The locally-produced sorority house-based horror film Alpha Girls makes its World Premiere tomorrow night at the Trocadero. Cinedelphia recently grilled co-writers/directors Tony Trov and Johnny Zito concerning the legacy of sorority-set horror films, their fundraising techniques, and their favorite horror films…
CINEDELPHIA: You used Kickstarter to fund the majority of this project, what are your thoughts on the platform?
TONY TROV: I personally wish Kickstarter was around longer in my life. Before Kickstarter we funded our last project by selling lemon squares.
JOHNNY ZITO: It was very interesting because we essentially pre-sold copies of the film. We received hundreds of $20 pledges in exchange for a copy of Alpha Girls. And this was all happening before the movie was made. Crowd sourcing is a very powerful tool. Anyone who’s ever asked themselves “How does all this crap get made?” can sign onto Kickstarter and support the kind of entertainment they want to see.
TT: John Kricfalusi just did a huge campaign for his new cartoon “Cans Without Labels”. I feel that artists of all sorts can use this method to raise funds. It’s just a matter of being able to execute what you’re promising to do.
C: So where did the initial idea for Alpha Girls come from? Is there an existing subgenre of sorority-themed horror films?
TT: Alpha Girls was going to be a comic book originally. On our way back from New York Comic Con we were spit balling ideas for another book pitch. We got our needle stuck on this haunted sorority house thing and after a few weeks it was like, hey… I think we can make this. So, we consciously wrote towards our production strengths and it kind of came together from that.
JZ: Sorority horror is a sub-genre of a sub-genre. It was fun to play in this world. There are some classics like Sorority Row and Black Christmas which were remade in the last few years. I always liked Night of The Creeps but it only kinda sorta takes place in a sorority house. Suspiria, Heathers, and Evil Dead were all more direct inspirations on the tone.
JZ: The challenge was making a big movie with so little. We leaned on using a lot of in-camera effects and completely embracing our locations.
TT: Our special effects team both on set and in post have done some amazing work.
JZ: Otherwise we’re pretty happy to stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Alpha Girls owes a lot to OG horror and we’re proud to show that off. There are references and homages all over the movie.
TT: Maybe what makes it stand out is that it’s a lot of things you already like in one place.
C: Is this a straight horror film or are portions played for camp/laughs sake?
JZ: There are parts that are scary, funny, sexy and gross. This isn’t torture horror where you watch someone’s fingers get boiled in acid for two hours. It’s about sour friendships and trying to fit in; being hazed is a whole different kind of horror.
TT: We took it as serious as possible but the film is a bit tongue-in-cheek. Everything we make has lived in this weird comic book/fairy tale reality.
C: How did you go about finding local locations for the film? I assume the majority of it takes place in an established sorority or fraternity house of some sort…
JZ: We put on our Sunday best and asked nicely.
TT: Some shots we just took guerrilla-style. Philly is a little bit lawless and perfect for that type of film making.
C: Did you use a local crew?
TT: Yup. Except for uhhh Ron [Jeremy].
JZ: We went to college with most of our crew. Temple U! There were some Drexel kids in the mix too.
C: What was your production schedule like?
TT: We shot for 18 days during July of 2011. It was the hottest summer on record in Philadelphia. Fighting the heat was a huge obstacle every day. We had a kiddie pool on set so the crew could take a dip. On zombie day we had Orange Popsicles for all of the actresses caked in make-up. Despite our best efforts, the old house we shot in was just a sweat box.
JZ: When Ron Jeremy came to set he was very entertaining. He played harmonica and told dirty jokes to the crew between takes. It was really impressive watching him work because he’s got a photographic memory. He learned these Latin phrases in no time at all and he delivers it dead serious. It’s a John Waters moment.
C: What comes next for the film after the World Premiere at the Trocadero?
TT: Rewind it and play it again.
JZ: We’re going to tour the indie theater scene. If anyone would like to see it in their neck on the woods, hit us up at AlphaGirlsMovie.com.
C: Can you at all comment on Philadelphia’s filmmaking scene?
JZ: The horror scene is great in Pennsylvania. I’d love if the area became known for genre films.
C: And since this will go up in October, what are some of your favorite horror films? Least favorite? Guilty pleasures?
TT: Favorite: Ghostbusters 2; Guilty Pleasure: The Taint.
JZ: Favorite: Dead Alive. Guilty Pleasure: Hocus Pocus.
Alpha Girls screens tomorrow night at the Trocadero at 8pm, 21+, $5 admission.
Author: Eric Bresler
Eric is the Founder/Site Editor of Cinedelphia.com whose additional activities are numerous: Director/Curator of the Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art (PhilaMOCA), founder of Tokyo No Records, the brain behind Video Pirates, and active local film programmer including the Unknown Japan screening series. He’s served as a TLA Video Manager, Philadelphia Film Society Managing Director, and Adjunct Professor in Cinema Studies at Drexel University. He is shy and modest. Email Eric.