Blog Archives

‘Insecure’: Actress Veronica Mannion Discusses New HBO Series, Career

(Photo credit: Anne Marie Fox)

(Photo credit: Anne Marie Fox)

Veronica Mannion is fast becoming a rising force in the celestial world of the Hollywood scene.

The beautiful actress–who’s also spent time as a standup comedienne–can currently be seen in the HBO comedy series, Insecure. The show, based on series creator and star Issa Rae’s web series “Awkward Black Girl”, follows the exploits and racy tribulations of a modern-day African-American woman.

Mannion plays the recurring role of Kitty—Issa’s co-worker—who tries to be her friend throughout the season but almost sabotages one of Issa’s work projects due to her gossiping and prejudiced skepticism.

In additional to an impressive resume that includes stints on Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” and FX’s “American Horror Story”, Mannion has also written, directed and appeared in the film “Booze, Boys & Brownies”.

I recently spoke with her about Insecure, her career and more in this exclusive new interview.

How did your involvement in “Insecure” come about?

I was one of the lucky chosen to audition for the pilot. They booked me off tape so I didn’t even have to come in for a callback. I shot the pilot last September and then heard they wrote me into four more episodes in April. It was a dream come true scenario!

What was it that attracted you to the role?

Kitty’s the kind of person who tries too hard. She may be sweet but ends up coming across as annoying and judgmental. I think that I have that side to me, so it’s been fun channeling that version of myself.

What else can you tell me about her?

Kitty works with Issa at We Got Ya’ll and really thinks she’s making a difference at her desk job helping underprivileged kids.  She loves anything vintage, her co-worker Ken, and cats… obviously.

How would you describe the series? 

“Insecure” follows the awkward experiences and racy tribulations of a modern-day African-American woman, Issa Rae, and her best friend, Molly.  Some people are saying it’s like the black “GIRLS” or “Sex In The City”, but I think it’s what every HBO show wants to be: laugh out loud funny, authentic and with a lot of heart!

As a woman, what’s its like for you to be a part of a series that was inspired and created by Issa? 

Issa is an inspiration, not only to me but I think for all of us on set and for women everywhere. She’s so talented, funny, real and kind. She’s created not just an amazing show but a great atmosphere on set… and I think she’s going to change the world!

What’s the filming process like and working with Issa? 

A typical day can last from six to twelve hours. Since this was the first season the way it was shot and the tone (and even what our characters were eating or doing) was all a collaborative feeling. Issa definitely has a strong vision and point of view, but she was also open to people bringing themselves to the role. Everyone contributed to making Insecure the best it could be. It felt like one big family!

Did you always know that you wanted a career in entertainment? Was it something you always aspired to do?

I was one of those little girls singing in my living room, playing dress up and dreaming about the big lights of Hollywood.  My mom taught me that your thoughts create and to go for what you love to do. So here I am!

How did you become involved in doing stand-up comedy?

I started doing stand up when I moved to LA as a way to get on stage and get my acting fix! I realized that you don’t just have to tell jokes – you can do characters, sing, or even improvise with the audience. Stand up became my performance outlet. Somewhere where I could feel like I had power over my career just by making people laugh.

What’s the most challenging part of doing stand-up? What do you enjoy the most about it?

Probably the scene of it all and breaking through that next barrier. I don’t enjoy the bros, or the drunk hecklers but I love the immediate response of the crowd! You really have to be present during stand up because people will glaze over if you just go on stage and go on autopilot. You really have to be on your toes.

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

I just filmed a small role on “FEUD!” opposite Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange. It’s Ryan Murphy’s new FX show that premieres next year!  You can catch me in Episode 2.

What excites you the most about the new series and this next chapter of your career? What are you most looking forward to?

I feel very lucky to see my face on HBO!  I remember watching the second episode and thinking, “This is crazy! I’ve watched HBO all my life wanting to be on it and there’s my face!” I’m looking forward to more fun parts and more work with talented, good people! Whatever happens, I’m definitely enjoying the ride and feel so lucky to be apart of such a new awesome show.  I hope you watch and love it as much as I do!

‘The Caretaker’: Actress Meegan Warner Discusses Supernatural Thriller

thecaretakerWritten by Jeremy Robinson and directed by Jeff Prugh, “The Caretaker” is a new character-driven thriller that tells the story of a young woman who returns home to care for her gravely ill grandmother.

The film stars the beautiful Meegan Warner (Mary on AMC’s critically acclaimed series, TURN: Washington’s Spies) as Mallorie, an empathetic young woman who wants to do well by her grandmother. But in the process of staying in her grandmother’s vast Victorian home, Mallorie encounters bouts of sleepwalking and envisioning spirits, all while uncovering dark secrets about her family’s past.

