Kelly's "Boogie" Takes Her From P.A. to Director
by Tom Cunha
"Full Tilt Boogie" is a documentary by Sarah Kelly which follows the
eclectic cast and crew, both on set and off, during the filming of
Robert Rodriguez's 1996 vampire flick, "From Dusk Till Dawn". From the
threat of a union strike, to one-on-one interviews with cast and crew,
to voting for the best butt on the set, the film chronicles the
escapades of all involved, from stars George Clooney and Quentin
Tarantino to the grips and lowly coffee-fetching assistants. "I was a
production assistant for a few years and I really loved it," recalls
director Kelly. " Getting to know the grips and the craft service people
and other assistants made me feel very bonded to them. So I wanted to
highlight them as well as George Clooney and the movie stars. Usually on
Entertainment Tonight you never see what the grips are doing."
Kelly was approached by Tarantino about directing the project after
having worked as a production assistant on "Pulp Fiction." She kept
journals of the entire experience. "He came to me a week and a half
before they were shooting. His first reason for wanting to document it
was because of the union strike that he predicted would go down. That
was going to be the main focus. When it didn't really turn into the
cinematic experience we thought it'd be, I just said, 'Hey, what about
making a journey of this crew like I did with my journals on 'Pulp Fiction.'
We talked about it and he had faith that I would be able to
capture the interesting things behind [the scenes]. I think probably
because I'd worked with him before."
One amusing situation documented was a frank discussion among crew
members about who's slept with who. (Lamentably, this discussion did not
involve stars Clooney, Tarantino, Lewis or director Robert Rodriguez.)
"I wish they had talked more," admits Kelly. "They touched on it, but I
wanted real dirt. If you're with each other for so long, it becomes this
really weird dysfunctional family. You get crushes on the weirdest
people." Despite the intense ten-week schedule in sometimes sweltering
heat, the cast and crew remained amiable during the shoot. "This is a
pretty extraordinary group of people. It was a fun set and we were kind
of hoping sometimes that someone would be really mean, but nobody was."
In addition to "Pulp Fiction," Kelly also worked as a p.a. on
"Killing Zoe" and "Sleep With Me." Having worked on these projects with
Tarantino not only led to her "Full Tilt" gig, it also served as a
valuable learning base for the fundamentals of filmmaking. "When I was a
p.a. and I was in the trenches, that was like film school for me.
Quentin was the coolest professor you could ever have. With his crew
members, he's extremely inspiring. He just generates this excitement on
the set. He has the ability to make you believe in him and in yourself.
I think that's a great talent that he has, and I think that's why he
gets such great performances out of his actors. He picks up on certain
qualities. He's a pretty inspiring guy."
Having majored in political science at UC Santa Cruz, Kelly believed
she'd just go on to law school. Enrolling in a film class towards the
end of her college career derailed those plans. "I realized at that
moment that this is what I was gonna do." When producer Moctesuma
Esparza came to Santa Cruz to speak at the film school, Kelly wasted
no time in approaching him. "I knew then that I had to work in film. I
only had a month till graduation and so I just kind of stormbusted him
and asked for a job. I got a job on "Gettysburg." That was actually the
beginning of what led up to "Full Tilt Boogie."
Sarah is currently trying to put together her next project, based on a
screenplay she wrote herself called "The Blessed Virgins," inspired by her
own Catholic school upbringing. "I always pictured myself doing regular
features. The documentary has been a really amazing final film school
project. I've learned almost every aspect of the filmmaking process by
doing this, more than I ever could have imagined." "Full Tilt Boogie" is
being released by Dimension and opens today.