|ANTHONY SCARPA: Writer/director of Betty Blowtorch (And Her Amazing True Life Adventures)
|by Trevor Gensch
I had the great pleasure to talk with Anthony Scarpa, writer/director of an amazing documentary called Betty Blowtorch (and her amazing true life adventures). For two years he followed an all girl rock band Betty Blowtorch documenting the bands ferocious sound and dangerously low-tech pyrotechnic show, unaware of the turmoil and tragedy that he will ultimately capture.
I asked Anthony how he initially got involved with the project.
I was asked by "Betty’s" record company to do a music video for an act they just signed (this was 3 years ago). After going to the bands show in Los Angeles and spending some time with them I pitched the record company on the idea of doing a short film. I thought the typical 3 min. music video just wouldn’t be able to capture what this band was all about.
For the uninitiated, what is Betty Blowtorch all about?
The core of the band were formally a somewhat notorious punk band called "Butt Trumpet" known for X-rated lyrics and toilet humor. They were targeted by the PMRC (a US Gov. watchdog group which started the record ratings trend in the 80’s). After BT split up the 3 girls reformed as a rock band in the style of AC/DC or Ted Nugent and called themselves Betty Blowtorch. They were known for an incredible live show, which featured arena style theatrics and pyro no matter what size venue they played.
Before you began filming what was your original intent - what did you want to initially achieve with the documentary?
I originally wanted to make a 70’s style rock and roll movie (lots of live performance’s and behind the scenes antics. The kind of stuff I loved to watch when I was a kid before MTV overexposed all the rock stars. I wanted to show the reality of the record deal, the recording process etc. I wanted to juxtapose the home life of the members with their various stage personas and to try and capture what it is like to be a struggling young band. As I spent more time with the band the whole thing just grew and grew.
When did you begin to realize that what you were shooting was so much more than what you had initially conceived, what was the turning point?
There definitely came a time when I felt I had a very fun and interesting story but was struggling to see a "third act" if you will, an ending. As a Writer/Director of fiction I am always looking for "The Ending" and with a documentary you really need to try and "find the story" in all the disparate footage being shot. When the band members started fighting which lead ultimately to the sudden departure of 2 of them that was certainly a turning point which renewed my interest in the process but I never expected the film to have the weight it eventually took on due to Bianca’s death. Spending 3 years with someone, you become friends and Bianca had an infectious personality which made everyone feel as if they were closer to her than any other person so when she was killed it took me a few months before I could even make the decision to continue on with the film.
A lot of people probably think that this sort of scenario happens to a lot of aspiring bands - the pressures of fame, acceptance and making a career. Do you feel that Betty Blowtorch is an accurate portrayal of the music business?
I do. Having been in a number of bands myself ("Naked Sun" on BMG, "Lifter" on Interscope and currently "The Art of Safecracking") I can say that it almost seems scripted. The highs of getting the record deal, the lows when you feel your not getting the attention you deserve, the infighting among the band members, the lack of support from the record companies, it’s nearly a universal phenomenon. And unfortunately the rock tragedy which ends in death has become all to commonplace as well. The real tragedy of Bianca’s story is the fact that she overcame so much adversity, from an abusive step father to a horrible heroin addiction, only to be killed just as her career
was starting to blossom.
In your bio you lament the "MTV-ing" of music - the pre-packaged, homogenised, sanitised depiction of what a bunch of suits think we want to see, do you feel the documentary showed that or was Blowtorch the victim of these same elements?
I think that "Betty" pretty much stayed true to themselves and were lucky enough to finally find a record company that believed in them as they were. They probably would have risen to the top a lot faster had they been more willing to bend to pressures from their previous record deals or had some executives been smart enough to see them for what they were instead of worrying about sex or age or image etc.
How much footage do you think you shot in the making?
I personally shot around 200 hours and then I reached out to fans, video bootleggers, band members and friends and waded through another 200 or so. So I watched and logged somewhere in the neighborhood of 450 hrs of footage. Considering the fact that I edited the film entirely on my own (no assistant, no logging or capturing form any other) it was quite an arduous time.
How long from original conception to final edit?
It was just about 3 years
Is there anything on the cutting room floor you really wanted to include in the movie but couldn't for whatever reason?
I have a list 3 pages long titled "Things I love, not in the movie" that I just couldn’t find a linear place for or just felt out of place (Much of it will eventually turn up on a DVD I suspect)
Any last comments?
Thank you very much for your time and your support of this film it was truly a monster to finish but at the same time a labor of love. I hope you audience will have the chance to discover a band that would have gotten around to kicking their ass sooner or later had it not been for tragedy. Surely the birth nation of AC/DC should appreciate these girls.
Betty Blowtorch (& her amazing true life adventures) is playing at the International Brisbane Film Festival on the 3 and 8 August. Tickets can be purchased from the Hoyts Regent Box Office in the Queen Street Mall, via phone on 07 3007 3007 or online at www.biff.com.au.
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=774
originally posted: 08/02/03 09:58:49
last updated: 12/31/03 14:31:28