The Victorians film is a twisted story about seven misanthropic misfits thrown together in the city of Amsterdam. It’s love, revenge, lust, addiction and everything in between.
To learn more about the movie, AmsterDO spoke to its director, Dwight A. Gabbert. Let’s dig in!
The Victorians are a group of seven charismatic sociopaths living on the fringe of society, out there on the borderline that isn’t really socially acceptable. Seven intertwined relationships – a sexual deviant, two thieves, a prostitute, a sadist and a cocky American tourist who falls prey to Danny, the local tour guide masquerading as a confidant. The journey starts with our young American being robbed by the two brothers, which sets in motion a dark, soul-searching trip for him, and – eventually – causes their own downfall.
These kind of characters have always intrigued us. They are the people with broken wings, the ones on the outside of what is considered ‘normal society’. Most of them seem appalling at first, but as the story unfolds, you see their true identities: their dreams, fears, the lies they’re telling themselves. We start to see something of ourselves in each of them.
Well, it took us two years to finish the script, and when it was finally ready the real fun began! We didn’t have much of a budget, so we couldn’t afford casting in the normal sense. Instead, we did our casting online. We got very organized, creating a website with graphic illustrations showing what the film might look like, its atmosphere. Then we put up fourteen of the main scenes along with character breakdowns, which really drove the theme and feel of the film. This made the material easily accessible to all the auditioning actors sending in self-tapes. After the first couple of tapes, when we were actually watching talented actors reading our lines, it literally gave us goosebumps. It became real.
As we began the editing process, we would use certain songs as inspiration over the sequences. Then we got permission to use ‘Feelin’ Fuzzy’ by the band ‘Smokin’ Durry’s’, over the fast forward taxi sequence. But it became apparent early on that this wasn’t the type of film in which we would just have a composer do the film score. We wanted many different songs throughout the entire film driving the dramatic tone. So although Mike Gunn, our composer, did a fabulous job, we knew we were going to need a lot of independent stuff. Then Tish, our producer, got the idea to have a competition so we could promote the film and find some cool – yet unknown – music. We couldn’t believe the response: we started an online campaign looking for a bad-ass soundtrack, and before we knew it, there were over 2,000 submissions! That was something that we didn’t expect, at all! In the end, we chose a few amazing artists whose music was right for the film, a sort of grungy neo-psychedelic raw vibe.
There are a lot of really cool narrow alleyways throughout the city center. These make great places to just stop and shoot. Apart from that, some of the scenes were shot in pretty smart locations, like famous Amsterdam hotels: Hotel de l’Europe, The American Hotel, Amstel Hotel, The Bulldog Hotel. That was a continual nail-biter getting permissions! Then, one scene was shot in The Kashmir Lounge coffeeshop. I think it’s one of the coolest coffeeshops in Amsterdam; a chilled bohemian Arabic style, and one of the few coffeeshops that still don’t have televisions inside. Finally, we also filmed at a sex booth in the Red-Light District.
All the different owners of the sex cabins were very protective and with good reason – their number-one priority was looking out for the girls. I mean, someone shows up and wants to ‘shoot a film in one of the sex cabins’? You can imagine the initial response. That was so even after we realized, quite early on, that Tish should be the one approaching them… Then one day, Tish ran into this really cool owner who said, ‘fuck it, why not.’ I guess we got lucky. That, and our producer’s charm.
We were only allowed to film between 5 AM and 9 AM because the other prostitutes, in the adjacent cabins and down the street, started working at nine and we couldn’t film on the street once they started their shifts. There are both night and day scenes at this location, a lot of them, so we had to film in three-hour increments each day. Starting with the night scenes at 5 AM before the sun came up and moving onto the ‘day’ scenes after that. It took us 5 days to shoot everything, it was crazy!
The crew, the cast, everyone involved was the best at what they did. The actors all knew their lines front to back, completely immersed in their roles. Not a weak link in the bunch, super-enthusiastic which bled over into the crew, into me. It was this crazy domino effect that just gave everyone the energy to keep going. It just sort of became a crusade, our crusade, to conquer the city, to conquer ourselves.
There were times we weren’t as safe on set as we could have been, and I guess I was always sort of afraid that someone might get hurt – we were moving so fast, and it was all so surreal, just being out there, filming in the city, in hotels, cafes, alleyways… every day just jumping from place to place. I guess the thing that scared me the most was that we wouldn’t be able to do it – to get it done. I just didn’t want to let anyone down. In fact, yeah, I guess I was scared every damn second of the day!
More about The Victorians film: www.thevictoriansfilm.com