Home Horror SubgenresFound Footage Katherine McNamara Talks Having Fun on the Zoom Set of ‘Untitled Horror Movie’

Katherine McNamara Talks Having Fun on the Zoom Set of ‘Untitled Horror Movie’

by Brianna Spieldenner
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Untitled Horror Movie

iHorror got a chance to speak with Katherine McNamara; one of the stars of the upcoming screenlife found-footage horror film Untitled Horror Movie, aptly taking place over Zoom; the videoconferencing software.

Katherine McNamara, playing the bubbly actor Chrissy in the film, has previously starred in sci-fi and action roles such as Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials, Shadowhunters, Assimilate, Supergirl, Batwoman, The Flash, Arrow, and the recent The Stand Stephen King miniseries. 

As Chrissy, she is one of six actors in Untitled Horror Film who used their lockdown time, in an uncertain era of job security, to create a horror film using only their cell phone cameras.  Along the way, creating this meta film within the film, their pretend haunting seems to become a real one. 

Untitled Horror Movie looks like it was a lot of fun to make. I got a chance to ask McNamara a few questions about being on the digital set in a Zoom horror film. 

Katherine McNamara

Katherine McNamara in “Untitled Horror Movie.” Photo courtesy of (Yet) Another Distribution Company

iHorror — Brianna Spieldenner: What I really appreciate about this film is the dynamic that the cast has with each other and the conversations you all had between takes. Were you friends before?

Katherine McNamara: A few of us. I’ve known Luke Baines for a while, we’ve been friends for years and we work together on Shadowhunters. And Nick Simon I’ve known for a very, very long time, even though this is the first time we’ve actually worked together. And Tim (Granaderos), I knew from a while back, and Claire (Holt), I’ve known through Luke, but the rest of the cast I didn’t know beforehand and have only met since. Still, as a collective cast, we have not actually all been in the same room at the same time as of yet. But it was a lot of fun.

And as you know, from seeing the film, so much of it relies on the banter, and the sort of interaction and the chemistry between the cast. And that is not always something that you would think would be 100% possible via Zoom, or virtually, especially given that not all of us had actually met. But somehow from that first table read — and I think it’s just because all of us were so gamed to just experiment and play and dive into this — there was a sort of magic and a sort of chemistry that just exceeded and overcame any technological boundary that we had. So we were really lucky to be able to utilize that throughout the process.

Brianna Spieldenner: I noticed that director Nick Simon also wrote this film along with Luke Baines who plays Declan. So how collaborative was the film with everyone else? How much did each actor add to the story?

Katherine McNamara: We actually had a lot of collaboration, especially given that this was all put together based on kind of mutual relationships and friendships and things like this, but also a desire to be creative. And you know, all of us were not only starved for social interaction, but a good deal of creative productivity at that point. And through the magic of earpieces and headphones, we were all able to still be on Zoom together, but while still recording isolated sound and audio. So anytime someone did throw out an ad-lib or throw out something new or an idea, we were able to kind of go with it and see where it took us and find the movie in and of itself as we were shooting. But still have the time to do so because we had six cameras rolling at any one period of time.

Brianna Spieldenner: As a film that’s trying to be realistic, how realistic were the characters to yourselves?

Katherine McNamara: Oh, they’re very different for most of us.

But the joy of having a good friend write the script is that they know what you haven’t had a chance to do. And the fact that I haven’t gotten to play a character like Chrissy, if at all ever, or I haven’t gotten to do comedy in a very long time either. And it’s something that I love doing and have a lot of fun with. So you know, the fact that Luke and Nick came up with this, this character was a real joy. That’s what I love to do as an actor is to be a chameleon and to play in that way; it gave me the opportunity to fully commit to this very sweet under-informed, but overcommitted, young woman.

Brianna Spieldenner: Was there an inciting incident, other than the pandemic itself, that led to this story being told?

Katherine McNamara: I don’t actually know, to be honest. I think that when Luke and Nick came up with this, they were trying to just write something and just to be creative and develop something. And then if I’m correct, it was Nick that stopped and went, “wait a minute, why don’t we try and shoot this now we all have the time, let’s figure out a way to do it under the conditions of the pandemic”. And for me, that’s what artists do, we find a way to overcome any obstacle that’s put in front of us. And this was just another opportunity to do so.

