08th Dec2017

Horror-on-Sea 2018 Interview: Jessica Cameron talks ‘Mania’

by Philip Rogers

Mania is the latest film to be directed by Jessica Cameron, which has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival on Saturday 20th January. I got chance to talk to Jessica and ask her a few questions about what we can expect from Mania, the inspirations behind the story and the difficulties of working on an independent film.


What can we expect from Mania?

Mania is a lesbian love story which has been described as a cross between Thelma and Louise (1991) and Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986) which I think is an accurate description. It’s about these women who have been in a relationship for a couple of years. They are madly, passionately, deeply in love and unfortunately, one of the women suffers from Mania. Circumstances in the first five minutes of the film cause anxiety to spike and shit happens. Her lover’s reaction is to take her away from that situation, hoping she comes back to her. As they travel across the country, unfortunately unbeknown to the innocent lover, the mania gets worse instead of better and the bodies start to pile up.

Mania has the tag line of “A f**ked up lesbian love story”. Would you say this is as much a love story as a horror?

I think it is. I would argue it is probably more because everything that happens throughout the film up until the very end is done for love. The reason why the cops aren’t called, the reason why she takes her lover away, why she fights to bring her back. It s all because of true love and the power that has.

The script was written by Jonathan Scott Higgins who you co-wrote Truth or Dare with. Did you have any input in to the story or script for Mania?

Oh yeah, I am always really actively involved in my scripts. In fact, I am usually sitting next to the writers. With Mania I actually had the entire six or seven opening minutes completely all done in my head, because I had a dream that kept reoccurring. I almost filmed it shot for shot to what was in my dream. That was the original inspiration for the script and that’s how we got the funding and interest to do it. I have this idea then it usually sticks in my mind. If an idea doesn’t go away after a couple of months, then I think its good enough to go for funding.

During the filming process what were your influences for the style and look of the film?

A lot of the time with independent films, I personally don’t have the luxury of saying this is what I want, I always say to my team this is the intention of what I am going for. I wanted it to be very real and not shy away from the use of darkness and shadows. I wanted to embrace the night. We had a low budget, so we had to get the broad strokes I was looking for and then I was open to suggestions. At the end of the day, on top of what I want we have to get the days in, get all the shots I need, and we have to make a film, it’s very much a balancing act.

There is one nearly four minutes sequence in the film which is a fantastic, single shot. Something I never would have dared to dream to film in that manner (as a single shot). It was really complicated because we had five other actors in the scene. We had the two girls break into the house to steal the keys. There is a couple having sex and a guy asleep on the sofa. So, we have the girls breaking in, the guy on the sofa awakening and going to the bathroom, the girls trying to steal the keys, with the couple in the bedroom having sex. The man comes back to the sofa and the girls are trying to get out of the house unseen. It was really complicated to do, but we were able to do what would have taken us twelve hours in three and a half hours. Most of that was lighting and walking, we had to run it 6-8 times to get the timing down and shot it five or six times. With a one shot you don’t do insert pieces, so you have to check it to make sure there are no reflections, nothing out of place, nothing is wrong, because you can’t fix it when your editing. If it’s a one shot you can fix it. Robert Rodrigues always says to have a dog when filming. What he is referring to is you always want something to cut away to. Because you can always cut away to a dog and the audience will be “Oh look a dog” and a one shot doesn’t allow you to do that which is why I don’t usually plan for shots that are that complicated but when the opportunity for them arises I embrace them with my team.

Were there any elements in the finished film which were different to the original script?

Yeah, for me a script is always the best version of the story at that time. When filming you do the best you can to tell the story then and editing you do the best you can to tell the story then. So, I try not to be really precious and hold onto the original concept or details. Shit happens, especially in independent film. We don’t have a luxury of buying our way out of problems. We shot it whilst driving across country so that was challenging and an incredibly difficult thing to do. When we got to filming we cut a bunch of dream sequences because we realized it was going to be too long, so we cut around 20 pages out of the script. In my opinion I want my films ideally to be in the 80 – 90-minute time zone since that’s the standard currently. Once I realized we were going way over that, changes had to be made. Even though the scenes we cut were really cool and dynamic its finding that balance right between what you can do with the realm of what you have.

In your first directorial feature Truth or Dare you directed and starred in the film, why did you decide not to act in Mania?

In all honesty I felt that me starring in the movie weakened it and my performance was suffering because I was trying to be behind the camera. So, I just felt for all reason included that if ever you have the opportunity to not do that, you are better off to not doing that. It’s always hard either way, when you direct and act since you can’t be in two places at once. However, in Mania we had big problems with the actors, drinking and drugs and other stuff. When you are dealing with an independent film set, with independent actors you’re not dealing with agents and managers often, so when you catch them drinking at 10 am in the morning you can’t call someone and have them fix it or reprimand them. With that being said I am starring in my next film which is the lesser of two evils, as I have learned. When you are doing an independent film, it is difficult to find actors who want to do it for the right reasons and work a 10-12 hours day without complaining. The reality of the matter is, a lot of these people that want to be actors, but don’t do it full time and quite honestly can’t handle that. For me I felt that in hindsight, after doing Mania I should have possibly done it and it would have made the lives of everyone involved easier.

You do both directing and acting, what do you prefer being behind or in front of the camera?

I like both for very different reason. I love to direct, and I am such a huge horror fan and I like being able to bring stories that are not getting told life. Being a filmmaker allows me to put original content into the genre world, I like to tell stories that are not getting made and I am really passionate about that.

Also, I love giving people the opportunity to do what they love. So many people have not been given the opportunity to actually focus on something that they are passionate about, so in my world of low budget filmmaking I can give you opportunities. I can’t necessarily pay you what you would like, but I can give you the opportunities and allow you to get experience doing something your passionate about. From the acting side it’s that ability to transform into a character. The art of being someone else and making that believable to the audience. It’s fun for me and something I just love to do.

They are two very different aspects of film which I am equally passionate about and I don’t see myself doing just one anytime soon.

Do you have any other projects which you are working on at the moment?

Right now, we are getting ready for the Mania release.
 An Ending, Lilith, Solitary Confinement, The Tombs and Kill the PA are all in post – stay tuned for more details including where and when you will see those available and at screenings.
Red Eye and American Guinea Pig: Song of Solomon are screening at film festivals now. Besties is in prep. My witch film, Truth or Dare 2 and another game movie are at script stage…

 All the details on all the above can be found on the social media pages for each of the films.

What advice would you give to someone looking to direct their first film?

I always recommend that you get on as many film sets as possible, and learn what works and what doesn’t. It’s always best to learn from other’s mistakes as opposed to spending the money to make those mistakes on your own. Experience is priceless, and you will also meet lots of cast and crew and get to see how they work and determine who best will fit your team.

Mania will be playing at the Horror-on-Sea Festival on Saturday 20th January at 10:30pm; and will be introduced by the films producer Mem Ferda, who will be attending the event.

For more information on the event and to purchase tickets for the Horror-on-Sea please see the website for details: https://www.horror-on-sea.com


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