Depicting subcultures on film can be a tricky business. Either you miss the mark completely and offend every member of the group or hit the nail right on the head, and gain an eternal cult following.
Helmer and scribe Todd Stephens — whose film “Gypsy 83” was completed two days before its June 6 debut at the New York Gay and Lesbian Festival and will make its West Coast debut under the stars at Outfest on July 19 — takes on two quirky societies with great success: Stevie Nicks fans and the Goth crowd.
Stephens’ film focuses on how an obsessed and talented Nickite named Gypsy (“Popular’s” Sara Rue) attempts to escape her mundane existence of Sandusky, Ohio, to take a wild ride of her own to the Night of 1,000 Stevies in Gotham. Her dark-cloaked best friend, Clive (Kett Turton), goes with her, taking a journey toward his own coming out.
The reason Stephens’ pic bears the stamp of authenticity is because the Ohio-born filmmaker has first-hand knowledge, he explains. “I’ve been a fan for a number of years, have lots of memorabilia and have myself gone to Night of Stevies for about five years. This last May I got the guts up to perform myself. I’m more like a 6-foot-tall Stevie.”
It was through this fan network that he met a woman online called Gypsy 23 that was an inspiration for the character in the film.
Never really a black-lipstick guy, Stephens was more of a new wave kid, like the one in his autobiographical screenplay for the 1998 release “Edge of Seventeen.”
Stephens says he can “definitely identify with being a freak growing up in a small town and trying to find the place in the world where you belong.” Like the characters in “Gypsy,” he left the Lake Erie “Vacationland” of Sandusky; he left to attend NYU film school years ago.
According to Stephens, the only glitch in the whole project happened because Nicks’ manager wouldn’t let the filmmakers secure the rights to many of her songs.
“The sad thing is that Stevie herself hasn’t seen the movie, and her manager wouldn’t let us use any of her music in the movie,” he says. “As far as I know, she doesn’t even know it exists.”
After giving up on Nicks’ manager, Stephens was able to secure the rights to use one of the performer’s songs –“Talk to Me ” — through other avenues, so at least filmgoers will able to hear of one of the former Fleetwood Mac vocalist’s songs in the movie.
Stephens currently is penning what will be the end of his so-called “estrangement in Sandusky” trilogy, “Drama Club.”