Goddesses don’t speak In whispers they scream
– Countess Elizabeth American Horror Story
And boy does Jo-Anna Van Thuyne scream !!! Let’s meet Jo-Anna the actor , comedian , filmmaker and podcaster.
Jenny :What got you into horror?
Jo-Anna: I have always been a fan of horror. When I was really young, any horror movie would scare the crap out of me. I remember being terrified of Alien, Chucky, even the clown scene in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. I was also obsessed with Mel Brook’s Youg Frankenstein. There is even VHS video of me reciting some of my favorite lines from the film in the bathtub. I have always been attracted to the macabre, even though it scared me.
When I attended LaSalle University I began to dive into the horror genre. I took a Horror course taught by KYW’s film critic Bill Wine one summer. We watched films like Cronenberg’s “The Fly” and Spielberg’s “Jaws.” We discussed the hidden meanings behind them and other horror classics. The course even inspired me to organize a haunted house at the University, which I believe they still organize to this day.
I have always loved how horror is a genre that holds a mirror up to society and exposes it’s fears. Horror is so raw, but it can also be campy–it can be anything. That’s what really pulls me towards the genre. Sometimes, individuals in the film industry turn their noses up at horror but like it or not, it’s one of the most profitable genres. Everyone wants to get scared.
Jenny :How do you feel about being a woman in the horror industry?
Jo-Anna: I feel the way any woman in any industry feels. It’s hard to have your voice heard and be taken seriously. It feels significantly harder, as a female filmmaker to get your project made. I have seen my male counterparts effortlessly compile a team of people to help guide their project from start to finish. Mezza Morta is 100% my labor of love. I was lucky enough to find and collaborate with some great people in New York to make the Mezza Morta prequel happen. However, it wouldn’t have happened unless I pushed myself to get it made.
After watching the Mezza Morta prequel or reading the script for the first season, many of my male counterparts encouraged me to “just be a horror host.” It did not even register with them that I wrote and directed the piece. It’s just really hard for men, especially in the geek community, to see women as anything but their expected roles. Mezza Morta, in itself, is a commentary on how male filmmakers “plug in” stereotypical characteristics of women, or carbon copies of the latest fad, into their actresses in order to make their film more popular and profitable.
There is a cultural shift happening in our country, and I love it. So many women are standing up for themselves, running for office, and trying to make a difference during these trying times. It’s these women that have inspired me to follow my passion and say what I want to say.
Jenny :What was your first experience that you knew you wanted to do what you are presently doing?
Jo-Anna: I’ve always wanted to act or create. It’s the only thing that I feel like I’m capable of doing as a human being. I often feel out of place in life, this is especially true when it comes to my career path. I am not the best secretary and I’m the worst waitress–but I feel at home when I’m on a film set.
The thing that really pushed me to move to New York and give it a go was my time on the set of American Exorcist. I struggle with mental illness, and I am always worrying about the next thing or agonizing over the past. But when I was on that set I was present, I was in the moment, I was actually enjoying life.
So, I left Philadelphia and started to pursue what I really loved. I took classes at The Upright Citizens Brigade and I stared the audition rodeo. Unfortunately, the past three years have not been the collaborative dream I wanted them to be. Which led me to write Mezza Morta and create my own opportunities. Mezza Morta is a regurgitation of the past three years in my personal life and a reflection of our country today.
Jenny :Did you face any particularly hard challenges while creating your work?
Jo-Anna: Putting myself inside a table made directing the piece really difficult. Luckily, I had the amazing Matt Braunsdorf to help steer the ship, as my Director or Photography, while I was strapped to it. The shoot was about 8 hours long and I spent about 80% of it completely unable to move.
I wrote the prequel as a way to introduce people to the Mezza Morta universe. Making Mezza Morta a disembodied head saved on wardrobe costs and SFX makeup artist Steve Saturn was able to make the neck gore look really cool. I knew I wanted to intercut between two shots and do all of the scientist’s lines as voiceover later on. I specifically wrote the prequel with all of these aspects in mind. I am fortunate enough to understand the production process, so I tried to write this in a way that would make it a manageable shoot, and it was.
Besides being trapped in a table, the shoot went smoothly. I attribute this to the fact that I used my savings to produce this piece. I firmly believe in paying people for their time and labor. Filmmakers work so hard to master their craft and, in the process, constantly invest in equipment that can be very expensive. My crew has rent to pay and mouths to feed and I’m happy to help them do that, even if it digs into my own wallet.
Jenny: What’s something about you that no one else would know?
Jo-Anna: I am really into gardening. I wasn’t able to tend to my garden so much this summer because I was in the editing room working to piece Mezza Morta together. But, when I get my hands in some dirt I feel so much better mentally. Keeping gardens beautiful is a nice way to feel like I have a little control in my life. Also, flowers are awesome!
I also love to “Bullet Joural”, but I am so behind right now! I’m not kidding when I say that I was in the editing room all summer. It took a lot of time and energy to piece Mezza Morta together right.
Jenny : What would you want women to know about your work?
Jo-Anna: Mezza Morta is my regurgitation of the world around me, as I see it. She is a representation of all the women in media, used by others to push forth their own agenda.
It is a tongue in cheek slap in the face, written by a woman. It makes fun of the viral sensations we hold dear, and is a reflection of ourselves and the toxic banter that happens between liberals and conservatives. It’s the frustrations we feel, the rage we supress, and the collusion that brings it all together.
I will have to fight to the bitter end to get this project made and I will probably have to fight to defend it’s message. Which is kind of fitting for a female filmmaker.
Jenny :Why is it important to feature your work at horror conventions?
Jo-Anna: It is important to represent female filmmakers in any genre, since there are so few of us around. Women have been coralled into certain roles and there are certain expectations for them, especially in the horror genre and most of these expectations have been written by men. If conventions and horror festivals included more female voices in their events, then horror fans will be introduced to a new voice within the genre.
Hollywood is so busy rebooting nostalgia and releasing these clean horror films in the hopes of generating another profitable franchise. But I think fans are starting to get sick of it. We need to see the genre from a new perspective and hear some new voices. Those voices are female.
I have to say I am so impressed by Jo-Anna and her work . I agree that it is time to feature new things . I feel the frustration on social media when I go onto a horror site and it is the same questions , same debates , same content !!!
Post a 1978 Halloween movie meme or quote -400 million likes and shares
Post a independent film makers work 1-like 1-share
It’s time to introduce new people , new projects , new ideas , new views , new debates , new content , new jokes and new peers into our group .
Jo-Anna is also the producer and one of the stars of American Exorcist.
Bill Moseley is also in the film.
If you attended the last Monstermania in Cherry Hill, NJ Bill was giving out swag bags with his meet and greet photo opps from this movie .
Please take a minute and check out Jo-Anna’s work . You can find her on Facebook and also on Instagram under mezzamortawebseries.
I want you to come visit our Horror Syndicate website , Don’t forget to subscribe to our Youtube channel for every single episode of THS LIVES! Follow The Horror Syndicate on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and laugh or learn about something new .
“They told me I was different and it was the greatest compliment I ever got . “ -Jenny
Until next time hugs and hisses