A scene from STRIPPED DOWN, a film by Elana Krausz. Picture courtesy Visualiner, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Stripped Down (2006/2011)
Opened: 08/26/2011 Limited
|Quad Cinema/NYC||08/26/2011 - 09/01/2011||7 days|
Trailer: Click for trailer
An audit by a judgmental IRS agent becomes the catalyst for surreal transformation. This serpentine thriller transcends the exploitation genre, as a streetwise ex-stripper turns retribution into redemption. Now managing the strip club owned by her venal spouse, Lily hides the club's illicit activities from the taxman ... until her husband takes advantage of an innocent runaway sending Lily down an unforeseeable path.
Stripped Down was inspired by the filmmakers' rape/sodomy as a sixteenyear- old college student. Through this experience, she empathizes with the 'out of body' expression on the faces of these women.
Actor/Writer/Producer/Director Elana Krausz's feature film is a dark comedy where revenge becomes redemptive. The film is a sexy and stylish dark comedy/ thriller set in the underworld of night life where nothing is what it seems. While serving up provocative images of nubile gyrating flesh STRIPPED DOWN transcends its candy coated exploitation bubble to make a serious statement of feminine empowerment. The main character "Lily" (ELANA KRAUSZ) is a former stripper and manager of a seedy strip club. In the course of 24 hours, during a series of events that involve her contemptuous and paranoid strip club owner husband, Larry played by MARCUS JEAN PIRAE (BULLETPROOF MONK, LA FEMME MUSKETEER) and a judgmental IRS Agent, Francis played by IAN ZIERING (Tony Scott's DOMINO, "Beverly Hills, 90210" and "Dancin with the Stars",) along with two strippers that haunt the distant memory of Lily's past -- Cara, played by LISA ARTURO (AMERICAN PIE 2) a ferocious and self-destructive hellcat and Wren played by BRE BLAIR, ("What About Brian") an innocent runaway seduced into the decadent lifestyle.
"The character LILY shows us that it is never too late to change your life. To heal old wounds, or wound old heels" says Krausz, who tries to find some lightness in some very dark, old wounds. "The abused does not have to become the abuser, no matter how tempting it may be." The film also looks at the pattern of sexual abuse and how once boundaries have been breeched, it can be difficult to protect and value one's self in the future. It is amazing how the injured parts of one's self can stay alive for many years after the injury, but it is possible to heal and integrate those parts and move beyond them. We see those parts right in front of our own eyes, reflected in other people at different stages of our lives, in different archetypes.
Prior to writing the script Elana had only been into a strip club once. As she looked into the faces of the dancers, she was deeply moved. She saw something of herself in their disassociation and pain. A great concern for Krausz, she calls it the porn-ification of America.
She distinguishes between healthy diverse attitudes towards sexuality versus objectification. There is a difference between feeling powerful in ones sexuality and being exploited. It hearkens back to a basic discussion of feminist values. There was a similar discussion of women in the 1970's regarding feminism and motherhood. Motherhood is no longer a point of divisiveness, but rather a personal lifestyle choice. The same refection needs to happen around sexuality and coming of age. We as a society need to become more protective of our children. An essential part of protecting our children is to teach young women to value, protect and own their sexuality.
Today, American teenagers are much more sexualized than any previous generations. Having been raped and sodomized as a young teenager, Krausz was inspired to put her pain and rage into a creative piece. never even heard of anal intercourse. She set out to write some wrongs, she chose a strip club because it is a place where people are objectified on both sides.
Krausz met a young woman (a fellow survivor of abuse,) who danced at a strip club to support her 3-year-old daughter and her 5 younger orphaned siblings. Her father murdered her mother, and she was left to raise them. Krausz began 6 months of intensive interviews and research. Krausz gave drafts of the script to the dancers who would give her notes. They let Krausz enter inside a group forbidden by most outsiders.
98% of the dancers interviewed had been sexually abuse. The film has been shown to a wide sampling of audiences from Mid-western homemakers to socialites and diplomats in Monte Carlo. It is surprising to Krausz how readily these women from all different cultures and classes can relate to Lily's experience.
STRIPPED DOWN was originally conceived as an acting experiment, it quickly grew into a full fledged feature shot on film. Krausz had stone soup approach to the film, believing that simply making the commitment to making the film, it would find it's own production level. Diane Epsom, from Kodak, read the script and appreciated what Krausz was interested in saying on bigger level. The script attracted attention from some other notable industry insiders from Casting Directors, Production Designers, Directors of Photography, Music Supervisors and Editors. Krausz was pleased to have some very talented people to choose from for her team.
Cinematographer, Zoran Popovich (SIN with Gary Oldman and Ving Rhames,) was a passionate early key player in the production, supportive of Krausz's vision even when she felt very vulnerable as an actor. It is not the easiest thing working with a director who is also starring in the film, especially at a lower budget level. His belief in the film and in Krausz led the crew through some very long, hot summer days.
In the Art department Krausz hired Deren Abram (BABY GENIOUS, BLOND and BLONDER) as the Production Designer for the film. "Working on Stripped Down was fun, Elana knew what she wanted and we all had a blast giving the sets the look she was looking for." Elana said that she wanted it to Edward Hooper meets Moulin Rouge."
The casting process was intense. Krausz hired famed casting directors Cathy Henderson ("MacGyver," DOUBTING THOMAS) and Dori Zuckerman (WISHMASTER, BABYLON 5) both Casting Society of America members. The breakdowns and casting notices were released and thousands of actors were submitted for each character. "It was very overwhelming" says Henderson, "the mail carriers were carrying these big mail bags full of Stripped Down submissions to our office for a week." At that time actors and agents only submitted hardcopy headshots. "We were inundated by the overall volume that was submitted for all the roles" says Zuckerman.
"It was tough, we either saw great dancers that could not act or great actors that could not dance, it was very frustrating." "We were casting for over two months," says Krausz, "Our first auditions were real professional strippers, but we felt we needed stronger actors in these roles, so we went back to the drawing board and looked for really strong actors."
At the auditions, Krausz had her teenage daughter with her when they asked the girls auditioning to dance, "Well one of them took it a bit far and tried to give my daughter a lap dance it was really over the top and embarrassing." Many of the women had never danced professionally, let alone strip dancing.
Once the cast was selected it was time to bring in the professionals; Shelia Kelly's SFactor was enrolled and help was on the way. S-Factor is a strip dance studio and instructor Sheila Kelly's workout is inspired by yoga, ballet, striptease and pole dancing. It empowers, enlightens and changes the lives of our actresses and turned them into real strippers.
"We were shooting long days and long nights on location, the cast was awesome, sometimes having to eat Taco Bell and stay at Motel 6 with the crew." "One time our Production Manager forgot to get Ian Zieing (Francis) a room and Ian being the total professional that he is just got his own room. Never once did he complain or turn in a receipt." Krausz recalls.
One of the more surprising aspects of directing STRIPPED DOWN for Krausz was the incredible amount of physical insecurity amongst the actors. Not only was she asked to check the amount of cellulite on the backs of the actress legs (by the actresses themselves,) but the night before the revenge scene was shot, Marcus (Larry) requested assistance from his director. The scene called for the three girls, Lily, Cara and Wren to take revenge on the horrible club owner by waxing his rear end. Although the script described the club owner to be rather hairy, Marcus asked Krausz to trim the hair on his bottom.
Another interesting fact is that the actresses had to wear 4" high heal stripper shoes where the pressure is on the ball of the foot, while on set. Krausz (Lily, Director) had to not only act but also direct in these shoes, sometimes 14 hours a day 6 days a week on concrete. Feeling her pain Marcus (Larry the club owner) poured rubbing alcohol on Krausz's feet to toughen them up. A trick he learned from the Royal Air Force.
Cara and Wren are really Lily's character at different stages in Lily's life, so throughout production the actresses Lisa Arturo and Bre Blair would mimic each other and act like Lily on set and Elana off set.
After Larry is killed, he is rolled up in a rug and dragged down some stairs and thrown into the trunk of a car. Marcus Jean Pirae (Larry) was so committed to the film that he insisted on not using a stunt double and put himself in the trunk of the car for hours. In the cold desert Ian was dragging Marcus around in only his underpants and out of thistles, bushes, in and out of the trunk of the car. Marcus also helped shop for props taking a special interest in how he thought Larry's office should be decorated. When Marcus saw how small Lily's wedding ring was he bought her a diamond ring.
While in production, Elana (Lily) broke her rib during the fight scene. Although urged by the producers to stop shooting and go the ER, she opted for a five minute phone consultation with her doctor in San Francisco instead and stuck to the schedule. After all, the show must go on. Once production was completed her doctor confirmed that she did have a broken rib. He ordered her house bound and to get some rest.
Krausz refers to her editor, multiple Academy Award and Emmy Award nominee, Aaron I. Yamamoto (DRAGONHEART, DAYLIGHT, DAY OF INDEPENDENCE, and Britney Spears) as her mid wife/therapist; he would draw out ideas from her even when she herself was a bit hesitant to go into past pain and images stuck in her sub conscious.
"It is truly rare in jaded Hollywood to come across a project that empowers women, while bringing to light the challenges that the modern woman faces in today's male dominated society. STRIPPED DOWN is that rarity and I am honored to have been a part of its creation" says Yamamoto.
Jeremy Grody (FIRED, THE WHOLE TEN YARDS, THE NICKEL CHILDREN) joined the team as the Sound Designer. Jeremy's Sound effects and mixing were just what Krausz needed to hear for the film.
Krausz also turned to Producers Bobby Leigh, Christo Dimassis and Peabody Award winner Steven Adams to complete her team.
"When I first met Krausz at a film festival, I was immediately stuck by her vision and commitment as a director. I knew that I wanted to work with her. Once Stripped Down was completed she showed it to me and I was blown away by the overall look of the film as well as the story. Elana asked me to produce her film THE GIFT. And like an adoptive parent I immediately took on the fatherhood and love of Stripped Down." "I believe that this film can and will stand up agents ANY studio picture out there, the acting is brilliant, the production value is better than most Hollywood feature films and the story is powerful and compelling" says Leigh.