Interview de Phoebe Dollar
One of the reasons for interviewing you is that we know very little about you. Could you tell us about yourself, your career, and how you came to work in film?
I was born in North Carolina. I'm an only child. My dad is a huge film buff, so most of our family time together was spent watching movies. That is where I developed my love for movies. For my first acting job, I was cast in a professional original play called "King of Honkey Tonk Heaven". After that, I moved to Wilmington N.C. because there were movies being made there. I did a lot of little things, like I show up for a sec in the movie "The Crow" with Brandon Lee. My scene is in the last big shoot-out when he's trying to get that last bad guy, and the bad guy grabs me to be his shield and throws me to Brandon. I was around Brandon a week before he died. That was a dark time. Anyway, after a while, I realized that you can only go so far in a small town because for the big parts they bring people from L.A . So that is why I came to L.A.
In L.A. I was very green. I auditioned some but I have a rebel streak that made it hard for me to deal with the people and attitudes. I was also not o.k. with SAG and their monopoly, and the way they controlled everything. So I pretty much said "fuck it" and really didn't care what happened. That's when things happen, when you don't care anymore. Ron Jeremy told Jeff Leroy to read me for his movie «Hell's Highway». So I met Jeff and gave a bad reading for the character Sarah and my best for Lucinda. I told him I would do the movie if I could play the devil. I wanted to play dark characters because I was bored with the 'nice girl', so Jeff gave me the chance. That began our working together and our great friendship. I love him. So I guess I owe my career so far to Ron and Jeff.
In several films, such as «Hell's highway» or «Goth», you were cast as villainesses of various sorts. Do you have a specific interest in these kinds of roles?
I do like playing dark roles. I became stereotyped for this type of roles. That has always been fine with me because I went after those roles. I like them because I can tap into my shadow and play them very real. What I bring to these characters is not acting: it's really a part of me that I can't express in real life, or I would be in prison. Kind of scary huh? Oh, but lots of fun.
The bulk of your filmography consists mostly of horror/sci-fi/gory/violent movies. Could you tell us about your interest for these genres? Would you consider yourself a «gothic» actress?
My interest in horror/sci-fi/gory/violence is: One, because you can play with your shadow. Two, you have no limitations on the imagination. With supernatural or any fantasy, anything goes. Three, the audience for these movies is very forgiving of a low budget and they will give it a fair chance if it is creative and unpredictable.
You have a history of working with director Jeff Leroy. Could you tell us about your collaboration with him? How did you come to meet him? What is his approach to his work? How would you define him as a director?
I met Jeff, like I said, when I read for «Hell's Highway». I asked him to make a movie together, so that's how we collaborated on «Charlie's Death Wish». He and I work well together. He is my favourite director to act for because I know him so well, I know what he wants, plus we're great friends so we have fun working together and we hang out sometimes also. I learned everything about making movies from Jeff. His approach is to do everything himself pretty much, and to use what you have. He is a one-man moviemaker. His editing is great. As a director I would define him as a modern day Sam Peckinpah. A renegade. Always striving for each movie to be better than the last.
Judging from several of your movies, you could be considered a «B-movie» actress. Would you be interested in integrating more mainstream productions or do you prefer, much like the Troma people, to remain a die-hard independent?
I'm not interested in being a part of the mainstream. I will always remain a die-hard independent. For a friend I may work on something mainstream, but I will always make my movies independently. One thing I'm proud about with «Charlie's Death Wish» is that not one thing was changed in that movie to please someone else. I could not put my heart and soul into a project to have it later all twisted and changed by other people. I admire the independent filmmakers like Roger Corman. I like doing non-union movies, away from all that mess. Some actors are in core, that means you can do both union or non-union. Erik Estrada started that. SAG doesn't like its members doing that, of course. I like using musicians because they're not in SAG and they're great actors. Better than most actors. They're used to performing and they use themselves so that their performances are real. That's why I'm so excited about «Sunset society»: I used mainly musicians and they kicked ass!!
What are the distribution opportunities for your movies? How do you consider the current state of the film market? How do low-budget companies work these days? How does one currently manage to stand apart from the crowd in the world of «B-cinema»? More globally, from your point of view as a performer, how would you describe the work on these productions?
Distribution is a joke!! They try to steal your movie!! «Charlie's Death Wish» was stolen. The company I went with domestically snuck it out to Germany when they had no rights there. Breaking the law of copyright infringement, the one I went with internationally, BRAIN DAMAGE, snuck it out domestically in a 6-pack of really bad movies. When busted on it, he said it was an accident. Yeah, right. He accidentally wrote the title on the box too. I worked for that company with «Hell's highway» and «Goth», so I thought I could trust him, but no: he is like all the rest, if not worse. Independent moviemakers get their movies stolen all the time and it's really sick: something should be done. To sue isn't the answer either, because it's so low-scale that unless the lawyer is a relative or a lifelong friend, he isn't going to put much into it. He knows he won't get much in return to make it worthwhile. These distributors know that, so they use that to their advantage and steal poor moviemakers' movies. Then they don't keep you up on statements or checks: if asked they say "Oh it's just not doing well"; meanwhile your movies are everywhere on amazon, net-flix, all these internet movie sites, but you don't see any money. So the lesson I learned was that if the upfront money is not the right amount for you, don't do it, don't count on backend money, you'll never see it!!!! Distribute it yourself, at least you'll know what you made.