Originally published on my first webzine, skinback, sometime in 1995, I think? For those who don’t know, Troche is the director of the seminal lesbian dramedy, Vai a pescare, on which I worked in a small capacity. Mostly, I drove the van, but you can also see me as a waiter in the cafe scene.
[Because my microcassette recorder broke just before the interview, I had to use the built-in recorder on my phone’s answering machine. This presented several unforeseen lapses, breaks, beeeeeeeps, and other limitations. In the print version I represented these interruptions graphically. Here I’ve eliminated most of those annoyances and have edited out a few likes and umms, although I should have removed more probably.]
(In a mechanical female voice: Saturday 8:55 am beeeeeeeeeeeeeep!!!!)
Rose Troche in NYC: ?unless I break it down into, like, the scenes and what’s happening and how many minutes they are–estimated–apiece, I can’t figure out why I think it has pacing problems and so I’m just, you know?
Rick Powell in Chicago: So you’re actually doing something: you don’t have to write down in your little pad, “Still nothing done.”
RT: Still nothing done?uh, no, I’m actually doing something: isn’t that?it’s amazing. Well, Danny, um, is in town, uh, my manager, so we were out?what’d I do? Well, I worked during the day and then we, um, we went to dinner and just went to a bar very briefly and we got home at midnight?she’s kinda of a granny.
You’re kind of a granny?
RT: She’s kinda of a granny.
What do you mean “she’s?”
RT: Dani. Oh, it’s a woman.
Ohh. D-A-N-I maybe. I see; She’s kind of a granny?okay, honey?let’s start talking.
RT: Okay we’ll?let me shut off my radio?
RT:So we’re recording.
Yes, we are.
Heh heh. And you have so many wonderful things to tell me.
RT: So many wonderful things to say.
Which you have said about three times now haven’t you?
RT: Which is okay.
I have “questions for Rose” on my Newton.
RT: Questions for Rose: ‘What’s happening in Aida Rose?’ I’m trying to read Italian.
Can you read Italian?
RT: Nononono! It’s translated. Actually, the Italian’s on the opposite side so I’m sure I could start learning Italian if I just compare?
I’m sure. Okay, where’s my water? Actually where’s my beer?
RT: Uhhhh, I’m whichya. Where’s my forty-ouncer?
What Kevin? [blah blah blah] Uh, oh god I uh have to find the box of Kleenex becuse we are so fucking lazy that we have not?
RT: ?have not bought toilet paper.
?haven’t bought toliet paper.
RT: I’m whichya again.
Isn’t that pathetic? It’s so pathetic.
RT: Well, it’s been so nice having house guests ’cause like they’ve bought toilet paper for me.
Oh that’s good. I have never been at this state in my life ever before.
It’s just absolutely pathetic.
RT: This is part of your rebellion.
Kevin says?I guess so?Kevin says hello. It is part of my rebellion.
RT: Tell him hi. Is he just sitting on the toliet getting cold?
RT: Go [indecipherable]
RT: Go help him.
RT: Oh you did. Oh, okay.
I just walked in there and gave him the tissues. So let’s talk about film and uh?
RT:[sings to the tune of the Salt ‘n’ Pepa song] Let’s talk about film, baby?
Oh God how did?okay?
RT: Let’s talk about film.
What’s on your mind today, Rose?
RT: What’s on my mind?The Trouble with Mary. That’s not really on my mind. It’s just you know?I’m just you know?I should have had this done?being late is on my mind–always on my mind. You know, like, I don’t know?you know I’m chronically late?
Yes, I know that.
RT: Ummm humm. [laughs] It hasn’t gotten any better [laugh] since I’ve become a big professional movie director.
(big laugh from Rick)
(haha from Rose)
Well, that’s just gonna become your trademark you see?
RT: Oh my god, people will NOT tolerate it.
They don’t tolerate it?
RT: Oh, no: they make YOU wait. You know, I’m on time if someone gets me there on time. But you know?
