Austin Cinematic Limits at Fantastic Fest

I have been keeping a very close eye on The Quiet Girl’s Guide to Violence ever since its successful Kickstarter campaign this past spring. The film’s teaser looked awesome and so did the artwork, my only hesitation was that the finished product might be all style with no substance. But when the genre connoisseurs at Fantastic Fest announced that they would be hosting the world premiere of The Quiet Girl’s Guide to Violence, that gave me a lot of hope for this locally shot short film. Fantastic Fest has programmed very few local productions in its eight year lifespan, so it is not like they do local filmmakers any favors.

After watching the finished product, it is no surprise that Fantastic Fest jumped at the opportunity to premiere Rafael Antonio Ruiz and Jennymarie Jemison’s short film. The Quiet Girl’s Guide to Violence is extremely stylish; yet it also features a break-out performance by Jemison as Holly, the titular quiet girl. This is not just violence for the sake of violence, there is actually some heart and soul associated with it. Holly has been bullied for far too long, she’s not going to take it anymore.

We met up with Jemison and Ruiz at the Highball, during a brief interlude from Fantastic Fest activities, to discuss their approach to funding via Kickstarter as well as their masterful branding of The Quiet Girl’s Guide to Violence.

How did you approach Holly’s style and appearance?

Rafael Antonio Ruiz: The character type is pretty unique, it hasn’t been around a whole lot, especially someone who is designed in such a bold way visually. The sort of geek anger type thing for a female character… We have had characters like Enid in Ghost World —

Jennymarie Jemison: — Well, and Enid is kind of mean, she makes fun of people. Holly isn’t mean. Don’t get me wrong, I love Enid and I love Ghost World. I wish Daniel Clowes would draw Holly! That would be really awesome!

RAR: That was our idea early on. We knew there was going to be a bold poppy quality to Holly’s look. Jenny was really strong at creating a nice bold graphic look of the character, then we got this great artwork by Tara McPherson and Phil Noto.

JJ: Both of their drawings look totally different, but they are also both totally Holly; which is also like Ghost World because Enid is drawn so differently — sometimes with zits, other times she is really cute — but it is always her essence. During wardrobe, we talked a lot about what Holly would wear if she was in a comic book, her costume basically.

Can you talk about the funding of this production?

RAR: We knew that we were probably going to Kickstarter at the end for post production, but Jenny thought she could fund some of it, so we just wanted to get it in the can. That way when we started the Kickstarter campaign, we had something to show for it. That made people far more interested, because they knew we were going to follow through with it. As that point it was about raising the money to pay off the production, then the extra money would help build the brand — the sexy shirt I am wearing right now, plus of the buttons and stickers and such. The execution really was the appropriate branding. When we started, I told [Jennymarie] that I would work on this project only if she would be a producer. Part of that is because she is a uniquely dynamic personality that draws things to her.

JJ: People really want to know what they are backing, what it is going to look like. We could have said “we want to make this movie about a girl who has problems and a baseball bat…wouldn’t that be great?” I don’t think we would have gotten any money. So we shot everything first. We just didn’t have anything edited together, but Rafael put together a great teaser/trailer that was kind of The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo-styled with just glimpses of all of the gore. We shot a lot of crazy stuff that didn’t make it into this short — we originally shot this as a pilot so it was much longer — we had a wealth of imagery to use. I still don’t know what people gravitated towards, if it was the bullying message or just the name, the merchandise or the teaser.

RAR: And I have no illusions here. I really think it was the Kickstarter campaign that got us there. After the campaign got rolling, people liked it and we got attention immediately.

JJ: We got a lot of great buzz from Kickstarter because on the first day that we launched we were 60% funded. That doesn’t mean that we ended at 10,000% funded, but we did get about 150%. After that first day, we were really wondering how much money we were going to make. You can never relax if you’re running a good Kickstarter campaign, you have to treat it like a baby and use it like a PR machine. We then got put on the staff picks of Kickstarter on day two, and that opened us up to a whole new audience. We have so many international backers, it’s crazy. I never budgeted for international shipping, I didn’t know how popular we would be. We had an angel investor from Vancouver who gave us $1,000 — we don’t know who she is, but she is stoked about the movie!

RAR: We find that the fans from the Kickstarter campaign are extraordinarily loyal and giving — even outside of just giving us money. We’ve worked hard to show our appreciation for their support. This is meant to just be the beginning; this is hopefully just the first stop for the character. I think Fantastic Fest has been very good about being the right place to go with it. I think we are going to get a lot of geek love, and we just want to have fun with it and see where it goes from here.

How far out is your vision for this series?

RAR: The original idea for the first episode was really to follow the BBC model — a self-contained stories with a limited number of episodes. Once you are done with that set, you can do another set. That was always at the forefront of my mind. I would like to have runs that are achievable, that can be done like a graphic novel equivalent of a story. From there, we do the next graphic novel series. You can never look too far ahead.

Austin Movie Events This Week

9/24-9/27 – Alamo South Lamar – The unbridled madness and mayhem of Fantastic Fest 2012 continues… (More info)

9/25 – Alamo Village – AFS’s Essential Cinema series features The Father of My Children. (More info)

9/26 – AFS Screening Room – AFS’ Avant Cinema series features Blank City. (More info)

9/30 – Cheer Up Charlie’s – AFS and Cinema East co-present an outdoor screening of Red Flag with Alex Karpovsky in attendance. (More info)

9/30 – Alamo Village – Cine Las Americas presents Sebastián Borensztein’s Chinese Takeaway. (More info)


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