Q&A With 'Becoming Elsa' Director Ricky Greenwood
Ricky Greenwood's sophomore outing from Sweetheart Video, Becoming Elsa can now be streamed exclusively here on HotMovies! We were lucky enough to get an interview with the up-and-cumming adult movie auteur, and he shared with us his behind-the-scenes process, his filmmaking influences, and why Charlotte Stokely is his "Lucky Charm." Get to know more about Greenwood below!
HM: Ricky, after the commercial and critical success of your debut movie, Confessions of a Sinful Nun, the industry is saying you’re the director to keep an eye on in 2018. Do you feel challenged or do you feel pressured? How do you think of your sudden fame and where will it lead you?
RG: I feel both challenged and pressured. I have always wanted to challenge myself and do something different. I’m more than happy with the success of Confessions of a Sinful Nun. It was a challenging movie and seeing the response legitimized my desire to push a little more for the next one. The pressure of doing another movie was good, because with no pressure you easily fall for the expected movie and you don’t challenge yourself.
How do you feel about plot/character-driven porn or just porn, in general, going more mainstream?
I think some people put a lot of effort and love behind their movies. Some of them are very enjoyable and creative. I hope someday people will see it like another genre of movie and not just porn. Rated-X movies are like any other genre; they are not different than a comedy or an action film. Some of them are pretty dramatic and well-acted. I truly think TV or theater should pay attention to some of them.
It was great to watch Nina Hartley’s performance in Confessions of a Sinful Nun. Are there any performers from yesteryear/the Golden Age that you wish you could work with and why?
For sure Nina Hartley in Ten Little Maidens. I love that movie! The chicken scene with Nina Hartley and Jamie Gillis with the chicken – it’s amazing. I’m a fan of Nina Hartley. I wish I’d come into this business many years ago; Nina was definitely my muse back then.
I’m sure you don’t prefer the cleaned-up Disney version of Times Square that replaced sleaze, drugs, and grindhouses of the Deuce. If you could go back in time and see a classic porno in one of the Deuce theaters, which one would it be and why?
For the historical part of it, for sure Deep Throat. It would be incredible to be there when everything started. If you ask me for my personal favorite, it is hands down Behind the Green Door. I’m a huge fan of that movie and seeing the beautiful Marilyn Chambers on a big screen would be dreamy.
You have a fantastic eye behind the camera. Did you go to film school, and if not, how did you learn your way around a camera?
Yes I studied filmmaking at university. I also direct short films and TV shows in Canada. The key is to have a good director of photography and watch a lot of TV shows and movies. That way you will be able to show them the look or the style you want, and they will make it happen.
Themes running through Confessions of a Sinful Nun and Becoming Elsa seem to hark back to filmmakers like Joseph W. Sarno, Just Jaeckin, and even Jess Franco... something tells me you’re a Jess Franco fan? Who is your biggest filmmaking influence and why?
I hope my name will be beside those legends someday. Joseph W. Sarno (Deep Inside Me, Inga), Just Jaeckin (Emmanuelle, Histoire d’O) and Jesús Franco (The Demons, Eugenie, Vampyros Lesbos)... I grew up watching their movies. Every adult director should watch and learn from them. As for my biggest influence, it depends on the movie. Russ Meyer, Jack Hill, and the amazing John Waters can also be added to this amazing trio.
Watching Confessions of a Sinful Nun really made me want to revisit Ken Russell’s The Devils. Was there a particular nunsploitation film that inspired you for that project?
Everyone should revisit Ken Russell's The Devils. This movie is one of the best nunsploitation movies ever made. I collect all the nunsploitation movies and I revisit them a lot. For sure Jesús Franco’s movie Love Letters of a Portuguese Nun was one of my influences. You can also add Joe D’Amat’s Images in a Convent, Sergio Griec’s The Sinful Nuns of Saint Valentine, and my personal favorite Gianfranco Mingozzi masterpiece, Flavia, the Heretic.
Exploitation has made a comeback in recent years after disappearing from the theaters of the Deuce, but surprisingly those themes can be found on TV with shows such as American Horror Story, Game of Thrones, Preacher, etc... some of which get huge ratings. Are you currently binge-watching any crazy television shows at the moment?
