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Sunday, September 1, 2013

THE CHRISTINE CONRADT INTERVIEW

 (This interview originally appeared online in 2005 at Bumscorner.com.)

When she's not playing a flesh-eating ghoul as in the upcoming zombiefest LAST RITES, she turns out screenplays for wicked flicks such as GHETTO DAWG 2:OUT OF THE PITS and A KILLER UPSTAIRS. She's the talented and prolific CHRISTINE CONRADT, and she just gave us the lowdown on all sorts of cool movie-type stuff!

Christine Conradt has won the Marguerite Roberts Screenwriting Award and placed seventh in the internationally recognized Writer's Digest Writing Competition. In addition to working as a reader and consultant, covering more than 200 screenplays and novels for small production and distribution companies, she also finds time to write numerous screenplays of her own, many of which have been turned into feature films. Two of these, GHETTO DAWG 2:OUT OF THE PITS (one of my favorite films of the year) and A KILLER UPSTAIRS, have just been released on DVD.

Christine recently made some time in her busy schedule to sit down and talk to us Bums about ghetto dawgs, serial killers, zombies...all sorts of neat stuff!


porfle: What led you to explore the subject matter of GHETTO DAWG 2?

Christine: I was actually approached by a friend of mine who was attached to direct GD2. Integration Entertainment wanted him to write the script and direct the film, but he was in the middle of another project and didn't have time to write the script, so he called me and asked me to meet with the producers.
I hit it off with them and wrote a draft. As it turned out, some things changed, and my friend didn't end up directing it... but I was impressed with what the Crook Brothers did. When I saw the rough cut, I emailed the producers at Integration and told them that I thought the directors -- and the cast-- did a really good job.


porfle: How did you achieve such realism in the dialogue and overall atmosphere?

Christine: I wasn't on the set when it shot in New York, but I can tell you that the most of the dialogue was changed by the actors and/or directors. They took what was on the page and really made it their own. I don't know how much was ad-libbed and how much direction the actors were given, but that gritty, realistic feel comes from them taking lines on a page and saying them the way they would say them -- or the way they feel their characters would say them.



porfle: So the filmmakers didn't always stick that closely to the script?

Christine: There was a lot of improvisation. The amount of improvisation is really up to a director and the producers... I've worked with other directors and producers that go over dialogue so closely before shooting that if the actor changes a line, they do another take and ask the actor to say the line as written. Some don't operate that way... On a low budget like this too, a lot of times the dialogue needs to change based on locations that you don't anticipate having during the writing phase, or the lack of locations you thought you'd get.



porfle: Were you directly involved in the making of the film?

Christine: No.



porfle: The original title was CHERRY. What does this refer to?

Christine: For a brief amount of time, it looked like funding for GD2 wasn't going to happen. At that point, the producers and I worked out a deal where I could shop the script myself to other production companies as a spec. So I retitled it 'Cherry' since
GD2 was a title Integration had. Before it could sell, funding came through and Integration ended up making it as GD2. It's not in the movie, but the dog's name was 'Cherry.' It was also a double entendre... Donte was cherry (a virgin) until he finally brought himself to pull the trigger.



porfle: Was this a spec script that was seen as a potential sequel to GHETTO DAWG? Or did you write it specifically as a sequel to that film?

Christine: When the producers at Integration and I sat down to talk about the project... they told me they wanted a sequel to Ghetto Dawg but they wanted entirely new actors, a new story, and no relation to the original-- except the title of course, and the same "feel." So I watched Ghetto Dawg to get a sense of what kind of film it was, and then wrote from scratch.


porfle: Certain scenes have a Martin Scorcese vibe to them.  Were you influenced by his films while writing GD2?

Christine: I wasn't specifically influenced by Scorsese during the writing... I think much of the scenes you refer to are a product of what the directors did with the script. That comes much more from the Crook brothers than it does from me.



porfle: (SPOILER) I love the last shot before the fade-out -- Big Daddy shoots an index finger at the unfortunate Donte with a self-satisfied smirk as Tyrone's dog sits beside him, and life in the pits goes on. Did you ever have an alternate, less downbeat ending in mind?

Christine: Actually, the end of the movie is different from what I put in the script. In the script, Cherry actually dies, Donte is arrested (like he is now), and Brynn doesn't get away. Angel's thug finds her and kills her. So the ending you see in the movie -- while still a downer -- is much more uplifting than the one I came up with.



porfle: Do you see yourself exploring this territory again in the future? Or is GD2 your final word on the subject?

Christine: Actually, I'm in negotiations right now to do a theatrical feature that is also a gang drama. I can't talk about it yet, but it's being directed and produced by an extremely talented music video director named Geo Santini. I would love to talk to you more about it once all the deals are in place and I am allowed to speak about it publicly. It has a very gritty, dirty RESERVOIR DOGS feel to it and I think it will be a terrific film.



porfle: When not writing urban dramas, you specialize in thrillers. What got you interested in the genre?

