Stacey Palmer

Horror Pride Month Interview: Stacey Palmer

I’ve worked hard this month to step up my game for Horror Pride Month. I’m still not killing it like some of my fellow journalists, but I’m getting there. One of my most important and insightful interviews this month is with horror guru, Stacey Palmer.

Stacey is jack of all trades in the horror community and we are lucky to have her. Learn more about her love for horror began, how she got involved in filmmaking, her new film Toothache, how she feels about representation in films, and more!

PopHorror – Happy Pride Month, Stacey! First, tell us a bit about yourself.

Stacey Palmer – I grew up in Wharton, New Jersey. If you imagine any small town from any movie, then you probably have a good image of what Wharton was and how it looked. For good and bad, it played a big part of shaping who I am today.

Small towns are their own character. They are breathing, living organisms. They have a pulse and you are part of it. I felt disconnected though. I searched for my place. Looking back, I can see that was my role. I was an explorer. During the Summer’s I would spend from sun up to sun set wondering the town. I loved being invisible and just watching the people.

You can do that as child or at least you could back then. As long as you didn’t get in anyone’s way, they hardly ever knew you were there.

When I returned home, I would write. Not stories yet. Just feelings. My hand was close to the pulse, but it just wasn’t there yet. My writings became stories when I was about ten. It was around that time I began exploring the woods behind my house. I couldn’t make up some of the stuff I found out there. One of my favorite strangest items I stumbled upon was a pile of women’s high heel shoes. There was at least fifty shoes in that pile. The really weird part was that they were all the left foot.

Over the years that became one of my markers of where I was when exploring. Then one day they were all gone. Just like that. POOF.

My brain still makes up stories about them. Where did they come from? Who brought them there? Why just the left foot? And where the Hell did they go?!

My passion for story telling was born in those woods.

PopHorror – Thanks for such a detailed answered, now I want to know about the shoes! How long have you had a love for horror?

Stacey Palmer – My love for horror came from my hate for horror.

When I was younger, four or five, my older brother and cousin caught me spying on them while they were watching the Exorcist. I guess they wanted to teach me a lesson so they locked me in the room that lead to the attic.

I don’t know how long I was in there, few minutes maybe. It felt like years. It was pitch black in there, except for one sliver of light from the crack between the door and the wall. I tried to fit my entire body into that light. Needless to say, I was scarred. To this day, I sleep with a night-light because of that moment. I was scared of everything from then on.

One day I said to myself, “This is crazy. I can not go through life being afraid of everything.” So, I grabbed our videodisc copy of The Shining and begin to overcome my fears. It was at that point I became a horror junkie.

PopHorror – That’s scary. I’m glad you faced your fears, though. The horror community wouldn’t be the same without you. Speaking of which, how did you get involved in the indie horror industry?

Michael Harper, Stacey Palmer, and Chris Ethridge at the Haven’s End premiere
Michael Harper, Stacey Palmer, and Chris Ethridge at the Haven’s End premiere

Stacey Palmer – Random Luck.

As the old cliche goes, “I had a friend who knew a guy, who was working on a movie.” In my case that is exactly what happened. My friend Chris Vaglio was in film school with Mike Russin who was gearing up to do a horror anthology called, Creepy Tales. They needed one more short to round it out. Chris connected us. Mike liked my story, included it in the film, and now I was a film writer.

Russin and I did hit it off. We wrote two more scripts together. The first was the follow up to Creepy Tales called, Creepy Tales: Girls Night Out. The next was a comedy called, Idiots Are Us.

In 2006 I moved to Atlanta where I met Chris Ethridge, whom I teamed up with to make, Survivor Type, The Morningside Monster and most recently, Haven’s End. In between all that, I have made a bunch of short films including my upcoming short, Toothache.

PopHorror – I need to see all of those! You’re a jack of all trades – directing, acting, writing, and visual effects. Which one do you love doing most?

