Music Interview

Todd Stevens (Gypsy 83)

By Rev. Daryl Litts

Gypsy 83Gypsy 83 is the tale of two goth misfits: Gypsy (Sara Rue, Less Than Perfect), an overweight girl obsessed with Stevie Nicks and Clive (Kett Turton, Kingdom Hospital), a gay virgin as inexperienced in life as he is in sexuality. They flee their cultural persecution in small-town Ohio to the ultimate destination of acceptance: New York. Yet there are hardships along the way that only echo the disappointment left behind and foreshadow the ones that lie ahead. Karen Black (House of 1,000 Corpses), John Doe (of the old-school punk band X), and Paulo Costanzo (Road Trip) add strong personalities to the characters sketched within the story. This modern tragedy by Todd Stephens unfolds in a John Waters-esque Wizard of Oz fashion, but the story is not “by Goths for Goths” and makes no attempt to pigeonhole its audience. Gypsy 83 offers a sad-but-true depiction of reality as seen through the eyes of people that society deems unfit, making it a relatable film for anyone who feels like they don’t belong to the most horrible clique of all: “normal.” Todd Stephens, creator and director of Gypsy 83 answered a few questions about the movie:

Daryl Litts: How much of Gypsy 83 was based on life experience?

Todd Stephens: Like Clive and Gypsy, I grew up in a small town in Ohio, felt like a freak there, and escaped to New York City to find my place in the world. So there is a lot of me in both of them.

DL: Sara Rue and Kett Turton really shocked me with their roles; they really seemed to understand their characters and where they were coming from… How did they prepare for the roles?

TS: We spent a lot of time at Click and Drag, which was a (sadly gone) night here in NYC at Mother. That's where Kett perfected his goth dancing skills. We also listened to a lot of my old Cure records. I had forgotten how amazing they are, and how good they still sound.

DL: As the writer and director you put a lot of yourself into the film and characters. Is it ever strange to see your personal creations come to life through the creativity of others?

TS: It was very strange when I made my first film, Edge of Seventeen. In fact, it was so strange that I decided I couldn't continue to direct the movie. Since the story was completely autobiographical, I was trying to recreate reality right down to my nasty brown polyester fast-food uniform. But the lesson I learned is that you can't bring the past to life verbatim. On Gypsy, I learned to let go – and let all my collaborators bring their own magic.

DL: Did Sara or Kett bring anything to Gypsy or Clive that you hadn’t envisioned while writing the script?

TS: Absolutely – they both blew me away on a daily basis! The fact that Sara is such an amazing singer was such an unexpected bonus – watching her sing the final song at the end (Voice So Sweet) literally had me in tears. And Kett brought a sweetness and vulnerability that I didn't expect. It's like you want to bring him home and adopt him!

DL: Obviously the goth scene is a small pigeonhole in our culture. Was alienation of a broader audience ever a consideration or a concern?

TS: Not at the time, but it has proved to be a bit of a marketing challenge. The film is a love letter to people on the fringes of society and I really hope the letter doesn't get lost in the mail.

DL: As a music fiend, it must have been hard to narrow the decision on which tracks to use in the soundtrack… What got left out?

TS: I would have liked to have had a Siouxie song in there, but it turned out to be too expensive. Same with the track Killing Moon by Echo and the Bunnymen. But I was estatic that The Cure let us use two amazing songs!

DL: I heard you’re working on an album with Karen Black based on her character in Gypsy 83…what’s the story?

TS: Karen and I recorded a few deliciously loungy songs that appear in the film (and on the soundtrack album from Metropolis Records). They turned out so well that I had the idea of doing an entire album as the fictional character from the film – Bambi LeBleu. So look for The Best of Bambi sometime next year!

DL: I know Gypsy 83 is the second part of your "Ohio" trilogy. How well does it relate to the previous Edge of Seventeen, and where do you plan to take the trilogy on the next installment?

TS: Gypsy is sort of a thematic continuation of Edge and both are set in my hometown of Sandusky, Ohio. In Edge the lead character was stuck in Ohio, and in Gypsy they actually get out. Several actors from Edge appear in Gypsy and many of the same crew were involved as well. The third film in the trilogy is the story of how I went back to Ohio to make film my life story and almost lost my mind in the process. Right now I am calling it Home.

DL: For all those new to your work, where can your films be viewed and when will they be available on DVD?

TS: I think you can rent Edge at most Blockbusters. Or find it on Amazon.com or Netflix.

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