& OUT WITH THE DOLLS
A clever look at the rise and fall of an all girl Portland punk
band, "Down and Out with The Dolls" follows our streetwise
and opportunistic heroines through the struggles of balancing day
jobs with musical aspirations, balancing egos with dreams...opens
Friday, March 21, 2003 NATIONWIDE.
KALI (Nicole Barrett), LAVENDER (Melody Moore) and REGGIE (Kinnie
Starr) get the jump start they need when local legend FAUNA (Zoe Poledouris),
singer for the seminal Goth band THE SNOGS, joins them as lead singer
after being ousted from her home and her band by her erratic, Eurotrash
boyfriend PAULO (Mikael Jehanno). Fauna recognizes the usefulness
of a ready-made and pliable supporting band with which to launch her
umpteenth campaign for stardom, and the girls see her as a leader
who might carry them out of Portland.
Of course, as every musician knows, success is never simple, and the
band begins to disintegrate as soon as Portland starts to pay attention.
KURT VOSS (Director) began writing and directing movies immediately
upon graduating from UCLA Film School. The first, "Border Radio" (1988),
he co-wrote and directed with schoolmate Allison Anders. Made for
a mere $50,000, the picture was released theatrically and received
such accolades as "one of the best movies ever made about the world
of rock music" (LA Times). Voss also wrote and directed the
comedy/drama "Genuine Risk" (1990), a theatrical release starring
Peter Berg and Terrence Stamp, and shortly thereafter teamed with
director Carl Colpaert to write "Delusion" (1991). Next, Voss teamed
with director Marc Rocco to script "Where the Day Takes You" (1992),
starring Dermot Mulroney, Kyle MacLachlan, Lara Flynn Boyle, Will
Smith, and Christian Slater. Working consistently since then, he reunited
with Allison Anders in 1999 to co-write and co-direct "Sugar Town."
He has also directed "The Heist" and numerous other HBO
and Showtime original movies.
DD CHERIEL(Story/Associate Producer/Production Designer) began
playing in bands in 1988. Her first band, Out of Order, was formed
with Gilly Hanner, pioneer of the all-girl grunge rock movement with
her band Calamity Jane, and Kathy Wilson, later a founding member
of riot-girl band Bikini Kill. While enrolled at the University of
Oregon, Cheriel formed the three-piece powerful girl rock combo, Adickdid,
with Kaia Wilson on guitar and vox and Sarah Bellum on bass. In 1993,
Cheriel moved to Seattle to play alongside Leslie Hardy (Hole, Murder
City Devils) and Dale Balenseifen (Kill Sybil) in the band Juned.
In 1994, also in Seattle, Cheriel formed The Teen Angels with the
infamous Kelly Canary of the early 90s girl rock band Dickless. Cheriel
has had 14 solo performances in cities across the Pacific Northwest
since 1991. Next, Cheriel has work coming out in a group show of female
artists, performers and musicians in Los Angeles.
ZOE POLEDOURIS (Music Composer/Fauna)
was named by Filmmaker Magazine as one of the "25 New Faces in Filmmaking."
With her recent leading roles, ZoŽ is adding to the creative repertoire
she has been building since childhood, when she had her first on-screen
credit: as a film composer for a melody in "Conan The Barbarian,"
thus becoming one of the youngest members of BMI. Her musical talent
is clearly inherited from her father, veteran film composer Basil
Poledouris, who has collaborated professionally with his eldest daughter
on a number of compositions, including John Waters' recent film "Cecil
B. Demented." Returning to a milieu familiar to her as a musician
and singer, ZoŽ both leads the Dolls on screen and reprises her role
as film composer and writer of the songs performed by the on-screen
Where did the story come from? How much is based on real people?
KURT: The story for "Down and Out With The Dolls" originated
with my friend (and co-writer) Deedee Cheriel, who served tenure in
a couple all-girl rock bands in the Pacific Northwest in the 90's.
Deedee kept telling me these outrageous, true-life tales of the hilarity
and indignity of being an indie rocker, and it gradually dawned on
me that it would make for a most entertaining movie...
