Oct 22, 2008
Scream Queens BEHIND-THE-SCREAMS Blog: Episode One (SPOILERS!)
Credit for all photos goes to John Sampson. Thanks, John!
Firstly, if you’ve haven’t watched SCREAM QUEENS yet, you might want to before reading this blog, as I give away EVERYTHING – VH1 is still running the first episode over the next couple of days…
Secondly, I have a new page at VH1famousfriends.com. I’ll have extra info there over the coming weeks. So please befriend me THERE now.
Thirdly, I’ve been getting a lot of emails from you foreigners asking when SCREAM QUEENS will be on the air in your weird little countries. I don’t know – except, I understand, SQ is supposedly airing in Canada in the not-too-distant future on Star, whatever the fuck that is… (Okay — obviously Canada is reading this blog, because I just got a call from CTV that SCREAM QUEENS will premiere there this Sunday, October 26).
Onto what I remember most about shooting episode one of SCREAM QUEENS! –
MOSTLY it was how fucking exhausted I was. We were shooting simultaneous to the San Diego Comicon, which is, by itself, an overwhelming event in the life of a genre filmmaker. I shot the first SCREAM QUEENS challenge, the one where the girls have to improv with the masked dude, on Wednesday. Then on Thursday I had to be driven to San Diego to deal with business and have dinner with the Xbox bigwigs and my fellow horror-does-comedy directors (you gotta love you some David Slade). That night I was driven back to Los Angeles. Friday morning I shot the SCREAM QUEENS director’s bathtub challenge (while doing the challenge, I was getting texts all day from my brother, who played "me" in the Xbox panel presentation). That night I drove back to San Diego. Saturday day I did signings and press, and then I drove back to L.A. that afternoon and did the elimination challenge that night.
I probably wasn’t the nicest guy to be around. I already knew John Homa (we shot the SCREAM QUEENS pilot together), but I didn’t know Shawnee Smith and I didn’t know most of the crew. For the next few weeks of shooting the show, I tried to be an exceptionally nice dude to make up for it.
Top row from left: John Homa, Shawnee Smith, me. 2nd row: Marissa, Angela, Tanedra, Lindsay, Michelle. 3rd row: Jessica, Sarah, Kylah, Jo-Anne, Lina.
Anyway, here are some of my other memories from those first days of shooting…
THE FIRST CHALLENGE – IMPROV AGAINST THE AXE-WIELDER
Upon first seeing the girls, a few stuck out most of all.
ANGLEA was exceptionally beautiful, with piercing blue eyes. In terms of just pure physical beauty, she was the most initially striking.
However, MICHELLE definitely stood out the most overall. She was the most vivacious in person, and absolutely the most flirtatious. She was constantly trying to make eye contact with the judges, and smiling at us. Homa, a happily married man, wasn’t having any of it. I was having just a little of it.
SARAH seemed the most serious. While all of the girls were getting ready for their improv, Sarah’s face scrunched up as she was getting ready internally. I could see her face turning red and her eyes going back and forth, almost on the verge of tears, as she worked on her back story, or whatever she was doing up in that brain of hers.
We watched all of the girls, and I pretty much thought all of them sucked except for TANEDRA and Sarah – and even they were pretty disappointing. I wondered how in the Hell I was going to get through this show and pretend like any of these girls had any potential whatsoever.
LINA’s performance stood out the most, as she seemed to be doing a cross between Kabuki and an Asian hooker from a 2 Live Crew video. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud while she had an epileptic fit on the floor.
I was also a bit freaked out by JESSICA’S performance – she seemed like a completely insane person. Not like she was acting insane, but as if she was actually insane.
Angela, LINDSAY, and MARISSA were forgettable. JO-ANNE, KYLAH, and Michelle were fairly awful.
I was bummed that Michelle was so bad because she did have a lot of charisma.
(Let me say here that I know some of these actresses are reading this blog, which is making it a bit difficult to tell the whole story – but I’m going to do my best to tell it anyway. Just remember, all of you readers, that when I say someone was "terrible" in a certain challenge, it doesn’t mean they were terrible overall. ALL the girls who stuck around for more than a couple weeks had moments of being terrible and moments of being amazing. It’s the nature of artistic expression – and to be a great actress, these girls needed to allow themselves to be terrible at times. In fact, some of the girls would get kicked off, not because they were bad actresses, but because they were too controlled.)