“The Caretaker” was an official selection at Indie Horror Film Festival where it took home three awards, including the Director’s Choice Award. The film was also an official selection at FilmQuest, HellaCon, Gasparilla and the Fantastic Horror film festivals.

I recently spoke with Warner about “The Caretaker”, the final season of TURN, her career and more in this exclusive new interview!

How did this project come about for you? 

It was a pretty standard procedure. My agents sent me the script, I went in and taped with the casting directors and was later asked to come in for a chemistry read with [co-star] Sean Martini. Then a few weeks later, we were all on set!

What was it that attracted you to the role?

I remember coming in for the chemistry read and workshopping the audition scenes. It was the first time I met Jeff [Prugh], who was completely open to improvisation and suggestions. Meeting everyone and seeing how passionate and determined they were really drew me in. I just remember walking out of the room really wanting to be a part of the project.

How would you describe the story of “The Caretaker”?

“The Caretaker” is a character-driven thriller about a young woman named Mallorie who returns home to care for her sick grandmother only to discover that things aren’t as they seem. 

What can you tell me about your character, Mallorie?

Mallorie was such a gift to play because she had so much going on. She grew up with the knowledge that her mother abandoned her and her grandmothers health is deteriorating, She also struggles with her own mental heath problems and sleep disorders. I liked that she wasn’t your typical damaged horror movie girl though. She has great relationships outside of her family life. 

Meegan Warner (left) and Sean Martini in The Caretaker

Meegan Warner (left) and co-star Sean Martini in The Caretaker

What was the filming process like?

The whole experience was amazing. It was one of those projects where you didn’t want it to end. Jeff and Jeremy were awesome to work with. So open to ideas and encouraged improvisation. It was a very creative set to be on. The house we shot in was incredible and definitely added to the film. I remember Jeff saying something like he wanted the action taking place downstairs to feel like a drama and the events taking place upstairs to feel like a thriller. He really wanted the upper level of the house to have a dangerous vibe.

What do you think makes horror such a great genre? 

I think like any genre, it’s that escapism –the thrill and adrenaline. I love horror movies. If I’m choosing a movie to watch I usually gravitate towards horror. When you think about it, scaring yourself is a pretty strange thing to enjoy!

Did you always know that you wanted to have a career in entertainment? Was it something you always aspired to do?

The thought of being an actress never really crossed my mind when I was a kid. That whole world seemed so far removed from my upbringing. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I decided acting was something I wanted to do. I did the school play and just loved the whole experience. I don’t remember the exact moment when it went from being a fun thing to do to a career option, but it happened quickly and from that point on I was pretty determined to figure out how to make it work.

What are you most looking forward to about with the final season of “TURN: Washington’s Spies”? What can fans expect from the show and from your character, Mary?

I’m really excited and curious to see how the writers will wrap it up: if we’ll have time jumps and finish the war or if we’ll just continue on from Season 3. I know absolutely nothing, so I can’t tease anything! But I can’t wait to read the first script, and I hope Mary continues to surprise!

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

TURN will start filming soon, so over the next few months I’ll be working on that. After we wrap, who knows? That’s the exciting part about this job. You never know what’s next! I’d also like to give a shout out to another horror film I did in Australia. It’s called “Scare Campaign” and it’s getting a U.S release later this month. So please keep a look out!

“The Caretaker” is available now in multiple formats.

‘It Happened Again Last Night’: Actress Amanda Wyss Talks Powerful Short-Film, Other Upcoming Projects


Actress Amanda Wyss has built an indelible legacy with her eclectic body of work. Whether it’s her role as Tina Gray in the horror classic “A Nightmare on Elm Street”; her dramatic portrayal as Rabbit Layton in the 1989 Sundance Award-Winning film, “Powwow Highway” or even more recently, as a psychotic killer in television’s CSI, Wyss has a earned a reputation for portraying deep, emotionally-driven characters that progress the story forward.

One of Wyss’ most important projects to date may be filmmaker Gabrielle Stone’s upcoming short, “It Happened Again Last Night” . A film that tells the story of a woman named Paige [played by Stone], who must choose between love and fear before she has no choices left to make. Wyss portrays Paige’s mother in a flashback sequence but much like every role she plays, brings about an extra layer of honest creativity.

2016 has certainly been one of Wyss’ most successful years. In addition to her involvement in “It Happened Again Last Night” she was recently awarded Best Actress honors at the Santa Monica International Film Festival for her work in Paul Santana’s horror short, Oct 23rd. She’s also received high praise for her recurring role as Kat Cooper in the TNT series “Murder in the First” as well as the lonely woman caring for her domineering father in the upcoming thriller, “The ID”.

I recently spoke with Wyss about “It Happened Again Last Night” as well as her other upcoming projects in this exclusive new interview.

How did you become involved in “It Happened Again Last Night”?

