Your new movie Triggered
- in a few words, what is it about?
is about a teenage girl whoís always looking for a cause and
a reason to stand out and she ends up gaining the attention she always wanted
- from a legendary serial killer whoís been terrorizing her town.
What were your sources of inspiration when writing Triggered,
and was any of it (not the killing spree I hope) based on personal
Iíve definitely encountered some people like
Callee in my life. Thankfully, most of them have been online and not in
person. Iím fascinated with people who donít seem to have a sense of
humor and take everything so seriously. There just has to be something
broken upstairs if you know what I mean. I was mainly fascinated with what
makes people like that tick. You hear so many stories these days about
high school and college kids freaking out about the tiniest little things.
In fact, I think it was an article I read about someone calling the sushi
in their school cafeteria ďcultural appropriationĒ that really got the
ball rolling on this. Iíd been working on another screenplay which was
more of a supernatural film and I was having a difficult time in the 2nd
act and I read this article and couldnít stop laughing. Iíd had
another idea about a spoiled teenage girl who fakes an attack by a killer
for attention and, when I read this article, a lightbulb went off and I
decided to combine the two together to really create something worthwhile.
To what extent could you identify with Triggered's
lead Callee actually - or Ian or any of the other characters, for that
People always ask me which character I am in
everything I write and, honestly, thereís a bit of me in every
character. I can relate to Callee wanting to do the right thing, I can
relate to Ian being socially awkward and not feeling comfortable in this
body, I can relate to Zac not wanting to rock the boat for fear of being
made fun of himself. Theyíre all me to an extent. I think what makes
Callee so interesting is that her main need is so universal - itís the
need to be noticed and appreciated. We all have that. Maybe not to the
extent that Callee does, but that really helped me tap into her character
and not make her just a psychotic monster. I really do feel for her,
because I think she does want to do whatís right a lot of the time, but
the way she goes about it is incredibly misguided.
being a slasher movie of sorts, is that a genre at all dear to you, and
what do you think will make your movie stand out of the crowd?
are definitely a lot of really fun slasher elements. I adore the subgenre,
but Iíve never been terribly interested in doing a straightforward ďa
gaggle of friends go off into the woods and die one by oneĒ slasher. I
think they can be a blast but I always like to make my movies ďabout
something.Ē Not issue movies necessarily, but I always want to bring a
little bit of the real world into it. My last film, Blessed Are the Children, was very much about religious extremism and a womanís right to
choose. Triggered, to me, is about social media, not stomping on our
allies, outrage culture, and the need to be seen which are all very
serious issues, but by wrapping them up in the package of a slasher film,
I think it makes the message easier to digest. Thatís the great part
about horror films - you can bake in all these messages that never feel
least for me, Triggered
has also a comedic twist to it - do you at all agree, and if so, do talk
about your movie's brand of humour for a bit?
Humor is very
important to me. Even Blessed Are the Children had moments that are very
funny in between scenes of suspense. I decided to go almost full-on humor
this time and I had a blast. I love comedy as much as I love horror and I
think they do go well together. If youíre able to laugh along with the
absurdity of the situations with the characters, it makes the moments of
horror and suspense all the more intense. Thereís nothing worse than
watching a movie that takes itself so seriously. You feel like youíre
being lectured at. I know, at first, many people were concerned that this
might be a mean spirited film based on the concept alone. They thought we
were advocating violence against social justice warriors or than social
justice warriors were crazed psychos. It was very important for me to get
the tone right and not ďpunch down.Ē We donít make fun of any one
group in particular. If anything, we kinda make fun of everyone. We
definitely have some fun with the Tumblr generation who seem perpetually
offended by everything, but we also make fun of the religious right and
their own ridiculousness. I think itís pretty balanced. Thereís
not really any character in this movie whoís squeaky clean.
you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
thought it was important to play everything very straight. The two
characters who are the heart of the movie to me are Ian and Gloria. They
need to be the audienceís eyes and ears. They say a lot of the things
that weíre thinking and you need a character or two like that in a movie
like this to balance out all the ridiculousness or it just becomes goofy.
