Ever since I first saw her short film Unbearing, I’ve wanted to learn more about filmmaker and actress Jennifer Trudrung. Luckily for me, I got to meet her at the 2018 Women in Horror Film Festival and we chatted for quite a bit and talked about doing a interview in the future.
Well, that time has finally come and I’m delighted to share my Women in Horror interview about this incredibly talented woman. Jennifer is a gem and jack of all trades. Whether it’s mainstream or indie, she always lights up the screen.
PopHorror – It’s so great to FINALLY talk with you! How long have you had the desire to be in the filmmaking industry?
Jennifer Trudrung – Honestly being involved in the filmmaking industry is relatively new for me. I have always been a reader and movie lover but also have always been too shy to even contemplate working in the film industry. It began when I started doing background work on a whim with some friends when The Hunger Games was filmed in our area. I absolutely loved the books and it was fascinating to me to see the process of how the film was being made. I worked about a total of 12 days off and on during the movie. They used me in the District and also the Capitol scenes and I was picked for highly featured parts in both. Of course you barely see me in the movie as my featured scenes were cut but that experience was enough to ignite the bug. I loved being on set.
After that time I did about two years of working background on as many shows as I could. I worked on Banshee, Homeland, The Walking Dead, and a variety of movies. But I waned to do more so I started taking acting lessons at The Actors Center of Asheville. Then I was lucky to get signed with an agent pretty quickly. This was very exciting and led to some amazing opportunities but I wanted to create my own opportunities also. So I started to write my own scenes an screenplays.
PopHorror – Wow. You’ve done even more than I thought! After doing some research I see that you’ve been in some rather big projects. One includes a part in The Vampire Diaries and another part in 2015’s Goosebumps. So, I have to know how you got involved with these projects?!
Jennifer Trudrung – I got the role on The Vampire Diaries through auditioning and my agent Carla. It was such an incredible experience. I love the show and my episode was set in the Civil War. I worked for a week on the show and the episode “Hell is Other People” is a great one. Everyone was super nice and now that my oldest daughter is watching the show I’ve upped my cool game. Goosebumps was SO MUCH FUN. It was also extremely hard work. I actually got picked to be a core monster through a background casting agency. They hired a group of us who had been working as zombies on The Walking Dead to play the ghouls in Goosebumps. The makeup was incredible and I met some of the best of the best makeup artists in the industry. I’m still Facebook friends with most of them and I’m in awe of their work. We ended up getting credited in the film which was really cool as we worked close to 3 weeks straight on the project.
PopHorror – That’s so amazing! You’re very involved in the indie industry now. When did you know that wanted to start making your own films?
Jennifer Trudrung – Being an actor can be very hard. Sometimes it feels like all you are doing is waiting for auditions, waiting to hear back from auditions, questioning your audition decisions. Also you can feel that you don’t get the role opportunities you want. My acting coach Kevin Murphy encouraged us all to write and I jumped on that. I almost graduated with a MFA (but instead got a Master’s in English Education) but I’ve been writing off and on all my life. And I absolutely have always loved horror. However screenplay writing is new to me and I’m still figuring it out. Luckily over the years of working as a local actor on numerous commercials, short films and independent films I have met some incredible filmmakers who have worked with me to bring my screenplays to life.
PopHorror – Well, for what’s it worth… I think you’re brilliant at it! What was the first film you ever made
Jennifer Trudrung – The first film I ever made was actually a sketch comedy called The Share. It’s filmed by my acting coach and a fellow actor named LB. My acting friend Elisa starred in it with me and it literally is a sketch about two women coming up with ideas to use to avoid having sex with their husbands. Ha ha! It’s on Vimeo if you are interested. 🙂 https://vimeo.com/157871029
PopHorror – I will definitely be checking that one out! Do you prefer directing or acting?
Jennifer Trudrung – So I actually don’t often direct my films. I write them, act in them, produce them, but have only directed one. I love to co-create so I am very active in the directing decisions made on set but I also love to have a filmmaker I trust help me bring my screenplays to life. I think since I’m newer to this I’m still trying to learn to trust my instincts. My true love is writing but my passion is acting.
PopHorror – You’re amazing at both. One of my favorite shorts from you is Unbearing. What you inspired you make that film?
Jennifer Trudrung – Thank you! My writing for my horror screenplays is always close to home. Meaning all my films revolve around a personal fear of mine…especially fears I have as a parent or ideas or thoughts that are grief and what that grief could make you do. I’m actually working on making Unbearing a feature screenplay. It’s an interesting dive into a very deep and at times disturbing sub-culture.
PopHorror – Oh, I would love to see it become a feature! You also play a role in that story as well as many of the other ones. Is this something you enjoy doing it? Being a part of something you wrote?
