PopHorror had the pleasure of interviewing freshman Actor/Writer/Director/Special FX Artist Lisa van Dam-Bates (Kackles 2016) about her new film, Marla AKA Marla Mae (2019). The film stars van Dam-Bates, Travis Johnny Ware (Unlucky Girl 2014), newcomer Jason Stange, Palmer Chase (Dusk to Dusk 2018), and Katie Hemming (Oddball 2016). The movie centers around the main character, Marla (van Dam-Bates), getting a killer deal on an IUD that has deadly consequences. Let’s learn more about the creative mind behind this ingenious film idea!
PopHorror: What inspired you to write Marla?
Lisa van Dam-Bates: I was interested in getting into film. I just really wanted to make a movie. At one point, I was trying to buy an existing script off of a coworker, but I realized that most writers are very attached to what they’ve created, and it would be hard to make someone else’s idea a reality on a small budget. I had some ideas and eventually I just sat down and started writing. The first draft of Marla was 400 pages and only has one scene from the final script. I definitely should’ve taken more time before I started writing to plan where I was going with the script.
PopHorror: Was it challenging starring and directing the film?
Lisa van Dam-Bates: It was actually my first time acting or directing. The acting wasn’t difficult. I wrote Marla, and I knew what I wanted her to be, so I think that made it easier. I did have a moment before we filmed our first scene where I wondered if I was going to clam up once the camera was on me. I really hate having my picture taken, and I’d never been on camera before, but it was fine. Directing was a challenge, because when you’re in the scene, in front of the camera, it’s hard to really see everything that’s going on. We did rehearsals with the actors for two weeks before we started filming, so that helped me get their performances where I wanted them in advance.
PopHorror: What is your favorite scene in the movie?
Lisa van Dam-Bates: So many scenes that you have in your head play out really differently once they have been filmed and edited. I would say that the majority of what was in my head while I was writing shifted significantly in practice. I think my favorite scene is the bathtub scene at the end. It really did turn out how I envisioned it; if not, better. I have very fond memories of crouching in the bathtub and throwing guts at the wall, take after take.
PopHorror: I would have to say that was my favorite scene as well. Do you have any interesting stories from the set?
Lisa van Dam-Bates: It is interesting to me how every set starts. A couple of people might know each other from another project, but everybody is on their best behavior at first. After you film overnights for a couple of weeks, everybody knows everybody really well. After spending so much time together, people’s goofy sides come out, and I love that. During the last week of filming Marla, the AD sent out a call sheet with special instructions: “We are outdoors the whole night, so bring layers. It may get chilly.” I was talking with the AD on set. One of the camera guys came over and set down a bag of groceries. Took out some tortilla chips. I asked him why he’d brought so much food as he unloaded a 7-layer dip and a can of Hormel chili. He looks at the AD and he says, “She knows. She told me to.” When we remained baffled, he laughed and said, “Rose said in the email last night that it was going to be chili (he points to the chili) and to bring layers (points to the 7-layer dip).” I love how silly that joke is and how much time it took to execute and that he followed through. That was really awesome.
PopHorror: Oh, that is funny! I have read that your background has been with makeup and special effects in films. Can you tell me more about this?
Lisa van Dam-Bates: I started doing makeup and FX pretty recently. I made all of the blood for Marla and I realized that I really love doing it. I love when a director comes to me with a scene they want to get, and we can work out together what we’re going to show and what needs to happen for us to show what we want. Then I get to go figure out how to do it. Figuring out how to rig a shower head to mount to a fake wall and spray blood is super fun to me.
PopHorror: What brought you to the horror genre?
Lisa van Dam-Bates: I’ve been a horror fan since 9th grade. Almost every weekend in high school, I would binge watch old horror movies with my friends. I always loved the over-the-top gore in a lot of those campy movies. When I decided I wanted to make a movie, horror was really the only genre that interested me.
PopHorror: Do you have any other projects in the works that you can tell our readers about?
Lisa van Dam-Bates: I do! I’m actually co-writing a horror feature right now with my really good friend. It’s a Civil War era story about a Confederate soldier who has a strange gut wound and this sociopathic surgeon who wants to experiment on it.
PopHorror: That sounds intriguing! Now for my signature final question: what is your favorite scary movie?
Lisa van Dam-Bates: I really can’t answer that question! I don’t actually have a favorite horror movie. I like so many different types of horror movies for so many different reasons that it’s hard to just name one clear winner. It’s not my favorite anymore, but in high school, I really, really loved Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste (1987). I watched that movie hundreds of times. I loved the ridiculous gore, and I was fascinated with the fact that Peter Jackson did so many of the jobs to get that movie finished. That might’ve been the first time that I associated a completed movie with a singular person.
Pick up Marla right here!
PopHorror would like to thank Lisa van Dam-Bates for taking the time to chat with us. We wish her the best with her film career. Check out the premiere of Marla on digital and DVD on November 5, 2019 from High Octane Pictures. Please stay tuned to PopHorror for all your horror news, reviews, and interviews!