Gabrielle Stone is such a smart, go-getting, incredibly talented young lady. She wrote and directed this film along with Roze and they asked me to be involved. I play Gabrielle’s mom in flashbacks. It’s an important story about domestic violence and not being able to choose who you love and about having to take care of yourself.

Photo by: Chris Heck

Still from ‘It Happened Again Last Night’ – Photo by: Chris Heck

As an actress, what attracts you to a script?

Obviously, it’s the story and about being challenged. But I also ask myself a lot of questions, like is it a role I can do justice to and will I be able to use the character to help move the story forward. With this role, I really loved the story and the people involved. Even though it’s a small part, it’s a very powerful moment where you get to see Gabrielle’s character become who she is. It was something I knew I wanted to be a part of.

What was it like working with Gabrielle on this project?

She’s fantastic. Gabrielle and Roze both knew exactly what they wanted and had the story so well thought out. We all had time to really go over the script together and talk about these characters and about why we were doing what were doing. Even though it was such a heavy piece, it was a fun environment to be in and everyone brought their “A” game.

Can you give me an update on another film that’s been creating a lot of buzz for you – “The ID”?

It’s going to be released at the end of October on Blu-Ray and then in November on digital. It was such a good role and the reviews for it have been really great!

How would you describe the story?

It’s the story about a woman and her father and the interesting dynamic of what happens between two people who are in a caregiver relationship. They’re both trapped in the past and trapped in their home—each with their own reasons for not leaving. How do you cope with that and how does your psyche interpret that information in order to create a better world in your mind than for what is actually happening? It’s definitely not a recipe for success—or for the faint of heart! 

Are there any other projects you’re working on?

I’ll be going to New York in a few weeks to start work on “The Watcher of Park Ave” where I’ll be playing a retired, hard-working detective. Then in the spring I’ll be doing a movie called “Catch A Fallen Star” that we’ll be shooting in Nashville. It’s another really good script where I’ll be playing Dee Wallace’s [character’s] sister. I love country music and am really excited about it.

 What are you most looking forward to about the next phase of your career?

I just love making movies, creating characters and digging deep into interesting people. So I’m looking forward to getting more of this joy. It’s been so fun getting to work with such young, enthusiastic filmmakers who have such wonderful projects going on.

Follow the progress of “It Happened Again Last Night” on Twitter.

Actress Alex Lynn Ward Discusses ‘It Happened Again Last Night’, Upcoming Projects

AlexLynnWardBorn and raised in New York City, Alex Lynn Ward grew up in a place that had plenty of resources to feed her acting bug.

She was accepted into the Drama Program at Frank Sinatra School of the Arts at the age of thirteen where she began honing her craft.

From there, her passionate work ethic led to conservatory and making her way to Los Angeles where she landed multiple film and television roles in addition to being part of national tour and hitting the stage in London.

Although well-versed in both drama and comedic genres (she’s also a stand-up comic), the beautiful Ward has recently taken on perhaps her most important role yet in Gabrielle Stone’s upcoming short-film, “It Happened Again Last Night” — a film that tells the story of Paige [Stone], a woman who must choose between love and fear before she has no choices left to make.

The producers have set up an Indiegogo campaign to help with the film’s completion and with fan support have already surpassed their goal. They’re now working towards a stretch goal, which includes some really amazing perks.

I recently spoke with Alex Lynn Ward about her role in “It Happened Again Last Night” and more in this new interview.

How did you become involved in “It Happened Again Last Night”?

I’ve been friends with Gabrielle for years. She’s actually one of the first people I met when I moved to L.A. from New York. She had been writing drafts of this script for a long time and had always asked me to read it. So when it came time to make the film she told me she’d love for me to play this role. I said, “Absolutely!”

What was it about the project that piqued your interest?

I loved the story and all of the things it stands for. On the creative side, I’ve wanted to work with Gabrielle for a long time. Opportunities like this don’t come around very often.

Photo by: Chris Heck

Photo by: Chris Heck

How would you describe the story of “It Happened Again Last Night”?

It’s the story of a girl named Paige who’s in an abusive relationship and is also involved in a relationship with my character, Kris. Paige doesn’t know what the right decision is but she has to choose between fear and love before she runs out of time, and she knows it’s getting to the end.

What else can you tell me about your character, Kris?

Kris is very in love with Paige. She’s also strong and very matter of fact with no BS. Although Kris and I are complete opposites I identified with her so much. It was cathartic to play this role.

What was the filming process like?

I can’t say enough good things about it. It was the smoothest, easiest and most stress free shoot. There was so much love in the room and everyone was on board from the very beginning. Gabrielle was so on and it was exciting to get to see her direct.

Photo by: Chris Heck

Photo by: Chris Heck

Did you always know that you want to have a career in entertainment?

I did. I grew up in New York City so the opportunity was always there. When I was 13, I got accepted into the Frank Sinatra School of The Arts where we had celebrity mentors and intense theater training. I knew then that this was what I wanted to do.

