Chilling Out

Chilling Out

Chantelle Albers

Photo By: David Villada

Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re chatting with Chantelle Albers, producer and star of the new film “The 6th Friend,” which is available now on VOD.

We recently sat down with Albers to discuss how women drove “The 6th Friend,” marketing a film in this content-driven marketplace, and why she goes as deep as possible with every character.

TrunkSpace: When you’re working on a project in multiple capacities as you are with “The 6th Friend,” do you feel more pressure for it to succeed and find an audience? Creatively, is there more at stake for you?
Albers: Oh definitely, it was a lot more pressure to succeed and to have the film be received well with your audience. As the producer, and the film’s financier, I felt a lot more pressure to succeed. I felt pressure to make a movie that people within the horror genre and other genres would enjoy and want to watch more than once. We wanted to reach a wide audience, which is why we stayed away from gruesome violence and made it more about the chase and having quick kills. I really wanted the audience to relate to the characters, and feel the relationship between the six women, so that when something happens to one of them we care about them. I also think it helps create the suspense and horror when the audience is connected to the characters.

TrunkSpace: Do you view working in front of the camera and working behind the camera as part of the same creative journey, or are they two separate paths that you’re traveling on?
Albers: Working as producer behind the camera and actress in front of the camera is definitely the same creative journey for me. Both aspects deal with creating the same movie and the same outcome. I feel almost more connected to the character as an actress by also being a producer because you become so invested in the project creatively, emotionally and financially. I was completely emerged in the movie by creating it from the ground up. Working behind the camera gave me a lot of creative freedom when it came to the technical side of the film, and playing the part of Melissa gave me creative freedom in front of the camera. For me, the two roles were interchangeable because the actress in me and the producer in me both wanted to make a good movie.

TrunkSpace: What was it that drew you to “The 6th Friend” and how did you envision it fitting into today’s cinematic horror landscape?
Albers: I was drawn to the strong female aspect of it because I thought it was a good time for a film like this, and I thought it would resonate well with audiences. The heroine and the villain are both female which makes it have this “girl power” sort of feel without being too much of a feminist film. I also was drawn to the humor, which I think there is a lot of, and it makes us connect with the storyline and the suspense that will happen moments after the laughs. It’s more of a clean horror film, in that the kills are gruesome and will make you cringe, but they don’t go on for long periods of time. There are no torture kills in the script, which I appreciated and liked. For this movie that was just not my taste due to the all-female facet.

TrunkSpace: Is there something kind of nice about working in the horror genre, because in a way, it feels like it comes with a bit of a built-in audience. Those who follow the genre seem more willing to try out a new film they haven’t heard of before rather than someone who might be interested in a drama or comedy, for example.
Albers: Oh yes, horror fans are very loyal and they do seem to have an open mind when it comes to new films and new styles of horror. Some may not always like every movie, but they will still watch it and that’s what we want. We as artists want people to see our work and be inspired and entertained by it, and the horror genre seems willing to watch and give new movies a try. I also love working in comedy and drama too. It’s hard for me to stay in just one genre because I have such a love and desire for all different acting styles and characters. I love creating all different kinds of art and that includes different movie genres. That’s where my love of producing comes into play, I love producing projects of all genres that I’m passionate about and connect with the characters.

TrunkSpace: The film won several awards on the festival circuit and built up a nice amount of word of mouth leading into its release. With so much content competition out there today, how does a film like “The 6th Friend” capture an audience and turn a casual viewer into a fan? What is the key in 2019 to breaking through the noise on any given streaming platform and being the film that gets chosen by the viewer?
Albers: I think a good way to market a movie in order to gather a fanbase is to have something to sell in your movie. People really seemed to like the fact that we are female written/directed/produced/ and have a female main cast. It sort of put us in this female film niche. We also have some cast members that are well known to the genre and their fanbase has picked up on the buzz of the film. My team and I used social media as a way to promote the film in the beginning and that was a huge help in getting word out about it. I think a major component in getting your movie seen is having really eye catching artwork that would make audiences want to choose your movie to watch. Another element is recognizable cast members and having a strong visibility on the VOD streaming sites.

TrunkSpace: Speaking strictly to the Chantelle with the producer hat on, what lessons did you learn while filming and promoting “The 6th Friend” that you’ll apply to future projects that you step behind the camera on?
Albers: There was so much I learned and there were so many things that I know to do and not to do now that I’ve lived through it, but the biggest lesson I learned is to have patience with your project, because everything works at different paces and has different times. Sometimes we would need one thing done immediately, but we had to wait. So you shift your focus, and you start in on finishing another element that needs to be done. Filmmaking is fun and creative, and having patience and trust in the outcome of your work will help you enjoy the journey of the ride.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Albers: There have been so many wonderful moments in my career both on stage and on camera, and they all were such special and unique experiences that it’s hard to pick out just one. Some of the highlights have been performing in front of thousands of people and having a standing ovation during live theater, and others were working with some incredibly talented and truthful actors that you could fall in love with. It’s also very flattering to be recognized for your work. With “The 6th Friend” we won several awards and had numerous nominations, and it was an honor to have them with a project so close to you.