Thinking about it retrospectively, even though we don’t mention the pandemic at all in the film, you have six people that are dealing with the unknown future and dealing with not knowing what their life is going to look like six months down the line. And in fact, each of us was going through that same aspect at the moment; we don’t know what our life is going to look like six hours from now, let alone six months from now, six weeks from now, given the nature of where the pandemic was at that point in time. And it was very cathartic for all of us. But also our goal was just to provide an escape for folks to have something fun and silly to entertain them. And hopefully, as meta as it is, to provide a bit of levity to the situation.

Untitled Horror Movie Katherine McNamara

Luke Baines and Katherine McNamara in “Untitled Horror Movie”
Photo courtesy of (Yet) Another Distribution Company

BS: Do you have a background in horror? I saw that you worked on some shows like Batwoman and Supergirl.

KM: Yeah, I’ve bounced around in the Arrow-verse a little bit. I have been in the supernatural world as it were, for a long time whether it’s the Arrow-verse, or doing Shadowhunters, or even Stephen King’s The Stand, which I was able to do right before the pandemic, or Maze Runner. It’s been a lot of fun to play around in these worlds that are a bit heightened, and a bit fantastical in one way or another.

I grew up loving horror and thrillers and all of that. Stephen King fan, I love Hitchcock, I love all of those kinds of aspects, but simply because of the fact that you can do so much with so little, and you can really play with the human imagination, and for better or for worse; cause people to assume things that may or may not actually be happening. And that was again, part of the fun of this film is we didn’t have a lot of resources at our disposal, we didn’t have a full crew, and a full special effects team and all of these things coming together to create that aspect. But what we did have is tenacity and creativity. And somehow we embarked on this experiment and made a film.

BS: How do you think this film comments on found footage, specifically taking place on the computer in the midst of a pandemic?

KM: I think there was a lot of creativity that went into the post-production of it because we didn’t want the film to feel stagnant. We didn’t want people to be looking at the sort of Hollywood squares of six people on screen the entire movie. And I give such credit to Nick and Kevin (Duggin) and our editor, Don (Money), and everyone else who was a part of that side of the production that came up with so many different ways to flip things around and keep things moving and keep it feeling very active and energized, even though we were very limited in our locations and our set and the kind of shots we could do, given the pandemic at the time.

But you know, I think that’s exactly what the industry does. And that’s exactly what artists do. We figure it out, whether you’re on a traditional set, or you’re in the middle of a pandemic, inevitably, something will not go as planned. And you have to figure it out. And ultimately, yes, it’s a bit of a satire on the entertainment industry. And yes, we definitely each play a very specific type of archetype of the actor. But what we also tried to do is subvert that in a way, and as you go through the story, and as these people are put through these different scenarios, you see other colors, and you see different sides to people and what comes out of that proves to be hopefully, interesting, entertaining and just plain fun.

BS: Did you feel the filming process was easier than a typical in-person production?

KM: I would actually say no, it was not easier whatsoever. And especially given the fact that when I’m normally on a set, I have one job to do. I’m there to say my lines and play my character and be creative, and do all of that. And then all of the other experts and all of the other departments are there to do their job. And on this, all of us, we’re doing all of the jobs at least as much as we could and that I’ve always been one to have such a healthy respect for the crew and for the jobs that they do and the expertise that they have, and have worked with some amazing crews that have answered all my questions and been kind enough to take me under their wing and teach me but there’s a big difference between observing and understanding something and then practically doing it yourself or trying to do it yourself.

I definitely missed the camaraderie as well of being in the trenches with the crew and, being there at 3 am in the rain covered in blood and looking at the camera operator next to you who’s huddled up in a rain jacket; you just go, well, we chose this and this is what we do for a living. And somehow we’re both still having fun. I missed that sort of environment for sure. But it was a great learning experience and such a challenge. I’m the kind of person that relishes in challenge anyway, so it was a thrill anyway to get to be a part of it.

BS: What would you want viewers to take away most from Untitled Horror Film?

KM: What I want viewers to take away from this is a bit of an escape. We all live in a world that some days we don’t know what’s coming next. And we don’t know what the world is gonna look like tomorrow. And we don’t even know sometimes what’s happening today. But in the time that you watch Untitled Horror Movie, we want you to run the gamut of emotions; we want you to be able to laugh and to have a bit of an escape and have a good time — join the ride with us and hopefully, get something out of the experiment.

*****

Untitled Horror Movie is available on iTunes and Amazon starting June 15