Women In Horror Month: An Interview With Michelle Tomlinson
I first met Michelle on the set of GEORGE’S INTERVENTION, a low-budget horror comedy I co-wrote and co-produced (renamed by the distributor GEORGE: A ZOMBIE INTERVENTION and available on ITunes and Amazon, wink wink). Skin pink, hair matted to her head by gallons of fake blood, eyes bloodshot from the sixteen hour shoot, and she still had a smile on her face. In fact, it’s rare to find Michelle not smiling.
Of course, she has a lot to smile about these days. She’s become a cult icon amongst a certain set, a Scream Queen drenched in low-budget gore. Attending conventions with her and seeing a growing fan base wade through the crowds to meet her, it’s easy to see how films like THE CELLAR DOOR or Kevin Tenney’s BRAINDEAD have permeated the lexicon of low-budget horror.
And, through it all, the New Mexico native keeps her positive energy high and attacks her career goals with tenacity.
So, I give you the next to last interview for Women In Horror Month.
(Note: Though Women In Horror Month ends today, I have a special interview that will be posted in the next few days to really close it out. Check back for that interview to learn the truth of what it’s like to work with Romero, Cronenburg, and Demme).
Let’s start with a pretentious question that the tweed jacket stick-up-their ass types would ask: Why horror?
First off, I love Tweed Jacket Stick-Up-Their Ass types! They’re usually the ones funding projects, right? I kid, I kid.
I grew up watching Horror, Action and War flicks. I’ve always loved the creativity that’s behind Horror. I actually fell into Horror as an Actor in doing The Cellar Door and Brain Dead. I love how Horror pushes us through the boundaries of our own minds. While some of it is incredibly formulaic, there’s still moments that cause us to think outside the box. Not to mention, I love having the bajeesus scared outta me from time to time!
You’ve developed a pretty badass partnership with fellow horror-ista Kimberly Amato. How’d that come about?
A fella named Theron Neel had reviewed The Cellar Door as well as a Film Amato was in: Under the Raven’s Wing. He also interviewed both of us. After he interviewed each of us and got to know both of us, he said we absolutely had to be friends. I think we started with emails and all that hoo hah on Facebook then wound up with her building my website which then morphed into doing some short projects together. And, obviously, Theron was right: we became truly amazing friends. I am blessed to have her friendship, she’s f**kin’ awesome!
In “The Cellar Door,” you spend most of your time trapped in a little cage. Did you get claustrophobic filming that?
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have my moments. The cage was literally smaller than a shower stall at the gym. I never got to a freak out point about it or anything, but hot damn it felt good to get out and stretch my stems!
“GEORGE: A ZOMBIE INTERVENTION” was your first comedic role. Did you find any challenges in doing comedy that you didn’t expect? Would you do it again?
Comedy scares the hell outta me, I will be the first to admit. Now that I have done George’s
and another Film called Pathetically Cheap Adventures of Xtra Man
, I do find it a tad less daunting… But I find, especially at that time of doing George’s,
that comedy is beyond difficult for me. Some people are naturally amazing with comedic timing. I am a great smartass in my life, but put me in front of a camera and tell me to do that… Eeek!
BUT. I had a blast shooting them and the challenge was a fun one. If I come across another comedy sometime in my career, I’ll be less apt to freak out…
You have tried to play the business side of the industry with some jackass named Hodson and seemed to make a lot of headway in trying to get some funding for a production company start-up only to see the funding vanish at the last minute . Do you feel the economic climate we’re in hinders independent films? Do you think it’s harder to get horror movies off of the ground these days?
Yeah… That jackass Hodson. Lemme tell ya something about that guy… Oh wait. Um. Shit. You almost caught me there, speaking in third person like that! haha In all seriousness, unless you have a major connection with money or a shitcan of Angel Investors, it’s a fascinating time right now. One of my closest friends has been producing for years and is amazing at it–and that person is having a helluva time raising funds for a truly great project. I don’t think anything is impossible. That’s just limited thinking. But I do believe in “turning the dinner plate” and keep looking at things from a different perspective.
What hinders Indie Films, in my opinion…: The economy obviously has a lot to do with it. Big time. And the media constantly in our faces talking about what a shitty economy we’re in only fuels people’s fears. So even people with a ton of money that can afford to fund films or start up companies, etc., are holding on to it because of the fear that we’re fed through the wire.
