Gimme a break - 5 minutes with Sonia Campbell

 

Sonia Campbell has become an integral part of the US-horror-indie-scene over the last years. The talented and stunningly charming Mexican is a real all-rounder. She is a screenwriter, special effects artist, set- and costume-designer, actress, producer and composer. 

 

The gore-geous horror geek works as a writer and producer for the independent film and advertising production company CROWN CHIMP, who have already designed concepts for well-known brands such as ADIDAS, BMW, COCA-COLA, EBAY, HBO or WARNER.

 

We are sure that their name will be heard much more often in the future and so we are pleased to welcome her today in our wonderful torture cellar.

 



MMM: Sonia, thanks for your time for us today. Let us start with a very important and emotional question: your first visit at a Movie-Theater. Tell us about it. What did you watch, what did you feel?

SC: So I remember this very well. I was about 3 years old, living in the Philippines at the time (Clark Air Force Base).  We’d get movie releases there a year or two behind. The film was STAR WARS, and I sat in the very front with my older brother.  He read the words to me as floated over the screen in the opening of the film.  Ever since, when I see a new STAR WARS film in the theater and those words start to scroll, I think of that moment. I felt a sense of wonder and excitement, like this was the beginning of something huge.  And, it was. Haha!  But I absolutely love being in the movie theater, and the feeling of anticipation when the film is about to start.

MMM: Be so kind and give us a little intro about you and tell us the story of your career.

SC: I’ve been a writer/producer with Crown Chimp since 2015, and before that I was working occasionally as a freelance MUA.  Crown Chimp is a small film & commercial production company based in Arizona (though we work all over). As a huge horror movie fan, I first got involved in film a couple decades ago (!) when I began to learn the art of special fx makeup. I took courses, but was mostly self-taught. I apprenticed under a couple of great fx MUAs for a few years, then started to actually take on jobs as a freelancer.  Work for that in this state is very sparse – but I had fun on indie features and shorts.  Over time, I realized another passion was gnawing on me – writing. I always loved to write, and felt I was good at it, so I decided to start studying screenwriting. And that’s my main focus now, though I am happy to get dirty with the stage blood when the opportunity calls. I’ve written two feature scripts as of now – LET THE DOGS OUT, which is a werewolf horror comedy, and DENTURE FANGS, which is a transcendental vampire horror, which we (Crown Chimp) are currently working towards getting made.  That script was a quarter-finalist in ScreenCraft’s 2019 horror screenplay contest, and a semi-finalist in ScreamFest LA’s 2019 screenplay competition, in earlier drafts – and the short film it’s based on, “Old Man Forever”, was just accepted into the 2020 Women in Horror Film Festival.  We’re about to submit it to more festivals this year and see what happens. I hope people enjoy it!

MMM: Please tell us about the last moment when you really felt fear (movie, book, nightmare,…)

SC: It’s funny, I don’t feel it as much anymore.  I remember when I was younger just being scared randomly about things like demons, haha!  But now, I’m more just curious and accepting of fear. I think when it comes to fantasy and fiction (films, books, etc) that’s meant to induce fear, I hardly ever get that scared – and when I do, it’s not for very long.  I do feel fear when I think about real things like loved ones getting sick and dying… the inevitable horrors of just being a human being. But, those feelings come and you just have to let them go.  Sometimes it helps to feel all of that when writing, at least.

MMM: What are your favorite monsters of all time?

SC: Dracula is my favorite. He’s the ultimate badass. He has this epic, romantic backstory, and will stop at nothing just to be reunited with Mina.  He’s a character you can really feel empathy for, while still knowing how deadly he is. And of course, some of the great portrayals of the character in film are forever enthralling: Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Frank Langella, and Gary Oldman. I just love how the Count never gets old, no pun intended. He’s a classic, and I love his charm and charisma. By the way, as far as vampires go, I’d also add in Radu from SUBSPECIES as a fave.  Oh, and Klaus Kinksi as NOSFERATU!  That Herzog film in in my top three movies always.

Another favorite is THE THING. This is a perfect monster in every sense. When I talk about this creature, of course I mean the imagining from the Carpenter film. Bottin’s fierce practical FX that brought the monster to life in its many forms – from the upside down spider head to the twisted up Huskies – is pure genius.  Every horror fan knows this is the epitome of FX work and cannot be topped.  But anyway, as a fictional monster, I love how unbeatable The Thing is… in the world of the film, at the end, is there hope?  I don’t see how. Earth is done for – so that’s a pretty spectacular monster!

Ok I know I just said the Bottin THING can’t be topped in terms of creature design but … of course there’s the ALIEN. With the one-of-a-kind artwork from H.R. Giger at the helm, the Aliens are something no one had ever seen before… and they are truly terrifying.  Imagine coming up against even one of the Facehuggers—no fucking way! The Aliens have this insect quality to them, where their movements are so quick and their bodies are all segmented and weird… add to that the acid saliva. Yeah, it would take a cat like Jonesey by my side to even TRY to fight those beasts.  Absolutely unique – I can’t believe the first film came out in 1979!  Monsters now hardly ever have that much attention to design. I would say another great creature design that comes to mind, though, is PUMPKINHEAD. I just wish he’d been in the film more!

