Anna Shields [Interview]

 

Hello Folks! Welcome to the 2020 edition of our Month of Horror. It’s almost humorous that we are showcasing the motion pictured displays of horror when it seems as though we simply have to look around us to see the natural horror that is enveloping our daily lives. But nevertheless, a quick escape from the surrealism of our daily lives is often appreciated. In this vein, we honor these wonderful folks who seek to only entertain us with a good scare and a break from the actual horror that is all around us. We have assembled a wonderful batch of actors, writers, directors & beyond, who have worked on so many different projects that you know and love. I am beyond excited to share them with you all throughout the month of October. Enjoy!

Today we have some wonderful words from the brilliant actress, writer, and producer Anna Shields! Anna is the star and writer of not only one of my favorite horror films of 2020, but one of my favorite films overall. It’s entitled Monstrous, and it is extremely intriguing. On its surface, it’s a “Bigfoot movie”. But, as Shields will mention below, it’s so much more. To me, and I’m sure many others, it’s about the human condition and how me manage trauma. In this case the monster is physical, but sometimes it can be metaphorical. And I believe this film covers it all. She also is the executive producer of another film that looks promising and extremely intriguing entitled The Retreat that will be out soon.

Anna is a phenomenal human being, and we are so happy to have her be a part of this year’s Month of Horror. So, please enjoy some wonderful words from the great Anna Shields!

 

What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it an early aspiration you can always remember having since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day? 

Acting has always been my passion as far back as I can remember. I come from a family that loves movies so I was always watching something new. I found myself memorizing lines and practicing them alone in my room. Growing up in the Berkshires, I was surrounded by regional theater. Luckily, I was able to explore acting from an early age because of that. It was during college that I gained some confidence in the screenwriting world. I was 21 when I wrote, co-directed, and starred in my first feature film called Little Bi Peep. I had the experience helping with pre and post production and I learned so much from it. 

What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any kind of lessons learned from this project that still affect your work today? 

My first paid gig was back in elementary school for a theatrical production of The Miracle Worker at Berkshire Theater Festival. I played Blind Child #3 and I had such a blast wandering around stage pretending to be blind. I took it so seriously and even practiced with a blindfold at home. I’ve seen some actors kind of blow off “small” parts but I’ll always remember that feeling of absolute joy to say three lines. I keep that thought with me for every project no matter how “small” the part may seem. 

I really loved one of your most recent projects entitled Monstrous. I am curious as to how you came up with this very surreal story, which is a whole new look at the world of Bigfoot? 

It’s funny, the script was actually based on a short story I wrote which was a psychological thriller and had nothing to do with monsters of any kind. I wrote the original screenplay off of that. I’m close friends with the director, Bruce Wemple, so we worked together during the development stage. When we pitched it around, we got some feedback to turn it into a horror as opposed to a thriller. We decided it would be a fun twist to add a monster. Bruce was actually the one to suggest Bigfoot. I was hesitant at first because a lot of times Sasquatch can have a sort of silly connotation and that wasn’t the tone I was going for. It dawned on me that this could actually be a good thing. I had an opportunity to take what an audience expects and completely twist that into something fresh and original.

 

 

In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes the horror genre special? What sets it apart from other genres you have worked in? 

When I watch movies, I’m doing it to feel something- whatever emotion the filmmaker was trying to communicate. Fear is such a universal feeling. No matter who we are or where we come from, at some point we’ve all felt fear. So, we start out knowing we’re going to have that basic primal feeling we all recognize. That way, when we follow the character’s journey, the stakes are upped so much more. It’s all about having strong characters that we as an audience can truly care about. That way, when they’re put in such an extreme situation, we’re invested in their survival. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate movies of all genres, but horror definitely stands out to me because it makes us question ourselves and people in general. How would we react in that kind of insane situation? It can help us learn about what makes us human and in that way, we can become more empathic to others. 

What is your favorite scary movie? Why? 

I’d have to say The Hitcher, (the original from 1986). I find that one so intriguing because of the complicated relationship between the protagonist and antagonist. You have this typical guy being hounded by a psychopathic murderer, yet there are so many moments that seem like they’re just trying to understand each other. It goes back to what I was saying about questioning who we are as people. We’re all so quick to judge each other, particularly now with social media. But, when we see these two wildly different people desperately trying to understand each other, that’s something we can take with us and try to use in our own lives, whether or not we agree with someone else’s opinion. 

I know this year may be a bit different, but I am curious to know if you have any sort of Halloween traditions? Anything you would normally do each year? 

Before COVID-19, I really loved going back to my mom’s house on the east coast and handing out candy with her. We’d blast scary music and every year she’d wear this hideous reptilian mask. We also had a dog who was super territorial so he’d howl like a 

banshee inside the house. It was hilarious watching kids debate whether or not candy was worth coming up the porch. 

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers? 

I have a lot of projects in the works but the newest to come out is a feature I helped produce called The Retreat. It’s written and directed by Bruce Wemple. The story centers around a close friendship between two guys that’s become strained since one is getting married and moving away. They decide to spend his bachelor party hiking a mountain peak but encounter the Wendigo spirit there. The Wendigo was such an interesting monster to play with because you’re able to get a physical creature while also incorporating a supernatural element that torments the characters on a psychological basis. In short, there’s something scary there for everyone. 

What was the last thing that scared the hell out of you? 

This one’s hard because honestly, I scare pretty easy! An obvious answer would be COVID-19. Everyone was suddenly thrust into this terrifying new life with an illness we still don’t fully understand. Our lives were completely flipped upside-down. I’ve heard a lot of comparisons to it being like a zombie apocalypse, since it’s this infection that makes you have to isolate from everyone and plays on your paranoia. It’s easy to relate the whole situation to a horror film in that sense and yet, we’re all trying to learn the best way to handle it together. 

What was the last thing that made you smile? 

Last night, another person told me how much they enjoyed Monstrous. I always stay far away from reviews, but I get so happy knowing it resonated with someone. That’s the whole point in making films! It’s really satisfying. 

 

 

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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