They have to wake you up and dress you?
RT: ?put on my diaper?
So who have you been late for?
RT: ?powder my butt?[laughs]
Who have you been late for?
RT: Ohhhhhhh. Yesterday I was late for the Gersch Agency, which represents me. So I was just meeting the people at the New York office and I was late for them and they made me wait for an hour and a half and I had to be in the corner with a dunce cap on?yeah and even Dani had to leave me.
So who famous have you have you been been late for? Not necessarily people but sort of like you know organizations?
RT: Oh my?I don’t know?no, nobody like?nobody famous have I been late for. Those things make me too nervous. I was on time when I went to?like events I’m on time to?mainly ’cause there’s usually a free cocktail hour so you know I’m there–if I have that sort of incentive you know?
[laugh and a deep breath] Oh god?
RT: So then I’m there early, you know. I didn’t get there early?the GLAAD [Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation] awards were the other night so I didn’t get there early for that; but I have to say That Girl–Marlo Thomas–presented our award. My mother would have been so proud of me.
Oh really! Oh, that’s impressive. So what was your award?
RT: Oh, it’s for?it was for Outstanding Film for, uh, you know?
Now is that a category that has nominations?all the whole, the whole shit?
RT: I don’t know how they come about doing it. You know, I think it’s like nominations, yeah?
Isn’t it sort of late?
RT: Uh, well, these are the 199?uh, yeah, it’s last year’s stuff. Like ’94 was last year and ’95 is really the ’94 awards, you know what I mean; so yeah?yeah, it is like, like, that’s difficult?because you know Vai a pescare has been?it has such history?
It’s so tired now.
RT:Yeah. Heh heh.
So, uh, I like the?uh?we were talking about?whoever it was?saying that Vai a pescare was didactic?
RT: Oh yeah: Andrea. Andrea who’s, who’s, uh, what’s-his-face’s producer?um? What is his name?
GrEgG ArAkI. Mr. Bad Boy.
RT:Baaaaaaad Boooyyyyy. [sings] Talkin’ ’bout that Bad Boy.
Okay, don’t sing Rose; talk to me.
RT:Hah hah hah! Oh, you just want me to talk shit again!
No, I don’t! Uh I just?
RT: She’s entitled to her opinion.
RT: And that’s all I said to her?[Big laugh] After?I threw her across the room!
I wanna know?that’s ALL she said? She thought?
RT: Ummm?we were listening to Nitzer Ebb on the way to this bar and then on the way?at the bar they were playing Nitzer Ebb and then on the way back home she was playing Nitzer Ebb again?how can you trust a person like that?
RT: That’s El A ’cause Nitzer Ebb is so El A; so like: you know, we’re kinda rioting; we’re kinda rebellious, kind of?In a very posey way? She took me to this club, this sex club, which was later a sex club and I’m just like: what’s that big cross doing on stage? Where some lady gets tied up? I don’t know I was just like: o-kay here we are. It was so sterile. It wasn’t like a dungeon or anything. It wasn’t like seedy and sexy and wet. It was like dry and varnished and you know even those leather straps were like brand new, you know ?and everyone’s rubber pants and tattoos and piercings are all?
No pus or oozing.
RT: What’s that?
The tattoos and the piercings: no pus.
RT: No pus.
Nothing was oozing.
RT: Everyone was healed very nicely and the tanning booth helps?
‘Cause they all had their own doctors for each tattoo watching over the healing process?
RT: Hah! True, so true.
So, so, yeah?you can continue to dish cause I’m sure people want to hear about?
RT: No, but I like Andrea very much; I just, you know, I just?
That’s not whom I’m talking about to you.
RT: Oh you’re talking about gReGg.
I want the whole?yes, I want the whole, the whole story about his walking out of?
RT: Oh, walking out?Oh, why?WHY I HAVE A PROBLEM WITH GREGG ARAKI?