Are there any other projects you’re working on?

My Star Wars fan film recently won the JJ Abrams Audience Choice Award for our short, “The Sable Corsair”. That’s up now on Star and is very exciting! I’m currently collaborating with It’s Elizabeth Banks’ new venture to spotlight funny women. They have a few of my YouTube videos and we’re working on some original content as well. I’m also going to start work on a new short that’s part of “Twilight Zone”-themed anthology called “Spades”.

What are you looking forward to about the release of “It Happened Again Last Night”?

I’m so excited about this film. Everything is so beautiful and so well done. It speaks to what I really stand for and I feel the end product is going to be reflection of just how awesome it was to make. This is really going to be something special. 

‘Malacostraca’: Filmmaker Charles Pieper Discusses Psychological Horror Film

MalacostracaFilmmaker Charles Pieper probably never would have dreamed that an idea he had for a college creative writing assignment would come to life.

But not only will Pieper’s psychological exploration of the fragility of the human mind become a short film, but the talented writer/director has enlisted the talents of actors Amber Bollinger and Charlie Pecoraro as well as practical creature puppetry and special effects by none other than legendary artist, Gabe Bartalos in making his vision a reality.

Pieper sees Malacostraca as a horrifically scary film that’s full of universally relatable feelings and fears. It will have a tone of trapped dread and nature-based horror. Think “Possession” meets “Picnic at Hanging Rock”. 

Horror fans can also help bring Malacostraca to life by contributing to the project’s Indigogo campaign, which has already garnered more than $10,000. Pieper and his team have several unique perks available as a thank you for helping to support independent films.

I recently spoke with Pieper about Malacostraca and more in this exclusive new interview.

When did the idea for Malacostraca originate?

This idea for the film actually goes all the way back to 2007. I was in college studying film and had been taking a lot of writing classes. For one of the classes, I wanted to try to come up with the most disturbing image that I could, and something that would even freak me out. I ruminated on that for a while and out came this initial image of a crawdad crawling across a sleeping woman in a bathing suit who had just been swimming. To make things even more uncomfortable, the woman’s husband was watching and almost yelled to wake her up, but then decided not to because he’s morbidly intrigued by what the crawdad is going to do. It was uncomfortable and unsettling. It was the start of this really creepy story and about pushing the boundaries of what I was comfortable writing about. Years went by and I eventually ended up working in L.A. doing stop-motion animation and music videos. I never thought I’d ever be able to do this kind of short film but spent the last two years meeting people and developing it out. Now we’re halfway into a two-month campaign and have already raised more than $10,000!


You’ve got two amazing actors tied to this project in Charlie Pecoraro and Amber Bollinger. What can you tell me about them?

I’ve known Amber and Charlie for a long time. I first met them back in 2009 when I was working on a series that they were acting in and we really hit it off. Amber and Charlie have been friends for a long time and since they’re playing a married couple, they already bring chemistry to the project. In fact, when I revised the short story I wrote it with them in mind as the characters.

How would you describe the story of Malacostraca?

It’s a psychological, relationship horror film with monster elements. To me, the scariest thing in real life would be when your body or mind was working against you while you’re stuck with someone you shouldn’t be with.

Gabe Bartalos

Gabe Bartalos

How did legendary FX artist Gabe Bartalos become involved in the project?

I used to work for Gabe at his company (Atlantic West) for a few years. We both share similar interests, both in horror and in art. We became friendly and the two of us stayed in touch. Once I felt the script was ready to present I ran the idea past him. He loved it and jumped on board. Gabe almost never does short films like this so it’s very exciting!

Let’s discuss the project’s Indigogo campaign. What are some of the perks donators can receive for contributing?

The most exciting perk happened shortly after we became an Indiewire Project of the Day. Because of that, Creepy Co reached out to us and offered to make us an enamel pin of the baby monster as a perk. They’re a great company that’s made a limited edition run of 300. We brainstormed like crazy to create interesting perks that were different from most campaigns. So you can also get things like original art, prints and even a storyboard artist’s concept design. Every donation helps.

What’s next for the project?

The campaign ends in September and once that’s finished, the majority of the funds will go toward building out the rest of the puppets. We’re hoping to have everything ready to shoot by the end of the year. Once the film is complete, donors who backed it at the $25 and up level will be given early access through a website secret password. As a whole, the movie will be sent to all horror festivals sometime next year.

What the most looking part about Malacostraca? What are you most looking forward to about it?

The most exciting thing for me is the culmination of years of development leading up to this. To see something that I initially wrote as an idea in 2007 become a film and then to have a creature made by one my favorite special effects artists of all time will be the best. Everything else will be icing on top of this terrific cake!

