Forgive us for the bad pun, but filmmaker John Carchietta has stirred up one heck of a potent mix in his SXSW premiere “Teenage Cocktail.” A heady blend of teenage romance, high school drama, Internet insanity and hardcore violence, “Teenage Cocktail” continually surprises its audience with big twists and turns, most of which playfully toy with the idea that a film needs to strictly adhere to one or two (or three) set genres. The film is, however, rooted in the surprisingly sweet love story that plays out between Annie (Nichole Bloom) and Jules (Fabianne Therese), two very different high schoolers who unexpectedly fall in love when Annie moves to town.
But while “Teenage Cocktail” starts out as a sweet spin on the ol’ high school sweethearts trope, it soon pushes into some very wild territory. High on their newfound love, Annie and Jules hatch a plan to get the hell out of their oppressive small town, all aided by the ill-gotten funds of Jules’ steamy webcam business. When the girls’ side gig is discovered by their classmates and a genuinely creepy fan (played by Pat Healy, who adds an emotional twist to what could be a one-note role), things crazily spiral out of control. No, seriously crazy. We did mention “hardcore violence” up top, after all. “Teenage Cocktail” will premiere at SXSW on Saturday, March 12 at the Alamo Lamar at 2:15pm as part of their forward-thinking “Visions” section. Other screenings will follow throughout the week.
Below, Carchietta explains his filmmaking process, how he mixed genres and why casting the film was so damn hard, all in his own words.
This script has been around for a long time. [The original] was way too just kind of exploitative and way too bonkers. They were turning into strippers and there were houses being set on fire, just pure madness.
At the time [I was re-writing the script], there was just a lot of weird webcam-ing stuff happening, so I kind of went in that direction. It snowballed and evolved from there. My big thing was, I didn’t want to make a high school movie from my high school experience. I realized early on that was the wrong way to do it, it needed to be about today’s kids, so I tried to jump on that wagon as much as I could.
For better or for worse, I just went on the Internet [for research]. That’s exactly what it was. That’s how I found Petra Collins, which was a huge influence, just visually, on me and my DP. That’s just exactly what the movie is, click, click, clicking from one link to one link to one link. It was totally just the Internet. The Internet gave me plenty.
There’s stuff on the web that I put, literally verbatim, into the movie. There’s a scene where Jules is first explaining [the webcam business] to Annie, and she says, “One time, I took a nap and made a hundred twenty bucks.” There was that one point where I was going on all these webcam sites, a lot of them you can just cruise, they’re free, and I went on one, and there’s literally a girl, just taking a nap. Dudes were just throwing money at her left and right. It was just non-stop. There were times were there were just girls flipping through magazines. Fully clothed! Not even naked. I don’t even think they realize what is happening.
I wanted to play with the idea of the mixing of genres. I feel like now, there’s a point where there’s no reason why you can’t do that. That was a huge guess for me. I wanted to see if I could achieve that.
It’s also ties into the story and the reality of the girls’ bubble. They’re living in this bubble and reality just crashes right into them. That was a huge experiment on my end. There’s no reason why you always have to just slowly build up to it, and spoon-feed the audience like, “Bad stuff is gonna happen!” I just wanted to really, for lack of a better word, hit the audience with a hammer.
It was a long process, finding the right girls. We saw literally just hundred of girls. It wasn’t going well. We got Annie first, and that was just a huge relief. It was tough finding a Jules, but Jules had to play almost both characters in a way. It just came down to convincing them. With Nichole, who plays Annie, it was hard meeting up with each other, our schedules just weren’t connecting, and it was almost starting to fade away. We were looking at other people. I called up our casting director, and said, “Just get us on the phone with each other.” I wasn’t really expecting much out of the phone call, because it’s just a phone call, and I don’t really like doing things that way. We ended up staying on the phone for like two, three hours.
The next day, we met, and she just clicked into it. She knew exactly what it was. And what she needed to do. Right then and there, I was like, “Boom, I got my Annie.”
I wanted to send the script to Fabianne real early, and I think she just got lost in the mix. We saw so many people. I remember calling up my producer and saying, “Hey, I don’t recall it we ever got an answer from Fabianne, can we double check on that?” and he found out that she had never gotten the script. We sent it to her, and she ended up living around the corner for me and we met up. It was like the same meeting I had with Nichole, she knew exactly what it was. We were into the same vibes.
Once I put those two together, it was just ridiculous. I just sat back, watched them just pal around. It was a pretty instant click. I knew right away I had picked the right girls.
READ MORE: SXSW 2016: 8 Exciting Films From This Year’s Festival
Check out an exclusive new poster for “Teenage Cocktail” below.