TrunkSpace: Has there been a character that you’ve played that you wished you had more time to spend with, and if so, why would you have liked to inhabit that particular person just a little bit (or a lot) longer?
Albers: Whenever I play a character I go pretty deep into it, so I always end up spending more than enough time with my characters! (Laughter) I put a lot of research, character study and attention to detail in my work in order to make the characters fleshed out individuals with a strong desire and objective to accomplish what is in the script. It’s sort of like living with the character for a while. Rehearsing, researching and then finally playing always seems to fulfill my time with characters.

I maybe haven’t gotten enough of Melissa though. We’ll see if she emerges again.

A genre that I have always wanted to do is a Western! I am an avid horseback rider and I would really would love to play a sassy saloon girl who can take off on horseback out of gun fire.

TrunkSpace: We’re only about a month into the new year. Did you set any resolutions for yourself this year and if so, what is your plan to carry them out?
Albers: YES, I’m setting it right now… now that you mention it. I am going to try and take the time to meditate and read “The Stoic Philosophy” every day. I’m just going to make the time to do it!

The 6th Friend” is available now on VOD.

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Chilling Out

Danielle Burgess

Photo By: Travis Emery Hackett

Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re chatting with Danielle Burgess, star of the new film “Killer Kate!,” which arrives in select theaters and on Digital HD today.

We recently sat down with Burgess to discuss the risk/reward of independent film, the ebb and flow of creativity, and why she was so happy that “Killer Kate!” was the first project she shot upon arriving in Los Angeles.

TrunkSpace: “Killer Kate!” is not the first independent film you’ve worked on. As an actor, is there a bit of a leap of faith involved with signing on to work on an indie, not knowing when (or even if) a particular film will see the light of day?
Burgess: Absolutely. One of the first feature films I was involved in had that exact fate. Everyone worked really hard on it, poured everything into it, and in the end it wasn’t finished, and no one ever saw it. That can be heartbreaking of course. So I feel incredibly blessed and lucky to have been part of “Killer Kate!”, something that is actually being seen, and received so well.

TrunkSpace: What was it about “Killer Kate!” and the team behind it that gave you the confidence to jump into the work and take on the character Angie?
Burgess: Everyone involved with “Killer Kate!” is a genuinely good person. I feel like I’ve made lifelong friends. That was apparent to me right away, that these were good people, and people who knew what they were doing, so I had a lot of faith in it from the get go. It was the first thing I ever shot in LA, which felt very fortuitous. It has given me a lot of confidence in the people who are out here making things happen.

TrunkSpace: The thing that interests us most about the world of independent cinema right now is that it seems like the only place where original stories are being told in the medium. Mainstream films are all “Based on…” or “A remake of…” and that is leaving very little room for new POVs. As an actor, is that part of the draw in working on a film like “Killer Kate!”?
Burgess: Absolutely. And the fact that it was a horror film that is female led, and that has a very different depiction of female characters than the genre is stereotypically known for – that was exciting to me. Independent cinema has always been a passion of mine, and there is incredible work being made right now. I love what A24 and Annapurna are doing, and the fact that those movies are being so recognized – it does feel like independent cinema is having this massive comeback.

For the first time, there is the space being made for so many different voices and so many stories that were unspoken or hidden before, so it is really an exciting time to be a part of this industry.

TrunkSpace: For the audience, the most enjoyable part of a movie is the movie itself, but for those involved in the project, we would imagine it is the experience. For you, what will you take away from the production that will stay with you?
Burgess: The relationships. I really made great friends on this set, and that is a special thing.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the work you did in the film?
Burgess: I think it was something very different for me. I hadn’t played a character like this on screen before, and that’s always what I’m looking for – the opportunity for newness.

TrunkSpace: As far as productions go, horror is a genre that, from an outsider’s perspective, seems like it would be a lot of fun on the day-to-day stuff. That said, all of the blood must become a continuity nightmare! For the horror fandom out there, what for you is the most enjoyable aspect of getting to work in the genre?
Burgess: The horror movie scream, hands down!

Danielle Burgess as Angie in the horror film “KILLER KATE!,” a Freestyle Digital Media release. Photo courtesy of Freestyle Digital Media.

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked on some big projects the last couple of years, including “The Deuce” and “The Sinner.” Do you feel like your path has been leading you to this moment – a point where the roles and characters keep getting bigger and meatier?
Burgess: That is definitely the hope. Henry Winkler said it beautifully during his acceptance speech this year at the Emmys.

If you stay at it long enough, the chips come to you.”

I believe that’s true. If you are persistent enough – and even say, stubborn enough – and you have the grit and the grace, a path that’s very non-linear starts to open up.

TrunkSpace: That being said, what do you ultimately hope to accomplish in your career? In the best case scenario of your personal dreams, what does that outcome look like?
Burgess: Consistency and freedom of choice I think are the greatest things you can ask for as an actor. If I am able to choose the roles and projects that I want, and I can be at it for as long as I want, I will be a happy woman.

