Nov 4, 2008
BEHIND-THE-SCREAMS Blog: SCREAM QUEENS Episode Three (SPOILERS)!!
All photos by John Sampson. From L to R: Marissa, Jessica, Michelle, Lina, Sarah, Angela, Tanedra, Lindsay.
This week fucked me up! The girls who I thought were at the front of the bus – Michelle, Sarah, and Tanedra – were poor to bland in the Director’s Challenge. The girls who I thought kinda sucked – especially Jessica and Lina – kicked it up a notch. I came out of the week wondering if I was going to be able to make any sort of informed decision at all about our SCREAM QUEEN, the future star of SAW VI.
Were the girls just going to be randomly better or worse from week to week? Or were some real frontrunners going to emerge?
I’ll be honest. I went into the week hoping we were going to boot Jessica. At the first director’s challenge – the only REAL acting challenge we’d had thus far – three girls were far worse than the others – Jo-Anne, Kylah, and Jessica. Jo-Anne and Kylah were gone. So I thought week three was going to be an easy decision.
But something weird happened: Jessica rocked in the Director’s Challenge. In the first half, when she was crawling through the glass, crying, trying to figure out where she was, she was magnificent. For the first time I realized she had a charismatic star quality. I think it’s something a lot of you have picked up on at home, watching her in the confessionals – she’s very present and easy to relate to.
But in the second half of the challenge, when she fought the bad guy, her robotic fighting style reminded me a lot of Mechagodzilla, only not in a bulky costume, and not surrounded by three foot high cardboard buildings (though I think I’m coming up with a good giant monster challenge for SCREAM QUEENS 2…)
That said, it wasn’t really the fighting I was concerned with. ALL of the girls sucked at fighting. (And I liked watching Shawnee’s high jump competition on TV, but I couldn’t care less whether a girl is able to jump from that high. A star of a film would never be asked to do this kind of stunt, and would probably not be allowed to do it for insurance purposes. Despite all the actresses I hear in interviews claiming to "do their own stunts," I’ve never actually seen a mainstream actress do a stunt on set .)
What bugged me about Jessica’s fighting was her acting while doing it – her face went all whacked-out Devil’s-Rejecty. I was beginning to see some real potential in her, but I wished I could take her crazy out behind the barn and put a bullet in its brain. (I wish I could do this to MY crazy as well – so far, no such fucking luck).
That said, Jessica was the second best in the challenge.
Lina, however, was better, because she was consistently good through the whole scene. AND she was incredibly sexy – I never thought I could get quarter-wood watching a girl crawl through glass, but here I was, sitting in my director’s chair, taking a beat before standing up and giving her her next note. Also, both the makeup artists and the crew informed me Lina’s attitude had changed very much for the better. Lina suddenly seemed like she could take the whole thing. And that’s why, in the Grand Ballroom, we gave her Leading Lady.
Michelle, whom I had loved in earlier challenges, was atrocious. Her performance was so broad, I thought she had been possessed by Jerry Lewis from the NUTTY PROFESSOR. And her incredible Hulk impression after knocking down the bad guy almost made me laugh out loud, just as it did her fellow contestants watching on the video monitor. I was wondering if we should have Michelle wear a bikini in every scene she did from there on, because, otherwise, she might be cringe-worthy.
In the Grand Ballroom, Michelle started crying and said, "I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging… but I’ve had a really, really great life growing up!" This was her excuse for not being able to access the sadder emotions! This was definitely one of the weirdest things I’ve ever heard. It was so weird, in fact, I had to repeat the line endlessly to Shawnee and John and the rest of the crew for the rest of the shoot. I never tired of it (though I’m certain they did.) It was the first time I had heard a happy childhood being posited as a handicap. And it was bullshit. Life is hard. It’s not easy for anyone. As I said on the show, we all fucking die. You want to get sad? Think about that shit, or your dead cat, or the kid you knew in high school who killed himself. No one escapes horror, whether it be small or large. At a certain point, "looking on the bright side" simply becomes psychotic delusion, and Michelle was at least ankle deep in that particular affliction. Maybe Jessica wasn’t "the crazy one" after all.
She was good, but, once again, she didn’t stand out to me (maybe because I didn’t see her kickass backflip in the high jump!) She was the least experienced of all the actresses, and she seemed a bit confused about how to relate to the camera.
Decent, but blah, as evidenced by the shortness of this paragraph.
Rather weak. Her choices made sense, and she looked awesome on film, but I didn’t buy her emotions.
It wasn’t that Sarah was as bad as Michelle – she wasn’t. But she seemed a thousand miles away from her emotions, and she simply didn’t improve at all from take to take, despite my notes. As you see in the episode, I took her aside afterwards and told her she seemed to be off her game. What you don’t see is that although Sarah initially made excuses, she immediately got off that and took responsibility for her poor performance. I was extremely impressed by this. I think ownership is a necessary component for growth.
Marissa was eager to please, but her performance was bland. At least Michelle made a splash (albeit, a cat-against-the-grill-of-your-Buick type of splash). But the anguish you see Marissa going through on the show was apparent to me on set. It was an unpleasant energy to be around. In the Grand Ballroom, after Marissa complained about our critiques feeling like beatings, Shawnee said to her, "The beatings are good for you – maybe they’ll help you to be less theatrical." Well… I couldn’t totally agree with that. Like I’ve said before, the Grand Ballroom eliminations are only a few minutes for you guys, but we would be there for a couple hours. My hope was that our criticisms in the Grand Ballroom would empower the performances of the contestants, but I felt like our words weren’t helping Marissa at all any more. And whether it was caused by what the judges said, by the other girls’ cattiness, or by the unrelenting eyes of the cameras, Marissa seemed to only get darker and more inside her head and more afraid to express herself week by week. I started to feel like we were hurting her. Although Michelle was the worst, she showed more potential earlier on, and she didn’t seem to be breaking down. In the end, it was a relief (probably to Marissa and certainly to us) to let her go.
