Interview with HORROR DNA
Get the full interview at https://www.horrordna.com/features/interview-ali-chappell ALI CHAPPELL INTERVIEW
Interview conducted by Stuart D. Monroe
If you don’t know who Ali Chappell is yet, I would give you a piece of advice sanctioned by the poet Shane D. Keene: You should seriously unfuck that. She’s someone that I’ve had the privilege of getting to know in a limited capacity here at Horror DNA for the last few years. She’s the proverbial triple threat – a woman with multiple degrees and proven talent in their disciplines. She’s an actress, model, writer, and director. It’s frankly a lot to keep up with.
I’ve told her as much over the years, so it seemed like an opportune time (more on that later) to hang out with her in the virtual realm and genuinely interview her. She’s a legit up-and-comer in the world of horror and film in general with her well-packed toolkit and reminds me a bit of Megan Freels Johnston (director, The Ice Cream Truck), whom I spoke with at the end of the disaster that was 2020. That’s high praise. Her latest short film, Verified, is making waves on the festival circuit now. Written and directed by Ali, it’s an insidious and poignant look into the mindset of a desperate, wannabe social media influencer who’s bitten by a zombie live on social media.
So, we jumped on Skype and brought some respective adult beverages (Ardbeg’s “Wee Beastie” Scotch Whisky for me, a gin smash or three for Ali) and did the interview thing for a couple of hours (yeah, we trimmed this down a bit). A good time was had by all! Now set about unfucking that and getting to know Ali like I do. Enjoy!
Stu Monroe: Let’s talk about Verified. I spent a few successive viewings with it, and there’s a sadness that comes through that you don’t get the first time. How conscious were you of the message and the almost depressing relatability when you were writing it? And how was the writing process on that script – fast & easy or slow & calculating?
Ali Chappell: The script came super quick and easy. I had this idea for a while and tried to get someone else to write it because I didn’t fancy myself a good enough writer. But then I realized [laughs] if you want to get something done you gotta do it yourself. So, I put fingers to keyboards and typed it all out. Then we shot it in two days. It was a super quick turnaround. The sadness in this little, short film really does come from a place of realness. I know so many people out there trying to get their names out there by trying to be an influencer, and just struggling so hard at it. But not just struggling, letting it become all-consuming to the point where going out for a drink or dinner isn’t a night out. It’s a way to get more content. Snap photos of your food, snap photos of your drink, get me to take a video of you drinking your drink and giving a shout-out to the restaurant that may or may not even re-post you. There are so many of us trying to get those likes up, get that follower count up, chasing that blue checkmark. I try to limit my social media use, but I am definitely guilty of it too. Although, mine is super curated and fake. I take like 80 photos in one day, then spread them out over a month because I am what you call “lazy” [laughs]. So, I was very conscious of this message when designing the character of Nicky. She has no friends. No one is watching her stuff. She tries so hard, all day every day, and the only time she starts to get likes and follows is when she’s bitten by a zombie and we see her fall apart. Who doesn’t love a gross train wreck?
SM: I don’t know what’s scarier – the fact that it would go down just like that, or the fact that you’d still get such satisfaction from it even as you die and turn into a member of the undead. That’s damn near perfection from a writing standpoint, so it’s a good thing you put your fingers to the keys. Making your own script AND starring in it? That’s the way to go.
AC: I have started writing more scripts where I would play the lead (or at least a lead) ‘cause if you aren’t booking the roles you want, you have to make your own. For sure.
SM: What is your relationship with social media like on a scale of “What’s a computer?” to “There’s a wire coming out of every orifice!”? How much of Nicky is actually you?
AC: My relationship with social media is a love/hate thing, so it’s probably somewhere in the middle. I like posting stuff, but I’m not spending my entire day on it. I maybe spend one or two days a month creating content for the whole month because I can’t be bothered. I’m definitely a bit more active at this exact moment because I have Covid and I am trapped in a hotel room because the new movie set I am on got shut down and there is fucking nothing to do. So right now, I’m doom scrolling way too much. A big part of me wants to say that if I wasn’t an actor/filmmaker who needed to be public and networking all the time I wouldn’t use it as much…but I think I still might; I just think it would be for different reasons. Less curation and more just photos of things I think are funny or sunsets.
SM: I dig that! That’s a simple way to handle your promotion – two days of content creation would really clear up the schedule. My overthinking ass would never have thought of that, but I also don’t take as many pics as you; no one wants to stare at my mug. And a lot of your shit is really funny. I assume you’ve firmly made your way onto TikTok (a.k.a. where Stu refuses to go!!)
AC: I am on TikTok, but it’s lame [laughs]!! Like, people should follow me for real, but don’t be too surprised if it sucks.
SM: On that note, I’m going to open Pandora’s Box here. Everybody has an axe to grind, so to speak, when it comes to social commentary in film. What’s yours? You’ve made a damn effective statement on social media and the hold it has over us all, so what else grinds your gears?
AC: Oh my God, how much time do you have?! Let me list everything that pisses me off on a day-to-day basis. Stop canceling shows I like without a proper ending. Put more stuff out on physical media instead of making it a streaming exclusive. Shows from the past need to be available for purchase like now, like Burning Love or Clueless the TV show; I think I found a bootleg of it, but I don’t trust the website, so I’m weary to purchase it. Parades…I do not like parades. Pigeons? Goddamn rat birds. Movie ticket prices are going up. Movies are also too long now. Rent is too high. Stop filming stuff in Toronto only to not let Canadians watch it when it’s been released cause of geo-blocking. I want to watch that stuff. People who walk in the middle of the sidewalk and take up all the space and walk so slowly. People who don’t drive the speed limit. Remember Pepsi Blue? Bring that shit back. While we are at it, remember Smirnoff Fire, the cooler? Bring that back too and Bagel-fuls. Stop charging so much for shipping. Get rid of Daylight Saving Time. Make Stack TV better across the board. I’m still going to pay for it but like… do better. Make clocks easier to read. Have more pockets in all women’s clothing. How is vision and dental not covered in our universal health care?! Gaining weight. Brain freeze, super over that. Put Megan Fox in more horror films and also make her my best friend. Make clothing more durable but also more affordable. Why aren’t the Spice Girls performing more? Bed skirts. Toxic social media ads. Why isn’t Kris Jenner my momager? Why has no one made a show about celebrities fighting each other to death, the winner gets to live? Why do the best foods make you gain so much weight? Gas is too expensive, so is airfare; I wanna travel more but it’s so much money and I’m giving all my money to rent. Also make flying less scary. Billionaires, fuck you, give me some of that money. Charging for Wi-Fi and it not being available everywhere – our whole lives are online from job searches to banking – make it more accessible. Make Covid stop – I currently have it and 0 out of 10 times do I recommend! David Wain deserves an Oscar, but also fuck the Oscars! Why don’t I have a TV show or better yet, a talk show? I’m way funnier than James Corden! Everyone has a podcast – I have two and it’s unnecessary – but also have me in your podcast, I make a fun guest. Why is salt water taffy so hard to find? Why are men? More elective surgeries need to be covered by OHIP, like say the tiny tumor I had removed from my tear duct. Also, medication needs to be affordable and so does therapy. WE NEED IT. Why hasn’t Josh Safdie made me his muse yet? Idris Alba never thinks about me even though I think about him all the time. People who don’t get my references to obscure TV shows and movies and podcasts.
SM: Yep; I opened it. Okay. There’s a lot to unpack here, but I’ll try. Best example of a cancellation ending travesty? HBO’s treatment of Carnivále. There needs to be more balance in the medium; there’s room enough for all our work. Amazon Prime is pretty good for old shows on the whole. Parades are dumb. Pigeons are not as dumb as seagulls (East coast boy here). THE RENT IS TOO GODDAMN HIGH!! Slow people in general are dangers to normal society. I counter Pepsi Blue with Crystal Pepsi; that being said, it’s Coke or Dr. Pepper; Pepsi is too sweet. Smirnoff = hangover. Bagel-fuls are a gift from The Creator. Your sense of the practical (pockets, health care, durability of clothing, etc.) is impressive. Megan Fox is a goddess (though I prefer Alexandria Daddario). Don’t get me started on that family. Wi-Fi is both a right and a necessity at this point…it just is. True Celebrity Deathmatch needs to be made like yesterday. I want to be a billionaire…I’d give away as much as I spent, so I probably wouldn’t be one for long! Saltwater taffy isn’t hard to find here. I’d fanboy if Idris Elba even remotely thought of me. Podcasts are growing on me even though I’m a dinosaur in terms of evolution [laughs] LOL. David Wain = The State = pissing myself laughing. Lastly, FUCK COVID. The things I don’t know: Stack TV, OHIP, Josh Safdie, geo-blocking. Am I profiling if I assume that’s because I’m American and NOT Canadian? [catches breath] Did I miss anything?
AC: Stack TV is an Amazon Prime add-on channel. OHIP is the universal healthcare in Ontario. Josh Safdie directed Uncut Gems. Geo-blocking is what streaming platforms do so you can’t access stuff outside of the country; that’s why Canadian Netflix is different than American Netflix.
Images from the film VERIFIED. Click images to enlarge.
SM: By the way, thank you so much for taking the time to do this. Word is you’re getting ready to do about three weeks of heavy shooting in Ontario on a new flick…and in the lead role, no less. Hit us with the deets.
AC: Yes! So, I can’t say too much, but the film is called The Day Lacey Called, and it’s based on the book The Day Satan Called, which is a true story that happened in Florida in 1988. It’s a possession movie, and I am the lead. Filming so far has been amazing! I went so hard day one and did my own stunts, and I am now so sore and covered in bruises. but it is amazing! If you want a really good read, I highly recommend picking up this book. It’s intense. Whether you are religious or not…it is fucked up. I am here for it. I would watch movies and see actors doing really cool stuff and think “man I wanna do shit like that” and this movie is that. I get to do so many cool things. It’s very physical and emotionally taxing but the best work is the hardest work, and I am very fortunate to be a part of this production.
SM: I’m going to pick up that book. Also, the film sounds like one to watch out for. In the pantheon of possession films, which one would you say The Day Lacy Called resembles? Like, what’s the vibe of this flick?
AC: It’s kind of its own thing. It has a bit of The Exorcism of Emily Rose, certainly, minus the courtroom drama. That movie is about a religious family who’s not sure what to do with their daughter. Only in this case, it’s a religious family not sure how to help this poor girl.
SM: Cool, cool. So, I know you’re working hard in multiple mediums – podcasts, short films, feature films, screenwriting. Is there one that feels more like your true calling? For example, I’ve never questioned being a writer; it was just a matter of what to write.
AC: Acting, for sure. Acting is like the blood that pumps through my veins and is the air I breathe. I was always an outgoing kid and performing came so naturally to me. It definitely took over my life. Gave me a purpose and made me feel like I belong somewhere. I don’t know what I’d be if I wasn’t a performer – probably just a really loud and annoying human.
SM: Your director on Necropolis: Legion, Chris Alexander, has a film in pre-production right now called Blue Eyes. I don’t know if you’ve seen the poster image, but I’m surprised he hasn’t called you to play the part of the titular Blue Eyes. Looks like you might have been an inspiration.
AC: Yeah, it was crazy. That artwork was released before he and I started dating, and everyone was like “Oh well you’re Blue Eyes. I mean look at the art.” It was crazy. The universe really brought us together on that one. And I really do hope it gets made! It’s a great script. So, if someone out there wants to throw some money at us, we got a killer script written by Barbie Wilde (from Hellraiser 2).
SM: Oh, damn…I didn’t know y’all were dating.
AC: True story.
SM: And hooking up creatively with Barbie Wilde? That’s pretty damn sweet.
AC: Seriously, it’s a killer script.
SM: What’s the movie in your filmography that you recommend above all others for sheer entertainment value? Why?
AC: Necropolis Legion 100,000%! I have boobies that have mouths instead of nipples, and they feed on people. If that’s not a seller, I don’t know what is. By the way, convention folks – if you bring me to your convention, I’ll wear the boobies for everyone to stick their fingers in. Just saying.
SM: Talk about selling points. So, what conventions have you done and which ones do you want to attend the most?
AC: My top three in no particular order: Monsterpalooza, Texas Frightmare Weekend, and Horror Hound Weekend. There are so many other great conventions in the States that I would love to attend, though. And don’t forget – bloodthirsty mouth boobies!
Images from the film VERIFIED. Click images to enlarge.
SM: You’ve clearly got the short film thing down, so is there a feature film script knocking around your head? Or is it already on the page?
AC: I have a few feature film scripts. I even turned Verified into a feature film script, but I would need a bunch of money for it. So, everyone out there should give me money. All the money. I think that I want to make a few more short films this year and then next year break into a bigger feature film. The hard part is finding a crew in Toronto. I just need a camera and sound guy, then a decent editor. But all the good ones cost so much money, which is fair – they deserve the money. But I’m broke and just need a rag-tag team of misfits who want to make shit on the regular. I have so many short film scripts. So, if you are GTA, based in Ontario, and want to make some magic, hit me up.
SM: In the spirit of “Show me yours, I’ll show you mine”, can you give me your Mount Rushmore of Most Rewatched Films For the record, mine are Clerks, Pulp Fiction, Blazing Saddles, Dawn of the Dead ‘78, and Airplane!
AC: Rewatched films…I’m going to have to say Practical Magic, Jawbreaker, Cruel Intentions, Drop Dead Gorgeous, Popstar.
SM: There’s definitely a theme with your movies, and I’m here for it. And how about your Mount Rushmore of Most Frequently Played Whole Albums? Again, for the record mine are Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 from Guns N’ Roses, Dark Side of the Moon from Pink Floyd, Master of Puppets from Metallica, Weight by Rollins Band, and Sports by Huey Lewis & The News.
AC: Frequent albums?? Hmmm I don’t know. I haven’t listened to a full album in years except Bo Burnham’s Inside. I am more into podcasts, though. I still love music, but it’s more one-off songs versus full albums; I have a million playlists. But if I can drop podcast, I’ll say "How Did This Get Made?", "Smartless", "Conan Needs a Friend", "WTF" with Marc Maron, and Scam Goddess.
SM: So, we come to the inevitable question: What’s next for Ali Chappell? Tell me what’s bouncing around that head of yours…
AC: I want to make a bunch of short films in the next month and build up a nice little portfolio. I just need a rag tag group of crew members to help me. Or I could die.
SM: Sweet! Finally, I have to ask: I saw your 10th-grade pic on Twitter the other day…who was that Ali, exactly?
AC: That Ali was a goddamn mess. She was trying to be a stylish rocker punk-esque character but, like, [laughs] she ain’t edgy. She grew up in the burbs in a decent-sized house. Her graduation photo was a face full of piercings. She wore corsets on top of dresses (which I still stand by that’s hot). I still wear my bondage pants from high school. I think I have more or less figured myself out now for sure ha ha!
SM: Yeah, well…you’ve seen my younger days stuff, so I ain’t saying shit. To be fair, I think we’re all a goddamn mess at that age. I damn sure was.
AC: To be fair (full Letterkenny)
SM: To be faaaaiiirrr…
At this point, the interview devolves into a pair of mildly inebriated people discussing Letterkenny and all the food products the other wished they had in their country. Good times! Horror DNA would like to again thank Ali Chappell for taking the time to spend an evening with us.