‘It Happened Again Last Night’: Multi-talented Actress and Filmmaker Gabrielle Stone Talks New Project

GabrielleStoneSome know actress Gabrielle Stone for her inspiring performances in such horror films as “Speak No Evil,” “CUT!,” and “Zombie Killers”. But the beautiful daughter of legendary actors Dee Wallace and Christopher Stone has a creative side few have seen –that is until now.

This fall Stone, along with her project partner, Roze will unveil their new short-film, “It Happened Again Last Night”.

A passion project for Stone, the film not only features a group of seasoned actors –including Amanda Wyss, Randy Wayne, Chris Mulkey and Alex Lynn Ward, but was also written, directed and produced by the creative duo of Stone and Roze. Stone also takes on the emotional role of Paige in “It Happened Again Last Night”, showcasing her versatile acting prowess.

The producers have set up an Indigogo campaign (with some really amazing perks) where fans can contribute to help with the film’s completion.

 I recently spoke with Gabrielle Stone about “It Happened One Night” and more in this exclusive new interview.

When did the idea for “It Happened Again Last Night” begin?

 I initially wrote a script I wanted to do as an actress, but once I brought in Roze [co-writer/co-director] things quickly evolved. After we had settled on our final draft, it was clear what a powerful story we had. The subject matter of domestic violence is not often spoken about publicly and we wanted to depict it in a real and truthful way. The LGBTQ themes were also in the script from the very beginning. I have a lot of people in my life who are in same sex relationships and I really wanted to do a piece that shows the strength I witness in all of them.

How would you describe the story?

It’s the story about a woman [Paige] who’s struggling to own who she really is. Paige is stuck in an abusive relationship with Stephen (Randy Wayne) while her heart is with Kris (Alex Lynn Ward). In the end, she must choose between fear and love before she has no choices left to make.

 What can you tell me about your character, Paige?

Honestly, it was a very emotional experience playing Paige. There was a real sense of responsibility in bringing realness to this character. I remember after we had finished a highly emotional scene, Alex (Lynn Ward) came into the make-up room and looked like she was about to burst into tears. Alex and I have been friends for years and she’s always been the funny and lighthearted one in the room. She was so affected by watching me in the state I was in and feeling the reality that women actually go through this that it really hit her.

There are a lot of notable actors involved in this project. What can you tell me about them?

They’re all amazing. We were incredibly lucky to get such great talent on board and I think most of that has to do with them believing in the material. Every person brought everything they had to set and everyone gave incredible performances.


Do you have a tentative release date for the film?

We’ve already got a picture lock and it’s currently with sound and color correction. We’re now in the process of raising the last bit of funds to cover post-production costs, marketing, and festival submission. Our goal is to be finished by mid-September to start submitting to festivals.

What are some of the perks fans can receive by supporting your Indigogo campaign?

We genuinely appreciate everyone who believes in this project and has been helping us by donating or sharing. I truly believe this film is going to affect people and hopefully will help heal some as well. We’ve got some great things to offer as a thank you. Everything from fully signed film posters, digital downloads, scripts signed by our entire cast and even dinner with Randy Wayne and I.

Are there any other projects you’re working on right now?

My film, “Ava’s Impossible Things” is currently available on Vimeo and I have “Death House” and “Dance Night Obsession” coming out later this year. I’ve also recently signed on to a horror film that hasn’t been publicly announced yet.

What’s the best bit of advice your mom has given you as an actress / artist?

Be authentic. Live in love. Don’t act.

What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned about the creative process while working on this project?

This entire process has taught me to trust my instincts and has reassured me that I know what I’m doing in the creative world. I also have a greater understanding and new appreciation for people on the other side of the business. This is a passion project I’ve held close from beginning to end and to finally be able to show it to the world and have people experience what we’ve been working on will be incredible. For me to say “I’ve made my first film” is a huge accomplishment for me and I couldn’t have picked better people to be involved with it. It’s something we’re all truly proud of.

‘Fight Valley’: Writer/Director Rob Hawk Discusses Action Packed Film

robredcamWriter and director Rob Hawk spent much of his early childhood as a skateboarder and break-dancer before transitioning his time into the studio creating and editing rap music videos. Eventually, his creativity got the best of him and he found himself having to write and create more. He quickly moved from doing three-minute music videos to the world of film and hasn’t looked back since.

Now Hawk has unveiled his first feature length release –the appropriately titled, “Fight Valley”. A film loosely based on his love of “The Outsiders” and growing up in a tough neighborhood, Hawk tells the story of one woman’s journey to find vengeance and closure in a dark, underground fighting ring.

The action-packed thrill ride also features three of the fiercest women in the hardcore UFC: Miesha Tate, Holly Holm and Cris Cyborg.

I recently spoke with Hawk about Fight Valley, working with Miesha Tate, Holly Holm and Cris Cyborg, his career and more in this exclusive interview.