RT: Because yeah?because at Sundance he, he?after a good twelve minutes of Vai a pescare–which, which was, you know, probably the most didactic part–walked out of the movie and that’s because his boyfriend at the time–I don’t know if it’s the same boyfriend–was ill I was told. But to me all it looked like was he?just?his presence was noted in the room and he and his huge posse of like 40 people walked out?no actually it was only like 8 people or something. That’s?still that’s a lot to have get up?rustle rustle?creeeeeak?lights from the hallway come in?and you know, he walks out. But I was just, you know?and I’ve never?I’ve never?I’ve never even met gReGg yet, you know. Which is like another thing?we were both at Sundance and we, you know?it’s like the ever elusive GrEgG?you know, so whatevah. WHAT-EVAAHHH. I just figure, you know, at this point?I don’t know. I have to wait to see Doom Generation?but I mean, in terms of my respect for him as a filmmaker: it’s just like?you know?I think he’s just mediocre.
I think, I think it’s funny that Andrea called Go Fish didactic and what the hell does she think of uh, Totally Fucked Up?
RT: [intake of breath] Riiight. I just don’t know.
(laugh from me)
RT: I don’t know. I think that?I think that GrEgG hypnotizes everyone who works for him and um?
Well, he is cute, I mean?
He’s a cutie.
RT: He has like, you know?seances or something before they start production. I really don’t know. I don’t know. Everyone who works for him thinks he’s just like the shit?I think he’s a shit, too, but in a totally different way.
But you know, it’s also the sorts of issues you raise as oppossed to the sorts of issues gReGg raises or thinks he’s raising?
RT: Well, I think he’s so caught up in like this rebellious?you know: “I am a bad boy:” naughty, naughty. And that’s really, like?within the context of El A because no one’s even political in El A so, of course, in this, like, insular world that’s he’s stayed in, of course he seems like, you know, rebellious. But put that?contextualize that even in Chicago or New York that’s just like, like kid’s stuff and the?like, you know, the backdrop of everything? you know: the Godard posters, the homages are just so blatant?it’s so, so?it just reminds me of being 21. It’s so like angsty in that: I’m a little bit older and now?I’m looking at the world kind of way–so bad-poetry and self-indulgent.
I think it’s interesting to contrast the ending of Vai a pescare where [laugh] Guin and Valerie are romping around in happiness?and the end of Totally Fucked Up in which the uh?
RT: Well, actually they swallowed bleach before they went out which is why they’re so happy?they’re on a bleach high–a bleach and Ajax high [laugh] actually when they went out?doing some clean living.
I?you know when I saw that [the suicide scene in Totally Fucked Up] the first time I laughed?
RT: Oh, it’s just?
?because I thought?I thought: this is a dream sequence right? This is his imagining killing himself. I’m like: he’s drinking bleach? Who the fuck?what the fuck is that?
RT: It’s retarded.
And then he falls into the?into the pool and I’m thinking?
RT: Everytime I see a pool in a shot I’m like: who’s gonna fall in? Any movie?I’m like: who’s gonna drown in the pool? Who’s gonna?you know?
I was not the least bit moved by that. First I laughed when he fell into the pool and then I was pissed off that he did it. I was really pissed off.
RT: Well, I think it’s also very similar to the ending of The Living End. I think that he’s so self-conscious about being?he can’t give a happy ending. Do ya know what I mean? Like he’s kind of trapped in this persona as a filmmaker where he’s gotta give these kinds of ridiculous over-the-top endings in order to still be seen as this “that’s right I’m bad.” And people do kill themselves, but it’s just like the?there was no?and people might think that I’m just full of shit for this but I think there’s a certain responsibility that you have to have as a filmmaker, and it’s true that people kill themselves, and it’s true that there are very angry and fucked up queers in this world and?
And most of them don’t kill themselves though?I mean?
