Monday, February 8, 2010

Interview with Filmmaker Rachel Grubb

Rachel Grubb is a multi-talented actress, director, writer and producer that has taken the horror world by storm ever since she appeared as Amy in St Euphoria Pictures’ The Monster of Phantom Lake. Since then she has acted in numerous independent feature films such as Unholy Reunion, Tales of the Dead, Cave Women on Mars, Terror Overload, Camp Kill and Strip Club Slasher. She played a creepy ghost in Dav Kaufman’s 13 Hours in a Warehouse and she played the lead role in JP Wenner’s Retina, which appeared on The Horror Vault DVD.

She recently finished directing her first feature film Why Am I in a Box? from Silent-But-Deadly Productions, the non-profit all-female production company she runs with her friend Brooke Lemke. Rachel has been an in-studio guest on Maxim Radio’s “Hotties Of Horror” week, and writes a regular Scream Queen column for The Chainsaw Mafia.

Fatally Yours: How did you fall in love with the horror genre? 

Rachel Grubb: I think I really fell in love with horror when I discovered Dario Argento.  We went to a local screening of a cheesy Italian B horror film, and they showed a trailer for Deep Red. My friends and I had always enjoyed horror movies, but was then that I really got hooked. I was so intrigued by the creepy dolls and the walking dummy and whole atmosphere in the trailer that I had to track it down, along with the rest of his stuff.  It was then that I also started watching a lot of David Cronenberg’s stuff. Videodrome got me hooked on his work, and I have been ever since.

Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you?

Rachel Grubb: Mostly, horror means fun! Entertainment. A return to childhood when everything was new, and a sound I didn’t recognize would make me jump. Only now, it’s a nice feeling.

Fatally Yours: How and when did you get involved in the horror genre?

Rachel Grubb: After I found Dario Argento, I got more and more into horror, and I discovered the work of Jess Franco. When I saw Soledad Miranda in Vampyros Lesbos, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to be a lesbian vampire sex symbol?”  I hadn’t really considered acting at the time, so it was just a passing fancy, or so I thought. Then, a few years later, I started taking acting classes. I was just looking for any roles I could find at the time and didn’t have much of a focus. I got a small part in NFTS Productions’ Doomed to Consume, and I decided, “This is what I want to do!” I never really wanted to get rich and famous as an actor. Doing horror is a way for me to keep playing fun and challenging roles and have people who appreciate what I do, without having to be in the tabloids.

Fatally Yours: What is one thing you’ve done within the horror genre that you are most proud of?

Rachel Grubb: I am proud of my role in 13 Hours in a Warehouse. It’s been the most successful of all the films I’ve done, and also I’m proud that people took notice of my role in spite of the fact that I had no lines. I had many people tell me that I was their favorite character, and I think it’s great that I was able to make an impression just with my onscreen presence.

I’m also quite proud of my performance in Cave Women on Mars. It’s a comedic sci-fi film done in the style of 1950′s drive-in movies. Christopher R. Mihm really gave me the opportunity to develop the character of Hagra how I wanted.  I was using all kinds of odd little influences. There was a little bit of Bettie Page, some Tura Satana, Anita Pallenberg’s character in Barbarella. When I started talking, Hagra had this weird, nondescript accent that didn’t really make logical sense, but it was perfect for an homage to bad 50′s sci-fi.

Fatally Yours: Do you feel women in horror get the proper recognition when compared to their male counterparts?

Rachel Grubb: I do think that women in horror have been getting more recognition in the past few years. However, I don’t feel that we get recognized in the same way that men do. I think that there is still too much emphasis placed on our appearance. There are many beautiful women in horror, but there is more to us than just that.

Fatally Yours: As a woman in horror, have you found it harder to be taken seriously in a genre that seems to be dominated by males? 

Rachel Grubb: When people find out I am also a writer and director, they tend to take me more seriously. Everybody knows I act, and I also model. I think they assume that if I’m off getting paid to be pretty and get my picture taken all the time, that I must not be very good at acting. Or very smart. Good looking guys who act and model aren’t really judged that way. I’ve had people tell me how surprised they were to learn that I had won an award for a screenplay I wrote, when they thought all I did was act and model. I was actually interested in writing and directing first, and acting didn’t come until later, and modeling came after acting.

While I’m happy that people respect me as a writer/director, I wish that women could get more respect just for acting in horror films. We scream queens have to be ready for anything! We have to be good sports about being covered in nasty F/X makeup. We also need to have a wide range of talents, because we can be asked to play anything from comedy to drama. It’s not just standing there screaming and looking pretty! It’s hard work! Some people think that indie horror doesn’t require any talent. But when you’ve only got one take because the sun’s going down, and the budget means you can only use the F/X once, you’ve got to know what you’re doing!

Fatally Yours: Have you ever felt exploited as a woman by any roles you’ve taken? Have there been certain roles you wouldn’t take because you felt exploited?

Rachel Grubb: I always try to make the most of every role I’m given. If I’m playing a role that seems like a typical ingenue/victim, I do my best to play her strength and bring out some real personality in her. If the role is boring, I do what I can to make her interesting. If she’s a stereotype, I try to bring out more sides to her. I approach it as an acting challenge, instead of a problem.

There was one role I didn’t take, and it was because I felt exploited, but it wasn’t a horror movie. There was a short film I auditioned for that had a lesbian scene, which included nudity, all of which I was fine with. That is, until the director called and offered me the role and told me about the other actress. He said, “I don’t know if you’re bi or whatever, but you won’t be disappointed if you are!” I was speechless, and he basically tried to get me to tell him if I was into girls. Which I would not say, because it has nothing to do with acting. If I’m going to do a scene like that, I’m not going to be discussing with the director how hot and sexy the other actor is. It’s more important for us to just feel comfortable with each other.