Where did the idea for “Fight Valley” begin?

I grew up in a gang-populated neighborhood where I forced to run around with one of them, just to stay safe. I’ve always loved the movie, “The Outsiders” and wanted to mix my love for it with a little bit of my own personal life but wanted create it with females. The original idea was to involve real fighting sequences and get people who could really take a hit. But it was hard to find an actor and say to them, “Ok, this girl is going to punch you in the face!” [laughs]. So I decided to get some trained fighters who do it for a living. That’s how it came about.

Was the idea always to include UFC fighters like Miesha Tate, Holly Holm and Cris Cyborg?

It really just evolved into it. I hadn’t really followed the UFC much but started doing some research. I originally spoke with Ronda Rousey’s team about doing the film but she wasn’t going to be available. But while I was doing research on Ronda, these three other women’s names kept coming up. With more research, I found out that they all had some real friction against each other. It was perfect timing!

Jabs Gym 1.Still001

What was the writing process like?

Even before I sat down to write, I had been planning this film in my head for about eight months. I always try to play it over in my head and then visualize it on screen. When I finally sat down, it just came right out and took me about nine days to write.

How would describe the story of “Fight Valley”?

As I was writing, I tried putting myself in a real life situation by asking myself, what would you do if someone came to you and said that they found your brother dead in the woods? Naturally, the first thing you’d think about is who did this to my brother. You would want revenge.

 In Windsor’s case [Susie Celek], she hears her sister died in Fight Valley and she decides to go there. Then she discovers that Fight Valley isn’t really a place; it’s all of Camden, and there’s an underground scene where girls who have no jobs or money could fight and get paid for it. She eventually finds out her sister was killed in a street fight and decides to fight the girl who did it and make her pay. The problem is, Windsor is a rich girl who’s never broken anything other than a broken nail in her entire life. So Miesha takes her under her wing to train her. She already knows there’s no way Windsor’s going to win, but she decides to train her anyway because she wants her to have closure. 

What do you think makes the UFC style of fighting so popular with people?

The human race is very completive and one where everyone is so busy and on the edge trying to get ahead. So it’s cool to come home the end of a hard day and watch people beat the crap out of each other—and know that it’s not you! [laughs]. The other cool thing about it is that instead of rooting for a whole team, you get attached to and root for a single person.

What was the filming process like?

It was very challenging, especially with scheduling. It was nine days of crunch time in the heat and fighting. It was my first, full feature movie and I really learned a lot.

Did you always know that you wanted to have a career in entertainment?

I did. I had played instruments when I was younger and even entered talent shows in school. I remember being upset at the possibility of losing but once I got on stage and the spotlight came on and I saw my mom looking at me I said, “I want to do this forever!” I started doing rap music and it eventually evolved into making films.

What do you enjoy most about the filmmaking process?

I like the idea of how you can take something from your mind and put it on screen. It’s an awesome process being able to create characters and locations. Then there’s calling “action” and seeing it all come to life. It’s a feeling you can’t really describe.

As an artist and filmmaker, what lessons did you take away from working on “Fight Valley”?

There were a lot of lessons learned ,but I think the most important one is to take your time creating and getting what you want. Because you could work for years and not get distribution, but you never know when that one film will get away from you and go into the mainstream. I love this movie and it’s very dear to me. I’m also very excited about showing everyone what the next step will be.

Fight Valley is available now on multiple streaming services.

‘All I Ever Wanted’: Actress Ashley Watkins Discusses Emotional New Film

Ashley Watkins

Ashley Watkins

With a resume that encapsulates the realms of horror, drama, comedy and dance, actress Ashley Watkins has quickly become one of Hollywood’s most versatile artists. Her beauty equally matched by talent and an innate ability to draw emotion from the human connection.

Watkins will soon be seen in the Markiss McFadden and Mason Troy film, “All I Ever Wanted” – a gritty new drama about family, hope and forgiveness and how they all come together when we need them the most.

Inspired by real-life events, “All I Ever Wanted” represents Troy’s first foray into the writing world and promises to be a story that touches the heart and soul.

I had the chance to speak to this amazing actress about her new film and more in this exclusive interview.

What was it that attracted you to the project and story of “All I Ever Wanted”?

Markiss McFadden is one of the most focused and motivated entrepreneurs I know. He’s an actor, director and producer all in one and is super-talented. So I already knew going in that working with him would be amazing. Then after the first day of shooting, I got to meet Mason Troy. We went over a really deeply connected scene together and that’s when I realized just how important this story was to him. I’m not sure how true this story was to his past but he feels it. He’s lived it. The story, the emotion, the human connection. I instantly connected with that.

How would you describe the story of “All I Ever Wanted”?