After the girls were all done performing, Shawnee, John, and I excused ourselves into the living room, off-screen, where we discussed who was best. I was a little nervous about this, because the three of us had never had to make a decision together. We all agreed immediately that there was one person who was definitely the best.
"Lina!" Shawnee said. "She was terrific."
John and I were a little stunned. John and I made fun of Shawnee for her opinion until she succumbed and agreed Tanedra should win immunity.
Outside, when we were announcing the winner, Shawnee again started talking about how great Lina was.
"She was the most entertaining," Shawnee said.
"Yeah," I said, "In the same way PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE is entertaining."
Tanedra cried when she won. It wasn’t until later that I learned she had absolutely no acting training.
JOHN’S FRUIT EATING CHALLENGE
On a reality show, it’s the writers and producers who come up with the challenges. I was pretty lucky with my directing challenges, as I thought all of them (with perhaps one exception down the road) were pretty good tests of acting skills. Sure, they might have some reality-showy aspects (the nudity in this episode, 15,000 cockroaches a few weeks from now), but, beneath it all, they truly challenged the girls’ skills.
John Homa’s challenges were a bit more ridiculous than mine – such as in this episode, "eat a piece of fruit sexy." Ha! I kidded with John and told him the next week it would be "go to second with a vegetable", followed by "finger a dairy product," until you finally get to "fuck bread" in the eight week.
Honestly, every week John would go into his challenge mumbling and grumbling and complaining to the producers about how stupid it was – and almost every week he’d come out at the other end talking about how, believe it or not, the challenges actually worked. This was mostly because Homa actually is a great acting coach, and he was able to find the worth in almost anything.
One of the joys of watching SCREAM QUEENS for me is seeing all the stuff I never saw. I saw very little of the girls living inside the house, and I saw nothing of the challenges John and Shawnee led. So I missed out on some of my favorite lines, like John’s from last night, "You were the one giving the banana a blowjob, not me!"
Anyway, on TV, all the girls looked pretty silly during this challenge, but you have to admire Sarah really going for it.
SHAWNEE SHOWS THE GIRLS SLiTHER
INTERESTING FACT: Lindsay was the child star of a series called Caitlin’s Way. I had heard of the show because my friend Tania Saulnier, who played Kylie in SLiTHER, was a co-star on that show. So Lindsay was probably somewhat surprised to see her former co-star in the SLiTHER scene which Shawnee showed.
THE DIRECTOR’S CHALLENGE
The show puts the girls in a slightly different order than how they actually performed. I had no idea that Jessica was going through all of her doubts with the scene in question (in her defense, it WAS a pretty poorly written scene.) But what’s even weirder is that Jessica was, I believe, the 6th actress to do the challenge, and SHE WAS THE FIRST ONE TO DO IT TOPLESS!
So it’s not surprising that the other actresses were so freaked out on her decision to show her tits.
I should also mention that I praised Jessica for having the balls to do it topless and, perhaps because the other girls were listening, every single one of them did it topless thereafter.
For my money, the best one in the director’s challenge was actually Michelle. This shocked me, as she was so poor in the first challenge. But she was by far the most natural. She was poor in spots – but it was easy to cut around, and we when we cut the scenes together, she came off the best.
Sarah, once again, was second best.
Marissa was memorable because, at some point, she decided to dunk her head completely under water. She choked a bit on the water and never fully regained her composure. That said, I thought she was one of the better actresses. In addition, I loved the fact that she took a risk. I just wish she hadn’t been so startled by it.
Lina accused me of "not liking" her, I guess because of my PLAN 9 comment. I told her that wasn’t true. She did a solid job in the performance. I told her so afterwards, and she didn’t seem to believe me.
Lindsay was also quite good.
Tanedra was rather bland, nowhere near as good as she was in the earlier challenge.
Angela, again, was forgettable.
And Jessica, Jo-anne, and Kylah were all mind-numbingly bad.
Jessica closed her eyes on every line like Napoleon Dynamite, Joanne seemed like she was on ‘luudes, and Kylah, as Shawnee later pointed out, sung every line.
Still, with five non-God-awful performances, I was beginning to have at least some hope for the contestants and for SAW 6. They did themselves a favor by being so bad in the first challenge – the looked like regular Oliviers in this challenge by comparison.
Because I had to interact one-on-one with the girls, I was also getting some vague idea of their personalities. I definitely hit it off with some more than the others.