Stacey Palmer – That is hard to say. They are all fun in their own way. Writing and story telling will always be my first love, but these days I have been really enjoy doing visual FX. That I sort of got into when I first moved to Atlanta. I still wanted to make films, but didn’t know anyone yet, so I would just make weird music video using Photoshop and After FX.

PopHorror – That’s awesome. What’s your favorite project thus far?

Stacey Palmer – That’s a loaded question. They’ve all had their ups and downs. Each comes with it’s own experience. There are some that I had a better time working on than others but, I’ve made a lot of friends and memories along the way. That to me is the best part of working on a film.

But to answer your question more directly, my favorite films are ones that I worked on as a child with my father.

During the summers him and I would make stop motion films using my Star Wars toys. I guess you could call them fan films? But it was where I learned that the filmmaking is long, hard work with a great payoff.

And no, the public will never see those films. They are just for me.

Toothache
Poster for Toothache

PopHorror – That’s wonderful. Something to truly cherish. Your newest film is called Toothache and you just got done filming. Can you tell us what the film is about and what inspired you to create it?

Stacey Palmer – The pitch is, “Amanda’s teeth suddenly start falling out. She will soon learn the horrifying reason why.”

I hate teeth. I’ve always had weak enamel so I was consistently at the dentist growing up. No matter what I did, I always ended up with cavities. One day I was eating tuna fish. A nice soft food, when all of a sudden I heard a crunch. I was sure I broke a tooth. I slowly examined each tooth with my tongue. I was ready to hit an exposed nerve. Luckily the “crunch” only turned out to be a little random fish bone in the tuna.

But it scared the hell out of me and it birthed the idea for Toothache.

PopHorror – I hate teeth too. My Mom used to have nightmares that all her teeth fell out. It was horrible. How did the casting process come about?

Stacey Palmer – I wanted diversity among my cast and crew. I reached out looking for members of the LGBT+ in Atlanta who may be right for the role. Erin Day came highly recommended. I asked her if she would like to audition. She did and is truly perfect for the role of Amanda.

Hannah Pniewski I met a couple years back when I was working on Haven’s End. She was our UPM but has since emerged as accomplished actress. She’s a power house behind and in front of the camera and also a great ally. I knew I wanted to work with her again. This was the perfect opportunity.

My friends Mike Russin and Scott Schiaffo make a cameo as the characters, Mo & Doyle, from our film Idiots are Us. ***That’s a fun little Easter Egg for you.***

I had such a great time working with them all. I hope to do it again soon!

Behind the scenes of Toothache with Stacey Palmer and actor Erin Day.
Behind the scenes of Toothache with Stacey Palmer and actor Erin Day.

PopHorror – I can’t wait to see it! A few years back you came out as a transgender woman and have been speaking about transgender representation in film and television. You’ve spoken at the Atlanta Comic Con, Nightmares Film Festival and Women in Horror Film Festival. What does speaking at festivals and bringing light to transgender representation mean to you?

Stacey Palmer – When I started speaking publicly, transgender representation was minimal. There was some emerging attention because of shows like Orange is the New Black, Transparent and I am Jazz. Overall though the main media outlet to most people was either negative stereotypes like those on Jerry Springer or in movies such as Dressed to Kill. In both cases trans people were villainized. They were either trying to deceive you or kill you.

Since then, Trans visibility has exploded! I mean, trans people have always been around, we are not new in our history at all. It just seems that people are starting to get a better understanding of who we are these days..

Things are changing… Slowly … But they are changing. Trans people are starting to get featured roles in big budget features. Trans people are getting the spotlight in front and behind the camera, for their achievements and their talents.

I’m super proud to be apart of this community and generation. Also we owe so much to the generations before us, who laid the foundation for us to build on.

PopHorror – I hope they continue to change for the better. Do you have any favorite female empowered horror films or ones that are directed by a woman?

Stacey Palmer – I love the Scream movies. Neve Campbell’s character, Sidney Prescott, is a great example of a strong female character. I love her arc through the four films. While in the first she was naive, she was never show as weak. This was a great turn in horror films.

