Writer-director Megan Freels Johnston took time to speak with Horrornews.net about her film, “The Ice Cream Truck.” The film has an amazing cast including: Deanna Russo, Dana Gaier, John Redlinger, Emil Johnsen, Hilary Barraford and Jeff Daniel Phillips.
Megan- Hi, is this Janel?
Yes, this is me!
Megan- Hi this is Megan Freels Johnston! How are you?
I am doing good! How are you?
Megan- I am good!
I am so excited about “The Ice Cream Truck” film. It was really good!
Megan- Oh good, thank you!
Okay, so I was so excited when I heard you directed and wrote “The Ice Cream Truck.” Why did you decide to direct the film?
Megan- Well, I’m a writer and so I wrote the script. I was a producer for a long time. It took a while to get things made so inevitably made me switch to also becoming a writer and a director as well. I found that there was kind of a void in the horror community in terms of more female related stories. They are starting to pop up more and more lately but that was definitely something I wanted to be a part of and adding another female voice to the genre.
I think that is a plus for the horror community!
Megan- Also I am in my late thirties so I wanted to depict a character in that age-range. I find that final girls tend to be in their twenties and obviously someone in their thirties, forties or beyond have a different story to tell and a different life experience to draw from.
The ice cream truck in the film is quite unique and creepy! Where did you find it?
Megan- Actually we had that truck made. I was searching for ice cream trucks for a long time. I was looking on Craigslist, classified ads. You name it! I was looking everywhere. I ran across an ad for what I think was an old milk truck. It was not this particular truck and I found these guys who are from Laguna Beach, CA and they restore old trucks like old delivery trucks, ice cream trucks and bakery trucks. I called them and told them how much I love their truck and you know the movie I was doing and that it would add so much production value into the artistic nature of the film. I think my begging ultimately swayed them to working with me. A man by the name of Russell Boston did the truck and we kind of designed it together. It ended up looking really great!
I had to ask because when I was watching the film, it creeps you out and you think oh, that is just another vehicle for me to not park next to besides vans!
Megan- Right, absolutely!
Do you believe that people can actually learn a certain amount of things from horror films? Do you ever feel that way? I think I learned a lot from horror movies growing up!
Megan- Yeah, I think I learned things from horror movies when I was growing up as well. I love the horror genre, I love putting people in tough situations. It kind of has a solid beginning, middle and end. I don’t think every genre has that. I like to put real life situations that parallel the scary stuff and I think there are a lot of intelligent horror films. I think there are a lot of horror films that are just fun and escapism so I think that if you can sort of kind of combine a message with that escapism then its such a great experience.
What was it like for you working with the cast and directing the cast?
Megan- I think the cast in the film is amazing! I cannot enough say enough great things about them. Everyone was really positive about the project and wanted to be there and contribute. Every single one of them had great energy. I think they exceeded my highest expectations so I am beyond happy and I loved working with the actors.
Now what projects are you working on next?
Megan- The next film I am trying to make is a film called “Hunting Season,” and it is about trophy hunters so it is another film that has a social as well as being fun. It is probably a little more straightforward than anything I’ve done so far.
There are a lot of people excited for “The Ice Cream Truck.” What do you want the audiences to know?
Megan- First of all I am glad people are excited about it and I am glad that the reviews have been good so far. I just want everyone to know that I am just as much a horror fan as anybody else. It’s my favorite genre work in and I am just trying to make films that people will like that has a little bit of something for everybody. That’s kind of my goal.
Did anything unexpected happen on-set?
Megan- The only major hiccup we had that was frustrating was that the police came on our second to the last day shooting in the park. There was one element to what happened with Max (John Redlinger) and Mary (Deanna Russo), it was just a small piece that we were not able to shoot that was in the script and it just added a little something. It kind of prolonged Mary’s realization of things. We didn’t get to shoot it because the police were there, I guess someone complained even though we had a permit. The police still have to figure out, do you have a permit, how legit are they, where is the person? There wasn’t a person from the city there because it was so late at night even though they were supposed to be there. So it cost us a couple of hours. When you are shooting an independent film a couple of hours is a lot of time. It was only a fifteen day shoot so we lost a scene. That was the only main thing and I was so frustrated.