I watch a lot of TV shows. It's a big part of my job. That's where I got my inspiration. I watch The Punisher, Vikings, The Dark, Godless, and Glow.
Ricky, your Twitter profile says you’re a lover of the 80s. What do you miss about the 80s, and was there something about that decade that has defined or influenced you as an artist?
I miss everything from the 80s. They made movies with balls in the 80s. Now everything needs to be politically correct. I’m a movie buff and you can’t find better action movies than the one we have in the 80s and early 90s. They are violent, sexy, funny, and a lot fun.
A controversial question Ricky: Marvel or DC?
I'm more an Image Comics guy. Kill or be Killed, Outcast, and Southern Bastards. I will read everything Ed Brubaker, Robert Kirkman, or Jason Aaron will create. They are genius and I can’t stop loving their work. If I have to pick only between Marvel or DC, it will be Marvel. I’m a fan of The Punisher and Thor.
The retro art design for the covers of both your films are amazing. Who designs them and how much input do you have?
I always have the poster in mind before we shoot the movie. I make sure we have the picture I need for it. After that, I talk with my graphic designer and try to build it. My office is full of vintage poster from the 70s. They know my style and what I like. I’m lucky enough to have a producer who understands my vision and is not afraid of going outside the box.
You seem to have a flair for films with an emphasis on acting. How do you prepare your actors for the non-sex scenes?
I start by writing the script and sending it to them early in the process. I’m always available for them if they have questions or an idea to build the character. Sometimes I will send them clips of other movies with the same kind of character for inspiration. When we arrive on set we talk about it, I make sure she’s comfortable with her role, and we start shooting.
What was your inspiration for directing Becoming Elsa? Back to Joe Sarno, it seems to harken back to those sexual awakening and psycho-sexual character-driven plots of the 70s.
I didn’t think about Joseph W. Sarno when I wrote Becoming Elsa. Normally I pick a genre before and think of the story after. For Becoming Elsa, I wanted to do a coming-of-age story. It’s a genre that we don’t see a lot in porn anymore. I want to tell the story of a shy and lonely girl who has to deal with her sexuality. Of course, because I’m a huge fan of the 70s, you can feel the influence in my story.
Becoming Elsa, at least at a cursory glance of the plot, brings back memories of the original Emmanuelle, an adult film that broke box office records in France. Do you think Americans lack an appreciation for high-end plot-driven sex films?
No, I don’t think so. Some people had success in the past with high-end plot-driven sex films. We just need to find the right balance between the European style and the American style.
Are you interested in seeing plot-driven porn go more mainstream as it almost did in the 70s?
I can only dream of it. We have so many good directors in the industry right now. I’m sure we can bring back those golden years with our twist!
Ricky, you’re a fan of storyboarding your projects. How vital are they to help you get your vision across in a given scene, sexual or otherwise?
It’s very important for me to visualize my movie before I shoot it. That’s why I ask my good friend to storyboard my movies. It’s always hard to make everyone understand on set what you have in mind. That’s why I prefer to show them and I save a lot of time explaining it.
What was the most challenging aspect of filming Becoming Elsa?
The most challenging aspect of the movie was to make sure the final twist of the movie made sense. I will not go too much in detail, I don’t want to spoil the movie, but I needed to make sure that when I reveal the final punch you can go back and understand everything.
Becoming Elsa is the second time you are collaborating with the gorgeous and talented Charlotte Stokely. What does she bring to your vision and will you two be working with each other again anytime soon?
Charlotte Stokely is amazing. She’s so talented, she can play almost everything and she will give you all she’s got to make your movie amazing. I call her my Lucky Charm. She’s funny, smart, and she understands movie-making more than some of my crew. Unfortunately, she will not be in my next movie, but will be mentioned a few times in it, but don't worry she will be back again soon. Keep your eyes open for December 2018.
What is your next project, and how excited should we all be?
My next project is scary – it’s bigger than all the movies I’ve made. I’m very nervous about it, but I’m sure all the fans of Sweetheart Video and Mile High will love it. The cast is amazing. I will have the chance to work with many of my favorite performers. I can’t wait for the first day of filming. We will start shooting the movie in April and it will be released in September. Make sure you follow Sweetheart Video and me, @rickygreenwoodx, on Twitter for bigger announcements!