An in-depth interview with filmmaker and scream queen Jessica Cameron, discussing her successful career, her love of horror, and women in the genre.
For serious horror fans, Jessica Cameron is a true Scream Queen favorite! This beautiful and hard-working lady throws herself 100% into everything she does, and it shows in her work. Not only is she an actress, she is also a director, screenwriter and producer. I first saw her in Truth or Dare and have loved her ever since. Some of my favorites are All Through the House, and her most recent film, American Guinea Pig: The Song of Solomon.
If you look at Jessica Cameron’s IMDb site, she has almost 20 projects going on currently!! Wow! So, I was seriously excited to meet her at the screening for Bill Moseley’s Crepitus — and even more thrilled when she agreed to an interview with me, despite her crazy schedule.
INTERVIEW WITH JESSICA CAMERON
Los Angeles Zombie Girl: Hi, Jessica! Just to introduce myself, I am a horror writer, a SFX MUA, and a serious lover of all things dark and bloody. So, needless to say, I love you a lot! You are known to genre fans as a “Scream Queen”. What does that title mean to you?
Jessica Cameron: For me, the title of Scream Queen is one that is near and dear to my heart. For me, it is a positive name for a woman who works significantly in the horror genre and who excels and enjoys that process.
LAZG: Can you tell me a little bit about your rise to that Scream Queen fame?
JC: I have been so blessed that over the past 10 years, I have managed to book steady work in the genre. I have worked with many who I admire, including Stephen Biro, Tony Randel and Bob Kurtzman, amongst many others. My scream queen adventures have allowed me to travel the world to attend screenings and conventions, along with meeting the great genre fans in cool places like Ireland, Scotland, England and Australia. Although I started working in front of the camera, I have dabbled into directing and producing my own genre films as well, which has been tremendously rewarding to me on a creative level.
LAZG: What are some of your favorite films you have been in, and why?
JC: I have had many great experiences, so if you are a film maker I have worked with that I forget to mention, please don’t take it personally! The Sleeper comes to mind – I met Ali Ferda on that set and would go on to hire her for both Lilith and An Ending. She just blew me away with her acting ability. I also finally got to work with Tiffany Arnold on that film. I had known her for years, and it was great to actually share the screen with her. I also cast her in Lilith.
Camel Spiders was a fun experience, as it was my first time working with indie film legend Jim Wynorski. He was everything that everyone tells you he is. LOL. We got the 27-page script the night before around 8 pm, had to be on set for 8 am (not to mention the 3+ hour drive there), and would shoot action and dialog heavy scenes for the next 18 hours. It was a lot of hard work, but a nice reminder on how cast and crews can really come together to make movie magic.
The Tour is a short that I shot in London, England, with Heather Dorff. The cast and crew was just exceptional. We had so much fun, and it would go on to do a great film festival run. It’s one of those shorts that I would love to see made into a feature, because I think the story is worthy of more screen time.
LAZG: Your Directorial Debut was in Truth or Dare. How was that experience, and are you going to direct any more horror films?
JC: Truth or Dare is a film that is near and dear to my heart. Not only was it my first time directing, but it is still such a great story that I genuinely love. Even though I have seen the film hundreds of times by now, I still enjoy it and have fun watching it. Acting while directing is very hard. While I love doing each job, I very much don’t like doing them both on the same set.
LAZG: Truth or Dare was a very gory film! I heard that the crew members’ shoes stuck to the floor from the blood, and I find that totally amazing!
JC: That they did! There was just so much blood! It was a great experience. I was really lucky with my cast and crew on that one. For the most part, they were all very hard working and incredibly talented. I am lucky that my Producer, Mem Ferda, was encouraging me to go to those dark and bloody places. Many of those I hired on that set I have worked with since — and look forward to hiring again soon.
I have directed two films since, Mania and An Ending. Mania is set for a fall release, and An Ending is in post-production. I like directing films that others are too scared to do, so should another one cross my desk I am definitely up to the challenge.
LAZG: Where did you get the idea for Truth or Dare? What did it take to get the film made?
JC: I had always feared, as a child playing Truth or Dare, that someone would dare me to do something painful, like stab myself with a pencil. After all, if it’s a dare you have to do it! Luckily, that never happened, but it did allow my mind to wander. With the rise of online celebrities, and especially YouTube, I knew that I wanted to script a story around the fans who went too far, and that concept felt like a perfect fit for my childhood fears.
Getting the film made was very hard – as a first-time film maker, I didn’t have a track record to prove I could do it. I just had my word. So, I had to knock on a lot of doors to get one to open.
LAZG: You directed but did not act in Mania. How was that? Did it feel strange not to be in the film?
