Talking With the Dead: 13 Questions with Asta Maria Paredes
1. If you are going to get your start in the genre, there could be no better way to do it than you have! Your first film is Troma ringleader Lloyd Kaufman’s Return to Nuke ‘Em High (2013) in the role of Chrissy. Can you tell us what it was like being on a Troma set for your first film, what is Lloyd like to work with and what was the funniest moment while shooting?
Wow. Yea. I couldn’t be more excited about starting here with Troma. Well, the most common way to describe the Troma set is basically : summer camp. You have a set of rules, meals, and daily activities while carefree from the “real world”. In my case, I was away from the bustling city of New York and in Niagara Falls. I had nothing to do but focus on the film.
Lloyd is a joy to work with-Really!!! I had prepared to work with the reputation of someone who yelled at people on set -blah, blah. I realized quickly that-that only happened when people either weren’t doing their job OR when he thought someone was responsible for something going wrong. Since I typically did my job- I was fine. He’s also very open to suggestion and makes the actors feels like they have power over their characters. In exchange there is a beautiful give and take where he agrees to let you add a line and you agree to be covered in slime. ART! (Puns and rhyming are also a side effect of working with Lloyd.)
The Funniest moment…hmmm. There were so many but funny is a relative term when you spend 18 hours on set and exhaustion makes everything hilarious in order to cope. I would say the funniest moment for me was my first day on set. The first day of course being: “The love scene”. My first film. My first day. My first onscreen love scene. Most of the people on set I had never even met. Just as I had gotten into the scene and allowed all inhibitions out the door…I hear Lloyd yell ” Grab her Boob! Her Right one!” I think I just stopped and said something like, “Could you tell that to me in between takes, I was getting in the moment.” I get it. The scene ended up looking great and ultimately Lloyd had his reasons but how awkward. I got over it of course but I realized film is intimate in that you have to learn to forget all the distractions as silly as they can be and just do it.
2. As is the norm in any Troma film, there is an amazing cast and an interesting amount of cameo performances. Return to Nuke ‘Em High is no exception, with Debbie Rochon, Ron Jeremy and Lemmy from Motorhead. What did you think of the cast and crew Lloyd drew together for the film and did you have a chance to have any interaction with Debbie, Ron or Lemmy?
I thought it was fantastic. There were also rumors of other stars in negotiations to the point that it became a gag. I’m not sure how it started but everyone agreed at some point that Treat Williams should be in the film. He even showed up on our IMDB for a few weeks as “rumored”. I would have LOVED that. Treat Williams-Volume 2 is still up for grabs!
Anyway, everyone of the cameo performances were fantastic. I was thrilled to work with Debbie Rochon. We didn’t have much screen time together but I still learned a lot. She is a powerful performer and efficient. She does not waste a single take. Never more, never less. We also had a brief talk about what it is to be in the public eye and how to hold it together. Her words stay with me to this day and I admire the hell out of Debbie and hope to work with her again.
I did have some great moments with Ron Jeremy. He was lovely enough to do a great cameo in the film and even though he filmed separately – he still came to set to watch and support. I won’t give anything away BUT Ron was very amused with one of my costumes. You’ll have to see the film to find out. I didn’t get to interact with Lemmy or Judah (World Champion himself) or Stan Lee. (I would have fainted if I had) but all of them are fantastic people and I’m so honored they took the time to be in our movie.
3. The Nuke ‘Em High series does have quite a history and is a backbone of Troma’s history. The original came in in 1986, followed by Part II; Subhumanoid Meltdown in 1991, and finally Part III: The Good, The Bad and The Subhumanoid in 1994. Now almost 20 years later, we have Return to Nuke ‘Em High. How many times did you go back to them for reference, what did you try to bring from them into the new one and what did you try and build on?
Well, I went back I suppose to get influence for style but I can’t divulge more without giving up a huge twist that is the ultimate connection between the movies. Curious much?!
