I’m a huge fan of the films Cinco De Mayo and Streets of Vengeance, so I was super excited when Paul Ragsdale and Angie De Alba, the team behind these awesome films, agreed to do an interview with me. We talked about their love of films, their films, their use of social commentary as well as what’s next for them. Check it out!
PopHorror: What inspired you two to want to make films?
Paul Ragsdale: I used to make horror/comedy movies on VHS with my brother and cousins when I was a kid. We watched tons of horror movies growing up and we tried to imitate them. Filmmaking didn’t become a serious thing for me until I watched Taxi Driver when I was 16. My cousin gave me a book, Scorsese on Scorsese, and it inspired me to take filmmaking seriously.
Angie De Alba: I was in college looking for ways to express myself artistically. I had taken play writing and theater. None of those felt right to me. The filmmaking department was in the same building, so I thought I’d give that a try!
PopHorror: What films and filmmakers influenced you the most?
Paul Ragsdale: It’s a mixture of a bunch of movies from different eras; ’80s horror movies (Night of the Demons, Return of the Living Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street Part 3), ’90s independent films (Reservoir Dogs, Bad Lieutenant, Millers Crossing, Boogie Nights)) ’70s American movies (Taxi Driver, Rolling Thunder, Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia, Coffy) and ’60s French new wave (Pierrot Le Fou, Jules and Jim, Les Bonnes Femmes). In short, it’s a bunch of shit!
Angie De Alba: I would say that my favorite directors are Wes Anderson and Richard Linklater. However, I feel that my style is more similar to the French new wave directors.
PopHorror: Your first film was Rough Cut. What can you tell me about it?
Paul Ragsdale: It’s a comedy with all my ’60s French new wave influences coming out. It’s about a filmmaker and his muse, a girl that dates older men for money, and her sugar daddy hires the filmmaker to make video displaying her music talents. The characters are physically modeled after Jean Luc Godard and Anna Karina, but their relationship is all Paul Schrader and Nastassja Kinski, which was so funny and sad, and that pretty much sums up Rough Cut.
Angie De Alba: Rough Cut was a special treat for me because we shot a few scenes at some of my favorite places in San Francisco. Also, I loved trying to capture the French new style with the costuming and locations. This is the first movie where I did the art direction and had a lot of input on the visual aesthetic.
PopHorror: You made your first foray into horror with Cinco De Mayo. What inspired the project and what was it like to shoot on such a low budget?
Paul Ragsdale: I was watching a trailer compilation by Something Weird with Angie and a few actor friends. We were laughing and tossing around ideas. Cinco De Mayo started off as a fake trailer. Then sometime later I saw the Fathers Day trailer by Astron 6. It was so inspiring to see guys at my level making projects that look so badass. I would show everyone and say, “We’ve gotta aim for this!” I hadn’t even seen the full movie yet, but just the trailer was inspirational and it gave me the courage to try to make a feature on our own. I really wanted to do it but I didn’t know exactly what I was getting into, which is a key component to success in pretty much anything. I didn’t know anyone who I could ask for advice about filmmaking so I just listened to Robert Rodriguez and John Carpenter interviews/commentaries. You can know some stuff but you can’t foresee everything.
Angie De Alba: Horror is a genre I never thought we’d experiment with. It all began with us jokingly writing an over the top fake trailer for Cinco De Mayo, but after turning it into our first feature film, horror has become something that we’re known for. I found it easy to make the film on a low budget because at first we thought it was just going to be a trailer that no one would ever see. Then it turned into a short film and then we figured we should just turn it into a feature film before Robert Rodriguez did. I personally still love making projects on a small budget. It challenges me to find creative solutions. Often times, it’s our artistic choices that make an impact on audiences, not how much we spent on the project. Since we fund our own projects, we can make whatever we want the way we want to.
PopHorror: Angie, what was it like playing a lead role in Cinco De Mayo? I loved your performance by the way. Have you thought about doing any more acting?
Angie De Alba: Thank you! We were having trouble finding a Mexican actress with availability so I decided to try and see if I could play the role. As the producer, I thought it would be convenient since I was going to be at every shoot anyway. Again, I never thought anyone would really see the film, so I wasn’t really thinking from an actors perspective. There were scenes where I wondered if I was going to stand out due to my lack of experience, but I’ve actually received some good reviews. It was fun but I’ve never considered myself an actress. I always felt the filmmaker/producer role came more naturally to me, but who knows? I would love to try it out again. Maybe if the right role came along.
