“Ten bucks gets you a credit in the movie!” hawks Jamye Graham, producer. It’s Thursday night, and Graham is manning the merchandise table at the wrap party and fundraiser for local indie monster movie, “Hellcat and Tala.”
Inspired by the villains of Bela Legosi’s ilk, the short indie is a noir-ish romance between a vampire and a werewolf. “I wanted to do it like back when monster movies were awesome,” says director/writer/producer Gary Michael Schultz. “Frankenstein, Dracula… People related to them.”
The film’s fundraiser is held at the aptly named Villains. The South Loop bar caters to the crowd with its modern-meets-turn-of-the-century vibe: naked brick walls cornering Victorian wallpaper, gold gun lamps and plenty of shadows well suited for lurking creatures of the night. Just before premiering the film’s freshly minted teaser, Schultz stands before a crowd of crew, friends and curious barflies to give kudos to Villains for hosting the shindig. “They’ve made a special drink for us. It’s Hellcat’s blood and vodka… it will make you immortal!”
He then gets to the meat of the matter—money—and jokingly pawns off his lead actor. “Frank will pose nude for twenty bucks.”
“I’ll do it for fifteen!” Hellcat (a.k.a. Frank Zeiger III) shouts from across the bar.
Schultz paid for the film completely out of pocket. He has worked on a slew of productions and helmed two zombie projects already, but “Hellcat and Tala” is his first foray into vampire/werewolf territory. To create the look of his leading were-lady, Antonia Arcely, he recruited his own “mad scientist,” special-effects coordinator Joe Lester.
Lester’s impressive wolf work is a well-guarded secret. “It took six hours,” Arcely says. “Prosthetics, airbrushing, custom-molded teeth. Plus the contacts.”
Lester adds, “She also had these cute little wolf ears.”
It’s a good thing Lester donated his skills, because high-quality special effects don’t normally come cheap. “As an indie, we’re constantly looking for new funding avenues,” Graham says. “Charitable donations, product placement… I’ll put your mom in the film, if you give me enough money.”
Despite all the shameless plugs for cash, Schultz insists selling out to corporate Hollywood is not an option. That credo is most apparent in the camaraderie of the crew and the spirit of the final product.
Editor Rob Chambers raises his glass to Schultz. “We all worked for free. It’s a belief thing. We believe in him.” (Laura Hawbaker)