An Interview with Director Carolyn Cavallero
Legendary, reclusive muse to artists and writers, Clo Wild, interviews director Carolyn
Cavallero about her new film “Paradise Club”.
Clo Wild: Why did you make this movie?
Carolyn Cavallero: I had to make it. I didnʼt have a choice. I realized that if I didnʼt make it I would die…not my body of course, but my soul. I have been haunted, literally haunted, all these years by what happened in the late Sixties. Something magical died in 1970 and I wanted the ghosts to live again. Maybe it was just me wanting to live it again by recreating it on film…video in this case.
Clo Wild: Can you tell something about your life and how it relates to the film?
Carolyn Cavallero: I lived in San Francisco in the late Sixties. I graduated in art from UC Berkeley and what was I going to do? All I knew was that I wanted to stay “outside”. I didnʼt want to join society at all. The underground poetry and art scene attracted me like a moth to the flame so I started dancing in a topless club. And I loved it. It was a magic time of sexual revolution and we women were preaching peace and love on stage. What a cliche that is now but we really believed in it.
Clo Wild: So is this movie autobiographical?
Carolyn Cavallero: In part it is. The emotion of it is and the images are and the music totally! But the characters and the drama are a collage of my story and other stories mixed together and this strange brew ended in fiction.
Clo Wild: How did you react when you saw what you created?
Carolyn Cavallero: I could see as we were shooting that the actors were creating their own universe. That Sixties vibe was contagious! And so I thought, well as long as the magic holds, Iʼm along for the ride. I love journeys where I donʼt know where Iʼm going and thereʼs chaos all around but itʼs buzzing! Itʼs going somewhere that matters and who cares where it ends as long as the energy is riding with you.
Clo Wild: How did you feel…
Carolyn Cavallero: Stop right there! Half the time I was “out of body ecstatic ” watching the dancers and listening to the music and the rest of the time the panic was nipping at my heels for taking on this crazy…adventure? movie?
Clo Wild: So you can call it a movie now?
Carolyn Cavallero: Yes, but it still feels like real life to me. Before I was haunted by the Sixties and now Iʼm haunted by the movie. The past is alive again! What have I done?!
Clo Wild: How was it working with the actors? It was the Sixties and the physical moves were different.
Carolyn Cavallero: We had one day to rehearse the musical numbers with the band and dancers and Eric and Evan which was crazy because we needed at least a week. It was the go-go dance era and the three actresses took about 5 seconds to get it down perfectly. They had done their research! But there was no time to rehearse the solo dance performances in the second part of the movie. So I saw them for the first time when we shot them. I have no words to say how amazed I was. Elizabeth and Nicole expressed everything I wanted to say about them and their story in the dancing. I could have made the movie with no dialogue. I took all of Evanʼs characterʼs dialog out and instead he and Elizabeth communicated telepathically. No words!
For me music is more powerful than words and I can get to the emotional core cleaner that way. Thatʼs just me. Other directors work magic with words.
Eric is an amazingly generous actor. He is very physical and every gesture, every nuance in his face and eyes expresses the inner soul. He would come on the set each morning with a kind word for everyone on the crew and light up the whole room. He was Earl Wild to the core.
Clo Wild: Letʼs talk about politics.
Carolyn Cavallero: Letʼs! What was going on with the political assassinations, the war in Viet Nam and the Manson killings form the subtext of the film…dark water lurking under the stage in the Paradise Club. By the time Altamont rolled around it was all over. Time to turn off the lights and lock the door to Paradise.
Clo Wild: So now youʼre a seasoned director.
Carolyn Cavallero: Not at all! Iʼm more of a filmmaker than a director. I put all the elements together, we met on the set, and I turned it loose. Most of my preconceptions went out the door in the first five minutes and all I could do was encourage the life force to bring in the scene. I just hung on for the ride! When you have good actors they make it look easy!