by Kevin Dreyfuss
"Bad Bride" is the latest iteration in a recent wave of features being
shot on digital video. One-woman crew Gale Mayron made this hybrid
documentary-fiction with the help of ex-Hollywood producer Astri
Kingstone and by using the age-old indie method of the credit card
shuffle. Following actress and writer Elizabeth Elkins on a
cross-country comedic journey of discovery, the film is a loose,
spontaneous "organic narrative" -- the sort of movie that digital video
and non-linear editing systems were designed for.
The backbone of the story was provided five years ago, when 29th Street
Rep company actress Elkins was only weeks away from her wedding and
disaster struck. . . in the form of a groom with ice-cold feet who
canceled at the last moment. Elkins was devastated, as you would
expect. But what she did was quite unexpected.
"I just had to get out of New York," Elkins explains, "and I came up
with this idea to wear my wedding dress and go on the road, and talk to
men. To sort of get some perspective on the whole thing. Try and heal
So she found an amateur cameraman through an ad in the paper and
traveled across the country interviewing any man she could find. Trying
to figure out how relationships work, how love works, what makes men
tick, and what made her particular man such a shit. And yes, she did it
all wearing her gown and veil.
Producer Kingstone met Elkins via her cousin, who dated her a year after
the traumatic jilting, and became fascinated with her story. Together,
Kingstone and Elkins went to hyperkinetic director Mayron, an NYU grad
who runs a digital media production shop and has a particular fondness
for the new tools of the digital era.
"You couldn't do this ["Bad Bride"] with film, you couldn't do it. I've
been shooting Hi-8 for years, and I love how digital video takes
documentary filmmaking to the next step. I think it's a new trend, the
documentary-narrative hybrid," explains Mayron. "I love the idea of
life as a movie, as opposed to going to a movie and having someone
else's story put on you. I love when you can find a movie in your real
Kingstone agrees, "We started out with some basic ideas, but spontaneity
was always a really important part of making this. And we all knew
that, which is why we chose to do it on digital video. . . .To rely on
real people's real reactions to this bizarre situation."
Not only did digital equipment make for minimal up-front investments on
"Bad Bride," it cut down the need for crew or elaborate prep work,
making the camera a nicely unobtrusive tool for capturing unexpected,
oddly funny moments as they crisscrossed the country following Elkins,
the Bad Bride, in her satin and lace gown. The Bad Bride hung out with
surfer dudes on the beaches of Florida, went duck hunting in the snowy
woods with a South African polo-playing Aryan hunk, and smoked a joint
in a New Orleans cemetery. The Bad Bride also visited an old voodoo
queen looking for answers, "Though all that gris-gris hasn't helped
me..." notes Elkins, dolefully. And the Bad Bride went on dates. Lots of
them. Mayron insists that after the first shock wears off, "Men love
the dress. They're drawn to it like flies to shit or bees to honey."
The three forces behind the film were drawn together by a similar
guiding principal, that "reality is always better than fiction," as well
as a mutual love for the documentaries of the Maysles Brothers ("Grey
Gardens," "Salesman") and recent classics like "Hoop Dreams" and
"Crumb." In these films, notes Mayron, "The truth comes out. It's a
truth that can't be written. Hollywood can't make this truth."
In fact, Elkins' original conception for the project was to construct an
open-ended, rawly honest documentary exploration of her life a la "28
Up" or websites like JenniCam, where a camera is filming the subject's
life 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Although that idea was
eventually tossed for being too extreme, the impulse appealed to
director Mayron; "This ['Bad Bride'] is so organic, it's very female.
We're nurturing something, as opposed to the male way to tell a story,
which I love. Where by page 8 you have to have this, and you have to
have the Whammy Factor every 15 pages. But I'm just not into that."
It is just this type of storytelling that Kingstone left Hollywood to
escape, dropping a job running the development office for "a famous
actor who shall remain nameless" with a studio deal at Castle Rock. "The
films that LA makes are films it would never occur to me to make. Like
it just would never occur to me to make a film about a President being
on an airplane that's hijacked. And I realized I shouldn't be in this
business, because I'm no good at it. I'm no good at Hollywood. So I
came to New York to do more grass-roots stuff."
As for Elkins, it's been five years since the events that inspired "Bad
Bride" occurred. She, Mayron and Kingstone have been working on the
film for 2 years now, and even after a successful showing at this year's
IFFM, it will be another year of piecemeal shooting and editing before
they have culled their final cut out of nearly 50 hours of raw footage.
"I don't regret having gone through all that pain and heartache," muses
Elkins. "Through the film, I've finally gotten over the experience."
Kingstone chimes in, "Yeah, in Elizabeth's experience, it's, you know,
'I loved someone once. It didn't work out. But because it didn't work
out, I have this film.'. . . Art comes from life. Art is the final