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Jessica Cameron

Chilling Out

Jessica Cameron

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Photo By: Greg Damron

Jason had his hockey mask. Freddy had his glove. Simon has… his huggable, squeezable, loveable plush body, which he will use to lull you into a false sense of security before horrifically murdering you.

Yes, not only do we live in a world where we have to worry about deadly flu outbreaks, erratic weather, and an endless run of New England Patriots’ Super Bowls, but now we have inanimate felt killers to fear, at least according to the exciting new horror/comedy mashup from Lisa Ovies, “Puppet Killer.”

With the film set to hit the festival circuit throughout 2018, we recently sat down with producer, star and horror icon Jessica Cameron to discuss how she became involved in the project, why it could become a cult classic, and which film over the course of her career is the nearest and dearest to her heart.

TrunkSpace: We know that the “Puppet Killer” journey first began when Lisa Ovies attended a parade with singing puppets, but at what point in the development did you join the project and what was it about the film that interested you?
Cameron: How can you see Simon (the adorable pink murderous puppet) and not be interested? Second (well, arguably first) Lisa is such a tremendous talent and so very passionate about her film, it’s infectious. I became involved late in the filming process, Lisa and I had a lot in common as well as a mutual respect for each other’s art so I jumped at the chance to get involved.

TrunkSpace: You have been involved in countless horror films throughout the years giving you an insider’s perspective on what genre audiences look for and like in their consumption of content. What elements of “Puppet Killer” do you think viewers will be drawn to most and why does it have a strong possibility of becoming a cult classic?
Cameron: This film is everything that everyone loves about classic horror films, from the main characters to the kills. The film doesn’t take itself too seriously and you can tell that those involved deeply love the genre. It’s also just a really fun film, one of those that you are surprised the movie is over after you watched it ’cause you had so much fun that time just flew by.

TrunkSpace: When the trailer hit, people went crazy online. With a film like “Puppet Killer,” is word of mouth its biggest asset in finding long-term success?
Cameron: I think word of mouth is great but making a stand-out, high quality and original film is the key to finding long term success. If you do that, the fans will find it.

TrunkSpace: You’re someone who is very active on social media. Has the continued emergence of social media and its relevance in today’s society changed the way people can promote horror and ultimately reach audiences?
Cameron: Absolutely. And thankfully so! It’s made it possible for lower budget films to get strong releases and reach a much larger audience than before the emergence of social media. Social media is only going to become more important to indie films, and those who are active in promoting their work will be the ones who get hired more often than not.

TrunkSpace: You also have this great ability to not only interact with your fans through social media, but speak to their interests. In a lot of ways, promoting a project on social media is not just about doing it, but how you do it, correct?
Cameron: You are absolutely correct. That also goes to picking the right projects to get involved with. When you select quality films with incredible people involved it’s really easy to get the fans on board and it’s an absolute pleasure to share a cool horror trailer/interview/press release with awesome fans.

TrunkSpace: In “Puppet Killer” you’re playing a character named Vengeance. Without giving away too much, can you shed more light on just who Vengeance is and how the character ties into the overall storyline?
Cameron: Vengeance is a character modeled after all the classic scream queens from the 80s who I greatly respect and admire. It was an honor to pay tribute to them with this character. I don’t want to say too much to give away anything but lets just say that she is a spunky, never-back-down kinda girl.

TrunkSpace: You’re also producing the film alongside of Lisa Ovies. Does working behind the camera have a different draw for you than acting in a project? Is there a different level of personal investment in a project when you’re wearing multiple hats throughout the production process?
Cameron: It’s a different aspect of my soul and personality that is involved when I am behind the camera. As an actress it’s all about the creative process, but as a producer and director there is so much more that I need to pay attention to – my business side and my creative side both have to be constantly functioning at 110 percent. There is most definitely a different level of attachment when I am behind the camera as opposed to in front of the camera. As an actor I may only work on a film for a day, or a week, perhaps a month. But as a producer or director I am putting in years of work, the film is essentially like my child and I have overseen this little project from inception, through production, post and onto a release.

TrunkSpace: You’re no stranger to taking your films to festivals around the world. “Puppet Killer” will soon go on a journey of its own, premiering at festivals throughout 2018. Do you enjoy the process of rolling out a film in that way? Does it make it a more personal experience for viewers when you’re screening a project for a specific audience?
Cameron: Alas film festivals are, for the majority of indie films, the only way the film is ever shown in a theater, so I love the process of making that happen. I also love being able to watch the films with an audience, there is nothing better as a filmmaker in my opinion. The fans love it when they can meet those involved with the film they are watching and ask any questions that they may have. As a horror fan this is my favorite way to see a film.

