Virgin (2004)

Plot: In a small conservative town, Jessie (Elisabeth Moss) is the outcast teenager of a right-wing Christian family consisting of a strict dad (Peter Gerety), an emotional and drunk mom (Robin Wright), and an innocent sister (Stephanie Gatschet).

Jessie lives only for cigarettes, Jack Daniels and her crush on a boy beyond her reach named Shane (Charles Socarides). One night during a dance, Shane walks Jessie out into the woods, and, after rendering her unconscious with drugs and alcohol, rapes her.

Jessie awakens with no memory of the attack. When she finds herself pregnant, she believes it to be an immaculate conception and that she will bear the second coming, a delusion which infuriates not only her family, but the entire town.

Director: Deborah Kampmeier

Writing Credits: Deborah Kampmeier

Executive Producer: Robin Wright Penn

Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Robin Wright Penn, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Socorro Santiago, Peter Gerety, Stephanie Gatschet, Sam Riley, Charles Socarides & Curtiss Cook.

Genre: Drama

Budget: $65,000

Filming Dates: September 2002

Release Date: 14 June 2003 (IFP Los Angeles Film Festival) | 03 September 2004 (New York Premiere)

Runtime: 117 minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated R for disturbing rape content, sexual material, drug use and language.

The Beginnings of VIRGIN

Robin Wright was attached to Kampmeier’s feature screenplay “Hounddog”, when the financing for the $4million budget fell through in the Spring of 2002…for the 4th year in a row.

Kampmeier was overwhelmed by a ferocious determination to get her first feature made, and made immediately.  She had several other scripts, Virgin was one of them, the one she was most passionate about, and one she thought could withstand digital video.

She called Wright and asked her to do it.  Wright read the script and called Kampmeier, saying she loved the script and thought it was much more commercial than “Hounddog”. She thought Kampmeier could raise $10million for this film.  Kampmeier responded “Yeah but that will take me 2 years and I’m shooting it now…will you do it?”

Wright agreed, flying herself to New York, working for free, staying in a cheap motel. Kampmeier’s gratitude is clear, she speaks highly of Wright, “I know no other woman with more integrity, humanity and generosity.  I’ll never have the words to thank her for the gift she has given me.”

Wright’s gift came with its own challenges.  She had a week of time available in September, giving Kampmeier 5 weeks to raise the money, 3 weeks of pre-production and 21 days to shoot.

Elisabeth Moss as Jessie

Robin Wright asked Deborah if there was anything that would stop her from going forward with the shoot.  Kampmeier said the only thing that would stop her was if she didn’t find “Jessie”.

Kampmeier recalls “When Lizzy walked into the room I knew it was her, she was wearing a jean skirt, a Harley t-shirt and greasy hair.  I thought to myself, ‘dear god let her be able to act’.  And could she ever.”

Even so Kampmeier felt she needed to see Elisabeth again.  We such a short rehearsal period and intense shooting schedule she had to make sure Elisabeth could really do it.

Moss says of her hour-long callback “it was the hardest audition of my life, and I’ve been acting a long time.  But by the end of the audition not only had I convinced Deborah that I could do the role, but I had convinced myself as well.”

The Shoot of Virgin

Kampmeier actually lost several key crew members she had her eye on because she explained during their interviews that she would have her daughter on set, and if Sophia was having a problem they would stop shooting and take care of it.  Several professionals felt this was utterly unreasonable.  Ultimately it kept the set very sane and very real having a child there. No acting out.

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