The Children of Samhain's Tribute to
BADASS WOMEN OF HORROR
Volume III: Jessica Cameron
Since the beginning of horror films, strong women have always been present. There has never been a shortage of female characters who aren't afraid to fight back when pushed too far. These are tough women that don't need a man to save them; because they aren't twisting their ankle running from the bad guy, they're picking up an axe and aiming for the villains head. And behind every one of these roles is an equally strong and extremely talented actress to bring life and nuance to the character. Who can forget Janet Leigh as Marion Crane or her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode? Who doesn't remember iconic roles like Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson, Neve Campbell as Sidney Prescott, or Sigourney Weaver as Ripley? Hell, almost every picture made by Alfred Hitchcock featured a strong female. Now, perhaps it comes from being raised by a strong woman that I am drawn to these characters, but it makes me happy to see the next wave of strong leading ladies kicking ass onscreen. A new school of hardcore heroines who are taking tough to another level. To me It seems like there has never been a better time for women in the genre, and luckily there are certainly no shortage of them. From Katherine Isabelle in American Mary to Sharni Vinson in You're Next, badass women are taking over...
So in honor of them, we'd like to continue our series of interviews with actresses, directors, writers, and musicians in what we like to call: A Tribute to BADASS WOMEN OF HORROR. Our first interview featured Sharni Vinson (Patrick, You're Next) our second interview we presented Melanie Papalia (Smiley, The Den), and for our latest installment we present the extremely talented, Jessica Cameron (Mania, Truth or Dare). Enjoy.
Leo Francis: It’s been way too long since we’ve had a chance to talk, so thank you for taking the time to do this interview. As you know, your directorial debut Truth or Dare was number two on my Best of 2014 list, and I still rave about it every chance I get. So, my first question is: what’s happening with the movie? When are people going to get a chance to see it?
Jessica Cameron: We will be sending out the dvd and blu rays to the fans who pre-ordered on our crowd funding campaign first. I am preparing nice packages for them all to thank them for their patience.
LF: I’m featuring you as the third interview in my Badass Women of Horror series since you’ve shown that you can literally do it all when it comes to the genre. You produce, you co-wrote and directed one of the most disturbing films I have ever seen, and your acting resume ranks you as a modern day Scream Queen. Where did your love for the genre originate?
JC: As a child horror was always my favorite type of film to watch. I just loved the roller coaster ride that a good horror film can take you on, you know? It's also the only genre which can allow for anything to really happen... all bets are off when anyone can die at any time.
Horror films for me as a child were just more fun and that stayed with me. When I first started acting as a profession, my goal was to book as many great roles as possible. I was based in the mid-west when I started out and it just happened that most of the indie films that I was auditioning for were in the horror genre. As an actress I quickly realized that the horror genre was more fun to act in then other genres because you have to draw from a place of real fear but typically with out a direct frame of reference. I don't know anyone who has been chased by zombies for example but I have been chased before, that kind of thing. Its a greater challenge to make it feel real to the audience and its my favorite thing to do!
LF: I’ve always felt that horror was really a woman’s genre, portraying them as survivors. And aside from ‘that one girl that always falls and breaks her ankle’, not only do most horror films end with a ‘final girl’, but women also make up some of the most memorable villains in the history of the genre. How would you define women’s roles in the genre? And are multi-talented women like yourself and the Soska Sisters redefining those roles?
JC: I think we are finally in a place where women behind the camera are getting the respect that they deserve. Its long over due. Currently women make up very small percentages of the off camera jobs on any film set, but it's changing as those of us in the industry stand up and speak up about it. I think its important that the horror genre have film makers from both sexes, from all over the world, from all ages. It's such a diverse genre and these different voices really help it to stand out! I think right now women's roles are whatever they want them to be and whatever they are willing to work hard to achieve.
LF: What are the traits that define strong women, in your opinion? Who are your strong female role models professionally? And who are your strong female role models personally?
JC: For me its integrity, honesty, intelligence and passion. Those are traits I respect in both women and men. And they seem to be increasingly rare these days. Personally my mother embodied all the above and more, she was a wonderful role model. I have yet to meet another person who worked as hard as either of my parents and that includes me. Professionally I really admire Mary Harron and Jennifer Lynch, both women have really brought some great films to life and represented women behind and in front of the camera well. There is also a slew of brilliant women writers today which I am thrilled about. Heather Buckley , Kalyn Corrigan, Heidi Honeycutt to name just a few are really helping to elevate the horror genre.