TrunkSpace: The film is a horror/comedy hybrid, which doesn’t always work with audiences if the tone isn’t properly struck. As an actress, do you scrutinize projects that meld the genres together more so than those that are strictly in the horror sandbox?
Cameron: As an actress I don’t – it’s my job to do the script justice and try to hit the tone as per the director’s wishes. So I work at assisting them in their vision. As a horror fan I do scrutinize when genre’s are mixed because it’s so hard to do well and as you mention, to get the tone right. It really takes the right team of people for it to come together.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been on countless film sets throughout your career. What project wins the award for being nearest and dearest to your heart in terms of the personal experience and why?
Cameron: “Truth or Dare” will always have a special place in my heart as it was the first time I got behind the camera, and really created a film from scratch. It was an idea that had been lingering in my head for years and it felt so great to finally get it out! Also I got to work with Heather Dorff a second time on that set and it was really when our friendship was completely cemented and I knew that this was a woman I always wanted on my set if at all possible. She was just such a pleasure to work with and so tremendously talented. (You can get “Truth or Dare” on Amazon here.)

TrunkSpace: You’ve also slipped into the mindset of many characters. Are there any characters that you wished you got to spend more time with and learn about further? Who would you revisit and why?
Cameron: Jennifer in “Truth or Dare” is a fascinating character whose history gets explored in the sequel… so stay tuned for that. Another character that comes to mind is Harriet in “The Tombs.” She’s quite the complex character and I had a lot of fun playing her. The director, Dan Brownlie, let me improv and have a lot of fun with her. This film should start festivals in 2018 – it’s definitely one you wont want to miss!

TrunkSpace: You have a number of projects due up. Beyond “Puppet Killer,” what are you most excited to share with fans?
Cameron: Thanks for asking. Aside from the ones mentioned, I am super excited for “Mania” to be released – look for more details on this in the very near future. Also “Lilith,” “An Ending,” and “Kill the Production Assistant” will start to screen this year. “American Guinea Pig: Song of Solomon” will release this year and that’s a role that I am tremendously proud of that is being released with Unearthed Entertainment. People can follow me on social media where any and all updates will be shared.

Featured image by: Kam Gill (www.ksgphoto.com)

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Chilling Out

Simon

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Simon with Lisa Ovies

Jason had his hockey mask. Freddy had his glove. Simon has… his huggable, squeezable, loveable plush body, which he will use to lull you into a false sense of security before horrifically murdering you.

Yes, not only do we live in a world where we have to worry about deadly flu outbreaks, erratic weather, and an endless run of New England Patriots’ Super Bowls, but now we have inanimate felt killers to fear, at least according to the exciting new horror/comedy mashup from Lisa Ovies, “Puppet Killer.”

With the film set to hit the festival circuit throughout 2018, we recently sat down with felt-based star Simon to discuss whether or not puppets receive the same treatment as human actors within the industry, how he found his artistic motivation, and his personal goals as a puppet working in film.

TrunkSpace: Your new movie “Puppet Killer” features, pun intended, a killer cast. In 2018, does a felt-based actor receive the same equal treatment as flesh-based actors on the set of a film like this?
Simon: No, and I think it was bullshit! I was NEVER invited to eat with the rest of the cast or to hang out in their green room. I didn’t get my own chair… I was left alone every night in the props room. It was as if I was an actual puppet instead of an actor playing a puppet. I did get a really awesome handler though, I am grateful for that. Her name was Asia and we hung out a ton on set. It was almost as if everyone else was scared of me…

TrunkSpace: Can you give us a little insight into how you became involved in “Puppet Killer.” Was the part created for you? Were you created for the part?
Simon: I believe I was created for the part although I can’t see the film being anything without me. My mom and my dad (Jack Fox) met working on another puppet movie and spent about a year deciding exactly what I looked like. Personally, I think they nailed it.

TrunkSpace: This may be a bit too personal, and feel free not to answer if we are venturing too far down the Oprah rabbit hole, but do you still have an active relationship with your maker/designer?
Simon: YES! I live with Mom and spend time with Dad when I can. Mom is pretty good about taking me to meet fans and to attend conventions. She even took me to LA and Vegas to meet Jessica Cameron. SHE IS SO PRETTY! I was a guest on her show “Scream Queen Stream” with her bestie Heather Dorff and it was one of the best days of my life. They even let me drink!

