Interview with The Ice Cream Truck Director Megan Freels Johnston

You’ve got to love new talent to the filmmaking ranks, especially when their projects come rushing in like a fresh breeze, stirring up a bit of stagnant air from time to time. Enter Megan Freels Johnston, granddaughter of the late, great Elmore Leonard – and family connections aside, Megan’s only had two films to her credit, but what an impressive double-header to kick of your career in the big chair! First came her psychological thriller Rebound back in 2014, and she returns with an even bigger project – it’s called The Ice Cream Truck (review), and it’ll make you think twice about running down the big white vehicle in the hopes of snagging some cold refreshment. She was gracious enough to give us a few minutes of her time to discuss a few topics, so read on and enjoy!

DC: Can you give us a description of The Ice Cream Truck‘s premise?

MJ: The Ice Cream Truck is about Mary, who moves back to the Suburbs from her progressive life in Seattle. She moves ahead of her family’s arrival and sets up her house alone. She soon discovers things in the suburbs are not as safe and picturesque as they seem. There’s an Ice Cream Man patrolling the neighborhood that has his eyes on Mary. He’s not the only one with his eyes on Mary. But Mary’s too busy trying to recapture her youth to notice.

DC: How did you manage to come up with the story behind the film?

MJ: The Ice Cream Truck is about what is scary to a woman in her mid 30s, a point of view that is lacking in the horror space. When I think of Ice Cream Trucks I think of the excitement of youth and I also think of how gross it is to buy ice cream from a stranger’s car. Especially the ones that serve real ice cream. The hybrid of nostalgia and creepiness was just asking for a film based around it. The script was originally titled The Ice Cream Man and I found out about half way through writing it, about the Clint Howard movie. I then quickly watched it and realized right away the films were in no way similar. I changed the title to The Ice Cream Truck and kept on going.

DC: With you being the granddaughter of Elmore Leonard, how much of his work inspired you?

MJ: Elmore was very inspiring. He was a very hard worker which inspired the people around him to work hard as well. There are no free rides, just a window into what can happen if you work hard. Creatively, one of the things I learned was, to always trust your gut with regard to your story. Elmore wrote for himself and didn’t try to please other people. I try to do that as well. Because at the end of the day, you can’t please everybody so you might as well be authentic. As a producer I worked on adaptations of Elmore’s work and between the projects I worked on and the films that have been made, I also learned a lot about how important tone is to a film. Elmore’s stories mix comedy and violence and when you do that, your tone must be right on the money. I think that’s why some of his adaptations failed and some succeeded. The ones like Jackie Brown and Out of Sight were so amazing because those directors really understood how to mix the genres so effortlessly.

DC: You’ve directed, produced and written – any thought of hopping in front of the cameras in the future?

MJ: Ha! That’s very funny to me. I used to act a lot when I was young. I mean, high school and younger. However, now I find being in front of the camera to be mortifying. I have stage fright to the point where I get major anxiety. I don’t like being the center of attention. I think that’s why I like directing so much. I can put this film together and shape it with the actors and the crew. I’m the puppeteer which is far less intimidating. The actors can be the stars.

DC: Lastly, after the release of The Ice Cream Truck, what can your fans look forward to from you down the road?

MJ: My next film is called Hunting Season. It’s far more of a straight horror film. It has my stamp on it for sure and my style but it’s scarier and a little gorier. I hope to shoot it sometime next year. I’m finding as I grow as a filmmaker that what I love about horror films and what I seem to focus on are the scary interactions between people. I love watching a film and not knowing who to trust so that seems to be the theme in my films.

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Matt Boiselle

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