An Interview with Tiffany Sinclair – By Brian Morton

 In my travels, I’ve had the chance to talk to a lot of people about a lot of movies, some are just dorks like me who like to watch ‘em, some are a little more go-getting and they like to make ‘em, either way when you’re talking movies there’s always one thing involved…passion. We all have it, whether it’s passionate enjoyment of these movies (like me), or the passionate desire to direct or a passion for acting or even just a passion for keeping up with these things (like you…hopefully!), but rarely do you meet someone with a passion for so many different things. I recently had the chance to meet such a person, Tiffany Sinclair. Tiffany’s not only an accomplished actress, she writes and directs her own features, and she’s got such a passion for film-making that she even started her own company, CarSINogenic Candy. If you read the review last issue of Praey, then you already have an idea of Tiffany’s work. I got the chance to have a discussion with her about her movies, the movie business in general and what it’s like to be a woman in the B movie world.

BM – Thanks for taking the time. Let’s start with the obvious; do you think it’s more difficult for a woman in independent film than for men? And have you had any issue personally because you’re a woman?

TS – I have to admit that I do think it’s harder for women, but I’m not on a soapbox about it. As an actress, especially in the B world, you’re sort of the young hottie in the film or you’re the mom. The cool roles are still mostly written for males. Female lead roles are still pretty typical. And there are still more male roles than female. Considering that there are more actresses than actors, you do the math and see what the odds are. If you look at mainstream film, Hollywood films, there aren’t many awards going out to female directors or editors or DP’s or anything. And believe me, there are women out there that deserve them. It’s surely still a more male dominated field. As with anything though, change takes time. I notice that people point out a lot and ask a lot about the fact that I’m a FEMALE director. Especially in a horror/thriller genre. So I think it’s a newer concept for people. But I can also say that as a female director/filmmaker/writer etc, that when I speak to other indie filmmakers, they treat me as an equal. There is just more to the business than interacting with other filmmakers. But I have yet to experience a male filmmaker talk down to me or even differently to me as a female. And that’s great! I think in the indie world, we all understand each others plight and we tend to be very supportive of each other. I do still find that it’s harder for a female to be in the film arts, but it’s not overwhelming. I could cite personal occurrences, but they are small and they won’t go away over night. Rather than dwell on them, I’d rather move forward. Not ALL males reject a woman in any certain job. So why point out the minority? Pointing out the minority and dwelling on prejudices keeps it alive, and I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it. I’d rather focus on the majority who treat me as an equal. The world is not free of prejudices. We see it every day in many ways. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the white male was still at the top of the food chain. But that’s society and not solely the indie film world. Again, moving forward is much better than focusing on the negative.

BM – With all you do, act, direct, write, produce, edit. If you had to pick only one, which would it be?

TS – Hmmmmmm… Wow…… I can’t pick between acting and directing. I’m an actress at heart, but found that I really love directing as well. I enjoy editing a great deal. I could live without writing or producing. I love the whole story telling process though. It’s hard to find acting work. But if I were guaranteed work in any of those categories and had to pick, it would probably be acting.

BM – Is it difficult being both in front of and behind the camera at the same time, as you were in Praey?

TS – Yes, it is! I didn’t write Praey so that I could star in it. It just went that way based on my options here in a small town. It takes a long time to be able to do both 100%. I think my acting and my directing suffer in Praey as a result of needing to do so many things at the same time. How do you be fully in character and worrying about the shot at the same time? It’s a total juxtaposition. I don’t intend to even be in the next film we produce. I love to act, but doing both is more than difficult.

BM – Being in both the creative side and the business sides (as the founder and President of CarSINogenic Candy), which tend to be at odds with each other, do you ever find yourself conflicted? (Maybe between what you’d like to do as an artist and what you can afford to do as a business woman?)