TrunkSpace: For those who aren’t familiar with “Puppet Killer,” can you give us a little bit about your character and where the journey takes you throughout the course of the film?
Simon: Well, the story is really about the friendship between me and my onscreen/offscreen bestie Aleks Paunovic. His character grows up and starts to think he doesn’t need me anymore but I remind him that he and I should be together forever. Other than all the killing, it is a really heartfelt story about a boy and his best friend.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, you have to go to some pretty dark places in the film. What did you tap into internally/emotionally to bring yourself there?
Simon: I just let it sink in. You know, Aleks thinking he doesn’t need me anymore and what I would do. It was really easy once I realized it was them or me. I really enjoyed the experience.

TrunkSpace: From what we can tell, this is your first acting gig. What lessons did you take from the experience that you’ll apply to your career moving forward?
Simon: I realized as long as I am the star, I want to be in movies. I liked working with the crazy talented cast and really hope to work with Richard Harmon on “The 100” one day. He and I really hit it off so I really think it is only a matter of time.

TrunkSpace: Is there any concern at all that you’ll be typecast as a homicidal puppet moving forward? Did you put any thought into that when you accepted the role?
Simon: I don’t think it is a problem as I expect “Puppet Killer” to be a franchise that I can milk for quite awhile. It didn’t affect Chucky so I think I will be okay.

TrunkSpace: When you look back at the film, what are you most proud of in terms of your own individual performance?
Simon: The fact that I held my own amongst such talent. The cast is so good and I was really intimidated at first. I kept worrying I would fan boy or get nervous. I actually did a few times, especially when I had a bedroom scene with Lisa Durupt… she is so pretty and good at what she does, that was a nerve racking day but we were both really professional and held nothing back.

TrunkSpace: We know that you’re Canadian. In your opinion, do Canadian puppets have the same amount/quality of opportunities as those based in the States?
Simon: Given tax credits right now and how busy the Vancouver film community is, I think it is a great time to be a Canadian in film.

TrunkSpace: What do you think some of the biggest misconceptions are regarding felt-based actors?
Simon: That we are only puppets. We are actors, we are committed and we want to be included. Aleks and I hang out a lot and we just talk like people – he never makes me feel like “just a puppet,” but not everyone is so great. My agent puts me out for everything and I really appreciate it. My goal is to play a character without it being a part of the story, a character that just happens to be a puppet.

TrunkSpace: You’re active on social media. It’s a great place to promote projects and stay connected with family and friends, but it can also be a very septic place filled with hate. What are your thoughts on our social media society as a whole?
Simon: Sometimes it is a ton of fun, other times really intense. I pick and choose my moments and hope people start to understand the impact of social media and their responsibility. Be kind, people. There are already enough dicks out there, don’t be another one.

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Chilling Out

Lisa Ovies

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Jason had his hockey mask. Freddy had his glove. Simon has… his huggable, squeezable, loveable plush body, which he will use to lull you into a false sense of security before horrifically murdering you.

Yes, not only do we live in a world where we have to worry about deadly flu outbreaks, erratic weather, and an endless run of New England Patriots’ Super Bowls, but now we have inanimate felt killers to fear, at least according to the exciting new horror/comedy mashup from Lisa Ovies, “Puppet Killer.”

With the film set to hit the festival circuit throughout 2018, we recently sat down with the mastermind (and producer/director) Ovies to discuss how the core concept for “Puppet Killer” first came to her, discovering the right tone, and where Simon is right now.

TrunkSpace: The idea for “Puppet Killer” first struck you after watching a parade with singing puppets. What was it about taking that concept – a kid-friendly character made of felt – and turning him evil that interested you?
Ovies: I was actually producing a really great short called “Bedbugs: A Musical Love Story” at the same time that I was casting a horror film. I remember sitting on the stairs watching a musical number and thinking, “What would I do if I was in charge?” And the answer was, I would kill everyone. I would kill everyone with a puppet. I guess it was the product of living in both worlds at the same time.

TrunkSpace: Independent productions can often take a long time to come into fruition. How long has the “Puppet Killer” journey been from that spark of an idea to where you are today with the finished film?
Ovies: I think about three years? The film itself isn’t actually quite finished. We are happily chugging through post production with an amazing team.