TrunkSpace: You have other passions, including music and dance. Do you view them all as separate parts of the creative you, or do they all fall under one larger umbrella?
Burgess: I don’t necessarily think of them are separate parts. Humans are just inherently creative beings, and that manifests in so many ways. I used to be hard on myself if I hadn’t written a poem or taken a photo or played my guitar in a while, but it really is an ebb and flow and different mediums come to you when it’s appropriate. But I do feel happier and more myself when I’m singing and dancing. Doing a movie musical would be my dream come true.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Burgess: No way! The mystery and the adventure is what keeps me coming back for more.

Killer Kate!” arrives in select theaters and on Digital HD today!

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Chilling Out

Alexandra Feld


Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re chatting with Alexandra Feld, producer and star of the new film “Killer Kate!,” which arrives in select theaters and on Digital HD today.

We recently sat down with Feld to discuss the horror fandom, how her family helped to make “Killer Kate!” a reality, and the reason the film – their first – finished on time and within budget.

TrunkSpace: As you gear up for the official release of the film, what emotions are you juggling with?
Feld: It has been an amazing process to get to this point, but I’m still in producer-mode leading up to the release, so I’m not sure I’ve had time to process the emotions of it all yet. I’m definitely excited for the film to come out and interested to see how it’s received! I’m sure there will be some relief once the film is out but also bittersweet because “Killer Kate!” has been such a part of our lives over the last year. That being said, I’m excited to shift focus and begin something new!

TrunkSpace: You wore multiple hats in bringing “Killer Kate!” to life. How much of your blood, sweat and tears went into making the film a reality? Was there ever a moment when you doubted it would happen?
Feld: I had the wonderful opportunity to produce on this film, my first feature as an actress. As part of the film since early development, I was able to be part of the creative process, including casting, selecting locations and crew, all the way through notes on the edit, which really allows you to get close to a project. We had originally planned to shoot another script last November, but a few months prior to pre-production we decided to put that script on hold due to budget and location constraints and create a new script around our resources. We knew we were going to shoot in November of 2017; we had our director, lead actress, and budget number, so that’s where we began. There was never a moment when I thought the film wouldn’t happen. Our production company, Feld Films, is comprised of myself, my husband (director Elliot Feld), my brother-in-law, David Feld, and my father-in-law, Larry Feld – it’s a true family business, and we work extremely well together. We are a pretty driven bunch and time is valuable, so once we made the decision to shoot, it was going to get done because it had to. We work full-time in the commercial world, so we are used to quick turnaround and working with very strict budgets, which lends itself well to indie filmmaking.

TrunkSpace: Did producer Alexandra and actress Alexandra ever butt heads in terms of what one knew was possible to accomplish and what one hoped was possible to accomplish? How do you find the middle ground between the creative wants and the day-to-day needs on set?
Feld: This is something we were all aware of and tried to set ground rules early on. Once we got to our shoot days, the plan was that I take my producer hat off entirely and just focus on acting, but that was better in theory! (Laughter) It took two days or so to get into our groove and quickly learn that I was most comfortable staying involved in certain parts of day-to-day production life. It’s certainly a delicate balance and something I will continue to learn as I follow this path, but I love being able to use both sides of my brain on set. Having other things to put my energy into also allowed me not to get inside my head as an actor, and it really challenged that “acting muscle” as far as turning it on and off – I loved it!

TrunkSpace: In the film, you play THE killer Kate. Because you were involved in the project on numerous levels, how did you see the character grow from where she was in the early stages of development to where she is in the final cut of the film?
Feld: If I remember correctly, Kate didn’t start out quite as likable or relatable. She was a little harsher and more sarcastic, but not in a fun way. After a few read-throughs with our co-writers, Elliot Feld and Daniel Moya, we all agreed to work on making Kate more authentic. I mean, sure, it’s great to have flaws in the characters, but in this case, you really have to care about Kate and her sister Angie; you have to root for them to get it together because, ya know – family!

TrunkSpace: Independent films are often operating on a limited budget, which means limited time. Did you have to make any on-site adjustments that weren’t in the script that ended up making it into the film, and in doing so, made the film stronger?
Feld: Yes, actually! So, we shot this film in 10 days, with two days of pickups which, if you’re unsure, is an insanely short shoot schedule. We had a director with a strong vision, a DP who loves to try anything, an incredibly talented cast, a rock-star crew, and the best 1st AD one could dream of – it’s this magical combo that allowed us to get our film made on time and on budget.

Alexandra Feld as Kate in the horror film “KILLER KATE!,” a Freestyle Digital Media release. Photo courtesy of Freestyle Digital Media.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the film?
Feld: Honestly, there are so many things, but I am most proud of my family. First off, I got to work with my husband, who’s drive and passion never cease to amaze me, and working together in the actress and director capacity was really special. Next, my producing partner and brother-in-law, David Feld – the level of trust I have with him is next level; he is so good at what he does! Lastly, my mom was the production designer (Stephanie Brewer), my dad the art director (Keith K. Brewer), my brother the prop master (Justin Brewer), and my sister the wardrobe designer (Kevynn Brewer). Looking back on it now, it still feels unbelievable that we had this opportunity to work together in this capacity! We could not have done what we did without the closeness, ease of communication, and intuition that comes with family. Even our dog, Daisy, came to set with us! It was a wonderful, comfortable, positive environment that allowed everyone on set to feel like part of the family.