Jennifer Trudrung – So yes I do enjoy writing a part for me in my screenplays. I started doing that to give myself opportunities that I wasn’t necessary seeing in my auditions. I love being in horror movies. I love diving deep into a disturbed psyche. I often include my daughter’s in my films also. They are both actors and I love writing parts for them. Interestingly enough The Ebbing will be my first film I’m not acting in. I’m going to help with wardrobe, makeup, and other details but I’m mainly going to be there for my daughter, Penny who is acting in the film. I’m interested to see how this feels.
PopHorror – I’m looking forward to it! I recently watched your fantasy horror short, Indolence, and I absolutely loved that one. So fun! What was the inspiration behind that one?
Jennifer Trudrung – Indolence is very close to home. It was inspired partly by my daughters but it’s also a statement about our younger generation’s addiction to technology and instant gratification that technology brings us. And it’s also a fun twist to the whole idea of helicopter parenting. It also was a goal for me to create my own “Monster” and I absolutely loved creating Aergia.
PopHorror – You did an amazing job at it. There are some killer special effects and makeup used in this. Who was behind that and were you impressed at how well they turned out?
Jennifer Trudrung – Aergia was a group job of creatives in Asheville. My husband actually created Aergia’s nails and did the makeup on my fingers. Zack Russel of Serenity of Scott did the rest of the makeup. Mary Prohaska did the wild mane and Royal Peasantry a local designer and shop made the dress. Asheville is an insanely creative place and I have been very fortunate to work with so many talented people. And yes I do love the makeup for Aergia. I have some photos of her I’ll share with you.
You currently have several upcoming projects. One is a Feature screenplay called Spectrum. It’s a horror comedy. Have you ever done a horror comedy before and can you tell us in details about it?
Jennifer Trudrung – I am VERY excited about Spectrum my horror comedy screenplay. It honestly was a joy to write. And I fine tuned it recently in a screenwriting class with the impressive Patricia Green. Spectrum is very loosely based on my oldest daughter and deals with some of the difficulties she has faced in school. And I wanted to write a story that was female driven and had a strong and quirky anti-heroine. There is only one male character in this entire screenplay and it’s a tiny part. I wanted this to be a female middle school experience story that is set in this horrifying scenario where the person you least expect to survive is perhaps the strongest one of all. I call it my Shaun of The Dead/Carrie mash up.
Now I’m even more interested in seeing it! There Be Tygers is another upcoming one that you are filming this March 16th and 17th. I love the idea behind it and that you’re getting your family involved with it. Can you tell the readers about it?
Jennifer Trudrung – I’m especially thrilled about Here There Be Tygers. Stephen King is my absolute idol. I’m a total geeky fan. I love the man. OK. Enough gushing. But when you are an extreme introvert for most of your adolescence and you love horror then Stephen King and his books become your best friends. So to take on one of his stories especially one of his earliest stories is super exciting. And once again I’m adapting his story into something closer to home for me. I’m adding a feminist twist to the story. My daughter Penny is playing the lead role of Charlie and I’m diving into the character of Ms. Bird. I can’t say too much but I will say that my wardrobe and character inspirations for Ms. Bird are Kellyanne Conway and Jeffrey Dahmer.
I’m intrigued! The other one is The Ebbing, which you are filming this February 9th and 10th. You say this is your darkest short yet. Were you ever afraid to go this dark?
Jennifer Trudrung – The Ebbing deals with one of my worst fears as a parent. What would you do if your child goes missing? How haunted would you be? And it also plays on the idea of what a parent is wiling to do to protect their child. I am afraid to go super dark and it’s mainly because I normally have my own kids in mind when I’m writing. I think that will make sense. I write about my fears but its hard to put them down on paper sometimes.
That sounds phenomenal. Can’t wait to check it out. What inspired you to do so?
Jennifer Trudrung – I feel that most of my short films, while they are disturbing, they aren’t necessarily shocking and very dark. I love psychological horror more then gore or body horror so I wanted to push myself a bit and make something that will shock and horrify.
PopHorror – It’s currently women in horror month, who are the women that inspire you?
Jennifer Trudrung – I honestly am so inspired by all the women whom I have met over the past two years in the film festival circuit. I am inspired by women who are speaking up, challenging the ideas of male driven horror, challenging the industry, and challenging themselves to create. I feel empowered by these women and I’m in awe of them. If I were to say who has most inspired me over my lifetime it would be Shirley Jackson, Mary Shelley, and The Bronte’s. And my current main women in horror inspiration is Aislinn Clarke. She is brilliant. I can’t wait to see all she accomplishes.
I fully agree with all of that an Aislinn Clarke is truly amazing! What does being a woman in horror mean to you?
Jennifer Trudrung – I love being part of an amazing group of women in the horror world. Honestly I feel women are capable of bringing so much more depth to the horror genre. The level of brilliance I have seen by women in the genre is intimidating and inspiring. I’m grateful to add my own voice and take to horror. It’s been a lifelong love for me. I love diving into the horror world and living on the edge of the abyss. It has always fascinated me.