I’ve conducted about a dozen interviews for HorrorSociety since I started writing posts in January. This time, the interview is with horror actress and writer, Kelsey Zukowski. I recommend this interview to HS readers not just because Kelsey talks about her career and upcoming horror films The Melon Heads, Scream Queen Campfire, What They Say, etc; but because she lets us into her mind. Kelsey speaks on the horror genre and film making in an artistic and realistic way that I haven’t seen or heard in any of my conducted interviews so far. Just to throw in a quote so you can see what I mean, Miss Zukowski says, “I am a strong believer that the horror genre is capable of endless possibilities in communicating disturbing truths.” So, I encourage you to read this interview and see what she thinks of horror film, her upcoming projects, and a lot of other interesting things.
I just posted a little press article for The Melon Heads along with some stills from the film. On the East Coast we have a legend about melon heads that involves mutant children who look like aliens, but The Melon Heads film you’re in seems to revolve around a cult. Any crossover potential or is it strictly a cult of crazies?
The Melon Heads myth seems to have variations all across the country. This version actually included rumors of mutant people as well, but the director, Eddie Lengyel, based it off of his experiences. My character is actually based off of someone he worked with in high school, the Melon Heads’ neighbor. She said that their mutant nature was simply talk, but that they were a dangerous cult. This version of The Melon Heads really explores the cult avenue and the philosophy behind their brutal, animalistic methods.
Another one of your films, Psycho Street, has generated quite a lot of buzz especially because of the cast including Tiffany Shepis, Deneen Melody, and Raine Brown. You’ve been acting for a short time, but you’ve already worked with some top names in the horror genre. Is there ever a little bit of a culture shock for you when you realize you’re making it big?
Psycho Street actually marked the beginning of my career as an indie horror actress. It was a little less than a year ago now that we filmed the segment I appeared in. The biggest shock is in just realizing how drastically my life has changed since then. I’m extremely thankful to be so involved in something I am this passionate about.
There are several projects you are involved with that belong to Sick Flick Productions and Jonathan Moody. How did you form this relationship with them to be featured so heavily?
Jonathan asked me to adapt one of his short scripts into a feature-length script. I think my knack for writing a brutal yet twisted and psychological script stood out to him. He’s been my constant collaborator ever since. We work really well off of each other and I’m thrilled for everyone to see what we have in store.
I’ve said recently that Scream Queen Campfire is my most anticipated horror film of 2011. Every time I speak with a cast member I ask for some tid-bit of information on the film. Can you throw me a bone, as they say? Anything about your involvement with Scream Queen Campfire?
Scream Queen Campfire has the potential to be huge. I’ve written a number of the segments for the series, including Night School, Wrong Number, Evil in the Basement, and Scream Queen Bloodbath. Aside from the insane amount of all-star talent involved, what really sets it apart is there are so many creative and chilling horror tales, all very different brands of horror, in one film. Jonathan and I really tried to make each film unique, not just from each other, but from others in its sub-genre of horror, to really push the capabilities.
Another film with Mr. Moody, Trick or Eat, premiered one piece of the puzzle, Valentine’s Prey, not too long ago. What can you tell us about your piece of the film, Ritual of The Dead?
I’m extremely excited for Ritual of the Dead. Moody and I co-wrote it and we will be co-directing it as well. It will be my first time directing, but it’s a challenge I very much look forward to. Since Moody and I work together so well as co-writers and we created this together, I think it’s the perfect chance to push that collaboration further. Plus, zombies, rituals, and backstabbing always make for a fun film.
You will also be taking part in a webseries called Echo Lake. What do you think are the positives to releasing films on the internet as opposed to in theatres or DVD?
It’s so much more accessible. Especially with film festivals, the film is available to a select number of people in a certain area where the film is showing. Whereas with a web series it is literally available to anyone and everyone. With a web series, especially with one like Echo Lake that is so grounded in mystery and horror, it allows the viewer to get sucked in, with plenty of lingering questions, leaving them wanting more. If we were to put all of the episodes on DVD it could take away from some of the suspense that you get in a series that you can only watch one episode at a time. It might eventually go to the DVD format, but for now as a web series all of the mystery is there to bring out the enticing elements of Echo Lake.
What horror fanatics may not know is that you are actually a horror author as well, whether it be scripts or for websites like HorrorYearbook. What kind of things inspire you to write and where do you find the time around your acting career?
I really don’t have time, but I try to be as involved in as many compelling projects as I can handle. It’s hard because writing a script especially is so much more time consuming, not to mention I still have to juggle it with my day job. Really, as long as I can survive and do what I love, that is what matters.
Film is my first love with writing being a close second. I have been writing movie reviews since I was 14, which really enhanced my appreciation and passion for the medium. I love acting and being such a large part of so many great films, but what I love even more is being able to write and create. I’m most influenced by real life injustices, the dark side of human nature, and societal norms. I am a strong believer that the horror genre is capable of endless possibilities in communicating disturbing truths. When I’m writing, I am in control. The outcome is in my hands, a liberating freedom you rarely get in the real world. I’m really interested in creating horror films that are meaningful, in my opinion, horror at its best.
What are the rest of your plans for 2011?
I am nearly wrapped now on two films that will be premiering at The Chicago Horror Film Festival in September, What They Say and Headline News. I wrote the script for What They Say, based on Heather Dorff’s short story, and I star alongside her in the film. I really have the up most confidence in the film. It’s a very dark, intriguing, and surreal psychologically centered film. It explores so many aspects of good and evil, battling with outside powers and inner strength.
Headline News is a psychological thriller, exploring how far one would go to hold fame and recognition for a discovery so revolutionary, it would change life and death as we know it. It was a blast to film. There are so many talented people involved, which will surely translate to the final film.
Another project I’m excited for is Matthew Cichella’s Poetic, an intense thriller that questions the selfish, lustful, and deceiving nature of mankind. It really twists the theory of fate and is far more dramatic than a lot of the work I have done thus far. In the fall, I am set to film Slasher, the first segment in the Dark World anthology by Zack Daggy and Darkrider studios. It’s a very witty and stylistic film, serving as a satire on the many norms and clichés of the slasher genre we all know and love. There are a number of other projects that are still in development, I will be thrilled to see them come to life throughout the rest of this year.
I hope everyone enjoyed this interview as much as I did making it for all of you. I can’t wait to see all of the upcoming Kelsey Zukowski films, and even more so the ones that she wrote. I love horror films that push boundaries or bring something new to the table and I think Kelsey could be one of the horror actor/writers to do that. Consider me a fan! I hope this interview generates more fans, too. Good luck with everything in the future, Kelsey, and thank you for your time. (PS: follow Kelsey on Twitter here.)