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Interview: Jeremy White Talks ‘Bitch Ass,’ SXSW, and More

Recently, Awards Radar had the opportunity to chat with Jeremy White, the production designer for SXSW feature film Bitch Ass. White worked closely with director Bill Posley to play with different vintage elements that would help in bringing more authenticity into the project. Bitch Ass follows a group of gang recruits as they play deadly games during their initiation process from inside a haunted house. 

In this interview, White dives into the production design behind the film, his process for bringing the various sets to life, and what’s next for him. Take a look:

Hi Jeremy, how are you doing?! Did you enjoy your time at SXSW? How did it feel to have your film featured at the festival this year? 

Hi Betty! I’m doing great, still riding the high of having our little passion project seen at such a wonderful festival. This was my first time attending SXSW, and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. So many of the cast and crew were in attendance, it really felt like getting the gang back together. 

To start, we’ll go back to the beginning. Can you talk a little bit about how you first got started as a production designer? What were some of your early influences? 

My first influence was undoubtedly on the set of Starship Troopers as a child. My father worked in the Transportation Department on that film, and there was a day we were wandering around one of the srts that wasn’t being filmed. I picked up a bullet casing that was on the ground, and he chided me about scene continuity. That was my first time hearing about the illustrious Art Department and the crazy work that they do. 

How did you get involved working in the realm of horror? Was there something specific that drew you to Bitch Ass? 

I’ve been drawn to horror throughout my career. In my early days, I did a lot of zombie/apocalypse stuff and really dialed in the blood and gore vibe. In 2014, I got to art direct the indie horror Starry Eyes with Snowfort Pictures, that film really gave me an appreciation for what a well-crafted horror could be. Bitch Ass was no exception in that regard, the script had such a comprehensive understanding of the history of horror, specifically the sub genre of “hood horror” classics like Candyman and People Under the Stairs. 

What was it like working with the director, Bill Posley, and collaborating to bring both of your visions to life for Bitch Ass? 

It was a dream come true! Bill is the best kept secret in Hollywood – pure creativity and he always leads from the heart which is more than anyone can ask from a director. It was such a fun and painless collaboration. He and Jon were always so open to suggestions for myself and my crew. With those

elements in place, it was easy to overcome the odds of this low budget project and really bring Bitch Ass to life. 

Since the film is set in the past, what were some challenges you faced replicating certain design elements or set pieces? 

Probably that we had zero budget for picture cars, which anyone in the industry knows can be insanely expensive, especially period cars. We just tried to shoot around it as creatively as possible and I think it worked out for the most part. Props to Parker, our cinematographer, for always being so accommodating in that regard. Aside from that, we were really blessed with the grandmother’s house location. It was packed with amazing set dressing items, and our set decorator Danielle Merendino did a fantastic job utilizing them in the space. Another fun tidbit is that the 6th Street Gang House originally had no plans to be spray painted, but our gracious host let us whip that together after lunch before we shot in that location. I feel it really helped add a lot to the scene – it would have been bare walls otherwise. Our key grip Kyle actually did most of the tagging. 

What were the most important elements for you to visually include in Bitch Ass, in order for viewers to really connect with the horror and storytelling aspects of the film? 

For me, I think the most important element of the design was showing the class disparity between Cecil’s house and the 6th Street Gang. Showing some of the real life conditions that people deal with in underserved communities was important for us, as that’s what leads to most of the conflict in the film in the first place. Bill has talked about the international use of wide-angle lenses to create a claustrophobic sense, portraying how the characters are trapped in their situations, playing out their roles. 

Do you have any advice for young creatives looking to break into the entertainment industry and work as a production designer? 

Don’t give up and know your worth! I spent a lot of time in my early days not advocating for myself working with people who didn’t really appreciate what I was bringing to the table, and it took a lot of the joy out of what I was doing. Working with people like Bill and our mutual friend Brent Lydic really taught me to value healthy working relationships, where respect is mutual and appreciation is at the forefront. 

And lastly, following the SXSW Film Festival, is there anything you’re working on next? 

I’m working on a really fun project for E3 with Devolver Digital and Don Thacker, it’ll be my third one with them and it’s always a fun, chaotic experience. I’m also in talks with one of my favorite bands about potentially production designing a music video, more to come on that. Other than that, just enjoying the festival tour of Bitch Ass and loving the audience reactions. We’ve got upcoming screenings in Arizona and our LA premiere at the end of the month.

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Written by Betty Ginette

Oscar Sunday is my personal Super Bowl.

I cover behind the camera artisans, and love to hear about filmmaking magic behind the scenes.

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