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21 Questions: Kelsey Zukowski [Actress, Screen Writer]

Kelsey Zukowski [Actress, Screen Writer]
-Tell us about your career and what you are currently working on or involved with?
I’m a horror screenwriter, actress, and film critic. I write for,, and I write episode reviews on True Blood and Vampire Diaries.
I am thrilled to have so many film projects lined up for the future as well. Last summer I acted in my first feature film, The Melon Heads, a film based on the myth of a violent cult based very close to my hometown in Ohio. I recently starred in an episode of the web series, The Social Media Massacre, entitled I’m Streaming Death, with Heather Dorff and directed by Ron Purtee. In April Echo Lake, a slasher-mystery web series I co-wrote and co-starred in with Sick Flick Productions’, Jonathan Moody, will be premiering. Moody and I have a number of projects in the making including two horror anthology series, Scream Queen Campfire and Trick or Eat, which profile all types of monsters and things that go bump in the night.

In April production will begin on another (of many) collaborations I have with Heather Dorff, What They Say. We co-star in the upcoming dark drama. I adapted the screenplay from her short story. It will be directed by another person I work with a lot, Justin Romine (Afraid of Sunrise). The short is already set to premiere this fall at The Chicago Horror Film Festival.

Another upcoming project I’m excited about is Kevin Jamison’s Inhumane starring Marv Blauvelt, Heather Dorff, and myself. It’s based on a 37 year-old Ohio-based social outcast and serial killer, following the murder of two call girls he targeted.

-Is this what you thought you would be doing with your life, what was your first passion?
Yes, I think it is more or less. When I was 7 years-old I decided I wanted to be a writer. Even though then I was writing picture books and now I’m writing horror screenplays and film reviews, I’m still doing what I wanted to do. My first real passion was acting, which quickly transitioned in to film. Over the years, I focused on writing more and have recently come back to acting. For quite some time I knew I wanted to be involved with film-making. I love the type of films I am lucky enough to be a part of and the people I get to work with, I’m right where I want to be.

-To whom do you credit your success to, who gives or gave you the most support?
First of all I have to thank my parents for being so supportive. Most parents would at least demand a back up plan as far as college goes. Despite rough financial situations, mine have helped me with my education, majoring in Digital Cinema and concentrating on Screenwriting, not exactly the most reliable career choice. I have never been interested in reliable, steady, or big money making careers. Sure, those are good things to have in a job. You need that to survive, but as far as career’s go I have always felt that you have to have passion and love for what you do, otherwise you are going to have a long, dreary life. I would rather struggle financially but do what I love then be rich and miserable any day. Spoken like the starving artist I am ?

I really have to thank Kevin Jamison as well. He is the first director to ever cast me in anything and this was at a time before I was pursuing acting at all. He offered me a role in one of his films, which encouraged me to get back in to acting and to get involved with the indie horror scene. I was already involved as a film critic, but he helped me take it a step further as an actress and screenwriter. Now being a part of these films is the highlight of my life.

I also have to thank Jonathan Moody for taking a chance on me as a screenwriter who didn’t have any professional credits yet. He sent me a short script to turn in to a feature with the instructions to make it “brutal as hell” and I think he was a little (pleasantly) surprised with just how well I could follow those instructions. Since then we have been working together as co-writers. We really work wonderfully off each other, pushing each other and the material forward.

-If you could meet or work with [living or dead], who would that be and why?
Wes Craven, the master of horror of course! He has been my biggest inspiration as a writer and general horror lover for a long time. Nightmare on Elm Street is my favorite film and a number of his creations rank very close to my heart (as odd as that sounds). I love his perception on horror; intelligent surreal fighting through the mind horror. I’m extremely intrigued by the blurring of fiction and reality and demolishing safety nets that he is known for. I would be honored to work with him in any capacity and be a part of one of his films. Maybe one day ?

-What would you like to be remembered for 100 years from now?
I would like to be remembered for my work, for being a creative, passionate, and determined individual. I hope my films can leave an impact and a social significance or at least spark someone’s interest.

-Who inspires you?
Wes Craven and Roger Ebert have influenced me the most. As I stated above Wes Craven helped me create my style as a horror writer and continues to push my expectations of the genre. I’m influenced by any filmmakers, indie predominantly, trying to make interesting, thought provoking horror films. There is so much that can be done with the genre and seeing people making the most of it inspires me to do the same.

 Roger Ebert is one of my earliest influences. I have always considered myself to be a very optimistic critic. The cynical nature of films has never been for me. I understand there is plenty of crap out there and I have seen a lot of it. Still, anyone who is a critic should have a love of film-making and storytelling, why be so cynical when you’re viewing something by nature that is so full or artistic vision, human emotion, and limitless possibilities? I’ve always appreciated that Ebert was one critic that never fell in to trends and always spoke his mind, especially being more positive about horror films than most other mainstream critics dared to be. Ebert always had such a way with words, being able to see the beauty in films and relate the experience to his readers. I have always respected the hell out of him, but even more so after getting cancer and everything he has gone through with his operations. The man couldn’t even talk or eat and he was still reviewing films with just as much insight as ever. His love of films fuels him, he is a writer to the death! Considering the circumstances I can’t even describe how much that moves me.