PopHorror: Your next film was Streets of Vengeance, which is a movie I absolutely love. How did you guys come up with the idea for the film and how did shooting Streets differ from Cinco De Mayo?
Paul Ragsdale: We came up with an idea for Delawna to play a badass character while driving home from a shoot for Rough Cut in 2014. It began as just something where she can kick ass with her long black boots that she had that made her feel like Milla Jovovich from Resident Evil. I thought Delawna could pull off a Ms.45 or They Call Her One Eye type of role/look. She had the acting skill, the stature and the looks of a ’70s or ’80s star of a female revenge movie. I didn’t want the character to be a “normal girl” with a built-in sympathetic trait like most female revenge movies have, like she wasn’t going to be hardworking college student or a nurse or a nun. I turned to the “hooker/stripper revenge” movies and ’90s erotic thrillers for the aesthetic and story structure. I was watching Savage Streets, Avenging Angel, Stripped to Kill, just to name a few.
Angie De Alba: Awesome! I love when people love Streets of Vengeance! Cinco was fun but it was our first feature and we were learning how to make a film. With SOV, we already had a bit of practice and had a clearer vision of what we wanted it to be. My favorite differences are the style, like lighting, wardrobe, locations and soundtrack, and all the political messages, like feminism, misogyny and rape culture involved.
PopHorror: You frequently work with Delawna McKinney, Anthony To’omata, and Daniel James Moody. What is it about the three of them that makes you want to include in all your projects?
Angie De Alba: They are local, talented actors that take on every project with enthusiasm. I can’t imagine anyone else playing the roles they have. As independent artists, we come together and all help left each other up through our shared passion for creating. I love finding people that want to create and succeed as much as I do.
Paul Ragsdale: They are among the best actors we have had the pleasure of working with. Anthony had the perfect look for Cinco De Mayo. Plus he was able to make people scared as well as feel sorry for him. He plays a very endearing character in Streets, while at the same time, he’s able to bring some physicality with his size. Daniel has that nice, clean cut look that can play both charming and handsome or disarming and psychotic. And Delawna is so versatile and talented. If she didn’t accept the role I probably wouldn’t have made the movie.
PopHorror: Your films frequently include USA Up All Night-style segments, complete with fake trailers for the upcoming films, including Dance Till You Die. Have you ever thought of turning them into features? I personally would love to see a full length Dance Till You Die film.
Paul Ragsdale: A lot of people have been asking for a Dance Till You Die feature! We should probably give the people what they want. I’ve been tossing around an idea of making short, 30 min films out of all our fake trailers and putting them out as a triple feature DVD.
Angie De Alba: All credit goes to Paul on this. He comes up with the ideas for these segments and I just help make them a reality. I’m seriously surprised at how many people have asked us to make Dance Till You Die into a feature! I’d rather pass on that, but we did just make a fake trailer for Slashlorette Party and I would consider turning that into a feature if there’s enough interest in the project.
PopHorror: Your films typically include strong social commentary while still being fun. Is it important to you guys to make your films meaningful as well as entertaining?
Paul Ragsdale: Yes, it’s very important for us to have some sort of message underneath all the blood and the violence. I love genre movies that have a little something extra going on beneath the surface, from Night of the Living Dead to the more recent Get Out. I love seeing that kind of stuff.
Angie De Alba: Absolutely. I think every artist uses their medium to express themselves. For Paul and I, it’s through our films. We try to find a balance between making our films fun while still commenting on an issue that is important to us. Hopefully audiences will find our films entertaining but still find a message that they can think about or discuss with others later.
PopHorror: If you could work with anyone in the indie horror scene, who would they be?
Paul Ragsdale: Astron 6 and the Soskas. I like Gatorblade and the Sleaze Box, too.
Angie De Alba: I would love to link up with other female filmmakers. I met the Soska sisters at The Sinister Creature Con in Stockton a couple months ago and they were so sweet. We talked for a while about our experiences as independent filmmakers, the horror scene and what it’s like to work with the WWE. Paul & I are fans, too! It would be awesome to collaborate with a couple of bad ass chicks that we have so much in common with. We gave them a screener copy of Streets of Vengeance, so who knows? Maybe someday, an opportunity for us to work together will arise!
PopHorror: So what next for you guys? Any upcoming projects?
Paul Ragsdale: I think Slashlorette Party might be next for us. We have some non-horror short films coming out soon, too! Check out our YouTube channel for those!