The genre of horror is capable of being split into so many subgenres that there is conceivably a film for just about every niche or specified concept these days. Lately, independent horror has seen a new subgenre emerge in which childhood games takes a rather twisted turn, whether it be David Guy Levy’s Would You Rather or Robert Heath’s Truth or Die. This year at the Calgary Horror Con, August 3rd and 4th at Hotel Blackfoot in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, Silent Night actress and indie horror filmmaker Jessica Cameron will be exclusively premiering her own film, Truth or Dare, in which one of our favorite games has deadly consequences. Diabolique got a chance to talk to the vocal thespian about splitting her time both in front of and behind the camera, as well as take on the genre as a whole and what iconic horror role she wishes she had the chance to tackle….
DIABOLIQUE: Jessica, thank you so much for taking time to talk today. What will be bringing you to Calgary Horror Con this year?
JESSICA CAMERON: Well thank you, I’m glad to talk. This is going to be my very first Canadian Con appearance, which is awesome because I am a very loud-and-proud Canadian. Besides that, I have my film Truth Or Dare coming out and we are going to be doing a test screening there, which will be very exciting.
DIABOLIQUE: You had a lot of different roles in the creation of Truth Or Dare, including both directing and starring in it. What made you want to take control of the project?
CAMERON: I also co-wrote it, and I do not recommend anyone to direct and star in the same movie. It is evil and stupid. [laughs] But, I did it because I felt no one was closer to the character than I was. I originally co-wrote it with the intent just to act in it, so I never foresaw myself directing in any capacity, actually. It just so happened that after we went to the directors that I wanted for it, several of them couldn’t do it because of timing while others didn’t want to do it because of the content. The movie is really, REALLY messed up, but I didn’t want to change that [for a director]. The whole point of doing an independent film is to do an “independent” film and not care if people get offended. Sometimes, they’re supposed to get offended. So, because of [those reasons] I chose to [direct] it myself.
DIABOLIQUE: Did you find it more freeing to have creative control on the project or possibly more constricting to have to split your attention in so many different ways on set?
CAMERON: It was both. It was definitely freeing to be able to tell a story I wanted to tell the way I wanted to, especially a story that had been sort of “in me” for a long time, if that makes sense. It was a ridiculous amount of pressure, obviously, when you’re “the everything.” Everyone is coming to you with any and all questions or advice on everything that they need, and there is so much responsibility that comes with that. It is a lot of work, which is why I would not recommend doing it at the same time as acting.
Directing, itself, is the exact opposite of the acting perspective on set. As an actor, you have to be able to put yourself in the moment and only focus on yourself, but the director has to be aware of everyone’s moments. So, they kind of compete. I certainly don’t think I would do it again, but I was really lucky on this one. We had a kick-ass technical director who would sort of take care of all the lines and the technical stuff so I could just focus on the actors and the scene to make sure it was flowing properly and I was getting the beats right. It was nice, though, to be able to say something and have people pay attention to it whereas an actor might have a good idea that could just get dismissed. That sounds incredibly narcissistic. [Laughs] That was one of those moments that it didn’t sound how I intended it to.
DIABOLIQUE: Well the age-old saying is that all actors want to direct and all directors want to act. With having done both of them, can you finally let the world know which one you think is better?
CAMERON: (Laughs) I think it depends on every person. For me, it’s definitely acting. There are stories I want to tell, and if I can find people who can tell them and have the same passion for them that I do, then I have absolutely no problem never directing again. That being said, the fact that I am really twisted and my ideas are as well, I can foresee a situation where I end up directing instead of letting someone change my initial story. Acting is my passion, though, definitely not directing. I have nothing against directing, but it’s entirely a personal preference. I’m going to say something a lot of people don’t like to hear, but I’m just being honest. Actors have the easiest, most fun job. They really do. We’re the last people to arrive on set and we may have to spend a bit of time in the makeup chair but, “oh well, darn.” [Laughs] We have the least amount of time that we have to spend working. If something goes wrong with the camera or the lighting, we just sit and chill, unlike the director or DP or anybody who has to be running around, trying to make sure everything works. Whenever they do camera setups, we just go to holding and chill.