JC: It didn’t feel strange to not act in the film, it was a relief. It’s very difficult to star and direct in the same film. As a director, your mindset needs to be on the greater good of the production, whereas, as an actor, you can be much more focused on your own performance and yourself. So, jumping back and forth to each of those mind sets is hard.
LAZG: Can you talk a little about Women in Horror? What do you think is the future for women in this genre, and why is it so important that women are making more and more films?
JC: I think it’s important that all types of people make films that they are passionate about – we all have a different voice, which is greatly impacted by our own life experiences. Women have always been under represented in the film world, and genre is no exception.
I am thrilled that as of today we have more women active behind the camera than ever before and am excited to see that continue. My hope is that more and more women pursue their dreams as actively behind the camera as they do in front of it. Especially in the horror genre, which I personally believe can really benefit story wise from a woman’s perspective.
LAZG: Who are the Women in Horror that have inspired you?
JC: Lisa Ovies is a dear friend and a constant source of inspiration, even before I had ever met her. She is so strong and works really hard to bring her vision to life. Her career has presented her with a great many obstacles, many of which have been in the public eye, and her perseverance and dedication to the art of film making has been unwavering — something I greatly admire.
Heather Dorff is my best friend, but also one of the greatest working indie actresses I have ever seen. She is also one of the most intelligent people you will ever meet, and genuinely fun to be around.
Stacy Title, who directed Bye Bye Man, is a woman whose work I love, and I admire her compassion and ability to fight against the industry stereotypes. She is honest when speaking about the obstacles she has fought against, which is something that is not as common as it should be. Too often women fear backlash when doing so.
LAZG: How do you feel about Women in Horror Month? Is that a good thing, or should we just be recognized more often?
JC: I honestly have mixed feelings about it. Personally, I believe that we should be recognized equally to our male counter parts. I like the idea of a month in which we honor women. However, it seems unfair to ask to be treated the same as men — and then for one month of the year require to be talked about and promoted more.
I also have seen some women within the genre get very catty around this month and have seen lots of women promoted under false pretenses, which I think makes all women look bad. I personally like to celebrate all the film makers I adore and admire, regardless of their sex, all year round.
LAZG: How far do you think we can go in the horror genre? Has it gotten as gross as it can get, or is there a next step? People seem to want more and more, and on the other side, people are protesting all the violence. (For example: I love extreme gore, but I prefer not to see women getting raped.)
JC: I personally think we can, and will, go much further. Now with social media, we are all able to find likeminded individuals who are into the same types of films that we are into. We can also easily research films to make sure that they don’t pass our own self-imposed boundaries. I am personally a fan of the extreme, so I love that we are in a place where literally anything and everything can happen in a horror film.
I don’t care about those who protest or boycott, the horror genre is not meant for everyone. Nor should it be. This is a genre that should not worry about appealing to the masses. The fans who love it will find it, and those who don’t… well they don’t have to watch it.
LAZG: Your latest film out is American Guinea Pig: The Song of Solomon. Please tell me about this film!
JC: Speaking of extreme films, this is certainly the most SFX extreme film that I have starred in. But it’s also so much more than that. I star as Mary, the young woman who is possessed by a high-level demon, and the film follows various priests who try to help her. It’s directed by the talented Stephen Biro of Unearthed films, and the script was one of the most powerful that I have ever read.
While it absolutely is a fun gore flick, if you want more, just pay closer attention to the dialog and details — you will see the layers within the text. I am so proud of this film and so excited that so many are loving it. Song of Solomon was just released, and if you love extreme films, this is a MUST WATCH. If you love exorcism films, this is a MUST WATCH.
LAZG: You were incredible in The Song of Solomon, and what a crazy physical performance! How long did it take, and how did you handle all the gross things you had to do? Were you exhausted when it was done?
JC: Thank you so very much. It was certainly a physically demanding role. Each day was hours in the FX chair getting ready, and so much more time throughout the day for touch ups, etc. I am such a huge horror fan that gross, vile things fascinate me rather than gross me out. Especially as an actress, I am so busy being in character that it doesn’t even occur to me that it’s not “normal”.
In Song of Solomon, my character (the demon, not Mary) really relishes messing with the minds and body of her victims. The demon is not at all affected by the gore, so neither was I during filming. When we would wrap for the day, that’s when it became an inconvenience, because obviously I had at least an hour or two of clean up to do on myself before I could do anything else. We had a relatively small cast and crew, so most filming days I would clean myself up and then proceed to clean up the set – there was so much blood and FX that this was a never-ending process.
LAZG: What was the biggest challenge making the film?
JC: We shot it in Florida, so we had to deal with Florida weather, aka the daily storms. While most of the film is set inside, we had to set up lights and other film equipment outside, so this was something we had to deal with almost daily.
