Interview With ‘Scream For Summer’ Writer/Director Cheyenne Gordon

Cheyenne Gordon came to my attention awhile back, having co-written The Wicked One as well as starring in the film as Trevor. I recently found out that he was in the process of directing his first film, Scream For Summer, a film he also wrote and stars in. Recently I got the chance to chat with Cheyenne about about The Wicked One, Scream For Summer, and whats next for him. 

PopHorror: What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

Cheyenne Gordon: I think what inspired me the most was the fact that I grew up an artist. I draw portraits and comic books and have since I was 6-7. When you are a visual artist, you tend to branch out and seek out new forms of expression. My babysitter growing up was for my parents to stop by the local video store and let me rent 3 movies. So I was exposed to visual storytelling at a very early age. I had written several slasher style scripts in high school and once I was old enough to appreciate not only the visual beauty of film but the story as well, I think that’s what really pushed me to dive head first into the business.

PopHorror: What directors and films influenced you the most?

Cheyenne Gordon: As cliche as it sounds, my favorite director and film of all time are Spielberg and Jaws. Spielberg has a way of telling a story of great importance through the eyes of the everyday man. JawsE.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind are all movies where the protagonist is an average Joe who’s thrown into incredible circumstances. Jaws is the greatest movie ever made in my opinion. It has everything that makes a story great. A simple yet compelling plot. Characters you can relate to. You get at times humor while simultaneously scaring the shit out of the audience. That is a unique quality to have in film and one of the hardest things to pull off and still sell it.

