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Bringing 'camp' to the vamps

"Vampire Camp" is a full-length feature film about the popular fetish of vampires, but it's also a romantic comedy, taking place at a vampire-hunting workshop where humans and vampires fall in love with each other.

And, even more improbably, it's being shot by low-budget film master Ray Robison of Medford for less than $8,000.

Obviously, making movies is something Robison and his unpaid crew and actors do out of sheer love for the profession, recognizing, he notes, that "the odds are so minute (that it would break out into wide distribution) that I'm not even going to bother drawing up a point system (for sharing revenues), but it would be a good problem to have."

With all the overly serious vampire hysteria from the Twilight series, director Robison thought it would be fun to "camp up" the theme, handing writer Cathy Stadtfeld a storyline about a goofy Pink Panther-style Professor Dubbs (Scott Ford) who presents a vampire-hunting retreat and workshop — but, of course, the class is mostly made up of vampires who want to learn how not to get caught.

The chief villain, Camelia (Cat Gould), is a vampire who plans to kill the professor, whose ancestors took out a major vampire who was her ancestor. But vampires have domestic issues, too, says Stadtfeld. Camelia's daughter, Angela (Mallory Wedding), has been painted as "definitely very loveable and cute and is tired of the vampire clan and doesn't want to be controlled by her family anymore."

Does it sound like this has the stuff of a cult classic? Stadtfeld, who wrote the movie in three weeks, hopes so.

"It's very funny and well could become a cultish thing. Vampires are so popular. But it doesn't blatantly make fun of Twilight. Oh my gosh, if it took off, I wouldn't be surprised. People are looking for humor to take their minds off all the bleakness and negativity, so who knows?"

And why do all these crew members and actors work for free?

"Because we love it," says Ford. "I worked with Ray on other projects and you hope this might be the next step and get picked up by distributors or go to lots of film festivals and you travel and meet people and get more work. And I love doing comedy."

Then there's the whole thing of working for Ray Robison, notes Ford.

"When you get a group of good people together, as Ray has done, it makes it fun," says Ford. "When Ray touches something, it gets done. A lot of filmmakers start a project and don't finish."

Robison acknowledges it's "kind of amazing" his staff works for nothing but "they enjoy it as a hobby and an art. The key to low-budget filmmaking is finding the right people."

In the past, Robison put a lot of time and money into trying to make a great deal with distributors, but now, "I'd rather have a quick distribution deal and full buyout," so he can get the means to move on and shoot the next movie.

"If I wanted to get rich, I'd have better odds just buying lottery tickets," Robison said.

A 25-year resident of Medford, Robison cut his teeth in commericial television production, where you have to be fast and skilled at what you're doing, he notes, adding that he can and sometimes does do all the jobs involved in filmmaking.

Robison has produced and directed two feature-length movies, "Die Before I Wake" and "Sixes and the One Eyed King," as well as "The Bag," a short film written by longtime television actress Marlyn Mason.

Production of "Vampire Camp" should be finished in a few months, with editing planned through February 2012, says Robison, then the premier at the Ashland Elks Lodge, which granted him the right to shoot in its three-story building.

The film's website is www.vampirecampthemovie.com.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Camera assistant Jotham Porzio counts down to the filming of a scene for “Vampire Camp” while actor Scott Ford, who plays Professor Bartholomew Dubbs, stands alongside the car.