I love a good romance story. In fact, there is almost no feeling that I love more than that heart-stretching, swelly feeling when the two lovers have left each other but might get back together but you’re not quite sure they actually will get back together and, oh my goodness, what if they don’t, but they have to, right, because it’s a romance, right?! – feeling.
In novel form or on screen, where there is a good romance story, there also am I.
Being a filmmaker myself, then, naturally, I wanted to make one. I knew that I wanted to do it differently, however, than most mainstream Hollywood movies, primarily because The Princess Diaries traumatized me. No, I’m not kidding.
In my defense, I was 14-years old at the time the film came out and, like many other teenage girls, I went to go see this movie with my also-14-year-old best friend in Colorado, where we grew up. Most of you probably remember this movie, but lest you need a refresher: at the outset of the story, a character, played by a young Anne Hathaway is supposed to be a mega-weirdo. To indicate the depths of her strangeness, the Hollywood powers-that-be made Anne wear glasses, gave her braces, and frizzy hair – which, in Hollywood, means mega-weirdo. Over the course of the movie, she meets and falls for a super-hot popular guy who doesn’t know that she exists until…eventually, Julie Andrews gives her a makeover and, at last, the hot dude finally sees through to her winning personality.
Now, aside from the obvious problems with that plot, the other problem I specifically had was that, if you give Anne Hathaway glasses and frizzy hair and even braces, she still looks like Anne Hathaway. I, meanwhile, was a genuinely strange child. To give you an idea of just how strange, a few years later when I was my high school’s valedictorian, I gave a valedictory that involved not only an actual lightsaber, but also a two-minute onstage battle between me and an invisible Darth Vader while Star Wars theme song played over the loudspeaker. I wish I was joking. I am not. At any rate, as a true ¬mega-weirdo teenager, sitting in that theater, watching Anne be adorable on screen, I remember this boulder-sized moment of devastation, thinking, “Oh my god. If she’s a weirdo…I am not even on the charts.”
I know it sounds silly because it was The Princess Diaries, but I was 14, and it was a deeply desolating moment in my life.
When I grew up and became a filmmaker, I became determined to make a movie for the true weirdos of the world – one where the girl got to keep her glasses on at the end.
The obvious vehicle for this story was a romantic comedy, a genre which, remember, I LOVE, but over which I had become sad as a viewer due to the unfortunate turn the genre has taken since the early 2000s into Katherine Heigl fluff-land.
I became obsessed with the quest of making a film that was not just a love song to weirdos, but a love story for our time. When, a few years later, on the set of Boardwalk Empire, I met a woman who explained to me that she was part of the global subculture of people who identify as vampires, the vehicle for this story clicked into place.
The result is my second feature film, Bite Me, a subversive romantic comedy about a real-life vampire and the IRS agent who audits her. The film is my attempt to update the rom-com – to bring the best parts of those giddy, heart-clinchingly joyful films of the 90s like Notting Hill and When Harry Met Sally, by grounding it in the cynicism and reality of the modern age. Really, though, Bite Me is about outsiders and weirdos. Sarah, the films heroine (whom I play), is a real-life vampire. At 29, with her blue hair and facial tattoo, she wears her self-made freak status like armor. But she’s not the only weirdo. 38-year-old James (played by Christian Coulson), our leading man, an Englishman and IRS agent has spent his entire life trying to make himself as bland and inoffensive as possible, terrified that people won’t like him if he reveals any part of his assiduously hidden personality. Then there’s Faith (Annie Golden), James’ Bible-thumping co-worker and roommate who, as a middle-aged woman, is about to get passed over for a promotion she’s worked years for; Chrissy (Naomi Grossman), Sarah’s best friend and the leader of their vampire “house,” who fancies herself a sort of alternative lifestyle revolutionary; Lily (Mahira Kakkar) the Muslim kindergarten teacher who faces rejection from her community for identifying as a vampire…every last person in the film is an outsider fighting to be seen. And seen they are.
When James is assigned to audit Sarah’s vampire “church,” an unlikely spark of attraction ignites between the two misfits, and they are forced to confront whether they can make it past their differences, be brave enough to let their weird lights shine, and have the courage necessary to commit the radical, terrifying act of falling in love.
And no one ever gives Sarah a makeover. Not even one single time.
You can see the trailer here.
Naomi McDougall Jones is the writer, star, and producer of the independent feature film Bite Me now in the middle of a 51-screening, 40-city, 3-month Joyful Vampire Tour of America that is bringing the film to audiences all over the country and changing the way that independent films are distributed. Find them in a city near you or watch the film online on iTunes, Amazon, GooglePlay, or Seed&Spark. Information on the tour, screenings, and the film at www.bitemethefilm.com.