TS – Oh yeah, all the time! I tend to go towards my artistic side and not my business side, really, but there are still limits. I have had more than one producer friend tell me time and time again that Praey needed nudity. I never went that route. I didn’t see it for the story. But it probably does hurt sales on the indie end of things. But as the producer, I made a very conscious choice to gamble my money there. There are lots of things that I’d like to do as an artist, but had to NOT do as a producer just to keep us on schedule and within budget. Many ideas I had and wanted as a director I just had to pull and do differently as a producer. But what Praey would have been if I had had a never-ending supply of cash, and as an artist, is very different than what I had to do as a producer. It’s a continuing compromise between what you want as an artist and what you can do as a producer. You have to learn to compromise. But even if I weren’t producing myself, I’d have to compromise with an outside producer. It’s just the nature of the beast! At least producing myself, I could pick how I was willing to compromise. It still sucked at times. But you want a finished film. So you have to make it happen in less than optimal conditions. There was one scene I very badly wanted to be shot a certain way. We tried for a long time, and the timing just wasn’t working among my actors. I hated to do it, but I had to say, “ok, we are going to do this instead, you guys are great, its not anything you are doing wrong, we just have to move on…” Even some of my cast was annoyed at my choice. But as a producer, I knew we were out of time and had to find an easier way to get the shot. If you don’t, and you run too far behind, you mess up actor schedules and such, and you risk financial problems as well as losing actors. It’s a tough call. But I had to do those things. The artist in me hated it, but the producer in me knew it had to be done.

 BM – You say you’ve had producers tell you that Praey needed nudity. What’s your feeling about nudity in general? And would you ever put nudity into one of your films just to increase salability?

TS – Nudity doesn’t bother me at all. I have accepted roles that required nudity. Those were roles, though, where the nudity was needed to express a specific part of the character and they were story driven films and not nudity driven films. I know someone could argue that in a skin flick, the nudity is part of the character. That may be true, but only if you are writing a skin flick. Its not like I have some sort of moral issue with nudity or anything. But no, I wouldn’t add nudity to a film just for sales. It’s just not the way I choose to tell a story. I’m not trying to write soft core. If I ever created a story where I felt that a character needed nudity in a scene to advance the storyline or character development…to show something that needed to be shown, I would write it in. But I don’t imagine myself ever throwing in a boob shot to up sales. After all, if you are ‘throwing a scene in’, then you are really not being true to the story itself. As a storyteller, I equate that to something like “Gee, I don’t have enough footage to meet feature length, why don’t I just throw in 5 minutes of my puppy chewing on a dog toy to make up the time”. Of course, nudity sells better than my puppy does, but you get the point. All different things entertain different people. And we all know that there is money to be made with ‘flesh’ films and that there is a definite market for them. But that really isn’t the style I’m personally going for simply because it doesn’t interest me.

BM – At the website, carSINogeniccandy.com, it mentions a movie that you’ll be directing this summer, want to tell us about it?

TS – We actually want to shoot two films this year. One is “Devil at the Door” written by Brian Sheridan. It’s a great vampire script. Written for basically one location/low budget and has a very cool story line. A group of college kids head out to a cabin for a weekend, and things get weird immediately. They are stuck making some very serious choices about how they are going to handle the ‘bitten’ man that shows up at their door. I’ll leave it at that. The second script is more complex filming wise and its about a curse coming back to haunt a small town community. That one I’m writing myself and the working title is ‘Inborn”. It’s very much the scenario of a families past coming back to haunt the new generation. Inborn will ultimately have more gore than Praey. It has more horror than thriller. Where Praey was more thriller. Same for “Devil at the Door”, actually. But rest assured, the story lines are intact. Neither will be pure hack and slash, though I love a good slasher film!

BM – As a lover of slasher fare, would you ever make a pure slasher/gore movie? And, as long as we’re going there, do you have a favorite slasher movie?

TS – Oh heck yeah! We have actually talked about it in house here. I would have a ball making a total popcorn slasher with lots of blood and gore. I think I’d have to do at least one in my career just for the shear fun of it! I don’t know if I could pick one favorite slasher. There is an awful lot of good stuff out there! Off the top of my head, I’d say Hellraiser has some of the best gross out stuff ever. Freddy Kruger is one heck of a bad ass villain. And Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things is one of my favorite zombie/walking dead flicks. But the list really does go on and on….

BM – According to your bio, you’ve been trained in both hand to hand and sword fighting, have you ever had a close call on set?