4. Return to the Class of Nuke ‘Em High follows a young couple that are up against the school glee club. Unfortunately, the glee club has mutated into a gang called The Cretins. When the other students begin to undergo mutations, our couple must solve the mystery and save Tromaville High School. What initially drew you to the project, how did you go about preparing for your role and did Lloyd give you “wiggle room” to ad-lib on camera?
What drew me to the role? Well the first pull was the association with the original “Class of Nuke ‘Em High” and the listing itself. It simply said: “Chrissy: Attractive, not so innocent”. I, of course, fit the profile. I submitted myself on casting networks and went about my day. I then got a request to audition and immediately scheduled. I had a friend at my work who was a huge Troma fan and when I told him, he immediately encouraged me. His name is Jarrid Crespo aka Jerry Skids. He was my secret weapon and prepared me for the audition process and I showed them I had what it took. (Thanks Jarrid!)
Lloyd absolutely gave us wiggle room to ad lib. In fact, I rehearsed for over a month and would the do the scenes in my own words and most ended up in the movie! Lloyd trusts an actor’s instincts and many smaller parts grew because of actors taking initiative.
5. Most people that get involved in Troma films do so because of the immense love they have for Lloyd and the films he puts out. Troma fans hold the films and their cannon very close. I know personally that I have been watching Troma films for thirty years. Were you a fan of Troma films growing up, which ones were your favorites, and if you could pick any of the other Troma series to be in, which one would it be and why?
I was mainly familiar with Class of Nuke ‘Em High but I’ve since become a big fan! My favorites are “Terror Firmer” and “Tromeo and Juliet”. Those are strictly in house productions but Troma releases a lot of great independent films. One of the more recent releases that I love is”The Taint”. Go see it! In fact, Drew Bolduc of the film worked of “Return to Nuke ‘Em High” doing special effects. Troma is a great breeding ground for talent in sharing new work and teaching future filmmakers how to self sustain their art from scratch. It’s film school for the truly passionate.
If I were to be in any other series, it would have to be the Toxic Avenger series and with “Toxie 5” in the horizon perhaps I might.
6. Judging from all of the pictures and the trailer I have seen for the film, Troma certainly has not dropped the ball on the gory FX and general nastiness. What did you think of the FX work in the film, how much interaction did you have with the FX crew and what was the craziest make-up you saw on set?
First of all, the special FX team was incredible. The amount of dedication, innovation, and perspiration they put into the film was incredible. I have the utmost respect for them. I had to wear a fairly difficult effect and I always felt I could talk to them and they could help accommodate me. The craziest thing I ever saw on set… I don’t want to give away spoilers but I thought the full body burn was crazy and the effects leading and after. The whole meltdown was CRAZY. They had only one chance to do the full body burn. The man in the suit was basically blind and he spent several minutes memorizing the feel of the steps. It didn’t take any acting skill to react to that.
7. One of the things I noticed in the International trailer for the film is a screenshot on the computer for the Pollution Nerdz site and a reference to firstname.lastname@example.org is made. You did a comedy short entitled Pollution Nerdz just prior to Return to Nuke ‘Em High. Was this a project before Return to Nuke ‘Em High, how did the decision to incorporate it into the film come about and will there be any further continuation for it?
Aha! It is actually a viral series. I started Pollution Nerdz after I was cast( since it is in the script) to help me give my character some background and perhaps make a prequel to the film. It has been a labor of love that will have a few more episodes in store. The idea I had was to allow people to get to know Chrissy and a look into this new Tromaville. I made blog posts, video blogs, a tumblr,a youtube, a gmail, etc. I even get junk mail for Chrissy and huge fans email Chrissy “leads and tips”. It’s fun because for awhile people thought it was either real or run by Troma. It was just me and my devotion to giving Chrissy a story. I was however lucky to have a network of people who were interested such as my costars Clay von Carlowitz and Zac Amico. I hope that people look back on it, see the movie and see the thread.
8. You are now and forever a member of the Troma family. When you envisioned yourself working in the industry, was Troma and horror what you were aiming for and what was the reaction of your family and friends when you confirmed you had the role in Return to Nuke ‘Em High?
