film and series. I loved the possessed doll angle and how evil it could be, very creepy when you’re nine and you have a few stuffed animals and dolls lying around. I was always hoping that I was lucky enough to have one come alive like that, but do evil deeds for me not the other way around. I got drawn to the horror genre as a kid cause the films were just flat out ‘cool’, I got an eyeful, to see people getting killed in very grotesque ways, to see people naked full frontal at that, to see things that you wish you could do, but shouldn’t, and I definitely got an earful, to hear all that cussing in every combination possible, it was the coolest shit to me. So the only thing left for me to do was to love it, to embrace it, and to put it on the street corner to make me some money!

Fatally Yours: What does “horror” mean to you?

Nicole Williams: To me ‘horror’ means rebellion – rebellion from the norm, it doesn’t apologize for who it is and what it represents, horror doesn’t miss a beat, it says what it does and does what it says, there’s no saving grace, no security blanket, there’s no running from it, no backing out, it’s coming all up in your face to serve you a hot dose of whatever it is that you find unnerving, to test you, to find out what you’re made of…a status-quo narrow minded sheep type or a bastardized debauchery minded deviant type?

Fatally Yours: How and when did you become involved in the horror industry?

Nicole Williams: After the successful making of Transit, a action-packed L.A. based graffiti drama that I worked on as the script supervisor, special effects supervisor, prop master, wardrobe supervisor, and still photographer, I guess it all went very well since I was asked to produce The River: Legend of La Llorona, the first in a trilogy series made about La Llorona (Spanish for The Weeping Lady). The River: Legend of La Llorona based on the mythical story from Mexico about the ghost of a woman who wanders around and cries for her children, who she drowned after being cheated on and left by their father. And that’s when I got involved in the horror game and haven’t looked back since, I mean I have the best job ever, I get to make people up with blood gushing wounds, I get to dress people up in the most scantily clad outfits, I get to hand them their props, which more often than not it’s been a dildo, and then I get to watch as all the chaos erupts into a crescendo in a very fragile state, and then I get to take photos of that vulnerability. It’s wonderful!

Fatally Yours: Many (though not all) horror films feature violence that’s explicitly shown against women. Why do you think violence against women has usually been shown more explicitly than violence against men?

Nicole Williams: Wow, that’s a hell of a loaded question. This goes back into our past as a socially acceptable way to show women in film, because films depict women parallel to the times in real life. In the ‘40s and ‘50s it showed women as homemakers and mothers or good time girls and performers, with storylines and plots as gold diggers, home wreckers, back stabbers and cheaters, but always put the actresses in the spotlight more than the actors, they were seen in flawless makeup, luxurious gowns and sexy attire, expensive jewelry, they were also shown as helpless victims. Yes ‘helpless’ in the sense of ‘I need this detective to help me find out who my husband’s mistress is, but I’m really the one cheating on my husband and plotting to have him killed with my boyfriend for all my husband’s inheritance’ or helpless in the sense of ‘I solely depend on my husband’s financial support, but he’s always working, so I’m going to get his attention with my erratic spending’…you know, the I Love Lucy syndrome. And it just goes on from there, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, it was the ‘40s and ‘50s just a bit more gritty with sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll type films and the actresses were free loving junkies. In the ‘80s and ‘90s, it was just the ‘60s and ‘70s updated with a more modern look and so forth…women as actresses have always been at the forefront of films, now if this means they get brutally raped in the film and it’s shown in vivid detail it’s no different to me if the actress in the film gets to go on a huge spending spree with a unlimited amount of money on her credit card or the actress in the film tries to stop her best friend (which happens to be a man) from getting married to someone else cause he should be marrying her instead…the only difference between all these examples of film subjects is that the first one actually happens in real life and the other two are just fairy tales they have come up with to be pornography for women, which these women can’t get enough of, they’re addicted to it, they watch it, look at it, then they talk about it all day long and fiend off of it! All I got to say is it hasn’t worked out for the actresses in these films so it’s not going to work out like that for all you ladies out there, find another hobby!

Fatally Yours: In reference to the previous question, Dario Argento once said, “I like women, especially beautiful ones. If they have a good face and figure, I would much prefer to watch them being murdered than an ugly girl or man.” Alfred Hitchcock elaborated by saying, “I always believe in following the advice of the playwright Sardou. He said, ‘Torture the women!’ The trouble today is that we don’t torture enough.” What is your reaction when reading those quotes? 

