LAist Interview: Theresa Duncan

theresa_bel_air2.jpgTheresa Duncan is a writer and filmmaker who lives in Venice Beach. She is also adept at communicating her vision in any media. A veteran game designer before the age of 30, Theresa has authored several popular multimedia games for girls, including the cult classic video game "Chop Suey." In 1998, she made her first film, called The History of Glamor, an animated musical satire tweaking the pretentions of the worlds of fashion, art, celebrity and New York art cliques in the '90s. Her latest film, produced by indie vets Anne Carey and Andrew Bregman and scheduled for production in New York this summer, focuses on two Upper East Side schoolgirls who kidnap a rock star who becomes more famous after he disappears. Even while in the midst of pre-production, Theresa still has time to maintain the kick-ass blog " Wit of the Staircase," where she shares her passions for perfume, art, love, magic, fashion, literature, culture, and music with readers. When one visits "Wit of the Staircase," one never knows what one will find on Theresa's mind that day, but readers always return, confident that each new entry will be as interesting as the last one.

Age and Occupation:
I am a filmmaker, 35 or so.

How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?
Four years, I live in Venice Beach.

Why do you live in Los Angeles?
Los Angeles unfolds so slowly and softly....a petal at time, like a fan dancer. I keep waiting for the last veil to drop, and to my fascination and delight it never, ever does.

What is your latest project about?
Fame.

What remains the same and what has changed in the world of girls?
Having a vagina remains the same, but power shifts.

What are your impressions on making a movie in Los Angeles and/or making a movie in New York?
I got my money in L.A., but I'm making my movie in New York. Next one's L.A. all over, so maybe my money will come from New York.

Have you found the esoteric side of Los Angeles? What do you think of that scene?
"Those fingers in my hair.
That sly
come hither stare
that strips my conscience bare.
It's witchcraft.
And I've got no defense for it.
The heat is too intense for it.
What good would commonsense for it do?"

--Johnny Mercer, "Witchcraft"


Do you follow the music scene here?
Yes, I love this organization and their events: http://www.sassas.org/.

Have you found it to have a spiritual side?
Intellectual and libidinal AND spiritual.

Any plans to re-release your mockumentary A History of Glamour in time for the '90s revival?
The History of Glamour has never gone out of release, and is far as I'm concerned we're still watching the sixties unfold culturally.

If you were to design a videogame about Los Angeles, what would it look like? What would the narrative be?
I designed one already that I tried to sell. It's called "Apocalypstick" and it involves survivors of a cataclysmic destructive event who find the few films that remain, which happen to be solely swanky thirties Thin Man-style flicks. A group of rebels recreates life based on the Stork Club and Fortuny and the weapons of glamour: poison lipstick and perfume sprayed in the eyes, with which they battle a Walt Disneyesque figure who wants to make everything cheerful and juvenile and driven by "It's A Small World" automatons.

You've written on your blog about similarities between Los Angeles and Detroit, MI. What are three things in Detroit that would make a transplant from LA feel at home in Motown?

1. Hidden Intellectual Life

2. Great Rock and Roll

3. Existential Terror

If you were to make a perfume that embodied the essence of Los Angeles, what would it smell like?
My cologne is called Santa Ana after the powerful winds that bring desert heat and faraway smell into the city.

It smells like: Celluloid and sand, coyote fur and car exhaust, contrail cloud and chlorine, bitter orange and stage blood and one bushel of ghostly, shivery night-blooming jasmine flowers like blown kisses from the phantoms of the ten thousand screen beauties who still haunt our hills every full moon because they think it's a stage light.

What's your preferred mode of transportation?
Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce

How often do you ride the MTA subway or light rail?
Never, though I loved Tom Cruise on the subway in Michael Mann's Collateral and I have taken the Surfrider train to San Diego. It is a sexy ride.

What's your favorite movie(s) or TV show(s) that are based in LA?
Kill Bill Vol. 1 and "Hart To Hart" — I adore that love struck and sun-dazzled Santa Monica detective couple.

Best LA-themed book(s)?
The Crying Of Lot 49

Share your best celebrity sighting experience.
I saw Pete Townsend in Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue in New York when my boyfriend Jeremy Blake was buying me a diamond ring. He was the only other person in there besides us.

I saw way better celebrities in New York. I am casting now with great people, but they are comrades in this context, not the awesome other whose garment hem I long to touch.

In your opinion, what's the best alternate route to the 405?
Over the mountains, on foot, with a canteen, compass, liederhosen and walking stick.

What's the best place to walk in LA?
The Venice Boardwalk.

It's 9:30 pm on Thursday. Where are you coming from and where are you going?
Quo vadis? They asked Jesus Christ. He had a snappy answer, but I don't.

If you could live in LA during any era, when would it be?
The 31st Century and beyond.

What's your beach of choice?
Venice Beach.

What is the "center" of LA to you?
The Watts Tower.

If you were forced to live in a neighboring county, which would you choose? Ventura County is a wussy answer.
Wayne County, Michigan. Detroit is a sister city, like I already said.

If you could live in any neighborhood or specific house in LA, where/which would you choose?
I would live in the Griffith Observatory, so I could keep one eye on Hollywood and one eye on outer space.

Los Angeles is often stereotyped as a hard place to find personal connections and make friends. Do you agree with that assessment? Do find it challenging to make new friends here?
It is hard to make friends here, but I made up for it in enemies, who can make you feel just as warm.

What is the city's greatest secret?
That we are the greatest city.

Drinking, driving. They mix poorly, and yet they're inexorably linked. How do you handle this conflict?
Overnight stay in Chateau Marmont.

Describe your best LA dining experience.
Apple Pan Hickory burger.

What do you have to say to East Coast supremacists?
"I Wish They All Could Be California Girls"

Do you find the threat of earthquakes preferable to the threat of hurricanes and long winters?
Like Nietzsche's quip about suicide, the thought of a massive earthquake has gotten me through many a long night.

Where do you want to be when the Big One hits?
Asleep in Jeremy Blake's arms.