Welcome to Filmage-A-Trois, our own little sexy slice of indie film heaven. We’re indie filmmaker’s P.J. Starks (HALLOWS EVE, A MIND BESIDE ITSELF) and Jakob Bilinski (SHADE OF GREY, THREE TEARS ON BLOODSTAINED FLESH) your tour guides through an unorthodox way of picking the brains of independent filmmakers from all over. What exactly is a filmage-a-trois you’re probably wondering? No, it’s not our attempt at three ways with other artists. It’s not as easy as you might think. So rather than suckering them into the sack, we’ve asked them to have a sit down. We’ve tasked ourselves with bringing youthe best and in some cases obscure filmmakers we’ve been privileged to call friends. To get right to the point of what makes their clocks tick and to see what kinds of film topics that get their gears turning. So put on a brain condom, cause we’re about to blow your sensory overload!
Actress Cindy Maples has become a staple in independent cinema in mine and Jake’s area. With a passion and dedication to her craft that rivals any “industry” professional. Raised in Illinois and now living in Indiana, she has been acting for as long as she can remember. Her first feature film role was in Widow, a Big Biting Production in 2009. Since that time she has gone on to star in a myriad of genre efforts such as Wireface, The Birthday Massacre and Bloody Hooker Bang Bang. Whether she’s acting or producing, Cindy brings a wealth of knowledge to any production thanks to her extensive background. Now that we’ve gotten through all that crap, let’s get on with something that has real meat on the bone…
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PJ: The role of women in horror has changed dramatically since the days of the 80’s "final girl". We’re finding less cannon fodder females and more strong, smart and well developed characters for women. In particular a Sidney Prescott or more recently Rhada Mitchell in Silent Hill or Natalie Jackson Mendoza in The Descent. What are your thoughts about this evolution of women in horror?
CM: I’ve always thought it was AWESOME that even in the slasher flicks of the 80’s the only one who ever survives is a female. It shows our natural superior ability to not die. But, yes I do enjoy the fact that the females that survive now are not only Kick-ass but intelligent at the same time. Somewhere along the way writers realized that women can be just as tough if not tougher than most men. The movies of the 80s proved that point. How many times did we see women get tortured, chased (of course they fell a few times) and then find a way to not only survive a massacre but kill the bad guy in the end? I think it was an inevitable progression for females to take on the role of hero in these films. I also love the fact that we are seeing more female killers like Judith Roberts in Dead Silence or the creepy little girl in The Ring. We can be just as scary as some guy with leather strapped to his face; you should see me in the morning… Frightening!
JB: Cindy, you’re making quite the name for yourself in the indie horror community. What is it that attracts you to horror, or at the very least, the dark side of things?
CM: In this area it’s the closest thing to dramatic acting. The characters are always being challenged in a horror movie, they have obstacles that they have to overcome and it gives you something to work with and pushes you into a good performance. For myself, I like to be scared, it makes me feel alive.
PJ: I recently gave a talk about Producing indie film, where my main message was to know and focus on your strengths. Why do you think it important for anyone getting involved with a project to have a solid grasp on their strengths?
CM: If you don’t know where your strengths lie you are going to take on something that you can’t handle and failure will follow. I know what I can handle and I know when I have to say no. It’s never easy to admit that you can’t do something, but if accept a responsibility that you can’t handle it will only come back to haunt you. You will let someone down and in this and other indie film communities word travels fast about a failure.
JB: How do you handle constantly being around the awesomeness that is Rusty James?
CM: It’s a struggle. I wake up every morning and look over at him and have to pinch myself that it’s really The Rusty James lying beside me. In all seriousness, I adore Rusty he is my rock. I feel like the luckiest woman alive to be married to not only my best friend but my favorite acting partner. And HELL NO Jake you can’t have him!
PJ: You’ve been acting in genre endeavors, but recently decided to try your hand at Producing. How do you make that transition and how do you know when you’ve found the right project?
