By CORY CARR
If you've been following the indie film scene at all, I'm sure you've noticed that there is one name that has been popping up again, and again. That name is Ellie Church -- a young actress who got her start with Troma and since has been making a name for herself by playing gun toting bad-asses, mid-west roller girls and even the occasional blood drenched victim. With such notable films as Time to Kill, Harvest Lake and Headless under her belt, the future is looking even brighter.
I'm very happy to say that Church was able to find time in her busy schedule to talk to me about her films, the horror genre and what it's like being a young actress in a world of Killers, Monsters & Bigfoot!
Cory: Early in your career you worked for Troma. How did you get involved with Uncle Lloyd, and what did you do for the company during that time?
Church: Troma work was simple, I worked their booth at conventions, and mostly tried to sell copies of "Buttcrack", to no avail. But I learned a lot, and it very much helped me to ease into acting by meeting the right people, tips from Lloyd, and learning about the way the business was at the time.What were early experiences in your life that made you want to become an actor, and what about horror films drove you to later work in the genre?
I've always been a show off. Class clown. The kid that rallied the other kids together and organized plays to show our parents, etc. I got in trouble a lot in school for talking, because I was always trying to make the other kids laugh.Yes, you do seem like you have a fun and even goofy quality to your personality. I would LOVE to see you in a comedy.
Really, it was the more Troma-esk movies that got me into the horror genre, although I do love a lot of straight horror, I always gravitate toward comedy.
Obviously you enjoy horror. I read that some of your favorites are among the classics, such as "The Shining" and "Pet Semetary". What do you look for in a good horror film?
I want to be creeped out , but not a "Pan's Labyrinth" , or "Martyrs" kind of way. In a "Pet Semetary", and "Nightmare on Elm Street" kind of way. I'm not saying those other movies aren't good, they're great! They make you feel. But everyone has their own brand, or feeling that they enjoy, and I like the feelings "Pet Semetary" and Freddy give me. Sorrow isn't something I dig.
Church behind the scenes of "Frankenstein Created Bikers" with Bigfoot.
You were recently in "Frankenstein Created Bikers", that will be released later this fall -- can you tell me a little about the film and your role?
Whenever anyone asks me this question, I usually ask them if they've seen the movie "Airheads". If yes , then my role in Frankenstein Created Bikers is pretty much the same role as Michael Richard's role in Airheads where he's crawling around in the air vents witnessing all of this weird shit going on around him. But if you haven't, it's a major victim role, only awful things happen to me. Madagascar hissing cockroaches, rats , gallons of blood , Bigfoot, and of course , the bikers you wish you'd never met.In addition to the films "Harvest Lake" and "Plank Face", I see that you are working AGAIN with filmmaker Scott Schirmer on the film "The Bad Man". What can you tell me about that?
The Bad Man is a script and an idea that I am deeply in love with.. But sadly, something I don't know will ever happen due the fact that it's pricier than normal for Bandit Motion Pictures. But I really hope it does someday, because it would be my dream role.When you're acting, are their any influences that you look to for inspiration?
I think it always depends on the role at the time. You find different influences for different characters, and sometimes it's a mix between two or three people. My role in "Headless" has a very P.J. Soles feel. But my role in "High on the Hog" was a completely self manifested character led of course, by the script. Sometimes you just let your imagination go wild and see what happens.Since the late 70s and through the 80s, many women have been able to make a name for themselves, and even a career, as what has become known a "scream queen". As a young woman who works in horror, what are your thoughts on how women are portrayed in films and in horror in particular?
First of all, I feel like the term 'Scream Queen' is thrown around way too loosely. It's over used to the point that no matter how many films I do, or how iconic they may be or get, I'll probably never refer to myself as such.
No matter what, we always have the power to choose how we are portrayed. When girls first go into horror, a lot of them do anything and everything (I certainly did). But as time goes on, and if you improve and make any kind of name for yourself, you can really pick and choose what you do, and how you want to be represented. If I don't like the way a script makes me look/feel, then I don't do it, period. You make your image.
