The Making Of Our First Feature

An Atrocious Woman (2013) first began as an idea Charlette Hove and myself tossed around as a vehicle for Jessica Mockrish after her performance in my film Two Days In The Unremarkable Life Of Parker Rappaport (2012).  The plot hadn’t yet been formed, just a series of now discarded scenarios we’d like to have seen Jessica perform in.  At the time, Charlette and I were working on installing a video triptych at Crane Arts that we put together with Holly M. Smith under the moniker Third Sunday Films.  Between mounting the installation, OPHELIA: 2012, and a full time job, Charlette slowly faded out of the creative process for about a month and a half at the beginning of the new year, 2013.  So I set about writing a film based around several real life experiences of my own as well as a couple of French newspaper stories from the sixties that I found collected in a literary journal.

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The script was written while I shot the highly reflexive short film The Murder Of The Tsarevich Ivan Ivanovich (2013).  That film was put on hold when pre-production on An Atrocious Woman really got underway.  Pre-production began with a shoot unto itself, filming material that would become the film within An Atrocious Woman.  The idea was to frame the narrative of An Atrocious Woman within the disjointed narrative of a film that would always be showing on the television.  This would not only unify the characters with a single shared experience but also allow for some commentary on the importance placed on media in today’s society.  The style of this “film within a film” was based on two earlier films I made while I was still producing films under the banner of Curry/Tomlinson Productions.  These two films, Harrington Strange (2009) and Happy Birthday Erik Lemprecht (2011), represent a highly stylized aesthetic focused on domestic violence of a sexual nature.  Thus, when it came to casting, I selected two players who were permanent fixtures from the days of Curry/Tomlinson Productions, Marissa Harven and Jon Tomlinson.  Eventually it became clear that I was criticizing my own artistic development as much as I was analyzing the relationship television plays in our daily lives.

While that material was being shot, I brought Emma Arrick on as a second producer to supplement Caroline Boyd, whose side projects kept her from ever being able to become truly involved in the creation and organization of the project.  Emma had recently worked as an assistant director on Two Days In The Unremarkable Life Of Parker Rappaport, and had demonstrated a talent for producing equal to her talents as an actress.  Through Emma, Robin Friend Stift joined my cast of regulars, and all the essential locations were procured.  Madeline Kolker joined the cast around the same time after I approached her upon observing her work in one of her classes at The University Of The Arts.  The remainder of the cast would be rounded out with actors with whom I have worked before such as Annie R. Such, Ellie Marissa Ruttenberg, and Emma Arrick.

For the soundtrack I turned to Mac Kennedy to write the music for the end credit song.  Mac has done almost all of the music for all of my films since In The Wake Of Death (2011).  After working together on a dozen or so short films, it’s safe to say that Mac has become one of the central collaborators on my films.  But I brought new talent on board as well.  Through my assistant director Thomas Lampion I met Stephen M. Macready, the force behind the band Hidden Lights.  After a couple of meetings and establishing a friendship of which I am very fond, I asked Stephen to work on the song for the opening of An Atrocious Woman as well as a piece of instrumental scoring, both of which he has supplied.

Once all of those details were taken care of production began.  Due to scheduling conflicts between actors a shoot that was meant to last two weeks took three months, often only shooting one scene per week.  The upside to these circumstances was that it allowed me to prepare each scene to near perfection before hand.  More than ever before I had a distinct idea of every shot and every cut I would make to each shot.  This also allowed the actors to prepare in equal detail, so that every scene unfolds naturally, exceeding my expectations exponentially.

Madeline Kolker

Writing this now, I have completed a cut of the film, and have screened it to a number of persons for feedback.  A majority of the reactions have been positive, which is surprising since it was only during production that I realized I was shooting a feature and not a short film.  However, this will be my first feature film, and the first feature Zimbo Films has produced, so I do not believe anyone can access the success of An Atrocious Woman until it is screened for the public. 

-Robert Curry

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Filed under Spring 2013

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