CYBERSPACE—Admittedly, $30,000 seems a modest goal to fund the production of a drama based on the life of legendary adult star Vanessa del Rio, so we're guessing that the final production will be heavily dependent of volunteer workers—but the really good news is, the project is less than $1500 away from being fully funded.
"This is not a documentary about Vanessa del Rio," director Thomas Mignone cautioned in a recent interview. "This is a narrative dramatic feature that’s seen through the eyes of this young, twenty-ish-year-old female protagonist character who people who know what happened back in the day will know that we’re alluding to Vanessa del Rio."
Mignone, who's known primarily for his work in music videos, and who also helmed a well-received indie production On the Doll, was quickly captivated by the retired star.
"I met Vanessa at a book signing and when I talked to her, she started telling me about her life against the backdrop of New York, which is where I grew up," Mignone related. "I was born and raised in Brooklyn and I’m a lover of New York. As I was listening to Vanessa, I realized that there’s a story about the transformation of New York City in the late ’70s and early ’80s via guys like Giuliani and censoring done by the Tipper Gores and the federal government trying to muscle out mobsters from running Times Square in order to jumpstart the economy. There’s a really big picture there that Vanessa just happened to find herself thrust in the middle of, and as I listened to her I’m realizing that this is a story that’s never been told in a feature film."
Mignone and producer Sean Fernald, another graduate of the movie music industry with a shitload of movie and TV "music supervisor" credits to his résumé, plan to re-create the look of Times Square in the '70s and '80s by adding facades to downtown Los Angeles office buildings, residences and theater, and they also plan to weave that era's ambiance into nearly every shot.
"There was a ton of chaotic insanity going on in New York in Times Square at this particular time," Mignone recalled. "Across the nation there was an economic depression; AIDS suddenly was happening, which was terrifying people because no one was aware of where it came from, how you could contract it. They just knew that their loved ones were dying. A lot of the sexual revolution and the freedom of the early part of the ’70s were suddenly being usurped by fear and fear-mongering that was perpetrated by governments that were kind of wanting to push out these locally owned mom-and-pop businesses that were organized crime-controlled in order to bring in large corporate behemoths like the Disneys and Viacoms of the world. ... The adult industry had the finger of blame pointed at it, which allowed that transition to jumpstart."
It's certainly one of the more complicated tales to be told about the porn industry's early days, even with the assistance and advice from such adult historians as Bill Margold and Wesley Emerson, and well-known actor Michael Rooker, who may be tapped for a leading role, described the film's script as "Boogie Nights meets Taxi Driver."
In order to push the Indiegogo offering over the top, Mignone and Fernald have added a bunch of premiums for large donors, including five LTD EX-50 guitars donated by renowned musician Max Cavalera and another five Demonator guitars from Morbid Angel's David Vincent, each of which will be signed by the musician and Vanessa, and can even be personalized if their winners so choose.
For the more visually inclined, "guerrilla poster artist" Robbie Conal is offering a set of five of his posters which depict subjects relevant to Vanessa's story, and which may be featured in the film itself, plus an "exclusive, one-of-a-kind alternate" painting of Conal's "Contra Cocaine” painting that has been exhibited at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and is being donated by The Simpsons creator Matt Groening.
Finally, there have been a number of different autographed "shooting scripts" being offered, several of which will contain hand-written notes made by the director and others on the production team during filming, and which will be signed and numbered by musical artist Danzig.
True, none of the above come cheap (though there are several other offerings that do)—but think about the possibility of owning a piece of filmmaking history autographed by one of adult's most famous Golden Age stars.
The Indiegogo page for the Vanessa del Rio Film Project can be found here.