The following was transcribed and edited down from a phone conversation I had with Treasure Rose on the 11th of February. Treasure was with Katie Johnston, who played The Moon in Axl Rose’s Daughter, and both were in Oklahoma mid-road trip to California…
First of all, happy 1st anniversary of Axl Rose’s Daughter, and congratulations on such a fun, fascinating film.
Treasure Rose: Thank you so much! It really does mean a lot.
Of course! So the first thing I wanted to ask was: what inspired you to make (the film)?
Treasure Rose: Before the film, I had written a poem of the same name. My friend Jenny (Gallagher, editor and camera-person) and I were going on a road trip to film for another project, and we were like, we have a filming crew and we’re going on this journey, we should definitely make a movie based on where we were going and what we were doing. Then I thought to base the movie on that poem, and so it all tied together.
With that road trip context in mind, how much of the final film was scripted and based on the poem and how much was simply capturing real events?
TR: Everything in the film is staged and improvised, the only thing real in the film is the emotion. I’m very sincere and I sincerely mean everything, like, I don’t want to hide behind irony – I’m not a 12 year old boy.
The poem and the movie are very different, I would say the film is more tongue in cheek – not camp but campy – and I think the poem is more emotional and kind of dealing with something that happened in the past.
The start of the film includes a quote from Freddie Mercury about fame – what was the reason behind using it?
TR: I was a huge Freddie Mercury fan growing up, and one of the themes of the movie is delusion, and I wanted to make a movie about one of the most delusional people out there. Like, who would think that you could show up to a celebrity father’s door and actually think he’ll bring you in with open arms. I felt that quote had a sense of delusion, but Freddie had talent; this character’s talent is yet to be seen.
That theme really plays into – for me – the central scene between Treasure & The Accountant, where fantasy meets harsh reality…
TR: *Laughs* yeah.
It felt like a scene that, in a good way, felt quite farcical, and quite comedic. I was wondering how you felt about that scene?
TR: I think Bradford (Carlisle) who plays The Account is the most amazing comedic actor I’ve ever met, he’s the breakout star in my eyes.
I was going to ask! Where did you find him?
TR: He’s my BFF! I met Bradford through Jenny at Temple University, I knew he had star power and he blew me away.
There are very strong elements at play in that scene but he is great.
TR: Yeah, he is amazing…
*Treasure pauses to order food*
…(Bradford) always was very interesting, very charismatic…but not, I guess your most obvious star. But I loved him, he did amazingly, and as it was all improv all of his lines he came up with himself.
I feel like the one thing I would change in that scene…I think my acting could be better. You can see me smiling in the scene – Bradford makes me smile – so I would probably commit more to the acting of it. But he’s amazing.
I would disagree about your performance, the smiling in that scene for me played into the camp knowingness of it.
TR: Well thank you, okay, good – good good good!
I’m curious, how many takes were needed to get the scene where you throw stuff at Bradford?
TR: It took one take, I watched a documentary on The Misfits, and there was one scene where this one actor couldn’t get it, and the director told him that he’d only do one take to get it right. I think the first take is always going to be the best, you’re not going to get any better than that.
There’s definitely a sense of low-key, guerrilla-style filmmaking, which feels tied in with the road trip.
TR: Yeah, which is interesting because at the time i was watching a lot of early 2000s reality TV, and I wanted to make it feel like a very trashy TV show like The Simple Life. Everything was sort of spur of the moment.
The feeling I got from it was a bit John Waters.
TR: Oh my gosh, I’m obsessed with John Waters and he’s such an icon to me that I would never be like “yes I am doing exactly what John Waters did”, but of course he’s such a huge, huge influence.
Though there’s nothing nearly as shocking in this as there are in his films! But yeah, I did pick up on that reality TV style.
TR: I’m glad someone picked up on some of that stuff! Because reading some of those (YouTube) comments, like I love them but it’s really not that hard to get.
About those comments, and the way people responded on YouTube and other places, was it what you expected, or were you expecting anything better or worse?
TR: I wasn’t expecting anything. I just made this movie with Jenny, as I always wanted to make a movie, and I expected it to put it out onto YouTube and it’s gonna just be part of the virtual clutter, and not be reacted to in any way. I’ve put other things on YouTube before and they would get at most, like, 400 views, so that’s what I expected, and then it was suddenly this snowball effect where the more people watched and commented, the more it was recommended to other people.
I didn’t expect it, but I thought it was hilarious, it was the best reaction I could have ever received. I only ever want people to hate my movies now because it’s so much fun.
TR: Yes! There’s one comment where this guy was like “bunch of lesbos” like that’s the best compliment I ever could have received!
That reaction was so great and people were just getting so angry, but I was making the right people angry – I was making a bunch of middle aged people angry. It was fantastic. I didn’t even think it was that provocative, that’s the weird part.
There are two things that upset me: one was that nobody threatened to kill me and I really wanted it to go there. The other thing was this guy who was like “I get you’re trying to do a Family Guy rip-off”. I’ve never seen an episode of Family Guy! I don’t watch masculine things so that was the only thing that got me, that he would think my influences would be that masculine.
