Someone's in the house. He's watching. He's creeping round, only you can't see him. He's watching you from the walls. He's right behind you now. Looking over your shoulder. He wants the remote control. He's a bad boy. He wants to watch bad movies. Bad bad Ronald...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

BadRonald Celebrates Women in Horror Month -- Haunted Anna!

Women Girls in Horror Month Celebrates

HAUNTED ANNA: Awesome Teenage Ghost Buster!

Capture from: Girl Possessed by Ghost - Haunted Anna #20
While we’re celebrating Women in Horror Month, let’s not forget the girls of horror. As a fan of horror, and a great supporter of women behind the cameras, I’ve been in awe of the major talents that have burst onto the horror scene. The Soska Twins had a huge indie horror hit with American Mary, and are now directing the hotly anticipated See No Evil 2. Female directors made a big splash at Sundance this year, capturing major awards, including Best Director, won by Ava Duvernay. This win notes the first time a Black woman has won for best directing. Also creating buzz was Ana Lily Amirpour, who directed A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, the first “Iranian vampire western.”

I’d always heard those stories of filmmakers, like Spielberg or Robert Rodriguez, who started making movies in their backyards, as little kids. It’s a nice change to learn that Amirpour had been making movies since she was 12 years old, her first being a horror flick she filmed during a sleepover.

I’ve shared some interviews with girl filmmakers on this blog before, including Emily Hagins, the now 21 year old director, who has made four feature length films (yes, feature length!) since she was 12 years old. Also, I’ve featured a couple chats with PaigeMcKenzie, better known as Sunshine Girl, from the popular YouTube show, The Haunting of Sunshine Girl. McKenzie has been very active in developing her own show, plus a couple movies featuring her Sunshine character, and a stash of other programs which she hosts on her very own YouTube channel, The Haunting of Sunshine Girl Network.

And this is where we found another in the blossoming crop of girl filmmakers – Anna Bishop, otherwise known as Haunted Anna (she’s also known as AJ Bishop, a singer – but more on that later). Haunted Anna is another of the teenage video bloggers, like Sunshine Girl, who have discovered their inner-Scooby Doo, after finding strange goings on in their homes. Anna is the youngest of the teen ghost hunters featured on THOSGN, starting her show when she was just 13 (however, she had been making films, like Ana Lily Amirpour, since she was younger).

BadRonald: How did you come upon the idea/concept for the Haunted Anna videos?  Were they inspired by anything in your life?

Anna: My idea for the Haunted Anna series came from my love of a good mystery, and psychological thrillers. I have been doing short horror videos for years, but never a series with clues and surprises and unexpected twists.  This was an opportunity to expand on something I already loved to do.

Your videos are shown on the Haunting of Sunshine Girl’s YouTube channel.  How did you guys hook up?

I replied to a request from The Haunted Sunshine Network for a story idea and sent a sample of my work. Then I talked out the premise with the Director Nick Hagen and Sunshine and her mom and we agreed on the direction and storyline. 

Capture from: Girl Pulled Off Bed by Ghost - Anna Haunting #13

Are you a spooky movie fan?

I am a HUGE horror movie fan - but not slasher horror – (I like) psychological thrillers.  I love old classics from Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho, The Birds, Rear Window).  I am a big fan of The Shining. Great example of a thriller with very interesting characters (Jack Nicholson is brilliant) and the anticipation of what might happen just leaves you exhausted! So many moments in that movie: 'REDRUM' and 'Here's Johnny' and the sound of 'Danny' on his big wheel riding through the lodge on and off the carpet...chilling.  I also really love The Bad Seed, The Others, The Conjuring, The Exorcist, and I just watched Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense.  I watched it twice in a row actually.  What a clever movie - the ending shocked me. 

Speaking of The Bad Seed, I see that you did a stage production of The Bad Seed, playing the lead character.  Absolutely one of my all time favorite movies! How was that experience?

Who's the wickedest of them all?
I had never seen The Bad Seed, so before I auditioned for it I watched the original 1956 movie.  What a twisted story!  The main character, young Rhoda Penmark, is a psychopath.  She is very smart and very cold and calculating and manipulative and deliciously evil.  She is willing to kill for what she wants.  And, she has absolutely no remorse.  The movie was nominated for 4 academy awards, it is truly a classic must see.  I was THRILLED to play this role. This role was the highlight of my theater roles to date. I even dyed my hair platinum blond and cut bangs for this role.  I was really into it.  Interestingly, the staged play is VERY different from the movie at the end.  It's even darker and more sinister.  Apparently the filmmakers had to follow the motion picture association 'Hayes Code' that censored movies from 1930-1968, and the staged play ending was not approved.  You must read the play to see the full impact of The Bad Seed!! I don't want to give away the ending!
The Bad Seed

From what I’ve seen, on your music videos, and from your tweets and posts, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that you’re a pretty nice, sweet person – right?  How did you manage to get in the head of Rhoda?  She’s such a terrible little girl!