Christine: I actually love thrillers and horrors most... I am a big fan of the Law & Order series and Ann Rule books. I'm fascinated by the psychology of serial killers, so I think it was natural I would gravitate toward that genre.



porfle: Do you miss the days of the thriller anthology series on television ("Alfred Hitchcock Presents", "The Twilight Zone", etc.), as an outlet for talented writers?

Christine: I grew up on those shows and can attribute many sleepless nights as a child to Alfred Hitchock!
I do miss them... but I think there's much more opportunity now for talented writers to showcase themselves. With 200 television channels and the ability to make movies for so much cheaper on digital, if you have a great thriller with an original twist, there is definitely a way to get it in front of an audience.


porfle: You wrote A KILLER UPSTAIRS, which was just released on DVD, for the Lifetime Channel. Did the finished product turn out as you envisioned it?

Christine: Yes... actually AKU was my first project for Lifetime although I worked with the same producers on A Perfect Nanny for USA a few years back. The producers are very involved in the development process and we spend hours hashing out every detail from dialogue changes to blocking as the script is being written, so there are no surprises on those films.

It's always a thrill for me to see the finished product though... because even when you see photos of the location and meet the actors and all of that, it's still never quite the same as you envision it in your head.


porfle: How did you end up playing a zombie in the upcoming horror film LAST RITES, in which two rival street gangs must join forces against an army of flesh-eating ghouls?

Christine: Well... a fellow USC Film School grad and very good friend of mine (Todd Ocvirk-- who co-directed a film titled KOLOBOS which is somewhat of a cult classic now) is co-producing LAST RITES. In film school, there were only 5 girls in my class, so when it came time for everyone to find actors for their student films, there weren't many female leads to choose from so I got asked a lot. During our sophomore year, Todd made a kick-ass zombie movie and I was one of the zombies. When he was getting ready to shoot LAST RITES, he called me and asked me if I wanted to play a zombie 'for real' this time. I told him I'd love to and I showed up on the set and let the make up artists do their thing. I was in the middle of my own projects, so I was only on set for one day, but it was so much fun to stumble around in torn up clothes and spit up black gunk... I hope there's a sequel to LAST RITES so I can do it again!



porfle: Was this your first time in front of the camera?

Christine: No... I'd done several student films and I was actually an extra on The Bold & the Beautiful for a little while during the time I was in college. I enjoy acting. I'm a completely different person as soon as a camera is on me!



porfle: What was the makeup process like?

Christine: Wow. Crazy. The make up artists were so good, you'd think you were on the set of a studio film. It took about 2 hours to do hair and make up.
One make up artist spray painted my neck and hands and arms green while another one worked on applying make up on my face. Some of the other zombies are much more mutiliated than I was... I think they kind of wanted to keep the female zombies with a little bit of sex appeal (in a twisted way), so the guys ended up with the crazy teeth and holes in their faces. My hair is pretty long and when I sat down, the girl doing hair said, "I'm going to ruin your hair today."
And I told her to go for it. I ended up with the biggest, teased out hair style I've ever seen. It took me forever to get all the spray and stuff washed out.



porfle: One of the stars of LAST RITES is fan-favorite Reggie Bannister of the PHANTASM series. What was it like working with him?

Christine: Unfortunately because of my limited time on the set, I didn't have the chance to really get a sense of the leads and how they worked. Most of the time while they were blocking, the zombies were all refilling their mouths with what we called "zombie juice."



porfle: Can you give us a preview of some of your upcoming projects?

Christine: I have several coming on Lifetime. A LOVER'S REVENGE just aired and may still be airing off and on. The one after that is called MURDER IN MY HOUSE starring Barbara Niven and Gary Hudson. I was actually invited to set in Canada as that one was filming, so I got to spend quite a bit of time getting to know the cast and crew. I think it will be really good, so I'm looking forward to that one coming out in early 2006. The one after that (A PERFECT MARRIAGE) is shooting right now and then I have two more in the works. I'm really excited about the upcoming gang drama which will hopefully go into production in Feb.
2006. I'm also working on a couple of spec scripts that I would like to co-produce myself.



porfle: What advice would you give to someone who aspires to writing screenplays for a living?

Christine: Well, my best advice would be to stick with it. I actually wrote an entire article for Tailslate.com about this very subject. Writing for film and T.V. is an extremely competitive industry, and it's easy to get discouraged. You have to really love what you're doing, and not care about the money, and I think that is key. People who get into it for the money, get out as soon as they realize that you can spend years starving while you're trying to sell that first script. I've been there... I actually took out a loan to live on for six months so that I could have time to write every day. That's a huge gamble, but in my case, it paid off. The script I wrote during that time never sold, but it got me A KILLER UPSTAIRS. Every writer has a different story of what worked for them, so you just have to find what works for you.



porfle: Thank you very much for speaking with us. We'll definitely be on the lookout for future films that feature your name in the credits!

Christine: You're very welcome.


Some of Christine Conradt's films that we've reviewed:

GHETTO DAWG 2: OUT OF THE PITS
A LOVER'S REVENGE
CHRISTIE'S REVENGE
HOTEL CALIFORNIA

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