Do you think you’d want to make something that would provoke those reactions again?
TR: You have to be aware when creating things that they’re going to be taken a certain way. I don’t think I’d ever want to do or make something just to get a reaction, it would have to be a little bit more fun for me. I do feel there’s too much pressure to be an influencer nowadays, the idea of creating just to create isn’t as much appreciated. That’s the mode I’m in now: creating to create, I’m just happy to be making something.
The next movie I’m working on is a teen flick, kind of inspired by Riverdale and ’90s high-school romcoms. I don’t ever want to make an Oscar winning film, I just want to make Razzie winning films. That’s all I want.
Going back to this film, after the accountant scene things get a bit more fantastical with divine interventions and visits from the moon…when did those ideas start coming into the film?
TR: Well I’m a Pisces so there will always be a level of fantasy and illusion in what I do. When we first started filming it was like “okay, go to LA, obviously it doesn’t go well”. When watching a film about someone meeting their dad you figure it’s not going to go as planned. And then somehow get to Dollywood.
Was that part of the road trip or part of the film?
TR: The road trip. I really wanted to go to Dollywood. That was kind of Point A, Point B (for the story), but then I felt that’d be a really boring movie. As we were travelling, we saw that Elvis was everywhere; if you were an alien that came down to the US, you’d literally think we worshipped Elvis. So [I thought] let’s make it this weird thing where she’s looking for God instead of her dad, and then that of course doesn’t go well, and then go to Dollywood.
The moon idea came from a movie we were going to make before, Katie who plays the moon was going to play a singing egg. I figured let’s make her the moon and it’d be a happy ending.
Do you think it’s a happy ending?
TR: I think it’s as happy as it could get, I think it has something autobiographical: coming home to Landenburg, PA isn’t the most inspiring thing. But I have a lot of magic in my life, and you’ve got to hold on to that and make it feel worthwhile.
I’d love to have Axl Rose in a sequel, but for now I think it’s a happy ending.
Thinking of it now, where do you think the story goes from there?
TR: I don’t know, I think she probably believes in another delusion about herself and she’s probably becoming a famous psychic in Vegas or something.
I think she thinks her delusions are real, and she really does believe she’s a psychic in Vegas – who knows, she could be!
Well in this day and age, someone with delusions and enough conviction would probably gain a following off the back of it to make that fantasy a reality.
TR: I’m just interested in making movies about failures, so I don’t think she would ever have followers. Nobody around her would believe, but I like that. I only respond to movies about failures so I only want to make movies about them too.
Why is that?
TR: Because I think, not to get political, but I am always attracted to very feminine characters that have failure inside them. To be the ultimate feminine icon is impossible to succeed at, and I relate to that sense of failure. It’s cathartic.
That’s interesting, I never thought of the Treasure character as a failure. I’ll have to rewatch the film with that in mind.
TR: You have watched that movie more than enough times!
Not at all, it’s a great film.
TR: Thank you! That’s really all down to Bradford and Jenny. I want to give credit to her, I’m more of an abstract person and she was able to sit down and really create a more concrete, followable story than what I originally had in mind. What makes the film so great for me are the clips she throws in there. Everything in there that’s funny and works is because of her.
That’s putting yourself down a bit
TR: No! Honestly I learn a lot from Jenny, like I come in throwing paint all around and she’s the one that can actually make a picture out of it. I like the chaos, she’s the one who can make it salvageable and that’s why we work so well together. Like, I’m one way, she’s the other but it’s like complementary.
You said you wanted to make a teen drama film, is that the next project?
TR: Yeah, we’re working on the script now and we’re hoping to shoot over the summer, so that we can release it around 2020. I’ve always wanted to be in a teen movie and I’m getting old so I wanted to make one where I can pretend to be in a teenager without anyone wondering why this 30-year-old is acting like a teenager.
And what lessons will you take from Axl Rose’s Daughter into this new film?
TR: This is the first time I’ve seen myself act, so hopefully the acting will be a little better, and while this film will have an actual script I want to keep the improv element. And I think more characters, because Bradford was amazing and I have so many talented friends that I want to be a part of this.
I also have some musical friends so this film might actually have a soundtrack. I think it’s going to be about really determined, confident teen girls. Like, cutthroat teenage girls, because that who I was. Think Heathers but without any actual murder; America’s filled with murder so I don’t know if I’d want to add to that.
Looking at Axl Rose’s Daughter and this upcoming film, there do seem to be some very American archetypes: the road trip, Rock ‘n’ Roll, even the moon to an extent. Is that a deliberate or subconscious inclusion, or am I reading too far into this?
TR: No! I wanted to play into the stereotypical, kitschy aesthetic of American road trips, and I think that’s such an American thing. Roadside America is American culture, there’s really nothing else that we have because everything else is made up of other cultures. I don’t think you’re reading too much into it, it’s true the film came organically from the road trip – it was all set to reflect that aesthetic.
Treasure Rose, thanks again for taking the time to talk.
TR: Thank you so much!