Asshole/Slut

Kate and Pete are on their first, and possibly, last date. Although the dissonance between them is no obstacle to sex, Kate wonders if she can get what she really needs from Pete, and Pete plays the guitar.

  • Zoe Dahmen
    Director
    Karkutong, Flaccid (Santa Fe Independent Film Festival Official Selection)
  • Zoe Dahmen
    Writer
    Flaccid, Dead Celebrity (AMFM Fest Official Selection)
  • Jonathan Peter Hargraves
    Producer
  • Blake Helis
    Key Cast
  • Tristine Henderson
    Key Cast
  • Matthew Villescas
    Director of Photography
    Karkutong
  • Alec Brown
    Editor
    Karkutong, Out of Order (Austin Film Festival Official Selection)
  • Dylan Bellmard
    Production Design
  • Fabrizio Ferri
    Sound Design
    Karkutong
  • Project Type:
    Short, Student
  • Genres:
    Drama, Dark Comedy
  • Runtime:
    11 minutes 51 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    June 20, 2016
  • Production Budget:
    172 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    Sony F3
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    Yes
Director Biography - Zoe Dahmen

Zoe Dahmen was born and raised in Austin Texas. At age sixteen Zoe produced her first feature film, Yesterday’s News. She produced and directed her second feature, Nick and the Ne’er-Do-Wells, a year later. She is currently pursuing a BFA in film production at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design where she has written, and directed numerous short films. Her films have been accepted into the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, AMFM Fest Palm Springs, the Albuquerque Film Festival, and several others. Zoe is an aspiring screenwriter and director.

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Director Statement

This film started out as a way to process my own experiences with dating and with sex. All of my films are a way for me to channel my experiences, what I see and feel, the people I meet, and the places I’ve been, into a story. Often times the end result is so cut up, homogenized, and skewed by the years that the resulting film is so far from the original inspiration it is unrecognizable. This film is the exception that proves the rule.

The script for Asshole/Slut was written as a snapshot of the night I lost my virginity. I wrote it, then forgot it. I revisited it every year or so, paring it down to its bare bones, re-interpreting it as I gained distance from the actual events. Over time, a film written in angst became a comedy.

By seeing myself in the third person I was able to nurture, and care for the girl that I was, and, to some degree, still am. So too did I begin to understand my partner. Through Pete I was able to know him. And while I could never understand him in the same way I understood Kate, the challenge of treating his character fairly made me more empathetic. Writing Asshole/Slut was an act of healing through storytelling. I gained a deeper understanding of myself, and my actions. By the time I brought the film to production I was ready to let it go.

The original script was bare bones, a lot of dead air with one liners scattered throughout. By the time I cast my principal actors and began rehearsing them I realized that I was under-utilizing the talent in front of me. I started rehearsals with improv exercises to get the ball rolling. I had the actors interpret the beginning of the scene before the film cuts in. The spark created when they butted heads was brilliant, but it completely disappeared once they started reciting the dialogue. After our first rehearsal I decided that the best approach was to completely abandon the lines written in the script, and instead use them as a loose structure to inform the direction of each scene. This completely changed the nature of the script, it made it funnier, more awkward, and more natural all at once. I had never directed a film using improv. It was a completely new experience for me, but incredibly gratifying.

My actors brought a lot to the film that wasn’t there before. I wanted Pete to sing an emo song as a satire of his character, but my actor wanted to re-interpret the track in his own musical style. His version was sadder than I had imagined it would be, and I was okay with that. What had been comedy became tragedy. My actors had completely turned the film on its head, and I was happy to let them do it.

I never asked my actress to cry--tears weren’t in the original screenplay--she just did it. Something about the magic of the moment brought it out in her. She harnessed that sadness and I was there to capture it. It was one of those lucky moments you dream of as a director.

Editing the film was the final transformation. My editor was able to wade through hours of footage, finding the bits and pieces that worked together, and creating something entirely new. The film is cut together almost like a documentary, or perhaps reality television. What you see on screen never happened in the way it’s presented, but the heart of the conflict is there. It was a challenging edit, at times frustrating, but mostly fascinating. Once again the film had completely transformed.

The photographs of women above Pete’s bed was something done in a last minute flurry to get more stuff on the wall. I pulled from my collection of vintage photographs, and my production designer, pulled from his collection of escort cards. It was purely by happenstance that all the images happened to be of women, and it was only in editing that I realized the significance of these images. In the sex scene, cutting away to shots of the women on the wall and the painting of the ugly man in the coffee shop was something we tried out in order to stretch our coverage, but it added a completely different layer to the story that I loved. Something added by chance and by mistake became a key part of the film. I was lucky, but I was also glad to let it happen.

What had started out as a snapshot of my own experience was still that, even after all the layers added to it by everyone involved. It’s remarkably true to the heart of my experience, just with a little more color. In the end this is a film that baffles people, they don’t quite get what I’m trying to say with it. Part of me wishes I had all the answers for them, but I don’t. I’m not sure what the film says either, it baffles me too. All I can say is that the process of getting to this point has been remarkable, and I think the film honors the truth of the experience that sparked it years ago. It’s something I can stand by.