Danny is a nerd in his early twenties who’s highly inexperienced in life and in the bedroom. His best friend, Jeremy, is a self-appointed sex-crazed maniac who’s oddly obsessed with helping Danny lose his virginity. In fact, he knows the perfect place to take him: Babe Beach.
As the name implies, Babe Beach is a legendary beach full of women that Jeremy’s cousin Larry used to tell him about when he was younger. But is all just a myth, or does this summer utopia really exist?
In the independent feature-length film Babe Beach, Jeremy (Daniel ‘Skritt’ McLemore) and Danny (Amery Miller) embark on a wild and raucous road trip to find out, meeting a cast of zany side characters along the way. The movie, directed and co-written by Charlotte filmmaker Cagney Larkin, along with Bobby Canipe Jr., is your typical buddy comedy that harks back to the era of the classic sex comedy films of the ’80s and ’90s.
It’s the first feature-length film for Larkin and the first acting gig for Skritt, who is best known as Charlotte rapper Lil Skritt.
Despite these firsts, Babe Beach sold out its premiere screening on Saturday, June 25 at The Independent Picture House in NoDa — the Charlotte Film Society’s new independent movie theater.
Queen City Nerve sat down with Larkin and Skritt ahead of the premiere to talk about the filmmaking process and what it means to finally show the movie on a local screen.
Queen City Nerve: So Cagney, you not only directed this film, but co-wrote it as well. What inspired the plot?
Cagney Larkin: I had released a short film last fall [titled Mother Folkin’ Massacre] that a producer in Ohio [named Henrique Couto] saw, and after he saw the short film, he reached out and was interested in financing a feature-length film for me to direct and write. He wanted to do a beach movie because he says beach movies sell well. Everybody wants to watch a summer vacation film. So he gave me the title that he had in mind for the words “Babe Beach.” That’s all he gave me. Then I kind of took it upon myself to craft a story about two guys going to the beach, or Babe Beach, with Babe Beach being kind of the carrot on the stick for the two characters.
It’s kind of harkening back to the era of the buddy comedies and just really trying to nail down that ’80s sex comedy genre that kind of had a resurgence in the mid-2000s with films like Superbad and Sex Drive, and I’ve always had an affinity for those types of comedies, so I kind of wanted to bring that back and try to make one on my own.
Are there any of those ’80s or early ’90s movies that you looked to specifically when planning the cinematography and writing the Babe Beach script?
Larkin: There’s a film from the ’90s called Phat Beach and it’s about a few guys trying to go to the beach so one of them can lose their virginity. So kind of a similar plot to be found in all these sex comedy beach films. So the plot was already there, but with Babe Beach, our film, everything kind of gets turned on its head. I like to subvert expectations.
Anything I ever make, there’s a giant rug pull at the end of it to where you thought you were going one place but we ended up somewhere else. So we did that with Babe Beach and I think we pulled it off very well. We took the typical ’80s storyline and plot and put our own twist on it.
You also make a cameo in the movie. Do you like to insert yourself in all of your projects, or is it just that you needed someone for this small role?
Larkin: This is my first feature-length film. I graduated from film school in 2016, and ever since then I’ve been making short films and working with friends, and I grew up acting in theater, so I’ve always been a player in my things.
I was actually going to play the main character in Babe Beach myself, but I had to make the decision of, do I want to be behind the camera directing or do I want to be on screen and trying to direct at the same time? So I took it upon myself to give somebody else the spotlight. I wanted to give somebody a chance and wanted to just play director on the feature film. So that’s when I turned to Charlotte artist Lil Skritt that I’ve known for a few years now. I know he’s a hilarious guy. All of his media output that he’s put out is really great. He’s got a good following. So I reached out to him and had him squared away for the main role and he was more than happy to come on.
Skritt, you’re used to being in front of the camera in your music videos, but this is your first acting gig in a film. Was it what you expected?
Daniel ‘Skritt’ McLemore: I think my only saving grace was the fact that, as a rapper, I’m memorizing lines and then performing them. So that was really how it helped me transition into acting, was through having that experience in rapping.
It was almost exactly what I expected except that they were able to feed me some of my lines because I was worried I was going to have to memorize a 72-page script. And some parts it was good that I had it memorized and there’s other times where, hey, it’s okay, we’re just going to feed you your lines. So it made life a lot easier when that would happen. But we did a scene where we were driving around in a car, so to make everybody’s life easier on that part, I’m going to go over the scene a thousand times where it’s just like playing off in my head. But before this, I had no acting experience, so the jargon and all this other stuff, I mean, I learned a lot while being on set for this movie.
Was Jeremy someone that was easy for you to portray? Is he different from you or do you see similarities?
