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Steam Room Stories

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John Waters' Odorama has inspired filmmaker JC Calciano to make his new film "Steam Room Stories: The Movie" in Cinema Scent. I talk with Calciano about scratch 'n' sniff cards, going from YouTube to feature films, and working with Traci Lords.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Ladies and gentleman, this is all [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 00:05 [inaudible].

Speaker 3: 00:05 You will experience some odors that fuck you. What's the producers of this film? Believes that today's audiences are mature enough to accept. The fact is that some things in life just plain stink.

Speaker 1: 00:22 In 1981 John Waters invented odor Rama for his film polyester. Each time a number came up on the screen, audiences would scratch and sniff such sense as roses, flatulence, model airplane, glue, pizza, gasoline, skunk, natural gas, new car smell, dirty shoes, and air freshener. That gimmick inspired JC calcium nano to enhance his new film steam room. Stories with an Ode to Odor Rama called cinema scent

Speaker 4: 01:02 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 01:02 Welcome to another edition of listener supported KPBS cinema junkie podcast. I'm Beth Armando. Today I'm speaking with director JC Kelsey Arno about John Waters going from youtube to feature films and coming to San Diego for film out his new film steam room stories, the movie stars, Tracy Lords, who also started in John Waters crybaby. Oh, okay. I need to take a short break to clear the air who after scratching that Odo ramen number six. And then I'll be back with my interview with filmmaker JC Kelsey on Onno JC, you have a new film out steam room stories now for people who may not be familiar explained, this comes from a TV series that you had worked on.

Speaker 5: 01:49 Well actually it comes from a youtube show that I've done. I've started 10 years ago on a, on youtube and it's, that's my channel steam room stories as the channel on Youtube. I started 10 years ago. We have about 230 episodes now. And uh, it was so popular and, and so much fun to make that I decided to make a feature film of it.

Speaker 1: 02:12 And how has this evolved over the years from Youtube to television to now our future film?

Speaker 5: 02:19 Well, you know, it started as just kind of this weird little fun thing to do because I had finished my first film and I had such a good experience with it. Then I was like, well, let me try something in. Back in in 2009, youtube was getting hot. So I had a, I had to think of something that I could do that was really super cheap. And I had a, I had a fog machine and that was basically all I had. So I went to target, bought a, found a shower curtain, they look like tiles and I thought, well, um, I could make up steam room. So I hung the tiles on the, I taped them to the wall in my living room. I got a coffee table and a couple of couple of guys and I broke out my linen closet, put them in towels, put the fog machine on and wrote a three minute sketch and I put it up on Youtube and thinking, Oh, you know, all right, well it's, you know, probably nothing old.

Speaker 5: 03:11 Come from it. Hopefully somebody will get a giggle out of it. And then all of a sudden it started to amass all these views. And a, I thought, well, well this is really fun. So I started making more and more. And then, um, what kind of was a happy accident was that I couldn't keep track of the sexuality of the guys and you know, it just didn't, didn't kinda create characters who were predominantly gay, straight bi or whatever. I just kind of wrote him and, and, and whatever that their sexuality for the day was for that particular episode was, was fine. And the audience really responded to the fact that I wasn't making any one in particular with any kind of expectations, gay or straight. They would just whoever they were. And, um, it kind of really spoke at that time too, the, the addressing, you know, the bisexuality, the fluidity and you know, the case straight affectations and, and I liked that. So we just started to create more and more episodes. And, and over the years it became more and more popular and, um, became more and more fun. I became friendly with the guys and I love doing comedy and, and I, and I try to address social issues a little bit here and there in them. So just kind of evolved into this, this undeniable thing that I thought, well let's, let's make a movie out of it

Speaker 6: 04:34 now. One of the things you do for the film, which you didn't do in the youtube video or the TV show, is your presenting it in cinema scent. So yes, explain to people what cinema scent is.

Speaker 5: 04:48 Okay. Well, cinema scent is, um, you know, well, well firstly, going back a little bit, um, in the sense that I had the amazing fortune of, of uh, getting Tracy Lords involved in the film. And, uh, you know, Tracy, I've been a fan of Tracy's for years and years and years. Going back to even the John Waters days when she was in a film called crybaby and I, I'm a big John Waters Fan. I was a big Tracy lords fan when she became, uh, available and interested in being in the movie. It gave me the idea of doing a tip of the hat to John Waters earlier works, um, specifically polyester, which at the time I loved the idea that he did this movie in, in what he called Odor Rama. And it, it had an accompanying scratch and sniff card. So when you watch the movie, you, you are prompted to smell the smells that are going on, on the screen with this, with this scratch and sniff odor card.

Speaker 5: 05:50 And I thought it was just the most fun idea. And I loved it in the 80s. And, um, you know, when I, when I spoke to about it, she's like, well that's a fun idea to do the movie in that. Um, I says, could, could we ask John if that's okay with him? And she said, absolutely. So. So we did a, we were able, I was able to get in touch with John and asked him and he says, you know, you have my blessing. You know, I, I wouldn't call it owed rom a only because new line and, and such has trademarked the word, but it's a scratch and sniff card and, you know, call it what you will. So we came up with the names, cinema, scent, and um, you know, it's, it's my little Ode to John Waters. Clever idea from the Eighties Odor Rama.

Speaker 7: 06:34 Oh, hello. Dustin cleaver here. Head odor. Ologist at Sally fe cosmetics. I'm here to instruct you on how to use these ingenious fragrance cards you've been given. The other scientists and I here have designed the card you're holding to enhance your viewing pleasure. All you need to do is follow the instructions. A number will inevitably appear on the screen that matches a digit on your card. Just scratch the number and a fragrance will be released. Hold the card up to your olfactory receptor or gnomes and whip sharply lake. So, Kevin Mulan, elderberry, delightful. It's simple. Really. Now enjoy the show.

Speaker 6: 07:21 I'm looking forward to this. I will, uh, can you reveal what some of the sense are that you use?

Speaker 5: 07:28 Uh, I see. I could reveal, I could reveal that I'm one of them is a dirty Martini, but just how dirty that Martini gets. I'm not, I'm not gonna tell you.

Speaker 6: 07:39 All right. Well, you mentioned that this is a tip of the hat to John Waters. He was very much a filmmaker who was working kind of on the outside of Hollywood and very low budget. How do you compare kind of the way you started this with youtube? To kind of the landscape that was going on back in the 70s for him, do you think it was easier or harder for you to kind of get something like this off the ground?

Speaker 5: 08:06 Well, I think that, I think that they're, they're, they're really very, very different in the, in the sense of apples and oranges. There's always a challenge. Um, I think that John's challenges back then were, were different. Uh, some, some things were of, of an advantage. Uh, some things were, uh, at a, at a disadvantage. Um, certainly we have a certain advantages with the technology that we have and the accessibility to the audience. And what I liked about youtube, uh, when, you know, when I was conceiving this in, in the, uh, you know, 2009 was the fact that it was, it's so democratic in the sense that people can create something. And one of the things that I really, really wanted to do, one of the things that I really admired John for doing was creating this sense of his community. He controlled and created within a family of people.

Speaker 5: 08:59 And I, and I, I respected that. And I haven't worked in the industry for as many years I have. And I've worked at the studios I've worked in, in television, I've worked in networks. I kind of wanted to and I always wanted to just surround myself with people who I really respected and, and wanted to create with and want to spend time with and insulate myself from the, the industry at large that can potentially be very toxic. So, so youtube was my advantage, my opportunity to surround myself with people who I liked and create the product I wanted to create without getting notes from an executive or, or hearing hearing vista. They don't like this, they don't want that, cut this and change that. So it was my way of making my movies my way and I'm just controlling all aspects of production and creation.

Speaker 6: 09:52 And you mentioned Tracy Lords and she's a very iconic actress at this pint. And what was she like to work with Ann and did you end up creating the role specifically for her?

Speaker 5: 10:03 Oh, well Tracy Tracy is remarkable to work with. She is so committed, so hardworking, and so generous with not only her time, but, but every aspect of the film. She's, she's the first one to step up and say, well, what could I help with? What do you need? What can I bring to the table? And, um, and that's amazing, you know, truly, truly a gift for an independent filmmaker because she, she gets it, you know, and she, she's been there too, you know, for big budget films and for smaller budget films and she knows the struggles. So being aware of that struggle is really something that she is happy to help with. Um, I kind of originally wrote the role for a much older gal and, uh, when, when Tracy expressed interest in it, I said, well, you know, I have to have Tracy, that's just, it's gonna be.

Speaker 5: 10:53 So I rewrote the role for her. And, um, and then in the conversation when we were, we were talking about how to develop that character. We've had a couple of, we had a couple of conversations on how, how to play this devilishly comedically, uh, evil kind of woman, but also give her a little sense of, of redeeming redeeming qualities, a little lovability, a little, um, you know, kind of Quirky, uh, broken nature to her, her just devilish side. So, you know, we really kind of collaborated on that, eh, in a big way. And uh, you know, and I was just watching the film the other day at the, uh, the Castro theater, which is 1200 seats and it's on this huge screen and uh, looked fantastic and I was so excited about seeing it in that theater and she just, she just lit up the screen. She's just funny and sweet and mean and, and, and just all these things that you'd, you'd ever want somebody to be,

Speaker 8: 11:58 they're doing what? I wouldn't worry about it. Those guys are so clueless. You could lock them in a mattress store and they would still asleep on the floor. They want to save that steam room and you're going to help them. I am. I want you to join a little group and report everything back to me. Spy on them.

Speaker 9: 12:14 Hmm.

Speaker 8: 12:16 I'm sorry. I'm not comfortable with doing that. Oh, now you've been in the beauty industry for five years and you're familiar with muscle relaxing.

Speaker 9: 12:27 Hmm.

Speaker 8: 12:31 Does 45 milliliters of pure botox injected directly into your sperm war? And the only thing you'll find hard is an Algebra equation. Sally, please be reasonable. Can I count on you? Good boy. I'll go do what I asked you to do.

Speaker 9: 12:53 Yeah,

Speaker 8: 12:54 I'll be right back after this final break with more of my interview with JC Kelsey Yano. Hmm.

Speaker 6: 13:07 And in moving this story to the big screen, what did you feel you could do with a movie that maybe you hadn't had the opportunity to do either on youtube or with a TV series?

Speaker 5: 13:18 Well, uh, the, the, the challenge was to get a, a three minutes sketch that happens only in a steam room to a, to a theater, a two 90 minute format. Um, certainly it's not only going to be in the steam room cause that would really be small and claustrophobic, but there are a lot of challenges. There are a lot of challenges. And, and creating a storyline, uh, of, of characters that, that, you know, you've kind of looked grown to love and um, the laid to these lovable kind of half wit guys, but also something that's going to be sustainable for 90 minutes and the love story and, and the villain and applaud and, uh, there's a lot of things that go into crafting a 90 minute engaging story plus comedy that, um, was a challenge from making something that was just a three minute sketch. You have to create a whole world that doesn't necessarily exist in the backstory. So on some, on some levels you have all the creative freedom in the world and on the other hand, you, you're kind of limited to what the fans know and love about the show.

Speaker 6: 14:26 And I understand you and Tracy Lords are going to be coming here to San Diego for the film out screening.

Speaker 5: 14:32 Yes. Yes. So, uh, I, I've played, I've played several of my films. In fact, I think all my films, I have a, this is my fourth film. So my, my first film was called, is it just me? And then the second one is eight cupid and then 10 year plan. And they've been even a true champion of my, uh, my films and the community and other great works. Uh, so they invited us down and, um, we, we just jumped at the chance. We said we'd be flattered and thrilled to bring the film down to San Diego. And then, um, when, uh, when Tracy found out about it, she says, you know, I'd love to come too. So, uh, we, we all gathered the troops of, there's gonna be some of the guys from the show, from the movie. And, uh, Tracy and I are all gonna come down and show the film, answer questions, meet the fans, and, and, um, really kind of have a great time down there.

Speaker 1: 15:30 And, uh, will you be scratching and sniffing along with the rest of us?

Speaker 5: 15:35 Yes, yes, I will be. Uh, I will be scratching and sniffing along. I'm going to bring all the cards and yeah, we're gonna be, we're gonna be, uh, scratching and sniffing at the same time.

Speaker 1: 15:48 All right, well I look forward to seeing the film with you guys and, uh, having a come down here to San Diego.

Speaker 5: 15:55 Well, thank you for thank you for your time and then we look forward to all everybody coming down and having a good time meeting Tracy and saying hi to me and, uh, and you know, certainly thank you for, for your time and telling everybody about this fun event.

Speaker 1: 16:08 All right, well thanks a lot. Thank you. Take care. You too. Bye. Bye. Bye.

Speaker 4: 16:25 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 16:25 that was filmmaker JC Kelsey Jano, he and Tracy Lords as well as other cast members will be in attendance September 18th for the film out San Diego screening of steam room stories. The movie. Thanks for listening to another episode of Cinema Junkie podcast. Sorry, the last podcast got delayed, but I'm back on schedule and the podcast will return every other Friday. Please subscribe to the podcast and recommend it to a friend until our next film fixed on Beth luck. Amando your Resonance Cinema [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 17:13 [inaudible]

Speaker 10: 17:25 [inaudible] [inaudible].

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Satisfy your celluloid addiction with the Cinema Junkie podcast, where you can mainline film 24/7. This film and entertainment series is run by KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando. So if you need a film fix, want to hear what filmmakers have to say about their work, or just want to know what's worth seeing this weekend, then you've come to the right place