Victoria Muspratt: Portrait of a woman of action

A year and a half ago, former casting director and short filmmaker Victoria Muspratt won her American Green card in the lottery. The next day she was on her way to Los Angeles, with her last $400, no driver's licence, and...

A year and a half ago, former casting director and short filmmaker Victoria Muspratt won her American Green card in the lottery. The next day she was on her way to Los Angeles, with her last $400, no driver’s licence, and not a single contact in her Rolodex, determined to make her first feature ‘within the year.’

She was confident of immediate success. A few years back, just graduated from university, she’d flown straight to New York City, and with absolutely no experience in the industry, landed a job with one of the top casting directors in the businesson her first day.

A year later, Immigration caught up with her and kicked her out of the country.

Undaunted, she flew to London, Eng., and on her first day there, landed a job with the u.k.’s top casting director. Eventually tiring of London, she flew home to Toronto, and that day and with one phone call landed a job with Ann Tait’s casting agency.

So, she was a little baffled when after 24 hours in l.a., where there are more casting agencies than Toronto has donut shops, she didn’t have a job.

A week later, she was still unemployed, and no one was taking her calls. She started to worry. Working her way down the list, she finally found a position with a small company that specialized in casting ‘soft’ adult features for the Playboy Channel.

Never consulted

She wasn’t very happy there. She was rarely consulted as to which performer gave the best reading. If asked for her input at all, it was usually to break a deadlock as to whether someone’s ‘bum was too big.’ Still, it was a job, and a foot in the door.

In her spare time, she devoured biographies of directors. She’d written, directed and produced two short films in Toronto. Her first, Foul Foreplay, aired on cbc. Her second, The Pony’s Tale, was part of the Global New Producers series, but she knew the two films didn’t constitute much of a reel, and she’d have to look for a company willing to take a chance on a relatively inexperienced first-timer.

She learned that Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Martin Scorcese, James Cameron and Gale Ann Hurd were all given their start as directors by courageous renegades willing to gamble on a new talent. Or, rather, one particular courageous renegade, Roger Corman, producer of films such as Attack of the Crab Monsters, Dementia 13, Boxcar Bertha, and the first Little Shop of Horrors. She figured, this guy was her ticket.

Quitting her casting job, Muspratt showed up at Corman’s studio and volunteered to work as an unpaid intern. Soon she was offered the job of assistant to the director of development, where she spent most of her day pitching him her ideas, ‘and my nights being asked to rewrite lesbian love scenes.’

Some of her pitches intrigued Corman, but while a staunch supporter of equality in the film business, he’d always felt that women didn’t make good action directors.

Shoot actioner

Muspratt knew that the only way to convince Corman would be to shoot a short action film. Getting a cast and crew together would be no problem, and Corman had all the equipment she needed, but she simply didn’t have the money for film stock – until one day when she was attending a woman’s support group on the cbs lot.

A huge set was being transported on rollers. It got loose, careered through the lot, and rammed the rusting, held-together-by-gaffer’s-tape 1978 Toyota she calls ‘Carlos Jose Montego,’ leaving one more dent to go with the dozen or so others. cbs offered her $1,500 to settle out of court. Three times more than the car was worth, she took it, and quickly shot her action sampler. Corman was convinced.

Inhumanoid, which she describes as ‘Dead Calm in space,’ started shooting Jan. 31. Written and directed by Muspratt, with a shooting schedule of 18 days and a budget of us$700,000, Corman has surrounded Muspratt with his a-crew, and has allotted an impressive – for him – budget of $40,000 for effects. The film stars Richard Grieco and Corbin Berson, and is slated to air on Showtime this fall.

What’s Muspratt going to do next? ‘I hope to make four or five more features with Roger’s `graduate film school,’ then, I plan to be the next Francis Ford Coppola.’

steve westren is a Toronto-based comedy writer and director.