Oh the horror! Film shooting in southeast Olympia

Staff photographer

If you’ve heard screams (and some laughter) and seen lots of fake blood and camera equipment, you might have run into the cast and crew of horror flick “Marla Mae.”

The low-budget film, which is in its third and final week of filming in Olympia’s Wildwood neighborhood, is set to be a full-length horror film produced by Adventus Films and Cut Publishing.

About 20 people are involved in the project — 12-15 crew members and four main cast members. Film writer and director Lisa van Dam-Bates, an Olympia High School alumna who also plays the main character, Marla, describes the under-$8,000 movie as “chick-flick horror.”

Van Dam-Bates, 28, grew up watching classic horror movies with friends, and now she is a self-proclaimed “gore snob.”

“Cult classics are my jam,” she said.

Van Dam-Bates has provided most of the locations for the film. Filming has taken place at her aunt’s house in Centralia, and at her parents’ home on O’Farrell Avenue in Olympia, as well as a bar in Tacoma. Not surprising for a horror film, much of the shooting took place in the middle of the night.

She’s never done anything in film before, besides catering sets in Austin, Texas, but has always wanted to be an actress. Now she is hoping that filmmaking might be a career path for her.

A press release for the film said, “Inherently modeled after many of the cult classic horror films of the 1980s, the story follows modest 20-something Marla who must uncover the diabolical reason for her boyfriend’s death while being sought after by local Olympia police who suspect her of the crime.”

Van Dam-Bates said, “I could not imagine a better crew. Everyone we’ve found has been doing way more than needed for less than they are usually paid.”

Marla’s boyfriend, Jake, is played by Travis Johnny Ware, van Dam-Bates’s childhood friend.

“I really appreciated this role because Lisa is a good friend of mine,” he said. “Lisa is a friend I really respect and care about.”

He described his character as a love interest for Marla. Marla is a bartender to whom terrible things happen.

“They go through obscured circumstances that change their perspectives of each other,” he said.

The film is named after a blind Chihuahua adopted by van Dam-Bates and her boyfriend, Brandon Roberts, the film’s producer. Marla Mae the chihuahua was in the film’s first trailer, but died recently after liver failure.

“She was the fattest, cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” van Dam-Bates said.

Concerned about some sexism in mainstream horror movies, van Dam-Bates said she tried to put a lot of thought into the details, plot and character motivation in her film to make it more appealing to women.

But the film will still have some nudity at appropriate times, as well as blood and guts.

“I love gore and this is my movie,” van Dam-Bates said. One tricky element has been figuring out how to choreograph violent acts without hurting the actors.

Van Dam-Bates said she hopes editing will be finished in three to six months so they can enter film festivals and seek distribution.

‘Marla Mae’ online

For more information about the film, go to www.marlamaethemovie.com

Related stories from The Olympian