Horror’s Scream Queens and Rising Talent: Six Questions for Tiffany Apan
Tiffany Apan is a singer / musician / songwriter / actress / dancer / model /writer from the United States. She received her earliest musical influences from her grandparents who taught her such instruments as the guitar, accordion, organ, and violin. She also took up classical piano at age 9 and began taking dance lessons (ballet, tap, jazz) from Gene Kelly’s niece, Kathy Burke. At age 12, she began taking theater (acting and singing/voice) classes and began acting in productions such as “The Crucible” (in the role of Betty Parris) and Mozart’s famous opera, “The Magic Flute” (as the Third Spirit) in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Later on, she would go on to create the role of one of two Free Style Jazz Singers in the world premiere of Marta Effinger’s “Whispers Want to Holler” at the Kuntu Repertory Theatre in Pittsburgh, PA. It was also is this production that she was coached vocally by world renounced jazz musician, Billy Harper (who had also written the music score for the production). Other theater credits would afterward include Brenda in “Lovers and Other Strangers”, Hodel in “Fiddler on the Roof” and Charlotte in “Falsettos.” She also has acquired roles in independent films such as Janet in “Meat for Satan’s Icebox” (distributed by Troma Entertainment), Jessica Peters in “Slashers Gone Wild”, Christina in “Heavy Mental”, Kara in “The Girl”, and Rosemary in “Resolution: A Portrait of Amelia Earhart.”
As a musician and singer, Tiffany has released two EPs (2007’s “Ghost EP” and “Porcelain Doll EP”), a critically acclaimed full length album (2008’s “Poet”), three singles (2010’s “Lost Little Girl (Acapella version)” and “Greensleeves”, and 2011’s “Three Pale Queens (Acoustic Live Version)”), and she is getting ready to release a new EP titled “Heart Song: The Living Room Sessions EP” which is spun off of her well-received Living Room Sessions on her YouTube Channel. Tiffany was also a finalist in 2009’s Best New Song in the World Contest with her single, “Lost Little Girl (Acapella Version)” and in 2010, she was presented the first place award for her “Scarborough Fair” music video at the 2010 Indie Gathering in Cleveland, OH. She has also had her songs appear on several compilations and has been licensed for film soundtracks including “The Girl.” She is also working on her follow up full length album to “Poet” titled “Elements” and a poetry book titled “Thick Jagged Scars” which will also come with music single. In 2008, she and partner, Jason English founded the independent production company and label, Poets Labyrinth Productions where they release all of their projects.
1. How did you get into the industry?
Since a very early age, I had taken part in the performing arts in some form or another. Thanks to my musician grandparents, I took an interest in playing instruments, writing, and performing songs when I was quite young. At age three, I started dance lessons, which continued throughout my childhood, into high school, college, and beyond. The forms of dance I studied were ballet, tap and jazz (hip hop was later added to the equation). I had the pleasure of dancing in several theatre productions, including Me and My Girl, Oklahoma, and Jesus Christ Superstar. I had also been classically trained in voice since the age of twelve and was studying acting.
I started slowly moving away from only dance roles and landed more supporting roles in theater, along with parts in couple of small film projects. In college, I was inspired to do more with film (thanks to awesome film actor and teacher, Jeff Monahan) and made the transition from theater and into film.
Before long, I was making a little bit of a name for myself within the horror genre, and for a short while, it was a lot of fun. But as much as I love the genre and many within the community hold a special place with me, the idea of that being my sole career just didn’t sit well with me. My roots in music and theater were calling me back.
At this point, I had been toying with the idea of not only recording music but making an album. I knew some people that had wanted to work with me musically and we had been playing around a little with some ideas. However, all of that started coming together when my song “Ghost” just seemed to write itself. It was one of those kismet moments when you just know that something is right and was meant to happen.
When I released “Ghost” to the internet, positive feedback and responses to the song were almost immediate. Comments ranged from Evanescence, Nightwish, and Lacuna Coil fans comparing me with Amy Lee, Tarja, and Cristina Scabbia to other wanting to hear more. and most people wanting to hear more. So we gave them more, taking the full plunge. Then in late 2008, my first album Poet was born and released into the wild west that is the music industry.
