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[whitespace] Let Us Prey

Cheri Lovedog's 'Prey for Rock & Roll' gets a homecoming on the SCFF's opening night

By Steve Palopoli

It might seem obvious to some, but local musician and now screenwriter Cheri Lovedog didn't always realize her long career in rock music (most notably with the all-girl band Lovedog that gigged constantly in Los Angeles for years) might be film fodder. When she finally realized what she had to do, she turned her experiences into the loosely autobiographical musical Prey for Rock & Roll, in which she also starred. She then wrote the screenplay for the film of the same name, which was directed by Alex Steyermark and stars Gina Gershon as Jacki, the leader of an all-girl band who's considering giving up the music biz for good after years of finding success elusive, only to be tempted into giving her career one last shot. Most recently, Prey for Rock & Roll made a splash at Sundance, and was invited to the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this month. Now it comes to Santa Cruz on the opening night of the Santa Cruz Film Festival, and Lovedog spoke to Metro Santa Cruz about how she got there and back.

Metro Santa Cruz: You said before that, above all, the most important thing for you with this project was to make a kick-ass rock & roll movie. Why?

Cheri Lovedog: Mainly because I did it all my life, and it was important to me that I not just sell out and make some cheese-whiz movie. I have so many years in music, and most of my friends are musicians, and if I put something out that was stupid I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror. It was so important that when musicians--especially female musicians, but guys as well--watch the movie, they go, "Wow, man, that's really the real deal."

While you were playing the L.A. club scene back in the '80s--a notoriously crazy time on the Sunset Strip--did you have moments where you were already thinking, "This would make a great movie someday?"

No, it never occurred to me. I mean, I wrote about it. I wrote for a rock & roll magazine in L.A. for a while, L.A. Rock Review. I had a column called "Hollywood Trash and Tinsel," and I basically got to write about whatever I wanted, so I just wrote a lot about clubs and club etiquette, and just a lot of sarcasm and stuff about music. But I always for some reason had it separate in my mind, like "OK, I'm a musician now, but I want to be a writer." Until I went to a psychic, you know, that Sylvia Browne. And she was like, "Oh no, you have to do both." And it wasn't until then that it ever occurred to me to write something lengthy about my experiences.

What percentage of the movie would you say is based on your own actual experiences?

Probably about 85 or 90. But it's not verbatim.

Wow. Was it a little tricky to be basing characters and situations on so many real-life people and events?

I was really careful not to be, like, "OK, this is my bass player's story." I sort of had to take all the things that happened when I was doing music, like what inspired this song? What made these important things important? And what would make a good story--let's face it, I can't just write an ongoing, babbling self-indulgent thing about me. An interesting story has to have a beginning, middle and end, the characters have arcs--you've got to consider everything in the storytelling.

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Santa Cruz Film Festival 2003

Culture Shock: Raw, clever documentary 'Culture Jam' champions the 'joyful revolution' of ad busting, sign-jacking and all-around culture hacking as part of the Santa Cruz Film Festival Friday program.

Roller Ballsy: Roller queen Ann Calvello is still hell on wheels in 'Demon of the Derby.'

You Gave Me Shiva: A hyperkinetic NYC tour guide and a frightening vérité look at the terrorist attacks make for a fascinating SCFF program about Sept. 11.

Green Enos and Ham: 'Story of the Space Chimps' reveals what two unsung American heroes went through for the glory of the U.S. space program.

Let Us Prey: Cheri Lovedog's 'Prey for Rock & Roll' gets a homecoming on the SCFF's opening night.

Bitter Fruit: 'Coloring the Silver Screen' program focuses on the history of African Americans in cinema and the strange-but-true history of Billie Holiday's haunting rendition of 'Strange Fruit.'

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Is the Jacki character itself equally autobiographical, beyond the obvious similarities?

Well, I don't feel a lot of separation, because I did that character in the play. But I very much feel that that character that Gina played is me, like my mom saw it and was like, "Oh yeah, she really got it." It was interesting because Gina and I spent a lot of time together, but not necessarily a lot of time talking about how she should be Jacki. We just hung out and talked about music and stuff, and she took all that, and made that character Jacki. She wasn't like, "OK, I'm going to try to be like you."

How useful was it to have done 'Prey for Rock & Roll' as a play before you started work on the movie?

I don't know if I could have been able to make it through the experience of the film--which I barely did anyway--without the experience of the play, because I'd never written a play or a screenplay or anything of that medium ever in my life. In the theater, I learned a lot about how to write, how to present things that way. And then performing it was really good, because I realized that it's really hard.

What was the toughest thing for you making the movie?

It's so much business, and so many decisions are being made by people who have no concept of what it's really like to be in a band. Sometimes they'd be like, "This can't happen," and I was like, "No, no, no, this has to happen." Those were the fights I had to fight to keep it authentic. And the director fought along with me--the director, the actors, they got it. But I had to go up and deal with the suits and ties, and the graphs and the charts and all that crap.

Sometimes people don't realize how hard it is even on a film with a small budget to get your artistic vision through.

It's brutal, man. I feel like I have shellshock from it. People are like, "When are you going to make your next movie?" And I'm like, "Not in a big hurry. Not in a big hurry to do that again."


Prey for Rock & Roll plays Thursday, May 29, at the Del Mar as part of the Santa Cruz Film Festival.

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From the May 28-June 4, 2003 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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