MMM: What is the charm of making independent movies?

SC: Well, in an ideal indie world (the 90s?) – it would be the freedom and the control.  Freedom to do your vision the way you intend, and control to make it at your pace.  HOWEVER, that’s not really how things are in present day reality. Indie now, if you want anyone to SEE your film, is the almost the same as mainstream film but with less money, more challenges, no help, emotional pain, and … ok, wait you asked me about the “charm” of it.  I guess, it feels good to be more about the art of film as indie filmmakers, than to be on the side of hoping it makes us millions of dollars. Making money is a bonus if it happens at all, but the indie film world, to me, is more about genuinely wanting to do the film you really set out to do and have an impact on an audience. I wish there were easier ways to find funding and get decent distribution, but … anyway, the charm is the art of it.

MMM: If you could realize any movie idea you got in mind. What would be the story and who would you cast in it?

SC: It’s the one we’re hoping to make – DENTURE FANGS, which is the story of an elderly man with dementia, dying in a nursing home when he’s accidentally turned into a vampire. From that point, he starts to regain his memories and heads out to find a lost love, all while dealing with the horrors of his deep, dark bloodlust. You know this was Dracula inspired! If I could cast anyone as the lead, it would be Terence Stamp. And in my dreams, it’s a Hammer Films Production.  Someone, help us out. Haha!

MMM: keyword #metoo: what has changed since October 2017, when all the nasty truth came out?


SC: Oh man…. People don’t really change who they are at their core. If you’re someone who thinks they have nothing to offer but opportunity, and are willing to “trade” that for sex and affection – that’s kind of your programming for life. Unless you get therapy and work on that shit. But there will likely be this sort of trade aspect (for all sexes and any combination) in the undercurrent of the film industry, for years to come. Right now it’s just not as obvious, and people are more about covering their asses. Unfortunately, I think it has created too much paranoia and backlash on people that don’t deserve it. I feel for anyone that has been taken advantage of. Speaking just for myself, my “metoo” hashtag would be #probably. I have encountered creeps as a woman in my life, but I personally don’t get that bothered and know how to deal with it. That’s not necessarily a common mindset, but I don’t like to feel like I’m a victim EVER. I try to look closely at my choices, decisions, and actions and the reasons behind them - personal responsibility. Luckily I haven’t found myself in some of the worst situations we have heard about in the news, and I don’t know how I’d handle it. A big fat cat like Weinstein with all the pull he had, and you just got to pretend to be into him? I imagine that gets into some regretful territory, and it’s good to see he’s reaping what he sown. Things that have changed seem to be generic – like FORCING diversity. As a woman, and a Mexican, I find that kind of thing actually appalling.  Showcase talent, and relax about INSISTING it’s diverse. Have different races and sexual orientations in your films, but don’t make it weird – be real about it. ( I think The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina does a really  good job with their diversity.) It’s really clear when someone just throws in a token character to add diversity. That doesn’t really help. I think the #metoo movement is the first step in a very long, overdue process of undoing old school mindsets.


MMM: Where do your creepy ideas come from? Who or what inspires you?

SC: I live in fantasy land a lot so I just let my imagination loose and see where the story goes.  Recently I’ve written some micro shorts and found that was pretty fun and easy. There’s always something to grab out of your brain if you let it roam. Lynch calls it “catching the big fish”. Steven Pressfield wrote a book about it called The Artist’s Journey. I think all of my favorite films, filmmakers, and writers have a piece in inspiring my ideas, because I picture actual scenes when I imagine stories – how it should look and feel and sound… every detail I can conjure. And I wouldn’t know how to form a scene in my head if I hadn’t watched so many films (and TV shows). I really enjoy movies that have a ton of attention of art design. I get nerdy about themes, colors, and tiny details that give a film its look. I enjoy the craftsmanship that goes into set design, makeup, wardrobe, and more. All of these important details inspire my imagination.   So, there are a ton of people who inspire me-- from Eiko Ishioka with her brilliant costume design to Benjamin Loeb, who was the cinematographer on MANDY and worked so beautifully with shadow. The various artists involved in filmmaking create those moments/scenes that can impact you on a deeply profound level. Then you just want to be part of creating that for someone else in an audience!

MMM: What are you are working on now and would you be so kind to reveal some of your future projects for us?

SC: I mentioned a couple things already with the vampire feature and short. There’s a lot of steps in that involved, and no guarantees of anything – but that’s a big focus right now.  I’m also working on my third feature, which is titled WHITE CLIFFS.  It’s a very weird, psychedelic folk horror that I’m sure I’ll be writing for several months to come. I think I’ll also write some more horror anthology micro shorts – those seem to be in demand at the moment, so I want to have several in my pocket. CREEPSHOW, call me.  :D

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