It’s a story about Mason’s character, Ace, who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks and for years got stuck in this world of selling and dealing drugs. Ace wakes up one morning and realizes everything he has he doesn’t really own. It’s all drug money. He realizes that he has this inner talent and wants to do other things. He also wants to rekindle his relationship with his sister and stepfather. It’s the story of the coming together of all of those things.

Ashley Watkins & Mason Troy

Ashley Watkins & Mason Troy

What can you tell me about your character, Rose?

Rose is Ace’s sister and is a little more difficult. She grew up depressed and had a lot of social issues. She was also bullied in school and had anxiety attacks. She’s incredibly smart and someone who once had a great relationship with Ace but is struggling with her own demons. 

What was the filming process like?

Being on set with Markiss each day was just what I imagined. He was an absolute professional. And because he’s also an actor, he was so aware of what was needed. Working with Mason was also amazing. This was his first film where he wrote, produced and acted, which was huge. After we had finished filming I remember telling him not to worry if he heard any quirks about the film. I said, “You’ve just completed a film. Just the fact that you created and completed a film and that it’s right here, right now is bigger than anything.” We were all taken into a piece of Mason’s world and brought into it in such a beautiful and vulnerable way.

There’s an interesting musical scene in the film. What can you tell me about it?

Yes! There is a scene where I am singing. My character, Rose used to play the guitar so Ace buys her one and pushes her into going to sing at an open-mic night. She does and it actually becomes a window into Ace’s world and reflects what she’s trying to do for him. He’s trying to tell her that she’s got talent and needs to do what she needs to do — and she’s doing the same for him. It’s a beautiful moment.

Is there a message people can take away from watching “All I Ever Wanted”?

Follow your dreams. Don’t let anyone stop you, control you or tell you that you’re not capable of doing something. 

What other projects are you currently working on?

I recently finished filming “The Young Pope”, which is a HBO series that stars Jude Law and Diane Keaton. I can’t say what it’s about but it was a dream role that I’ve wanted to film ever since I was a kid.

Photo by: CA Photography

Photo by: C.A. Francis Photography

Have you ever given thought to getting on the other side of the camera at some point – writing or directing?

I’ve been asked about that a lot of times. Being on the other side is a craft of its own. After a few more years of experience I think I’d be able to transition over. Right now though, I like to become the characters and live through them. But when I do decide I want it to be a project that is dear to me. Much like the way Markiss and Mason have done in telling a story of their own. When an actor and director can get to the same level of connection, creative thinking and understanding, it’s a beautiful thing!

What’s in a name?

Wes Craven (1939-2015)

Wes Craven (1939-2015)

What’s in a name you say? Well, when I was growing up, there were certain words that – whenever spoken, always conjured up a feeling or an urge inside of you. Something that was more than just a rational, cognizant realization.

Let me give you a few examples from my own childhood to prove my point:


No, not Fred’s “Yabba Dabba Doo” buddy from The Flintstones. In my neck of the woods (on the south side of Easton, PA), Barney meant only one thing: The guy who made the  best cheesesteaks this side of Philly. Although Barney’s been dead for nearly two decades I can still recall the days of eating his wares in his Steak Shop while trying my luck on the latest video games like Vanguard and Defender and listening to the Foreigner “4” album on the jukebox.


No, not the imaginary place or state of things in which everything is perfect (although some of the questionable paraphernalia they sold there may have you think otherwise). Utopia was/is a store in the downtown section of town where all of the teens would congregate in the 1980’s in order to purchase the latest AC/DC or Pretenders album and get concert tickets for Stabler Arena or the Allentown Fairgrounds.


I’m not talking about the chick that swiped the football out from under Charlie Brown. Lucy’s was the neighborhood candy store that served up the finest in Swedish Fish, Tootsie Rolls and Hostess Twinkies.

See how one word can easily trigger something deep inside you? And while we’re on the subject, let me give you a pair of words that does the same thing for me:

Wes Craven

Whenever these two words are mentioned together it instantly reminds me of one of the scariest films I ever saw as pubescent teenager – “A Nightmare on Elm Street”.

Sure, by the time that movie came out in 1984, I had already been covering my ears to the creepy intro music of “Halloween” and hidden my eyes from the inevitable pop up scare scenes in the closing minutes of the first two “Friday The 13th” movies. But there was something far more diabolical with Elm Street. For unlike Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees – who at least early on were actual human beings,  Freddy Kreuger represented something that was far more sinister – an unknown, malevolent creature who came to us in our darkest dreams.

Watching the scene where poor Amanda Wyss’ character, Tina, is standing in the alley way while Freddy’s arms grow and he pounces on her still gives me an uneasy feeling some thirty years later.

