ED- The Eerie Digest loves to promote independent filmmakers, especially those that deal in one of our favorite genres, Horror. We therefore are excited to present actor Roger Conners to all our readers. Roger you hail from the state of Ohio. Please tell us about your life there.
RC- I’ve lived in Ohio my entire life, growing up about fifteen minutes outside of Cleveland in the city of Westlake. It’s a very upper-class area, not a whole lot of diversity going on there but very well kept and presentable. I tend to reference it as a “cookie-cutter community”… same thing day after day, but I’ve come to sort of appreciate that aspect of it. When I was younger my family went through a lot of hard times, my parents divorced and my dad took off so my mother and I ended up staying with my grandparents for a good chunk of time. Shortly thereafter my mom was diagnosed with leukemia and so my grandparents really stepped into the role of being my parental figures. I lost my grandfather when I was in middle school, and then my grandmother my junior year of high school. My mother passed eight months after that and so I was forced to drop out of school at the time and move out on my own. Know that, up until that point I’d never done anything for myself in the sense of finances or budgeting. Due to my moms illness I’d never even had a job! It was all completely new to me… and so owning a home was such a HUGE undertaking. Very overwhelming… and I was completely on my own so it’s not like I really had anyone to turn to for assistance. It was extremely rough but I got myself together and worked through it. I ended up relocating to Rocky River, only one city over from Westlake, and have remained there ever since.
RC- Horror has always had a huge impact on my life. When I was a child I was obsessed with it! I mean, let’s be honest, I probably shouldn’t have been VIEWING horror films at such an early age, but I loved them and I feel I’m pretty sane at this point in the game so… no harm no foul I suppose? (laughs) I do have a vivid memory of the first horror movie I ever watched back when I was seven years old. My grandfather, who was a very laid back kind of guy and kind of played by his own rules, went ahead and put in our VHS of George Romero’s’ “Night of the Living Dead” for me to view. From the moment the opening driving sequence came upon the screen I was completely and utterly entranced by the film! I just sat there, glued to the screen, completely caught up in the whole thing! However, when it reached the point in which the character of Helen rushes to the cellar for safety and is violently attacked by her newly undead daughter, I remember being so scared that I fled from the room! I couldn’t finish the movie after that. Despite being terrified by it, I continued to be obsessed with the imagery! I would draw scenes from the film CONSTANTLY and started to cause quite a bit of controversy! I remember being reprimanded by my teachers for drawing such vivid, gruesome illustrations. Eventually, I had to have a meeting with my parish Priest to discuss why I drew such horrible things. I just didn’t get it back then, but I think my family was growing a little worried… understandable at this point in the game. (laughs) Despite my obsession, I was still so terrified of the actual film that I never even knew what the ending of the movie was until I finally mustered up the courage to take out the tape and view it for myself. I was roughly thirteen by that point… When I finally DID see that ending I remember being so very affected by the manor in which Barbara perishes I literally cried. I had no idea a horror movie could effect me so greatly! I’d say that scene alone is the soul moment in cinema that inspired me to act, not only in horror films, but in general. I wanted to impact a viewer in the same way. I want to be in once of those scenes that people remember! The meat hook in “Texas Chainsaw”! The final climactic chase sequence in “Halloween”! Truthfully speaking, I feel I have yet to land that stand out moment but hey, I’m only twenty-four… there’s still time.
RC- To be honest that was actually the second film I shot and I was cast pretty last minute. Prior to that I had filmed “Hellementary”, which was creating quite a buzz with the local film community. The trailer had just premiered and it looked very solid so a few local filmmakers were trying to get their hands on some of the actors from it and hoped to throw them into their own projects. If you look at the cast list you’ll see that two of my “Hellementary” co-stars top-bill that movie and the same with “Voodoo Rising”. I had a very minor role in “Tomorrow For A Dollar”, just a one scene deal but it was a nice debut in the sense I started small and built up from there. To be honest the movie didn’t do much. It showed at a few festivals and then kind of faded away. And to be real I’m alright with that! It wasn’t my strongest performance. (laughs)
ED- The following year you performed a role in the short, ‘Striving For Excellence’, followed in 2009 by the film ‘Hellementary: An Education in Death’. Please tell us about these productions and the filmmaker involved in it.