I was absolutely delighted when – for the most part – the album and songs were well-received, critically and with music fans. The album was featured on several rock and metal websites, online and print magazines. It even won a couple awards (including Best Music Video at the 2010 International Indie Gathering Film Festival).
But I will say that for many of my horror peers; it was a bit of a tough sell at first. It seemed that there were a lot of folks hoping that I would be one of their ‘next big Scream Queens’ and many genre communities tend to be on the territorial side. Meanwhile, I’m singing Celtic Rock versions of traditional folk songs and going back to musical theater.
Of course, the musicals were a far cry from the horror genre. And while my music teetered on the dark side, well, it wasn’t a horror film — and therefore didn’t satisfy a lot of them. Many within the horror community thought I was nuts, and some of my well-meaning peers were quite vocal about it. No matter how much I showed them how well the album was doing or the success I was having in the roles and productions outside of the genre, they were convinced that I was ruining my career . It would be a little while before they would start to see otherwise.
Doing interviews for horror publications was also frustrating because of course; I would want to talk about my music, since that was my current and most recent project. Meanwhile, the interviewer would only want to ask me about films I was in two years prior. Films that had already run their course as a hot new horror film.
In the end, I took a hiatus from horror, focusing on music and other projects instead.
Not only did that move pay off, but more of my horror peers finally started coming around. I was asked by a couple promoters for horror film conventions and festivals about my being willing to make their events one of the stops on my tour. I agreed, and the response to the concerts I gave at these events was amazing. Not only were people snatching up the CD left and right at my table, but some filmmakers were inquiring about using a song or two of mine in one of their upcoming films.
After that, all of it seemed to come full circle. My friends in the horror genre have accepted that I am multi-faceted — and find a way to make it all work together, creating my own brand. I’ll do a folk-metal album, while also doing a stage musical like Fiddler on the Roof or Sound of Music. What are you going to do about it?
And now when I’m asked to be in a horror film, I enjoy every second of being on set. I get much joy in running through the woods, covered in fake blood and prosthetic wounds while screaming my head off. I’m glad that I am able to enjoy it again instead of begrudgingly doing it simply because it’s “work” and what people expect of me. Because that’s how it was getting to be for a while.
One other thing that helped was reading Jennifer Lopez’s book, True Love. There was so much in that book that I (and probably many other performers) could relate to.
As of now, I continue to do music, both on my own as well as collaborating with others and being involved with an 18th century traditional Celtic folk music group. I also have a dark fantasy/supernatural historical book series out and have some exciting film projects on the horizon, which I will talk a little more about here later.
2. What Scream Queen/Woman in Horror inspired you the most?
Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween, as well as her mother, Janet Leigh in Psycho. What I liked about Curtis’s Laurie Strode was the fact that she started out as a very relatable high school student (I think even today her Laurie Strode remains relevant). All the characters were. What I also liked was that when in peril, she had to struggle, stay on her game, and rely on herself to survive, which contributed to a great amount of character growth by the end of the film. I like when characters are uprooted from their everyday ‘normal’ life, presented with challenges, and forced to make their way out. To me, that is far more interesting than someone that just knows how to ‘kick ass and take names’ right off the bat (though that has its use too).
As for Janet Leigh, I just love the elegance and class she brought to her role in Psycho. That is one of the many things that I appreciate about old Hollywood and approaching life with that sort of elegance and class is something I try making a point to do. It just makes me feel more in control of myself and whatever it is I am to tackle for that day (or week!). Two other women whose work I also enjoy are Malia Nurmi and Fay Wray.
3. What horror film hooked you on the genre and why?
Psycho and The Monkey’s Paw (the version that was filmed for the Alfred Hitchcock hour). Hitchcock certainly left his imprint on me while I was growing up, as did a lot of old classic horror films starring the likes of Lon Chaney, Bela Lugosi, and Boris Karloff (in fact, my current car is named Karloff). I do love some more contemporary films as well. One more recent film I really enjoy is The Cell with Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Lopez. I love everything about that movie, from the plotline to the sets, the costumes, and the overall tone and atmosphere of the film. I like some good psychological horror every now and then.