I have only recently realized what I want out of the industry. I want to do provocative work. Plain and simple. One of my acting professors once told me that is what I’d end up doing, “provocative work” and here I am. I do love horror and sci-fi and would be more than happy to be a mainstay in the genres but I also love variety. As long as the role is compelling and something to challenge me–I’m in.
My family and friends were a crucial part of me taking the role. My mom did a lot of research on Troma and we’d compare notes and we would go back and forth. Eventually she supported me seeing it as a great leap. It was risky but in the end, they had a good feeling and they were right!
9. Troma has now begun getting ready for their documentary entitled Occupy Cannes, where you appear as yourself. Troma has been going to Cannes since 1971 to promote and sell their films to the market and meet their fans. This is also the second documentary Troma has done there, with 2002’s All The Love You Cannes. What are you seeing in this project that might surprise the casual Troma fan while preparing for it and what does this success of this documentary mean not only to Troma, but you as well?
Well, two words: The Internet. It is amazing how much grasp one can have with social media at your disposal. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get a twitter account! I think people will be surprised at the amount of coverage we have received and will receive once there. This issue of Independent Cinema is a big one and people are ready to speak out. We have an “Occupy Cannes” twitter, tumblr and will all be filming accounts there. I hope the “success” of the documentary is to show what it is to go to Cannes and what actually happens there. For me, I hope I learn more about the industry and still remain optimistic.
10. Troma has always funded projects out of their own products and through private investors, but now even Lloyd and Troma are utilizing Indiegogo to help fund the project. How do you feel social media and the internet has changed the way film get made (Troma films in particular), what are your thoughts on “crowdfunding” sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, and do you think that this process could bring a new age to Troma and film making in general?
I think they are FANTASTIC! It’s not only a tool to raise money but it opens up this whole new network of artists who are suddenly aware of each other. I find I support and promote various projects that I’m not even directly associated with. It’s like voting for what you think should have a chance to be made into art. It’s a beautiful thing and the fans and supporters are directly funding it and have a strong interest in its success. It’s a customized art world in which people could take back control instead of being fed the same stuff.
11. Now that you have had the experience of working with Troma and Lloyd, looking back on it, how does it feel to know that he has been one of the most influential men in Indie film history and if you could describe his career in 10 words or less, what would it be?
It was a wonderful experience and continues to be! In ten words: “A man who simply makes ART the way he wants!”
12. Since you have been with Troma, you have gotten a “look behind the curtain.” From the world famous Troma Headquarters, the craziness of working on the film and Lloyd being Lloyd, what will you take away from your experiences on the set, would you like to work with Troma films again, and everyone wants to know, did you get a peek at what the everyday life of a Tromette is like?
The main thing I take away is to let your “freak flag fly”. I won’t ever be afraid to be bold or myself–that’s for sure. I also know what it is to be tested and to be rewarded for it. I take pride and accountability in my work–that’s from Troma.
Tromette life or life of a Troma “Gyno” star is one where you must own your body and be unflinching. You must own this and celebrate it. I’ve learned quite expertly from conventions (and just being a woman in the city) to gracefully roll away unwanted attention and offense.
13. Thank you for the interview and I can not wait to see you in Return to Nuke ‘Em High! What can we expect from you next and what would you like to say to all of your fans out there?
Thank you! I can’t wait until you see it either! I’m so proud of it. Well, next for me is hopefully more action, sci-fi, horror, etc. I have a few things in the works and when I’m allowed to speak of them, I will. Other than that I hope to continue to do work I believe in and if anything- I will make my own.
Staff Writer and Director of Programming for Horror Society Radio. Owner of Slit of the Wrist FX and producer, actor, FX artist and writer. Film Credentials- The Forever Dead (FX, acting, producer). Z13: The Zombie Within (FX, acting), The Evil Woods (FX) and Mental Scars (FX supervisor and acting). Writing Credentials- GoreZone Magazine (UK), ShockerFest 2004 Program, ShriekFreak Quarterly, Dark Discs, Wicked Karnival and Scars Magazine.
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