A subversive romantic comedy about a real-life vampire and the IRS agent who audits her.
Interview with Writer/Producer/Actor Naomi McDougall Jones
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I was acting on Boardwalk Empire in 2011 when I got to chatting with one of the extras on set who, over the course of a 16-hour set day, eventually confided in me that she was a vampire. Being a writer and a connoisseur of the stranger corners of humanity, I leaned forward and said, “Tell me everything.”
After a year of research into the real-life subculture of people who believe that they're vampires (mostly from a distance, through their YouTube vlogs and books written by and about them), I knew I had to include their world/stories in a film (because it is the most fascinating thing ever and how has no one made a movie about this before?!).
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
This one is easy:
Real-life vampires (hello)
This is a really good, smart, original rom-com. Like a heart-string-pulley, leave the theater with your heart fluttering rom-com but with a whole edge and personality and humor that is purely its own.
This is a joyful, sincere, hilarious film. Don't you want to step out of the shit show that is the world right now and experience joy, sincerity, and laughter for 83 minutes?
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
When I was writing this script, three impulses came together in this story:
A Love Song to Weirdos: I was a super weird and lonely kid (now I'm a pretty weird adult, but I have made a career out of it and made friends with the other weirdos). Growing up, I was repeatedly drop-kicked by the experience of watching Hollywood movies like "The Princess Diaries" that were ostensibly movies for weirdos but a) classified Anne Hathaway as a weirdo when, really, they just put glasses on her and frizzed her hair up, but she still looked like freaking Anne Hathaway and b) by the end of the movie removed Anne’s glasses and de-frizzed her hair so that the hot boy could finally see through to her winning personality. As an adult, I became determined to make a film for and by true weirdos where the girl gets to keep her glasses on at the end of the movie.
What Happened to the RomCom? I was and am a huge fan of great, smart, fresh romantic comedies from the 80s and 90s – think Notting Hill, When Harry Met Sally, etc – and was devastated when, shortly after 9/11, the genre took a hard left turn into dopey Katherine Heigl-land. As I tried to figure out why this had happened, I realized that, post-9/11, to the denizens of a traumatized nation, the giddy, freewheeling optimism that lives at the heart of any good rom-com didn’t really play anymore (except as pure pink-tulle-escapism). With Bite Me, I set out to make a movie that could get back to that late 20th century joyous optimism, while contending with the fact that most audience members would begin the film with a hard-edged 21st century skepticism. By creating a main character in Sarah who begins the film just as cynical as the audience does and, eventually, finds herself falling head-over-heels in goofy love, I'm inviting the audience to open their hearts and remember what it is to hope.
People Need to Laugh: Set against the backdrop now of post-9/11, Trump, #metoo, climate change, and all of the 21st century terrors we live in every day, I began this script also determined to make a film that, at least for 83 minutes, would fill people’s hearts with a greater sense of joy, hope, love, and, at the very least, would allow them to temporarily set aside their problems and laugh.
At its core, Bite Me is a story about accepting outsiders; about seeing past our external and religious differences to our common shared humanity. It is about learning to love each other and ourselves in the face of a world that tells us not to.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
I am an obsessive re-writer. I re-wrote my first feature film, "Imagine I'm Beautiful," 53 times before it went into production and this one I re-wrote 48 times. I never stop working at it to make it better and sharper and tighter until production pries it out of my hands. So it changed in many ways large and small, but from the first draft, it has always been a subversive romantic comedy about a real-life vampire and the IRS agent who audits her.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
We had a test screening in NYC last fall right when we finished the film. We invited the audience to wear vampire costumes, capes, fangs, etc, if they wanted to. About 60% of the audience took us up on that. There was not an empty seat in the 155-seat theater.
Sitting at the back of that room and listening to these cape-clad people of all ages, backgrounds, and demographics love this on-screen weirdos, laugh at every joke, and then get choked up/weepy in the final moments - there are very few more joyful moments I have ever had in my life. Joyful. The feedback so far has been joyful.
