Exclusive Set Report and Image Gallery from Buddy Giovinazzo's Ginger
The first thought that came to mind upon arriving to director Buddy Giovinazzo’s then-shooting supernatural horror flick Ginger on Sunday, December 18 of 2011 was, “This looks like some place Charles Manson would have frequented back in the Sixties.” As I was to find, I was correct in that assumption, and as it turned out, Giovinazzo himself, too, was working hard to add yet another creepy chapter to the location’s storied past alongside Ginger stars Marc Senter and Elissa Dowling.
Arriving to set, the sprawling property along Big Tujunga Road for the most part was scattered haphazardly with ramshackle buildings roofed in sheet-metal, a rather stagnant pool, and abandoned machinery and horse stables, although as the wind whispered through the mature eucalyptus trees, so did an almost tangible feeling of rock 'n roll history. Those who’ve ever spent any time in the homes which dot Laurel Canyon know the feeling, and the same outlaw creative vibe of the 60’s and 70’s which manifests in that hilly Hollywood enclave seemed to linger also at the Tjunga location selected for Ginger.
With the production shooting day ten of twelve, I took a stroll with Ginger co-star Marc Senter, who led me into the main house in which they were filming, it’s eclectic interior adorned with myriad taxidermies, funky furniture, and rock 'n roll artifacts (little of it courtesy of the production’s art department, as the décor was for the most part entirely organic).
“The owner of the property told us that Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young recorded one of their albums here,” said Senter, whose dramatically intense turns in the films Red, White & Blue and The Lost have been critically impacting and who in Ginger plays a music blogger named ‘Mark Lighthouse’ who heads into the mountains to interview an up-and-coming singer (Dowling).
“They apparently used to jam out in the dirt yard here and just hang out all night long,” he continued, “and I guess Stevie Nicks also used to jam here. The owners also have this amazing recording studio in the back of property. You walk in, and it’s like leopard print walls and fucking guitars and a sound booth, and that’s kind of the cool thing about the place in that it does have a music history.”
It also apparently has a history of mass murder (or at least the presence of those who’d commit it), as co-producer Nancy Leopardi chimed in that the Manson Family, too, had spent time within the structure’s walls during its 1960’s heyday as a hippie retreat. This plays to the narrative of Ginger for, as scripted, the previous owners of the house Senter’s character visits were mass murderers, and the abode is now in narrative subsequently haunted by their malevolent spirits.
Other interesting tidbits of information thrown my way as Senter and I posed for a rather Rockwellian photo with a stuffed mount included the following: The property owner has a penchant for patrolling the grounds at night with a loaded 12-gauge while wearing NVGs, which meant the crew had little worry of having their equipment stolen. The property owner also favors classical music at high volume in his recording studio while reclining naked on a velvet couch in a cowboy hat while covered by a pack of hound dogs. Bathing in the swampy waters of the neglected pool is also a potential past-time, as the crew had witnessed the evening previous when the owner, late for a show at The Key Club in West Hollywood and experiencing plumbing issues, jumped into the brackish soup for a quick bath before speeding off in his Porsche.
Unfortunately, during our visit such interesting behavior wasn’t on display, nor was there much scripted Ginger carnage as Giovinazzo was busy shooting vehicle interiors with his principal cast. This did allow Senter and me some time to chat about what drew him to the project however.
“Buddy’s early film No Way Home, which I think came out in 1996 and stars Tim Roth, was fucking amazing,” mused Senter, who won ‘Best Actor’ at Screamfest 2006 for his role of ‘Ray Pye’ in Chris Sivertson’s gritty thriller The Lost. “It reminded me of films like The Indian Runner or The Crossing Guard, just straight drama with really clean, simple camera and not a lot of intrusive stuff, and I watched Buddy’s feature Life is Hot in Cracktown and saw some pieces of that that I really liked, too, so when I heard about this project, I was interested to read it.”
Querying Senter on his thoughts regarding his second foray into a genre that is universally considered as ‘horror’ (following Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever), he replied, “You’re right. Red, White & Blue wasn’t straight horror, it was more psychological, and I think The Lost was like that, too. So with Ginger, Mitch Davis from Fantasia had emailed me and told me I should check this dude Buddy out and the script he and Greg Chandler had penned. I have tons of love for Mitch, and Deborah Kara Unger, who had worked with Buddy on No Way Home, also said he was amazing so when I originally read Ginger, I thought there was something about it. It’s much more like Rosemary’s Baby versus like arms and heads flying off and shit like that so I was more intrigued by the story and the characters and the trip that they go on. And then after seeing his work and his segment of The Theatre Bizarre, it was obvious to me that Buddy was excellent at directing drama. He has almost a European sensibility. His films are clean and told well and are captivating.”
As for his character, “He’s a rock blogger whose dad was like this hardcore badass heavyweight music dude so he’s rebelling against his dad by being into more underground bands like The Brian Jonestown Massacre and acts like that,” expounded the actor, whose as-of-yet unreleased turn in his produced fight-film Brawler is generating a lot of buzz. “So basically he’s a journalist and kind of a shy dude who just wants to do his work and to do it well, and then he finds this girl Ginger (played by Dowling) and falls in love with her music and takes a risk to see if he can get a meeting with her.”
“When he sits down to interview her, he more or less starts falling for this chick,” Senter continued, “but tries to be an utmost gentleman because he is one and he’s also shy and nerdy and he just wants to make a good impression and to get a good interview. With that being said, he’s also terrified of animals, which I think is totally hilarious. He’s a total pussy next to this chick. She’s ballsy, sexy, and tough; and he’s like kind of a little wimp, which is why I think he’s totally awesome.”