Nicole Williams: My immediate reaction is that of a boisterous laugh…seriously though it’s like the pornography example I brought up in my previous answer, in porn films you want to see the most gorgeous sexy ‘cream of the crop’ type woman getting served with the most energy and in the most exhausting way possible, so why wouldn’t it be the same for films? You want to see the actress get victimized by the antagonist (whoever or whatever that is) and come out on top, and she usually does it in the most flattering and sexiest way she possibly could show you, and if she happens to show off her figure, her bare breasts, or her whole naked self while doing it so be it, it just makes for a better presentation…we’re in this business for a reason and everyone is in agreement, the actress, the writer, the director, and most importantly the fans, they love it and so do I.

Fatally Yours: Why do you think sex and violence are so intertwined in the horror genre? How often would you say that nudity and sex scenes are actually relevant to the story in a horror film?

Nicole Williams: Sex and violence definitely go hand in hand cause of the cheap thrill people get from watching it happen. It’s like in Sidney Furie’s The Entity, you want to see the ghost violently rape Barbara Hershey! You need to see her clothes get ripped off as the ghost throws her onto the bed and spreads her legs, you beg for them not to cut away. Sex and violence, I think they are both executed quite beautifully together.

I think nudity and sex are always relevant to every story in horror or any genre for that matter, we all are nude creatures as well as sexual beings, I hope for everyone’s sake they get nude as much as possible and have sex as much as possible, because being nude is a natural state to be in and having sex is a natural act. As I said before in an answer, I believe film copies life, therefore nudity and sex scenes are relevant to any story in horror films because it happens in real life.

Fatally Yours: Though the horror genre has primarily been a “boy’s club”, it seems that more and more women filmmakers are getting behind the genre. What is your personal opinion on why there are less female filmmakers than males?

Nicole Williams: First off, I don’t personally fit into any kind of mold or description, and call me old fashioned, but that’s why we had a woman’s rights movement, so we wouldn’t have to walk around with our vaginas branded on our forehead’s, I don’t want to have to remind everyone that I’m a woman and it’s definitely not a handicap or an obstacle for me!

To my knowledge, it’s a fact in this industry women are the majority when it comes to producers, assistant directors, line managers, and countless other below-the-line positions such as wardrobe and set design. So in my opinion if we’re talking about directors and writers there are less female filmmakers than male filmmakers because women are holding themselves back, no one else. Women filmmakers seem to hold back on content, they want to constantly be safe, and don’t want to go all the way with their films. If you’re like me you’re not going to let your sex make you or break you and you sure as hell aren’t going to let anyone tell you that you can’t make a film because you’re a woman.  See I don’t care if a woman or a man makes a particular film that I like because I’m not bias or drawn towards films made by woman for woman cause sometimes when I do watch those films I’m highly disappointed because there’s a lot of delusional fairy tale type stories that just flat out aren’t real. Life does not happen like that and so the films simply don’t work, you can’t break out of stereotypes if you’re always reeling in them, trying to live them, and depicting them. I’m sorry to break it to some of you women out there, but I hear some women complain about how men aren’t in tune with their emotions and feelings, but in this game of filmmaking, they’re primarily the ones (male directors and writers) making films that do have heart, grit, and real life experiences meshed into their storylines no holds barred because they will not sacrifice their stories.

Fatally Yours: As a woman in horror, have you faced any challenges because of your gender? 

Nicole Williams: No, I haven’t faced any challenges because of my gender. Like I said before and I’ll say it again, I do not manipulate people with my sex to get what I want or to get what I need, I do not expect people to bow down to me because of my sex, I do not want an award or recognition because of my sex, so therefore I have not faced any challenges because of my sex because I don’t use my sex as an obligation to others to treat me one way or another because of it. If they don’t like me, they don’t like me, I just know I give them one of the best reasons not to like me because when I’m in business mode I tend to act like a real cunt!

Fatally Yours: The films you produce are some of the most extreme in the indie world and have been described as “vulgar”, “disturbing”, “offensive”, “controversial”, and so on. Digital Retribution (http://www.digital-retribution.com/reviews/other/f016.php) described the debauchery of The Hood Has Eyez as containing “golden showers, soiled tampon sucking, coat hanger fetus removal, violation with a broken beer bottle, penis nailing, and more than one instance of anal molestation”. What makes you want to be a part of such envelope-pushing cinema? 

