Leo Francis' Exclusive Interview with Devanny Pinn (Truth or Dare and The Black Dahlia Haunting)
I had the pleasure of meeting with several of the stars of the film Truth or Dare after it's premier at the Shockfest Film Festival last weekend, including the lovely Devanny Pinn. Her other recent film, The Black Dahlia Haunting (which was made for only a few thousand dollars) premiered here last year and it helped them find distribution. One can't help but see her passion for film making both onscreen and off. She is talented and driven, willing to pitch in where and when ever needed to get a movie made. I admire those qualities, and her drive to tell the stories that she connects with. At Shockfest she took home the Best Supporting Actress (Sexiest Shocking Sweetheart) and it was well deserved for her performance in Truth or Dare. She is absolutely delightful in person, and I want to thank her for being such a sweetheart and taking time to answer my questions. Here we go...
Leo Francis: First off, your background is in opera and ballet. How did you make the jump to horror films? Does being a trained opera singer help you scream?
Devanny Pinn: I love that you noticed that! Yes, actually. I've mentioned it briefly before in interviews because I get asked a lot about the power behind my pipes, haha. I grew up in ballet and musical theater which lead to a scholarship in college for opera. I really wanted to act in films so it seemed to be fate that I immediately found the horror genre.
In vocal classes you learn to strengthen your diaphragm and have better control over the sounds you create in your throat, mouth and lips. As a messo soprano studying opera, there was obviously an additional focus on being able to project your voice and fill a large room. So when it came time to act in horror films, I was already trained to let out powerful noise!
The different types of sounds allowed me to portray varying degrees of pain more accurately too. I think fans noticed this, which lead to my given "scream queen" title almost immediately. Who knew?
LF: Just after meeting you briefly at Shockfest, I must say you come across as confident, passionate and most of all - driven. Since you started in 2006 you've worked on almost 50 different projects as an actress alone, and they're almost all horror films. Were you always a genre fan and if so what was the movie that got you hooked? Do you have any desire to try other genres?
DP: Thank you! I was very in my element at Shockfest, surrounded by talented people and genre artists so that always helps. I actually tried a romantic comedy and a drama before deciding that I really only wanted to do horror. In my opinion it is the most fun to be involved in. The makeup, wardrobe, stunts its all just so much FUN! There are lots of ups and downs that generally leave both the cast and crew enjoying themselves and being creative. That's what I love. As an actor it really free's up limitations too, where else do you get the opportunity to play non human roles?
In the future I do plan to branch out a bit to do more scifi and action movies. Crime thrillers are my favorite. I'm also a sucker for history and famous historical figures, but that's as far as I would go. I enjoy genre blending as long as it stays on the darker side. Mwahaha.
LF: You've certainly endured a lot of onscreen brutality, is it difficult emotionally to work on some of the more extreme films that you've starred in? The "bottle scene" in Truth or Dare is particularly nasty, in fact I actually had to walk outside and splash a little water on my face after that scene. Which, as a hardcore genre fan, is a huge compliment to your acting and the film in general. How was it for you filming that scene? How is it for you when you watch it back, does it have any impact?
DP: YES! Upsetting fans, one at time haha. I really enjoy shock value if its done correctly. As an actor I do a lot of torture scenes in films, which may seem strange because I am actually a big Disney princess fan and a practicing Christian. I also will cry like a little girl (for real) if I get so much as a papercut. I have no tolerance for pain, but I love to do really disturbing sequences in film. As an actor your goal is to get a reaction or evoke emotion out of your viewer. I think the genre in general is a great tool to be able to effect your audience. If your involved in a film that has scenes of this intensity, like Truth or Dare, it gives you a great deal of opportunity and responsibility.
I have done torture and I have done rape scenes in films. The situation that my character Courtney is in in TOD is unique. To showcase a horrid act like that is disturbing enough, to portray it as a character with such secrets as she's carrying, add in the humiliation, the obligation to complete it or cause potential death to others and try to have the audience feel sympathetic all at once is quite a feat. I think other actresses may have turned down the role based on that scene alone, but when Jessica and Jon called me to ask about my comfort levels, it was this scene that confirmed I wanted to be involved.
I am sorry I made you leave the theater, but then again...no I'm not :)
LF: As an actress, you've certainly earned your title as a 'Scream Queen'. Who is your scream queen idol?
DP: Sarah Michelle Gellar! I grew up watching her. She's beautiful, confident but approachable, she wears curls in her hair but could kick your ass and not break a nail. Most importantly she's a serious actress that has incredible range. Her monologue in "Cruel Intentions" was my audition piece for years. It booked me my first horror film leading role and countless others. She literally taught me how to play the bad girl.
I actually worked as an extra on her tv show Ringer just so I could watch how she was on set when camera's were not rolling. She kept noticing me staring at her and being way too excited she was there. I wanted to geek out and tell her she inspires me, but you can't do that on a studio set and she already looked scared. The producer found it amusing and put me in a scene right next to her. WIN!
