Interview with SKM
Get the full interview here https://skonmovies.com/interview-ali-chappel-on-verified/ Last year, actress Ali Chappel (Necropolis: Legion, Girl with a Straight Razor) made the transition into filmmaking by writing and directing her debut short film Verified. The film focuses on a social media influencer named Nicky (Arrielle Edwards), who undergoes some horrifying changes when she is attacked in the street.
The short premiered in October 2021 at the Toronto Indie HorrorFest and has won the Wicked Shorts Jury Prize at the 2021 Salem Horror Fest and the Special Jury Prize for Best Debut at the 2021 Knoxville Horror Film Fest.
While Verified continues to make the film festival rounds, I spoke to Ali Chappel via e-mail about her inspirations behind the film and what’s next for her in her budding filmmaking career.
SEAN KELLY: How did you come up with the idea for Verified?
ALI CHAPPELL: I came up with it a while ago but wanted someone else to write it and film it because I didn’t think this was something I was capable of. But then the pandemic hit and I was like fuck it, I’m gonna write this. It came from staring at my phone and watching “influencers” just do everything online. Like unboxing videos or haul videos or dancing. There’s just no shame there and I eat that stuff up. So I thought, what if someone was hurt and didn’t go to the hospital and just kept live-streaming the decay. The zombie idea was easy because no one questions zombies. It’s very much “a virus happened and now there are zombies” and everyone is just on board. I didn’t need to do or explain any backstory which I was all about for a short film. Just straight to the point. It also worked out that the zombie is actually my lead Arrielle’s husband who is also an actor. I love them both so much and will work with them until I die.
A still from Verified
SEAN KELLY: The plot of the film deals with social media influencers. What are your thoughts on this trend, which is reportedly something that 86% of teenagers aspire towards? (something I learned in the documentary Girl Gang I saw at Hot Docs)
ALI CHAPPELL: Ok. First off, was that doc good? It was on my list but I didn’t get a chance to see anything at Hot Docs this year. I also wanted to see that TikTok one. TikTokBoom?? I wanna say it’s called. I love a good social media-based documentary. Honestly, if it makes them happy then I am all for it. It’s a job now. It wasn’t a decade ago but it is now. I’m not on board with them demanding free rooms at hotels or asking businesses for free stuff. Like those clickbait articles about horrible influencers. I’m not keen on that aspect of it. But hey, if a brand is down to collab, all the power to them. But like any industry, don’t exploit anyone, especially small businesses. I think it takes a very specific kind of person to be one, you have to be comfortable putting everything out there. There is a level of shamelessness that goes along with it that I don’t think I could do. Like I don’t think I could ever be on Real Housewives of Toronto (but please make that show… I could probably do Real Housewives of Horror TM – That is my show) because I just can’t air my drama out publicly. But hey, if you are all about this life, please do it. I need to watch it. I love reality tv. It’s just crazy seeing what works and what doesn’t. I constantly look at influencers and people who are trying to be and what they do that works and gets them followers and what doesn’t work and they don’t go anywhere. The whole thing is fascinating.
A still from Verified
SEAN KELLY: How did you go about casting your lead for the short?
Arrielle Edwards and I went to college together, a year a part. But we shared dance classes and I always thought she was so talented. Then start of the pandemic (correct me if I’m wrong but like around this time) she started up a YouTube channel with her husband, David Webb (my zombie) and it was cute. So obviously I cyber stalked them for years. Then between both their Twitch streams and Instagram and YouTube. They blew up. They’re huge now and I am so stoked for them. So when I wrote this I only had Arrielle in mind. She like still up and coming but she had the look and I knew she had the chops to do this. So I reached out on Instagram and was like “hey, I don’t know if you remember me, we went to college together. I follow you on all the socials, I adore you. I wrote this script and only you can play this role. Please say yes.” Like I got weird with it cause if you know me, I’m such a big weirdo who doesn’t know how to interact online. Thankfully, she said yes. I sent her the script. She liked it enough to be a part of this project. We filmed it in 2 days last summer. She crushed it. I couldn’t pay her which I felt bad about. So I made sure that all the costumes she wore she liked, so I could gift her clothing. I also made everyone gift bags to say thank you. I love this crew. Like so much. Jared Marino is the best DOP I have ever worked with. He had to put up with all my shit. But sorry, I digress. So because it was pandemic, I didn’t want some stranger putting their mouth on Arrielle, so I asked if her partner would be ok with it and he was. He’s also an actor. Cute little nerdy power couple. They were both so great. They really needed zero direction. Arrielle showed up just knowing what to do. The whole make-up tutorial scene, completely improvised, that was all her. And she did it bang on several times.
Also please give them a follow Arrielle @claruspolaris David @nerdynightly
A still from Verified
SEAN KELLY: What were some of the biggest challenges you experienced making the short, particularly with such a small crew?
ALI CHAPPELL: I have never made a short before. I have never written or directed anything. So I didn’t know what to do. I constantly asked my DOP Jared a million questions. He really offered up so much knowledge. I knew what shots I wanted and he really helped me achieve them. Honestly, if it wasn’t for my tiny ass cast and crew who were working for food and love and hugs and admiration, it wouldn’t have gotten made. I love them so much, I have since given them all paid work. But really they did an amazing job with me as their amateur leader. The biggest struggle was really figuring out how to control a room and a scene and learn as I went. So there were a lot of times when the cameras would be rolling and I’d be looking at the monitor and everyone is waiting and I’d hear someone whisper “you need to yell ACTION” and id be like right, I’m the boss here. It was the biggest struggle. Everyone brought their A game and I was learning on the job and they were all so kind about it.
A still from Verified
SEAN KELLY: How did your previous acting experience contribute to your move into filmmaking?
ALI CHAPPELL: Having such a big background in acting helped me be able to direct actors really well. I don’t know shit about shots and behind the camera and had a million questions about that area of things. (I know way more now that I have done it a few times haha). But being an actor I was able to be like “This is what I want you to feel. This is the backstory I want you to have. This is the sort of emotions I want you to go through. If you want ideas of your character watch these movies” But truly, I barely needed to give Arrielle notes, she came so prepared that we got everything we needed so quickly. A++. I highly recommend people hire her. She is the heaviest of hitters.
A still from Verified
SEAN KELLY: I remember you mentioning (on social media) that you have scripted a feature-length version of Verified. How do you plan to expand upon this story and when do you hope to go into production?
ALI CHAPPELL: I wanted to dive more into Nicky’s (my leads) world. Show how detached she is from everyone else because she is so narrowly focused on being an influencer in any way that she can. Also, dive a little bit more into the zombies of the world. More backstory on the one that bites her. I don’t wanna give too much away unless someone out there wants to give me money to create this project. But it would have a lot more body horror and influencers. So anyone reading this if you see me really creeping your feed… I’m learning from you. I’m getting ideas from you whether you are successful or failing. But seriously, if someone with money reads this… fund my project. You will probably not regret it. Hard maybe.