The results are in, and The Theta Girl has hit every mark with flying colors! Bradley Gibson of Film Threat Magazine is calling it “… a philosophical film with talented actors, a solid script, good cinematography and sound” after its “Friday the 13th” premier in October at Atlanta’s Y’allywood film festival. Rodney Welch of Free Times magazine says it’s “… one gory, grungy, sleazy, druggy, porny, funny, nutty and oddly engaging movie.” With the reviews pouring in like wildfire, this film has successfully breathed new life into independent film.
How do you make a feature film while maintaining quality and integrity, all while on a shoestring budget? Better yet, how can it be possible under $14,000? Well, put first-time Director Christopher Bickel and Writer David Axe together and you got yourself a recipe for opulence. You can’t put a price tag on personifying a dream. And for this, it is imperative to have a better understanding of the reality in the business aspect of this industry. There are many independent filmmakers that dream of producing a feature-length film but either never do or they compromise quality because of budget. There are so many elements to the equation that have to be considered, payroll, locations, permits, administrative expenses, equipment, hard/software, post-production, marketing/promoting, festival/premiere expenses and much more. I’m not even going to go into cast and crew accommodations. I mean, have you ever tried to work an actor without feeding or pampering them to a certain extent? Good luck getting a stellar performance out of that one. So, with this said, believe us when we tell you that what was accomplished with The Theta Girl is nothing short of amazing.
Looking at the technical aspects of the film, The Theta Girl beautifully establishes the six key components of a good film, storytelling, character, acting, cinematography, sound, and scoring.
Writing a script is not the same as writing a book. Although they both have specified concepts of plot, conflict, dialog, and subtext/underlying messaging, the difference is the ability to effectively tell a story in a limited amount of time to a much broader audience cinematically. The Theta Girl is centered around a couple of days in adventure paradise as a drug dealer, Gayce (Victoria Elizabeth Donofrio), peregrinates all over town with her colleague Derek (Darelle D. Dove) trying to avenge the death of her close friend and stop the ongoing brutal murders by Brother Marcus (Shane Silman) and his religious band of brothers who’ve deemed themselves “Christ’s executioners” after accidentally ingesting Theta from a drink given to them. “Sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll” is an understatement when describing how raw this story is told. With a revamped punk image, realistic nudity tastefully placed in a drug-inhibited social environment, a battle-of-the-bands atmosphere, and plenty of blood and gore, this film is intrinsic to a mature audience. Even though the film is not yet rated, no one under the age of 17 is permitted. Humorously, yet also proud, it has become a benchmark for at least one or more people to walk out of the theater while watching the film. Bickel states, “If at least one person walks out, then we know we’ve at least affected someone with the film.”
The characters are strategically placed without error. There aren’t any excess of main characters, there’s a clear antagonist, and there’s a great balance of action and engagement. “We wanted to stick to a standard of something happening at least every five minutes so we wouldn’t lose the audience,” Bickel states. Each character had a specific personality and look that remained consistent and kept it quite natural.
Independent films are notorious for mediocre to subpar acting. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that the majority of independent films employ whomever they can get to do the work, which usually is someone fairly new to the industry or someone that has not yet crossed over into the professional realm of acting. There are those rare exceptions, however, where you have a great director who is coupled with undiscovered magnificent talent. The Theta Girl is definitely one of these rare occasions. The acting matches the characters flawlessly, and the audience will not be disappointed with how well the dialog is delivered and not recited. The relationships of the characters denote chemistry interchangeably throughout the film, and the story gracefully flows as a result.
The cinematography is second to none. This film also shows how you don’t need a $40,000 camera to make cinematic gold. Equipped with a Canon EOS 80D, a DJI Osmo, and a GoPro, Bickel combined his resources and edited a film that coincides with the feel of this perfect picture. The lighting is consistent with the scenes, and continuity is maintained throughout. Knowing the equipment used to make this film only makes it that much better in the reality of it all.
Sound and scoring can literally make or break a film. It can have the best of everything, but if it has horrible sound or if the scoring conflicts with what’s taking place, then kiss circumspection goodbye. The audience will be completely drawn away and will be immediately encouraged to ask, “Why?” Luckily enough, this would have never been a problem with The Theta Girl given Bickel’s background in music and punk. The music adds to the texture of the film and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats as the story unfolds.
Overall, The Theta Girl is a must-see that is well deserving of its place in cinematic history, especially for South Carolina. It is edgy, heroic, and all things punk. Recently the overall Jury Award winner of South Carolina Underground Film Festival, we can look forward to seeing great accomplishments of Christopher Bickel and The Theta Girl. Our hats are off to this successful film, and I give it a solid 10 out of 10.