You shot the film in only fifteen days?
Megan- Fifteen days! Yes! When you are working in independent film, you have to be very efficient and work as hard as you can. People wear many hats and you have to keep everyone happy because it can’t be fifteen days and a stressful situation, it has to be fifteen days of a super fun time.
Did you have anyone that inspired you professionally and did you always know you wanted to write?
Megan- I started out producing. I did not think I was going to be a writer and director. That came later. I didn’t start writing scripts until I was in my early thirties and once I found my rhythm I kind of never stopped. I think I am the most inspired by horror films of the seventies and eighties. There are certain things from those films that I like. I take little pieces here and there from other films. I love Roman Polanski, I love David Lynch, Hitchcock. I love the visual style of Dario Argento. I take a little from each person that I like because they all have different things that are inspiring.
They are all amazing choices!
Megan- He is actually from Norway, English is his second language. He is a classically trained actor and we actually had a known actor who was supposed to play the part and it fell through but the manager of that actor loved the script so much that she had Emil put himself on tape. I had never heard of him and she was like I just want you to see this actor. He can do anything and he did four versions of an audition which I wish we still had those auditions tape because I would put them on the special features. He blew me away instantly! He got it and he didn’t make it hokey and he understood how to take that dialogue and make it into the creepiness that it’s meant to be. He just nailed it!
He did such a good job and he upped the creepy factor! Another factor is that he is a person and not a monster. You never know what human beings are capable of and that makes it truly scary.
Megan- I couldn’t agree with you more. I love my villains to have a lot to say and it is a way for me to get my feelings about moral into the dialogue and this is Emil’s first American movie. He is a big star in Europe and Scandinavia and he’s classically trained. This is the first thing he has done here, I mean he is incredible as you can see.
Did you have a favorite scene from the film?
Megan- I mean since we are talking horror, my favorite scene is the scene with Brie (Dana Gaier) and her boyfriend Nick (Sam Schweikert) that is obviously the scene I am the most proud of from a director’s stand point, an artistic stand point. That is the one I thought was going to be the hardest to do and it just really works so that is probably my favorite. But there’s a lot of things I like and I laugh a lot at people’s reactions to other people that they are talking to. There are a lot of good unspoken moments.
What advice would you offer to someone who may be hesitant to start a project?
Megan- I would tell anyone because I’ve done this and I did this with my first film. You can’t rely on anyone to do anything for you. You have to just have the drive to do it yourself. If you want to make a movie you just have to push forward with whatever means you have. So if you don’t have a lot of money just find what you have. Find people who are passionate like you and go make something and see what happens. My other advice is after you make a movie you are not done. You still have to work so hard on post-production to make your film great and you have to market your film and get it out there. It is years of your life. You cannot be a person who is lazy. You have to really love it and then want to do it and they will follow. Its cliché to say, “If you build it, they will come,” but I agree with that very much.
I did some additional research and I did not know you were the granddaughter of Elmore Leonard?
Megan- Yes, so the writing is in the genetics.
Yes, I’ll say! That’s amazing writing genetics.
Any possibility of a sequel to “The Ice Cream Truck?”
Megan- I don’t know. I’m sure it could be done. It all depends on how people respond and if they want one, I guess. I do think the next thing I make is going to be “Hunting Season.”
It was an honor to speak with you and I loved the film. Thank you!
Megan- It was so nice talking to you! I am so glad. I was really worried about the horror fans thinking there was not enough horror and I wasn’t sure what the reaction was going to be. My intentions were in the right place and the fact that I love horror comes across. I am so honored.