Several of the films you've been in have shared the same "genre" flavor. In most genre and exploitation films the stories are always told while pushing the envelope to their limits. Is there anything that is too taboo to be in film, or for you to participate in filming?
The great thing about indie film is that you can do anything you want, so there's nothing too explicit to film, as long as you're not hurting anyone. But everyone chooses what is too much for them. Like everyone else, I have my limits. I'm not going to try and list the things I don't like to do, but if something makes me uncomfortable, I won't do it.Sticking with the genre/exploitation theme, you have been filmed in the buff several times now. You even shared a wash tub with another woman in "Time to Kill". What is your opinion of nudity and sex on screen?
I love nudity in film, it can be a beautiful thing. For an actor , nudity in film comes down to trust. The first nudity I did was I believe, "Time to Kill". There was obviously a big element of trust in this as my husband was the director /cinematographer. I knew he wouldn't make me look bad or put anything out there that wasn't completely complimentary. I just recently did what I believe to be my last nudity in "High on the Hog", but, you never know. I may do it again sometime for the right role. It's just not likely.More recently you were in "Harvest Lake", a film that explores sexuality in a very exploratory way. What was your reaction to the script after having read it?
I was extremely turned on by it, true story. I've never read a script like "Harvest Lake". It's by far the most eerie and arousing script I've read.
Which of your films so far has become your personal favorite and why?
It's between two. "Plank Face" and "Headless". I love the tone in both. I like both, but for different reasons. For "Plank Face", I had a small role, but was much more behind the scenes -- doing makeup, wardrobe, a few effects, and just general P.A. stuff. Really just doing whatever needed to be done. I felt like a much bigger part of it than anything I've ever done. "Headless" I love because my character is so much fun, and "Headless" is just a great flick.Do you have an interesting story from the set of one of your films?
I have many an interesting story, but one that really stands out is from the set of "Frankenstein Created Bikers". I had been covered in super sticky blood all day. If you can imagine what molasses might be like after it sits and dries for about 10 hours, that was my entire body. For this particular scene I had to curl up in a ball in a corner, and every time I did it, my boobs would stick to my thighs and it was not easy getting them apart. So they called someone in to rub my entire body down with horse lube so I wouldn't stick. We did this about every 20 minutes for about 3 hours. It was.....weird. It was a good thing I loved, and felt comfortable with everyone there.What insight could you give to other young women who would like to do what you do?
Don't get taken advantage of. Find someone who has been doing it a while and get references. Work with people you trust. I talk with girls all of the time, and I try to help them get off to a good start. If you are looking to get into independent film, message me. I'm always down to help anyone out. When I started I had no one, and that's hard, and you make a lot of mistakes. But I learned from them, and that helps me help other people.What is on the horizon for Ellie Church -- what projects are you currently working on, or would like to work on?
Well, "Plank Face" premiers August 27th at the Gateway Film Center in Columbus Ohio. I just finished on "High on the Hog" starring Sid Haig and directed by Tony Wash, so be on the look out for that one. I also just did a short film with a director I've been wanting to work with, Jason Tostevin, since I saw his film "Till Death" which is a hilarious horror comedy short. All of his films are great, and it was awesome to get to work with him and his amazing crew on "Born Again". Coming very soon.What have you been watching lately, or, have you seen "Stranger Things" and what are your thoughts if you have?
I've been on a MAJOR stand up kick. I can't get enough comedy right now. But I have seen 3 episodes of "Stranger Things", and I love it! The sets are incredible, the acting is top notch, the music rules... it's wonderful.
For more info about Ellie Church or her films, check out Bandit Motion Pictures and of course her IMDB page. Make sure to be on the look out for High on the Hog, Plank Face, Born Again, and later this fall Frankenstein Created Bikers.