“I Am Billy Bates”

“I Am Billy Bates”

Photo credit: Marquis Perkins

“I would call it storytelling,” Jennifer DeLia told Hollywood on the Potomac. “I think as a kid I just always was in my own sort of imagination – that was kind of my escape.  And more than being a film buff or just watching anything all the time, I was just really into studying human behavior and thinking of character, and back story, and just channeled my own reality that way.”

“I think that definitely by 13,” the director, writer of BILLY BATES added, “that I wanted to make movies and direct plays, and definitely tell stories, as you put it. For me, it was just a very direct path that definitely started as early as I can remember.”


  Actor James Wirt with Director Jennifer DeLia

“I was writing  my whole life. That was what I was known for more in school growing up. Then I started working on sets at 15, and in the production world when I was 17 straight out of high school, and then became a producer first, and then started directing in 2008. There’s been different benchmark moments and chapters, but it’s been an ongoing process.”

DeLia was in town for the DC screening of Billy Bates “that explores the fiery world of thirty-year old enigmatic artist Billy Bates. On the one hand, Billy’s reality is a kaleidoscope of artistic beauty and on the other, an extremely troubled existence. As Billy floats the tightrope between brilliance and madness, he seeks solace in overcoming his personal inner-demons. The layers of Billy’s psyche are explored through an extensive interview done in documentary fashion infused with the dark and provocative images from Billy’s past and present. Through fragmented memories of underground parties, inside the insane asylum, and his rise to become a famous contemporary artist, Billy takes us on a love story quest and journey to transcendence, all with the looming question: How important is it to know what is ‘real?'”  Production notes


Art by internationally renowned muralist Joel Bergner

As the writer and director of the film, Jennifer is expressing through BILLY BATES her true curiosity and passion for the artist process. This narrative is essentially about an artist who is forced to embrace multiple dimensions of his mind and emotions in order to have true love with himself and his art. When life imitates art, reality reflects what has previously been expressed through art. It is difficult to say where it all begins.

This film is a unique blend of conventional filmmaking and improvisational collaboration. Christopher Stull’s (Sin City; Grindhouse) production design team produced an authentic 360-degree set for Billy Bates.

Although DeLia grew up in Kansas, she was a part of the New York scene which, of course, is filled with culture and just a conglomeration of all sorts of talent. “Did that lead you to doing Billy Bates, the observation of all the creativity that was surrounding you?


Art featured in BILLY BATES by artist Burton Machen

“To answer your question,” she replied,  “yeah, definitely, but I also drew from many experiences. I drew from some childhood experiences as well, in terms of Billy’s back story and childhood and where’s he’s coming from before he even truly manifests his artist self. There was some childhood references for me. Then working with artists like David LaChapelle, and being in a world of artists, and just different dynamics that played into what one is channeling as they’re creating a specific body of work. I just always had found that really fascinating. When I was 10 years old, I was already obsessed with Warhol, and his muses, and how they’d interact with each other, and the blurred lines of that dynamic. I think it’s definitely a collection of experiences.”

Speaking of Warhol, we asked her if she would have been a Warhol groupie.  “I think there was a point in my life where I would have, potentially, but I was definitely more comfortable as an observer. As with LaChapelle, I just found it interesting. I was really into observing, and, also, producing what I was producing for him, and being in that energy, but I didn’t need him in that same way. It’s just different, I think, so a groupie? I don’t know, potentially a friend, maybe.”

“I think, for me, connections are really about authenticity, so I found a genuine connection with David, so that was cool. Being a groupie, sometimes, I think, implies something else but I don’t even take it negatively because everybody plays a different role, I think that I would have loved to have been in that world, ” she added referring back to Warhol.  “Definitely.”


Actor James Wirt, Director Jennifer DeLia, and guests

We asked her how she got to Billy Bates. “Okay, so there’s seven portraits that play in the film as Billy’s creations. Each portrait is a character that represents a pivotal moment in his journey. It is encompassing of violence, sexuality, and just exploration of an identity, I’d say. One of the portraits is his childhood self. One of his portraits is his current lover. One is his mother who’s no longer in his life, so there’s a couple others. There’s seven of them.”

We know that graffiti sometimes expresses tumultuous emotions, which is why we asked that question: “You’ve collectively put all of these things together in one character and it shows a lot of artwork and  can’t quite decide whether that artwork is just Graffiti.  Sometimes it looks like violence, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s really hard to tell because often graffiti expresses anger. What kind of emotion is that showing?”

“Someone that I knew years ago that produced events told me that he was putting together a screening series, and, also, showing some different artists at this property.”  That’s where the art and film collide.