RC-Oh “Hellementary”… I’ll start with that project since it was actually filmed first and led into my participating in “Striving For Excellence”. Back in 2006 I really started to develop an interest in film. I made it my goal to act in at least one horror film and so I started looking for anything local that may be casting. I honestly had no experience in the area, just the desire to be on screen. Now let’s be real, Cleveland is not Hollywood. It’s a small film-scene here but it does exist! You just need to know what you’re getting into and be picky about which roles you take. I had auditioned for another movie early that summer and was up for one of the roles but was eventually deemed as “too young” due to the graphic content of the script. At this point I’m ok with that… movie didn’t finish. Shocking… When I auditioned for “Hellementary” it was completely on a whim! I went in completely unprepared and, well, I had to do SOMETHING right because I ended up getting cast! I remember at one point the producer told me she had wanted a blonde male to contrast all of the others since they were varying shades of brunette. I really hope that’s not the only reason for my landing the role… Anyway, we filmed from October 2006 into January 2007 and to be honest, it was probably one of the best times of my life! Sure I was working am shifts (we’re talking 4 am) to accommodate for the intense shooting schedule which consisted of filming Monday-Friday 5 pm until… whenever we wrapped. Keep in mind this was a good hour or so from my homestead so I would literally leave work, shower, get out to set, film, head home and then sleep for three hours before waking up and repeating that process. My weekends off were spent in a coma-like slumber, but I loved it none-the-less! The cast… the crew… all of it! Amazing people and so talented! It was honestly the perfect first experience and explains why I haven’t been able to give up the whole film thing since! That and lets be real, “Hellementary” really opened a lot of doors for me. Heck, it got my face on NATIONAL TV! Last September marked the films national broadcast premier on Chiller, which was such an amazing moment for me! All in all I have nothing but wonderful feelings toward this production and I am very thankful to have been a part of it As for “Striving For Excellence”, the guys over at 529 Films (the company behind “Hellementary”) wanted to partake in the 48 Hour Film Festival and rallied together some familiar faces, including a handful of cast and crewmembers from the movie. We ended up winning several awards, including best film. It was all very flattering and a very fun process to be involved with!
RC- Well see, “Hellweek” is a funny story… I wasn’t involved in the original production. When I first signed on with Fright Teck Pictures it was after they had wrapped principal photography on the picture and so I never got to meet any of the original cast members aside from the actors who played J.J. and Gage. I had been cast in FTP’s second full-length film and, at the time, they were also in the midst of working on their final cut of “Hellweek” and turned out to be very unhappy with the ending. I ended up becoming really great friends with company owner and director Eddie Lengyel and he randomly asked me if I’d be willing to film a few scenes to flesh out the ending. Of course I agreed, not really expecting much to come from the whole thing. And look… now the flicks available for stream on Net Flix! Unexpected, but hey… those guys worked their backs off to get that thing off the ground and I am so happy they have seen some success with it!
ED- Tell us about the other actors in the film and how you interacted with them.
RC- As I stated I really didn’t get to meet much of the cast. I did, however, get to know Rob Jaeger (J.J.) pretty well and we ended up playing opposite each other in a film I wrapped last fall entitled “Dark of Moon”. The film follows the lives of several friends as they search for significant others and my character is the gay of the group. Rob and I ended up having a pretty passionate kissing scene, which was so awkward for me since it was my first major on-screen kiss and it was with another male… I was so nervous! But Rob is a great guy and a very talented actor and I feel he really shines in “DOM”, which is set to show several film festivals this fall.
