Bad Thoughts: Possible descriptions:
1. Part I of a new genre melding irony and erotica – the “ironic-erotic film”.
2. A film about academia, religion, sex and telepathy. A film that possibly offends everybody.
3. A film about a city woman with cabin fever. A film that raises eyebrows in small towns.
4. A peculiarly funny feminist film.
Bad Thoughts (Ironica Part I), made for the “love of cinema”, was born out of a collaboration between producer-writer-director Jacqueline Levitin, and writer-singer-artist and (now) actor, Pat Jeffries. The two women share in a communally-owned property in the woods of Northeastern Ontario.
There, Jacqueline survived a long cold winter alone in a two-room (no plumbing) wood-heated cabin while working on her scripts. Pat spent the next winter there writing her own short stories and imagining what Jacqueline had been up to. Jacqueline then wrote a screenplay on Pat’s imaginings. Together, they borrowed equipment, gathered their country friends and neighbors to play the various roles and to crew this 16mm, non-sync, community-made production. Pat’s cabin became the location. Only the cinematographer and his assistant were professionals. A sound track was created in the editing made up of Pat’s voice-over recorded later, “found” sounds, and improvised foley.
The result is Bad Thoughts – the 20-minute mock erotic tale of the powerful, bi-sexual, and wryly funny blond heroine of the film – a woman who uses telepathy to brazenly conquer fear and isolation.
Parts II and III were to follow the same characters in new, ironically-erotic stories.
In the context of my work
As stated, Bad Thoughts (Ironica Part I) was made for the “love of cinema” – at a moment when I “needed to film again,” feeling frustrated and stifled as I tried to get a major feature film underway. This little film reflects much of who I am as a filmmaker – an experimenter, a feminist, and a lover of the ironic.
Today, the film would have been shot on HD, but that wasn’t an option then. For the production, we used a non-sync film camera generously lent by Concordia University, and recorded a few environmental sounds and one line of sync dialogue to be incorporated into the film at a later stage. Pat Jefferies, who plays the Blonde, was hesitant to record the voice-over (and earlier had to be convinced that she was a perfect fit for the central role), but finally agreed. We recorded in a home sound studio. All came together in the post-production stage with (then) Simon Fraser University film student, Adam Boyd, devising sound tracks on the primitive electronic sound editing equipment of the time to sync to my visuals. We employed our own devised foley sound effects.
My admiration for filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard (the subject of my doctoral thesis) likely inspired the D.I.Y. improvisational attitude of my own filmmaking. The ‘official’ state-supported and scrutinized big production format I was attempting at the time did not suit my own filmmaking style, I realized later. I felt best making my films independently when my academic schedule permitted, using income from my teaching to support my filmmaking ‘habit’.
My films are not always so flippant and unserious as Bad Thoughts – either before or after this small film – but this ‘cure’ of irreverence was desperately needed at the time. Surrounded by friends, it was a joy to make.
However, there are serious aesthetic and ideological concerns raised by this film. In terms of narrative theory, the Blonde does not look or behave like the intellectual she describes herself to be, and there are moments when what we see and what we hear (or have heard, or already seen) are in contradiction. Is it only our prejudice that dictates that characters playing intellectuals must wear reading glasses and not blond dreadlocks? Is she to be forgiven for getting the facts wrong? Is the sequence of events perhaps imprecise in her memory or is this all the expression of a woman’s erotic desire, the imaginations of a woman alone in a cabin in the woods who spins a narrative from the physical details of her life?