Personally, what I struggled most with was the contact lenses. I wear regular contact lenses most days, so am quite comfortable with touching my eyes. However, for this film the contact lenses were hand-painted, and 2 of the 3 were covering the entire eye ball (as opposed to regular lenses which cover your iris). Experts recommend you wear these types of contact lenses no more than 4 hours a day, and obviously we were filming for many more hours each day, every day. This made my eyes very dry and sore. But the production crew was great and made sure I had lots of eye drops to help make me as comfortable as possible.
Also, since we had so many puppet pieces of my body (watch the movie to find out), we for the most part used a fake bed, which was built in the room we were shooting. We didn’t realize it at the tim,e but in doing this construction for the following 4-5 days, my eyes were extra painful as microscopic flecks of saw dust were traveling in the air and would stick to the lenses or between the eye and lens.
Also while the lenses were beautifully hand painted, they were not weighted, which meant when my eyes would water or blink they would often rotate. Since for the most part I was so covered in blood and gore, I couldn’t rotate them back myself. So the director and various clean handed crew members would have to carefully rotate the lens back before filming a scene so that the iris was correctly placed. So, in short, filming with full eye contact lenses can be a pain in the butt. But I do think the end result was worth the trouble and pain.
LAZG: I have heard Song of Solomon described as trying to show up The Exorcist by out-grossing a pretty damn gross film! Can you comment on that?
JC: I don’t know if Stephen Biro (the director and writer) intended to out-gross The Exorcist so much as he wanted to make a film which really focused on the exorcisms and the theology behind them. Stephen is very well versed in the scripture and specifics of these demons and rituals, and he just wanted to make a film that represented that. Though let’s be clear – it definitely and almost effortlessly out-grosses The Exorcist!
LAZG: Have you always loved Horror?
JC: I have. Ever since I was a child, it was always my favorite genre to watch. I just loved the feeling of being scared, all the while being safe and sound inside my home. I also have always appreciated how anything can happen in a horror film – literally anyone could die. My love for horror has only increased as I became a grownup. I really appreciate the ability to get immersed in another world that’s not my own.
LAZG: What are your favorite horror films and why?
JC: I have many favorite horror films, so let me mention a few (though, note, it’s a very long list.) Martyrs (the original) is one that holds a special place in my heart as one of the most powerful films I have ever seen. The subtext and meaning is so deep. Paranormal Activity is one that is special to me because it was so effective and so well done without relying on a large budget. It was just good story telling and clever use of various film tricks.
Natural Born Killers is a brilliant film which was so far ahead of its time. Some argue it’s not a horror film, but I consider it one when you take into account the themes and body count. The Shining is a classic and has stood the test of time, in my opinion largely thanks to Jack Nicholson’s ground-breaking performance. Halloween is a near flawless film, and to me Michael Myers is a perfect villain. I could go on and on, so I will stop there for now.
LAZG: I love those films too! Was seeing horror films one of the reasons you got into horror?
JC: When I set out to be an actress, I just wanted to act and wanted to do it as a career that paid my bills. At the time, I did not seek out work in any specific genr. Though I was living in the mid-west, and as such, many of the auditions I got were for genre films. So, it was just a lucky coincidence, but one I am very thankful for.
LAZG: What are your upcoming projects?
JC: Mania (My Fucked Up Lesbian Love Story) is set for a release later this year. Lilith just finished post, so I look forward to premiering that soon. An Ending is in post-production, so stay tuned for details on where and when that will be released. As mentioned above, Song of Solomon was just released and available to purchase on Amazon!
My directorial debut Truth or Dare, which was released last year, can also be ordered on Amazon. (Note from LAZG: Look at end of interview for the info on where to order all her great titles and follow her on Social Media!)
Finally, I am very active on YouTube and create a weekly show called Scream Queen Stream with my best friend and favorite actress Heather Dorff. I also release at least 5 random videos each week on my Inside My Indie Life YouTube channel.”
LAZG: I could go on all day asking questions. I have wanted to talk to you for so long! Is there anything you would like to tell the horror fans out there? Anything!
JC: I love your enthusiasm, and believe me, I could talk all day about my beloved genre!
I would like to thank all the wonderful horror fans for reading this and for supporting not just my films but indie films in general. It is through the wonderful support of the indie film community that we as indie artists are able to survive, and I know my life is so much better as a result of each and every one of you reading this! THANK YOU!
For more info on the lovely Jessica Cameron, buy her films or follow her on Social Media, go to:
American Guinea Pig: The Song of Solomon is out now! It was just released, and you can get your copy here: https://amzn.to/2Lc31c1
Jessica Cameron’s directorial debut Truth or Dare, which was released last year, can be ordered here: https://amzn.to/2PtzaiM
For more info on Scream Queen Stream: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLC8mvrmpX8fbMrTHLT2Hsg
To watch the “Inside My Indie Life” YouTube channel, go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV0sumLgDqRYbBq00_rE-CQ