TrunkSpace: Horror fans are willing to turn out for a film regardless of if they know anything about the film or not. Do you feel like the genre comes with a bit of a built-in audience, and if so, does that put more or less pressure on you with a film like “Killer Kate!” and being accepted by that fandom?
Feld: Oh, man, I think we’ve been totally spoiled by the horror fan community for our first film! I come from a theatre background, and one thing I have always loved about that world is the sense of community and support, and I feel a lot of similarities with our new horror family. I suppose if there is any pressure it’s that I love horror audiences, and I just don’t want to disappoint. Of course, I know our film may not be all horror fans’ cup of tea, and that’s totally cool, because, even still, everyone has been so supportive and enthusiastic, which I’m so grateful for!

TrunkSpace: Aside from making a quality film, do you hope that “Killer Kate!” will open up more doors for you, both in front of the camera and behind it?
Feld: Yes, absolutely! I am an actress, first and foremost, but it’s a tough business. As I mentioned, I began in theatre, but I moved to LA to transition to film, and, after a few years of auditioning for mediocre roles, stereotypes, and reading bad scripts, I realized I needed to diversify and start producing. I took four years off from acting to start from the bottom and learn the behind-the-scenes, so I could jump back in as a producer/actress and have a creative hand in the projects I was a part of. “Killer Kate!” is my first project back in the acting game, and boy, is it good to be back!

(L-R) Alexandra Feld as Kate, Amaris Davidson as Sara, and Danielle Burgess as Angie in the horror film “KILLER KATE!,” a Freestyle Digital Media release. Photo courtesy of Freestyle Digital Media.

TrunkSpace: This is an industry with so many question marks, and often, so much is dependent on the decisions of others. Do you feel like you’ve been able to control your own destiny a little bit in bringing “Killer Kate!” to life?
Feld: Entirely! Again, it’s why I decided to become a producer. I am a creative person, without a doubt, but I am also very business minded, owing in large part to the home I grew up in, where both were of equal importance. It’s also key to be wise with whom you surround yourself and also open to different thoughts and ideas. I was able to have a lot of influence on my role as Kate and the film overall, but I also trusted everyone on our internal team and then the key crew we hired.

TrunkSpace: Super general question, we know, but what’s next? After “Killer Kate!” is released and you’re able to come up for air, what project will you be breathing in?
Feld: Well, my current “day job” is as a commercial producer, so I’m always busy behind the scenes, but we do have a horror short film we are prepping for which Elliot will be directing. Beyond that I really hope to be sinking my teeth into another juicy feature part soon! We have a few scripts in development, so I’m excited to see which one we’ll be diving into next. Keep your eyes on IMDb, and follow me @AlexandraFeld on Instagram for more updates!

Killer Kate!” arrives in select theaters and on Digital HD today!

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The Featured Presentation

Elle Callahan


Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re chatting with Elle Callahan, writer and director of the new film “Head Count,” which is currently touring the festival circuit.

We recently sat down with Callahan to discuss screening her film alongside an audience, how her love for the genre came from telling scary stories around campfires, and why she likes playing in a cinematic sandbox that has no rules.

TrunkSpace: You recently had your world premiere. Do you enjoying being a part of the audience and observing other people watch your film?
Callahan: It’s pretty surreal. It’s also very scary, but it’s a very rewarding experience. You learn a lot as a director watching an audience view your work. It was great. I’m really happy that our world premiere was here in LA, mostly because we shot the film out in Joshua Tree, so it’s kind of a foreign landscape to LA audiences. I have a love/hate relationship with viewing my films with an audience, because I learn something new every time, good and bad, so I usually sit in the back of the theater, and I just watch for reactions and take notes for next time. I like the scenes when they start squirming, if they’re hiding, if they’re scared or when they laugh. I think it’s very useful to be there and experience it with them.

TrunkSpace: It has to be especially valuable when it comes to the horror and thriller genres because you’re able to see in real time if the scares work the way you wanted them to?
Callahan: Yeah, exactly. And it’s so satisfying as a horror director when you hear that collective gasp in the audience and you’re just like, “Yes, it worked! They’re uncomfortable!”

TrunkSpace: What has been the journey like for you in terms of bringing “Head Count” together? Had it been percolating in your head for some time?
Callahan: Yeah, I always loved scary stories growing up, and I went to film school at USC. In school, I wasn’t really sure what my first feature film would be about. I was young and still growing, and when I felt like it was the right time, I just went back to those scary stories. That’s what got me into film in the first place, verbally telling stories to my friends around campfires. I’m from New England, so we would go camping a lot.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned learning as a filmmaker by screening it alongside an audience, but throughout the process, what did you discover about yourself as a director in making this particular movie?
Callahan: I went into the process thinking that I was gonna have everything locked down and totally under control, because as a director, we’re very controlling people. That’s our job. And I found that there’s a lot of improvising that happened. And I was surprised, because you think with horror, you really plan out these scares, and then we got on set, and I found that I started directing to get reactions out of my crew. It was a lot of me trying to play tricks on my own crew to get reactions out of them because they were like my audience as we were making the film. And that was really fun, and I didn’t expect that at all. There’s a lot of improv in comedy, and I have a lot of friends that have chosen that path for their film, and I was not expecting it in horror. It was a pleasant surprise.

TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, directors are controlling by their nature and necessity. So, do directors become controlling people, or do controlling people become directors?
Callahan: (Laughter) Oh my gosh, that’s a great question. I guess growing up, I liked to have everything organized, and I liked to be in charged. I also loved to collaborate, and that’s why I went into film because it’s really the art of collaboration. But you do need someone where everyone is stemming off from, and that comes from the mind of the director. And I think the best types of films are just a positive collaborative experience where everyone feels that they’re in a safe space to voice their creative opinion and have it all mesh together to make one final piece of art. It’s weird, because I don’t like to talk about my first film possessively as my film, because so many people put their own creative lives and minds into it that I really find that it’s a big group project.

TrunkSpace: You also executive produced the film. Did Producer Elle ever have to tell Director Elle that, “You can’t do this,” “Let’s not go that far,” because of whatever time or budget constraints that popped up?
Callahan: Yes, that was very difficult. Being a producer and a director is so hard, because as a director, you have to fight for, and push for, the creative good of the film, and as a producer, you have to fight and push for just physically getting the film made and not running out of money and time… and peoples’ patience.

There is a pivotal scene in our film involving a character and a cliff.

TrunkSpace: In a horror film, what could go wrong?!?!
Callahan: (Laughter) I know.

We shot it and it went all right in terms of visually how it looked, the trick of the eye that I was trying to create. And Producer Elle was like, “We need to move on.” But director Elle was like, “I want to do this again. I want to shoot this again. It could be better. This is not going to live up to the visual shock that the scene really deserves.” We took a day and rearranged the schedule, and I got a lot of push back from my producers on it, but in the end, my director hat really needed to take priority there.

I think with my next film I’m gonna focus more on directing, because I need to push more for those creative moments. I look back and sometimes I think that the producer in me was a little too heavy handed, and I really want to push to do more next time.

In a way, you became your own hand cuffs. I learned a lot, and I have so much respect for people that wear multiple hats, because it’s really hard. It’s really hard to do both.

TrunkSpace: Horror as a genre seems to have a built-in audience. As a filmmaker, is it appealing to jump into a film knowing that, in a way, you’re going to have eyes on it based on the interest in the genre as a whole?
Callahan: Yeah, it’s really freeing, because I think horror is a very… there’s a wide range of horror films. You can get slashers and more atmospheric creepy films, which I think this one is definitely more of a slow, tense build. It’s not littered with jump scares. And it’s very freeing to also be in this world where anything can happen. You have monsters, and you could have magic if you want, or you could set it in a world that’s different from ours. You really have no rules. You can do whatever you want, and your object is just to scare people and entertain them. And it’s fun. It’s very reminiscent of telling stories when you were younger, because you can pretty much make up anything, and there’s really no laws.

Head Count” is currently touring the festival circuit. For more information, click here.

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Chilling Out

Elysia Rotaru and Stephen Sawchuk

Mackenzie Mowat and Jenna Romanin in “FWD”

Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re chatting with Elysia Rotaru and Stephen Sawchuk, the brains behind “FWD,” the new horror/comedy hybrid that is giving us a serious hankering for ’90s nostalgia.

We recently sat down with the creative duo to discuss embracing the camp, being scared to scare, and why they owe a lot of favors to a lot of people.

TrunkSpace: First and foremost, how did the creative partnership between the two of you come about?
Sawchuk: Elysia and I have known each other for nearly a decade now so it’s been a long time in the making. People always warn you not to get into business with your friends but I think what clicked for us is that we share a lot of the same creative instincts and work ethic. When we decided to pair up, Elysia was acting at the time and I was producing reality television, and we were both eager to sink our teeth into something new and different where we could flex our creative muscles a bit more.

TrunkSpace: Many of us believe in love at first sight, but does the same apply to creativity? Can two people share a like-minded creative POV right out of the gates, and if so, did you both find that in each other?
Sawchuk: We’re both creative people but that’s not to say we agree all of the time, which is a healthy part of the process. What works well for us is that Elysia brings her extensive acting and coaching background to the table, and as a producer I’m heavily involved in the day to day of both the creative and logistics, so we clicked and our skill sets complement each other and we push each other into new territory.

TrunkSpace: We love that “FWD” is ‘90s based. (Big ups to the chokers and the Skeet Ulrich reference!) Was the setting itself sort of necessary given the premise, which is based around a chain email that brings about unspeakable… wait for it… HORROR?
Sawchuk: Totally! We’re both huge fans of the 90’s slasher genre, and wanted to embrace the camp and ridiculousness of that era… Y2K fear and killer emails!
Rotaru: You remember those, don’t you?!