Skritt: I find similarities through my old younger self, whenever I was in college, going to the beach and partying and being a bozo, horn dog, that’s kind of what I channeled. And then everyone from Adam Devine from Workaholics to Sean William Scott as Stifler [in American Pie] and just being very animated. Not so much just being a horn dog and being a douchebag, it was, let me be very animated and just bring comedy with everything — the way I walk, the way I would drop a line or two. I think there’s a scene where I just started randomly dancing after I dropped my line, just being a goofball, but I definitely channeled the “You gotta get laid and we’re going to get you laid, man. Look at these chicks. Look at these babes.” Like just being a Stifler or like an Adam from Workaholics type of guy.
Larkin: He did a great job channeling that. And then the character, Jeremy, learns at the end of the film that life isn’t all about sex. That’s the key lesson to take home from the film that gets kind of dumped on you at the end. And it’s kind of a message for all the people out there that act like the Stifler, the horn dog, the goofball. There’s more things out there to life.
Usually in buddy comedy movies, the friends get in a fight and then come back together after they realize they’re important to each other. Is there that same arc in Babe Beach between Jeremy and Danny?
Larkin: I knew that I would have to end up there eventually, and I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to make the characters fight, but it actually happened naturally in the script. The virgin character has his boiling point and the characters split and that’s when Jeremy goes and sees his future self in his cousin. And his cousin in the film is the person who has instilled this tale of Babe Beach to him. So he finally meets up with him and kind of sees how he would end up and realizes he doesn’t want to end up like that.
Skritt, now that you’ve dipped your toes into the acting pool, can we expect more movies from you?
Skritt: I would like that because I would say I’ve definitely caught the acting bug. But I’m one of those people, too, where I’ve been in music for over 10 years. I’m kind of just seeing what’s going to come my way. I don’t think anybody’s gonna see me in any kind of, like, Toyota or Honda commercials or something crazy like that. But I definitely loved working with Cagney. I’d love to be a part of whatever he’s got next.
Larkin: There’s definitely a spot for you in any project I make, buddy.
Since Babe Beach is your first feature-length film, Cagney, what was the filmmaking process like and how does it compare to your smaller projects?
Larkin: I think your biggest point is location. When you’re doing a short film, you have mainly one location. But with this, it’s two locations a day, three locations a day, multiple weekends, keeping everybody together. And when you’re doing independent work, you’ve got to work around people’s schedules, so we ended up shooting on weekends, and we shot over five weekends. So then you’ve got to worry about continuity from how do your characters look from how we were shooting week one to how we’re shooting week five?
So there’s a lot of things that go into play. But if I hadn’t done the short films that I had done in the past and the work that I have accomplished already, I wouldn’t have been prepared for it. It’s a lot to understand, but I think we did a good job keeping everybody in a good mood and keeping the train rolling.
So, where is Babe Beach?
Larkin: The actual location for Babe Beach was at Lake Norman State Park [in Troutman]. We rented out the entire beach area for the day.
But you did a lot of your other beach filming in Myrtle Beach, correct?
Larkin: Yes. When they’re at the beach for the beach stuff, there’s a few things that take place, like around the area when they’re finally getting near. So we did two days of shooting there, and then the rest was shot mainly in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
So there’s a bunch of different beach scenes, but it’s made to look like all the same place.
Larkin: Yeah, all kind of cut together with some movie magic. There’s even some B-roll of Hawaii in there.
What has the reaction been since you announced Babe Beach’s release?
Larkin: The premiere sold out within four days. And Blu-ray sales, I’ve seen a bunch of copies going out. The producer said it’s been selling really well and we’re getting some really good reviews on Letterboxd currently. So I’m just hoping to hear some laughs in the theater Saturday night.
That must feel really good.
Larkin: Yeah, definitely, to see that many people are interested in actually supporting the project and also supporting local talent. Everyone involved is a Carolina resident, a native. Skritt is head of Charlotte talent. So we’ve got a bunch of people represented there.
Why is a theater like Independent Picture House opening in Charlotte a big deal for small, independent films like Babe Beach?
Larkin: It’s crucially important to have a place like that because the chain theaters, which are basically boiled down to AMC and Regal, they don’t book those small films. So there’s independent cinema that’s out there that’s absolutely breathtaking and wonderful that people will never have a chance to see because our chain theaters won’t book it.
So now we have the IPH that’s playing literal independent cinema, like to a T, indie cinema made without studio interference, people on their own accord, and booking it and giving people a great place to come watch it. It’s a beautiful venue. And I think if we don’t have places like that, then where are artists supposed to thrive? Where do you even have a chance to succeed if you don’t have an opportunity for a venue like that?
Skritt: I think one great thing that I’ve noticed about being a musician in the local music scene is you can go to The Fillmore or see whatever major national act is playing, but you can also go to The Milestone or Snug Harbor and see your local bands perform. And to see that with the Independent Picture House is really just great for the whole community because my perspective is just basically saying, OK, if musicians can do it then what about actors? They have theaters and plays, but what about their movies? I think IPH is a blessing to the neighborhood.
Babe Beach is available on Blu-ray and DVD at henflix.com.
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