Nicole Williams: Well if it hasn’t come across in this interview yet, I guess the question is more like why oh why must a woman be part of this sleaze, this depiction, this assault on your own kind, why would another woman want to show these kinds of acts done to other women in a film?

First, I’d like to talk about the film itself The Hood Has Eyez, if you have watched it you would know how it ends, how the woman, ‘Kimmy’ is the heroine, she gets her revenge I believe four times over on the sadistic gangsters who tortured and raped her, she is crazed with getting even and like I said, she does what they did just to the extreme.

Second, when it comes to real life depictions like this one, unfortunately for the victim, for example a rape victim, they never get an opportunity to carry out the same kind of torture they experienced onto the rapist, it never has been part of the justice system here, so my thinking is that this kind of activity, meaning rape, happens to women in real life on a daily basis. So this is my contribution, or in a sense a present to myself and all the other women and men, (yes men, we can not forget about the men who have also been raped, they are as important as women, it’s no less brutal) who have been raped, to witness a woman empowering herself to take justice into her own hands and choose to do the dirt herself. The only question is if you were faced with that decision what would you do? Because no one can answer that for you, especially if they’ve never been through it, just like no one can tell you what kind of film to make and what kind of content to show when they themselves haven’t been through the filmmaking process.

And third, what makes me want to make such envelope-pushing cinema is that it is no more different than I am, it’s not a stretch for me, it’s a normal extension of myself, I want people to be as brutalized watching our films as they are living daily life, I want them to cut themselves on that envelope and draw blood to prove they’re alive.

Fatally Yours: Is there any line that Cinema Threat won’t cross?!

Nicole Williams: No! No way, Cinema Threat Productions has no boundaries, no lines to yield to, the more blasphemous the better, and most importantly we have no morals, which equal no apologies; we’re equal opportunity offenders!

Fatally Yours: Though you mainly produce films and wear many different hats (doing special FX, acting, and in general taking care of business) at Cinema Threat, you’ve also directed. What was the directing experience like and do you want to do it again? 

Nicole Williams: My directing experience was a lesson well learned, I made it happen, and I finished, and then after that day was over I got on my knees and hailed to the chief director Terrence and gave him mad props, cause man oh man, you have to be very focused in that arena if you want to come off as a good director. I need much more training in directing actors and also I’m not a writer, which I strongly believe they go hand in hand, you need to know the script inside and out, ‘cause at a moments notice something could go wrong and in my experience as a producer something always goes wrong, it could be small, but it still deals with your film’s story. I know with a lot more practice, reading, and training I could direct again, but I’m so very happy with what I’m doing, what I’m in charge of, and what I contribute to the films as producer and all the other titles I hold as you mentioned that I don’t want to change my position now, especially since I have a  partner like Terrence that is the writer, director, editor and that’s how it all started and that’s how it works, we both make our style and individuality come out on the screen, so why muck that up now, cause we’re a team, we both do what we do and we do it well!

Fatally Yours: What are the greatest challenges in running an independent production company? What makes the challenges and obstacles worthwhile?

Nicole Williams: People who don’t understand this business, it’s mainly been actors during the production period, cause when people are on a whole other page than you are, a lot of challenges arise. It seems when you deal with some actors and you think you’re understanding one another because you just talked to them on the phone, through email, or even in person, then you’re thinking okay, they’re an adult right?, they willfully signed a contract, they were told everything about the project, the dates of production, the pay, what they need to bring, where they need to go, shit, even what they’re going to eat, etc. They were asked “do you have any questions?” and they said “no, it all sounds good.” “Cool”, you think to yourself, it seems like it’s all coming together and then this motherfucker (yeah I’m gonna have to start cussing now cause this is my livelihood we’re talking about here) anyhow – then this motherfucker, I guess, just figured out that “oh I have another film I signed on to do after I signed your contract to do your film, can you work around the other film’s schedule cause the dates conflict?” Excuse me, come again? And then I had to explain to him (this “actor”) that we couldn’t do that because we had a full cast of actors that were showing up on this particular day at this particular time to start shooting and we needed him there also, cause I wasn’t about to tell six other cast members to change their schedules with one days notice just for one person, when I gave everyone months in advance to plan for the film shoot. I also wasn’t going to compromise myself and the project, and I explained that he legally had signed a contract with us before he had signed theirs. Actors don’t understand how much planning is involved in pre-production and how much affect they have on a particular production once they sign on. We don’t make it up as we go. We had bought a prop specifically made for said actor, which wasn’t cheap…and after all of this was explained to him he still didn’t care, it didn’t matter to him, he wasn’t true to his craft, he was only true to the ol’ mighty dollar.

The actor I’m speaking of was supposed to be in The Hood Has Eyez, which was shot in 2007 and released in 2007! Come to find out this other film project he picked over ours was released in 2009, 2 years later! It was a religious film to boot! Now, that’s funny! So that’s the biggest challenge, these con artists’ out here who pass themselves off as actors. If you’re not true to the game, if you’re not willing to do dirt, if you don’t know what path you’re on and what you want to be known for, then don’t come stepping to Cinema Threat Productions.

Seeing our films on the shelves at video stores like Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, putting in our film titles on search engines like Google and Yahoo, and seeing them pop up, buying our films at major retail stores like Best Buy and Walmart, oh that’s what makes all the bullshit we put up with from distributors, actors, reviewers, filmmakers, so called friends, so called family, worth it! Oh and the fact that I have a successful career as a filmmaker. I’m my own boss, I can make money to sustain myself by making art, I can make films that I want to make with no one to hold me back, that’s what takes out all the challenges and obstacles, and allows me to have freedom.

Fatally Yours: Your production company, Cinema Threat, has made many exploitative films that hearken back to the sleazy grindhouse films of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Excluding Cinema Threat’s releases, what are your top five exploitative films and why?

Nicole Williams: In no particular order – Visitor Q (Takashi Miike) – What’s not to like, a woman who floods the floor with milk from her tits and a man who is determined to have sex with a warm corpse even when his cock gets stuck cause rigor mortis is setting in. Fun film! Old Boy (Chan-wook Park) – Oh man this is a complex film, you’d have to watch it for yourself, but for me it’s the crazy bloody violent action scenes mixed with a crazy revenge love story. Singapore Sling (Nikos Nikolaidis) – This is a great bonding film for mothers and daughters you can’t say they didn’t do everything together. Loved the golden shower scene, what kinksters… Pink Flamingos (John Waters) – Oh, what a gem, this film is a perversion to the eyes in its entirety. Mad respect to the scene stealer Divine (Harris Glenn Milstead), she was a wonderful dedicated actress. Goodbye Uncle Tom (Addio zio Tom) (Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi) – Wow, this one blew me away cause of the blurring lines of subject matter, violence, rape, sexual gratifications, breeding…exploitation to its max!

Fatally Yours: What women in horror do you admire?

Nicole Williams: Right now I’m banking on Kai Lanette, she has a lot of admirable attributes. She’s cute and sexy, but she looks like she can cut your throat and spit down it if she has to…yes I’m guilty I would like to see her do that in a film, what I mean is she doesn’t mind getting dirty with her down to earth acting, which any real actor should be doing in every role they get and not just try to shine for that big paycheck. Most of all what I really like about her is she started in no-budget independent films and she’s continuing in that tradition, but even if she did bigger budgeted films I don’t think she’d mind coming back down here on our level, and for the record I would not hesitate to have her in one of Cinema Threat’s upcoming films.

Fatally Yours: What are your thoughts on the modern horror climate? 

Nicole Williams: Well the Hollywood scene is blowing it for the rest of us in the sense of making so much garbage that it’s flooding the market and will end up like it did in the ‘80s when it just got so out of control that people got burnt out, the only difference is that the ‘80s was a magical time for wonderful ORIGINAL films like The Toxic Avenger, Frankenhooker, and Street Trash. These days horror is filled with horrible remakes that are a complete disgrace and disservice to the original films, which allows these young people to think that it’s new, telling me “oh did you see Halloween? It looks good, what a scary concept”, and I say “yeah I saw it back in ’84 when I was five”, and of course their response has always been, “oh…so there’s another one?”…WTF? And sometimes older people (who have apparently been living in a tunnel) ‘cause they didn’t know that there’s an original film called The Fog from 1980 that was nice and creepy, not the cheesy remake in 2005, oh yeah and then we get into the foreign horror films like Ringu from Japan in 1998, remade only four years later in 2002 as The Ring. They just dropped the ‘u’ so they wouldn’t confuse Americans, yeah cause there’s something called the world and they have these sectioned off areas called countries and within these countries they have filmmakers and they have made the most artistic and original breakthrough films in our history and that’s why Hollywood keeps buying up their scripts and remaking them to pass for an original American film, and to them I say, “come on Hollywood, we are not all numbskulls in America, at least I’m not”! Okay enough of that, I could talk about how Hollywood is ruining the art of filmmaking all day long, but I give them props on one thing…I could not make what we make now if Hollywood was also in that game, but since they are bound by censorship by the MPAA, angry mothers, and the corporate studio system they can’t dare go where we go.

