Actress-producer-director Jessica Cameron is actively breaking gender stereotypes in the horror genre. Her multi-award-winning directorial debut, Truth or Dare, is set for distribution this year, and her new film, Mania, is in its final editing stages. She has too many films to count in various stages of production, all while traveling to film festivals and actively connecting with her fans through social media.
Jessica took some time out of her busy schedule to talk with us about her experience as a woman in horror and some of the projects she’s looking forward to this year.
Dread Central: You started your career in fashion before jumping into acting and are now producing and directing films. How has your background shaped where your career is heading?
Jessica Cameron: Honestly, my fashion background has shaped very little related to my career in film. I was raised in a family who ran their own successful company, and that has shaped every element of who I am today, including my work ethic. I was raised in a home where everyone living under the roof was expected to work seven days a week in some form or another. Growing up, I would go to school Monday through Friday and work the evenings and weekends, so working sixteen hours a day on a film set feels oddly normal to me. My father always said that the key to success was being the first to arrive every morning and the last to leave every night. Words that guide me to this day.
DC: What are some of the challenges you face as a woman filmmaker?
JC: I think it would be a shorter list to name the things that are NOT a challenge. Honestly, it’s tough. Every room I walk into, I have to prove that I deserve to be there as much as the male counterparts. So many still in our genre don’t want to take women seriously. I have even had other directors and producers assume that I could not possibly be a real horror fan, to the point that they have quizzed me! (Yes, I pass every time, silly boys.) Even managing a set, when I am the one paying people, there are always a few men that take issue with that and who don’t give me the respect that they give their male co-workers. You would think if they took a job from a woman that they would not have this issue, but alas, some do. Needless to say, I don’t work with people like that a second time. Even the press can be so sexist at times. I cannot tell you how often I see personal attacks in articles related not only to myself, but other women filmmakers, usually in reference to their looks, dress, opinions, etc. Meanwhile, I never see male filmmakers getting attacked for their looks, outfit, etc. I have pointed it out to a few of them, and in one case the writer’s response was literally that I was being a “princess” for complaining. More people need to step up and respond when they see sexist and derogatory comments in articles. It’s not acceptable.
DC: You’ve definitely earned your title as a “scream queen.” Does that title make you feel limited to acting in the horror genre?
JC : Not at all. I feel honored that people care enough to give me the title! I love the horror genre so I am pleased to work so much in it. I personally don’t find the other genres as fun to work in either, and at the end of the day I need to love what I am working on to give it my all. Any day that I get to act is a great day; if it’s in a horror film, that just means that it’s going to be even better! I have worked in other genres, but horror will always be my favorite to watch and act in!
DC: Let’s talk about your weaponry experience. You are a badass.
JC: Thanks! I have been blessed to have worked in more then a few films that have required weapons training. I love the educational aspect of it so I jump in every chance I get to do any type of training. It really helps me connect with my character. The whip is probably my favorite weapon to play with, and if you don’t think that it’s a weapon, let me assure you that it’s quite dangerous if you know how to use it. I can toss lightweight objects from one side of the room to the other, I can cut you, immobilize you, etc. And it’s a lot of fun. I have also received sniper training, various gun training, various sword fighting training, some hand-held combat, tumbling, and kicking training, too.
DC: The LGBT community is very underrepresented in the horror genre. Your upcoming film, Mania, is a “fucked up lesbian love story.” How can other horror writers involve LGBT characters without stigmatizing them?
JC: Honestly, I think just by living without judgement and then writing without judgement. Your characters should be who they are meant to be, and they should be well developed and realistic, at least in my opinion. I also think it’s important to tell original stories – ones that have yet to be told and ones that connect to current audiences. I was blessed to get to meet some active members in the LGBT community when we toured with Truth or Dare, and they are some of my favorite people to this day. With Mania, I just saw this wonderful couple, who loved each other so much that they would fight for the other, and in my mind they were both women.
DC: What women have inspired you in your career? Whom do you learn from?
JC: As an actress I look towards the original scream queen herself, Jamie Lee Curtis. I have so much respect for her, how she has handled her career and her personal life, the projects she selects, etc. As a filmmaker, the Soska Sisters are a never-ending source of inspiration. They also happen to be the most intelligent, passionate, beautiful women I have ever known. Also Mary Harron, whose film American Psycho is one of my all-time favorites; Jennifer Lynch, who’s fought to carve her own path in the film world regardless of who her father is; and of course Jennifer Kent, whose film The Babadook was one of my favorites in 2014! Also, though not female, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett write really original and strong and vibrant female leads in their films. More, please!
DC: You always talk about how important it is to share what you love. What projects from other women in horror are you excited about?
JC: Pain Killer Jane from the Soska Sisters tops the list. This will be the first time we get to see a strong, female comic book character written and directed true to the material. Any project from Gigi Saul Guerrero. She created some of my favorite short films. I am eagerly waiting for her to tell a longer story. I will be first in line! Jacqueline Ess from Jovanka Vuckovic, which is a tale from Clive Barker that I love. I just know Jovanka is going to go full throttle with it!
DC: What projects can we expect from you in 2015?
JC: Truth or Dare will be released, which is very exciting. I cannot wait to share this film with the masses. Mania is finishing the edit at this moment, and I cannot wait to show the world my little fucked up lesbian love story. Kill the Production Assistant (which is the documentary on the making of Mania and Desolation) will get completed and be the first truthful look at no-budget indie filmmaking in a feature-length film from my dear friend and wonderful filmmaker Aaron Lane. Desolation, Save Yourself, and A Grim Becoming are all scheduled to start screening at film festivals this year, and Utero is currently being marketed. I have a few more offers on the table for this year but never like to reveal my hand till the contracts are signed! Stay tuned…
DC: What would your message be to other women wanting to get involved in the horror industry?
JC: Understand your boundaries and morals and stick to them! Lots of people will try and get you to compromise in the film industry, and for the most part you will have to comply with them (in terms of acting or actors, casting, locations, schedules, budgets, marketing, etc.), but never compromise your morals and personal boundaries, whatever they may be!