Dark Seduction is a terrible film the story of which should be an inspiration to filmmakers.
Dark Seduction is a triumph of independent filmmaking, although to be fair there are two things to note. First, you have never heard of the film and are not likely to see it. Second, it’s a terrible film. It’s a funny film, but it’s also a terrible, low-budget movie bordering on exploitation cinema. Depending on the viewer, it’s a B movie or worse. So why should it be called a triumph of independent filmmaking? Read on for more.
Yes, that’s right. Director Greg Travis and producer/DP Steve Bichard conceived and even filmed the original footage in 1986, but were only able to hold the premiere in 2016. Now, normally, indie filmmakers are used to taking a while to go from script to screen, but it’s the bizarre road these two took that make the story so fascinating.
Back in 1986, Greg and Steve were making a film called Home Life and began to discuss their next project. Steve wanted to do a lesbian vampire horror film (a popular exploitation horror subject, even today) while Greg wanted to do a comedy. After some discussion, the two filmmakers decided to merge the ideas and the planning for the film began. The initial filming ran about 2 weeks with another week of pick-up shots about 6 months later.
In a discussion at the premiere, Greg discussed what happened:
Basically [we] made it on a shoestring. And then we tried to edit it. We had an editing office, we had a flatbed which is what you cut 16mm film on back in those days and Steve had an office on Hollywood Boulevard and we used to get accosted by bikers on the boulevard. I mean, it was really scary back then.
It’s here that things really start to go off the rails. While a lot of filmmakers experience delays with their work, the amount of lost time Greg and Steve experienced would probably have discouraged most filmmakers from trying to make movies again. In fact, that is what nearly happened. Again, here is Greg:
We spent about 3 years trying to get the cut in shape and then we shared it and it didn’t really play that well, so we spent another 3 years messing around with it on 3/4″ tape and then it kind of got lost in the woodwork. We both had to go back and, you know, get our lives back and do what we were doing and work. And then, about 5 or 6 years later, I finally found the cut with another editor … So I gave it to a negative cutter and then we did the sound.
The sound company went out of business and then the negative cutter had a stroke and disappeared. So the film was lost for about 10 years.
So to recap, there was a total of 22 years the film was in the can. 19 if you don’t count the first 3 years on the first cut of the film.
This is the point where the story of the making of the film could be a film in and of itself. According to Greg:
About 2012, I located [the negative cutter] and his daughter and they couldn’t find the film anywhere. They didn’t know what I was talking about. So we looked and looked and looked and we searched all over the garage. We still couldn’t find the film anywhere so I finally, I was just sick about it, because I couldn’t believe I lost this thing and I said, “Well, I’m going to call my psychic.”
And so I told my psychic and I said, “Is this thing gone forever? Is it lost forever?” And she said, “No, it’s in a little cabinet in the corner of the garage”, and that’s where they looked and that’s where we found it. All the cans of film were right there. And so it was a miracle that we got it back. I thanked the film gods and I called Steve and I said “We’re going to finish it”, and so we did.
At this point, a lot of readers might thing “So what? The film was lost, it was found, it was bad. Whatever!” That, however, is not the point. What few non-filmmakers understand is that filmmaking is about perseverance and willpower. It was easy to give up on this venture and for a short while the filmmakers did. The love of the game, however, saw them through. That’s what makes the film special. It is, unintentionally, a film for filmmakers. Something to remind them that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
And for a low-budget lesbian vampire horror comedy, that’s not doing too bad.