While the story of "Down and Out With The Dolls" is a fiction, much
of the detail is taken from situations and events which Deedee herself
experienced. Moreover, I would say the film, while extremely stylized,
nevertheless approaches something like verisimilitude where the Portland
"slacker" lifestyle is concerned: I spent New Year's Eve in Portland,
and the house party I attended ran until the next morning, at which
point the floor was littered with fallen punks -- almost exactly like
the climactic raver in the movie! It was uncanny!
DD: I was talking to my friend Selene, about doing a script about
fellow girl rocker Mia Zapata. (She was murdered in Seattle when I
was playing in a couple girl rock bands and living there. Her murderer
was found last week after 10 years. ) But that idea morphed into a
script based on my own personal experiences in Girl Rock bands, many
of the stories I had told Kurt about. We pitched the idea to Matt
Hill and wrote it in 3 weeks. The story is mostly fictional, but the
characters are types of people I knew in that scene.
What inspired you to make movies?
KURT: I was in film school in the mid - 80's, and thus my formative
influences were the filmmakers of the German New Wave -- Fassbinder,
Wenders and Herzog specifically. I was impressed with the speed with
which these young Turks churned out their works (Fassbinder once did
four features in one year!), and loved how their films had such singular
and uncompromising visions.
Of course, idealizing such artists, who were able to produce their
work largely because of the financial subsidies offered by the German
government, hardly grounded me for the brutal realities of making
films in Hollywood. But then if you are a realist, you would never
go into movies in the first place!
What inspired you to get involved in this particular film?
DD: I worked on a few films before this project. I really enjoyed
the creative input as a writer, and because it was a personal project
I got to be more deeply involved The film was shot in my house in
Portland, and I borrowed a lot of the locations from my friends. I
also had a hand in casting and did the Production Design. So it became
my love child. It was great tapping the local community for creative
input. Musicians in Portland were not only extras, but had a lot of
their music in the film.
ZOE: I was hired as the composer first, and since I had just
scored John Waters' "Cecil B. Demented," I was excited about
doing another punk film.
What do you hope to express through this film? Is there anything
you want people to take away from it?
KURT: One reason I'm proud of "Down and Out With The Dolls"
is because audiences really grow found of the characters; numerous
viewers have told me that, weeks after seeing the film, they will
find themselves, say, reflecting on "Something Reggie said." Comments
such as these make me appreciate that my actresses and I have done
the job of making these characters come alive for people, and that
is very cool...
More specifically, so far as the "message" of the film goes -- I would
hope that it leaves people feeling hopeful about the value of creative
expression, which I do genuinely believe is of great value in and
of itself (the end of the movie supports this intention, as idealistic
young Kali, who goes on to make heartfelt music in uncompromising
fashion is most clearly the "winner" of the piece). As the world continues
to get more and more corporate and monolithic, I think it bears repeating
that the DIY ethic is a viable and underappreciated option. And that
goes doubly for film, where DV and video are making the tools more
accessible than ever. Don't like what they are programming at the
multiplex? Fine -- make your own flicks!
DD: The idea of this film was not to convey a moral message.
I think a lot of women are in bands for different reasons. Even if
one person considers their agenda political or feminist, I don't think
it would necessarily make you get along in a band. I think we just
wanted to make a fun movie about a relatively under examined genre
in music. I really related to the Kali character, and her persistence,
despite everything that can pull you down. that is the positive, that
I hope one would take away from the film.
* SPRING *
What are your musical influences?
KURT: Being an atheist, I can honestly say that rock music has
always fulfilled -- and continues to fulfill -- a religious function
in my life. John, Paul, George and Ringo are the icons I genuflect
to -- and while my greatest love is British rock (Beatles, Stones,
Sex Pistols, PiL, Stone Roses, Oasis, Paul Weller), I of course dig
the American scene too (my first features, "Border Radio," which I
made with frequent collaborator Allison Anders, featured Los Angeles
punk musicians from X, The Blasters and The Flesheaters). I think
one of the greatest, most shreddinest guitarists of the 90's was Sylvia
Juncosa; her band, To Damascus, released several brilliant and under-appreciated
albums on labels such as SST and Enigma, and are worth searching out.
So far as contemporary stuff goes, I think Sleater-Kinney's 2000 album
"All Hands On The Bad One" was a total pop masterpiece. And of course
I mustn't leave out Zoe Poledouris, who did a fabulous job on the
"Dolls" songs and score: she is a prodigiously talented woman, and
it was an honor to work with her.
