Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Veruca Voorhees: Drag With a Twist and "Slay Belles"

Residing in Milwaukee, WI...Veruca Voorhees is determined to make a name for herself. She's a drag queen, but also wants to be recognized for her efforts of filming, editing, and directing short films. The films she usually ends up making are campy films with a twist and she casts a handful of local talent that never fail to give it their all. Aside from films, Veruca attends many local drag events and is well known for her one of a kind, unique aesthetic. 

1. How would you describe Veruca Voorhees as a character?

Veruca is a quick witted connoisseur of pop culture and all things scary. Big hair, huge lips, and a colossal attitude. Veruca's very open about her non conforming views on drag. She's a firm believer that there's no right way to do it. Art is subjective and anyone who tells you different needs a history lesson.

2. When and why did you begin doing drag? 

My first time in drag was for a witch's bar crawl in  October 2010. My boyfriend and I were invited by a few women from the local bro bar we worked at in Okauchee, WI. They all looked liked your typical witches with either harsh green makeup or none at all (a feather witch? WTF?) and here we come decked out looking like neon glam rock nightmares (skin tight clothes, scooped out drag faces, and huge peasant slaying sickle eyebrows). It was a riot! None of these women had any clue what we were doing, but they knew we looked better than them. I kind of felt bad. 

I officially started going out as Veruca in 2013 during the fifth season of RPDR. Like most baby queens, my drag started off the rack and having no clue who I was as a character. Veruca eventually became a high camp, Ronald McDonald on crack, cross between Jackie Beat and Divine. I didn't give a fuck if anyone else understood what I was doing as long as they knew who I was.  By 2014, you knew my name in the Milwaukee drag scene even if we had never met in person. 

I met the amazing Lyn Kream in 2015 and that lead to a full evolution for Veruca Voorhees. Although I was always a camp queen with a sinister flare, we took it to the next level with the first dress she made me. It was this beautiful mermaid gown inspired by Beetlejuice. My ability to prod the boundaries of drag, which I believe there are no rules, was pushed even farther. It was because of Lyn and her constant love and support that I was able to look past any insecurities I may have had in the past. She made me feel like a fucking superstar.

3. When did you decide to take your love for entertainment and focus it on making films? How did you get started?

I've been making short films since I was twelve. I've always wanted to direct horror movies since I was very little. In high school I directed three short films (Bullets & Mascara, Blood on the Glass Slipper, and The Old Country Inn) that managed to be pretty decent and way higher quality than anything I had done before. This was probably due to the fact that my partner in crime and co-director, Heather Dixon, was a woman and had the patience to help me learn from her and vice versa. We had the best time making these films because it was a deep rooted passion for us. Our goal was to make them look as "real" as possible and avoid them looking like something that was homemade. **All three of these shorts are available on my Vimeo page.**

Before 2013, I hadn't made a short film in five years. It was when I met Jaymes Mansfield and we shared the same interests in film that the wheels started turning again. "Sister, Sweet Sister" was such a fun experience and only took us a day to shoot and less than a week to edit. It was originally supposed to be a faux trailer for Jaymes' youtube page, but it evolved into something way bigger than that. Back then we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. I'm pretty lucky to have found someone who is as dedicated to these projects as I am. 

4. Which filmmakers would you say are your biggest inspirations and why? 

The entire horror genre as a whole has inspired me since I was probably five or six. Before I made short films I was writing short stories, with illustrations, for my parents and family members. My grandma still has sketchpads with tons of doodles and sketches of various monsters, dead bodies, and madmen from when I was growing up. I knew right from wrong and definitely understood that these films were make believe. 

I have a huge love for euro horror and Italian director Dario Argento is my biggest inspiration. I've been following his work since I was thirteen. Suspiria definitely changed my entire view on what is acceptable in horror films. It taught me that horror films don't only have to be scary. They can be beautiful as well. Argento was always criticized for not following the rules of film making with his nonlinear, nightmarish imagery. It literally mirrors, for me anyway, what it's like to be a post RPDR drag queen. There are no rules to the game, but there will always be people who judge your craft because they saw a handful of episodes of a TV show.

My other major inspiration is the King of Filth John Waters. I'm truly obsessed with his raw film making and give no fucks attitude. The fact that films he made in the early '70s still have the same impact, on initial viewing, today that they did back then is astounding. Even during the most vile, tasteless of scenes you are still engaged in this world he created. He also made Divine a household name and that itself is a milestone. 