In her exit interview – which I only saw on TV – Marissa said she was happy the judges said she was a talented actress. She said, "I know that, and I just needed to hear it from them, too." This made me a little sad, as I think that need was largely Marissa’s weakness. Despite all of her proclamations of being "true", it seemed like she was trying to be true just to impress the judges. She lacked what I talked about in this blog last week, the paradoxical ingredient necessary for artistic success – absolute commitment while absolutely not giving a fuck. Her need to impress destroyed her ability to impress.
Thankfully, however, there is life outside of SCREAM QUEENS. The week before I hadn’t been able to talk to Kylah after the show, because I had a prior commitment. But this week I waited for Marissa to finish her exit interviews so I could make sure she was okay.
We sat side by side on the couch in the ludicrously over-colored living room. She proclaimed she was fine and had she learned from the experience, but I wasn’t sure I believed her. She certainly seemed to be breathing more easily than she had been two hours beforehand, but the circles under her eyes suggested she was somewhat ravaged by the experience. She still seemed to want to prove to me that she was okay and good, because she didn’t truly trust it was okay and good sometimes to not be okay and good. Still, she had been one of my favorites on the show – she was a bright girl with a life in her eyes I don’t think her years on this planet have caught up to yet. Her potential, whether it’s in acting or something else, has not yet been reached. I looked at her and realized a reality show is a great place for a certain type of actress to flourish and to improve her craft –Marissa, however, is not of that type.
That said, she left me feeling hopeful for her. Things from here, I was pretty sure, would get better for her.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK
A few questions have been asked of me repeatedly about the making of the show. Here’s one:
Are your judgments colored by what the contestants did outside of the challenges?
This question has come up a lot, mostly because people question whether I knew what a bitch (their word, not mine) Michelle was, and why that didn’t affect my judgment.
The truth is, I heard very little about Michelle being a "bitch," because, as you can see on the show, most of her bitchiness happened in the confessionals, and I wasn’t privy to what happened there. What I would hear about them would be through the crew, or through the other girls. And I did know that the girls sometimes had disdain for Michelle – but as I understood it, it wasn’t because she was a bitch, but because they didn’t respect her acting talent.
So I’d like to say no, I wasn’t colored by what they did outside of the challenges. And I think primarily I made choices based on how well the girls did in the them and that included how well they worked with me and the crew, but not anything I heard about their interactions with the other girls.
However, I did hear SOME things that happened when the girls weren’t around. And in this episode, I probably heard more than in any other.
What wasn’t shown in this episode was that the girls staged a drunken rebellion, and wanted to be able to go out partying and dancing after their night out on the town. Shawnee got pissed at them, and, frankly, so did I when I heard about it. Shawnee knows, like I do, that entertainment professionals sometimes need to go off for long periods of time without their friends and family working on a film or a TV show. I personally have had to leave my life and Von Spears for five or six months at a time to live in Vancouver or Australia. It can be unbelievably emotionally difficult. And for these guys to be going nuts over not even three weeks away from the real world made me think that NONE of them had what it takes to be a Scream Queen.
I also heard about how Sarah, perhaps too bluntly, told Michelle what she thought of her acting. I put this down to Sarah’s lack of a filter between her brain and her mouth.
And I heard how Lina was always needling Tanedra, calling her "Sistah" and talking about Ebonics. That bothered me. But I also knew that Lina made a lot of Asian jokes (such as in this episode when she says, "You know, I’m Asian, we all know kung fu. And we all know karate," which I found funny,) so I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt that she was just an equal opportunity offender.
I heard that Angela "had a massive breakdown" and "there’s a lot of darkness in that girl".
But all of the things I heard one thing stood out the most – it was that Sarah said Jessica weighed fifty pounds more than she did and that Jessica said to Sarah, "Do you know how ugly you are? Do you know how Jewish you look?"
Okay. This freaked me out. For the girls to call each other fat and ugly, as many of them have done, is awful. But to start throwing bigotry into the mix is reprehensible.
But still, I thought the best thing to do was put that knowledge aside and judge the competition on the merits of the performances and the girls’ behavior on set. I tried my best not to take that knowledge into account while judging this competition.
I’m not excusing Jessica’s behavior. I think she did something very wrong. But I also think she’s a good person, and she made the mistake of doing that something wrong on national TV. And because of that, I think she’s more than learned her lesson.
And, before you use this forum as an excuse to beat her up, think about some of the worst things you’ve done in your life, and imagine if they were broadcast into a couple million households.
Have questions about SCREAM QUEENS – ask ‘em below, and I’ll try to answer!
And watch next week’s episode of SCREAM QUEENS, which is by far my favorite and the funniest episode of the show yet. AND it features a special appearance by my brother Sean! And we had a blast, shooting it on my birthday! I really can’t wait for you guys to see it!
But, more importantly, get off your ass and GO FUCKING VOTE!!
You can still watch JAMES GUNN’S PG PORN: NAILING YOUR WIFE.
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