On November 26, 2014, Jen Yamato of Deadline.com reported on the upcoming film Manson Girls from writer-director Susanna Lo, which was slated to begin filming in February 2015. Although not the focus of the article, what most readers took away from it was that Bill Moseley would be portraying Charles Manson in the movie. Other media outlets immediately picked up the story, including The Independent in an article by Jess Denham, and most major horror websites. Horror fandom took to the Internet, rejoicing. I admit that I was among them. After Moseley’s turn as the psychotic Otis Driftwood in Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses and especially in The Devil’s Rejects, it seemed to me that Charles Manson was the role that he was born to play.
The day after Deadline posted the story, Bill Moseley took to social media and denied his involvement in the film. When I reached out to him via Twitter in preparation for this article, asking him about the rumors, he offered up a quote that is as succinct and blunt as you would expect from Chop-Top:
“Ain’t no Manson Girls in my f*ckin’ future.”
He is, at this point, likely tired of fielding the same questions regarding his involvement (or lack thereof) in the film, and is hesitant to speak of it more. But his demeanor suggested there was more of a story here than mere misinformation. A little digging revealed that the Manson Girls film has had a long and thorny history, all of which is scattered in bits and pieces across the Internet, but difficult to put together as a coherent whole.
In late January 2011, Susanna Lo officially announced via the Associated Press at the Sundance film festival that she would be directing Manson Girls from her own script for her production company Slomotion Studios. She impressed reporters with the fact that she already had Taryn Manning, Heather Matarazzo, Tania Raymonde, and Monica Keena set to star. The announcement was something of a spectacle, as well, as it went hand-in-hand with a concert by Guy Allison and John McFee of the Doobie Brothers, who were signed on to work on the film’s soundtrack, along with the stars themselves.
As a publicity stunt, it certainly worked. News of the upcoming film was everywhere, with nearly 200 articles written about it, by Lo’s estimation.
As of 2011, there was no doubt about it: Bill Moseley was indeed set to appear as Charles Manson. This is most thoroughly evidenced by an interview that Lo herself conducted with Mosley at the Stay Thirsty website.
Moseley and the others even began some modest filming. It’s not entirely clear if the footage they shot was always intended to be part of a “sizzle reel”, or if it was indeed intended to be included in the movie. What is known is that around the time, the funding they were relying on fell through, and the footage shot was edited into a promotional video meant to interest new investors. This sizzle reel was likely shown to private parties at an earlier date, but it was made available to the public via Susanna Lo’s YouTube channel on August 6, 2012.
On November 18, 2011, Variety reported that Visit Films would be handling foreign sales of the film, for which little or no footage had yet been shot. The bulk of the filming, they said, would actually begin early in 2012.
Now this is where things begin to turn a bit ugly. I learned that in order to drum up some extra cash for the film, Susana Lo hired The Auction Doctors, a full-service auction company, to handle the sale of a walk-on role for Manson Girls via eBay. In January 2012, it sold for approximately $2,000.
The details of the auction dictated that if filming had not commenced within 18 months, then the buyer had the right to request a refund. As we know, filming did not commence. In October of 2013, the winner of this auction filed a complaint against Susanna Lo and her production company Slomotion Studios at the online forum Ripoff Report, stating that she was refusing to refund the money.
Someone with the screen name Slomotion Studios LLC responded to this complaint on December 1, with allegations of their own, claiming that this person had been blocked by numerous websites for hacking the various Slomotion Studios pages, altering information, and posting defamatory comments. Furthermore, they also claimed that Susanna Lo and Slomotion Studios were never behind an auction for a walk-on role. When directly asked if she or an authorized representative of Slomotion Studios was behind the rebuttal, she linked me to an article on the inner workings of the Ripoff Report website, and stated “The individual who posted the false report claims to have a receipt. Whatever receipt he does or doesn’t have, it’s not one from anyone connected to Manson Girls and he carefully avoids mentioning the details of this receipt. The Manson Girls team has decided to stop wasting any more time on this.”