The role of Rhoda Penmark WAS totally out of character for me...but I love being an actress! So this was a great and rewarding challenge for me.  I did a lot of research on psychopaths before the production to prepare.  I learned that psychopathy is a disorder people are born with, and it is often hereditary. They are bold and fearless risk-seekers and they do not understand social norms. With this knowledge I was able to slip into Rhoda's head before the show, and shake her off afterwards.  You don't want to take any of that behavior home from the theater.  I must say my mom accused me of some Rhoda-like behavior during the run of the show.  I might have been trying out some of her manipulative tactics.  But that's the thing with
Capture from: Ghost Doll Spotted in Basement - Haunted Anna #15
performing.  To be convincing you have to fall into your character completely and then let her go. Otherwise you would be a bit unbalanced!

Was it difficult to play bad?

Playing a bad character is really quite fun!!

Now, you’re also an accomplished singer, as well as an actor.  Is there a preference between the two?

That's a tough question.  I love both singing and acting.  I think that's why I started in musical theater.  I know some people are not fans of musical theater and don't like characters breaking into song.  Some theater folks don't consider musicals 'real' theater.  But I like a great musical and a great dramatic performance and a great concert.  It's all entertaining.  And, I think really great singers are also great performers.  You have to believe the lyrics, and that takes a good performance as well as a good song.  So I think I would say I can't decide what I prefer!!

Looking for Ghosts

In the Haunted Anna videos – I enjoy the contrast between your videos and Sunshine’s.  Paige has a very quirky personality and the supporting characters all give her storylines a very Scooby Doo like quality. Sunshine’s storyline starts off as a personal vlog, and then snowballs into some pretty high adventure! Your videos, on the other hand, are pretty much just you (with your mom sometimes making an appearance), and your persona is this “real” girl who is looking for an explanation to the weirdness that is going on around her.  Buuut, things are starting to evolve into some real creepy creepiness. Like black eyed weird creepiness.  What’s it all leading up to? (no spoilers, of course!) Thanks - I was hoping for a real 'girl next door' feeling to the Haunted Anna videos.  Yes things were getting really creepy with Antonina and the mystery of her death...and now… what's next?  I'm not sure.  You will have to stay tuned!!!
Capture from: Ghost Dolls and Orbs; My Dog Sniffs Out a Ghost - Haunted Anna #17

Some of your posts and tweets have mentioned, or hashtagged, things like “girl power”, or have had a teen-centric theme.  You have also done a video on bullying.  Are you driven to put out a positive image for kids and teens?

I am very focused on the impact I might have with young girls and other teens.  I have observed some terrible Middle School bullying and it is really ugly. My video for “This Too Shall Pass” addresses the issue of bullying.  My message is that girls need to support other girls, and you should stay positive and optimistic.  If I have any impact on my peers I want it to be positive and empowering.  I am not a fan of overtly sexy teens and sexy “selfies” and trying to use shock and skin and drug references for attention.

I’ve discussed this same topic with Paige and her mom, as well, about
how today’s teens are portrayed in television and music.  There seems to be an expectation of teen and tweens, in the entertainment industry, that tends to portray them as more mature.  Do you see this? How do you work or deal with these expectations in your career?

Capture from: Ghost in Attic - Anna Haunting #4
It's funny because when you perform a lot, especially with adults, you have to be a bit more mature.  And the entertainment industry definitely makes young girls look really mature.  I'm not a fan of this.  I don't like how rushed everyone is to get through their teens and be more 'mature.'  I want to enjoy being a teen!

It seems as if most TV shows/movies aimed at the younger crowd are about crushing on guys, or “mean girls”, or fashionistas, and even more adult themes.  It’s rare to find a show, like, for instance Bunheads, that seems to portray kids who deal with more typical teen problems. So, it’s good to see portrayals of teens – like with you and Sunshine -- who deal with other things, on their programs, besides the typical love and angst we see everywhere else.  Is this something you considered ahead?  Or just the way you are?

