Recently, we had a chance to talk to Director/Actress Brittany Blanton about her involvement with P.J. Starks’ latest Christmas anthology, 13 Slays Till X-Mas (2020 – read our review here).
PopHorror: Hi Brittany! Thank you so much for doing this interview. First, how did you become involved with 13 Slays Till X-Mas?
Brittany Blanton: Of course! Thank you for asking me to do this interview. I first became involved with 13 Slays Till X-Mas when I came across a post from [PopHorror’s] Tori Romero on Facebook looking for directors for an upcoming anthology project. I decided to reach out to Tori, and she put me in contact with P.J. We chatted about the project, and I became even more interested, so he sent me the script to read. I loved it and happily agreed to direct the short, “Dead Air.”
PopHorror: You are both an actress and a director in 13 Slays Till X-Mas. What made you want to become an actress?
Brittany Blanton: I originally became attached as a director by reaching out to a post looking for directors. Later on, Shawn Burkett was asked to add a short film project to the mix, and I was happy to accept a role in his project.
Acting is something I have always had an interest in pursuing, but for a long time, I told myself I couldn’t, that it’s not something I would ever have the confidence to go out and pursue. But, eventually, once I finally broke through that way of thinking and experienced acting firsthand, my desire to pursue it was like never before. Now I knew I could, and once I realized that, I never looked back. My desire to pursue this dream has just continued to grow.
PopHorror: How did you make the jump from being an actress to a director? And was the transition challenging?
Brittany Blanton: After working with Shawn on a few short film projects, I came to him wanting to write one of my own and asked if he would help me. Shawn agreed and taught me a lot along the way while working on my first short film project, Breaking Vera [read the PopHorror review of the film here]. From script formatting to letting me sit in on editing days, I wanted to absorb everything there was to learn, and everything Shawn was kind enough to teach me.
I have always enjoyed writing and expressing myself in that way, so that part was easy for me as far as transitioning. Directing, however, was something I feel I had to take more time to transition into. When you’re acting, you have a script, which, for the most part, breaks down exactly what you’re doing in the scene. When you’re directing, nothing is written out. You have to handle the problems that arise on the fly, and there’s just so many unpredictable moments that can occur. So, going from just waiting to do scene-blocking and being told what to do to doing the reverse in the more take charge role was what took me longer to transition into.
PopHorror: You’re well known for your role in Shawn Burkett’s Don’t Fuck in the Woods [read the PopHorror review of the film here]. How was it to reunite with him on “Jingle Bellz”?
Brittany Blanton: I never really left Shawn, to be honest (laughs). Over the years, we’ve developed a friendship and a wonderful working relationship. A couple of years ago, I along with some other talented folks were asked to become a part of Concept Media. So, any time I am able to get together and work with my CM family is always a fun, memorable time.
PopHorror: Your death in “Jingle Bellz” was great. Is it fun to be killed on camera?
Brittany Blanton: Thank you! I am glad you enjoyed it. Yes, it is so much fun to be killed/be a victim in a slasher, as well as in other genres of horror films. Death is a huge fear for many, and in a way, you get to face that when you are portraying a role where your character is about to die. Death scenes also are just fun experiences to get bloody and have special effects applied to you, and in indie horror, you get some pretty unique deaths as well, so that also can make it fun.
PopHorror: You directed the segment for “Dead Air,” which is one of my all-time favorite segments in the film. Was it challenging to direct?
Brittany Blanton: I am happy to hear that you enjoyed “Dead Air.” Everyone involved did an amazing job. I loved directing “Dead Air.” The challenging part for me came down to that project being the first project I would be directing that I had not written myself. So, I was mainly nervous about diving into someone’s script and doing it justice, along with working with a new crew that I had not worked with before. But, as far as onset directing, the actors were all on point; they showed up ready to go and gave amazing performances, making my job extremely easy. The crew was welcoming, and I felt comfortable with them right away. Everyone involved is amazing and talented, so it was not a difficult project to direct by any means.
PopHorror: I thought Wes Bartlett, who plays Dean Castle in “Dead Air,” was phenomenal. Did you have fun directing him?
Brittany Blanton: I was very excited about directing his performance. He was pumped about the character and showed up ready, lines memorized. He made my job very easy and was always open to any suggestions that were thrown out for him. I definitely knew his performance was solid. The script was a perfect buildup for the unexpected ending we delivered, so I had a pretty good feeling and was extremely happy with what we had filmed after leaving set.
PopHorror: At the end of “Dead Air,” we get quite the twist ending with a touch of dark humor. Did the actors involved in that scene have a hard time keeping a straight face?
Brittany Blanton: Surprisingly, they were all amazing, and during the scene, everyone held it all together. After cut was called, however, we all lost it. Everyone’s reactions were priceless.
PopHorror: All throughout 13 Slays Till X-Mas, one can see references to other horror movies. In one segment, we see Loomis on the side of a patrol car. In “Dead Air,” we see a sign that says Your Final Destination For Music and another that says The Fulci/Bava Radio Group. Were these signs in “Dead Air” your idea or someone else?
Brittany Blanton: Unfortunately, I cannot take credit for any of the wonderfully placed Easter eggs throughout “Dead Air.” Those were all beautifully brought to you by P.J. Starks; he made sure we had plenty. I feel you would have to re-watch it several times before you spot them all.
PopHorror: My last question: If a horror fan hasn’t seen 13 Slays Till X-Mas yet, why should they watch it?
Brittany Blanton: If you are an indie horror fan, you will enjoy checking this one out. It is packed with many wonderfully unique horror-filled tales for you to enjoy. So, not only are you able to view these unique tales, but while doing so, you would also be supporting many independent artists as you get your horror-fix in.
Be sure to head on over to Scream Team Releasing to check out Brittany Blanton’s acting performance in “Jingle Bellz” and her role as a director in “Dead Air” in 13 Slays Till X-Mas.