Back then, I wasn’t even aware of some of Craven’s earlier films like “The Last House on The Left” or “The Hills Have Eyes”. All I knew was from that point forward, anytime I saw the words “Wes Craven” before a film’s title, I knew immediately it would be scary and I would have to see it. And although some of his work was questionable in the years following NOES -“The Hills Have Eyes Part II” and “Shocker” immediately come to mind, Craven was back in top form for “Scream” in 1996. Single-handedly creating a film that (at least to me) rivaled Elm Street in terms of its originality and scare.

So hearing the news late last night that Wes Craven had passed away at the age of 76 was somewhat shocking. Knowing that there will never be another film that will give me that same feeling when I see the title. But whenever I hear those two words together – “Wes Craven”, I’ll always remember a man whose vision and memorable characters will continue to live on, both on screen and in dreams.

‘The Drownsman’: Actor Ry Barrett Discusses Aquatic, Supernatural Thriller

TheDrownsmanAfter nearly drowning in a tragic lake accident, a young Madison (Michelle Mylett) finds herself bound to an uncontrollable fear of water. Unable to rid herself of her hydrophobia, four of Madison’s friends stage a desperate intervention. But in doing so, they unknowingly release a supernatural serial killer that’s determined to drag them one by one into a dark, horrifying place from which they may never return.

The premise for “The Drownsman” contains all of the goodness from many of the classic horror films of the 80’s but with its own unique twist. That being, an all female lead cast. Something that even by today’s standards is unheard of for films of the horror genre.

Directed by Chad Archibald, The Drownsman also stars Caroline Palmer, Gemma Bird Matheson, Sydney Kondruss and Clare Bastable.

Actor Ry Barrett has a history of playing nefarious villains in horror but his role of Sebastian Donner (aka The Drownsman) may be his best yet! Barrett gives life to a monster that has every evil intention of Freddy Kreuger or Pinhead, yet possesses his own twisted, demonic purpose.

I recently spoke with Barrett about his work on The Drownsman and more in this exclusive interview!

How did this project come about for you?

Chad Archibald and I go back a long way as friends and he was telling me about the idea. He asked me if I would read the script just to give him some feedback. I really liked the character so I asked if I could read for it. Originally, they were looking for an older man who was a bit more lanky and skinny. But I went in and read for the character and even wrote a separate monologue, just to see if I could creep them out. They liked what I did and changed their minds about what the character was going to be.

What was it about the script that attracted you to the role?

It all goes back to my love for these kind of characters. I loved the Hellraiser and Nightmare On Elm Street franchises. The whole idea of these tortured individuals who come back for revenge though some sort of supernatural outlet really appealed to me. I already knew it was a movie I’d love to see, so I definitely wanted to play a role in it.

How would you describe your character, Sebastian Donner?

He’s a tortured, mysterious individual who has this shoddy past. Early on, you see that he’s a serial killer who drowns women in various ways in order to receive comfort. The reason he does it is touched upon in the film but something happens through one of his victims that turns him into this supernatural entity that’s stronger, more powerful and evil.

What was the filming process like?

It was a lot of fun. There was intense make-up work and the aspect of water and shooting in winter in northern Canada posed some challenges, but it was very rewarding and great experience.

What was the chemistry like on set?

It was great. I had worked with Michelle on a film called “Antisocial” that had some pretty intense scenes. So we had already built up a level of comfort and rapport together. The girls had a great chemistry even before I stepped foot on set. It was cool to jump into this family where everyone was pulling for each other. We all worked well together. 

You mentioned your relationship with Chad. Can you speak a little about how that worked in “The Drownsman”?

Chad and I go way back and have done many projects together. We know each other so well that we’ve developed this form of short hand communication. He’s able to get exactly what he wants with very few words because he knows me so well. It’s nice to work with someone who knows you in that way.

What do you love most about horror?

I love all the different things about the genre. It draws on the fears that we don’t really understand and is something everyone can relate to. There are fun horror films and ones that just want to shake you. Then there are others that just want to talk you on a ride. “The Drownsman” is one of those movies that entertains you in a scary, fun way and also takes you on that ride.

Ryan Barrett HS2Did you always know that you wanted a career in acting?

I was more focused on playing in rock bands when I was younger but have always been a movie lover.

Shortly after a few of my friends had come out of film school, they asked me to be a part of one of their projects because they knew I had also taken drama in school. That experience changed my whole outlook. From then on, I was hooked!

Are there any other projects you’re currently working on?

The Demolisher; which is a film I produced and acted in will be premiering at FanTasia this year. It’s directed by Gabriel Carrer. I also have another film called “Save Yourself” that will also be hitting festivals soon. 

What excites you the most about the release of “The Drownsman”?

I’m hoping that people really enjoy it. It’s a fun, throwback horror film that takes you back to the films of the 80’s. A time when a lot of people grew up and fell in love with the genre. This is a love letter to those kinds of films.

The Drownsman is now available on Blu-Ray and DVD from Anchor Bay Entertainment

%d bloggers like this: