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Houston Filmmakers and Actors: First-time director Bunny Watts

Friday, October 08, 2004

First-time director Bunny Watts

Character Study
First-time director Bunny Watts lenses a Queer New Wave drama about six women and their intersecting stories

Bunny Watts isn't on a mission to change the world. With her new project, however, she is on a mission to empower people to find their own voices.

“I hope this encourages people to tell their own stories,” Watts, a Houston writer and filmmaker, says. “I hope that people will see this as an opportunity.”

With the development of her first film, Late Coffee and Oranges, Watts is finally finding a way to explore issues close to home.

Watts wrapped filming last month and is now involved in post-production. She describes her film as “six women intersecting, colliding, disconnecting, and reattaching over 36 hours in a bittersweet Queer New Wave drama. There are six different women. Some of them are connected. Some are not. It's a character-driven piece. I hope that it ends up being a character study. Each character has her own character arc and set of stories. There's a lot of triangulation. There are six main stories, but maybe nine stories. I hope what it ends up being is a mosaic of what these people are experiencing.”

A longtime student of writing and film, Watts seeks to explore an area of film that she says hasn't traditionally been explored. “There don't seem to be a lot of ensemble pieces that focus on women or lesbians, so I was interested in filling a void. Someone said, 'It's like lesbian Swingers,' which I guess it kinda is, but it's kinda not.”

Watts takes the film's evocative title from a line in a favorite Wallace Stevens poem. It was writing that propelled her into filmmaking.

“I met my girlfriend here [in Houston] and settled down and started to figure out what I was going to do,” Watts says. “I was trying to write a novel but I realized I love movies. As much as I love to read, film is my favorite. It encompasses choreography, cinematography, photography, acting, writing-all the elements in one medium. With all the new technology around, it was so much easier to start thinking about being able to do all that, where even five or 10 years ago you would have waited for years and years and years to get the money to even start.”

Watts found much inspiration for the film and the entire writing process by being a student of both film and culture. “I see the value in most films,” she says, “ even stuff that people say is 'so formulaic.'”

Watts's own tastes in film reflect her interest in humanity and connection

“Renoir's Rules of the Game is a great movie. His technique and love of subject ... his technique with camera set the bar for cinema up to that point. Also, anything by P.T. Anderson. He's brilliant. Somehow he's managed to use every style that's ever come into cinema and reinterpret it, and it's totally fresh. You can see other directors in his work, but it's still his own.”

But Watts also acknowledges what she calls “the part of me that is still trapped in adolescence.” She explains: “I'm a huge movie fan. I'm a huge pop culture fan. John Waters, Andy Warhol, P.T. Anderson, Hal Ashby-their styles are all so different, but they are all very compassionate filmmakers. As outrageous as John Waters can be, and Warhol, and how different they are from Anderson, they all seem to love their subjects.”

Aside from her deep appreciation of writing and film, one of the driving forces behind Watts's production is a sense of home. A self-confessed “Texafornian,” she spent her formative years split between Houston and California, studying at film school in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and delving into creative writing at San Francisco State University along the way. In the process, she found jobs in the film industry as a grip intern and a gaffer both in Los Angeles and in Houston. After a final return to Houston for personal reasons, Watts poured her energies into making the project work

“As far as I know, this may be the first lesbian film ever shot in Houston,” she says. “I know a lesbian filmmaker from Houston who made a film but didn't shoot it in Houston.”

Now that Watts is in the cutting and editing process, the next step is distribution. “We're going to try to do the film festivals,” she says. “With the new gay and lesbian cable network LOGO opening up, it feels like things are starting to happen with gay and lesbian filmmaking. We'll do whatever we can do.”

Watts pauses for a moment and chuckles. “You never know, I might sell it out of my car trunk like Master P or Eminem.”

Whatever the method of getting her works out for the public to see, Watts's hope is for a greater good.

“Things are exciting right now,” she says. “Coupling new technology with people whose voices aren't being heard-because of a lack of money or whatever-changes the whole ballgame. I hope people will see this as an opportunity. I hope that this encourages people to tell their own stories.”

Brian Martinez, a former Houston Chronicle copy editor, teaches at an area high school. This is his first contribution to OutSmart.


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