Exclusive by Chris Tribbey
With nearly 250 films under her belt, nearly all of them of the horror variety, it’s not a reach to call actress Debbie Rochon a scream. Now she can add the title director to her resume as well.
The 47-year-old Canadian will see her first film behind the camera, Model Hunger, released by Wild Eye Releasing on DVD and Digital HD July 12. The film — which has pulled down honors at the Macabre Faire Film Festival, the FANtastic Horror Film Festival and the Crimson Screen Horror Film Fest — follows a former pinup girl who’s been tossed aside by the heartless modeling industry … and she doesn’t react well.
Her new neighbors begin to put two and two together, tying the disappearance of several women to the former model. And what she’s doing with the missing young women down in her basement isn’t pleasant.
Rochon took the time to chat with the DVD & Blu-ray Release Report about her first time directing a film, her thoughts on independent films and film festivals, and what’s next on her plate.
Release Report: After all these years, what is it like seeing the movie business from behind the camera?
Rochon: While I have often been involved with many creative elements behind the camera besides my own character, and involved with press as well, it was certainly a different ride than you imagine it to be.
Quite simply, your ideas can run pretty wild and how you envision things and have creative manipulation and control over the script, which I was afforded, is an unparalleled experience. I loved the script so the ideas themselves were not in question but the execution was.
I had to work both what I saw in my mind's eye and what budget allowed in reality to merge somewhere. I love working with actors. I love creating on all levels so that part is really natural and invigorating for me.
I love details as well. Tiny small details that the majority of the audience will likely never see, nor does it matter for the overall story, but I know it's there. Details are so much fun. Many filmmakers don't think in small details (set or character or writing) and the audience needs details to complete the experience even subconsciously. So that was the goal. To be as detailed as possible with time and money stacked against you.
Release Report: Have you gained any insight into the business regarding how films are promoted and sold?
Rochon: Not a whole lot seeing I have been actively involved with helping filmmakers get their films sold and have experienced the process with quite a few projects before.
I think one of the more interesting elements of handing over your first born is holding your breath when you know someone else is going to be deciding the artwork or even a title change.
We didn't have to worry about the artwork as it turned out, I am very pleased with it. I am most grateful Wild Eye Releasing kept the title. It's a gamble keeping a title like Model Hunger because it doesn't spoon feed the audience as to what the movie is about, but in this case it is very important for the movie in my opinion.
I hope it attracts a lot of people but it will have to without having a title like The Cat, The Chair or a combo of an animal with a weather disaster. Lots of these types of movies can be fun and they make bank for the distribution folks. I think Model Hunger is fun too, but it's like a rich chocolate cake that you should see a couple of times as opposed to a prefab Twinkie that you don't feel like a second watch is necessary.
Release Report: What are your thoughts on the current state of the Film Festival circuit?
Rochon: I love it. The demise of indie films being booked in theaters plus we're almost to the point of not seeing any indie or mainstream films on a brick and mortar housed DVD shelves, film fests are one of the last places a director and their cast and crew can go to see the film on a big screen with an audience and get some sort of a social experience out of it.
This is important for filmmakers I think. While there are a whole lot of film festivals now, on multiple tiers, I think it's good. Keep the experience social and not simply make a movie that gets up on Amazon and that's the beginning and end of it. Having your film committed to disk at all, though, is something I am glad I will get to see with Model Hunger.
Our future is streaming, digital downloads and non-physical product. Kind of like it just lives out there in space. Having the opportunity to see your film at a festival is rewarding. I loved the festival experience. The feedback was fascinating too. What people get out of your film and what you intended can be the same or completely different. Either way it's pretty amazing to just get people talking about it.
Release Report: What are your thoughts on the current state of the independent horror scene?
Rochon: I'm happy to see horror in the theaters. I think horror awareness and fandom is what keeps the genre alive. Sometimes it can become frustrating to see the remakes when the originals were so spot on, but studios have been remaking movies since day one. It's nothing new, if anything it might make the younger viewers search out the originals.
With indie horror I think we saw a gutted market with less than par product and then the distribution folks couldn't afford to pay advances to the filmmakers anymore. It became the perfect storm for many filmmakers to leave the business or at least change what genre they worked in.
Seeing it became so 'easy' to make a horror movie, not easy to make a good one, just easy to make one period, the distribution companies would grab up movies from filmmakers who just wanted to see their movies out there at all. Who could blame them? But this became another factor for the indie horror film market to be a losing proposition financially.
Everything just spiraled. Unless you don't care about if the movie makes money, you have to make a movie for less and less and less. The actor's are asked to work for less and so many people don't get paid. It's a tough road. I couldn't tell you the future really, streaming is the future but how much can a filmmaker bring in having their movie stream?
I have seen some very talented indie horror directors end up creating TV series. TV seems to be a highly creative place now, so many great writers, directors and actors have moved over to television and cable it's really the place to be it seems.
Release Report: Do you feel there is a strong enough voice for women in horror film production (directing, producing)?
Rochon: The voice itself is very strong, but there isn't a lot of voices! I completely understand why an actress would direct a film where she stars in it, it's a smart way to create a vehicle for yourself if that's your goal, but as far as female directors creating content that horrifies? They are out there, but we could use more.
Woman have just as a frightening grasp on what scares an audience as men do so I would love to see the numbers multiply. Plus if they have a different take on the macabre that would be a great creative shot in the arm for horror.
Release Report: What led to your decision to get behind the camera and do a feature film?
Rochon: The script. I never wanted to direct a film unless the material was something I felt extremely passionate about. When I read James Morgart's script I immediately felt like this was a story I could get behind, build on and relate to. Something I could envision, have a strong sense of its vision and equally important it was the material I wanted to live with for the multiple years that you live with a film from start to finish.
It never really finishes as it's with you for life. This was the script that I wanted to take my important first chance on and I couldn't be happier that it ended up being Model Hunger. Warts and all, I am deeply proud of this film. Deeply proud of the people in it and involved with it.
Release Report: Do you think Hollywood's current 'tent pole' model for films in general is leaving out the horror genre?
Rochon: Hollywood's comic book movies are sort of a rich entitled cousin to the horror genre. I enjoy some of these movies, that wasn't a put down but indeed horror is not considered 'serious' by most.
This always has made me laugh because it's very difficult to make a good horror film. It looks easy but it's not. With that said, I think there are more horror movies in theatres than there ever before. Not indie films, but big budget horror films. I think the genre is fairly represented in the big budget world.
Release Report: And what's next? Any more projects in the pipeline?
Rochon: Always a lot in the works! There are a few films coming out this year; Solid State (sci-fi), Killer Rack (comedy-horror) The Hospital 2 (brutal-horror), Death House (horror, based on the late Gunnar Hansen's original story) and more. I continue to write for Videoscope magazine, my Model Hunger part four article will be seen in the next issue of Fangoria and I have started writing for ShockTillYouDrop.com.