CM: Making the transition to producing was pretty easy for me. I realized that I had been doing it already in some form on a lot of the projects I worked on. I always pay very close attention to how things work while I’m on set acting and I’m not afraid to ask questions or jump in and help. I never once thought that I couldn’t do it. I knew that if I ran into problems I had a lot of people that I could turn to and get answers or to get something done. I also knew that if I was going to do this I wanted to start with a short film. As far as the right project, well that just fell in my lap. John Cosper sent me the script for The Telemarketer and asked if I would be interested in helping him get it made, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a try. Once I agreed to the project I needed a good director that I trusted and that could work on a small budget with a very limited amount of time. I had worked with Jon Higgins from Communindie Films on the Louisville 48-Hour Film Project last summer and he was an obvious first choice. Luckily for me he was willing to jump on board and make this short happen. After reading the script a couple of times I also knew who I wanted for my cast and again everyone I approached was more than willing to do it. So that just left me with finding my locations, making the props, dressing the sets and making sure we had food on set. Let’s face it, if you have food for the cast and crew, everything else runs a lot smoother.
JB: What do you think it is that’s so appealing to be terrified by a film? To share a scare with these strangers in a dark theater?
CM: I wish I knew the answer to that question. If I knew the answer then I would write the movie that scares the living crap out of everyone. I think it’s the same emotion that makes us rubberneck at an accident scene or watch hours of news coverage of a man hiding in a boat. I think we all have that little bad person inside of us that wants to see something horrible. Then we can look at our lives and say, wow, my life is Great!
PJ: Each one of us have worked on a project that we’re truly proud to have been a part of. Ultimately though, we all have a dream project we’d absolutely love to Produce or be a part of. What’s yours?
CM: Any dream project of mine would include Mel Brooks, Abbott & Costello and Bela Lugosi. Considering only one of them is still alive it will probably never happen. But having said that, I would love to do a Horror/Comedy on the scale of Young Frankenstein or Abbott & Costello meet Frankenstein. Fear and happiness are two very different emotions, but when they are blended something magical always happens.
JB: How do you feel about the current state of horror? What films do you think are "getting it right" currently?
CM: This is a really tough question because I haven’t been impressed with a horror movie lately. If I want to be scared there just aren’t a lot of options out there. Watching people get turned into a bloody mess doesn’t scare me, I know too much about how that’s done and it no longer scares me. I just sit there and think; huh that was a cool FX. I like a movie that sucks me in and lulls me into a sense of security and then BAM, knocks me onto the theater floor. Sadly, that hasn’t happened for quite a while, but I’m hopeful. I get much more enjoyment out of shows like The Walking Dead and more recently The Following.
PJ: Like a marriage, every project comes with a series of ups and downs. What are the most rewarding aspects of working on indie films & what are the pitfalls?
CM: The most rewarding aspect of indie film for me is the finished product that has usually come at the expense of really hard work, dedication and sacrifice. There is really nothing quite like sitting in a theatre full of people having them see your work for the first time and hearing their response. There are a lot of pitfalls to indie film, the biggest one being the lack of money on most projects. As an actor, my biggest pitfall is being told that I’m wanted for a part, when it’s going to shoot and then being told a week or two before that it’s not going to happen due to lack of financing or locations. When I know I’m cast in a part at a certain time, I quit looking for projects during that time period so I don’t have conflicts or at least I used to. I’ve been burned on this a few times now and I’ve learned that if I want the part to accept it and if I have a conflict I will just have to work it out. And it’s been said repeatedly by almost every indie actor out there, but it is huge disappointment when you spend your time and talent on a project and it never gets finished. I’ve been lucky and it has only happened once so far, but it is the worst feeling to know that you wasted your time.
JB: Care to elaborate on your most rewarding/favorite moment on a production? Or most frustrating?
CM: Funny that you should ask that Jake; one of the most rewarding and favorite moments happened with you behind the camera. When I showed up on the set of Bloody Hooker Bang Bang I had just gotten through one of the hardest weeks of my life. You don’t know this, but I almost e-mailed you and told you I couldn’t do the role. I am so glad I didn’t follow through with that decision. I had lost my mother a week earlier, after having watched her slowly slip away for a month. I finally decided to do the role to get my mind off of my sorrow and focus on something creative. Playing the role of Mama Crowe was so cathartic for me; just having the opportunity to rage with no restrictions was like being raised from the fires of hell that had consumed my life. I walked off the set that night and felt that I could start the healing process. Sometimes you just need to scream and cuss as loud as you can and the world comes back into focus.
A special thanks to Cindy for speaking with us about her thoughts on the state of filmmaking. It’s always refreshing to hear from other artists their ideas and personal stories about independent film. Like the films themselves they become a true source of human emotion and circumstance; a narrative all their own. Didn’t think we could be artsy fartsy, did you!? If you want to know more about Cindy and her exploits check her out on Facebook or www.imdb.com/name/nm3603974.