On July 21, 2015 I came across an interview posted on Whedonopolis talking about a new vampire documentary being directed and independently released by actress Juliet Landau best known for playing Drusilla in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. In the interview, Landau elaborated on the project’s focus:
A PLACE AMONG THE DEAD covers crime, reality / when people take the fantasy of vampirism too far. A PLACE AMONG THE UNDEAD covers every aspect of vampires in myth and pop culture: movies, TV, art, literature, comics, music, video games and young adult literature. The basic structure of UNDEAD is to explore all the metaphors of vampirism, i.e. sex, loss, disease, addiction, the outsider, etc, as seen through the eyes of their creators.
I checked out their website and asked for an interview with Juliet. I received a response on July 27 and after some email exchanges with their unit publicist we were set. I wanted to know why an actress I was only familiar with in a vampire role, had decided to take on such a project. I emailed my questions on Sept. 22 and received Juliet’s responses on Oct. 12. Without further ado, let’s meet Juliet and her world of the undead.
Erin Chapman: You’ve been working on this project for two years and it’s your first full length documentary, which you are producing and directing with your husband, Deverill Weekes. What inspired you to take on such a project and how did the idea come about?
JL: I was extremely fortunate to work with the brilliant Joss Whedon and to play Drusilla on his BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and spin-off show ANGEL. It was such an amazing world to play in. Through the years, whenever I’ve hung out with creators, writers, directors, actors who have lived in the vampire universe, I have had the best conversations… Interesting, funny, insightful discussions… and I’ve always thought, I wish people could see this! …The stuff never shared before… The camaraderie, the insider’s view. So my husband Deverill and I finally started it. So far we have interviewed Joss Whedon, Tim Burton, Gary Oldman, Willem Dafoe, Anne Rice, Robert Patrick, Charlaine Harris, Kevin Grevioux and Steve Niles among others. Dev and I were self-funding, but the project has grown beyond our wildest expectations! We have so many more incredible people who want to be interviewed. We just launched an Indiegogo campaign. The link with all the info about UNDEAD and some video we are very excited to share is: http://igg.me/at/theundead
EC: Back in 2013 there was only mention of one documentary. When did you decide to expand the project into two separate films and why?
JL: The material is so vast. A PLACE AMONG THE DEAD, covers crime, reality / when people take the fantasy of vampirism too far. A PLACE AMONG THE UNDEAD covers every aspect of vampires in myth and pop culture: movies, TV, art, literature, comics, music, video games and young adult literature. Both are fascinating!
EC: As an actress you starred in the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, and in the movie Ed Wood (1994) as Loretta King, which starred your father, Martin Landau, who played Bela Lugosi—best-known for playing Count Dracula. How much of this vampiric background influenced your decision to make your back-to-back vampire documentary? Did you have other inspirations?
JL: My dad also did a tour of the stageplay DRACULA years ago. It was not intentional, but maybe some vampire-ness runs in the blood!
One of the main inspirations for us has been delving into the use of vampirism to explore the human condition in such a wide variety of ways. For Joss Whedon the metaphor for BUFFY was, “high school as a nightmare.” For Anne Rice, it was about “loss and grief.” Her daughter died of Leukemia so she wrote, INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE with a child vampire who wouldn’t die… Leukemia is a blood disease. For Kevin Grevioux, the creator of UNDERWORLD, it was “interracial dating.” He created two species, who don’t get along. For Joss, the TV show ANGEL was a metaphor for “addiction.” For Tim Burton, DARK SHADOWS is about dysfunctional family. It goes on and on… The narrative films we are making each personify different metaphors.
EC: According to your interview with Whedonopolis, A Place Among the Dead will explore what happens “when people take the fantasy of vampirism too far” and A Place Among the Undead will “explore all the metaphors of vampirism, i.e. sex, loss, disease, addiction, the outsider, etc, as seen through the eyes of their creators.” What’s your personal view on vampires? What do they “mean” to you? How did your views inspire your own vampire portrayal in Buffy and Angel?
JL: It is interesting, when I worked on Buffy, I was inside the character of Drusilla, making her a real, well rounded person, if you will. She had a lot of dimension and contradictions, as we all do. It has been very interesting to be looking at this subject now, from a very different vantage point.
EC: With only a documentary short, Take Flight: Gary Oldman Directs Chutzpah (2009) under your belt and previously playing a vampire in a fantasy role on TV, have you encountered any typecasting or challenging feedback from taking on a larger role behind the scenes as opposed to in front of the camera?
JL: Besides TAKE FLIGHT, which explores Gary Oldman’s creative process, Dev and I co-directed DREAM OUT LOUD, which explores the creative process of make-up artist Kazuhiro Tsuji, who is branching into the world of fine art. It includes interviews with Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Star of LOOPER, LINCOLN), Guillermo del Toro (Director of CRIMSON PEAK, HELLBOY) and Rian Johnson (Writer and Director of LOOPER.) I am very passionate and tenacious, so I try not to pay any attention to typecasting or other people placing limitations on me. I am interested in creative expression and bold choices. Sometimes that challenges people, but that is okay cause I think great art often is not formulaic and can be challenging.
