Only the second American Dogme 95 movie, Chetzemoka’s Curse is about a young, twenty-something woman, Maya (Maya Berthoud), who is haunted by the memory of her first love and her subsequent betrayal. She still feels the pain, works to exorcise it as she wiles away her life as a maid in a small town hotel. But her road to health seems to include passing the bad karma along. She encourages an older married man to run off with her and betray his wife and kids. Betrayal is in the air. Even an itinerant street musician sings about his infidelity. Bottom line, he says, is that he betrayed himself.
A Feature Workshops Production ©2000. A movie created according to the rules of Dogme 95 by Maya Berthoud, Morgan Schmidt-Feng, Dave Nold, Lawrence E. Pado www.pado3d.com/Curse/, Rick Schmidt, Chris Tow and Marlon Schmidt. Produced by Morgan Schmidt-Feng and Rick Schmidt. Director of Photography – Morgan Schmidt-Feng .
A LESSON IN SERENDIPITY by Julie Schachter
Just two weeks before shooting was set to commence, a 23-year old woman named Maya Berthoud called Rick, leaving a message to say that she’d heard about the upcoming production and wanted to participate in any way possible. The two met for breakfast at a Port Townsend cafe one morning in early January after Rick had received a half-page of her “real-life story” (prerequisite for workshop participation). Rick says it only took a few seconds after seeing Maya in person to realize that FW productions had a strong, central character for the movie. When the Feature Workshops production group, made up of five on-location writer/director collaborators (including Maya Berthoud, Morgan Schmidt-Feng, Dave Nold, Lawrence E. Pado, and Rick Schmidt), met for the first time over dinner, Rick carried with him a stack of legal papers with which he launches every FW production.
But besides the usual contracts, Rick now brought out a new agreement for everyone to consider. He asked the group to decide whether or not they wanted to sign a “Vow of Chastity” and make their feature in accordance with the implicit rules of DV filmmaking as laid down by the Danish group known as Dogme 95. All agreed to take on the added challenge of the Dogme demands, hoping that perhaps their movie could receive official certification from Denmark. (And indeed it has– Chetzemoka’s Curse has become only the second American “Dogme” movie in history, after Julien Donkey Boy, certified as “DOGME NO. 10”). Not only would they have the youngest Dogme director with Marlon Schmidt, but in the Sunday January 27, 2002 edition of The New York Times it would be determined that co-director Maya Berthoud was THE FIRST WOMAN DOGME DIRECTOR (see ). Little did Rick and his gang realize that their fortuitous decision would send Maya into the history books!
If you’re wondering about the dynamics of making a movie start-to-finish in 10 days, here’s an example of how it feels to be in the middle of Rick’s filmmaking process: When Sue Gillard, a nurse at the local Jefferson County hospital in Port Townsend, who had already told her real life story to the camera for “Curse,” heard her husband Steve’s report about being in additional scenes (he’d acted in several the previous day), she was jealous. Sue had become increasingly active in theatrical productions around town and wanted to be more involved in anything regarding performance. “Why Steve (not really the theatrical type…) and not me,” she wondered aloud. She didn’t know that the scenes shot had established a direct link between Steve and Marie, and that the whole production was moving inexorably toward her, the “wife” character. At some point in the afternoon on Day-3, Rick asked his production assistant to call Sue and tell her they were coming to shoot at her house. “When are they getting here?” Sue asked. When she was told, “They’re on their way now,” she flew into a panic. Her house was a mess, she wanted to straighten up, do the dishes… As it turned out, the climactic scene at the Gillards’ house is a tour de force.