ARTIST SPOTLIGHT - WOMEN IN HORROR

WENDY KEELING

Interview by Nate Ludwig

NL:  What's your story? How has being an indie filmmaker shaped you as a person? 

 

WK:  Oh lord!! My story? Do you have all day? I grew up in in Bloomington, Illinois. And was pretty much drawn to anything and everything creative. I just seem to be attracted to all things creative that do not necessarily pay the big bucks. So, film was a natural choice to be sure!!! I think filmmaking and acting have given me a bit of a thicker skin. You really have to roll with the punches in this business. No matter how well you plan as a filmmaker something is going to go wrong on set or in post. The true survivors learn how to not freak out and find a workable solution. The amount of “No’s” you get as a filmmaker on the festival circuit and as an actor auditioning is enough to either make you quit or empower you to try harder.

 

NL:  You're not only a director, but also a producer, writer and even an actor. How do you manage to do it all on a regular basis? Are you going to save some glory for the rest of us?

 

WK:  I seriously have no idea how I do this! It is both a gift and a curse that I must continue or perhaps die trying. Perhaps it is the copious amount of white wine and chocolate I consume on a daily basis that gets me through. I am missing the whole glory part. Is there some sort of cool award or something for being completely consumed by the crazy urge to be a workaholic?

 

NL:  How has being in such a creative-driven city as Nashville informed your identity as a filmmaker? Does it factor in at all?

 

WK:  We moved from Key West to the Nashville area to be closer to aging family members. I honestly had no idea that I would be immersed in the film industry. I had worked in a principal marketing position on a doc while I living in Key West and thought I might dabble in film here. I decided to audition for a few things and try to get a few crew spots to make some cash. It wasn’t till much later that I realized that working in production and acting what I was meant to do here.

 

The music scene is obviously pretty busy in Nashville. The art scene is trying but still seems to be a more conservative environment, which doesn’t necessarily suit my art work. We have a pretty incestuous film community in Nashville and Tennessee in general that is pretty awesome. We have film festivals, film schools, film contests, film groups, films, TV shows, and commercials galore here in Nashville. I really feel like it is a great place to jump in head first to learn the business in a supportive atmosphere.

 

NL:  You're very prolific on the festival circuit and a great cheerleader of filmmakers and fests alike. Where do you get the energy from? Are you magic?

 

WK:  Well you know I am a HUGE fan of GenreBlast!!!!!

 

On a more broad note, I believe supporting the creativity of others is a big part of my obligation as an artist. I don’t see other artists, actors, or filmmakers as competition. We all have our own voice and not one is the same. If I support a project I am involved in as an actor or a festival that I have been a part of as a filmmaker it is supporting my work as well. Just the right thing to do!            

And yes, I am magic.

NL:  You're also an artist of a different kind. You are known for your pottery. Tell us a little bit about that. Is it more for fun or profit? Or both? 

 

WK:  Both would be awesome!!!! I continue to find that it is difficult to make a living on creative work. I do have a pretty good track record selling my art work both online and in galleries, so I guess that counts.

 

My art career was a surprise to be honest. I thought you had to be able “Draw Good” to be an artist and I am way better at stick figures!!! From an early age I knew I either wanted to be a vet or an actor. As soon as I found out vets had to put animals to sleep sometimes I changed my focus to acting. I was doing musicals, some theatre, and then I moved to Chicago to try to make acting work. I failed miserably. The next step of course, was to give up on my childhood dream and move to an island.

 

While I was living in Key West I was looking for a creative outlet to fill the void. I found some art classes at our local college and fell in love with clay! There was no need to “Draw Good”!!! Within short time I figured out that I loved working in clay, stone, paint, glass, wood, and pretty much anything that involved dirt, getting messy, and playing with power tools. I seemed to excel in ceramics early and I was lucky to find my way to working with some of the most recognized potters in the world. My ceramic pursuits led me to travel and work in Japan.

 

Potters are a diverse and interesting group of creatives. They share recipes and ideas freely. I sometimes compare it to the film industry. Filmmakers share ideas and experiment together. Plus, there is usually booze involved. So, it’s pretty much the same right?

 

NL:  You recently had a pretty nasty accident while pursuing your love of pottery. What happened?

 

WK:  I set things on fire for a living. No, I really do!!! I have a big hole in my yard and I put ceramic work in it and make a big ass bonfire.

 

So, long story short, someone, has to cut the wood for all that fun. Needless to say: Table saw 1 - left thumb 0!! Let’s just say it was an interesting experiment in the ER of how to do effect makeup for a severed finger!!!