This denial of the auction is curious, though, as Susanna Lo was quoted making direct reference to it herself in a March 16, 2012 interview with James Wood posted on Technorati (since deleted, but still available to view via the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine).
For additional information regarding the details of these auctions, I contacted Todd Olster, founder of Auction Doctors (who currently hold an unprecedented 100% approval rating on eBay). He confirmed that he did indeed sell not only one but two walk-on roles for Susanna Lo. “Once the buyers paid, I forwarded Susanna ALL of the money, as I promised to do in my contract to her. Since the 18 months expired with no fulfillment of the walk-on roll auctions, I had to give the money back to the winners.” But when he attempted to collect that money back from Lo, he says that she refused to pay.
Olster went on to say that in October 2011, Auction Doctors gave Susanna Lo a “good faith deposit” of $12,500 for the right to auction off Manson Girls props and costumes in the future. As the film has yet to be shot, he says “The only thing we have to show for that advance was a bunch of furniture sets pieces from her shoot (which we thought was a shoot from the actual production of Manson Girls, but it turned out to be a shoot for the “sizzle-reel” of Manson Girls – which she hoped would lure someone to invest in her film). So the items she gave us are absolutely worthless.”
“All in all,” he sums up, “…I am out over $16k which I will never see the light of.”
I have been in contact with both buyers—Jeff Kane, who publishes bizarre sex fiction under the name Kitty Glitter; and Mark Behar, an actor, celebrity bodyguard, and film industry weapons expert.
Jeff starts off his e-mail to me with “Susanna Lo put me through Hell”, before going on to say that after winning the auction, he was told that filming would begin in March 2012, and arranged his vacation schedule to coincide with the film’s timeframe. He also purchased plane tickets to Los Angeles, only to be told later that production was being delayed. He opted to fly out anyway, and spent some time with Susana Lo and Bill Moseley. “I had beers with Susanna and Bill at the Roxy and they talked to me all night about how excited they were about the movie and my involvement.”
Upon returning home, Jeff says that he was “strung along” for the remainder of the 18 months, and then “Susanna claimed she had nothing to do with the auction and that she had never offered walk-on roles in the film.” His next step was posting to Ripoff Reports, where Susanna then “falsely accused me of hacking all her websites and social networks.”
It should be noted that Susanna Lo’s Wikipedia page (created and faithfully maintained by someone with the screen name Slomotionstudiosllc) was one of the sites specifically mentioned as being vandalized. It does appear to have been the victim of vandalism on more than one occasion, however the earliest instance which I could locate using the ‘Revision History’ feature was dated December 6, 2013—five days after these allegations were made in the Ripoff Report rebuttal. Also, the vandalizing edits were made by an anonymous user, and could not be connected to any specific person.
Mark Behar tells me that he saw the role as a stepping stone in his career. “I was just getting into more acting, rather than the behind-the-scenes work that I was doing as a celebrity bodyguard at that time. I was told about the auction… and thought that it would be a great fit.” He was also looking forward to working with his friend, porn star Ron Jeremy, who was at the time slated to appear. “Susanna agreed to give me a nice part, with several lines in a few scenes with Ron as a badass biker… and everything was a go.”
But time went on, and there was no movement on the film. “[Susanna] could never give me a firm time frame that would stick, so after a while… I pulled out of the project and asked her for a refund.” There were other projects and charities that he wanted to give the money to, but Susanna refused, saying that “the timeframe and terms of the auction expired.”
“I had to take several routes to try and get my funds back,” he says, eventually receiving the refund from Auction Doctors, who had to pay out of pocket. Behar is kind hearted, and more forgiving than most, and says that he would still be willing to appear in the film so long as he wasn’t charged again for the opportunity. “I think that the project would be great, once finished.”
In the same interview with James Wood mentioned above, Lo stated that she had been to Berlin to raise some additional funding, and that there were numerous people who wanted to contribute, putting the film “in the middle of somewhat of a bidding war.” Five months later, though, she launched a crowdfunding campaign for Manson Girls at Indiegogo. No walk-on roles were offered as perks, but $50 would get you an autographed DVD, $1,000 would secure you a visit to the set, and $15,000 would buy you an Associate Producer credit.