Another thought on this issue brings out complete anger and rage. I don’t want to bring it up, because I don’t even like giving these people even a sliver or an ounce of attention, but I have to prove my point even further, Rob Zombie the biggest thief of them all! His corrupt directorial debut of House of a 1000 Corpses, I mean come on, if you don’t see the similarities I feel sorry for you, and then his total scummy lack of creativity, remaking a treasured original to horror Halloween, you’re a leech Rob! That’s on the Hollywood level, now I take you to the independent level, to douche bag Shawn Lewis the plagiarist, a complete criminal bite of Chester Turner’s cult classic Black Devil Doll from Hell. Wow you just drop “from Hell” off the title and call it your own original creation, and what’s even sadder is the only people buying that this is Shawn Lewis’ film are his friends, no one that has a true love of horror, that knows the history of horror, that knows Chester Turner’s films would ever get behind this slanderous so-called “film”. Shawn actually believes he’ll get away with this?

My thoughts on the Independent scene are pretty positive. Besides our films gracing screens all across the world, there’s other films like the August Underground series by Fred Vogel, the Amateur Porn Star Killer series by Shane Ryan, and many more which all look very promising.

Fatally Yours: If you could direct one woman, living or dead, in one of your films who would it be and why?

Nicole Williams: Again, I would choose Kai Lanette (Warning!!! Pedophile Released), first reason is because she’s living, I don’t like to dwell in fairy tales, remember? I love that her attitude comes through on the screen, it seems that she isn’t easily offended and that she doesn’t mind getting nude when the story calls for it. Most importantly she understands this business, she’s dedicated and she’s working very hard in the independent world, and I love that she knows what she wants, and she knows what she’s doing. And again I wouldn’t mind her starring in one of our upcoming projects.

Fatally Yours: What inspires, influences and motivates you?

Nicole Williams: What inspires me is to make the most disturbing and demented horror/exploitation films that I can lend a hand in making, inspiration comes in some ways seeing a film and thinking that it could have had a lot more oomph! to it, but sadly they held back, and I always wonder why? Was it the director, the actor, or the money people who said no, no we can’t show that in a film, no one will watch it, they probably were fearful they would get shunned from the business. If that was the case no one mentioned that to John Waters for instance. So I would have to say people like John Waters, he’s an influence to me because he did what he had to do to make himself happy with his film projects and that by far is the greatest thing to see unfold from a successful career of over 30 years now. What motivates me is exactly that…to make what I would want to see up on the screen, on the television, and the computer screen, no matter how taboo it is to others that wouldn’t even give my film the time of day anyhow. Selfishly I make films to appease myself and my appetite for filth. I also know that there is a fan base for what we do over here at Cinema Threat and that alone is a huge motivational boost!

Fatally Yours: What’s next for Cinema Threat and for yourself? Any upcoming projects you can discuss?

Nicole Williams: Why yes, yes there is. Cinema Threat Productions is ready to deliver our next ill-crazed baby called The Hood has Eyez 2: Urban Nightmare. This film will pick up where the last one left off. It’ll be just as crazy as the last film if not crazier, but will add a few new twists and turns. We’ve been working really hard on the script and trying to get the right people attached to the project.

Fatally Yours: Where can people find more info on you and Cinema Threat?

Nicole Williams: Simply go to www.cinemathreat.com and unzip your pants…oh, and don’t forget to clean up when you’re done, it’s also the cheapest place to buy our films…oh yeah and it’s advised for adults 18 and over cause you will get an eyeful of disturbing images and nudity. To connect with me go to: www.myspace.com/disenfranchisedinamerica and for all my professional credits go to IMDB: www.imdb.com/name/nm2269899/

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