RT: Right. I don’t know. It’s just like he kind of puts things out there like flopping a dead fish on a table, you know what I mean: there it is, dunnit it stink? You know for me that’s just not?so where do we go from here? Then to me it’s only part of a story, and for him it’s the whole story.
RT: After I saw that I was gonna take Santosh to see it and I thought there is no way in hell that I would bring any queer teenager that I had sort of a big brother relationship with would I bring to this movie, you know. It’s like I don’t want them to see this.
Yeah. I would like to think it’s so ridiculous it’s not even that powerful.
RT: Well it’s not powerful at all. It was?that was my total impression of the movie–it was completely sterile and passionless which is, I suppose, very El A.
Right. I know it’s ? there’s a certain void I feel when I’m there because first it’s such an apolitical climate and I just don’t understand how it could be when I think when?
(tape turns over)
You were talking about El A, was what you’re talking about?you know: the void. [laugh] But you know we should probably stop talking about that. Because I want to talk more about what you’re doing and um ’cause none of that got recorded–the things that you’re working on?
RT: The things that I’m working on now?being primarily?uh, well, I finished my first script alone which is called Blood & Guts. Ummm?
Which didn’t have a title when you first?when I was in New York?
RT: No, it did not have a title?and then I decided on Blood & Guts and um, and, and it’s interesting?it’s interesting with the discussion of El A that, that, um?that ticking in the background is my toaster because there’s nothing to eat in this godforsaken home of mine except rye bread! [laughs] Ummm, so, um, well? Oh. So what? it’s interesting because, because when people in El A read my script they’re just like, oh you know: where’s the arc? where’s the?you know?where’s like, the kind of traditional act one, two, three and it’s, uh, you know?it’s, it’s and I don’t wanna?I mean when I write something all by myself, I certainly don’t make it in that structure because I find it boring and predictable, so it’s interesting to have other feedback from people in New York who like my script and people in El A who don’t. Because it’s not marketable.
Yeah, well, that sounds like a compliment to me so?
RT: Right, right, you know?but then, you know?then we’re talking about?you know? This is a movie that I think will not, certainly will NOT make as much money as Vai a pescare; so you know it’s just?it’s difficult all around, you know. And I wasn’t trying to be difficult; I was just trying to do something that I felt?was about where I’m at in my life right now.
And you chose?you chose to write alone because?
RT: Oh, because I?I need to prove that to myself, you know. Because you know, you know, writing something with someone else and then, you know, having a rocky time of it?I mean, Guin [Guinivere Turner] and I didn’t have a rocky time of it when we were writing Vai a pescare but we did in terms of, in terms of “Whose work is it?” You know what I mean?
There’s a certain amount of proving to myself that I can write something decent on my own. Umm and also, you know, make a film. I mean I need to do that for myself, you know what I mean and not be attached to this other person because it gets very? I mean Guin and I have fought so hard over like, you know, you know who’s, who’s more talented–I don’t know. [laugh]
Some ridiculous conversations. It’s just like?it’s like: well, I would suppose that if we were both nice and giving we both are, you know. But it’s?it just turns into something else you know: Oh look you got?they only want to interview you or they only want you, you know what I mean? This sort of pettiness that, you know–I just don’t like at all.
Was that a, uh?that sounds like it was sort of prompted by the press?
RT: Oh absolutely, absolutely. You know because in most, in most scenarios of what we’ve just gone through–what Guin and I have just gone through–someone who has co-produced and co-written an independent film you wouldn’t even know their fuckin’ name. Do ya know what I mean? You?you just wouldn’t. It’s just a world?it’s not a world that works that way and independent filmmaking?it’s like the director who’s the star so you really have to sit there and push for this other person to get attention–which we really did, you know and said like?and it’s a very honest thing because it’s like filmmaking doesn’t?I don’t know why the director’s the star because one can argue that, that, that the director only?how much of that you know? when someone says it’s a film by?I mean I sometimes question that ’cause I read the credits?I’m like: someone else produced it, someone else wrote it and the only thing you did was direct it. I mean, it is a really huge thing to direct but I don’t know if it should be called?all the credit should be given to only that one person; so we were kind of going?Guin and I were kind of going at it with that philosophy in mind.