The campaign ended less than a month later, bringing in a mere $428 of its lofty $150,000 goal. This was a “flexible funding” campaign, meaning that the funds were collected although the goal was not met.
On October 18, 2013, Lo launched another flexible funding Indiegogo campaign for a completely different film—this one called Rabid—despite the fact that she had still not even begun shooting Manson Girls. Some of the selling points for this film were that it would star Maria Ford and Ron Jeremy, that the soundtrack would be produced by Guy Allison and John McFee of the Doobie Brothers (“a regular part of Susanna’s production team”), and that appearing on one of the songs would be Bill Moseley, “the star of The Devil’s Rejects and Manson Girls.”
This wasn’t the first time that Susanna Lo attempted to promote one of her projects by riding on the coat tails of this movie that hasn’t even been made. A few years prior, she had published a novel available on the Amazon Kindle, entitled Alma of my Heart. Boldly emblazoned on the cover, just below her name: “Writer-Director of Manson Girls.”
The Rabid crowdfunding campaign closed roughly a month after it opened, faring even worse than its predecessor. Lo managed to pull in only $50 of her $200,000 goal. Despite the fact that the IMDb page for the film has it categorized as being completed, there have been no updates posted to the official Twitter account, Facebook page, or Tumblr page since late October 2013, and I can find no reason to believe that any footage whatsoever has been shot on this project.
Following the failure of the Rabid campaign, things went quiet for some time, with the official Facebook page for Manson Girls posting only occasional news items about members of the real Manson Family. On May 17th, 2014, they began an unusual campaign of asking the public who should be cast in specific roles—Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, or Kristen Stewart as Sharon Tate? Emma Stone, Taryn Manning, or Emma Watson as Susan “Sadie” Atkins? The latter “casting call” caused some confusion, as Taryn Manning had already been announced as part of the cast, but the Facebook page moderator confirmed that “Taryn did some great work in the preliminary showcase for MG but as often happens in HWD…time has elapsed and actors’ availability and personal factors enter into the equation. I think the casting is shaking up to present a fresh look.” The truth of the matter is that so many people have been announced, only later to drop out for unknown reasons, that keeping track of the constantly rotating cast has proven nearly impossible.
Susanna Lo reportedly attended the American Film Market in November 2014, where she shopped around her still-upcoming Manson Girls film, landing a worldwide deal with Tricoast Worldwide before the end of the month, as reported in the November 26, 2014 Deadline article that kicked off this investigation in the first place. It’s interesting to note that when the Manson Girls Facebook page shared the article in their timeline, they made no mention of the erroneous information included within that Bill Moseley would be playing Charles Manson.
It’s obvious that for Moseley, somewhere along the way, something changed. It’s unclear why and when, and nobody seems to want to discuss it. I attempted to contact the authors of both the Deadline article and the Independent article, asking where they received their information, but neither have responded. Susanna Lo told me via e-mail that “Bill Moseley signed on to do the sizzle reel shoot for Manson Girls“, seemingly implying that he was never intended to appear in the movie proper, but that’s been established as false by many of the sources cited above. When confronted with this, and many other unanswered questions, Lo informed me that all interviews regarding Manson Girls are arranged by the film’s publicist, and granted only to those that he knows and trusts, like Deadline.com. “The main reason for this is because of the misquotes and misinformation that has been written about this project.”
Of the myriad people that have reportedly been attached to this project at one time or another, my attempts to contact Taryn Manning, Eric Balfour, Guy Allison and John McFee, Visit Films, Tricoast Worldwide, and more have all failed. Ron Jeremy instructed me to contact his agent, who did not respond to my inquiries. Only Tania Raymonde, or an unverified Twitter account claiming to be her, acknowledged that she was involved in the project—but would not respond further.
So what is the fate of Manson Girls right now, and will it ever get made?
Susanna Lo assures me that things are moving forward. She will be launching a crowdfunding campaign within the week.