EC: You have secured some impressive headliners for your documentaries including Gary Oldman who played the Count in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992). You produced and directed the film documenting his creative process, Take Flight in 2009. Can you elaborate on your relationship with the actor and why you have continued to work together?
JL: Gary is one of the most talented people on the planet. We interviewed him twice for UNDEAD and once for DEAD. He has been doing some of the photography for UNDEAD on a camera from 1853. It is real tintype, wetplate imagery. He is brilliant, meticulous and strives for things to be the best they can be, which I love. He never settles. He has a passion for creativity that is contagious.
EC: Taking on two full length documentaries is a big undertaking especially funding the project independently, can you explain what has been the most challenging part of the process for you? Are both documentaries being filmed simultaneously?
JL: We have private investors for DEAD. Dev and I have paid for UNDEAD thus far, but it has grown and grown and grown! We have met with a number of production companies who want to invest, but based on those meetings, we feel this can’t be made within the system and be the film it needs to be. We need producing partners who love and understand the project. We want to make the film that fans want to see.
It has been challenging, just cause there are not enough hours in the day! We should have our heads examined doing two projects and crowdfunding, which is in itself a full time job. Although interacting with the fans has been such a joy that it makes it all worth it. People seem genuinely excited and engaged about the material!
EC: You will be launching your official Indiegogo campaign in October, is some of the money raised on Indiegogo being used to release and promote the films or for other purposes? Will the films be available online, released directly to DVD or into theatres? When are the release dates?
JL: There are a lot of exciting options brewing distribution-wise. For every perk level from $25 and above, our Indiegogo partners who have joined the UNDEAD will get a streaming link or a DVD/Bu Ray if they choose.
EC: You have been utilizing events like Comic-Con and Monsterpalooza as promotional tools. Do you find this type of promotion has been more effective than relying on social media? Will you be allocating any of your Indiegogo funds towards more standard forms of advertising?
JL: We love both social media and live events. It is great to interact with people face to face. They money raised will go directly on the screen.
EC: What’s next for you? With two full-length documentaries under your belt will your next project be in front of or behind the camera? Do you have anything else on the go at the moment?
JL: I have two films, which should be coming out this year. WHERE THE ROAD RUNS OUT and THE BRONX BULL. I play an English missionary in one and a Viennese starlet in the other. A few other offers have just come in. And of course I will be continuing to work on A PLACE AMONG THE DEAD and A PLACE AMONG THE UNDEAD. I am dying to make the film that people want to see! I am so excited that people are partnering with me to make film history. We are going to make the most definitive vamp doc ever! The Indiegogo link for people to become immortal and join the UNDEAD is http://igg.me/at/theundead !
- an interview posted on Whedonopolis: Marsia Powers, “Exclusive: Juliet Landau Talks Comic-Con, Indiegogo and Passion Projects,” Whedonopolis, July 6, 2015, accessed July 21, 2015, http://www.whedonopolis.com/exclusive-juliet-landau-talks-comic-con-indiegogo-and-passion-projects/#sthash.U4pJZaak.dpuf.
- checked out their website: A Place Among the Undead, 2015, accessed July 21, 2015, http://www.aplaceamongtheundead.com.
- working on this project for two years: Debi Moore, “Buffy Alum Juliet Landau Co-Directing Vampire Documentary A Place Among the Dead,” Dread Central, Nov. 11, 2013, accessed Sept. 15, 2015, http://www.dreadcentral.com/news/49758/buffy-alum-juliet-landau-co-directing-vampire-documentary-a-place-among-the-dead/.
- Back in 2013: Ibid.
- your interview with Whedonopolis: Powers, “Exclusive: Juliet Landau Talks Comic-Con, Indiegogo and Passion Projects.”
- Indiegogo campaign in October: Juliet Landau, Twitter post, Sept. 4, 2015, 12:16 p.m., accessed Sept. 15, 2015, https://twitter.com/julietlandau/status/639879676324765696.
- Comic-Con: Powers, “Exclusive: Juliet Landau Talks Comic-Con, Indiegogo and Passion Projects.”
- Monsterpalooza: Deverill Weekes, “Juliet Landau SON of MONSTERPALOOZA Event,” World Eventer, 2015, accessed Sept. 15, 2015, http://www.worldeventer.com/event/juliet-landau-son-of-monsterpalooza-event,1058361267522108. The event, held on Sept. 19, 2015, was actually Son of Monsterpalooza, not Monsterpalooza; an editorial error.
Juliet will be conducting a special event for Vamped next month—stay tuned for details. For further information on Juliet’s documentaries, visit: http://www.aplaceamongtheundead.com/