By Herbert B. Fishberg
After years of planning and preparation, an award winning Venice, California independent filmmaker has accomplished making and distributing her first feature length film.
Pegarty Long started planning, writing and rewriting her film, The Irish Vampire Goes West in her small Venice apartment on Park Ave. After many promises and disappointments involving cast and crew, locations and editors, she finally went into production in 2004. Pegarty spent the rest of the time editing the film herself and searching out sales agents. She was the writer, producer, director, editor and co-star of the film which, to quote Irish publications, is “the first Irish vampire film”.
House of Film (with its secondary label Maison Noir, Black House Films, which represents genre based, cutting edge films) and its CEO Ava B were instrumental in finding a distributor nine years later. Pegarty’s film, which the distributor changed to An Irish Vampire In Hollywood, was picked up by Reality Entertainment, and is being sold in DVD form through its subsidiary, Worldwide Multi-Media.
This reporter sat down with Pegarty recently in what her twin sister, the late Poet Laureate of Venice, Philomene Long, described in her poem as “Pegarty’s Burgundy Room”, a Bohemian apartment located a half a block from the ocean, in the heart of Venice. With Pegarty dressed in her usual black velvet, we discussed her motivations and experiences in making the film.
What brought you into the film world?
Pegarty: “My parents, the Catholic Church and Mark Twain. The Catholic Church is filled with powerful images and symbolism through its many statues and paintings of saints. It is also filled with ritual. Going to Mass is a lot like going to a film. When I was nine, my Mother handed me Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. That did it for being girls, which didn’t look at all exciting. My sister and I “became” Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, and spent our youth playing imaginary games. The rebel life was for me. And what better way to be a rebel and play imaginary games as an adult than to make films? So as an adult I enrolled in UCLA’s film program and graduated with a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Film. I was also the recipient of the Jim Morrison Award for Best First Film, which was called Irreversible.”
What made this film possible?
Pegarty: “I was the recipient of a Panavision New Filmmakers Award (grant), which allowed me to use one of their Super 16 mm film cameras for free. And through advances in technology, I was able to transfer the Kodak film to digital and edit it on my MacBook Pro Apple computer.“
After an exhaustive search for an editor – she went through three or four – she edited the film herself. It took about three years to shape the film to her satisfaction, with the unmistakable “Pegarty-esque” style, as her admirers called it.
What is the film about?
Pegarty: “It is a tale of mystery, magic, faeries, mad scientists, blood, vampires and love. When Hollywood beauty Manananaan is kidnapped by a creature of the night, her artist twin sister Mara journeys to Ireland to rescue her. Resisting the powerful sensual allure of the demons of darkness, Mara finds the luck of the Irish turning against her. Filled with creatures, faeries and lots of blood, this fight between good and evil has the Emerald Isle as its prize.”
Manananaan is played by Pegarty’s real twin sister, Philomene Long. The Irish Vampire, Vanquo, is played by film and TV star Chris Payne Gilbert. Long cast ten of her Irish relatives to add to the Gaelic flavor. The film also stars Emmy award winning actress, Peggy McCay, from Days of Our Lives, and actor-writer and old time Venice resident Vincent Coppola.
The film was photographed on locations in Los Angeles and Ireland, including ancient Celtic graveyards and Pegarty’s ancestral home of Kilclousha, which has been in the family since the early 1800’s.
What difficulties did you face in making the film?
Pegarty: “Getting the film rolling took an immense effort. Casting and finding locations were like being Sisyphus (the King who was eternally condemned to roll a heavy boulder fruitlessly up a steep hill in Hades). It was like getting behind a freight train and pushing it.
“In Ireland while shooting in an old Celtic graveyard in the middle of the night, and while in the character of Mara, I fell into a sunken grave. Later, my assistant cameraman, who was also a local mortician, told me in his sweet Irish brogue (referring to the hole I was in), ‘Sure, I didn’t want to tell you then, but the rats come out at night and chew on the corpses.’
“On another occasion at the same graveyard, deep in the night, we decided we needed some dirt. Just then two Irish police (Garda) arrived, summoned by neighbors. The neighbors thought we were grave robbers. My assistant cameraman convinced the Garda we were shooting a film and had the papers to prove it. Of course we didn’t really have the papers. ‘Ok, then’, said the Garda, smiling in that special Irish way, and walked down the road saying, ‘Ah, sure, we thought you were digging somebody up.’ They were not even out of sight when a crew member shouted, ‘Ok, guys,… the coast is clear, DIG!’
“Then my twin sister died in 2007, four days after our birthday. It was so emotionally draining while editing the film to watch her daily on the monitor dressed in what she loved to wear the most, her long white gown and her first communion veil. It was like we were still playing together as we did as kids. But, not really. She was gone.”
But Pegarty was able to overcome that difficult time and follow through with the film and its distribution. She is also the publisher of two of her sister’s books, as well as Philomene’s late husband’s, the Venice Beat poet, John Thomas.
Pegarty plans to continue making films and publishing under her production company label, Raven Productions TM, which can be accessed on the internet at: www.raven-productions.com. The trailer for An Irish Vampire in Hollywood can be seen at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LKH9KpnGGPQ