Let’s take a break from the daily onslaught of pornography to talk about a special little film called “Spirit Camp,” an independent slashploitation flick shot in the wilds of Texas and advertised as “‘Friday the 13th’ Meets ‘Bring It On.’” I would add “…Meets John Hughes” for its liberal slathering of 80′s stock characters.
It also co-stars Pride of Houston Roxy Vandiver, a pinup model who gave her all, which included her top, for the production.
Produced, directed, written by, and starring Houston-based photographer/actor Kerry Beyer, “Spirit Camp” follows five cheerleaders (the two hot but mean ones, the peppy one, the heavy one, and the Goth one from the wrong side of the tracks) to Camp Loomis for a week of cheer training.
Forget that we see very little cheerleading going on. The plot, as you can imagine from the tagline, only leaves open the questions of Who Is the Killer and Who Becomes Naked First?
Which leads to a question most pornographers are loathe to ask themselves: If audiences have seen this before, why do it again?
Because the summer camp slasher T&A movie is as proud an American tradition as the MILF, first anal, or P.O.V. blowjob where you see the guy’s gut: it doesn’t matter that you’ve seen it before; you want to see who does it next.
I spoke with Kerry Beyer and Roxy Vandiver about parallels between low-budget indie film and porn, and the perceived perils of nudity in B-movies.
“Our production budget was under $200,000,” said Beyer, who enlisted friends and family memebers in the production, from acting to costuming to catering. “Most people think we spent closer to $1 million. I bought about $100,000 worth of equipment (camera, lights, sound, editing) and put almost another $100,000 into actual production. The plus side is that I have a complete HD production studio now for the next film, and I do music videos, infomercials, and commercials as well. The Ultra Low agreement” – a A Screen Actors Guild contract – “allows you to use union and non-union actors, and you don’t have to deal with a lot of the cost-prohibitive hoops of a full SAG contract. Don’t get me wrong, there are still hoops, but it’s more manageable for an indie producer.”
Gram Ponante: I was not aware that nudity existed in Texas. Whereas even my mail lady will take her top off and blow the doorman if I promise her deferred payment and points on the backend – whatever that means – were there special challenges in shooting this type of movie in Texas?
Beyer: The toughest part was finding a girl that could act, and who would also take her top off. It’s a lot more conservative here in Texas than in L.A.. I think a lot of girls here think it’s going to hurt their career or they worry what their parents will think – but from an acting standpoint, I think it only helps your career. It’s something that every director needs, and you will be in high demand. Just about every major female star has done nudity at some point in her career.
Gram: Roxy Vandiver is the parolee from Juvenile Hall and she delivers the goods to a peeping tom.
Beyer: Roxy was referred to me by a local casting director Joe Grisaffi – he said she could act and was willing to do the nudity. When she came in, we knew right away she was perfect for the role. Looking back, I would have cast a recognizable Adult star for the nudity in the opening scene – it’s a short scene, but we still needed a strong actress. I think an adult star would have opened us up to that market a bit more, and we probably would have found what we were looking for a bit faster. Don’t get me wrong, the girl we cast did a great job.
Gram: Yes. Her body type was what made me think the movie was set in the 80s. But now I remember there were cell-phones in the movie.
Beyer: This is definitely a throwback to the good old slashers of the 80s. I tried to eliminate cell phones, etc. being that [the characters are] so far out in the woods that they can’t get reception – and it’s against camp policy.
Gram: Did you encounter any resistance to the content of the movie?
Beyer: Because of the cheerleaders, everyone always thought we were making porn… and I’ve found that a lot of people look at horror films and porn as pretty much in the same category. People either loved us or hated us, and didn’t want to be associated with horror at all – which made finding locations interesting. The film was actually banned by our first fulfillment company in Utah because of the content. I think they looked at the box cover and thought it was porn.
Gram: Yet not all the women in the movie get naked, turning on its head the “Friday the 13th” rule that states that girls who show boobs be murdered.