LF: According to your IMDB Page you’re attached to no less than thirteen upcoming project’s. Before I start asking you about some of the individual films, let me just ask: between all of that work and your social media presence, do you ever have time to sleep?
JC: I will sleep when I am dead. I love sleep, but I fortunately don't require much of it. I try and get 4-6 hours a night but often its 3-4. And its not an uncommon thing for me to pull an all nighter to get deadline met....but I try to do that no more then once a week. We all suffer for the things and people that we love. I would not change my world for anything, even sleep!
LF: You recently produced and starred in Bryan Coyne’s film, Utero, which revolves around an agoraphobic expecting mother who becomes convinced that her baby is more monster than human. Can you tell us a little more about the film? It’s listed as being in post-production, do you have any idea when it will be released? And was the Utero Fabebook Page taken down?
JC: Right now I have no idea when it will be finished but I hope it will be soon. I am really proud of that film and can not wait for it to come out. We took the pages down for now since we were not sure how long post was going to take, every film maker and film is different. I fight as a director to do a year or so from start of filming to post production completion but for many that's just not possible. So we felt it best to pause on the social media till we had a better idea of when it would be finished. But when I have more info I will be sure to share it!
LF: You spent three weeks on a road trip across the country with a group of like-minded film makers to create two feature length horror films, Desolation and Mania, and a documentary called Kill the P.A. First and foremost, how did that idea come about? Who did you travel with? And can you tell me about the experience?
JC: I originally came up with the concept of MANIA and knew that I wanted to actually travel across the USA for the shoot rather then faking the women's journey. I can always tell when films fake traveling large distances to save money and it takes me out of the film so it was very important to me that we actually travel across the USA to film it. Logistically this is hard to do well on a low budget. I realized we would get across the country having completed my film then have to drive all the way back and thought that was a great opportunity to make a second film. It was at this point that my film maker friends started telling me I was crazy and this was not possible and I decided I wanted to film the entire process for the documentary.
I enlisted one of my favorite people and talented film maker Aaron M. Lane to direct and film the documentary (Kill The PA). This was the hardest position to fill because it was the job that pretty much would require the person to be awake as much as me! About 21 hours a day. He handled the DIT on the features and all the documentary stuff, and did a brilliant job. Next I had to find a completed script that would benefit (and not be hindered by) filming across the country.
I have been friends with Ryan M. Andrews for years and really adore him so I reached out to him and he had this great female hitch hiker script ready to go. He adjusted it to fit our transportation needs and it worked well. I brought on Josh Chiara who is a dear friend, a talented film maker in his own right and a wonderful DP. He was the Director of Photography on both narrative feature films (Mania and Desolation).
I had met Jordan Pacheco at the Calgary horror con and we had become fast friends, I loved his passion for the horror genre. I brought him on as FX make up but he was also an EVERYTHING EVERY MAN. You need a light, get Jordan. You need someone to hold the tv set because your monitor broke, call Jordan. You need someone to talk to who will just sit down and look at you with understanding eyes, call Jordan. That man is the kindest, sweetest work horse you will ever meet. I cast Carlo Mendez as the male lead in Desolation, I have known him for years and loved his work. He also is an absolute joy on set. He brought this spicy intensity to the role.
Ali Ferda plays my sister in Desolation, I had worked with her years prior in The Sleeper and just adore her. She is also starring in my next film.... but that's still technically a secret. Ellie Church was an indie actress living in the mid-west who had caught my attention with her gritty performance in A Time To Kill (Directed by the always fun Brian Williams). She read for the role and brought this heartfelt quality to her, I knew I had found my lead. Becca Moore has been my friend in the mid-west acting scene for years and I cast her every chance I get. She is one of those actresses that can pretty much do anything, play any role, show an level of any emotion. Her character in MANIA is a tough one and she nailed it.
LF: Mania, your directorial follow up to Truth or Dare, is being described as “A fucked up lesbian love story…”. First, can you tell us a little bit more about the movie. What drew you to direct this film? How close is the film to completion?
