Horror’s Scream Queens and Rising Talent: Six Questions for Tiffany Apan
“Tiffany grew up among the thick forests of the Appalachian Mountains in Northeastern Pennsylvania. It was there she began honing artistic abilities and received much of her creative inspiration. Having been exposed to music since she was a child, she learned the guitar, violin, and accordion from her musician grandparents before taking up classical piano at age 9. A misfit among her peers (she was the only one in her fifth grade writing class obsessed enough with Vikings and Norwegian mythology to write poems about them), Tiffany was highly active in the artistic community in Wilkes-Barre, PA, involving herself in all music, theater, visual arts, and writing. She began formal classical vocal training at age 12 and appeared in numerous musical theater and operatic productions. Eventually, she settled quite comfortably into a role as “that artsy kid in black” who sits in a coffee shop, drinking endless amounts of coffee and tea while writing furiously in a journal or sketchpad.
After graduating high school, she left the Northeastern PA ghosts for the Southeastern PA zombies (Pittsburgh). Upon the move, Tiffany became involved with the indie film scene, landing supporting roles in a couple films. Her real turning point as a vocalist, however, was being given the opportunity to portray the role of a Free Style Jazz Singer in the world premiere of Marta Effinger’s “Whispers Want to Holler.” During rehearsals, she was coached by Billy Harper who wrote the musical score for the production. Projects such as this also gave way to the release of her music with partner in crime, Jason English. Since then, she has gone on to act in several films and theater productions with starring and supporting roles, release music to critical acclaim, and receive accolades for her writing and producing.
Her 2008 debut album, Poet, is an eclectic blend of rock music (combining Classical, Folk, World, Gothic, Metal, and touches of Pop). It received enthusiastic responses from music fans and also garnered some critical acclaim. Music from the album was featured on several compilation albums and in 2009, she was an American Finalist in The Best New Song in the World Contest with her acapella song, “Lost Little Girl.” Her songs have also been featured in films, and the music video for the adaptation of “Scarborough Fair” won in the Open Music Video Category at the 2010 International Indie Gathering Film Festival. In 2012, her screenplay, “Driving Nowhere” also won for Best Horror Short Script at the same festival.
While Tiffany enjoys the Pittsburgh area, Northeastern Pennsylvania is the place she considers “home”, and frequently travels up there for inspiration. The Appalachian Mountains serve as a backdrop for many of her stories, including “The Cemetery by the Lake” and “The Birthrite Series.” Her current projects include follow up books in The Birthrite Series, a follow up to Poet titled The Antiquity Project, several film projects, and rehearsals and performances with The Wayward Companions, a musical group that is a shoot off from the Pittsburgh Historical Music Society that performs traditional historical pieces with historical instruments.”*
1. How did you get into the industry?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve taken part in some form of performing arts, be it dance, music, writing, or theater/acting. In college, I added film to my resume (my first being a horror film) and since then, I have been involved in several films. I continue to do music, both on my own as well as collaborating with others and being involved with a historical music group. I also have a dark fantasy/supernatural historical book series out, which I will talk a little more about here later on.
2. What Scream Queen/Woman in Horror inspired you most?
Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween, definitely. What I liked about her character 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).
I also love Vampira (Maila Nurmi) and Fay Wray.
3. What horror film hooked you on the genre and why?
Psycho and The Monkey’s Paw. Both scared the crap out of me when I was a kid but definitely left their imprints! A lot of the old classic horror films did and still do to this day.
4. When you are presented with a script or movie concept, what are the things that draw you to certain projects and away from others?
That’s actually a tough one because there are several different things that can draw me. Usually it’s the plot line and/or the character’s journeys. If at least one of those two things grab my attention, then we will talk further.
5. The evolution of women in the genre continues to change almost daily, so what are your thoughts on how things have changed and what do you see coming for the current and future women of 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 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.
With that said, I 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, male and female. I think 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 a caricature or trope.
When I develop a character in my own writing (again, 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 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 (that can be icing on the cake). For me, creating a character with strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes, prejudices, etc and then challenging her to face such things and watching her 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.
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 a couple horror genre films that are either in production or the final stages. I won’t be saying much on them until time for release draws nearer. On the non-horror front, I am working on new music, both my own (one for an upcoming paranormal docu-drama) and with the historical music group, Wayward Companions, in which I am a vocalist and percussionist. I also perform as a vocalist with the Pittsburgh Historical Music Society Orchestra and am involved in the Living History realm (I’m a bit of a history nerd) and enjoy educating others on different historical eras and events. With my writing, I am currently working on the next installments of my Dark Fantasy/Supernatural-Historical book series, The Birthrite, and finishing up some more short stories that I plan to release this year. My holistic/therapeutic product line, Antiquity & Illusion, is also available (some of the products are based on and inspired by ancient recipes).
I am active on Facebook, creating my little community of misfits, history buffs, and sci-fi/fantasy and horror fans. You can hang out with me and join the discussion at http://facebook.com/tiffanyapanmusic.
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*Bio Courtesy of Tiffany Apan