TrunkSpace: Speaking of horror, as filmmakers, do you feel like you kind of come into “FWD” having a built-in audience knowing how passionate the horror audience is for all things within the genre… even if there are different subsets within the larger horror umbrella?
Rotaru: The horror audience is very savvy, so it was actually a little scary (no pun intended) creating a film in the genre. It’s one thing to have a built-in audience, but another to have them actually enjoy your film!
Sawchuk: As newcomer filmmakers to the genre we wanted to make sure our first project had the elements of a horror film, but that it didn’t take itself too seriously.

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of that coin, is the horror audience difficult to please, because in a lot of ways, it feels like a genre where each project has to keep upping itself in terms of gore and twisting plot points?
Sawchuk: Absolutely! There’s a lot to live up to in the genre, and during the brainstorming process for “FWD” I kept asking myself “what can we do differently?” And that’s a super tough question to answer because I think people kind of feel like “it’s all been done before” in terms of the slasher genre. So my challenge was to tell a contained story in less than 10 minutes that wasn’t just a guy with a knife stalking two young girls. We hope we accomplished that with a unique setting and era and a twist ending in the final scene.

Elysia Rotaru

TrunkSpace: In creating the short, do you see this as your complete vision, or is the hope to take the concept and turn it into a full-length feature?
Sawchuk: There were a ton of things we wish we could have done differently with the short, but we did our best with the time, money and resources we had available.
Rotaru: And we knew we just needed to make the film! It sounds cliché but it’s true – if you wait around for the perfect moment to start, you’ll never start. So there were a lot of things we wish we could’ve done differently with the short, but we’ve been developing a feature-length film based on the short that we’re really excited about!

TrunkSpace: Was there anything that you had hoped to accomplish with “FWD” that you had to revisit during production because of budget or time constraints?
Sawchuk: We made the movie on a buck and a half (kidding not kidding) so we really had to stretch every dollar and beg, borrow and steal. Any filmmaker in the genre will tell you that funding resources are super limited… a lot of the organizations ignore or disqualify horror altogether which is disappointing, so you have to get creative with how you’re going to make it happen. We self funded and set up an Indiegogo page and the film wouldn’t have been made if it weren’t for the support of friends, family and fans of the genre. We also had a crazy talented crew who worked on the project simply because they liked the script and the people on the team. So basically we owe a lot of favors back! Looking back, I wish we could have used some different camera gear and upped our special effects/gore game a bit, but we did what we could with the resources we had available. I think every filmmaker gets that “woulda shoulda coulda” feeling.

Stephen Sawchuk

TrunkSpace: As we said, the film is based in the ‘90s, but there’s also a great ‘90s horror vibe to it as well. Were the return of slasher films like “Scream” and “Urban Legend” an influence in “FWD” coming into fruition, particularly given the comedic tone that it strikes at times?
Sawchuk: Totally! The opening scenes of the “Scream” movies really inspired us. Those scenes are usually five to 10 minutes long but they immediately rope you in and keep you engaged until the title card comes up. Our challenge was to try to have a similar impact on an audience, but tell a contained story that had a pay off by minute seven. I could watch the openers to the original “Scream” and “Scream 4” on loop! The way the “Scream” movies infused comedy into the genre was game changing. Nobody did the horror-comedy spin better than Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson.

TrunkSpace: What did the two of you take from the experience of bringing “FWD” to life that you’ll apply to your next project and each one after that?
Rotaru: Follow your instincts, honor your vision and have fun throughout the process. Filmmaking is so collaborative, which can sometimes mean there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, so it’s important to stick to your gut.
Sawchuk: We were lucky to work with a really great, supportive and talented cast and crew and honestly we wouldn’t have been able to make the film without them. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people who share your passion is really important. Another key takeaway from working on our first project together is to not take yourself too seriously!

TrunkSpace: What’s next for you two as far as your creative partnership goes?
Sawchuk: Our second screenplay is ready to roll!
Rotaru: It’s another horror-comedy called ‘Daddy Issues’ that we’re both really excited about, and it was written with feature film potential in mind. We’re still in development but hope to take it to camera before the end of 2018.
Sawchuk: We’re still working on the treatment for the feature-length ‘FWD’ as well!

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Chilling Out

Hiroshi Katagiri


Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re chatting with Hiroshi Katagiri, the makeup FX marvel who made the leap into writing and directing with “Gehenna: Where Death Lives.” Starring Doug Jones, Lance Henriksen and Eva Swan, the directorial debut follows a group of people who travel to Saipan in search of a new resort location, only to find something much less relaxing – a hidden bunker filled with history, secrets and terror.

We recently sat down with Katagiri to discuss how long he’s been dreaming of his own film, the reason he wanted to combine the feel of both Japanese horror and American horror, and why he couldn’t be too demanding on set.

TrunkSpace: You’ve had your hand in so many films over the years, but what did it mean to you personally to be spearheading a film of your own? How special was that for you?
Katagiri: I’ve been doing this job for like 27 years now, but when I realized that I wanted to make a movie is when I was 20, actually – a year after I started this job. So yeah, it’s been a long time. I’m 46 now. It took took me 26 years.