It wasn’t until I directed that I realized how much I appreciated just not doing anything. It sounds really bad, but it’s true. How nice it is to say “I’m going to go back and wait for everyone else to do their job.” The thing that is really crazy is that then we are the ones who get so much of the accolades. You never see people congratulating the DP on setting up an amazing shot while shooting or telling a sound guy “Hey, that sounded great!” Everyone is constantly going up to the actors, though, and being like “That was awesome, dude.” Then if we need food or water, they bring it to us, and it’s not fair, but in my opinion there is no competition to it.
DIABOLIQUE: With Truth or Dare and other recent releases of its ilk, do see this area of tying childhood games to horror as a new direction or subgenre for horror?
CAMERON: Oh we saw Would You Rather last year, and it’s a great film. Honestly, anyone who hasn’t seen that film should. When we saw it, we already had our basic idea for our movie, and originally our film was going to be that the characters were playing different games of their youth, like Truth or Dare, Would You Rather and Spin the Bottle. I think Would You Rather has opened a new subgenre, because there is this anticipation of the torture aspect but they don’t actually show much of it on camera, unlike torture porn. This is especially so since the acting is strong across the board that they don’t really need to show the torture. It’s a really cool film, and after we saw it, I was like, “Crap, I don’t really want to use [the Would You Rather game] in our film anymore.” So as time went on, the script started to get very cluttered so we decided it would be best to just focus on one of the games anyway.
DIABOLIQUE: With your devotion to the story of Truth or Dareyou’re your willingness to direct to keep the film independent, do you think that the horror genre itself is better suited in the world of small-budget filmmaking, as compared to being a higher budget studio affair?
CAMERON: I think horror is the only genre that should be done [for a] super-low-budget. It’s the only genre that the core audience doesn’t go to see because of a name attached to the film. Try asking a fan of romantic comedies, and I have, when the last time they saw one that starred nobodies, unless it’s on Lifetime, at which point Lifetime is the selling point. People do not go out and see or rent some unknown romantic comedy. They might see every one that Matthew McConaughey or Kate Hudson are in, but not for the concept itself. Horror fans will see a horror film regardless of who is in it. Yeah, if there are names in it that’s great, but if there’s not, they’ll still see it.
It’s one of the only genres where you can actually make a film, have it get release, and have it do well even if you didn’t spend $12 Million to get a so-called “A Lister.” I appreciate that. I think it’s opens a lot more doors to do a film on a micro-budget scale because it gives you a lot more freedom. The fewer people holding the purse-strings, the more freedom you have as a filmmaker. If we had made Truth or Dare as a big studio picture, the movie would be drastically different. It wouldn’t even be because we had more money to play with, but because more money means we have more people telling us what we can and can’t do. Once the film is seen, it would be obvious that some major scenes would had to have been cut or toned down, which I hate. I think a lot of what is coming out of the big studios is just watered-down, generic and boring horror. It’s formulaic. I like horror that makes me feel something, even if it’s to feel vile, disgusting or dirty after watching it. I want to feel something, and too often that feeling is being removed [by studios] to make [horror] palatable to the mass audiences. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
DIABOLIQUE: Even outside of the budgetary constraints a film can have, horror has seemed to evolve over the years from visceral and supernatural horror of the ‘70s, to the slashers of the ‘80s and then into the torture and gore films of today. Do you think Truth Or Dare is a movie that could have thrived 10 years ago or does it need the kind environment horror films exist in now?
CAMERON: We would have had to change it if it was 10 years ago. There are just some things that are so controversial that people would not have understood at that time. It makes a lot more sense once the film is out and able to be seen, but there are just things now that we, as a culture, are more aware of that would have had to be explained 10 years ago. It would not have been as strong of a story, in that sense. So for me and the story I wanted told, it would have had to be made today.