TrunkSpace: Horror/comedy hybrids can sometimes be a challenge for filmmakers in terms of finding the right balance between the two genres. How much energy went into establishing the tone of the film, and when you started out, were there any projects that came before “Puppet Killer” that you wanted to emulate tone-wise?
Ovies: Yes, it is a really fine line to skate between a genuine comedic slasher, and a parody. We worked really hard to play the drama throughout and it was the actors’ fantastic ability to accept the circumstances and to play opposite Simon in a very truthful and honest manner. That was pretty much my biggest focus throughout and I am very grateful the actors trusted me in it. When we talked about it leading up to filming, I would reference “Evil Dead 2,” “Shaun of the Dead” and “Dead Alive.” I think we did a great job finding that energy in the film.

TrunkSpace: In watching the trailer, the film has the feeling of a classic 80s slasher flick – “Friday the 13th” meets super trippy “Pinwheel.” Did that decade of slasher greatness inspire any aspects of “Puppet Killer” or you personally as a filmmaker?
Ovies: A huge yes to both. I love 80s slasher horror films and it is very evident in “Puppet Killer.” It pays homage to all the greats, from “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Halloween,” and “Friday the 13th.” The main character is raised by a mother (played by myself) who is obsessed with 80s horror and as a result, Aleks Paunovic’s character and Simon are as well.

TrunkSpace: You pulled together a great cast and crew to bring “Puppet Killer” to life. Many of those working on the film have been involved with projects that have amassed huge fanboy/fangirl followings, including “Supernatural,” “The 100,” and “Van Helsing.” From a business perspective, is that the audience that you’re targeting with your film, the Comic Con crowd, because this seems like something they could get behind?
Ovies: I think they are a part of our audience for sure and I know they will love seeing their favorite actors in such a different light, but we definitely made this film as an homage to 80s horror. As a result, die hard horror fans are going to love uncovering the Easter eggs and subtext within the film.

TrunkSpace: You wore many hats throughout the “Puppet Killer” development and production process. Do you enjoy taking on many different roles, or in a best-case-scenario world would you have preferred focusing on the directing alone?
Ovies: I love being creative and I love producing but at the end of the day, I think I will always be my best self when I am able to focus on one job. The next two features I am slated to direct I am only wearing the one hat and I am really excited. However, I always cameo in anything I direct so I expect you will see me pop up in them as well.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to filmmaking in general, do you see yourself as someone with a creative focus on genre projects or do you have an interest in throwing your director’s hat into the every-genre ring?
Ovies: I would love to challenge myself in different genres for sure. I really want to do a big budget action movie like “X-Men” or “Star Wars,” but at the end of the day practical effects and horror will always have my heart.

TrunkSpace: What has been the most difficult aspect of bringing your “Puppet Killer” vision into reality? What kept you up at night?
Ovies: Sadly the answer is just money. We want to keep this film ours and not lose creative control by bringing in other money, so the self-funding has been a tad stressful. We have an amazing group of executive producers that have supported us and we are truly grateful. We are trying to keep the quality really high while keeping the costs low. Our problems are certainly not unique in the independent world of film.

TrunkSpace: Was putting the final stamp on your vision a difficult thing to do? When you’re invested so much in a project, is it stressful to officially call it “done” and send it out into the world?
Ovies: I have made several films before “Puppet Killer” and that is a great question. Part of you feels relieved and so excited to share it with the world but then there is another side that will never be 100 percent done. You can always make it better or make different choices, so at one point, you need to trust yourself and your team and call it done. “Puppet Killer” is close to that stage but still has some pieces that we need to have fall in line before we get to call it done.

TrunkSpace: You’re taking “Puppet Killer” to festivals throughout 2018. Is it nerve-racking for you to sit in on a screening of a project that you had such a big hand in both creatively and on the production side of things? Do you look forward to seeing the instant reaction of audiences?
Ovies: I always worry about audience reaction but I LOVE sitting through the emotional journey with them. The first screening is the hardest… there are moments that you hold your breath and hope they get the joke, or that the jump scare will work – the gore will affect them. It is a crazy experience and every audience is different.

TrunkSpace: Finally, where is Simon right now?
Ovies: Well, as I type this, I am on a plane to LA so he is not with me. He is at home with my partner and puppies. He has lived with me since we wrapped and I love it.

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