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Between The Sheets

Brooke Lewis

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Photographer: Birdie Thompson (@birds_eye_photo)/Hair & Makeup: Allison Noelle (@allisonnoellemakeup)

In our ongoing feature Between the Sheets, TrunkSpace picks the imaginative brains of authors to break down what it takes to create the various worlds and characters they breathe life into via the tools of their trade… sheets of paper. While technology continues to advance and change the pop culture landscape, the written word has remained one of the most consistent and imaginative art forms.

This time out we’re chatting with author, actress, producer and life coach Brooke Lewis about paving her own career path, her unexpected Scream Queen status, and why she tells people to do as she says, not as she does.

TrunkSpace: You have so many different career paths, and yet they all intersect in a way. Do you juggle them separate of each other, or do you view them as all falling under one a larger umbrella?
Lewis: That’s a very profound question and I will answer it as simply as possible. Thank you for asking that by the way!

Everything I do in some way, shape or form is to support my love – my passion – which is acting. I fancy myself an actress first and foremost, from childhood on. However, I always say this, whatever we believe, whatever the readers believe – higher power, God, energy… “God laughs when we’re making plans.”

Never in my wildest dreams did I think one day I would become a writer, and an author, and even a producer, per se, but I’ve done everything that I can, and navigated my path, my career path, from Philadelphia, to New York, to Hollywood now, over many years, all in support of my acting career. I have embraced whatever other opportunities have come to me. It’s really interesting. We’d spend seven hours together if we started putting the puzzle pieces together, but to answer your question simply, everything I do is to support my acting career. Everything I also do, to share with the readers, is something that inspires me. All of my peripheral careers have in some way, inspired me or have become a secondary passion, including life coaching, dating coaching, relationship coaching, all of that, and writing – all my books.

TrunkSpace: How important has it been to your career to sort of steer it in the direction that you’ve wanted? You seem to have taken matters into your own hands, by becoming a writer and a producer, and in many ways, have controlled your own destiny.
Lewis: It’s been one big fat challenge. For anyone who thinks it hasn’t, you are mistaken. What really ended up happening, and I hope I’m answering this properly, is that I had been a working actress right out of college in New York. I started my career off-Broadway in “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding,” the mobster comedy wedding. I did the show for three years, seven shows a week… equity contract, was signed with Paradigm. When we are young, we don’t realize how much easier it is in some ways to navigate through the Hollywood or New York entertainment industry. I’m very grateful and blessed, and worked very hard even then. I didn’t know. I didn’t know how challenging it would become as I got older and as I moved to Hollywood, which I still feel, has always really been the TV capital of the world.

When I moved here and have been a working actress consistently for all those years, for four years in New York, it was like a different world for me. Really, after doing Broadway and indie films, everyone in Hollywood was much more concerned about my television credits, which there were a lack thereof, let’s just say. I chose to fight the system. I chose then to buck up and I started a small production company, Philly Chick Pictures, in 2002. I said, “That’s it. I’m not going to let the ‘no’s get in my way.” I took my power.

TrunkSpace: And that’s a big undertaking.
Lewis: Let me tell everyone, it was never easy – from going out and raising financing for films, investors for my production company, finding the right partners, both here and in New York, and working other jobs to sustain financially. And I own that, and I am proud of that. I was a career woman, and still am. That was my focus. I did everything I could to make sure that I was able to act, by producing. I hate producing, yet I’m an incredible producer. I say that humbly, but I’m a badass little producer. But I hate it. I hate it. But I did it so I could act.

TrunkSpace: When the opportunities aren’t there, you have to create them for yourself.
Lewis: Hollywood was not giving me the opportunities that I had hoped. Hollywood wasn’t saying, “Okay Brooke, you’re new to Hollywood, you’re young – even though you’re trained in New York – you’ve done a million indie films in New York.” They were saying. “You’ve got to work the business. You’ve got to earn your keep here.” It wasn’t the magic that I had expected. I wasn’t getting offered new lead roles on TV series or lead roles in mainstream movies in Hollywood, so I created that. I was like, “That’s it. I’m going to show the world that I do have potential, that I do have some talent, that I am a trained actress.” And so I produced.

