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Local Film Tweets

Team Queen Makes her Arrival

Director Leah Meyerhoff talks about her experiences as a female filmmaker, the upsides of film school, and details on her latest work, music video Team Queen for the band Triple Crème.

By Elaine Mak

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A still from Team Queen.

Award-winning director and New York University graduate student Leah Meyerhoff has built up a large list of accomplishments as a filmmaker, including a number or awards, and appearances at such festivals as the Cannes International Film Festival in France, Slamdance, and the Chicago International Film Festival. Her film Twitch was a finalist at the 32nd Annual Student Academy Awards, and won 1st place at four film festivals, including the Scottsdale International Film Festival.

Meyerhoff is now looking forward to the premiere of her latest work, music video Team Queen for the band Triple Crème, starring Molly Griffith as the Prom Queen. Team Queen, shot on 35mm film with a $3,000 budget, and a cast of burlesque performers, drag queens, and fire-swallowers, will premiere on May 10th at the Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn NY.

NewEnglandFilm.com recently spoke to Meyerhoff about her experiences in film school, filmmaking, and the making of her new music video Team Queen.

Elaine Mak: How did you get involved with the Team Queen music video?

Leah Meyerhoff: I met the band, Triple Crème after one of their shows at CBGB's. I approached them and said I really liked their music and was interested in directing a music video for them. A few months later, we went into pre-production.

EM: I noticed that you have used several different formats for your previous films. Why did you decide to shoot Team Queen on 35mm?

Meyerhoff: I was in an Advanced Cinematography class at NYU at the time and so I had access to a 35mm camera and also received one free roll of 35mm film. We shot the entire music video on that one roll of film. The song was almost four minutes long and the roll of film gave us 10 minutes of shooting time. Basically this meant that we were a One Take Wonder!

EM: Tell me a little bit about the production process of Team Queen. How did you choose your cast and crew? What was the chemistry like between people on your set?

Meyerhoff: I strongly believe that casting is over 75% of the work of directing.

If you cast well, then most of your job is already done for you. I spent over a month on the casting process and auditioned over a hundred actors. I have worked with the lead actress, Molly Griffith before and knew that she would be perfect for the role. As for the burlesque performers, I had seen Murray Hill perform before and was able to contact him through the band. Julie Atlas Muz and Tigger were friends with Molly so I contacted them through her. I found Scotty the Blue Bunny and Scarlet Sinclair at a burlesque night at the Slipper Room. One of the drag queen cheerleaders was a dancer on the giant piano at FAO Schwartz and another performed at a drag restaurant in the West Village. Many of the other actors came from an advertisement I placed in Backstage. Basically it was a combination of traditional auditions and going to a lot of drag queen and burlesque shows.

Most of the crew were friends of mine from NYU or from previous shoots I had worked on. A lot of friends of the band also stopped by to help out. Everyone got along really well on set and it was probably the most fun shoot I have ever worked on. It was a winning combination of a fun, good-natured cast and an incredibly talented, professional crew. And having a bunch of burlesque performers running around certainly didn't hurt!

EM: I see that you have a number or awards and recognitions under your belt. What methods do you use to promote your films?

Meyerhoff: I have an entire DIY grass-roots promotional enterprise. I have several assistants who help me submit to film festivals as well as send out press releases. I have a website and a myspace account for each film. Several friends have helped design postcards and posters. We have home-made buttons and stickers. We silkscreen our own t-shirts, and of course we employ the incredible power of word-of-mouth.

EM: You are currently in film school at NYU. Tell me a little about your experience. How do you think film school has shaped your style and skill set?

Meyerhoff: Being in film school allowed me the luxury of being able to work on my films full-time. It is an incredible resource, both in terms of access to equipment and being surrounded by talented, creative individuals working towards a similar goal. Technically, I have increased my skill set tenfold. Conceptually, I make more narrative work than I did before and have honed my personal style.

EM: I also see that you're a teacher. How do you feel about people who believe only in real world film schooling?

Meyerhoff: Although attending NYU was definitely the right choice for me, by no means do I think you need to go to film school in order to make a film. You can learn just as much, if not more, by actually going out there and doing it. Personally, I think a combination of academic knowledge and real-world experience is the best solution.