That response has been the main inspiration for releasing this film via The Joyful Vampire Tour of America (our 3-month, 30+ city RV tour release of the film that will take place May 6-August 4), which will give us an even greater opportunity to spread some goofy, joyful, laughter throughout the land. (You can get tickets here starting March 10th at a city near you! http://www.bitemethefilm.com/screenings)
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Anytime you write something or make a film, the feedback from the eventual audience is, to me, one of the most exciting things in the whole process because, inevitably, they see things or feel things or respond in ways that you had never imagined, nor occurred to you. Also, because I don't direct my films, but have gotten to collaborate with the amazing Meredith Edwards on both my films so far, there is always a dazzling mutation process that happens between what I write on the page, what we shoot on set, and what happens in the editing room, so that the final film is this thing that, yes, was built on the blueprint of my script, but is this much better, more beautiful amalgamation of the talents, perspectives, and voices of the 100+ plus people who have worked on and touched the film at every stage. So the film is always much more and much better than what I ever originally dreamed up.
The very best bit of feedback I can receive on this film, though, is when someone who is obviously a bit of an outsider (which I say as a fellow outsider) comes up to me after and, from their response, I can see they felt so seen and loved and heard. That has already happened multiple times on this film, which makes me know we did our job.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
We are always so grateful to have our film and story amplified and shared with audiences that we could not reach on our own. We Are Moving Stories is an amazing platform that gives so many films that gift and we are honored to be one of them. Of course, we hope that people reading this will watch the film when it is available starting May 7th and/or come join us for one or more screenings and events during The Joyful Vampire Tour of America, May 6-August 4th. More info on that at www.bitemethefilm.com
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Because we are going rogue and executing a completely independent creative distribution model, we are in the profoundly delightful position of really just needing those amplifying voices that can help us reach our audience. Journalists are welcome and encouraged (even welcome on the tour itself!)!
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I hope it makes people joyful. I hope it makes them laugh, makes their heart swell to the point of aching in the final moments, makes them tear up a little. I hope it reminds them of the courage it takes to be hopeful, optimistic, to find love, to be only yourself.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Wait, wait, wait. You're telling me there is an actual subculture of people who believe they're vampires!?!
Would you like to add anything else?
Come join us on The Joyful Vampire Tour of America!!
Because we care fiercely about needing greater data transparency in film and in giving filmmakers the tools they need to make informed distribution decisions, we are actually having a documentary filmmaker, Kiwi Callahan, come on the tour with us, and she's making a weekly doc-series that will be releasing on YouTube every week of the tour, on which we are going to be *radically* transparent about our release process. We are going to share our numbers – both budget and revenue – we're going to share our failures and successes with you and pull our pants the whole way down for the greater good of the independent film community. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel to access that web-series when it gets released starting in May!
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I am currently at work on my third feature screenplay – a magical realism film that explores themes of identity, legacy, and gender through a modern day 7-month pregnant woman’s unexpected interaction with the brilliant, eccentric, and deceased inventor John Hays Hammond, Jr - which we hope to shoot in Fall 2020. I am also finishing up a book, "The Wrong Kind of Woman: Dismantling the Gods of Hollywood," which is a personal, collective, and data-driven dive into the systemic exclusion of women from film and what we do about it. That will be published by Beacon Press in January 2020.
Interview: March 2019
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTQIA+, POC, First Nations, scifi, supernatural, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
A subversive romantic comedy about a real-life vampire and the IRS agent who audits her.
Director: Meredith Edwards
Producer: Sarah Wharton
Writer: Naomi McDougall Jones
Key cast: Christian Coulson (James), Naomi McDougall Jones (Sarah), Naomi Grossman (Chrissy), Annie Golden (Faith)
Looking for: journalists
Facebook: Vampires Don’t Bite
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? Cinequest/San Jose - March 9th, March 11th, March 13th and March 17th; Tour starts May 7th