RC- “Random Violence”… I care not to discuss for too long… That was a project I agreed to do on a whim and I ended up being extremely unsatisfied with the final outcome. Remember earlier when I said that an actor in Cleveland needs to be picky about the projects they choose to sign on to? Well “Random Violence” is where I learned that lesson. It was poorly handled and you can tell as such from the final result. There were times where I thought we were merely running a scene and then the director would say “Cut! Ok, lets move on!”! They filmed the scene and didn’t even communicate that they were rolling camera. I don’t know, I suppose I just have come to expect a certain level of professionalism on set and was really let down by that one. I now refuse to act in shorts… I learned my lesson. Now “Voodoo”… that is a completely different entity all together. The project had a great script, a pretty awesome location, a handful of talented actors… and a whole lot of negative energy from the start. When I auditioned for “Voodoo Rising” the director liked me so much he ended up writing a part in for me. The character was very big, very gay, and very comedic which ended up going over poorly with several cast members involved. From that point on the project turned a bit sour for me, which is sad because, deep down, I really hold a great love for the movie! But when you walk off set in tears day after day after being demeaned and humiliated it’s hard to remain positive. I really saw the dark side of independent film during that shoot and witnessed some actors (and some ego’s) at their worst, but there are some great aspects to “Voodoo” as well! I met my good friend director Eddie Lengyel on that set and went on to work on several other films with him. I also had the privilege of working beside some very talented local actors who I do hold great respect for and ended up learning a lot about the business from them. I also had the joy and privilege of involving my two cousins in the project which I am so excited about! They both play minor roles but it was so awesome getting the chance to act beside them since we are all very close and I basically consider them both to be my sisters! So all in all, low points aside, “Voodoo Rising” is a project I’m very proud of and anticipate seeing the final cut in the next few months!
RC- Well I’ve always had a passion for working with makeup and FX and I did get the chance to help out with several of the gore effects you see in the film. That was pretty awesome since it was the first time I had the chance to do something behind the camera and I ended up really having a blast with it! I helped out with a lot of the minor bruises and wounds and also recreated a massive burn wound that is seen toward the end of the film. That was very cool for me!
ED- This year you worked on the film ‘Melon Heads’, which is in post-production. You not only performed a role in this, but you also co-wrote the script and applied your talent as the make-up artist once again. Please tell us all about this project and the many roles that you played in it.
RC- “Melons” was my third film with Fright Teck Pictures as well as my third time working under my buddy Eddie Lengyel, whom I always have a great experience with. It’s funny because, originally, I wasn’t signed on to be involved with the movie. I was filming “Dark of Moon” that summer and, due to some other conflicts, it just didn’t seem like it would work out. But I feel like fate was at play with this project and I honestly believe I was destined to do another film with Eddie! (laughs) Halfway into the filming of “Melons” I was approached to play one of the major characters that had yet to be cast. One of the actors had some last minute conflicts and so his character basically ended up being split into two roles to accommodate for him and they needed somebody to jump in and take over the role. At this point I was nearing the end of filming for “DOM” and realized that my schedule had opened up enough to make time for shooting after all. So I ended up agreeing to play the part of “Tony”, a character I came to love since he is so different from every other part I’ve played to date. He was just a lot of fun to create and I have some really great scenes, including a pretty awesome chase sequence that leads to the massive climax of the film! As for being listed as co-writer, since Tony was basically an offshoot of a former character that had to be killed off there was a lot of space left open for artistic interpretation and re-sequencing of events. I got to help out with a lot of scenes toward the end of the film and I’m honestly really proud with the way it all came together. As for the make-up aspect, I feel I’ve come a long way since “Voodoo” and got to create some really cool wounds, cut-throats, and various other gore effects over the course of filming. All in all, I really think viewers are going to be pretty impressed by this one, over-all. I
RC- I am so excited to discuss “Chill”! First off, yes… rumors are indeed true. I landed my first top-billing lead with this project and to be completely honest with you, I couldn’t be MORE thrilled! I love everything about this film! From the script to the cast to the locations to the CAMERA, there’s nothing that doesn’t have me pumped for this project! We just kicked off principal photography a couple of weeks ago and things are really starting to come together. I can’t wait until I have more to share, but I do have the first promotional poster to debut! A little teaser art to grab some interest!
ED- Roger, you are surely not one to let moss grow under his feet, and we want to thank you for spending time with us during your busy schedule. We wish you much luck in all that you do and we are sure to learn more about your career in the near future.