Saturday, December 27, 2014

MFM Interview: Tracey Birdsall

Dawn of the Crescent Moon (2014) is a supernatural thriller about a group of students who travel to Texas to explore a Comanche legend, but soon come face to face with it, staring Tracey Birdsall and Barry Corbin (watch the trailer here). Birdsall began her career more than three decades ago, and today presents a strong voices in the area of independent film.

Recently, I got an opportunity to talk to her about her new film and the inspiration it drew from Native American folklore, but also about the changing role of women in the movie industry.

Courtesy of traceybirdsallsmith.com
Movies, Films and Movies (MFM): Indie horrors are definitely a very interesting genre in the age of the Internet, both as a financial model and an opportunity for artistic expression. What is, from your perspective, the biggest advantage in working in this genre?

Tracey Birdsall: Indie horrors are very similar to the Science Fiction genre, where the audience has an insatiable appetite and will always give it a chance. It’s nice to work in all genres if you can - and experience it all, but I think the cult following of horrors and sci-fi is the biggest advantage to an actor. We love living the life of our roles, but having the movie seen by the masses and distributed is the ultimate goal which is much easier with indies in these genres.

(MFM): Looking at the trailer and the synopsis of your latest film Dawn of the Crescent Moon, many things (kids going to isolated locations, creepy local legends) seem a bit like Horror 101. What are, in your opinion, the strongest sides of this film that will transcend the usual horror tropes?

Tracey Birdsall: I believe one of the largest strengths that helps with that transcendence is that it is more supernatural thriller meets Gandhi (how’s that for a twist?!) It’s a horror film with a message which, although it’s from an Indian legend, it’s quite profound on many levels. I also think that having some good names, which are not tied to the horror genre specifically, will give it a broader appeal than most.

(MFM): Dawn of the Crescent Moon focuses on the Native American folklore and finds its inspiration there. Do you believe this part of the ancient American history can offer more to the movie industry in terms of ideas and concepts and in what ways?

Tracey Birdsall: I think that any time we can draw from true life inspirational history, folklore, legends, issues, etc. that it broadens our horizons, deepens storylines, helps people to understand and think about the concepts of the past (or present for that matter) and overall adds dimension to the movie industry. The Native American folklore in Dawn of the Crescent Moon sent me on a journey of researching it more for the purpose of understanding the film better. There’s a ton of fantastic material buried in all of that which could inspire a million screenwriters. It’s like religion without the stigma.

(MFM): Recently, we saw a huge uproar over the portrayal of women in video games called Gamergate, which produced a wide range of issues and clashing viewpoints. Yet, the same question can be easily transported to the movie business, where women are often presented as passive objects (more often than men). How would you characterize the evolution (or a lack of it) when it comes to genre issues in films, both in horror and in other genres?

Tracey Birdsall: I like to start the answer to that question with “I’ve never been one of those girls…!” I realize it’s like that out there to some degree, but I’m usually hired for roles that require wit, skill, and/or intelligence. Sometimes in comedy, for example, the joke is in being the passive object; however, that’s not the actress, it’s the role being portrayed and it’s oftentimes funny and quite challenging to prepare for. In horror, the women are quite frequently presented more as passive objects (or T&A as it used to be called) because that’s what the industry calls for - although I have noticed a decline in even that since the zombie revolution. In most things I get called in for, the roles have depth and substance and I never feel mistreated in any way. That said, I also don’t have any identity issues with how people feel about me. Even if I’m in a bikini (like I was a few months back), I still don’t feel like a passive object or have any issues with it… I just am thankful I went to the gym :) I realize some people get pigeonholed into parts where they might only get to play the passive object but that probably has more to do with how they are branded so they might have to tweak their marketing image. Once you’re branded, it’s pretty hard to change.

(MFM): What films should we eagerly expect from you next?

Tracey Birdsall: I just wrapped a film a couple of weeks ago called AT THE EDGE OF TIME. It’s a fantastic Science Fiction time travel movie set in multiple realities, so it was insanely fun to film and the costumes were really a blast… Next up is the lead role in another Science Fiction movie called PLANET CRASH. Directed by Neil Johnson, it takes place in the same universe as his previous cult hit films Humanity’s End and Alien Armageddon. Then in May, it’s off to the East Coast to film the new comedy WHO’S JENNA JAMESON? in the female lead role of Jenna Casey. There’s a couple more in the works, but that’s what’s in firmly right now!

(MFM): Thank you very much!

Keep up with Tracey Birdsall new projects on her official website, or follow her on Twitter.


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