With me you get what you see.  I am a typical normal teen girl.  Unless I am playing a role on stage I try to stay true to myself and my's OK to giggle with girlfriends and paint your nails and play with your little sister.  It's a waste of time to get wrapped up in what's in or out or who is in or out or trying to be someone you are not.

Follow @AnnaJaneBishop on Twitter

From what I’ve seen in your work, you focus on the positive.  Do you, or would you, consider yourself being a role model for other girls and teens?

I would like to think that I would be a good role model for other girls.  I am not perfect, I have ups and downs but try to stay positive, and I am really focused on school (education is #1), family and friends.  It's a good way to be!

You spoke about the other horror shorts you've done.  Are those available to view anywhere?

No, my horror shorts are done with friends, edited at home and not online.  I just do them for fun...but maybe I should start posting them...there are some really great ones!  

What's your process for your show?  Do you come up with an arc for a "season" or develop the storyline with each segment?
My process was a general idea of the storyline for the 'season,' then focusing on each episode moving the story forward...with a little scare in there, or a mystery, or clue, or an unexpected twist.  Sometimes I had an idea for the episode, and sometimes it was a little more impromptu and my mom and I would brainstorm, check out the spaces and angles, and then just film.  Very spontaneous, to keep it fresh and “real.” 
Listen in at ReverbNation

So, tell me more about your singing career?

I started singing, really singing, when I was 8 in a professional musical theater production of The Wizard of Oz.  I caught the performing bug and just kept on going: musical theater, dramatic theater, film work, training in acting, singing (opera/classical, choral and musical theater) and dancing (tap, ballet, contemporary and jazz). Last year I decided to branch out into pop music starting with some cover songs and then doing an original with a local singer songwriter, Brent Rogers (&Kelli Caldwell).  I put up a YouTube channel, a Facebook Page and got on a music site (ReverbNation) and just let it all go out there.  Just recently, Kevin DeClue, an LA based multi-platinum producer, found me. He has teamed up with HollyWood Records, Capital Entertainment, Arista Records etc. I have started to work with him, and I am learning so much! We are working on an original EP (5 songs) to be released in February. Our first song is AMAZING.  It's really exciting!

What music or musicians have you been influenced by?  And who, if dreams ever do come true, would you wanna duet with?

Check out AJ BIshop on YouTube
I like so many musicians, but the common thread is great vocals, melodies and lyrics.  I like older bands like The Beatles.  I love Elton John and really love older jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald.  But I also listen to more current musicians like Norah Jones (love her sound and style), Wilco (90s),The Decemberists (love them-they are from Portland!!), Kimbra (she is so talented), Ellie Goulding (great layered vocals and lyrics) and Lorde (great lyrics and creative unique sound). I also like classic rock.  My dad plays guitar and we are always singing and listening to classic artists like: Neil Young, The Allman Brothers, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Johnny Cash, Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac, etc.   I am not a fan of overly manipulated music, or dance club music.  You know with the recording software anyone can 'sing' these days.  I like authentic voices, and authentic sounds. My new favorite song right now is Indina Menzel singing Let It Go from the movie Frozen!  So my tastes run wide:)!!! This is a total GIRL POWER song too!!

Ella! Elton! Ellie! Johnny Cash -- yes!  Where’d you develop such an eclectic range of music taste?

I am lucky to be surrounded by music. My dad plays guitar (electric, acoustic and banjo) all the time.  He's very into classic rock so we listen to a lot of vocally driven 70s rock. Love Johnny Cash - now that's 50s and 60s - classic songs, and great heart in his music.  I love the At Folsom Prison Album. What passion and grit and raw emotion you hear in that album. Our theme song on the drive to school is Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Free Bird' - haha!!  Thanks dad!!  And my mom brings in musical theater (which she loves, as do I) and the more soft rock melody centered artists from her past like Joni Mitchell, Billy Joel (I actually really like him - his voice and the PIANO - no making fun of him!), James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkle, Phil Collins and Norah Jones to name a few. We are often sitting in the car at the curb finishing listening to a song with my mom whi is singing all the lyrics.  And then we talk about why a certain phrase was so meaningful.  Yesterday we were talking about 'they're sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it's better than drinking alone.' - Billy Joel, Piano Man.  Now
Go LIKE her on FaceBook
obviously I don't drink, but we were talking about how people need other people and they come together (in this case in a bar) to listen to music and 'forget about life for awhile.'  Music can have a huge impact on people.  And I love all the cool images.  True story, last Christmas, at Christmas eve dinner, my dad and I sang a couple songs for the family (we have a huge family) and my 85 year old Grandfather with advanced Parkinsons Disease, who had barely been tracking all night, sat up and started belting out an old irish tune.  The family was stunned.  The music brought him out of his dark place and helped him join in the festivities.  I have never felt so happy.  Now whenever we visit I try to sing to him...anything I'm working on...classical, musical theater, whatever. 

