We have an exclusive interview with Drew Godderis to share with you today.
LA Aids Jabber, released on Blu-ray this month from Visual Vengeance, is “a snapshot and a freeze frame of the late 1980s, early 1990s in Los Angeles at a time when the world was in the grip of this terrible epidemic by the name of AIDS it took a lot of lives”, says director Drew Godderis.
How did this movie come to be?
Well the honest truth is it the idea for the movie emanated out of necessity. My wife had just recently died and I had to stop acting and traveling around and I had a two-year-old son to take care of so I transitioned out of the acting business because it was more important to take care of him...and I was wondering how could I keep my foot in the entertainment business, so I said let me go ahead and write a movie cast it find locations film it and then put it out into the world and see what would happen. Now bear in mind I didn't have much money to work with, and I was shooting it originally on 16 mm film, with the intention of maybe doing it a very limited theatrical release if I could get a distributor to take it and blow it up to 35 mm... but wouldn't you know it, the film camera... stop functioning and I had no money to repair it.. fortunately for me ,I was shooting video simultaneously to watch the playbacks from the film camera and if they were acceptable, I would move on to the next scene so once the film camera went kaput, I thought I have one of of two choices now , either stop filming all together or I could continue shooting video but I knew that by doing that I would have limited places to distribute the movie either home video stores or HBO and HBO would definitely not touch a title like mine.... so I just decided I was going to go for it I had nothing to lose all the actors were there the locations had been scouted by me where I wanted to shoot these things and the script was completed so why not you never know until you try right?
It was obviously influenced by what was going on in Los Angeles at the time?
correct...absolutely, not only Los Angeles but this was a worldwide situation with AIDS and there was no cure not even a cocktail of meds to keep it in remission ...as there is now, so if you were unfortunate enough to contract the AIDS virus then, it effectively for all intents and purposes was a death sentence. I lived in LA and we had massive numbers of infections, so I decided that I wanted to create a story surrounding AIDS because I wanted to get my foot into the door of movie making so I thought being controversial was the way to go, but i did not want to cast disparaging finger at gay and lesbian people, which was what the media was doing at the time .. I believe what the media did was completely unforgivable,but as we all know ratings is the name of that game right? It was common knowledge that countless others "straight people" were being infected with AIDS at an alarming rate as well. You could also get it thru transfusions with blood that was tainted with AIDS virus.. so I decided I was going to use that scenario of a young man who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion, then he starts to lose it mentally and we watch him in his progression and transition from being normal to completely deranged and off the hook... and follow him down his horrific path of withdrawing his own tainted blood into a syringe and sticking others with it only to learn at the end of the film well there is a twist he'll have to watch it it's a very interesting ending
Was it controversial upon release?
I tried to minimize that aspect of it by releasing it under the name Jabber. I self-distributed the movie to a small number of video stores in the USA. I was concerned that if I released it under its currently release title" LA Aids Jabber", that the video stores I was reaching out to trying to make a sale might find that title objectionable and purchasing it, so I kind of soft pedalled the movie title.I'm sure I could have made the film substantially more controversial by making the focus on people's lifestyles. but I wasn't going to do that.. as I mentioned in prior interviews. I'm not concerned and it doesn't matter to me what people want to do with their life, love and romantic decisions... that's their business, and as long as they don't encroach upon anybody else, I'm cool with that... I think it's very interesting though how now we have the monkey pox the covid-19 and what I call the original or OG pandemic movie about AIDS ..a little bit of synchronicity there right? A very good time to release and of course purchase and watch the movie LOL
Can you remember any negativity or harsh feedback upon its release?
To be candid with you... this may sound strange but I don't remember having anybody thinking it was negative in any way shape or form, and I didn't get any real negative feedback whatsoever.. that may partially be due to the fact that it was a very limited release and just to home video stores but, I never had an owner of one of those stores or any customer who rented It reach out to me and say hey why did you make a movie about AIDS... I just wish circumstances could have been different.. I would have loved to have finished shooting my movie on 16 mm, blown it up to 35 mm film for exhibition and found a distributor that would be willing to distribute it in a few theatres... that would have been the best of all worlds, but hey I'm very blessed to have met someone who's a real visionary, Rob Hauschild of Wild Eye/Visual Vengeance(his new boutique label).. who took this under his wing and after 30 years is re releasing this movie into the marketplace... I can't say enough good things about this young man... he loves movies and he makes no bones about that... he's been successful with Wild E0ye because of his honesty and integrity and because he has a great eye and ability to find product to release and distribute.. that he knows can be targeted to his audiences, so hats off to Rob and... last not least he sure has been good to me. Thank you Rob!
What did making this movie do for my career?
Interesting question, in the sense of it being financially profitable... I made a few dollars from video stores, but I wouldn't say that was my primary consideration at that time in my life.. at that time, I was more concerned on completing the movie, keeping my foot somehow in the entertainment industry because remember as I mentioned earlier I transitioned out of a reasonably successful acting career into basically no career... my new career Focus became raising my son who was 2 years of age when his mother passed on ...so I think my career if you want to call it... that of a loving responsible father was successful.. and that took precedence over everything.... that was most important all the other things were of secondary importance. I knew I had a job to do , raise the young man to adulthood and do the best job I could. It's a matter of fact if you keep your eye open you'll see that the little young guy about 3 years old who played the son of detective Rogers was my son I think he did a very good job if I say so myself... of course I'm biased LOL he's a little older now he's 36 and doing quite well with two children of his own so I'm a proud grandfather.
Where were the locations?
All the locations that we filmed were in and around Los Angeles and the interesting thing about the movie is that it really is a time capsule of what Los Angeles was like in the late '80s early 90s with the hairstyles that style of dress the traffic and just a general demeanour of this city which now is more like Mad Max in 2022. If you look at the filming locations in the original movie, then watch the bonus material at the end of the movie, you'll see where I went back to Los Angeles last year and filmed with voice over narration what the locations look like now 30 years after the fact... and it's kind of discouraging. A lot of the buildings are graffiti covered, Plus some of the areas are pretty well crime ridden ...and to be honest with you, I was able to take only about 4 days of that and the energy was just too intense, so I left.. but it was enough time to do that including interviews with some of the actors that are still alive, and a couple of other bonus things on the back end of the dvd..so I encourage people to go out and purchase this movie... this is something that I believe is a freeze frame of Los Angeles and the AIDS epidemic and what it did to the lifestyle of people at that time, but more telling is the fact that there are people that will come unglued mentally and emotionally and might do things to endanger others like our main character did, and it's important that we always keep an open eye for these sort of things we can nip it in the bud nip it in the bud
Order L.A Aids Jabber here – https://www.amazon.com/Aids-Jabber-Visual-Vengeance-Collectors/dp/B09YVQMHXD