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!
Jake and I struggled with the idea of not just interviewing filmmakers, but all creative entities that help make a film what it is. It’s “filmmakers on filmmakers on filmmakers”, right? Then we realized that we created this bitch, so we can do whatever we want! With that said please welcome Julie Streble, a solid and passionate actress from Louisville, Kentucky. She has several indie films under belt including Nathan Thomas Milliner’s Girl Number Three playing a strong Sigourney Weaver lead and can be seen in the upcoming zomedy The Zombie Movie (2013). She has truly immersed herself in the creative process and allowed herself to become an important facet to whatever project she may be working on. Enough with the brown nosing, let’s get this monkey train going…
* * *
PJ: What’s the most rewarding aspect of acting in indie film and what are the pitfalls?
JS: I think one of the most rewarding aspects is the fact that when all is said and done, even if it’s not this Academy Award-winning piece — it’s now a finished product which we can all sit back and enjoy, laugh at, critique, reminisce on, and even cry about. What I’ve been part of in the independent filming process is not just the on-camera acting, but also discussing ideas with the director, playing costumer and prop master (along with most everyone else), and figuring out hair and makeup in between takes. It’s similar to a lot of smaller, local theatre companies, in the respect that it’s often a collaboration of creativity.
As far as pitfalls go, number one is probably that we often aren’t paid. I’ve worked with folks who are awesomely talented with great ideas — but if they can barely afford the equipment they’re using, they’re not going to be able to compensate everyone for their time and talent. That’s just something we all know and accept; we’re doing this to get work, not to make the millions — yet! Other than that, there’s been the fact that many projects are never completed, either because filming is never completed, they have yet to edit it, or other plans simply fall through. It’s unfortunately pretty common that projects are started and never finished — which, no matter the reason, can be frustrating for everyone involved. But, we just have to keep on with it!
JB: I gather that you seem to enjoy the horror genre a little bit. And don’t seem to mind being covered in the crimson stuff. What do you find most intriguing, or what speaks to you most, about horror as a genre?
JS: It’s definitely fun to be covered in blood — unless it runs into your eyes — and playing out crazy scenes with special effects is just as much work as it is fun. I actually was never a real fan of horror until I got involved in it and started to truly appreciate everything that goes into it. I think it’s a shame that a lot of the story and character development is often lost to some people because of their aversion to the violence. I’m sometimes one of those squeamish few… But, when a good story is present with strong characters, the effect is that an audience member is made to squirm in his/her seat because they care so much about the protagonist — this person they’ve never met. "Don’t go upstairs! Turn around! Ohmygoodness shoot it in the head!!" When viewing in a public theater, it’s almost a bonding experience as everyone reacts together. Some stories can also provide some sort of inspiration, in that we see people going through horrible experiences, and the ones who do survive have only done so through strength, smarts, stamina, etc. We like to see struggle, we like to see survival, and we like the suspense which makes our everyday problems seem so much less dramatic.
PJ: If you had the chance to get a leading role in a romantic comedy with Channing Tatum or an action film with Jason Statham, which would you choose and why?
JS: Okay, for the record — I had to look up Jason Statham, because I’ve heard his name a million times from my mates, but couldn’t place who he actually is. I only know who Tatum is, because of all the "Magic Mike" hubbub and his winning "sexiest man alive" or what have you. Now — I generally hate romantic comedies. Aside from "When Harry Met Sally," "Moonrise Kingdom," and "Warm Bodies" — I could really do without all the unrealistic mush which doesn’t even make me do that girly sigh I’m supposed to do. Also, I know nothing about Tatum, other than his pretty boy status — which, as an actor, kind of sucks, because he’ll probably miss out on some cooler character roles due to his celebrity. That being said: an action flick in general sounds WAY more fun and memorable — especially with someone sporting a dialect from across the pond who was not only in "Snatch," but the voice of Tybalt in an animated children’s film. I bet we’d have far more snarky conversations in between takes.
JB: Practical vs. digital effects in film – weigh in on the debate.
JS: I’m a fan of practical effects more often than general, because my opinion is that it generally looks better and more real – unless a computer wizard is somehow involved. Maybe it’s just my old-school outlook. But, an example here is also a terrifying thought: if “Gremlins” were produced today, would they have used the puppets or computer animated characters? Pretty sure I just crushed my own childhood thinking about digital mogwais.
PJ: Independent films seem to be synonymous with the horror genre because they’re relatively inexpensive to make. Do you find yourself finding more work in this genre and if so is it frustrating that there aren’t more diverse genre roles available?
JS: In regards to finding more work in that genre — yes and no. Because I have several years of theatrical experience under my belt, I’ve been lucky to find directors — and also to be found by directors — who want me involved in their projects, because they know that when I show up on set, I’ll be there prepared and professional. With the occasional "that’s what she said" joke. However, as I don’t do nudity — and that is somewhat common in the horror genre — I’ve also lost out on some roles that required it. Which, that’s just a part of the business; actors/actresses won’t get cast in every single role they’re considered for, because of whatever.
And so, to get to the second part of the question, even though I’m always happy and grateful to get work in general, it’d be awesome to find a chance to branch out from horror into something else. Don’t get me wrong — its super fun to be involved in! I never fully appreciated (or even watched, for that matter) horror films before these projects, because I’m kind of a big baby when it comes to scary stuff. But, now, I’m exposed to it and get to see/experience the behind-the-scenes stuff — and it’s awesome. However, I was trained on stage with such dramas as Proof, The Shadowbox, Vanities, and Crimes of the Heart — real, often challenging, character work. So, I do still love that kind of work.
