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When filmmakers Eric Cheevers and Scott Mueller needed a swingin’ soundtrack for Las Historias Mas Sexy Del Mundo!, an ironic mix of trashy softcore pornography and postmodern philosophy, they went straight for the garbage.
“We got public domain music from a Dumpster,” says Cheevers. The directors, who recently completed Las Historias Mas Sexy Del Mundo! 2, won’t name the local studio where they scored the Herb Alpert–esque instrumentals, but they insist no contracts or royalty payments were necessary.
“When you put something in a Dumpster, Dumpster rules apply,” says Mueller, who produced the films.
Cheevers’ and Mueller’s D.C.-punk-does-retro-European-sleaze aesthetic is the hallmark of the Sexy series. Shot locally on shoestring budgets, the 15-minute short films eschew any actual sex scenes and focus on the narrative, swapping the genre’s ridiculous dialogue with Socratic exchanges about Kierkegaard, theoretical physics, and neo-Luddism—all dubbed in Spanish, of course. By featuring a band in each installment, the filmmakers add an Old Grey Whistle Test twist. The first film features Childballads mastermind Stewart Lupton playing Peeping Tom to ex-Tuscadero chanteuse Melissa Farris; Farris bemoans Guy Debord’s “society of the spectacle” as the Scene Creamers perform in the background. Sexy 2, the second of a planned trilogy, features local financial guru Matthew Lesko (aka “The Question Mark Suit Guy”) discussing special relativity with New York-based makeup artist Veronica Ibarra as a prelude to a Raveonettes performance.
“That’s my niche—softcore metaphysics,” Cheevers says. A fan of Swedish and Italian porn, the former video store clerk attended the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with Mueller, a former Video Americain employee.
“The [Sexy] series recreates a particular look and style,” Mueller adds. Cheevers and Mueller evoke ’70s exploitation cinema by shooting with cheap bulk film stock. Las Historias 2 was shot piecemeal over the past year and a half and came in for under $7,000; Cheevers edited the short on a flatbed editor in his Cleveland Park apartment. “It’s kind of like living with a car,” Cheevers says of the enormous machine.
Though its methods may be arcane, Cheevers and Mueller’s Parasite Films has scared up some notable work in a city not usually recognized for its homegrown cinema. Since Cheevers founded the company in 1998 (Mueller joined in 2003 for the first Sexy film), the two have shot videos for Dead Meadow and Weird War and produced a Walkmen video directed by Ian Svenonius. Though the Las Historias series has yet to break nationally, Parasite’s videos have found their way to MTV Europe—a development Mueller describes as a “disconnect.”
“It’s weird—you make these videos, and they find their way out to the world,” Mueller says. “Our friends have seen them…but we don’t receive a special notice when they air.” If Cheevers and Mueller aren’t receiving any particular recognition from overseas networks, however, they have earned the respect of a certain local television celebrity.
“[T]hese guys were passionate, polite, and most of all fun,” Lesko writes in an e-mail. “It’s great to work with people who love what they do, even if the pay is terrible.”