 

I got lucky and they stitched it back on. I will probably have a nice scar to show off but have full movement and am getting the sensation back. Got lucky this time I guess!! We have since changed how we cut the wood!

 

NL:  Red wine or white wine?

 

WK:  White of course!

 

NL:  Seen any good movies lately?

 

WK:  Dear Lord, I wish! I have been glued to my computer or in the art studio lately!! I did love “Get Out”! It was the perfect combination of horror and comedy!!! It is nice to have Sci Fi and Horror Genres getting a little recognition for this year’s award season. Going to have to play some serious catch up to get ready for the Oscars!

 

NL:  I would be remiss if I didn't mention some of your short films. You deal with everything from cannibalism to rape and still manage to have even a twinge of humor in there. Do you feel like you have a certain theme or feeling for your films or is it more of a subconscious thing?

 

WK:  Well who doesn’t need a little cannibalism in their life? No? Too soon?

 

I think I tend to like a more twisted tale with humor and a nice helping of irony. I feel if I can approach a serious subject in a story with some levity but still hit the subject in a meaningful way I make an impact but keep the audience entertained. To me that is the ultimate compliment.

 

NL:  Tell us a little bit about working with your frequent writing collaborator, the very talented Wynn Reichert.

 

WK:  LOL! Wynn and I have our own blend of demented humor together. We are often cast together on set and I guess our chemistry just naturally carries over to the filmmaking side. Sometimes it is my screenplay. Sometimes it is his. Either way we seem to end up creating some of the best lines on set!!! Nothing like a couple of dark comedy improv oriented people riffing on set to make for some interesting edits!!

 

NL:  What advice would you give to a filmmaker or actor just starting out? Any valuable tidbit you've discovered along the way? 

WK:

  •  Leave your ego at the door and be ready to do any job you would ask someone else to do. Always find people who are way smarter than you and know how to do their job then let them do it

 

  • Collaborate, collaborate, collaborate! It is not a one man show. Every job on set is important to the success of the film.

 

  • The most important thing is to remember that you will fail! You will make mistakes! This is part of the learning process. The ones who brush themselves off and learn from it are the ones who will continue to eventually find success.

 

  • Be ready to hear “No” over and over again. As a filmmaker you will get a ton of “No’s” on the festival circuit. If you get a 10-15% acceptance rate you are doing well.  As an actor you may book 1 out of 50-100 auditions. Don’t take the “No” personally. Figure out if there is something you can improve on and move on.

 

  • Remember you are the only person who does what you do the way you do it. You are an individual. Sell that!

 

NL:  What's on the horizon for you? Do tell!

 

WK:  Well, let’s see. We have a short film just about to start the festival circuit next month called “Sarah’s Dream”. It was written by Wynn Reichert of course. We have a fabulous cast on this one! Starring Bailey Ingersoll as Sarah, Sam Brooks as Jimmy, Allison Shrum as Amber, Wynn as Dr. Matthews, and I do a cameo as Claire, Sarah’s annoying mother. This is a quick but impactful horror comedy with its 6 ½ minute running time. It is a short film about a troubled and rebellious teenager who is haunted by the same recurring dream night after night. The situation becomes desperate when the voice of her dead ex-boyfriend joins the dream and won’t “let go”. We have quite a few film festival acceptances so far. I am really looking forward to seeing it up on the big screen with an audience soon!

 

I have a few scripts that are calling to me. One of my favorites is a short I wrote called “Clown College”, another really twisted dramedy. It will take me a little cash to produce but I am hoping to get it shot sometime this year.

 

I am also collaborating with fellow GenreBlast alum Jeffrey Howe on his award-winning feature screenplay called “Medicine Show Blues”. I am really excited about this story! It would be my first time directing a feature and this is such a visual tale that I am thrilled to have the chance to direct it! We hope to get the funding in place to shoot this edgy drama this fall.

 

On top of all that fun I am always auditioning for acting gigs. My concentration has always been about finding more toothy roles. You can see me in a few upcoming features. Madhouse Mecca (directed by Leonardo Warner) where I play alongside veteran actor David Keith. I have a quirky role in “Don’t Run” another horror feature. (directed by Ben Rood) I also play a frustrated talent scout in “Yesterday” (directed by Willie Robbins)! You can also see me in the feature horror anthology “10/31” in the “Killing the Dance” segment. A role you don’t want to miss!!! (directed by Johnny Holt) All are very different roles which I love

 

In addition, there are rumors about me working on a couple GenreBlast alum films but I will just have to let that dangle a little until it is confirmed!!!