Angela Robinson is living every budding filmmaker’s dream. A couple of years ago she received a small grant from a women’s film collective to make a short all-girl crime-fighting team spoof with a lesbian twist, which led to a $5m contract with Sony to turn the short into a feature. That feature, D.E.B.S., inspired Walt Disney studios to contract Robinson to direct the $50m Herbie: Fully Loaded, a Lindsay Lohan and Matt Dillon feature due for Australian release in July.
If it sounds like a fairytale, take a moment to consider the quality of D.E.B.S. It’s slick, it has quality actors doing quality acting and it is genuinely funny. Robinson even manages to buy some stunts and good sets with her meagre (for Hollywood) budget.
It’s also the perfect film for queer Charlie’s Angels fans because, as Robinson says, it brings the lesbian subtext so often seen in girls-go-wild movies onto centre stage.
I totally do that, she says. It brings it to the forefront.
I really love girl-power action movies but I always wanted the girls to get together with each other as opposed to with the guys. I decided to write my own because I didn’t see it happening in already existing films.
D.E.B.S. (the letters stand for Discipline Energy Beauty Strength) tells the story of four high school girls who are chosen through a special section of the SAT exam to attend an elite crime-fighting academy.
The four checked skirt-wearing crime-fighting machines are Amy (Sara Foster), Max (Meagan Good), Dominique (Devon Aoki) and Janet (Jill Ritchie). All four have special skills and weaknesses. Amy is perfect but not sure about whether she wants to be an agent, Max is feisty but jealous, Dominique is a beautiful chain-smoking promiscuous French girl and Janet is sweet but dumb.
Their nemesis is young lesbian crime-lord Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster of The Fast And The Furious fame). The four D.E.B.S. are assigned to Diamond’s case but things go awry when Amy falls in love with her hot, evil enemy.
Robinson’s 2003 short film version of D.E.B.S. was funded by Power Up, a non-profit organisation made up of gay and straight women who offer financial support for other women in entertainment.
Sony backed the feature on the strength of the short film and feature script, and Robinson was able to assemble a great cast of up-and-coming actors -“ for example Devon Aoki, the former catwalk model who appeared in 2 Fast 2 Furious -“ and seasoned professionals like Holland Taylor, who plays the D.E.B.S. Academy headmistress.
We had a barrage of great people who wanted to be on the project, Robinson said.
It was cool because a lot of actresses really responded to the material and thought the parts were lots of fun.
The film has screened at Sundance Film Festival and the Berlinale in Berlin. It is also scheduled for cinema release in the US in March, which Robinson -“ who is currently in post-production of Herbie: Fully Loaded -“ is very excited about.
I’m really psyched about it. It was a big labour of love and I’m really happy with how it turned out. I can’t wait for it to hit theatres and for big audiences to see it.
D.E.B.S. screens as part of the Mardi Gras Film Festival on Saturday 26 February from 7:30pm at the Palace Academy Twin Cinema, Oxford St, Paddington. The Festival runs until Thursday 3 March. Visit www.queerscreen.com.au for tickets and info.