That’s an amazing story!  How about in acting?  Who are your influences/idols?  And what actors or directors would you give your left pinky to work with?

In the acting world I am in awe of talented stage actors.  They don't get multiple takes...they are the best my opinion and they study their craft. Meryl Streep probably stands out as the BEST actress ever.  I also love Julia Roberts and Jennifer Lawrence (she can play so many roles well!). And I'm a new fan of Kristen Bell aka Veronica Mars (she studied musical theater and performed on Broadway BEFORE moving into film!).

I enjoyed your retweet of the Rookie article Kids Won't Listen: "Why I’m sick of articles about teenage girls written by grown-up men."  I had a good chuckle at the title, seeing that I'm a "grown man." But, the article is great, and it makes lots of good points. As a father of two young daughters, I've become very analytical of how young woman and girls are portrayed in entertainment. But, I'm also acutely aware that it's not the GIRLS in the business who need to be analyzed and criticized --It's the producers and creators.  Where the limitations lie, in the portrayals of girls, is in the creative.  I love discovering projects and productions where girls are encouraged to be positive, about themselves, and about the world around them.  I respect that Nick and Mercedes and Paige are doing their best in finding talent like you, to push better images of girls. 
Yes - that was a great article in RookieMag (it's a super Mag for teens)...and SO true.  When I first talked to Mercedes and Paige we talked about 'adorkable.'  And that was what clicked because that's me too.  Sunshine has this adorkable, carefree persona, and I too wanted to really be myself in the Haunted Anna series...curious, open minded, eager and positive.  I never dressed up or put on makeup to film, I did it all in one take and I was open and honest.  Not everyone loved what I did every episode.  It's hard not to be hurt by the YouTube comments (I stopped reading them) - of course it's 'fake' its a web series people!!  Everything on television is 'fake' and you don't see people analyzing every minute and every glance and every word of their scripts!  But I was proud of my work and my creativity and of staying true to myself.  That's the way I am, that's the way I dress, that's the way I talk, and so you get what you see with me. I hope I have helped to portray a better or more real image of a young teen girl!
Capture from: Giggling Heard on Camera - Anna Haunting #11

Susan Bishop, Anna's mom wanted to join in on this topic:                     
I think when we first looked at this project, Anna and I appreciated that Mercedes and Paige were looking for something real and age appropriate.  Anna was just 13, and a young 13 at that, and we wanted her to be herself.  She loves mystery and horror and psychological thrillers, so we took it from there...creating a mystery, finding clues, and moving the story forward.  We did not want to create a character 'Anna,' but a real version of Anna...just haunted.  This is very similar to 'Sunshine.'  She's a great role model.  A really nice genuine young woman, with a funny sense of humor, a bit goofy (which is cool), and no attitude.  Hard to find these days!!  It was super fun being a part of the Sunshine Network, and Anna really appreciates her ongoing connection with the Sunshine cast and crew.  They are great, hard working people. There may be continued collaboration in the future, so stay tuned!!

Is there anything, other than the Haunted Anna videos, that you will be appearing in?

Capture from: Ghost Doll and Orb - Anna Haunting #16
This year my focus is on my transition to High School activities and ACADEMICS, so I am not pursuing outside performing opportunities. I have spent the last 6 years going to rehearsals and performing and I have not been able to do normal teen stuff like sports, clubs, sleepovers, hanging out with my friends, etc.  That said, I am interested in doing my high school musical - Beauty and The Beast (I have never been in a school production!!).  And, I am trying to do some non-performing things.  I was on my HS Cross Country Team this fall.  Our team placed 2nd in the state, and I made Varsity - which was so much fun (I have never done a school team sport either).

What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever seen or experienced that wasn’t a ghost?

There's a haunted house up the street...I'm not kidding.  We film it all the time.  Odd stuff is going on there!  Maybe Haunted Anna will need to investigate!

Follow Anna at These Links 


1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the AMAZING interview. I am honored! AJ #AJBishop <3