As for female directors, there are so many great ones it would be unfair to try and mention them all and accidently leave some out.

PopHorror – Love Syd and the Scream franchise. Do you ever feel pressure to add specific characters to a story/film so that it will appeal to the public?

Stacey Palmer – Yes, I feel that pressure all the time. I am constantly asked, when I’m going to make a film a “Trans” film. While I get what they are asking, I also get uncomfortable with the question.

Let me step back for a moment. Every writer has their own well from where their stories come. For me, my come from a lake of drowning voices.

I grab onto the loudest voice and rescue them out of that dark place.

Then I tell their stories.

So far, I have not pulled out the great, “trans” story. Maybe one day, but there’s nothing on the distant horizon.

I will say this, everyone one of my films has included a character who identifies under the LGBT+ umbrella. I’m not going to out any of those them but know they’re there and it really doesn’t affect their character in any way, just like in real life.

PopHorror – Great answer. Do you think the horror genre slacks in portraying members of the LGBTQ community?

Stacey Palmer – I think it has in the past. I feel we’re hit a tilting point though.

Seeing what the new generation of film makers are bringing to the table is inspiring. As a witness of history, these new film makers seem to come from a generation of understanding.

At it’s core, horror has always been a reflection of it’s time.

So, I think we’re going to see more authentic characters.

PopHorror – Do you have any favorite films, horror or not, that have strong LGBTQ characters?

Stacey Palmer – ***Spoilers***

Let the Right One In

Both the Book and Movie is a coming of age love story between a young man named Oskar and an aging vampire named Eli.

There is a scene when Oskar asks Eli to be his girlfriend. Eli responds, “Oskar. I’m not a girl.”

Oskar then casually said, “Oh, but do you want to go steady?”

The scene is set to give the perception that Eli refers to them self being a vampire, but Eli is being more direct. While they are a vampire, Eli is male. He only presents female to lure in victims easier.

Oskar’s response is so pure and innocent. While the audience believes Eli is talking about himself as a vampire, because we know his secret, Oskar doesn’t. His response is one of pure love and innocence.

Oskar loves Eli, so his gender is not even a question. Love is love.

It is truly a beautiful scene.

PopHorror – Yes! That’s one of my favorite films. Such a beautiful story. What would you like to see happen in the future for horror and the community?

Stacey Palmer – I see a lot of positive changes moving forward. I think more people are starting to see that LGBT+ people are the not just the stereotypes they’ve been portrayed as in the past.

There are a lot of queer people emerging in all forms of entertainment. Singers, writers, actors, directors, just to name a few publicly coming out and sharing their stories.

My friend Waylon Jordan has a been presenting great articles each day for Pride Month, where he highlights a members of the LGBT+ community and their contributions to the horror genre. They are great, pieces I highly suggest you seek out.

PopHorror – Yes, Waylon is doing such amazing things. I’m very proud of him! Do you do anything special during Pride Month?

Stacey Palmer – Honestly, not really. I mean, I’m out there everyday and am visible. I’m not sure there is anything different I can offer in June than the rest of the year.

I do love and appreciate Pride month. It’s extremely important that our history is known, especially all the women, men and nonbinary people who have helped shaped it. I think it’s important that the world knows we are not a fade, we are here and always have been. It’s not bad to accept us.

PopHorror – What does being a transgender woman in horror mean to you?

Stacey Palmer – It means that I am doing what I love as my authentic self. Nothing more, nothing less.

Lobster Girl Productions
Stacey’s Production Company – Lobster Girl Productions

About Tori Danielle

Tori has had a passion for Horror and music ever since she was a little girl. She got bit by the writing bug in high school where she was involved in both the school newspaper and the yearbook. While getting her Bachelors degree, she took Journalism and Creative Writing classes where her passion grew even stronger. Now, in between work and family, she spends all of her spare time indulging in music, Horror movies, and nerdy fandoms, all while running/assisting one of the biggest Horror groups on Facebook and writing for various websites.

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