One of my favorite filmmakers in the business is Troy Escamilla. I may be a little biased since he’s a fellow Iowan, but if you’ve seen his films… you can’t deny he creates indie horror magic. The community is lucky to have him and to see his growth with each film he puts out.
I recently got a chance to talk with Troy for Pride Month. Read on to discover how he feels about representation, his favorite film/character that represents the LGBT community, exclusive details about upcoming films, and more.
PopHorror – We’ve done many interviews, but this is the first for pride month. First, for those that may not know, let’s talk about how you got involved in the industry?
Troy Escamilla – I grew up in Davenport, Iowa, which certainly is not a bustling environment for filmmakers. I never imagined I would actually make a film and my first feature Party Night was actually the first film set I ever stepped foot. Growing up, it never seemed in the realm of possibility that I would ever be able to make a film. What really inspired me to move forward with Party Night were the several contacts with indie filmmakers that I have made over the years via social media. Seeing individuals from a variety backgrounds who were simply armed with their passion for the horror genre doing whatever it took to make their films motivated me to do the same and I’ve been blessed at the amount of support myself and my films have received. At some point, if you truly possess the drive and fervor, you need to jump in and take the risk, whether it’s in regards to filmmaking or another passion.
PopHorror – I’m so glad you followed your dreams, the horror community wouldn’t be the same without you and your work. What is your thought process when you start a new screenplay? Do you write something that you think your audience will like? Or do you write whatever you feel? Etc.
Troy Escamilla – Generally, I get a basic idea for a story I’d like to tell and just start writing, letting the story unfold as I go along. I tend to never do outlines or treatments or anything like that, which as a former English and Creative Writing teacher I know is a “bad,” but it’s just the way I prefer to approach a screenplay and seems to work for me. As a huge horror fan myself, I do keep my intended audience in mind when writing. Those who have seen my films know I like to include little winks and nods to some of my favorite slasher films in hopes of providing a little bit of nostalgia for the viewers.
PopHorror – What is your favorite film or character in a film that represents LGBTQ plus characters?
Troy Escamilla – One of my favorite films of all time is The Crying Game. It was a pretty ballsy (no pun intended!) film for the time, and I love Jaye Davidson’s performance as Dil. The character was groundbreaking, as she was complex, human and the relationship explored with the Stephen Rae character, I felt, was handled in a sensitive, realistic manner that really wasn’t seen before. I tend to think the film doesn’t get the credit it deserves for being a groundbreaking film. And, of course it’s a bonus that director Neil Jordan as made several great horror flicks.
PopHorror – I just watched The Crying Game a few months back and it blew me away. I completely agree with everything you said. Do you think representation is important?
Troy Escamilla – I do think it’s important. Obviously, the more representation audiences see in films, the less of a “novelty” it becomes. One thing I never really knew until social media allowed me to begin interacting with other horror fans is just how many LGBT horror fans and filmmakers there are out there! It’s actually quite interesting and could make a good documentary topic: what draws so many LGBT individuals to the genre? With that said, I’m very surprised there isn’t more representation in the genre and that more gay filmmakers are not creating projects with prominent LGBT characters and/or themes. There certainly is an audience, which is why I’m excited to explore these elements in future films.
PopHorror – That would be great. Have any of you previous films had any LGBT characters and do you plan on having any in the future?
Troy Escamilla – My last film, Mrs. Claus (aka Stirring) has a gay character who actually faces a predicament that I believe many gay men can relate. My next film, Teacher Shortage, amps up the “gayness” quite a bit, which may take some surprise. However, I do believe there is a large audience who will appreciate and embrace this element as a breath of fresh air for the genre, which is why I’m excited to address your next question…
PopHorror – Tell us about your upcoming film?
Troy Escamilla – Well technically my upcoming film is Teacher Shortage, which I hope to have post production wrapped very soon; I’m seriously so excited for people to see it! Buuuuut…if you mean my follow up film, you’re the first to get just a little taste of what it will be about. It’s definitely fitting that this is Pride month because this next film is very heavily gay themed. It focuses on two gay couples who travel to a lake house for weekend getaway. However, the weekend turns into a nightmare when a chance encounter goes awry. I’m not completely finished with the screenplay yet, but I very pleased with it so far. I really like the characters and, as a gay male myself, have really tried to display the relationships in a realistic manner, for better or worse. A lot time is spent getting to know these characters as I really want to the audience to connect to them and like them.
It is horror, though, and some pretty horrific stuff happens. In fact, after writing one death scene in particular, which is by far the most brutal one I’ve ever written, I stopped and asked myself “is this going too far?” I don’t want it to come off as simply included for solely shock value so really tried to craft the characters and scene carefully. Overall, if I had to make a comparison to another film, I’d say it’s a gay version of The Strangers, though it’s definitely much more than that. I’d say just stay tuned! I’m sure I’ll be posting more information, including the title, poster, etc. very soon!
PopHorror – OMG! I’m so pumped for this! I can’t freaking wait! When do you plan on casting for this?
Troy Escamilla – If all goes as planned, I’d like to shoot this film in July of 2020, so I’d probably begin casting near the end of the year. This film will have a fairly small cast, which I’m not sure make casting easier of more difficult! But this of course all depends on all the fun stuff such as funding, etc. I’ll definitely keep you posted.
PopHorror – Woot woot! As you previously mentioned, you recently wrapped up filming Teacher Shortage. This is very different from your two previous films, what was this experience like?
Troy Escamilla – Filming Teacher Shortage was the best set experience I have had so far. I chalk that up to having more experience and assembling an amazing cast and crew who were awesome to work with and did whatever necessary to the film the best it could be. Saying we had a blast every day on set is a total understatement! However, it was also probably the most stressful film experience I’ve has as well!
Unlike my previous two films, this one had multiple shooting locations. We had four overnight shoots in a bar which were exhausting! The school we shot at was about an hour away from the location the actors were staying, so getting everyone there in the Houston traffic was a treat! Once there, we only had a limited amount of time to film several long scenes and had to contend with vacuum cleaners and several other interruptions. Three different residences were used also, so it definitely was a lot traveling and hauling gear! Still, the experience was, as I said, wonderful. We got amazing footage and the performances by every cast member are so good! The death scenes are much more elaborate and it’s going to be gorier than Party Night and Mrs. Claus. This will be my best film, that I’m confident, so I cannot wait for post production to be complete and for people to see it!
PopHorror – I can’t wait. I need to see it like now, haha. Anything else you would like add?
Troy Escamilla – As mentioned, I’m going to do what I can to get post production wrapped up on Teacher Shortage as soon as possible. Follow the Facebook page for the film for updates and future festival screenings when the film is complete! And as always, thanks SO MUCH for your continued support of indie filmmakers!!