Last year, I watched one of the best horror shorts I’ve ever seen called Lunch Ladies (read our review – here). It was hilarious with loveable characters, and a story that will stick with me forever. One of the masterminds behind this project is Clarissa Jacobson, who wrote the screenplay as well as produced the film. She’s an outgoing, incredibly talented woman whom I’ve come to adore and respect.
Clarissa took time out of her busy schedule to talk with me about how she got involved in the industry, her inspiration for Lunch Ladies, what this month means to her, and more!
PopHorror – How did you get involved in the world of filmmaking?
Clarissa Jacobson – I started as an actress. Ever since I was a little kid, I took classes, was in plays, auditioned and worked hard at it. But what I really was, was a writer. It just took me a long time to figure it out.
Through a series of events, I ended up in Twin Bridges Writing Class run by Joe Bratcher. When I got a taste of screenwriting, I left acting, that’s how much I loved it. I wrote the feature, Lunch Ladies, there – it took 15 months to get right. I was really proud of it, but I couldn’t get anyone interested in it because producers would say to me: “This is so funny, but there’s no market for it.”
So, when I got a bonus from work, I decided I would make a short film as a proof of concept for the feature. I wanted to prove to producers that there was an audience for dark, twisted, horror comedy. From there, I put everything together from zero – finding the director, cast, crew, locations, and a ton of other crap I didn’t know you had to do when producing a movie (laughs).
PopHorror – Awesome! Yes, there’s so much work involved with producing a movie that I wouldn’t even know where to begin! What was your first project?
Clarissa Jacobson – I’ve been doing little projects my entire life, but Lunch Ladies is my first what I would call real project. This was the project that I financed and am still paying off. This is the project that is the big one for me, and I’m very proud of it!
PopHorror – As you should be! Where did you come up with the idea for Lunch Ladies?
Clarissa Jacobson – Donna Pieroni, who plays Seretta in the film, is a friend of mine. We had been in a play a long time ago, and one day, we were out to dinner and she told me about how she and this woman are similar type,s and they always get called in for the same auditions. They really like each other, but what sucks is that they’re always losing the part to the other. So, Donna mentioned that she would love it if there was a movie for TWO lunch ladies because then they would both get the part and get to work together!
That’s when I came up with the idea that it would be funny to have a spoof on Sweeney Todd. I have no idea what part of my twisted mind that came from, but that’s the first thing I thought of. Probably because I absolutely love Sweeney Todd. It’s my favorite musical. I also knew that spoofs had been done so many times about Sweeney Todd. I decided I didn’t want to act like it was an original idea because it wasn’t; that I would wink at it. I would actually admit to stealing the concept, and the way I would do that is to have the lunch ladies be in love with Johnny Depp – they get the idea to do what they do from Johnny because he was IN Sweeney Todd.
PopHorror – Are you also a fan of Johnny Depp?
Clarissa Jacobson – I love Johnny Depp. Who doesn’t love Johnny Depp? ’m not a crazy lunch ;ady, but yeah, The Depper is pretty loveable.
PopHorror – Tell us more about your love for Sweeney Todd.
Clarissa Jacobson – I’m crazy about Sweeney Todd. The reason I love it so much is because it has such heart. He’s a murderer that you feel for, and the characters are deep and well-rounded, and the music is amazing. I also love that it makes you think. You know why he does what he does, and you feel bad it ends the way it does, but it’s a lesson on forgiveness and that revenge can be your downfall, which is interesting to me.
PopHorror – Did you think Lunch Ladies would have such a great response as it has among critics and festivals?
Clarissa Jacobson – When I finished the film, I was so happy. I remember thinking, “Well, I’ve pleased myself.” Because I was financing it, I got to have everything I wanted – the actors I wanted, the director, the crew… and I got to have my words the way they were written – usually, everyone wants to fuck with the script – well, this time, the writer was producing! (laughs)
Filming it, JM and I agreed 99% of what we wanted it to look like, and the set designers and cast and crew all brought their amazing, different ideas, but they meshed and fit with ours. And if we disagreed, we’d figure out what was the better idea. There wasn’t ego when we were filming it. We were all open to better ideas. So when it was finished, I loved it because it was 100% authentic to us all. I didn’t know if people would like it, but I knew it was the best I could do – the best all of us could do. So, when people and fests started responding so positively, I was blown away. I really didn’t know there were so many weirdos out there like me who could love something as bizarre and crazy as two murdering Johnny Depp loving lunch ladies.
PopHorror – Your passion shows in the film, and it’s bizarrely hilarious story that you can’t help but love. February is Women in Horror Month. Who in this industry inspires you that is a woman?
Clarissa Jacobson – Carol Burnett. She had her own comedy show when women didn’t have them, and she is so unique and flipping funny. Further, when I worked at The Grill in Beverly Hills as a waitress, I got to meet her. She was wonderful, down to earth, kind and sweet. She is the only celebrity – next to Iggy Pop – that I saw at The Grill that I actually got tongue-tied with. I adore her!
PopHorror – She is truly wonderful. What is your favorite film directed by a woman?
Clarissa Jacobson – A Girl Walks Home Alone – Ana Lily Armipour – I’ve seen it like 5 times LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT!
PopHorror – Out of all the badass woman characters in horror/sci-fi, thrillers, if you could play one of them, who would it be?
Clarissa Jacobson – Sigourney Weaver in Alien!
PopHorror – Good choice! What’s your favorite part of working in this industry?
Clarissa Jacobson – Collaboration – trading ideas, making kick-ass art together and sharing in the success.
PopHorror – Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to talk about?
Clarissa Jacobson – I have a sweet coming of age indie road trip film called Stella By Starlight which was just optioned, a woman in jeopardy thriller I just finished called Burnt Well Rest Stop, about a lady who loses her kid at a rest stop, and several other scripts – including a gothic horror about Elizabeth Bathory and a ghost hunting dark comedy called Spook Stalkers. Currently, I’m working on a big budget chick comedy with Shayna Weber, who was a producer on Lunch Ladies. Mostly though, I’m focusing on getting people interested in the feature film, Lunch Ladies!