Interviews: Director Frank Merle Talks About His Upcoming Horror Film #FromJennifer

Horror icons Tony Todd (Candyman, the Final Destination series) and Derek Mears (Friday the 13th, Twin Peaks) star in #FromJennifer, the "highly original and radically ingenious" (Starburst) new film from award-winning writer/director Frank Merle, out 9/26 on Digital and Cable from Sector 5 Films.

Jennifer Peterson (Danielle Taddei) is having a very rough week. She's been fired from a movie shoot, her manager just dropped her, and her boyfriend dumped her, right after releasing a sex tape of them together. But Jennifer has decided to turn things around: she hatches a plot she calls "Revenge Porn Revenge," in which she plans to settle the score by filming a devastatingly elaborate video and posting it online, making herself famous in the process. But like everything else in her life lately, her revenge plot doesn't go according to plan, and a shocking trail of carnage is left in her wake.

Winner of no less than 7 major film festival awards, including Best Director at the Illinois International Film Festival (Frank Merle) and Best Actress (Danielle Taddei) at the Mindfield Film Festival, #FromJennifer features a host of genre favorites in-front of and behind-the-camera including actors Aaron Abrams (Hannibal), Meghan Deanna Smith (Sharknado: Heart of Sharkness), Trae Ireland (13/13/13) and Danielle Taddei (Pretty Little Liars), with producers Frank Merle and Hunter Johnson (2 Jennifer) and executive producers James Cullen Bressack (Bethany, 2 Jennifer) and Warren Croyle. "A truly timely and Relevant Film" (We are Indie Horror), #FromJennifer on Digital and Cable September 26 from Sector 5 Films.

TMS: Why filmmaking? Why not acting?

FM: The only acting I ever did was in high school. I wasn’t too bad at it, but I never felt that need for attention and applause that other actors had, I could tell that it drove them, but it didn’t drive me. What I wanted was more control over the stories I was telling. I would often disagree with my director’s direction, but as an actor, it’s your job to do what the director wants. That frustrated me, so I decided I’d be better off on the other side of the camera.

TMS: Tarantino made filmmaking a cool profession again. Agree?

FM: I think Tarantino changed expectations for how a filmmaker is supposed to behave. It used to be okay for filmmakers to let their work speak for itself. But now, sometimes I feel like there’s an added pressure to be as entertaining in real life as my movie is meant to be. Most filmmakers aren’t as extroverted as Tarantino. With the amount of press he’s done for his films, people know of him more than they know of his movies.

TMS: And one can become just as much a ‘star’ as a filmmaker than they can from being in front of the camera. Though I imagine it’s nice not having people recognize you when you walk down the street like most actors would?

FM: I wouldn’t mind getting noticed sometimes. Especially if it meant a free meal at a fancy restaurant.

TMS: Filmmakers do tend to have their loyal fans though. Do you?

FM: People either love my movies or they hate them, which I think is better than if everyone thought my movies were so-so. Even though #FromJennifer is a very different movie than my last film The Employer, I’ve found that those who really liked The Employer have really liked #FromJennifer, too. I think it’s because both films defy genre expectations and are smarter than they first appear. People who like that sort of thing tend to like my movies.

TMS: One has to have a thick skin to work in this game, I imagine? How do you handle the constant ups and downs, rejection and online criticism that comes with it?

FM: It sucks. But the joy of making movies outweighs that emotional roller coaster, so I can handle it. If you can’t handle criticism, you’re not cut out for an industry where you’re putting your work out there for everyone to react to.

TMS: Do poor reviews or online insults affect you?

FM: I’m only human. Negative criticism makes me feel like I’ve let people down. Rationally, I know that no film will make everyone happy. But it still always stings a little.

TMS: By the same token, how does a wonderful review make you feel?

FM: You would think that good reviews should elevate me as much as bad reviews bring me down, right? But they don’t. The only thought I have when I get good reviews is that I can use this to boost the signal so more people will see my film. That’s what matters most to me, that my film finds the largest possible audience.

TMS: If a filmmaker is in it ‘for the money’ are they setting themselves up for disappointment?

FM: Not if they’re really, really good at it! And if they’re willing to put in the work required to understand the business side of filmmaking. It’s absolutely possible to make a living at it if you’re able to avoid all the pitfalls.

TMS: You’ve one movie to convince the city of Los Angeles that you’re deserving of a star on the walk of fame. Which film do you show them?

FM: Can I show them Casablanca and take credit for it? No, that wouldn’t be ethical. To be honest, I haven’t made my Walk of Fame movie yet. But that’s okay. I intend to do just that, eventually. Maybe I’ll remake Casablanca, but with zombies.

TMS: And finally, plug away! Tell us about the new film!

FM: #FromJennifer is a lot of fun. Our hapless main character is having the worst week of her life: she gets fired, and dumped by her boyfriend, and finds out that she’s had a sex tape leaked online. But then she kinda snaps, and really bad things start happening to everyone around her. Like I said, lot of fun, especially if you have a twisted sense of humor.