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Remy Bennett — the granddaughter of singer Tony Bennett, — and NewFilmmakers NY-selected Emilie Richard-Froozan will present the world premiere of their first feature film, Buttercup Bill, July 2 at Texas’ Marfa Film Festival, which runs July 2-6.
It is the first full-length feature from London’s Blonde to Black Pictures, owned by Emma Comley and Sadie Frost. Bennett, who directs and stars in the film she co-wrote with Richard-Froozan, calls Buttercup Bill “a psychosexual Lynchian Badlands, a disturbing love story of two long-lost soulmates [Bennett and Evan Louison] and their surreal relationship with a mischievous imaginary childhood friend.” Adds Richard-Froozan, “It’s a melancholy and sexually bold story told through the female gaze, because what the f— do guys know about sex?”
The film follows the success of Blonde to Black’s first effort, Ben Charles Edwards‘ 2013 short Dotty, starring Frost (who won best actress at the 2014 Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival) and Rudy Law, her son with ex-husband Jude Law. Its next project is Edwards’ feature Set the Thames on Fire, also co-starring Frost alongside Sally Phillips (Bridget Jones’s Diary, Miranda), and Noel Fielding (Horrid Henry).
Bennett’s own musical heritage seems to have had an impact, if only via osmosis, as the two writer/directors also created a music video for David Lynch‘s music video competition project I Know.and direct music videos for avant garde bands such as the southern gothic Americana band Hurray for the Riff Raff (who aim to bring transgender/LGBT/feminist discourse to country and roots music) — rather a long way from Tony Bennett. “As producers, [Comley and Frost] never wanted to water down our vision but believed in us enough to allow us the freedom to make the movie we wanted to make,” says Bennett.
“We wanted to start off small, be able to take risks with genres and subject matter and make things slightly daring and not be too conformist,” says Frost. “And with the first two films that’s what we have done. Emma had worked for 17 years in the [business] doing commercials and videos, and I had worked as an actor and produced short films. And I began to think that being at the mercy of other people wasn’t the way to do it. So both of us had the passion to just get up and do it.”
Frost is best known for her acting (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) and producing (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow), but sought out female expertise to launch Blonde to Black Pictures. “A lot of women within film gave me their opinions — Rebecca O’Brien, Pippa Cross, Sarah Radclyffe and Donna Langley. And they gave me a lot of advice and encouragement, which was great, to see how other women supported women. I think women work really well as producers but they don’t get recognized.”
Buttercup Bill‘s protagonists “wander from a seedy neon-lit city to the dreamy South seeking escape from a reality they believe has no place for them,” says Bennett. But indie film evidently has a place for Bennett, Richard-Froozan, Frost and Comley. The noteworthy aspect of Buttercup Bill is the team at work: a writer/director partnership of two emerging players and the production company, owned by two established women.
Their success suggests an upbeat story for women in film. The numbers are daunting: women comprise just 26 percent of the industry, and among directors, producers, and writers of the top 250 grossing films of 2013, only 16 percent are women, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film. Feminists often write about this plight with an emotive, victim-based mentality: “Women don’t get as much room to fail…If you’re a big male showrunner, you can strike out ten times and still get a deal, but for women it’s two strikes and you’re out.” This can lead to a self-induced culture of fear.
But facts are only facts for those who believe they are facts (as a lawyer or conceptual artist may say). Even a micro-independent enterprise like Blonde to Black Pictures can, without apology, decide strategically and with creative authenticity to build films and musical works and work with creative kaleidoscopic minds, regardless of the gender. By doing it.
Fearlessness in cinema does not belong to one continent (think Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy in Pakistan, Frost and Comley in the UK, and Donna Langley, chairman at Universal Pictures) or to one gender. It is to be respected and grasped. Without doubt.
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