DeLia was also the producer.  We asked her about the joint roles.  Why would she take on both, when seemingly artistically opposite? “Definitely, they are really two totally different areas of the industry, but they completely feed each other and are so necessary, so I felt like in order to have creative freedom, it was important for me to be independent and raise financing from individuals or groups that really support the vision. I did produce, which is really pulling together the director’s vision, and also the financing part of it. Before I was doing it for myself, I actually did some producing for other people too, and learned about how to set up an independent film in a smart way, and then was able to apply that to my own projects, and meet a person, talking about the vision, and then talking about why one would want to invest in that vision. It, for me, has gone hand in hand. I’m realizing I am in a minority”

“There are directors who produce, but that means very different things to different people.” DeLia added. “In terms of physically producing and what I just described, there are, I guess, not very many of us that do both and can do both successfully. It’s actually empowering to be able to do it, but then also know when to relinquish and step back and just focus on the vision, and that kind of thing. It’s really important to be able to draw those boundaries, as well.”


Jack Metgzer – “Almost Beautiful”

“I just finally felt ready to direct something that was going to be my own, and writing, and purging, and shooting experimentally a couple different ideas before really finding the story that I wanted to tell, and then being able to write with that clear path. I spent a couple of years really experimenting with this actor, with a full crew, and just trying out a couple of different ideas. Because I’d worked in physical production for so long at that point, I felt very comfortable on set. I knew all the crew, and how to run a set, and everything, so I was able to get people on board to let me kind of try things. Then I found my story and wrote it. It was just, really, much more personal than I really even realized in the process, really until editing and even screening. I realized that this was very much a personal story that I really, really, really needed to get out of my system. It’s great that it’s also very acceptable to anyone who feels like they’ve needed to purge some past experience and move on. I think a lot of the film is about letting go.”


Josephine de la Baume – “Symbolic Shape”

Did your actors and actresses  capture everything that you wanted them to?  “Absolutely. There was a  lot of range, and somebody that I’d been watching grow as an actor in New York, doing theater and different things definitely he embodies everything that I really wanted him to. I tried different things with him through those experimental shoots, and I think that it worked super well. Savannah Welch is multi-talented. She’s in a popular band called The Trishas that’s really known throughout the South. I met her as an extra at one of our shoots, and when I saw the footage of her scene with Jimmy, I really wrote the movie to capture that and then had her character play a singer, and her band, The Trishas, is in the movie. She’s just mesmerizing. She’s a really raw talent. They were great to see together because Jimmy’s really trained. He’d been in New York, studied different techniques for many years, and is just a truly crafted actor. Savannah’s a really raw talent. I don’t think she’d studied at all, if I’m speaking correctly from our conversations, and brings a lot of vulnerability to the table. It was a very, very, very strong duo.”


Guests at Marvin Restaurant after party hosted by Marquis Perkins and sponsored bar by Pernod Ricard

DeLia doesn’t sleep much these days.  She’s going the new digital route, sort of like Kevin Spacey on Netflix, but on different venues: Hopefully when the movie comes out on VOD, and iTunes, and all those platforms that make up the revenue stream for distribution these days, people will, hopefully, be excited about it and be talking about it. With this promotional tour that we’re doing and the festival run that we had, hopefully, we can recoup something for our investors. I think the main thing is really getting it out into the world.  And, by the way, iTunes is just as hard to get distribution on as it used to be to get theatrical. The process of getting a distributor, and then being able to actually get your film on to that platform, they’re very, very, very selective, way more than Netflix, so iTunes sets the standard. Such an interesting world. It feels like the wild west.”


Zoe Twitt – “Proofs of Love”

It still requires so much marketing because it’s great to have your movie out there, but if nobody knows about it, then it really doesn’t matter. I find it just as important to still do what we’re doing which is actually going and talking to the people in the cities that are hungry for this type of content. It’s like just getting back to the fundamentals of actual face-to-face interaction that I find to be really exciting and important. People forget about that because it’s social media.”

What do you want your audience to take away from the film, we asked: “I really do want people to realize that everyone does have that artist energy, whether you’re actually practicing something in fine art, or art that’s obvious, or just the way we all move through the world, and the roles we play in our lives. I just think it’s important for people to recognize that they’re creative beings. It’s kind of corny sounding as it’s coming out of my mouth, but it’s just really how I see it…….that we all have the ability to manifest whatever we really, really truly desire.  So, I think that through Billy’s journey, I would hope that people are able to pull something that’s inspiring to them from that.”

Who is Billy Bates?  “Billy Bates is the artist, I think, inside every single human being.”

The Trailer: