Saturday, September 13, 2014

TIFF 2014: A Conversation with The Editor's Sheila E. Campbell

The Toronto International Film Festival has many thought-provoking programs like the Gala Presentation, Masters and Documentary that appeal to the ultra-sophisticated cinephiles, but it also has Midnight Madness -- an edgy, mostly gratuitously bloody gore-fest that would reduce any film snob to tears.

As a huge fan of genre film, I frequently experience TIFF’s darker side and, this year, I have to say that one of my favourite films is The Editor, a movie that lovingly pays homage to 70‘s giallo film (an Italian sub-genre of blood and mayhem). Made by Winnipeg’s own Astron-6, the story centres on a washed-up film editor who may or may not be set up for murder. Filled with tons of dark humour and excessive gore, the film is sure to please horror enthusiasts and strengthen Astron-6’s reputation in the genre film arena.

Calgary-native Sheila E. Campbell stars in the film as Margarit Porfiry, who spontaneously goes blind after she discovers the blood-drenched bodies of a movie couple. Her comedic scenes elicited many laughs from the Midnight Madness crowd and she drew much applause on stage after the film’s screening. I fortunately had an opportunity to meet with Campbell in between TIFF screenings of The Editor to discuss the film and her new success.

TorontoVerve: What was your first Midnight Madness experience like for you?

Sheila Campbell: It was surreal. I am beyond fortunate that my first film, [The Editor], was selected to be at TIFF. It’s fantastic. It’ll hit me when I’m back home -- when I’m back in real life.

TV: What has been most exciting for you at TIFF so far?

SC: Having my friends and family see the film and be like “look, I’m really an actress.” Seeing the finished product is amazing too. Just the fact that we’re attached to TIFF is extraordinary. I’m also really excited for the Astron-6 guys because they worked real hard on the film and they really deserve it. I just hope that this is a launching pad to worldwide success for them.

TV: So there’s a lot of blood and craziness in the film, how did you prepare your folks for that?

SC: I haven’t explained anything to them yet (laughs). My family is pretty darn religious. At least my mom and dad are so I don’t think that they’ll be seeing it, but my wonderful In-Laws drove in to see it. I told them that this is an R-Rated movie and it’s in the style of Italian horror, which is known for nudity, sex and gore and I particularly warned them that some of that nudity is mine, but I find my scene is tasteful. Still, when [my nude] scene was onscreen, I was asking, “is it getting hot in here?” But it’s all acting. I feel really good about what I did and it’s an excellent film. It was an honour to be a part of it.

TV: The boys at Astron-6 said in the Q&A that they first messaged you on Facebook to audition for the role?

SC: Yes, I almost didn’t reply, but when I did, I immediately heard back from them. I didn’t really have time to prepare for the audition. I just went in and flirted with [my co-star] Matt Kennedy and I inevitably got the part. They told me that I really understood the comedy of the script. Plus, it helped that I looked like actress Catriona MacColl. The guys based my character on her role in [Lucio Fulci’s] The Beyond.

TV: Your IMDB lists 4 film credits all from this year. How did your film career suddenly explode?

SC: I have to thank Astron-6 for that. In Winnipeg, they are idolized by other filmmakers so when I meet with them, I just market myself. I say, “my name is Sheila. You don’t know me, but I know of you so let’s talk.” You just have to keep forcing yourself on people. I also take the time to prepare. I walk into auditions with confidence. Sometimes it works -- sometimes it doesn’t. But lately, it’s mostly worked. I keep getting cast so it’s been great.

TV: I understand that you weren’t familiar with giallo films and Astron-6 before getting the part. What Astron and giallo films did you see as research?

SC: When I got the role I watched Astron-6‘s Father’s Day and then I watched their shorts and I quickly became an obsessed fangirl. I thought they were brilliant and couldn’t believe I was going to be working with them. They also suggested a few giallo movies like The Beyond and Dario Argento’s Suspiria. I then began doing my hair and make-up in 70‘s-style. The one thing I didn’t do was train to be blind because I figured my character is a newly blind person so she wouldn’t know how to navigate. When I put on those white contact lenses, I literally couldn’t see anything and was stumbling around.

TV: What was the production like for you?

SC: It was thrilling and I got really into it. I’m not going to give much away, but I get shoved pretty hard against a door in the film. Initially they didn’t really want to hurt me and then I got real amped up and said, “just smack me up against the door, guys. Just go full force.” I also made a point of trying to be onset on my days off. For instance, I did most of the hair and make-up for my co-star Samantha Hill, I did craft services -- just anything I could do to help out. I love making movies so much that it was a privilege just to be there.

TV: What was the most challenging part of the film for you?

SC: The love scene wasn’t too hard, but it took 18 hours to shoot one day and then another 8 hours the next.

TV: So now that you’re starring in The Editor, are you a fan of giallo or gore films?

SC: Yeah, totally. I always liked film with a lot of gore and blood. I also love Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. I hope more film homages come out for giallo films. Of course, they won’t be as good as The Editor (laughs). So, yes, I’m a fan of the genre. I’ve seen the film 3 times now and I’m going to see it again Saturday night. I love it. I wanted my husband to see it too, but due to his military service, he couldn’t get away.

TV: What does your husband think about you doing the film?

SC: You know, his friends are very excited to see the movie, but he’s already told them that they all need to keep their head down during my [nude] scenes (laughs). He’s beyond supportive. I couldn’t ask for a better partner. He’s super thrilled that I’m here. I couldn’t do any of this without his support.

TV: Your Twitter description says you're a “rude joke connoisseur,” would you share one of your jokes? 

SC: They’re mostly dead baby jokes so I can’t tell one of those (laughs). Ok, here’s a smart one: the jurisprudence fetishist got off on a technicality. That’s my favourite one because he gets off on a technicality, get it?

TV: Yeah, I get it (laughs). 

Tonight, you can catch the last TIFF screening of The Editor at 6:15pm at the Scotiabank Theatre. Starting next month, the film will be hitting the festival circuit worldwide.

Follow Sheila E. Campbell on Twitter & Instagram.

See The Editor teaser below (NSFW):

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