photo by by Joshua Phenicie
Your movie Awesome Ouija Board - in a few words, what is it about?
Awesome Ouija Board is a horror comedy about two turn-of-the-century women who
decide to spend an afternoon playing with a homemade ouija board. Of course
the results are disastrous.
What were your inspirations for thinking up Awesome Ouija Board, and
how did the project get off the ground?
Awesome Ouija Board is a silent short that we made for the NorthWest Film
Forum's silent movie challenge. I made it with my team members Forrest Baum,
who co-directed, and Ada Karamanyan, who co-wrote and starred in it. I
came up with the idea because I thought that it would be clever if a ouija
board were to predict the death of the players of the board all because the
board itself was planning to fulfill the prophecy. But of course we wanted to
keep it fun and funny.
What can you tell us about your approach to comedy as well
as to horror?
Actually I approach comedy and horror, all
genres for that matter, the same way. I take it seriously. Whatever we're
doing, and whatever the story, even if it's absurd, I take the world of
the story seriously. I see the stakes for the characters as real stakes.
No matter how ridiculous they may be, they are serious for the characters.
That way it's believable for the audience and I think it makes the end
result funnier or scarier that way.
photo by Joseph Traina
Do talk about your directorial approach
when making a film!
I try to give the cast and crew the
information that they need before the shoot. It's important to me that
they have not only the script, but other things necessary to their role
whether it's character breakdowns, prop lists, or anything else. Even
though my films are shot on a smaller scale I have all the important
paperwork done because that is important to keep things running smoothly.
I also give homework, usually a list of films to watch for inspiration.
However, it could also be images to look at, a book to read, or whatever I
feel is appropriate. As far as working with the cast I try to play to each
persons individual strengths. I've found that some actors are more
comfortable with improvisation while others really need lines to be set.
Some actors need more preparation and others are ready to jump in right
away. I try to provide a flexibility so that everyone can meet in the
also act in some of your films - so do you
dream up the character with yourself in mind, and how much of Tonjia
Atomic can we find in your characters?
I love to act. I
can't help it. I love screen acting. It's different than stage acting
where everything is big. It's subtle and introverted and I relate to that.
Many of my stories come from dreams or daydreams where I'm picturing or
have dreamed myself as the character. For me, to act out that character is
a cathartic experience. I can't imagine doing it another way. I
don't always plan it that way, however. A few times I've planned to only
direct I've had cast members bail or get sick and have had to jump in and
play their role. As far as how much of me is in my characters? I'd say
that I take an aspect of myself and exaggerate it. If for example a
character is particularly shy or bossy I look towards that part of myself
and blow that up.
photo by Joseph Traina
few words about when you're on set, such as the atmosphere?
try to keep the atmosphere laid back while still keeping the shoot on
track. I've been on ego driven sets or sets that are uptight and I tell
you, they are no fun. I want people to take what we're doing seriously and
to work hard, but also to have a good time. Making a film is difficult but
also fun and should be fulfilling in some way.
can you tell us about audience and critical reception of your films so far?
had such a good response to my films. I'm very grateful. The biggest
complaint I get about any of my films has to do with budgetary restraints.
I understand that. As I was telling a friend recently, so far made all of
my films with $2 and a dream. If I actually had some sort of a budget to
work with I could do much more. However, I've been nominated for and won
awards with what I've been able to do at this point. I've also had great
critical response from publications that I really respect and enjoy. I've
also had great fan and peer response which is priceless. Again, I'm so
You plan to make Awesome Ouija
Board a segment of an anthology movie of yours, right? So do talk
about that project of yours for a bit! And any other future projects of
yours you'd like to share?
Yes, it's an anthology project
that introduces the character of Meat Head Henry, the skinless killer,
played by Bill Oberst jr [Bill
Oberst jr interview - click here]. I intend to also make a feature film with that
character. I've got a few other films in the works. I'll keep you posted!
Tonjia with Bill Oberst jr at the FANtastic
Horror Film Festival
photo by David Biber, Nick Danger
What got you into the
filmworld to begin with, and did you receive any formal training on the
When I was very young I wanted to either act or
sing when I was older. Now that I'm older I know that creating the story
is what really drives me. That's how I came to decide to write and direct.
I went to a 2 year technical program at Seattle Central Community College
for film. Sadly, that program got cut a few years ago.
Acting, writing, producing,
directing, editing, composing scores and whatnot, you seem to have done it all - so what do
you enjoy the most, what could you actually do without?
enjoy all of it. Sophie's Choice! I could maybe give up editing to someone
that I trusted that was on the same page as myself, but even that you'd
have to really twist my arm for.
making movies, you're also a musician, right? So do talk about your
musical projects and your preferred musical styles?
rock/punk/goth kind of girl. I do love many styles of music including 50s
and 60s pop, Hawaiian, big band, and so much more. I really love music. I
insisted on having a radio in my room when I was 4 years old and would
spend hours next to it with my hand on the dial exploring different
stations. I'm in a comedy band called Duet To-It. We play paranormal disco
songs. My other band is called Filthy Issue, that's the more serious one.
We've worked on a few soundtracks and are working on a horror themed
photo by Joseph Traina
also have to talk about your jewelry line for a bit of course!
jewelry and nail polish line is called Hot Chick Physics. I use toys and
miniatures to make the jewelry as well as your traditional items. I have a
few horror pieces in my jewelry as well as nail polish. For example I have
a polish that I created for Brinke Stevens and also one for the movie
Krampus: The Christmas Devil.
How would you
describe yourself as an actress and a director?
I think I'm
a fairly patient director. I also pretty much know what I want in a scene.
As an actress I am still learning. I just try to embody the character and
give them a backstory as much as I can. I'd love to work acting-wise much
much more so that I can someday really answer your question.
whoever else who inspire you?
I'm inspired by the surrealist movement, Jean Cocteau, Fellini, David
Lynch, John Waters, Roman Polanski, Truffaut, Kurosawa, and others of
that vein. Also low budget filmmakers like Andrew Shearer, Nadine
L'Esperance, Cory Udler, and Joe Sherlock who just make the stuff they
want to and don't let anything stand in their way.
My filmmaking hero though, my all time hero that I would aspire to is
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
The 400 Blows is my number one all time favorite
movie. I also like Re-Animator,
Ran, the silent Phantom of the
so many more. I love many movies and could talk about this all day.
... and of course, films you really deplore?
I sometimes enjoy to see slick big-budget cookie cutter movies, those are
usually the ones that are most forgettable to me. If it's too cookie
cutter and predictable it'll annoy me, especially if it has worn out old
website, Facebook, whatever else?
My website is
Everything is linked to from there. You can also search for me. My other
stuff is all under my name.
for the interview!