4. When you are presented with a project, what are the things that draw you to certain projects and away from others?
Several different factors can draw me toward a role/project. Typically, it’s the plotline and/or the journey of the character. A lot of the time, if at least one of those two things grabs my attention, we will talk.
5. What are your thoughts on how things have changed in the genre and what are your hopes for the future evolution of Women in Horror?
I think there are a lot of good roles being developed out there, and honestly, I think all types of roles have their use within the genre (or any genre), from the “scream queen” who runs through the woods in a mini skirt while being pursued by the masked killer or the girl who is left to defeat said killer at the end. All of those types are iconic and contribute to why we love the horror genre.
I do think we need strong characters, both male and female, along with male and female characters that struggle with maintaining solidarity and personal strength. We need both good and evil characters, again, both male and female. I’ve noticed that now, many are placing a lot of focus on developing a ‘badass female lead.’ And that’s great. But if her being a ‘badass’ is all that there is to her, it does run the risk of becoming nothing more than yet another caricature or trope.
When I develop a character in my own writing, be said character male or female, I try focusing on the characters’ lives and their journeys. When writing a character, I think it’s important to focus on the INDIVIDUAL. What are their likes and dislikes? What is their favorite food? What makes them passionately angry? Do they have a traumatizing past?
While I like seeing a female character kick ass as much as the next person, I think that a well-layered character and her journey (both inner and outer) grabs my interest far more than seeing how many 300 pound dudes she can take on and get barely a scratch. Meanwhile the 300 pound dudes are all left a bloody mess or worse.
One other belief that seems to be running rampant (both in film as well as books) that I’m also really getting tired of is the notion that somehow if a female character shows any sort of vulnerability, then she’s dismissed with great disdain as “your typical simpering weak female character that the misogynistic author had the audacity to write.”
Here’s the thing. Strength comes in all forms, and one person’s strength might be different from another’s. For instance, in my book series, The Birthrite, the character Linda might seem like such a character that many modern audiences might cringe at. However, she does find her own strength through her own struggles. It might not be the same strength that her peers have, but it is a strength that she possesses and is unique to her.
For me, creating a character with strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes prejudices, etc. and then challenging him or her to face such things and watching that individual grow and become stronger as a result is exciting to watch.
That’s why I enjoy Jamie Lee Curtis’s Laurie Strode and Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy Summers. In fact, I think that’s why films like Carrie, Halloween, and television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer stand the test of time. They all have well-rounded, well-developed characters that a viewer can get on board with and go through their layers, strengths, weaknesses, and range of emotions with them. THAT is how you get an audience to connect and how you get some real equality in entertainment.
As to where I see it going? That’s a good question! It certainly has been a ride, and it will be interesting to see where it goes!
6. What are the next couple projects you are working on?
There are two films, Midnight Massacre and A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, that are currently in the final stages of post-production. You can follow their Facebook pages for any release dates, screenings, and other information that the filmmakers might want you to know about. I am also working on music for my forthcoming album, Antiquity. The music of Antiquity is inspired by the constant historical research I do and my Dark Romantic Fantasy series, The Birthrite.
When it comes to my book series, I am currently working on the next installments and also finishing up other short stories (unrelated to The Birthrite). This summer will also bring performances in festivals and other re-enactment events with my Traditional Celtic Folk music group, Wayward Companions, in which I am a vocalist and percussionist.
In other acting news, I am excited about being involved with the web series, Heroineburgh, which revolves around female superheroes and villains. In addition to all that, I am blogging about my adventures, travel, my passion with holistic health, and even venturing into the world of beauty blogging, which is also something I’ve always wanted to do. I will be reviewing some of my favorite products and doing a little experimentation with some medieval and 18th century recipes.
Other ventures include performing as a vocalist and stand-in percussionist for the Pittsburgh Historical Music Society Orchestra and being involved with Living History and reenacting. I am currently tweaking my holistic product line, Antiquity & Illusion, and roll that out later in the summer.
Tiffany Apan’s Links:
And check out current and forthcoming film projects:
Midnight Massacre – http://facebook.com/midnightmassacremovie
A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing – http://facebook.com/Winstervillesaga
Heroineburgh – http://facebook.com/heroineburgh