Michelle, admittedly, comes off as a bit of a bitch in her talking head interviews. But in person she was a blast. She has a loud, horsey, infectious laugh, she was fun to joke around with, and I liked her a lot. Joanne was extremely sweet and likable. Sarah and I seemed to have an instant rapport – I found it very easy to work with her, and discuss process. At first impression, she seemed like the most intelligent of the bunch. I also found Marissa easy to work with. I also liked Jessica.
Kylah, Angela, Lindsay, and Tanedra initially seemed a little more stand-offish. I didn’t click with them immediately. And, Lina, as I stated above, already seemed to have decided I didn’t like her.
Again – remember – I had just met these girls. I had about fifteen or twenty minutes a piece with them. Down the road, my assessments of who I liked would change a bit.
JOHN, SHAWNEE, AND I DISCUSS WHO TO KICK OFF
On every elimination day, John, Shawnee, and I would gather in Shawnee’s dressing room while she had her makeup done. I’d show them the edited scenes from the director’s challenge, and we’d decide who to kick off amidst a lot of inappropriate humor, most of it from Ms. Smith.
We seriously discussed kicking off Jessica, Joanne, and Kylah.
THE GRAND BALLROOM!
In watching the episode, I thought Michelle was coming off a little theatrical at times. You might think her expressing her anger about being brought into the elimination room was perhaps feigned for the sake of the camera.
The first thing I noticed when those girls lined up on stage was that there were four terrified faces and one furious one. Michelle’s confidence knows no bounds, and she was pissed that we had called her into the room as one of the bottom five. I called her on it, and she didn’t completely claim it. But it was there, bubbling below the surface.
One thing that’s important to know about these elimination rounds is that they go on for HOURS. Most of this time is taken up by one particularly chatty Kathy: me. As regular readers of this blog know, I am expulsive. In the elimination room I felt compelled to let the girls hear everything. A few people told me afterwards that I would come off as mean. But I honestly didn’t – and don’t – see it that way. I never told anyone anything with the intent to hurt them. I just told these girls the truth as I saw it. I saw it as my job to focus on that truth no matter what tears or arguments were occurring in the room.
We gave Sarah the Leading Lady award because she was the overall best for the week – second best in both the challenges I saw and good in John’s challenge as well. Michelle hugged her when she won (now THAT hug did seem a little feigned!)
All three judges talked to Jessica for a long time. You see me sort of snap at her and tell her to be quiet and listen. This was after a good fifteen minutes of me, John, and Shawnee telling her what we thought she should change, and having her say "I know" repeatedly. It was driving me fucking crazy. She would say "I know" before we had finished our sentences, as if she were psychic.
That said, she got a callback.
And then Kylah got a callback. Although she was perhaps the worst in my challenge, she was striking to look at (Biagio, the executive producer, claimed I stammered when she took off her robe near the bathtub), and John also told me the she had a breakthrough in his challenge (which, I discovered in watching the show, meant she made the same face she made for the other 36 hours she had been there, only with tears coming out of it.)
Whatever the case, her one-of-a-kind looks helped to give her a second chance. Unfair? Welcome to Hollywood.
Joanne got the axe, in large part because both Kylah and Jessica took my notes better during the director’s challenge. I gave Joanne the same note again and again and again to raise her voice, because the guy in the other room would be incapable of hearing her. She didn’t change or improve. She flatlined.
Even though it was late, I waited around for an hour or so while Joanne took part in her final interviews, so I could talk to her afterwards. I just wanted to make sure that neither I nor the show had unintentionally harmed her in any way.
She was just as warm and as funny as she was on the show. It wasn’t that surprising to me she was the first too get kicked off. It wasn’t her lack of talent – the truth is, she never fully got the chance to express that. It was that she seemed too gentle and sweetly silly and kind to be on a reality show.
She told me she was grateful to be on the show, and that it was a fantastic experience for her. She told me she was happy I had come to talk to her because, after all, she had shown me her tits. That made me laugh.
The interaction was such a positive one, I decided I would do it every week with every girl (I only screwed up once in the coming weeks).
Anyway, I’ll be back next week with another BEHIND-THE-SCREAMS blog. However, I can assure you, it will not be as long as this one.
Go fuck yourselves, sweetly,
You can still watch JAMES GUNN’S PG PORN: NAILING YOUR WIFE.
Know when I’m drinking a cup of coffee, taking a shit, or bitching about how ebaum’s world are motherfucking piece of shit thieves on TWITTER.
© 2008 – 2009, Just Linda. All rights reserved.