-How are things different today, than the same day 1 year ago?
My life is completely different in almost every way, it’s amazing how much has changed. A year ago from today I was still in physical therapy, trying to recover from a severe knee surgery, was taking extra classes to try to graduate early, and was not sure how I was going to break in to film or writing, the two things I knew I wanted to be doing. Now I’ve graduated from school, have a number of my scripts being produced, and continue to act in fun, intriguing horror films while meeting plenty of awesome people. I hope to continue pushing myself forward and being able to tell you of further accomplishments if asked this again another year from now.

-What is the last song you bought or listened to in your musical device [ipod, computer, stereo, etc.]?
Looking at my ipod it looks like the last song I listened to was Equality by Ky-Mani Marley. I’m a huge fan of the Marley’s, such an insightful and talented family.

-Last good film you had seen, and the best movie you would recommend to someone asking?
The one downside to being so busy making movies is I have a lot less time to watch movies. I used to watch between 4-8 new films every week. I’m still a huge film fan and like to watch whenever I can, sometimes just out of curiosity if nothing else. The last really good film I watched (although not for the first time) was Trick ‘R Treat. Aside from the original Halloween and Nightmare Before Christmas, it’s my favorite film that takes place on Halloween. It’s a terrific anthology film, melding characters, stories, and monsters together so wonderfully. It’s spooky, gory, suspenseful, character-driven, intelligent, richly funny, so many things…

-What is the single greatest moment in your life?
Wow, so many thought provoking questions. That’s a hard one. There have been so many great moments through films, on set, recognition, and knowing my work is getting out there. I think a moment that I really took notice of was when I was at Sundance in 2009 as press. Just being in this indie film world, seeing these creative and inspiring films that had made it to that level was an overwhelming but very blissful thing to be a part of. I just remember thinking being so surrounded by films like these was how I wanted to live my life.

-Favorite Horror Film?
A Nightmare on Elm Street. To sum up my love for this film I’m going to quote I review I wrote on the film, “A Nightmare On Elm Street is one of the most iconic and inspiring horror films. It is such a haunting film that has everything; great characters, gory and original deaths, a creative story, and interesting concepts. It merges the lines of reality and fiction, taking away any safety net and taking us in to a dimension where nightmares are a reality and nothing is impossible. You really care for the characters, which is one thing that makes it stand apart from the average slasher. Nancy is easy to sympathize with and one of the stronger female characters of horror. Freddy is such a darkly thrilling villain to watch in action. He is a fun yet creepy villain who takes his victims in to his own world where he is in control.”

-Favorite Book?
Well I love vampire books so it’s probably going to be a toss up between Dead to the World from the Sookie Stackhouse series and Shadow Kiss from the Vampire Academy series. Both take the original conceptions of vampires and play with them, creating their own world in very different ways. They both have very strong female leads, plenty of action, gore and violence that goes along with the supernatural element, yet also have that forbidden allure and sexual tension that is also a huge part of vampirism.

-Favorite Song?
I really don’t have a favorite song, that seems way to particular to have just one. My favorite artists include K’Naan, Matisyahu, The Marleys, and Trevor Hall.

-Favorite Film Character?
Freddy Krueger. Are you beginning to see how much I love all components of A Nightmare on Elm Street? ;) “A Nightmare On Elm Street gave birth to the most effective slasher villain. He is more in your face than Jason and Michael. He has speed and time on his side making it impossible for his victims to get away. He has weapons attached to his body ready to strike at any time. Plus he is often battling his victims in the dream world in which he is the master. Of course his language and sense of humor sets him apart from the rest. Sure an ominous and mysterious killer is scary, but the way Freddy cracks jokes in relation to death and the power he possesses makes him seem even more crazy and out of his mind. Someone like that is even more dangerous and frightening because you never know what is going to happen next. Before you know it, the victims may not even be there left to fear them, but their fear has a way of getting passed on to someone else, enriching Freddy's cycle of fresh meat.”

-Favorite Film Composer?
Probably Danny Elfman. HUGE fan of Nightmare Before Christmas in particular.

-Favorite Thing In Your Home?
What I like to call my “zombie” computer. It’s came back from the dead, has detached parts, and is slow like the old Romero zombies (the only real zombies), but it essentially holds it’s life in its hands…also like a zombie ;) It’s my connection to filmmakers, friends, family, and enable me to write and do what I love.

-Favorite First Pet?
My first pets that were actually mine were two pet African-clawed frogs named Ghost and Shadow, even at age 4, there was clearly a horror lover dying to get out :D

-Favorite Coffee Or Tea?
Ha, I actually hate both, but I hate coffee more. Anything slightly resembling coffee makes me sick. I have tried, I can’t physically make myself drink it. So I guess tea wins, but give me some hot chocolate or hot apple cider over either and I’ll be happy.

-Favorite Phrase?
True Story, yes I stole that one from Barney Stinson….true story.

-Favorite Hiding Place [Not that we are looking]?
Hmm…well considering I live by myself in a studio apartment, there’s not really a need to hide, but I do get comfort by just being by myself and relaxing there in my own world. When I still lived back home in the summers I practically lived in our garage. Every time I hanged out with my friends we would make movies with my video camera and watch movies whenever we weren't making them. It was nice being isolated from everything else and just having fun. Plus the garage was sound proofed, so perfect for blood curdling screams in those early amateur horror films!

-If you could tell someone something someone told you, "words to live by" what would that be?
More of a personal philosophy I live by: Passion is a driving force, it makes life not only worthwhile but a thing of sheer beauty. Find what you’re passionate about, whether that’s a people around you, a hobby, or career, and spend your life dedicated to that thing. If you do you’ll know you made the most of your life and have no regrets. 

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