TrunkSpace: Was this always the film you had in mind? Was “Gehenna: Where Death Lives” the movie you’ve been waiting to make for 26 years?
Katagiri: No, not really. No way. Generally, I wanted to be a director, but I didn’t know what to do – since I became independent from my parents and I was making my own money by doing the makeup effects. Back then, that was the early ‘90s so I had to go to school if you want to make a film, in general, before the digital days. So I was just burying my dream in me for a long time. But I think in early 2000 I saw someone just editing their videos on a computer. That freaked me out. (Laughter) I was like, “Can you do that?” Then my longest dream came back. “Okay, maybe it’s possible if I could shoot and just edit and make a film.” So, after working on “Hellboy” I got some downtime and in 2003 I decided to pursue this new career. I bought the new video camera and a new computer and editing software. I started my first video project then, in 2003, which is 15 years ago.

I knew if I was going to do my first feature, I was not going to have much money, so I had to think of a story with the possibility that I could make it with such a low budget.

TrunkSpace: So you purposely made it self-contained?
Katagiri: Yeah. So then I think about the stories with limited characters, limited number of characters, and a limited location. Then, “What can I make a story about where a few people will be stuck in a certain place?” So that’s how I start thinking about this story. And then also, I take my advantage, my background, which is growing up in Japan for 18 years and then I live here for 20 years, so I have a dual culture background. I like the scariness of a Japanese horror, but usually Japanese horror films are boring. (Laughs) It’s a good thing and a bad thing, you know? It’s like a slow pace and sometimes it’s effective for the scariness. But American horror… a good example is “The Ring” because there’s a Japanese version and an American version. The Japanese version is way more scary for me, but it’s boring as hell. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: It was all about setting a tone and feel.
Katagiri: Yeah. That’s effective, but it’s really hard to stay awake. And with the American “The Ring,” I think that’s an excellent film, excellent. As a film, that was great, but the scariness at the end was not as scary as the Japanese version. So I was thinking, “Okay, I can use the good part of both.” I like the pace of American films and the scariness of a Japanese film, so I just tried to combine both of those. I can use the Japanese scariness and the American culture.

The main character had to be American because I wanted to make an international movie. And then the location came up… it was a place that America and Japan fought and so many people died there, both Japanese and American. “It could be a good location for a horror story and what if there is a Japanese bunker? A hidden bunker? And an American crew stuck there?” That’s how I started out my story.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been around film sets for years, but what was your first day as a director like? Were you nervous stepping into that new role?
Katagiri: Yeah, especially the first day of shooting. Because of the schedule of Doug Jones, the shooting dates set it. He only could participate on the first two days. From the first day of the shoot there is Doug Jones and I have to direct him. Yeah, that’s a big deal! (Laughter) I knew him and I had been working with him as a makeup effects artist, but I never directed him.

Katagiri and Doug Jones on the set of “Gehenna: Where Death Lives.”

TrunkSpace: Did you go into the experience trying to emulate the style or approach of another director you have seen work?
Katagiri: Not really imitating the other directors, but it’s natural just remembering how they were acting, how they’ve been behaving. Yeah, that gave me influence. Of course.

And especially in a low budget film like this, many people are working as a favor so I cannot be too demanding. (Laughs) I can’t say, “Okay, shut up, I’m paying you!” (Laughs)

TrunkSpace: It’s probably difficult not to get caught up in the stress though. Shooting a film is a big thing, with so many people involved.
Katagiri: Yeah, absolutely. That’s tough when there’s so many people waiting for my call and, without my approval, then it doesn’t move forward, so the pressure is huge. But at the same time it’s rewarding of course. It’s something I was imagining for like seven years since I started writing. It’s right in front of me, so that’s a big deal.

TrunkSpace: You’ve continued your work in makeup effects, but is that a path that you always want to travel on in your career or do you see yourself moving more towards writing and directing?
Katagiri: If I can make a living as a director, I would like to shift to director. You know, it’s been like 27 years in my career doing the makeup effects and I’ve done so many things and if I could create something like a major character for a major movie then I don’t have any more desire. The ‘90s was the greatest time. I was always busy and we were leading the world. We were creating something nobody had seen before. Really good time, good time. And now, you know, it’s like repeating those things we discovered and it’s nothing too new. It’s still fun, creating things, but I’d rather just be directing if I can.

TrunkSpace: So do you feel like, as an artist, you’ve done all that you can do in the makeup effects field? Are you fulfilled in that area?
Katagiri: Yeah, I do. I do. Like Guillermo del Toro, he used to do the makeup effects for a short period of time, then he starting showing a passion for making movies. He’s not doing hands on but he is creating the characters and creatures. That’s what I would like to do.

“Gehenna: Where Death Lives” is available now on VOD.

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Chilling Out

Johannes Roberts


Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re chatting with Johannes Roberts, director of “The Strangers: Prey at Night,” the long-anticipated sequel to the 2008 surprise horror hit. Starring Christina Hendricks, Bailee Madison and Martin Henderson, the frightening follow-up tells the story of a family stalked by a trio of masked strangers, seemingly without any real motivation at all… other than a genuine joy for murder.