EM: The Washington Square News mentions that you were featured on IFC's TV series Film School. How did you get involved with that? Tell me a little about your experience with that.

Meyerhoff: The producers of the show approached me and asked to document the process of making one of my short films. At the time, it seemed like a fun and easy way to finance my film so I agreed. As the show went on, I realized it was more of a reality show than a documentary, and the experience was trying, to say the least. Now that it is all over, I find it to be pretty amusing. It is strange when fans approach me on the street or online, but it is always flattering and I have met some amazing people that way.

EM: Do you think that it is harder for a female than a male in the film industry to be taken seriously? If so, in what ways? And how do you overcome that?

Meyerhoff: The film world is definitely a male-dominated industry. I think it's less that female directors aren't taken seriously and more that producers and film studios tend to work with who they know and have prior relationships with -- and those directors are primarily male. However, the world is changing. Even though a female director has yet to win an Oscar, in the indie world a lot more women are getting out there and making films. I like to consider myself a part of that movement. And along the way, as I become more successful, I hope to help out other female filmmakers as well.

EM: I read in your bio that you are currently working on a feature film. Tell me a little bit about this project. What stage is the film in now? Do you have anyone notable currently involved? What will the budget be?

Meyerhoff: It is a dark comedy, along the lines of Me and You and Everyone You

Know or Wild Tigers I Have Known. I am currently dividing my time between working on the script and fundraising. The budget will be under a million dollars.

EM: When and why did you first get interested in filmmaking?

Meyerhoff: When I was an undergraduate at Brown University, I was doing a lot of experimental video work and performance art. I was also studying postmodern film theory. Upon graduating, I realized that filmmaking was the ideal medium to express my creative interests while still reaching a large audience. Filmmaking has the potential to change the world.

EM: How did you come up with the concepts and storyline in Team Queen? There seem to be alot of gender-bending and stereotype-breaking concepts in this. Did you collaborate with the band, or anyone else in scripting this?

Meyerhoff: I collaborated with the band early on in the process. Particularly I talked to Christina, who wrote the lyrics, about where she was coming from and what they meant to her. We knew we wanted to explore what it is like to grow up feeling like you don't fit in. The high school prom seemed like a perfect setting to explore what high school would have been like if it was run by the misfits and the outcasts. From there, it was only a small step to drag queens, fire breathing, and a man in a bunny suit!

EM: Tell me a little about what you have planned for the Team Queen release party at the Galapagos.

Meyerhoff: The Team Queen release party will be a gender-bending, fire-breathing, tassel-twirling, post-punk rock 'n roll prom! Murray Hill, "the hardest working middle-aged man in show biz," is hosting. Triple Crème will play a short set. We will screen the music video. And there will be over a dozen burlesque performances. Julie Atlas Muz and Tigger will perform a duet, Miss Ruby Valentine will do a classic fan dance, and Creamy Stevens will dance inside a giant balloon (picture the Good Witch from the wizard of Oz burlesque style). Kit Kitastrophe will sing a Spinal Tap song in drag with a cucumber wrapped in tin foil. Cherry Bomb's act incorporates handcuffs, electrical tape and the Sopranos. Molly the Dolly, Little Brooklyn, Scarlet Sinclair, and Gigi La Femme will each do a number on the main stage. Stuart Palm will dazzle the crowd with magic tricks while the Gotham Girls roller derby team skate in circles around them. Lady Satan and Tommy Pistol will go-go dance while ShowroomXS conducts a "fashion deconstruction." The entire Barbarians burlesque troupe will wander the crowd as the Drag Queen Cheerleaders lead a Team Queen cheer. Basically, it will be complete and utter mayhem. Get your prom dresses ready!

Team Queen will premiere at the Team Queen Release party, hosted by Murray Hill on May 10 at the Galapagos Art Space at 70 N 6th Street in Williamsburg Brooklyn. Doors are at 6PM, and the party will run from 7-10PM. The event will be open to the public, and tickets will be $10, and are available at the door, or at www.galapagosartspace.com. For more information on Team Queen, or Leah Meyerhoff, visit her websites www.teamqueen.com, or www.LeahMeyerhoff.com.