Mar 28, 2022
When the 2020 SFFILM Festival was canceled in March, D’Arcy Drollinger was denied the Castro Theatre world premiere experience for Shit & Champagne, D’Arcy’s epic debut film adaptation of the popular stage show. Luckily for us all, Frameline44 has saved the day with the presentation of the film’s premiere in the best possible circumstances afforded us in this year outside of cinemas: at the drive-in! You can still get tickets to the world premiere event, Thursday, September 17, 7:30 pm at the West Wind Solano Drive-In, at Frameline.org.
Shit & Champagne is a project that is close to the hearts of the SFFILM Makers team, having received SFFILM Rainin Grants for both screenwriting and post-production. We hope you’ll be there at Frameline’s event to cheer along with us for D’Arcy and the entire Shit & Champagne crew! On this exciting occasion, we asked D’Arcy to share some thoughts on the evolution of the film.
Stage to Screen, Shit to Champagne
by D’Arcy Drollinger
Shit & Champagne is my first feature film. Honestly, it is my first film, period. Everyone told me I was crazy to jump right into a feature film without making a few short films first. Everyone told me I was crazy to produce, direct, and star in my first feature film. Everyone told me that adaptations from stage never work as films. So, going into this project I already knew I was working against the odds. Truth be told, if I had known what I “didn’t know” then, I might not have jumped in guns blazing in the same way. In this instance, maybe ignorance was power.
I have made a career out of what I call “Vaudeville 2.0.” Bawdy, loud, lewd, over the top stage productions that combine drag, high camp, slapstick, and commedia dell’arte. All of these things are seen often as “not serious” or fluff, but to be done right they take exacting precision, dedication and craft. I’ve also had a lot of success adapting parody version of film and TV scripts for stage. With this combination, I knew it was inevitable for me to transition into film. The time was right. And while I didn’t understand the mechanics of making a film, I understood what made a film work and how to make people laugh.
The challenges of camp in cinema seemed less daunting until I actually tried to do it. There are already huge hurdles to adapt a stage production for film, but throw in drag and a vaudevillian troupe of actors and the puzzle becomes extraordinarily more difficult.
I knew that films like Shit & Champagne had worked before — I had proof from my heroes like Mel Brooks and the Zucker Brothers, Charles Busch and John Waters — but the medium of film always felt like a mystery. I could produce and direct a stage production with my eyes closed, but the creation of film felt elusive.
Shit & Champagne uses comedy and gender-bending performances in hopes to open audiences to new gender possibilities. This film enlisted a cross-section of actors, performers, and drag kings and queens of the LGBT arts community in San Francisco. And running alongside the ridiculous comedy narrative of Shit & Champagne is also a story where outcasts find each other, where heart does emerge and where friendship is sacred.
While this is a period piece, the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sensibility allows for a broader canvas to tell the story, and thus we are referring to it as a “soft period” piece. Shot with a heightened aesthetic and saturated colors, we’re aiming for a look that is both authentic and modern.
I was inspired by 70’s exploitation films like Coffy and Foxy Brown starring Pam Grier, and Savage Streets with Linda Blair. But I am also a big fan of 70’s TV heroines — Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman, the Bionic Woman, Police Woman — Champagne too is a whole lot of woman! I wanted something that felt like John Waters and Russ Meyer collaborated with Mel Brooks and Quentin Tarantino.
In many of the classic exploitation films, an “everyday” person is thrust into the middle of a crime ring. When their family members and loved ones are killed and the police do nothing, they are forced to take the law into their own hands — thus creating our unsuspecting hero. In many of these films, the “bad guys” run a drug racket (usually heroin), which leads to enlisting the drug addicts into a prostitution ring. I was searching for a drug more comedic than heroin, when I stumbled upon Michael Musto’s column in the Village Voice, which was about the sewage problem in many of the NYC nightclubs due to the new trend of “booty bumps.” I ran with that idea, and suddenly I had a very funny and slightly gross plot on my hands.
We first produced Shit & Champagne as a stage play in New York, where it ran for nine months. It was remounted in San Francisco twice — in 2014 where it was extended three times, and then brought back by popular demand to be the inaugural production for the grand opening of my nightclub, Oasis, in 2015. The San Francisco productions attracted a serious cult following — the self-proclaimed “Shit Heads” who would attend the live performances, dozens of times, leading the audiences in chanting lines and repeating callbacks to the actors in a Rocky Horror fashion. I hope that the film audiences will feel the same.
D’Arcy Drollinger has written, directed, and starred in the original feature film Shit & Champagne as well as the multimedia stage productions of Bitch Slap, Disastrous, The Temple of Poon, Mr. Irresistible, Project: Lohan, Scalpel!, The Possession of Mrs. Jones, Pink Elephants, Above and Beyond the Valley of the Ultra Showgirls, Suburbia 3000, and The Cereal Killers. Other credits include The Producers (first Broadway production) and Hairspray the Musical (first Broadway production). D’Arcy is the owner of Oasis, the premier drag club in the US, voted San Francisco’s best nightclub / cabaret.
D’Arcy continues to produce, adapt, and direct the live drag parodies Sex and the City Live, The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes, Star Trek Live, Buffy the Vampire Slayer Live, and Three’s Company Live. D’Arcy is the creator of Sexitude, the body-positive, age-positive, sex-positive dance experience based in San Francisco.
Find out more about SFFILM’s filmmaking grant opportunities at sffilm.org/makers.