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Women in Horror Interview with Clarissa Jacobson, the talented writer behind the quirky, darkly comedic, and extremely hilarious horror short Lunch Ladies 

Lunch LadiesWhether you called it a cafeteria or barfeteria, we all got some kind of lunch served to us in school by lunch ladies. The under-appreciated and often verbally abused souls, whose only crime is to serve what they are given by the school district; low budget, unappetizing, globs of mystery meat.

In my new favorite dark comedy, writer/producer Clarissa Jacobson serves up her incredibly funny version of the ladies in hair nets, simply titled: Lunch Ladies!

Synopsis: “For the past twenty years, obsessed Johnny Depp fans and fraternal twin sisters, Seretta (Donna Pieroni) and LouAnne Burr (Mary Manofsky), have shared a miserable existence as high school lunch ladies. Serving up rubbery chicken parts, ammonia-treated government meat and whatever else the cash-strapped national lunch program sends their way. This year is going to be different: The twin’s Cheesy Burger Bites recipe is the Grand Prize Winner of Johnny Depp’s Cook for Kid’s Charity Event. Convinced this is their ticket out of high school hell town and that “The Depper” will hire them to be his very own Personal Chefs, their dreams are shattered after a snotty head cheerleader pushes them one step too far. This forces the Lunch Ladies to ask themselves – WWJD? What would Johnny do?”

This hilarious fast-paced ride into the dark side, is so full of driving music, surreal scenes and quirky characters that you can’t help but fall in love with the film! I haven’t had this much fun watching anything in a long time. (Remember the TV show Pushing Daisies? Lunch Ladies reminds me so much of that show, with a little Fried Green Tomatoes and Sweeney Todd mixed in!)

I love the music, the superb practical SFX, and was blown away at the chemistry and comic timing of the leading ladies Donna Pieroni and Mary Manofsky! So, I was excited that I got a chance to talk to the writer/producer Clarissa Jacobson, to find out more about this little dark comedy gem.


INTERVIEW WITH LUNCH LADIES WRITER/PRODUCER CLARISSA JACOBSON

Clarissa Jacobson

Los Angeles Zombie Girl: Hi Clarissa, thanks so much for sharing Lunch Ladies with me! This is one of the most funny and upbeat horror shorts I have seen in a long time and it brightened my day so much!

Clarissa Jacobson: “Thank you Vicki! That is the best compliment ever that you laughed and had a good time – that’s exactly how I want people to feel when they see it.  Thank you for the interview!“

LAZG: What made you decide to do a horror film? Is this your first one? What is your background?

CJ: “I started as an actress – I’d wanted to be an actress since I was seven, so yeah I was a theatre nerd.  I had a theatre degree, did Off-Broadway, had an agent… did all of that.  But, when I found Twin Bridges Writing Salon, I realized I was a screenwriter.  I never looked back.  I love it!

When I started screenwriting, I thought I could only write comedy or dramedy because that’s what I excelled at as an actress.  Luckily, Joe Bratcher who runs Twin Bridges (he is also the choreographer and a producer on Lunch Ladies) pushed me to spread my wings.

For my fourth script (which was when I took the leap into horror), I had a lot of ideas and I couldn’t decide which I was going to commit to.  One was the fascinating true story of Elizabeth Bathory who is the world’s most prolific serial killer and lived in the 1600s in Hungary.  We read all my concepts aloud in class.  Well, guess what?  EVERYONE wanted me to write Bathory.

I was terrified – it had blood, gore, lesbian sex and was a period piece (RESEARCH!).  I didn’t want to do it.  Joe told me I had to because I was afraid and overcoming it would help me grow as an artist.   I don’t like to be afraid of anything.  LOL.  So, I wrote it.  AND LOVED IT.  Bathory turned out great.  Once I went to the dark side… it was hard to come back.  It’s such a creative place to be because it pushes you to parts of your mind that you never explored.  That’s how Lunch Ladies came about – I just couldn’t stop writing dark because it’s exciting.

This is my first film. I wrote the feature for Lunch Ladies first – that took 18 months.  Then I decided to do a proof of concept to get interest in the feature.”

Lunch Ladies

LAZG: I went to a school where we ate out of machines and never got the Lunch Lady experience. Why Lunch Ladies? Are they really that abused? Because you really make us, as the audience, feel for them!

CJ: “The concept for the film came from a conversation I had with the lead actress, Donna Pieroni.  We had met a long time ago when were in a play together at The Odyssey in Los Angeles.  She was telling me about how she and another actress liked one another but it sucked because they were the same type.  They would go to all the same auditions and one of them would always lose the job to the other.  Donna said, “Wouldn’t it be great if there was a movie with two Lunch Ladies?  Then we’d both get called into audition and we’d BOTH get cast.” BAM!  There it was – a movie about Lunch Ladies.

And yes, I feel for Lunch Ladies.  They are abused – they’re expected to make delicious dishes with substandard ingredients – thanks to the government nickel and diming the public school system. When Lunch Ladies’ meals aren’t good they’re blamed.  Imagine slaving all day over a stove, serving it up and all you hear is insensitive kids badmouthing it, dumping whole uneaten trays into the garbage and even worse, throwing it – FOOD FIGHT!

Educators and Lunch Ladies have the hardest jobs and yet they constantly get zero respect. I know this because I’m the daughter of a high school teacher. In some ways, this was an ode to my dad – he in fact named the leads and I would often pick his brain – does this sound right, is this how it would happen, is this realistic?”

LAZG: Tell me about the director that dropped out, saying they wouldn’t want to see two middle-aged female leads. (Dummy!)

CJ: “I look back now, and it was the best thing that ever happened.  At the time, it was devastating when he dropped out, but if he hadn’t I wouldn’t have found JM (Josh) Logan.  Who was the BEST director, ever.

The litany of things the old director told me I couldn’t do was a mile long.  But it ended with, “You can do Lunch Ladies, but it won’t go anywhere because no one wants to see two middle-aged female leads.”

After that I found Josh. Josh LOVED Lunch Ladies and was confident he could direct the hell out of it. He said, “Clarissa, everyone wants to see female leads, and I know horror fans. Horror fans will lose their shit for this.”

LAZG: What do you want the audience to take home after watching Lunch Ladies? Is there a moral, or is it just a laugh fest?

CJ: “I love to laugh and make people laugh. But, it’s more than that. I believe all great comedy comes from pain and that’s what grounds characters and gives them heart and realism. So, there isn’t a moral, but there’s a truth that I think and hope people can relate to – these women have a lot of pain. They’re the classic underdogs. We’ve all been treated badly and we’ve had to suck it up, so here’s a story about two ladies done wrong who WIN, who beat the system.  And that’s a satisfying feeling.”

“That’s what I want the audience to take home. Satisfaction. A little smile because someone who got shit on their whole lives, finally won. The other thing I want them to take home is the idea to never stop dreaming and to aim high. The Lunch Ladies have a ridiculous dream – to be Johnny Depp’s personal chefs – and if they can dream that big, anyone can… so… dream the impossible dream – Go Johnny!”

LAZG: How did you find your leading ladies? They were fabulous!

CJ: “I’ve known Donna Pieroni for years. As mentioned earlier, we met in a play – we were both cast in Ionesco