JC: I just loved the concept about these women fighting to maintain their sanity and their love. Its a cross between "Thelma and Louise" and "Henry: Portrait of A Serial Killer".
I wanted to make this film because I loved the story and felt that in another director's hands the nudity could be done gratuitously and not with the intensity that the script required. As a woman working in the horror world I have seen beautiful nudity in scripts become cheap T and A on sets so I wanted to maintain the integrity of the story cause I thought that it was so beautiful as it was.
The film is completed and we have started our festival run, we just screened at Arizona Underground and won Best Horror Film, I love that festival and it was a huge honor to win. We are screening at the RIP Film Festival Oct 31 at 7 pm, also at Another Hole in the Head (time/date to be determined), at Horrorthon in Ireland on Oct 22, and Oct 16th at Warheadz in Missouri.
LF: The other feature you made during your cross country journey, is Ryan M. Andrews Desolation. Was it weird switching between being in the directors chair and being directed by someone else? Can you tell us more about this film and when we can expect to see it?
JC: I work a lot so its not uncommon for me to work on back to back projects which helped. Also when your traveling with your team you quickly get into the rhythm of what is working or not working. I had worked with Ryan a few times before so we are very familiar with each other. He knows what levels he wants to see from me and I know how he works. Having that history definitely made going back and forth between projects much smoother. We are in post on Desolation and it should start making the film festival round next year. Stay tuned.
LF: I was thrilled to read that you’re attached to Jason Croot’s Le Fear III: Le Halloween, even it is only rumored at this point. I actually reviewed Le Fear II: Le Sequel this year and I loved it. I think it would be interesting to see you in an extremely dry comedy. How did you become involved in the project? Have you ever worked on a project like this before?
JC: Honestly, this just appeared on my IMDB and I don't know anything about it. But I'd love to work with Jason Croot and any film that has your seal of approval I would love to be involved with. So severed fingers crossed I'll have more news for you on this one soon!
LF: You’re also a part of the film A Grim Becoming, which is listed on IMDB a horror comedy. Can you describe the film to me in your own words, because I don’t quite know what to make of it from the trailer. How did you become involved?
JC: A Grim Becoming tells the tale of a young man in the wrong place at the wrong time who as a result must become a grim reaper. I had been friends with Mike Sciabarrasi and Adam Steigert and really wanted to work with their kick ass buffalo team. They approached me to play the character Life, and I couldn't turn it down. It was such a fun and original role. I adored working with them, they are all such great people.
LF: Other than Mania, do you have any other directing projects coming in the near future? Do you think you would ever want to direct a film outside of the genre?
JC: I have little interest in directing or producing outside the genre. Genre films are my passion. I'll act outside of genre but producing and directing both take way more time so I'd rather only produce and direct genre since I love it so very much!
I have several more film lined up that I will be directing, the sequel to Truth or Dare and a super creepy haunted hospital tale. I can not tell you much right now except to stay tuned!
LF: Holy Shit! A sequel? I cannot wait. Of all your upcoming films, is there anything I missed that you feel extremely passionate about? Which ones and why?
JC: Yes! All Through The House. It's a Christmas slasher film, and I love that sub-genre. The director, Todd Nunes is one of my favorite people, as is the star (and the director's sister) Ashley Nunes. It was produced by The Readmond group and the whole team was a joy to work with. I can not wait to work with this team again. All Through the House is screening at RIP in Los Angeles Oct 31 9pm, and also Another Hole In The Head (date and time TBD).
LF: If you could punch one fictional character in the face, who would it be?
JC: The entire cast of Halloween Resurrection.... seriously why does that film even exist?
LF: What upcoming horror films are you most excited about?
JC: Behind the Walls by Jon and James Kondelik. It looks amazing, the photos on their facebook page are so creepy. Its a haunted house film told from the perspective of the house - how cool is that? Jon and James are not only talented but also two of the nicest men I have met in Hollywood!
LF: Of the horror films you’ve seen so far this year, which is your favorite?
JC: I fell in love with Too Late at Fantastic fest in Texas. Director Dennis Hauck made such a beautiful film, which he shot on 35 mm, using 22 min long takes! Its a technical feat and a brilliant breath taking film. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone, if you like films that you need to see this one.
LF: I'll keep my eyes out for it. Thanks again. Talk to you soon!! Cheers.
You can find Jessica Cameron on: