Disclaimer: All stills, images and video are copyright of their individual owners. I am only using them here as visual aids to this interview.

WARNING – there are MAJOR SPOILERS ahead. If you haven’t seen the movie and want to go into it without knowing everything that will happen, stop now. See the movie and then come back to this interview.

For the second part of Smash or Trash Independent Filmmaking’s 10th Anniversary, I’m happy to report I was able to contact actress Jenna Kanell. Probably best known for her part in THE BYE BYE MAN, she is also an incredibly prolific filmmaker, writer and professional stunt performer. She plays the lead character Tara Heyes in the new horror movie TERRIFIER. She’s sweet with sass, a whole lotta class, and she kicks ass. Without further ado, we present Jenna Janell.

Robert: I’ve heard that the project started sometime in 2015. At what point did you become involved with it?

Jenna: I auditioned for another of Damien’s projects, “The 9th Circle,” way back in 2012. It ended up not happening, but he and I kept in touch nonetheless. When “Terrifier” came around in 2015, he reached out to me and we got the ball rolling.

Robert: What was the audition like for trying out for the character of Tara?

Jenna: If I’m not mistaken I was cast off of my original audition for his previous project. Then he sent me the “Terrifier” script years later and I was amped. 

Robert: How long was the actual shoot? One week? Two weeks? Just shooting weekends working at night?

Jenna: The shoot was two weeks, all night shoots. It’s a great way to lose all concept of what time even is. 

Robert: For one gore effect, the production had to make a replica of your head. The effect was horrifying. Now, have you ever had to do that kind of extensive makeup casting before?

Jenna: I’ve had prosthetics before, but have never had to do a full cast of my head. While Damien was building it, I couldn’t see, or breathe through my nose, and my mouth was full of saliva which made it hard to breathe that way as well. It was an unusual trust exercise. 

Robert: What do you think of Director Damien Leone’s work, and how was he to work with?

Jenna: Damien’s stuff is incredible genre work, and as a horror fan I was super stoked to work with him. He turned out to be awesome to work with, and I hope we get to collaborate in the future. He’s an incredibly kind person for someone with such a twisted mind. 

Robert: Considering how bloody the film gets, how many skeleton minis did they have for you?

Jenna: We had that fake head of mine you mentioned, and a fake leg, but that was it aside from small prosthetic pieces and tubing. Lots of blood, though. So much blood. 

Robert: Tara gets bloodier and bruised up as the film progresses. As most films are shot out of order, How difficult was the continuity?

Jenna: As you said, it’s pretty typical. I had two copies of my costume, which helped. So I’d come in to work and he’d tell me whether I was wearing the clean costume or the torn, dirty, pre-bloodied one. 

Robert: Can you tell our audience a little bit about your main co-stars – David H. Thornton and Catherine Corcoran – and what it was like working with them?

Jenna: They are both fantastic. David’s creepy as hell in his costume, and harmless and funny outside of it. Catie is talented and passionate as well, and we had some fantastic conversations between takes. We also ended up snuggling under blankets to stay warm. I loved working with both of them, and look forward to doing so again. 

Robert: Where was most of the movie shot? An area in New York? Parts of New Jersey?

Jenna: Most of the film was shot in New Jersey, in this creepy abandoned factory that was a horror movie all by itself. 

Robert: Were you able to order vegetarian pizza for the pizza scene? :-)

Jenna: That scene was originally in a burger place in the script! Damien considerately changed it to pizza after hearing that both Catie and I were vegetarians. I’ve gone vegan since then, of course. 

Robert: Every production has weird or wild things happen on set. – like the production having to shut down for a period. Was there any interesting things that happened during the shoot? If so, please share them.

Jenna: The location was probably the weirdest thing. Just to get to the bathroom, we’d have to walk through a room full of tires, or a room full of old car parts. There were strange children’s drawings, used condoms and needles, and office spaces that looked like they’d just been abandoned. Certain areas would be inexplicably freezing…It was a creepy place. There were probably bodies hidden in there. 

Robert: There is quite a bit of violent action in the film. How was this choreographed? I know you have a stunt background. Did you help with this?

Jenna: I’ve done my own stunts for a while, so I was happy to help navigate certain things safely and realistically. Nothing was too crazy, and we made sure to put safety first. Oh man, do I love stunts. 

Robert: There is a scene where Art has Tara bound and gagged in a chair, and opposite her is Dawn – also bound and gagged and nude – hanging upside down as Art approaches her with a hacksaw. What was the atmosphere on the set that day? You had to be in character with these other actors, but there also had to be great care and respect towards each other and the situation while shooting this sequence. Thoughts?

Jenna: Damien and our producer Phil made sure to keep the environment solemn and respectful that day. It wasn’t an easy scene to shoot, and I think we all tried to use that tension in our performances. I asked that they kept me tied up between takes to keep things psychologically realistic for myself. 

Robert: The effects looks grisly convincing on the screen. How did they look in person?

Jenna: Grisly as shit, in a good way. Damien’s great at gore and SFX, as that’s his background. My favorite was when I’d walk over to get coffee and there’d be an eyeball or a disembodied set of tits just sort of lying there. And that was normal. 

Robert: I must admit I was saddened by the downer ending. Art tends to always win. For myself, I would have preferred a stalemate between Tara and Art, perhaps having them match wits in a sequel. I found Tara to be a strong character and she put up a good fight. Any thoughts you can share about the ending?

Jenna: I’m glad you were rooting for her! I wasn’t too surprised that Tara doesn’t make it, as I tend to die in a lot of my work, and have always been fascinated by the Final Girl trope in horror movies. It’s also cool that my sister comes to save me; there’s a lot of female camaraderie in the film that’s quite refreshing. And to me, Art’s ending makes his character even more horrifying; we never understand his motivation. 

Robert: I know you were in “The Bye Bye Man.” Do you enjoy horror movies in general? Is there a genre out there you haven’t had a chance yet to act in, but would like to?

Jenna: I am a huge horror nerd. It’s one of the few genres that really allow us to examine sociopolitical issues and fears in a raw, unapologetic way. “The Bye Bye Man” was another fantastic experience, and a more psychological angle rather than a slasher. There are a couple more horror subgenres I’ve yet to explore, and I can’t wait for them. 

Robert: At sneak previews and film festivals the film has been getting positive reviews. How has the experience been for you? Any chance you’ll do some horror conventions?

Jenna: That fills my dark soul with joy. I’ve loved watching people respond to “Terrifier” in the way they have; it makes the unpleasant temperatures and the long hours at strange times all pay off. And hell yeah to conventions! I’m pretty sure I still have that costume somewhere… not sure where my fake head ended up, though. 

Robert: You have been very busy doing film work in New York. I loved the touching indie short you did on your brother. What is next for actor/filmmaker Jenna Kanell?

Jenna: So glad you enjoyed “Bumblebees!” I ended up doing a TEDx Talk about my brother and that film, which is on Youtube.

I just wrapped writing and directing a short film titled “Max & The Monster,” which is a proof of concept for a dark comedy feature with horror elements. I’ve 1st assistant directed features as well, including the upcoming “Schoolhouse” for you horror fans.

I’ve also done a number of features and shorts as an actor and stunt performer that come out this coming year, and run the gamut of genres. The features include Bron Studios’ “The Front Runner” and Lifetime’s “The Boarder,” and the shorts include starring in the sci-fi pieces “Dandelion” and “Abducted.” 

Thanks to Ms. Kanell for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk with us here at Smash or Trash. We wish her continued success with her widely varied career. Below are movies and links to more about Filmmaker Jenna Kanell.