I definitely saw the result of that because I think you?when ever I was with you it was always, um, you were always pushing the dual authorship thing.
RT: Right, you know?and that has become problematic ’cause there’s some times when people will be like: No, no; we only want the director to do this and then Guin gets mad at me, you know or something like that which is just like, you know? we’re trying to break some ground here, you know and uh, it’s, it’s been difficult, you know. It’s ego shit; all of it’s ego shit. Stuff like you wouldn’t even know that you were, like, that petty, you know, until the opportunity comes up and you’re right there with it. You know I’ve been surprised at my own behavior even—my own pettiness.
So what about?I know we talked a little about press coverage and how much it determines, sort of sets the parameters of the discussion about what it all might mean?
Well, right. Well they try?I mean the thing about the press that was the most difficult was that we didn’t know that we would be recreated. We kinda felt like: Oh well, no; we’ll just be put out there?I mean I remember the first photo shoot that we had?I mean,god?Guin and I?we were just?we were so, like, accomodating and so like?at one point neither of us had shirts on?
[burst of incredulous laughter] Oh god.
This is true. They wrapped us in like this satin?
?and like: Show your tattoo, show your tattoo! It was Filmmaker [magazine] and finally they took?there were two?on the cover of Filmmaker we both ended up in, like, these red outfits with this kind of different kind of reddish-orangish background; but there was a second part of the shoot when we first came in that was done with kind of a blue-green background and Guin and I were wrapped in large swatches of satin?
What the fuck was that?
Right! And I was like: what am I doing? Why am I doing this? How? Do I want to be represented as a filmmaker this way? It’s like seeing me in a dress. You know, it was just ridiculous. And I’m like: ‘scuse me “Is my boob hanging out again?” and everything would, like, drop and I couldn’t really move?anyway it’s just interesting the things that you’ll agree to do because you’re just like: Oh well, isn’t that what we do? We’re always accomodating; and you forget that you need to control your own image so much when you put yourself out there.
You know it’s really annoying to me, uh, they would never do that to Kevin What’s-his-name from Clerks. Would they ever ask him to take his?
RT: Oh my god, they would never, never?
They would never even think of asking him?you know, wrapping him in satin or swaddling clothes and have him take his shirt off or whatever?
RT: Oh my god, yeah. That would be frightening too; but you know?um?but, uh yeah, that’s really?that was really for both of us?we were just like o–kay and I don’t know, you know?you learn, you learn as you go on. And then also take that interview as an example. In that interview I was?I mean I met the woman who did the interview when I was in, when I was at Sundance and um, and she you know?we kind of talked and I kind of felt comfortable with her–I liked her and the interview’s like: verbatim. You know what I mean? I was just like: please edit me and don’t have me?the interview has me saying fuck at least twenty times: You get your fucking fat ass?[giggles] fucking piece-of-shit camera, you know, motherfucker, you know?like I sound like someone who just got out of the gutter, picked up a camera and made a movie and I’m like: okay I’m happy with that. I’m like, “Can’t you just make me sound smart. Please. Someone?”
You can find a decent copy of Vai a pescare in la mia collezione.
In the many months since this interview was conducted, lots of stuff has happened. Rose didn’t get funding for her difficult original script Blood & Guts; and she lost Low Life in High Heels, the Holly Woodlawn Story (we may be able to dish on this in a future update). However, Rose did get the go-ahead for her dream project: the biopic of 40s Hollywood director and all-around cool dyke Dorothy Arzner. She also recently picked up a check from HBO for her first draft contribution to their series of shorts Women in Love (or something like that). It’s a comedy about the forbidden love between two suburban housewifes in the 1950s and how they get off by almost getting caught by their oblivious husbands. Their kids find out and try to blackmail them. Sounds like good family fun.