TS – I got beat up a bit on Praey. But nothing big. Minor cuts and bruises. Small things that were my fault for not falling correctly. I’m trained, I know better. Since I was directing myself, I only blame myself. And stunts are stunts; you’re going to get a bruise here and there. I have been uncomfortable on other sets, but all ended up going well. I can honestly say that I’ve never really been hurt on set. I was trained by T.J. Glenn in NY (AWESOME Stuntman and actor), and he always stressed safety first. He was so clear about it that you never forget it. I worked with him on a few films and never got hurt once. So the couple of times I was uncomfortable with a situation, I found a proactive way to make it safe. On Praey, Brian Sheridan was our stunt choreographer, and he stressed safety at all times as well. So no real close calls. I can say that on the set of Apocalypse, by David Gwin, I was terribly uncomfortable with the broad sword I was asked to fight with (in 4 inch platform boots on top of it). It was a pretty wall display sword, sharp enough to cut, not dulled, and I was originally to fight an untrained actor. I went through rehearsals with said actor and was very worried. He was in armor. I was in a little skimpy nylon get up. I could judge distance, he could not. The blade shook in the hilt with the slightest contact. I was so terribly afraid that shooting the choreography at full speed would lead to a snapped blade flying off to cut anyone in its path. Let alone, misjudging distance. People do get hurt! I talked to David and he was more than willing to both dull the blade himself with a file and ultimately bring in a different actor to fight opposite me. I wasn’t trying to be difficult on set at all. But it was made very clear to me in my training that safety comes first. Better to say something if you know it’s unsafe than have someone severely injured. If you are an actor/actress who does stunts, you need to remember your training and stay competent. Its not just for you, its for your cast members. I’ve been lucky to only work with very competent stunt people/actors. Its always hard to say to a director, “hey, you know what, this could REALLY hurt someone”. But you have to do it. As a director, you have to make sure your cast is safe. I know people that have been hurt. Sometimes it just happens even when you are careful, but by all means, anyone out there doing stunts needs to speak up if something feels unsafe.

 BM – You’re obviously a horror fan, what movies inspired you to become a horror filmmaker?

TS – Easily, Alien! Alien was the first time I remember seeing a female lead in a horror situation not act dumb to some extent. Sigourney Weaver is a total hero to me! Both as the character Ripley and as an actress in many other films. Her portrayal of Ripley is one I will never forget. Especially at a time when the female survivor was typically… Lets just say, not as strong as Ripley! No one acted dumb in that movie, and it made me realize that people doing everything right and still being killed was far more frightening. Outside of that, my parents divorced when I was young. So I spent weekends with my Dad. He and I would sit up until late at night watching old classic horror films and eating junk food. I’ve been a horror fan for as long as I can remember. You could say I was raised on it! There are too many wonderful horror directors and films out there for me to list. Lets just say, I’ve seen them all!

BM – As an actress, what is your favorite role that you’d had the chance to play? What would be your dream role?

TS – Probably Sara. (Tiffany’s role in Praey) It was a very physical role, and I only had to wear make-up a couple of times. It was really fun to play a role where I wasn’t SUPPOSED to look good. I was also very attached to the character, after all I wrote her! My runner up though, is Berenice. I memorized Poe’s short story Berenice. Onl
I switched the male and female characters. Since it was already written in the first person, it made a great one-woman stage piece (which I performed in NY). And by switching the male and female roles, I got to play a pretty deranged gal! Dream role: Ripley in Alien.

BM – What advice would you offer other young women who want to get into the filmmaking business?

TS – DO IT! It’s as simple as that. You can’t look at the situation and say “oh, I can’t do this or that because of this or that”, you have to follow your heart and go for it. Women are amazing story tellers, just like men are… It’s an art not limited to gender. There is no advice I could give to a woman that I wouldn’t give to any aspiring male filmmaker. If you love this, and you want to tell a story, do it. At the end of the day, you only answer to yourself. Be part of that your faith, your personal needs, whatever, what you do is up to you. Sure, the rest of the world impacts how things go, but you need not answer to it. There is a difference between understanding that the world around you impacts your life and answering to it. There really is little to worry about. You have nothing to lose by trying, but you also have nothing to gain by not trying. And that is my advice to ALL artists.

BM – Thanks, Tiffany, we here at Rogue Cinema will be watching your future work with anticipation!

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Tiffany is definitely a renaissance woman and with that many irons in the independent movie fire, I’m sure that we’ll be hearing great things from her! We here at Rogue Cinema look forward to seeing her future work and from hearing from her down the road. If you want to check out Tiffany and any of her movies, drop on over to CarSINogenic Candy and take a look for yourself, I’m sure that you won’t be disappointed.