TrunkSpace: Did taking on the system also put you further on the outskirts though, especially in those early days? Did people say, “Well, if she isn’t willing to play the game, we won’t let her through the door.”?
Lewis: That’s a brilliant question. I’m going to say 50/50. Now in hindsight, and hindsight’s 20/20, I think that 50 percent of – I’ll start with the negative – 50 percent, absolutely what you said. With kind of me going against the system and the grain, it sort of affected me in a negative way. Then the other 50 percent, I think that real artists here, and real agents and managers, really got me and respected my hustle and said, “Wow, this girl is a force to be reckoned with.”

I think the former 50 percent… and I can really attest to this with what I have learned from becoming a “horror star.” I was a horror fan/junkie since childhood. I own it. I was an ’80s horror fan, like a crazy person. I loved horror movies. I had friends who starred in horror movies back in New York, but never did I wake up one day and say, “I’m going to be a famous scream queen.” However, you get to a certain point where you’ve worked so hard, nobody knows who you are no matter what sitcoms you’ve done, no matter what Broadway shows you’ve done… and then the horror community sort of embraced me as a thriller scream queen with the film “Polycarp.” All of the sudden I’m getting direct offers in the horror genre, sci-fi genre, thriller genre. I’m like, “Wow, this is kind of amazing, and I’ve sort of paid my dues at this point.” So once I became sort of a genre star – I say that humbly again – a genre star in horror, I embraced it.

TrunkSpace: So do you think that helped or hurt your career?
Lewis: It pigeonholed me a bit, and I’m learning that later, 10 years later. Sometimes Hollywood can be small-minded. The executives say, “Well, she’s famous in horror. She’s a famous scream queen. We’re not convinced she can do anything else.” I’m always one, again, to go against the grain and to try to prove myself, as I have continued to do that.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how the horror world was never part of the plan, but for you personally, what’s been the biggest surprise of your career thus far – the thing that 18 year-old you back in New York never would have seen coming?
Lewis: Wow, I mean, so many! For one, what we just addressed. I’m so grateful for it, of so many over the years – more so 10 years ago when I was super relevant in horror and stuff – being a Top 10 Scream Queens of all time with Jamie Lee Curtis and Adrienne Barbeau – some of my icons and idols, so that’s been mind blowing. I guess I never imagined I’d be on the cover of horror magazines all over the world, in Gorezone in the UK in 2010. It’s just bananas. But I would also have to say, I never imagined I would become a board certified life coach either, and a writer for all these publications, and an author of two books now. Never did I imagine that.

TrunkSpace: We get this vibe from you that you are a nurturer, and because you are a life coach, do you ever have to step back and say to yourself, “Oh my God, I have been spending all of this time focusing on other people… it’s time to maybe focus on me a little bit.”?
Lewis: Are you psychic? I’m not kidding. Welcome to my life. Am I being Punk’d? Hold on? Is there a reality show camera in my home right now? (Laughter)

That’s my life. You just described my life. You described my life, to the point where I forget to check myself. Gratefully I have a wonderful fiance who check me. I have great reps who check me. You nailed it. You already get my personality.

I’m such a philanthropist at heart. That’s just really who I am. I believe so much in giving back, and I’m so in gratitude. And I’m, as my book will tell you, a hot mess. I own it. That’s part of my hot mess, is my anxiety. I suffer from a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress. It affects me mentally. It affects me physically. I have some chronic health issues because of it. I share that very openly, because I hope something I say helps others. So I do forget, and I have to have my stable of people around me. I have a life coach. Thank you Lori for saving my life many times, my own life coach. I have Michelle who is my actress empowerment shine coach, who has to remind me it’s okay to be selfish. I have these amazing people around me that I need to stay afloat. I think, in my humble opinion, that everyone needs a support system. Everyone should have a support system, especially in this industry, because it can be so stressful. It ebbs and flows. So I do, I forget. I give too much a lot of times. I’m well aware of it, but it’s tough to stop myself.

I always tell my clients that I’m coaching, and my friends, “Do as I say, not as I do.” I’m not a parent. I chose to focus on my career and not having children, but I really have to have that old parent cliché, “Do as I say, not as I do,” because I’m a hot mess.

Lewis will appear in the film “1/2 New Year” due early 2019.

Her book, “Coaching from a Professed Hot Mess,” is available here.

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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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