5. What is your favorite part about making short films? Out of the films you have already made, what is your favorite memory that you have during filming? 

I absolutely love the editing process. I love seeing all of these random puzzle pieces fitted together, but in the way I want them to be. I may have to hear Dora Diamond sing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" for three hours straight, but I'll be damned if that sync didn't look perfect.

My favorite memories come from when I would notice little things that the cast did on camera that added so much to the film while editing. There's a scene where Dear Ruthie is belittling a set of characters and I didn't notice until editing it that Toyota is casually counting the diamond rings on Ruthie's fingers. It's those little things that add so much more to the film and make it more or less come alive. 

6. For your movie, "Slay Belles", what would you say has been your favorite part on set? 

I have so many favorite behind the scenes moments. I think with "Slay Belles" I loved seeing all of these people come together to get the project made. Toyota Corona came all the way from Chicago just to be in this film for a day. "Slay Belles" has the biggest cast I've worked with yet and everyone worked so well together. Everyone stayed in good spirits even though we were all exhausted at the end of it. 

7. Where did the inspiration come from for the movie "Slay Belles"? 

Slay Belles is based off of every '80s slasher film you could find at your local mom & pop video store back in the day. I was one of those kids who would spend every Friday night looking at VHS covers in horror section. It was literally my favorite part of the week. 

Jaymes and I wanted to make something that was reminiscent of the movies we watched when we were young that also incorporated hints of who we are today. The dark humor is placed evenly throughout the film, but we wanted the death scenes to be played absolutely straight. Our goal was to have a viewer be laughing one moment and then have them covering their eyes in disgust or disbelief the next. We had so much fun working on the outline together because we both had so many ideas that meshed together so well. 

8. What things can you tell us about "Slay Belles" without giving too much information away? 

To quote Peaches Christ:

"Slay Belles is fucked up and wrong! It embodies a twisted, dark humor that certain disgusting, depraved drag queens are so good at celebrating. These bitches are twisted and it's why some of you mentally ill people out there will REALLY enjoy it. I loved it."

9. What would you say is the biggest obstacle you've had to face so far? 

When I first started, my biggest obstacle was getting gigs and getting my name out there. Nowadays, it's making sure I stay humble and appreciate every opportunity that has been given to me. Whether its making movies or performing at a local club, I want to make myself as accessible as possible. I'm one of the most down to earth people ever and I love any one who has ever shown me their support. I couldn't do all of this without the amazing group of people that have my back. 

10. Do you have any advice for other filmmakers that are just getting started? 

If it's not fun, you are doing it wrong. That's my final word on both film making and drag.

Slay Belles will be premiering May 7th at Club Anything in Milwaukee. 
Doors open at 8. Show at 9. $5 cover for pre-show/after party.

Poster art by Matthew Scheer

Slay Belles trailer:

Slay Belles is a Christmas themed short film that is written by James Wirth and directed, filmed, and edited by Joseph Trione (aka Veruca Voorhees). It is set at a Christmas party hosted by Janelle Perkins (played by Jaymes Mansfield), who is the leader of an organization that often holds fundraisers. Janelle decided to hold an annual Christmas luncheon with the other lovely ladies (and family members) in the organization which include Sammy Jo Thot (Veruca Voorhees), Peg Dingleberry (Dora Diamond), Shelley Pickles (Dixie Kuppe), Karen White (Marianna Trench), Ellen Reddy (Toyota Corona), Penny Dingleberry (Sylvia Nyxx), Marc Dingleberry (Colin Acumen), Tabitha Holywater (Vynell Grits), Dear Ruthie (as herself), and Irma Hallmark (Ester Marie Flonaze).

As the day ensues, an announcement is made that a serial killer is on the loose named "The Christmas Ripper", and the party is doomed to a twisted downward spiral of events that lead to a massive surprise discovery at the end of the film. Slay Belles is a charming, enchanting, and twisted Christmas film with just the right mixture of mystery, comedy, and horror to satisfy any horror movie fan's desires. 

Will they catch the mysterious Christmas Ripper before it is too late? Catch the movie May 7th to find out! 

Follow Veruca: 
Instagram: @verucavoorhees
Facebook: Veruca Voorhees

Photo Credits:

The Drag Enthusiast:
Twitter: @DragEnthusiast
Instagram: @dragenthusiast

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