A neat little brew of Housewives of OC meets Scream, The Ice Cream Truck explores the nagging suspicions we’ve all had about those doodle-ding trucks and soon to be cougar Milfs trolling suburbia. When housewife Mary (Deanna Russo) returns to her suburban hometown, she discovers an off-kilter mix of overly nosy neighbors, overly sexed teens and an ice cream man overly dedicated to serving scoops of blood with his Rum Raisin. In this one-on-one interview, director Megan Freels Johnston reveals the challenges she faced in bringing The Ice Cream Truck to the screen.
A native of Westport, Connecticut, actress/writer/director Tara Subkoff is known for As Good as It Gets, The Cell and All Over Me. In #Horror, which stars Chloë Sevigny and Timothy Hutton, a group of girls face a night of horror when the compulsive addiction of an online social media game turns a moment of cyber bullying into a night of insanity. In this one-on-one interview, Subkoff reveals the challenges and real-life experiences that shaped this film.
Why did you decide to make #Horror?
Tara Subkoff: I didn’t really decide to make it all in its entirety at once. Studios have groups and decide what they want to make. But artists don’t. They make what they feel. They have a point of view and they want to say something, and make it more clearly through the whole process of writing, shooting, editing, and all the art collaboration that was collaged in the film. At the end, I’m as surprised as you are as to where the film went. I think that’s the true nature of a good film, and one that evolves.
Sadly, there are way too many marketing and focus groups in filmmaking these days.
Tara: I completely agree with you. I’m very grateful that the film was independently financed, which allowed me to create a real director’s cut. I’m so grateful to IFC for distributing the film. I could have gone with someone else, but they wanted to re-edit and change things. It’s very rare that a filmmaker’s vision is honored. I’ve had some experience in Hollywood as an actor with features and directing several shorts, but I wanted to create a film that was really artistic.
What was the biggest challenge you faced?
Tara: Shooting in three snowstorms was pretty damn challenging. Nearly half my crew walked off, saying I was crazy. We couldn’t breathe it was snowing so fast. And this wasn’t CGI snow, but real snow. The other challenge was filming with minors, which was their first film experience. It was an 18-day shoot and we lost three days to bad weather. Another challenge was editing the film. My advice to all young filmmakers is to shoot as much as you can—before they take the cameras away. It really matters when you go into edit and you don’t have that other shot, or that snow that matches the other snow. I had to be very creative with editing. You really learn screenplay structure the hard way when you’re in the editing room. Hopefully, all this will make me a better writer.
It seemed like the isolated home with all its bizarre art was itself a character. Why did you choose that setting?
Tara: I really wanted to write about the 1% of the 1%–the people who have it all. We secretly all want to have it all, and we’re conditioned and brainwashed to want that. I wanted to write about the life we aspire to—what that looks like and what that feels like. I think art is very important; it holds a feeling, and if it’s good, it stands the test of time and communicates something that is abstract but important. The artwork came from my friends and it’s really another character in the film. I grew up in Westport so I’m familiar with that world, the importance of keeping up appearances, the possessions people have, and keeping up with other towns—rich vs. poor. I wanted to create a visual landscape that was very specific.
The film goes into a host of issues, including cyber bullying, parental neglect, infidelity. Why did you choose to include them?
Tara: I wanted to write about modern life and its many problems. I think they’re the same problems that we’ve always had, but they just look different today. And I wanted to be honest about what they look like.
Can you go into the actual events that inspired the film?
Tara: Many of my friends had 12-year olds who were severely cyber bullied at the time. And I was severely cyber bullied as a 12-year old on the bus. I was horrified by it, much more than any ghost in the woods. But in my day, I could go home and the bullying would stop. With the platform kids have today, it never stops, it’s relentless. You can’t just put the phone down and turn it off, it just keeps going. It’s a whole new level of cruelty and meaness. And it could follow you into your college application, your first job interview or first love interest. It’s out there for all the world to see. It’s so humiliating and disgusting. It’s very damaging when you’re developing as a person. So I wanted to write something that felt real in 2016.
The graphics were stunning, bold and a bit unusual for a film of this type? What was the thinking behind that?
Tara: I wanted to portray the feeling of going into their game world. It’s another life and you’re locked in it. If you play CandyCrusher, the colors and the world are so addictive. I wanted to convey what it feels like to get lost in your phone.