That was the main thing I was trying to stay away from. I didnít want it
to become too cartoony. I think that, with this script, it could have
easily been like a live action cartoon, but Iím glad we managed to stay
away from that and ground it in some truth. I think that was the main
thing I wanted to bring to it - a sense of truth and realism.
talk about your key cast, and why exactly these people?
love my cast. I brought a lot of Blessed Are the Children
alums back, because I loved
working with them and itís interesting because they all play the exact
opposite of what they played in Blessed Are the Children. I thought that would be fun. It
really shows their range. I placed a few ads online to cast many of the
roles and that was pretty tough for the first few weeks. I remember
getting auditions from men in their 40s and 50s wanting to play Ian or
Zac and I was like ďwhat is wrong with you guys? Do you really think
youíre right for this role? Youíre a father of 3.Ē The women were,
somehow, easier to cast. We got so many great auditions that it was easy
to place them in certain roles. For Callee, most everyone got one aspect
of the character down, but they didnít get everything I knew I needed.
Iíd worked with Meredith Mohler on a production of the musical Gypsy and I had
the feeling that she could do it and, sure enough, hers was the only
audition that got every aspect of the character down pat. Plus, I remember
her actually scaring me and unnerving me during her audition and that was
a huge plus. It came down to two guys for Ian and one was really great,
but he was just too Ken doll-ish for the role. I wanted someone who was
quirky and interesting, and Jesse Dalton is so talented and has this really
expressive face and just got the humor of the script. It was an easy
choice. I knew I wanted someone really special for Gloria. In fact, the
role of Gloria and the principal were originally two different roles and
we were looking for two known actors to play those roles. Iíd seen
Amanda Wyss in a great movie called The Id where she played a mentally
unhinged woman living with her abusive father and Iíd been dying to work
with her after seeing and, sure enough, I was in contact with that
filmís director, Thommy Hutson, and he arranged for her to read the
script and, before I knew it, she wanted to do it. It was surreal. Itís
strange directing someone whose work youíve always admired. It makes you
feel like an idiot. I mean, what are you going to tell them that they
havenít already heard? They know what theyíre doing. Thankfully, she
seemed to see the character the same way as I did and there was no
conflict or need to correct anything she did. She was a blast to work with
and took it very seriously even with our crew of, like, 3 people. Iím
sure it was a bit of a shock to get to the set and see just how low budget
we were, but she was a great sport.
few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
was a really short shoot and it was far more ambitious than Blessed Are the Children
had far less time to shoot it, too. There was a digital memory card glitch
on certain days of the shoot which made us have to reshoot a few bits or
cut around some of the damaged bits, but everyone was in good spirits even
as I was pulling my hair out behind the scenes. It was shot in October
with a few days of reshoots in March, so the weather was fairly pleasant
throughout. Poor Jesse got sick towards the end of the first shoot and
then again at the start of the reshoots. He was such a trouper, though. I
remember everyone being willing to help out and there was no huge drama to
speak of. I do remember hating the night we spent at this church that was
doubling as the interior of the school. We only had one night to get all
the school interiors, so I was running around like a chicken with its head
cut off. Thankfully, all but two of the scenes we shot that night turned
out well, but it was a very long night and everyone was exhausted.
$64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?
is going the film festival route and has its first date planned for June
24th at the Texas Theatre in Dallas, Texas as part of the Fears For Queers
Film Festival. Hopefully, after that, itíll tour around and land a
distributor whoíll have it out within a year or so.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Triggered
So far, the critics have been lovely and seem to get
the humor in the film. Iím so thankful for that. I actually havenít
seen it with an audience yet. My first time will be on July 12th, so Iím
equal parts excited and terrified. You really never know if a movie like
this is worthwhile until you see it in front of an audience.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Iím working on several scripts at the moment. One is supernatural, the other
is a very creepy and disturbing V.C. Andrews-esque family thriller, and
thereís another thatís sort of a mix of the two. Thereís always
something cooking in my brain.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
The Facebook page is:
and the Twitter/Instagram is @Triggeredmovie
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
so much for the interview. This has been a blast. And be sure to check out
Triggered if it plays a film festival near you.
for the interview!