LF: Your IMDB credits are ridiculous. You have worked as a writer, producer, actress, make-up artist, director, special effects artist, camera, and casting. Is there anything at all that you don't do? Is acting your real passion, or do you have passion for the filmmaking process in general?
DP: I actually leave off a lot of my credits, but I have done pretty much everything there is to do on a film. I love the filmmaking process. It started with wanting to understand basics regarding cameras, lighting and sound so I could be easy to work with as an actress. It's cool when you know what type of light and camera are being used so you know exactly what angle to place yourself in the scene and get the best effect without having to have people work around trying to get their stuff in the best spot for you. Details like that save time and money which make for happy production staff. It also helps bond with the crew that you know and care about the hard work they put in.
The more I learned and understood the more fascinated I became with filmmaking in general. I started making films and then wanted to learn everyone's job so I could understand their importance and be able to help others when they are on my sets. Currently, I am learning editing on Premiere CS7. Brandon Slagle is (unwillingly) teaching me basics as he is editing our latest film Dead Sea. I actually helped cut part of the theatrical trailer, fun facts.
LF: You tend to work with the same people on a regular basis, and it seems that you've found a group of like minded people to collaborate with. Do you find having a great network of friends helps push you creatively?
DP: When I started I wanted to work with anyone and everyone. It was all new experiences and a great part of the creative learning process. These days I am always on the look out for exceptional filmmakers, but I tend to work often with certain people. It is exactly as you said, you find people who are like minded and it makes the story telling process a lot easier and way more fun.
I am soo full of energy and passion that I am always on the go. I like to work with people who can not only keep up but help step up my game. I also tend to be drawn towards people who are jack of all trades. I am very blessed to have the circle of talented filmmaking families that I do. I knew Jessica Cameron should step behind the camera for awhile and I'm thrilled she did. Look how much badass-ness she fit in Truth Or Dare?
LF: I sometimes think I prefer indie-horror to major studio releases solely based on the fact that filmmakers who are working on a limited budget are forced to be more creative. I know you've made several films on extremely limited budgets, do you feel that it helps you be inspired creatively? Can you give me an example?
DP: I am not a very patient person, so if I decide I want to tell a story...that's what we are going to do! Right now! Most people are very dedicated to the process of finding full budgets for their films which can take years. I have so much creative energy that if I don't find an outlet for it I will explode, I cant wait years for someone to greenlight a million so I can satisfy that.
Thank God I found other multitalented people who like to rise to the occasion. Paranormal Activity kind of inspired a few of us to give this a shot. It was a couple people in a house with handi cams being afraid of things that aren't there... how could this possibly need any money or a crew to make?? We then noticed a lot of simple concepts that were taking studios ridiculous money to complete.
We took advantage of the sales trend with found footage and made "Area 51 Confidential". It cost less than $1000 which included taking the cast to Nevada. We spent a few days in the desert outside the real Area 51, incorporated actual conspiracy theories and documents into our script to pull in not only found footage viewers, but alien fans as well. We also duct taped pocket cams to guns to showcase additional camera angles and create legitimate reasons for filming that ended up looking a bit like a first person shooter video game. It was picked up for domestic VOD distribution 2 weeks after completion and is still listed among all top outlets including iTunes and Redbox Instant. Hey studios, creativity trumps greed every time.
LF: Name one movie you walked out of in the theater.
DP: Jim Carrey's A Christmas Carol 3D.. I walked out after I literally fell asleep.
LF: If you could punch one person in the face, who would it be?
DP: Just one? man... um, lets go with Kim Kardashian.
LF: Has anyone ever made you feel star struck?
DP: I walked the carpet for sCare Foundation's first charity benefit and Jamie Lee Curtis came on next to me. There were some unpublished photos were im just standing there with my mouth open "its her!" followed by several others trying to be cool and just do my interviews.
LF: What is your favorite horror movie and/or the scariest movie you've ever seen?
DP: First movie to ever scare me: Jurassic Park. I wasn't allowed to watch scary movies growing up and my mom took me and my brothers when we were little to see this nice family movie with cute dinosaurs ;) Latest movie to make me jump: Jaws. Saw it in the theaters for the bluray release. Damn that music!! Latest movie to give me the heebie jeebies: Sinister. Recommended by TOD director Jessica Cameron herself... I was literally having stomach knots and feeling uneasy. Creeper I tell you, unsettling. Loved it.
Thanks for the interview and for watching Truth Or Dare!! Was great meeting you at Shockfest, I hope our paths cross again soon :)
LF: The pleasure was all mine. Thanks again.
Special thanks to Devanny for taking the time out of her busy schedule to answer my questions. I highly recommend you check out: The Black Dahlia Haunting (available on DVD and VOD), Truth or Dare (Coming Soon), and the upcoming Dead Sea and House of Manson (both directed by Brandon Slagle). Until then….
- Leo Francis