Anyway, as I say, I really do adore rock music. It not only improves
the flavor of living so far as I am concerned, but also provides a
fantasy realm where I can escape to now and then -- somewhere where
the Blue Meanies can't reach. I can still get lost ruminating on an
album cover (vinyl still rules!).
DD: My musical influences are too many to list. But the music
that inspired me to start playing in girl rock bands L7's single "shove"
Babes in Toyland, Holes first single "Retard Girl". A relatively unknown
girl rock band from late 80's Seattle called STP, The Slits, my roommates
at the time, Calamity Jane. Of course there were boy bands that inspired
me, probably the biggest inspiration was the Clash, because they were
the first band to politicize their songs and their art.
ZOE: The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode and Madonna.
ZOE: "Wizard of Oz," "Sid and Nancy," and
"All About Eve"
Who or what inspires you the most?
KURT: My greatest inspirations at the moment are my friends,
among them Allison Anders, because of her passion for getting her
vision to the screen undiluted; Deedee Cheriel, for the way she manages
to adroitly juggle interests in art, music and film; and Ruben Anders
(Allison's 12 year old son), for playing me contemporary music and
thus helping to keep me from falling out of touch with what's happening
DD: I have always loved music, it plays a huge part in my life.
I think the frustrations I had about being in bands were dumped into
this film. It was a very cleansing experience. Working with all of
the cast, so many talented musicians, was so incredibly inspiring.
All of the lead actresses were actual musicians, most who had never
acted before. It was really great to witness their dedication and
exuberance about taking on the challenge of this film. I was so inspired
by them in fact I started playing music again. As soon as the film
ended, I recorded 6 songs for my new band The Deedees.
ZOE: Pop culture and the art it creates, but I admire the artists
who lead the way rather than follow trends.
What is your favorite part about making movies?
KURT: Every stage of the filmmaking process -- pre-production,
casting, production, editing, scoring, looping and mixing -- presents
its own challenges, some pleasurable, some frustrating. Frankly, I
always tend to idealize the part I am not doing at the moment (i.e.,
while engulfed in the madness of production, one tends to yearn for
the relative calm of the editing room, and so on).
But as I am between films at the moment, I can more objectively observe
that I really love shooting, particularly late in any given day --
that feeling of the crew rushing to "make the day" before the sun
sets really appeals to a primal part of my brain -- it is almost an
agrarian thing, this working to beat the light, and everyone is very
focused and attentive to the task at hand, so much so that there is
a real sense of communion, that, for me, is one of the core pleasures.
But what a bunch of madness one must go through to get to that very
simple and illusive space!
DD: My favorite part of making the film was working with such
talented and diverse people. The crew was great, despite little economical
reward they were real troopers. The actresses were really great. Nicole
Barett was so enthusiastic she wanted to do all her own stunts. And
Zoe Poledouris would go back to her hotel after being on set all day,
to work on the score for the film! It was really great to work with
such strong women!
ZOE: Telling a good story.
Your least favorite?
DD: I enjoyed the whole process! We went to Munich and Karlovy
Vary for some film festivals. The best thing was the opening reception
at Karlovy Vary. It was like being transported back in time. This
huge Ballroom was filled with Russian Mafia in Tux's and Ball gowns,
we were all in our best punk rock wear, with tons of black eyeliner,
and safety pins. You should have seen the floor clear when Zoe and
I started slow-dancing!!!
ZOE: Having to stop to eat and sleep.
What's your favorite part about making music?
ZOE: When the melodies just flow.
Your least favorite?
ZOE: When my thoughts get in the way of the flow.
What role does music play in your life?
ZOE: After love it is the most important thing.
What was it like playing the character of Fauna? Is there anything
of her in you or vice versa?
ZOE: I loved being so outrageous to the core that I was able to
side step insecurities that get in the way of my personal life. As
Fauna I walked stronger, sang stronger, dressed dangerously, and fell
DD: My future plans include my art show here in L.A. in February
with two other girls called "Le Poussoire Rouge" (The Red Pussy) and
plans do to a European tour with my band the Deedees. I am also working
on a new script.
ZOE: I am looking forward to future film and music projects.
I am always looking for purity and truth in art, and I feel confident
that with each new film or song I can access those things, so that
I can express them as an artist.