JB: February celebrated women in horror month. There tends to be a stigma that horror is a male-dominated genre where women are often relegated to either helpless (and as a character, underdeveloped) victims, or elements of objectification. I think a strong female voice in the genre is not only welcome, but incredibly necessary. What are your thoughts on the past/current state of gender role/control in the genre?
JS: Rant time: I agree 500% that this genre is in need of more strong, female characters. My personal favorite is still Sigourney Weaver in “Alien.” That being said, yes, I have always thought that horror has had a bad habit of not allowing women to do much more than scream and strip – to be blunt. I remember a good friend and past director saying once that “women just aren’t scary,” and while I’m pretty sure he’s changed his tune since then, it ruffled my feathers at the time. I immediately thought of “The Ring,” “Misery,” “The Exorcist.” It’s not that women aren’t capable of being terrifying – the issue is that they’re not often given a chance to do so. I recall someone also tried telling Tina Fey women aren’t funny… But to get back on subject: I saw blips of Stephen King discussing the history of horror, and he spent some time talking about the roles and involvement of women. His view was that women do have a strong role in horror, in that they’re the ones who generally survive and do so by fighting back, even if that means losing a few articles of clothing in the process. I’ve heard this argument before, but it still doesn’t take away from the fact that they are being victimized and/or objectified at the same time. No, this is not 100% of horror films, especially today, but a lot of writers/directors still have that old-fashioned outlook. We’re damsels, eye candy, victims, sometimes out for revenge. I’d honestly like to see a female version of Jason Voorhees, for example. But, yes – we need more strong women. Scary women. Just to shake things up a bit.
PJ: Most awkward on set moment?
JS: Basically any kind of romantic physical contact is always super awkward. People think "Wouldn’t it be awesome to have a make-out scene with Johnny Depp?" or whomever, when in reality, you’ve got dozens of crew around you, the director is vocalizing what you’re supposed to be doing the entire time, you’re worried about whether or not your breath stinks, and focusing on the angle and timing completely takes away any sense of romantic emotions one could possibly feel in such a situation.
JB: There’s a lot of controversy on the subject of leaving filmic works of art alone and focus on only making new (original – to whatever degree) stores. What’s your take on the original/remake scenario?
JS: That’s a very circumstantial thing for me. Like, the original “Hobbit” cartoon is pretty epic, but as a big Tolkien fan, I was very happy with Jackson’s take on it. Also, I’m aware that the 1980s “The Thing” is a re-do from the original 1951 version and that’s one of my all-time favorite horror films. Wasn’t super impressed with the more recent one, but that was a prequel, really, so not sure if it’s relevant. I think that a lot of remakes are done because there either is more technology available now to make special effects better, or sometimes there’s just a creative director who wants to put his/her spin on the story. I think both are legit reasons to do a remake, but I that a good, original idea is going to go further.
PJ: In Hollywood compensation is common place because, let’s face it, it’s the movie "business". However, in our neck of the woods it seems that something as simple as an IMDB credit is just as good as a paycheck. Why do you suppose that is?
JS: Most actors are like me, in that I’m happy to have the IMDB credit, just because I’m still very much a nobody, and getting my name and work out there is one of the single greatest payoffs right now.
JB: What is most important to you when researching a role, and or/deciding of a project is right for you? Basically: what is your core process in the inception/evolution of bringing a character to life?
JS: Most complex question for last, I dig it! I have already stated that I like challenging roles, especially ones which require me to truly play someone else and become a different person. I think exercises like that increase one’s empathy and overall understanding. As a former psychology minor, I’m all about figuring people out, anyway. When it comes to deciding if a project is right for me, there are many factors taken into consideration. Does it pay? What is the shoot schedule? Where do they plan to take this film? Will the offered role help me grow as an actor? Is this a part and project that I will want to be associated with and proud of upon completion? Which, really –even though I do ask myself these questions, I ultimately will consider just about any project. When it comes to bringing characters to life, it’s often different, as each character is their own, and each story being told is different. For instance, in “Girl Number Three,” the character of Max wasn’t far off from me. And, how she reacted to the situation in the warehouse is honestly how I hope I’d be able to react – minus losing my mind and perpetuating a killing spree. So, for that, I simply spent time putting myself into a mindset of “I need to save these girls. It’s up to only me.” It actually was helpful that during one scene in the warehouse, a litter of kittens was discovered in the next room (which I ended up taking home and nursing until they were old enough to adopt out), and so my motivation was very easy to find at that point, as I’m a big animal-lover. In fact, some work Herschel (the director) did with me was sitting one-on-one and putting my mind in a dark place where I would be forced to save the life of an innocent – such as a child or kitten. It was a wonderful exercise, even though it would sometimes take me a bit to come back down from that character/emotion. But, each specific character will require a different process. As a theatre major, I learned all about finding goals and tactics, as well as establishing a character background to justify their actions within the script. I don’t think that an actor needs to necessarily like or agree with the character they play – especially in the horror genre where a gruesome villain may be the part – but a true empathy for that character and understanding why they do what they do is crucial. After all that – my biggest goal as an actor is to play the character as realistically as possible. I always ask people after performing, “Did you believe me?” Because if they didn’t, they’re not going to care about my character, and they won’t care about the story – and the story is the whole point.
Obviously Jake wins this month with best and most intelligent questions as mine are tan demount to, “What’s your favorite flavor ice-cream?” Jake, I’ll get you for this!! We wanted to thank Julie so much for taking the time to answer our questions, no matter how smart or stupid they may be. I have personally worked with her on the teaser trailer for My Horror Project and can attest to her talent, it’s the reason I call her my Meg Ryan (and why I see her in the female lead for my eventual zombie romantic comedy Necromance). We can’t wait to see where this field takes her and to see what roles she plays in the future. Also, a special thanks to our readers. We always like to leave you with something profound. So, as a man once said.