PopHorror: The first film you wrote is The Art of Killing. What can you tell me about the film and where can I get a copy?
Cheyenne Gordon: (laughs) Well, here is the thing…I’m making it right now. Technically, Scream For Summer IS the Art of Killing in a sense. I had written a little low budget slasher film I named Slasher Flick. I took a stab at directing back in the day and 90% of my cast and crew never showed up to set and no one knew who I was and I had no idea what I was doing. I scrapped the movie and said, “Maybe later.” A year or so goes by and Tory Jones, who I worked with on Killbillies and The Wicked One, said he would direct it but I had to change some things around. We cast the film and had almost started production, but we weren’t able to lock down key locations or gear that was essential.
So after scrapping it again, I ended up signing over the rights to a fellow filmmaker that wanted to try it because he loved the premise and the killer. So he and his writer friend took the script, butchered it, changed the entire plot and characters and made it more of a Seven style film that was never released. I hated the way they treated it. So while filming The Wicked One, Tory brought up the script again and I just took the original premise, slapped a new coat of paint on it, renamed every character in the story and set it on a lake with a completely different vibe and ending, and BAM! Scream for Summer was born.
PopHorror: You went on to write the indie slasher hit The Wicked One as well play a lead role in the film. What inspired the film and what was it like to make?
Cheyenne Gordon: Well, I helped write The Wicked One, but the inspiration is more of a Tory Jones question. Basically, Tory wrote an outline with the action and sex parts. All the stuff people care about and wanna see. My job was to go in and write the dialogue for the main core group and do character development in order to have the audience give a shit when these characters died or were in danger. I had written the character of Trevor as being played by myself, due to the fact that that’s who I was at one point in my life so it wasn’t a stretch to play the part. The other characters I wrote as tropes but with likable qualities to them. I mean, there is the stoner but at one point you see he is thinking of settling down and trying to be more down to earth. The drug dealing brother ends up softening when he meets the awkward fifth wheel of the group.
Working on the film itself was great. I met a lot of people that I now consider very close friends. I met Studio 605, the production company producing Scream For Summer. And I learned how to fix problems and use creative thinking on the spot to correct any issues that arise.
PopHorror:  The Wicked One had a lot of buzz before it was released and now that it’s out, it’s been well received. Did you expect the film to do as well as it has?
Cheyenne Gordon: Honestly, I knew it would get SOME attention and do decent at horror conventions, but I never thought it would gain as much momentum as it has. I have seen mixed reviews and once you sift through the reviews from members of the cast/crew/or relatives of those involved in the making of the film, there is a huge cult following that lies beneath. That’s the important stuff I look for. Let’s see how the everyday audience member that has no ties to the film, reacts to it. And it’s been pretty damn positive, which is amazing.
PopHorror:  You have a role in Shawn Burkett’s Betsy. What can you tell me about your character?
Cheyenne Gordon: (laughs) That the character went above and beyond in that role. So much so, that after almost 3 months after filming, my knee is still screwed up and damaged. I wrecked my shit on that set getting into the role. As far as what that role is, let’s just say I had a lot of makeup and fake hair damn near super glued to my face. I wasn’t a lead character so I had to figure out how to stand out as much as possible. So I dislocated my left knee on set doing an action scene and had to pop it back in myself while Shawn held my ankle and I got right back up and finished the scene while hobbling around.
PopHorror: You are currently filming your directorial debut, Scream For Summer, a film you also wrote and star in. What’s the film about and what was it like directing for the first time? How’s the shooting going?
Cheyenne Gordon: Scream for Summer has been a blast. I know a lot of film makers say it’s all good and great and secretly they are pulling their hair out, but honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better crew and talent. The story is love letter to the ’90s style “Who-dun-it” style of slasher. Masked serial killer. Lively and beautiful group of teens with attitude and spunk… Jesus, I make it sound like I’m recruiting the next batch of Power Rangers. (laughs)
The story is set in the town of Geneva, Ohio, where school has just recently ended for a certain group of misfits and outcasts. As they prepare to spend one last summer together on the local lake, a mysterious masked figure begins stalking and killing off teens of the town in some truly unique ways. It centers around our main heroine, Sam Willis – played by Mary Watters – who is the glue that keeps this certain group of teens together. As the killer seemingly gets closer and closer to Sam’s group and herself, the struggles of survival/friendship/and life begin to unfold.
As far as shooting is going, we are right on schedule. We have just a few more scenes to film and then it will be off to editing and scoring the film. We have had some bumps in the road here and there but all in all it’s been an amazing shoot and I love my cast and crew. Honestly, if not for Brandon Prewitt and the boys in Studio 605, I probably would have lost my mind by now.
PopHorror: Was it difficult to make the transition to directing?
Cheyenne Gordon: Not really. I like bossing people around so that comes naturally. (laughs) Seriously though, I have been told by a few actors that I’m a great director and that I take time to hit every single point as far as how I want their performance to be and I paint that picture for them. However, I’ve had other directors and filmmakers tell me I don’t have what it takes to be a director. I have a temper. I don’t sugar coat things. And I hate needless, useless drama. So it’s been a trip to try and soften myself to mold to how certain people need to be talked to and how to reach them to bring out the best in them and their talent. Do I think I’m a good director? Of course not, but we are always our own worst critics… except for our mothers. My mother is a way harsher critic of mine. (laughs)
PopHorror: You have done acting, writing, director, story boards, and special effects. Which is your favorite to do and why?
Cheyenne Gordon: I love acting but I’m just not young or good looking enough anymore to really be able to play a lead role. I love the art aspect of film making so storyboards and FX are really fun, especially when people don’t believe you can pull the effect off with less than $5. Writing is probably my strongest role. I like writing but it’s not what I love, but I’m decent at it from what I’m told. Directing is great but it has its drawbacks. I would say my favorite aspect is working with the actors to draw out their best performances and working with them in a scene. So technically acting and directing? Is that an answer? (laughs)
PopHorror: Any other upcoming projects?
Cheyenne Gordon: Well, I just found out my wife is pregnant 2 months ago with our first child and that’s a completely new and terrifying role I haven’t done yet. So once Scream For Summer is finished filming and I get it exactly the way I need it to be, I’ll mostly be doing behind the scenes stuff. I’ll be helping with writing certain parts of Tory Jones’ upcoming thriller, Angel, and possibly helping Shawn Burkett with his upcoming projects. But as far as me writing and directing, I have a couple of stories I’d love to tell. One specifically that I’ve approached Shawn Burkett and Concept Media with is a psychological thriller/drama I’ve named Elle. It dives into a way more darker area of the psyche than I’m used to but excited to see that develop and come to fruition. Got a vampire script I’ve been writing on. I just need to see where things lead once the big boss arrives.

About Charlie Cargile

Central Illinois based film journalist. Lover of cinema of all varieties but in love with films with an independent spirit. Elder Emo. Cat Dad. Metalhead.

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