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Robert McGinley Talks w/411 About His New Movie Danger Diva

August 9, 2018 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Danger Diva

The 411 Interview: Robert McGinley

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Robert McGinley is a writer, producer, and director who has been making movies, off and on, since 1990. After a nearly two decade hiatus, he is back with the new sort of musical sci-fi flick Danger Diva starring Molly Sides and Tim Gouran (check out my review of the movie here). In this interview, McGinley talks with this writer about making Danger Diva, his moviemaking influences, and more.

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Bryan Kristopowitz: When did you know that you wanted Danger Diva to be your next movie?

Robert McGinley: In 2014 Shredder Orpheus had several 25th anniversary screenings and festival screenings and I started thinking about making Danger Diva then because the first draft was written around the time of Shredder’s release. I always thought Danger Diva as being Shredder Orpheus’s big sister.

BK: Where did the idea for Danger Diva come from?

RM: Early inspirations include my fascination with Kali, the Hindu Goddess of Death and Rebirth, Diamonda Galas, the amazing new music singer and composer, and Elizabeth Fitzgerald, the jazz singer whose voice would break wine glasses in Memorex tape commercials in the late 1960s. On the science and technology side I have always been interested in the co-option of human consciousness by media technology whether it’s television in Shredder Orpheus or digital devices in Danger Diva. In addition, biotechnology life extension strategies have been a focus for personal research for many years.

BK: Where was Danger Diva made?

RM: It was shot in Seattle: 15 days in a warehouse in the SODO district and 5 days in a 500 seat theater and an underground bar.

BK: How long did it take to make Danger Diva, from completing the script to finishing post-production?

RM: Three years, but keep in mind I wrote the first draft in 1993.

BK: How did you cast Danger Diva?

RM: I was thinking of making Danger Diva in Seattle and I asked some art/theater colleagues who was the “Musical Le Femme Nikita of Seattle”. They said in unison, “Molly Sides,” the lead singer of an all-female rock band, Thunderpussy. Although Molly had never acted before in front of a camera I saw her fronting her band and immediately knew she had what Devi Danger needed. Molly is an amazing singer and dancer/choreographer and I thought she would have the emotional bandwidth to assume the Devi role. Brian Faker, my producer and casting director, is deeply involved in the Seattle theater scene and brought in the actors that made up the rest of our very talented cast.

BK: What was the hardest part of making Danger Diva? The easiest?

RM: HARDEST- TIME LIMITS: As Stanley Arkoff says to Calvin Yamachi: “Time, the one thing we all want, the most important commodity that all humans want; time.” Shooting a project of this magnitude on a twenty day schedule was ridiculous. I wish I had forty days. Executing time consuming stunts and practical effects and coordinating hundreds of extras is always tough on a tight budget but I was desperate to give my principle actors plenty of time to flesh out their characters and perform. It never would have happened without an amazing effort from the crew and I will always appreciate how much we were able to cram into 12-14 hour days. By the fourth week people were hanging in there but bodies were often strewn around the warehouse!

EASIEST: I can’t remember anything easy. Perhaps the lone exception was how good an actor Baby William was. For being a 10 month old he was like an old pro; smiled and cried right on cue- actually with no cue- pure instinct! He inspired all of us.

BK: When you came up with the technical jargon describing the Savant system in the movie, was it easy to create that dialogue, or did you need help hashing out the technical terms? And how “real” is the kind of technology on display in Danger Diva?

RM: I watch a lot of Emily Chang/Studio 1.0 on Bloomberg News where she interviews tech C.E.O.’s. Listening to those discussions was helpful for creating the technical dialog along with reading technology journals and blogs. Interestingly, Emily often asks what the ultimate aim for the C.E.O.’s ambitions are for their companies and the common response is the use of technology to “make the world a better place”.

The idea for a Savant originated with the Ronald Reagan era of “Star Wars” missile defense plans at DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) where it was thought that chip implants would make an operator’s brain become a faster processor. Being able to manage huge amounts of data to program defense systems was the order of the day and a neurosurgery interface by implanting a chip was thought to be quite plausible. The example of speaking a foreign language via chip implant at any given moment was lifted from the DARPA research.

As for how “real” is the technology, consider many tech pundits have already made the case that we are already becoming cyborgs by virtue of our dependency on smart phones which provide us with informational augmentation and as we get closer to devices that can be implanted. Having “smart device” implants is at the forefront of A.I. Currently, devices and platforms like Alexa and Facebook are designed to gather information on what we “like” and turn us into more efficient consumers (an invasion of privacy that we seem to be willing to go along with) but it won’t be long before technologies will play more intimate roles in our lives. On a functional level the concept of a Savant is not that far- fetched when you consider that an Alexa “that knows you like a friend” with an intuitive function would be very similar to a “brain cow” in Danger Diva.

BK: How difficult was it to come up with the musical aspects of the Danger Diva story? How did Thunderpussy get involved in the movie?

RM: My collaboration with composer Regan Remi was incredible. She has composed music on a number of music video poems that I have created and we had a kind of a musical short hand going into Danger Diva.

In addition, With Molly Sides onboard I knew there would be a fun musical synergy if we brought the band along with her. Thunderpussy plays a mean strain of blues rock that fit the story line and Whitney Petty (guitars) and Leah Julius (bass) played themselves. Conner Nedderson plays the drummer, Scattering Flyn, and Devi’s love interest, is not a band member but a fabulous actor.

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BK: According to imdb the last movie you made before Danger Diva was Jimmy Zip in 1999. Why an almost twenty year gap in directing?

RM: I never really fit into the Hollywood machine and consequently a career in the “industry” was not in the offing so it took me a long time to get the financing and willpower to do Danger Diva. After Jimmy Zip there was some interest in Danger Diva but talk is cheap in this town. I have had other scripts that floated around but didn’t have the right ingredients at the right time. I like to write poetry so I made several short music video poems over those years and became a landscape photographer between the feature films.

BK: Who are your moviemaking heroes?

RM: Luc Besson, Yimou Zhang, Ridley Scott, John Woo, the Wachowski Sisters are among my favorites.

BK: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

RM: I have written a screenplay that I call a 1960s Cadillac Western about a boy and his horse caught up in the middle of a Chicago horse mafia that I would love to make.

BK: Will there ever be a Danger Diva 2?

RM: As implied in the last scene of Danger Diva, I am working on a follow-up story that chronicles the journey of Devi’s son, William, a guitar slinging rebel who must confront an evil technological legacy and virtual existence of his father, Stanley Arkoff.

BK: Was that actually grass in the “feed the herd” scene, and if it was, how hard was it to get people to eat grass?

RM: On the shooting day for “feeding the herd” it was apparent that not many character extras were going to show up to eat grass. Go figure! We used wheat grass. A shot of it is a very popular tonic at juice bars. So, in the spirit of leading by example and to fill out the herd I suited up in a brain cow wardrobe and started eating grass off the flat and the rest of the herd followed. The wheat grass was pretty sweet, not bitter and I did notice that my fellow brain cattle and I were very energized after shooting that scene!

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A very special thanks to Robert McGinley for agreeing to participate in this interview and to david j. more for setting it up.

Check out the official Danger Diva website here for further movie info and upcoming release date info. You can also check out Light in the Attic for movie and soundtrack release dates, too.

Check out the official Danger Diva Facebook page here and Instagram page here.

All images courtesy of Robert McGinley.

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