Fatally Yours: As an actress, do you feel roles in horror for women tend to be weaker or stronger than those for males? 

Rachel Grubb: In the past women were portrayed as weaker, but I think that’s changing. There have been some great horror movies with stronger female roles in recent years, and the horror audience has really responded to it. I think we’ve seen that there are women in the horror audience, and that men can appreciate a strong female character, too.

Fatally Yours: What are your overall thoughts on how women are portrayed in horror films?

Rachel Grubb: I want to see more women behind the camera. That goes for every genre of film, of course. I think only way we can make a difference in how we see ourselves portrayed in movies. That’s the philosophy behind Silent-But-Deadly Productions, the all-female production company I run with my friend Brooke Lemke.

Fatally Yours: What has been your favorite character you’ve portrayed?

Rachel Grubb: Gosh, that’s a hard question to answer! I had a lot of fun with Terror Overload, because I played several different characters. My favorite one was Bobbie Rae, the hillbilly hooker, because the character was so over-the-top and funny.

I also enjoyed my role as Shelly in Group Home. Shelly was the manager of the group home who was snorting and dealing meth while the residents were there, and even while she was breast feeding. The film was a dark comedy, and it was a challenge to humanize the character and still make her funny when she had so many unlikeable traits. The director, Ted Dewberry, also made a short film called Perversions, in which I play a very troubled young woman named Rhonda. She has just had gastro-bypass surgery, and has stopped eating completely and has to have a feeding tube put in. She is an alcoholic, and she uses her feeding tube to pour the alcohol directly into her stomach. I am very proud of my work in that film, too. Both films are available at the Longcoat Films’ YouTube channel:

I also did another short film called The Straw Man, in which I played the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay. It was my first time playing a real person. I listened to a recording of her poetry to get a feel for her voice. She was a challenge for me, too, because she was bigger than life, but she was real. I had to create her as this woman with a tremendous personality without making her look like a cartoon character.

More recently, there was my role as Susan Shepard in Bad Girls Burn in Hell by Travis Miller and Joe Hollow. They gave me free reign to create the character how I wanted. I had specific ideas about her, from her wardrobe to her mannerisms. Everyone on the cast and crew thought that I gave her a very distinctive presence, even when she wasn’t speaking.

Fatally Yours: Since you’ve been involved with the horror genre, have you noticed a change in women’s roles within horror whether it be roles in horror films, women behind the camera, women writers, etc.?

Rachel Grubb: Yes, I’ve been happy to see so many women getting involved in the production side of horror. I don’t feel that horror is more male dominated than any other genre, but I do think that horror is thought of as something that women aren’t supposed to be into. What kind of a woman is into blood and guts? Well, me, for one, and most of my friends! Female writers know how to write women, and that’s why we’re needed here.

Fatally Yours: What women in horror do you look up to?

Rachel Grubb: The first answer to this question is always Debbie Rochon. She’s so talented, and I never get tired of seeing her in anything. When I first realized I wanted to be a Scream Queen, I looked to Debbie Rochon as everything I wanted to be.

There is also Angela Bettis, Barbara Steele, Soledad Miranda, Ingrid Pitt, and many more.

Fatally Yours: What would be your dream role?

Rachel Grubb: In a perfect world–one in which Heath Ledger was still alive–I would like to play Dr . Harleen Quinzel with him as the Joker. I’d love to see the Joker play a smaller role in the next Batman movie and take a backseat to the main villain. It would be interesting to see him at Arkham interacting with Harley for the first time. And I would love to work with Heath in that role. When I watched him for the first time, I felt the same way I felt when I saw James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause. I had to wonder what it was like to be in his presence when he was like that, and what it would be like to play off of him as an actor.

Fatally Yours: What advice would you give aspiring women who want to become involved in the horror business?

Rachel Grubb: First of all, don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with. If you don’t want to do nudity, don’t do it. Don’t say you will just to get the role. If you don’t feel safe doing a stunt, ask someone about it. Have the director demonstrate it for you. If the director is too scared to do it, s/he shouldn’t be asking you.
I would recommend anyone, whether they are interested in acting or directing, to take acting classes. Directing taught me so much about acting, and vice versa.  All different types of acting, ranging from comedy to drama, are found in horror, and it’s all worth learning about.

Fatally Yours: In your opinion, what makes the perfect scream queen and who is the ultimate scream queen?

Rachel Grubb: The perfect scream queen is an actress who loves and respects the horror genre. She may be involved with projects outside of horror, but she never feels that horror is beneath her. She does not want to be ridiculously famous, only to keep contributing to the horror genre, improving herself as an actress, and having fun.

To me, the ultimate scream queen is Debbie Rochon. I’ve seen her in several films, some good and some bad, and she always works hard and makes the most of her role.

Fatally Yours: What inspires, influences and motivates you?

Rachel Grubb: It’s hard to explain. It’s this feeling that I think most artists can relate to. When you make something, and you get this feeling that this thing exists because of you, and no one else could have made it. It may be brilliant, or it may be awful, but it’s unique in that it could only have come from you. I suppose it’s the reason why some people have kids.

Fatally Yours: What are your goals for yourself within the horror genre?

Rachel Grubb: I want to direct my own horror feature. I have a script that someone wrote for me that I absolutely love, and I hope to go into production with next year. Apart from that, just to keep learning and improving at acting and filmmaking. I wanted to be able to look back on all of this and feel like I was always pushing myself to do my best.

Fatally Yours: Where can people find more info on you?

Rachel Grubb: Silent-But-Deadly Productions’ official website is  You can also add me on Myspace and on Facebook and follow me on Twitter.  Also, please visit my IMDB page.

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