Roxy Vandiver: I am close friends with the other actresses in the film and have actually asked them each that very same question. Why not go topless? Their answers vary from, “Oh, I don’t want to disappoint my parents” to “I would do it for X amount of dollars” to “I don’t want to be labeled that kind of actress.” In some ways, I can understand each of those answers, but the last answer really struck a chord with me.
I went topless in my very first feature film and ever since then, I have not done a single feature where I didn’t take my top off. During introductions on the set of “Killer School Girls From Outer Space” (co-starring Ron Jeremy), I even joked, “Hi, I’m Roxy aka ‘The Hired Boobs.’ ”
Beyer: Believe me, I wanted to get ALL the hot girls naked, but they just wouldn’t do it. The horror genre has always been about blood and boobs, so nudity is a pre-requisite. I think most actresses locally are not exposed to the sheer amount of competition for roles as they are in LA, and don’t feel they have to do nudity to get roles. I think many actresses will say, “I’ll do it for the right role…” which means a major part in a studio film – but the catch 22 is that they are not going to get a major role in a studio picture as an unknown. Or they quote an unrealistic dollar amount… “I’d do it for $10,000.” Which is outrageous, and in this economy, $10,000 will buy you an A lister for a day – and their star power will be money better spent when it comes time to sell the film. On the flip side, if you aspire to be a teacher, public official, or corporate executive, you probably want to pass on the nudity. So, I think it takes someone who has either made the commitment to acting 100%, or someone who is not going to let societal norms affect the choices they make in their life. It never ceases to amaze me that it’s okay to show murder and mayhem in prime time TV, but it’s not okay to show a boob.
Vandiver: If my tits are what get me in the door, then good for me. Because once I get in the door, they see that I am a good actress and that I take my work seriously. For many people, it’s about getting a foot in the door – for me it’s about getting a breast in.
Gram: Fetish photographer Lithium Picnic is based in Houston. What else can you tell us about the fetish/pinup scene there?
Vandiver: The photography/fetish scene here in Houston is a small, but thriving and ever-growing community. We have a lot of untapped talent. I think that Kenny Haner of Subsociety Studio is amazing. I have worked with him on several occasions and while Subsociety’s work has been published in tons of magazines and articles locally, I think he has the potential to be one of the greats nationally. His work is more on the alternative side and he has helped catapult the gorgeous fetish model Sabrina Sin to fame.
Of course, I am particularly fond of Kerry Beyer’s work; [he is] THE photographer to contact in Houston for commercial work, as his work has been published in national magazines like Vogue, Lucky and Allure.
Gram: It seems that a movie like “Spirit Camp” wouldn’t be made in L.A. for a bunch of reasons: the budget, a storyline that might not seem edgy enough. Also, there are no wholesome people here. Everyone would be playing Roxy’s character…
Beyer: Being a big fish in a little pond does have its advantages, and Texas is a great place for making movies – we’ve got a great talent pool, and our infrastructure is developing, and we’re starting to get better incentives to help the state compete. And we’ve got a growing community of horror filmmakers here. I’m hoping Houston becomes to horror what Seattle was to grunge music.
Gram: Well, I’m pretty horrified the Bushes live there… Aside from the boobs, “Spirit Camp” is a particularly porny movie in that your character, Kerry, is the lone uncompromised dude in a camp full of available girls. Every other guy is either gay, old, or overweight. What are your pornic influences?
Beyer: I wanted to make a sexy 80′s-style slasher that would appeal to the same fan who likes cheerleader/college schoolgirl porn. Hustler’s “Barely Legal” series was definitely an inspiration – we have a lot of upskirts of white cotton panties. I even created a fake cheerleader porn magazine as a prop for the film that plays an important role in the plot – That was a lot of fun to make! From a cinematography standpoint, I love Andrew Blake’s work – it’s like moving pictures from a a sexy fashion magazine.
Gram: You should definitely try being a porn director. You wouldn’t get the budget but you’d get a lot more nudity.
“Spirit Camp” is available here. Says Vandiver: “there is also a special edition available that comes autographed by myself and a couple other hot babes from the film. Also with the special edition comes an autographed pair of panties and color print of us girls looking sexy in our cheer uniforms!”