We recently sat down with Roberts to discuss how his vision for the film sprung from the first, the importance of pacing in “The Strangers” universe, and why he was nervous about some of the creative choices he made with “Prey at Night.”

TrunkSpace: When you’re preparing to helm a sequel to a movie like “The Strangers,” what’s your visual approach? We would have to imagine that you want to bring your own vision to the film while also looking to carry the established look and feel of the original?
Roberts: Yeah, it’s a tricky one, to be honest. I think initially we started quite faithfully to the world. When I first started I was like, “Okay, let’s approach this as a sequel.” And then it sort of grew into something… into its own beast. But there’s a lot that’s very faithful to Brian’s movie, the costumes and the sort of world it’s set in.

I’ve been wanting to do a movie like this for a long time where you get to use the zoom lenses and the split diopters and to really go, properly, sort of retro and with the fog machines rolling all the time and that kind of thing. So, yeah, it just sort of became it’s own thing. I’m just such a huge John Carpenter fan that I saw this as my chance to make the John Carpenter movie that he never made. It was “Christine.” It’s “The Fog.” I had fun with that side of things.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the world, and it’s a world where pacing is so important in terms
of just how to structure the fear.
Roberts: Yes, absolutely.

TrunkSpace: That similar pacing of the original is something that carries over into your film, that sort slow burn.
Roberts: Yes, so much. I think Brian’s a super talented writer and I am a big fan of the first (film) in the way that you have this couple going through an emotional breakdown, and then so everything comes from that. To be honest, it’s not about the strangers, it’s about them and their relationship, and the strangers are almost… they sort of come out of it. They always signify this couple’s problems and they sort of become real life. We really sort of played with that in this one.

And then, yeah, the pacing is a huge… it’s the most fun thing I think about these movies like “The Strangers” and this one, “Prey At Night,” is you get to be really slow – like you have a real sense of dread building. And then when it goes, it just goes. Eventually it goes mental. So, yeah, it was a fun one.

TrunkSpace: From what we could tell, you’ve had a hand in writing nearly every project that you’ve directed. Does it make directing a different experience when you’re not also serving as the screenwriter on a particular project?
Roberts: Yes, it does. As a writer, as a director, you come on and you really shape the material. I think any good director, whether you’ve written yourself or whether you haven’t, you take the blueprint of the script and then you make it your own and you restructure it for the world that you want to make. So I get very involved in that side anyhow. When you haven’t created the characters yourself, it’s actually quite a freeing experience, I find. You approach things in a very different way. Sometimes it’s actually a much more visual way because that’s where you’re coming from. You’re not coming from the emotional world of the characters that you’ve built up. The film has a real style and look that was actually quite freeing that, maybe, I wouldn’t have been brave enough to do if I had written this and created it myself.

TrunkSpace: Does not having an emotional, creator-based attachment to characters make it easier for you to adjust and make changes to them on the fly, should it be revealed that a particular story or character element isn’t working as planned?
Roberts: I’m pretty good regardless. I would have spent, with “The Strangers,” three months. I would’ve worked and reworked that script over, and over, and over again. It’s not like you just go out with the material that you get and you’re just sort of out there doing it. Different directors work different ways. I think a lot of directors work purely on storyboards, for instance. They’ll sort of storyboard over and over again. For me, I need to pull the script apart and put it back together again like an old car or something. And I just need to do that over and over again, just pulling it apart, putting it back together, changing, moving. Sometimes it’s just a question of, “That scene needs to be joined with that scene,” or, “That scene shouldn’t be there, it should be there.” So I like to edit the movie before making it, to have made every scene feel shootable.

© Aviron Pictures 2017

TrunkSpace: You mentioned being such a fan of John Carpenter and getting to make your version of “The Fog.” Did you try any new techniques or approaches to directing with this film that you hadn’t done in the past?
Roberts: I mean, very much in terms of cinematically, with the camera work. This is my 11th movie. I’ve come up from making sort of tiny B movies and I’ve always wanted to use the techniques that I used on this, but I’ve never been brave enough because they’re just not very fashionable. And I was really worried even though there is this kind of ’80s nostalgia going on, I just didn’t know if an audience would respond to the techniques that I was using with the zoom lenses and the split diopters.

I’m not a surgeon saving lives, but it was a brave movie for me with the way I shot it.

TrunkSpace: What was it like putting those choices to the test? Did you sit in on any early screenings and see in real time how the audience was able to react to them?
Roberts: Yeah. When we finished that movie and screened it, I was like, “How are people going to take this?” And we tested it. At the test screening… I don’t think anybody really knew how people would respond. And they just responded well, so it was like, “Okay, that’s done, fine.” (Laughter) But yeah, that could have gone horribly. As is always the way when you take a risk – you take a risk.

The Strangers: Prey at Night” stalks its way into theaters this Friday.

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Chilling Out

Jessica Cameron

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 (

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Chilling Out


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


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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