Another thing that hinders Indie Films is people giving up. This is no walk in the park. Not at all. Anyone who tells you different is lying thru their ass and you should check your pockets after you speak with them. This Industry is built on dreams and the ability for dreams to come to fruition. We see people accomplish the difficult all the time, so it feeds us with hope. With that hope comes a drive and a passion that supercedes anything we’ve ever done up to that point. And when we hit brick walls, we think it’s the end. When actually it’s just a detour telling us we need to “turn the dinner plate” and approach from a different direction. There’s a zillion great scripts out there not getting made from lack of belief it can be done.
If you’ve got a stroke of genius luck, you spend 11 grand on your film and it turns out a huge hit like Paranormal Activity. Thankfully we have sites like Indie Go Go and Kickstarter that help Indie Film Makers (Horror Included) get funding together. There are a lot of avenues. DIY has become increasingly popular, and that really seems to be the way of the gun these days.
You appeared nude for a short scene in Kevin Tenney’s “Braindead.” Since then, fans have scattered pics across the internet, something you haven’t been happy about. Will this prevent you from appearing nude in a film again? Is this something actresses should just get used to in the age of YouTube and Google Image?
I think the most awkward part of that was getting an email from some dude in China saying that image was his desktop on his computer. There’s just things… I’m super good never knowing! When I shot that scene, I thought: who in the hell is gonna make a big deal of me being ‘nekkid’ for two seconds? I mean really. LOL Little did I know! It doesn’t really bother me anymore, but at first I was shocked and icked out. Yes, I said icked out. As for future nudity, it depends on the story and character. For example, in Kevin’s film, it simply moved the story along in the moment and it was brought up later by my character as an apology for making a move on the other character. No biggie, it didn’t steal from the story or my character. It was a blip on the radar of nudity. There was another script that I had booked and the nudity wasn’t long, but it was gruesome and extensive. As awesome as the rest of the script was, I had to turn the project down cuz I couldn’t wrap my head around just how exploitave the nudity was. So would I do it again? You bet. But it’s gotta meet some Tomlinson Requirements. HA!
What’s been your favorite role so far?
I honestly don’t have one. All of them have been some form of challenge or another, I just love working.
What is your dream role?
Series Regular in an edgy supernatural cable show whose character is a mix of Holly Hunter from Thirteen and Helen Mirren from The Debt. I just re-read that and realize how ridiculous it sounds, but that’s the first thing that came to mind. Mixed with the character from that new Hodson script. You know the one. 😉
“Horror is dead,” is a common and not-as-witty-as-they-think-it-is pun writers use to describe the state of the genre. Is horror dead? If so, how can would be Dr. Frankensteins revive it?
Oh good grief. Horror is NOT DEAD! I think it’s hysterical anyone can even derive that conclusion. I guess it also depends on their perception of horror. Hell, real horror is Snooki and the rest of those Real Housewives and whoever The Situation is.
I digress. If Horror were, indeed, dead… Then I’d love to know why shows like American Horror, The River and The Walking Dead and True Blood are so popular. Or even going CW, with the Vampire Diaries, Supernatural and The Secret Circle. Not that any of these shows rely on uber gore and fx or are really scary slasher style horror, but there’s one basic fact: Horror has made it to Network TV. That means Executives in the big studios are very well aware that Horror is alive, kickin’ and bleedin’! Good Horror SELLS. If it was dead, then we wouldn’t still be in the midst of such a resurgence. Now. Please phone your fellow Executive and let them know I have four kick ass scripts (not written by me!) that could use a little of their dollar love. 😉
Finally, given that it is Women In Horror Month, what is it like being a female in the genre? Do you find it has an impact on what type of roles you’re offered? Do you feel typecast in certain roles like “the victim” or “the tough chick?”
Being a female in the genre is a lot of fun, to tell you the truth. A big part of my creativity and seriously fun collaborations have been in this genre. There are some truly BAD ASS and inspiring girls I’ve met that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Not to mention all the other humans I wouldn’t have met otherwise. It’s a tight knit genre and I feel very blessed to be a part of it, to whatever degree I’m perceived to be a part. I generally don’t feel too typecast. Although my essence lends me to definitely get the stronger, tougher type of characters. But that’s an essence thing, not a Horror thing. I also book Voice Over gigs, as well as films that aren’t Horror. Horror is my first love and I hope to continue in the genre as well as continuing other types of characters in other types of projects. I love the world of Acting and creating…!
Brad C. Hodson is a writer living in Los Angeles. His stories have appeared in anthologies alongside Neil Gaiman, Chuck Palahniuk, George RR Martin, and many more of his literary heroes. For a listing of his literary and film work, please check out his Bibliography at https://brad-hodson.com/bibliography/