DIABOLIQUE: Are there any story or filmmaking trends in the horror genre that were more inspirational to you when making Truth Or Dare?
CAMERON: I don’t think I even thought about the trends. I just had this idea for a story that I wanted to flesh out. Really our starting point was the central villain. I just wondered, “What would make this guy snap?” It’s a kind of guy we all know. He’s modeled after that desperate actor who just wants fame and fortune more than life itself. So we started with that and went from there with the idea of what could happen if he were to snap. So we weren’t really concerned, quite frankly, with trends or anything like that. We just wanted to see where this character would naturally go and see what we could push him to do.
DIABOLIQUE: With acting being your passion, are there any iconic roles from the history of horror films you wish you could have played?
CAMERON: There are so many. I am a huge fan of Martyrs, and the female lead in that, I think, would have been an amazing experience. I wouldn’t change that movie for the world, though. I think it’s a masterpiece of film. I don’t think anybody could have done it better. Actually, here’s something I’ll say, and horror fans might hate me [for saying it]. I, personally, was not a fan of Shelley Duvall in The Shining. I felt that she looked out of place. I was not crazy about her acting. I guess she held her own against Jack Nicholson. That’s not saying that I could, since I think that would be one of the greatest difficulties, especially in what I feel is the masterpiece of his long and brilliant career. That being said, I feel like I could have given it a better try than she did.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you think filmmakers or actors who tend to be genre-specific have a responsibility to the fans of their films?
CAMERON: I think they should. I think the horror genre has the greatest fans in the world. Should they have a responsibility to these fans? Yes. Do they often? Sadly no. I mean, as a fan of someone, you can look at the bigger picture, like “They have to be able to eat and pay their bills and therefore they will do something more commercial”, but I would like to see more filmmakers find that balance. Just because you might need to make that pay and sell out that one time doesn’t mean it’s all you have to do. If that really is all you want to do, then more power to you, but you need to still find time to follow your passion.
DIABOLIQUE: Do you have any genre projects you’re coming up?
CAMERON: Well, I’m really excited to have a bunch of projects lined up. There’s a couple things we’re in talks for projects that I’m writing as well producing; including a few up in Canada. Some of which include my favorite, wonderful Canadian filmmaker: Ryan M. Andrews. I’m not sure which one is going to go first, but fingers-crossed that we’ll have more of that coming. Truth Or Dare 2, I don’t know what we’re calling it, is currently in the development process. So fingers crossed that that will also be coming along soon. Axeman At Cutter’s Creek 2, I am happy to announce that I have a role and I can’t wait for you guys to see that. It is going to be really, really fun. I am heading to Florida to join up with Brian Troxell and his crew for their new film. So, I’m lucky that I’m very busy and blessed.
Stay with Diabolique to learn more about Truth Or Dare, and if you plan to be at Calgary Horror Con on August 3rd and 4th, make sure to check out Truth or Dare and let Jessica know Diabolique sent you. To view the teaser trailer and help contribute to Truth or Dare’s Indiegogo campaign, you can visit the project here. To purchase tickets and learn more about the convention, which features Cameron, Tony Todd, Tom Savini, Herschell Gordon Lewis and Bill Moseley, you can check out www.horror-con.ca
– By Matthew Delhauer
Matt Delhauer is a graduate of Ramapo College of New Jersey, with a degree in communications and digital filmmaking. As an avid fan of horror films since childhood, Matt has had years of exposure to the best, worst, and many in between. Outside of film Matt also holds knowledge in several fields of media and entertainment, from literature to television, which are all met with an eye for analysis and a love of entertainment. For more of Matt’s work take a look at his blog at www.gingergeekblogs.blogspot.com or follow him on twitter: @MattDelhauer