Aiming High with Cristie Whiles - December 2009
Interview by: Ronny
with help from: Preston
First thing's first.. Hello and thank you for agreeing to do this interview with us!
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi! Your welcome. Thank you for the interview.
To sum up a little about myself, I am a creator of the arts. I started seriously drawing in sixth grade, then painting and going to college for Graphic Design at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh. My talents have expanded to screen-printing, make-up, special effects and filmmaking. I became a co-founder of an independent film company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania called Toetag Pictures. I resigned in 2009 to focus on designing clothing and crafts. Currently, I'm in the beginning stages of building a clothing company called "Sunshine Tattoo Parlor".
So, let's start from the beginning. I know Michael Todd Schneider told me you two met in art school. What were your future plans back then?
College seems so far away. Back then, I was a typical art student with a whole lot of aggression and ambition. I didn't really have a
plan except to be a famous artist. Not that my only focus was to be famous, but I wanted my work to be known. I put a lot of story and emotion in my work. I had a LOT to say and it wasnt pretty. I painted all of the time. I was always making things.
Were you interested in making movies before you had the chance to work on "August Underground's Mordum"?
I never thought of making movies before Toetag. Of course, I have always loved movies, especially horror. When Michael Schneider approached me to do the artwork and some background displays, I jumped at the chance.
How did you find out about "August Underground's Mordum", and why did you decide to be apart of their film?
One day, Michael said he had this movie I had to see. It was "August Underground". I totally dug it because it freaked me out. He said he was trying to get the director Fred Vogel to make a sequal with a woman and wanted to know if I was interested. I said yes then we all met up and gave it a shot by making a non-scripted music video for Necrophagia. The video ended up being the first scene shot for "A.U.M". I wrote a lot of the story and had my first shot at directing. The movie was so loose and all free style. The character I played was a spawn on my demon paintings. Now, she is fully purged, I am done with that era.
How was production of a film like that? I've talked to other actors from there and someone said they had to switch mindset entirely before filming and almost BE that sick or abused.
Filming "Mordum" was so intense, to say the least. I would never do that again. I, personally had to slip into the character to pull it off as viscious as I wanted. Nothing was scripted so I was constantly thinking of things to say and do every day, all day. It was very uncomfortable, cold and stressful. I lost my job while making the movie because I chose to film any chance we could.
You were also in the final film of the trilogy, "August Underground's Penance". I personally thought that was a great ending to the series. Was it intended to be the way it is today when it was being made?
Ugh, Penance. I didn't want to make that movie so soon. We just finished "The Redsin Tower" and it was a beautiful horror movie. I did not want to fall back into snuff so soon. I thought it was a bad idea, but we really needed the money. There were a few stories written until we all agreed on the final one. I think it came out how we intended while filming. I was working on a film in New York during editing. I was a little upset about my bathroom scene at the Murder Junkies show. I told them I wanted that cut in half without the "F me in the A" dialog. My intentions of my character was to be repulsive and that scene was kind of porn star.
Was the fact that Penance was made too soon, and you not being happy with that scene, part of your reason for leaving, or was it rather that you just wanted to move on?
I really just needed to move on from Toetag.
Has being apart of such extreme movies caused you any problems, personal or otherwise?
Yes, these movies have brought me many of problems. I've gotten creepy emails. I hear about men getting sexual arousal from abusing woman and children. My intentions were to make people aware of the pain abuse causes without sugar coating a detail.
What has been your greatest learning experience from working with Toetag Pictures and working on different sets?
I've had many great learning experiences working at Toetag. I've really learned a lot of new creative avenues from collaberating with Jerami Cruise. When I decided to go ahead and devote my life to building this company, I set a lot of goals for myself that I've never done before. By working hard I built strong personal business ethics.
Who or what is your greatest creative inspiration?
I have a lot of inspiration. I do many types of art work, so it varies on what is greater. Emotions, life, nature, music, movies, colors, other artists and art work are very stimulating to me. I am inspired easily, so pretty much anything that revs up my emotions, induce creation.
You once did effects for a movie along with Jerami Cruise on a movie called "Al Fin Y al Cabo". What can you tell us about that and is there a way to find that movie, if it's even out?
"Al Fin Y Al Cabo" filmed in the Dominican Republic, one of the most beautiful places on earth. Dangerous, but beautiful! (la isla bonita). I assisted Jerami with the special effects and teamed up to create the look of the vampires. I really enjoy the makeup part of special effects. All the mechanical genius is him. The film has been released. It looks super amazing. Alfonso Rodríguez is a really great director. I'm sure you can buy it from their website.
I also did some special effects for the movie "Chelsea Hotel" and "Bereavement".
"Chelsea Hotel" and "Bereavement"? Never heard of either of those. Could you drop some brief info, like what effects you did for them?
“Chelsea Hotel”, is a Japanese movie made in New York by the director Hiro Masuda. It is a twisted love story that ends in murder. We filmed most of it inside the Chelsea Hotel, which is an amazing experience of historical arts. Working along side Jerami, I made a bullet hole in a man’s forehead and chest, covered a bathroom full of blood and made glittery pink bedazzled switchblades. I was also, the beauty make up artist on site.
“The Barevement”, was filmed in Pennsylvania. It is the sequel to “Malevolence” from the director Steve Mena. Again, along side Jerami, we dismembered a man with a chainsaw, put a meat hook through a woman’s leg and produced a few wet and brutal stabbings. I was the beauty make up artist as well.
Any advice for those who are looking to get into working in SPFX?
If you really want to be a special effects artist, dedicate your life to succeeding at it. You MUST have talent and a lot of drive. Go to school, be the second pair of hands for a special effects artist or studio. Do work you don't want to do. Keep yourself up to date on all the new tehniques. Get your hands dirty. Blood sweat tears and TALENT.
You have since then left Toetag Pictures to persue your own thing. Would you like to tell us what you have been doing since and what you are up to right now?
Since leaving Toetag, I have continued building my accessory line. I have also started a clothing line called "Sunshine Tattoo Parlor". I've wanted to do for years. I'm working toward opening a store soon. I'm aiming high so you'll be seeing my store in some unexpected places! For now you can find a select amount of items at http://www.etsy.com/shop/SunshineTattoo. I'm also doing a lot of various work in the arts like print making! I'm writing a book that I can't give too much information on at this time. It's taking me forever to complete it.
You say you're done with that era, but do you ever miss making and working on movies?
Yes, I totally miss working on movies. I really miss collaborating with Jerami and making unthinkable art works.
Are you planning on sitting in the director's chair anytime soon or writing your own horror movie?
I dont see myself directing any time soon but you never know what can happen in this business. I am tossing around the idea of writing more. :)
IF you were to actually direct a movie right now, what do you think it would be like?
If I were to write or direct a movie right now, it would be a high energy, coming of age film set in the 90’s. Think, a modern “The Breakfast Club” meets “Gia”.
So, you've been an actress, director, special effects artist and you're making clothes and writing a book. You're very creative indeed. Is there anything else you would be interested in trying, creativity-wise, like maybe musician?
Absolutely! I have considered evolving into a musician. I’ve toyed around with the bass guitar, acoustic guitar, drums and singing. I’ve had a few little crappy bands that never went anywhere. We were really bad! I am about to begin singing lessons to proceed something in the blues category. Currently, I am working on becoming the city art director where I live.
Thanks for the answers Cristie! Really great answers, and just in time for our Holidays update!
Thank you, Ronny!
There were some really great questions. Thank you for the interview.
If you want to check out some of the movies Cristie Whiles has worked on, go here and here.
You can find her brand new clothing line here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/SunshineTattoo