March 28, 2016 Interview – PJ Woodside
Easily one of the favorite movies of 2015, Frances Stein was a tight, well-polished, multi-layered story that dripped Horror out of every pore. The woman, both behind and in front of the camera, is relative newcomer PJ Woodside. Along with her movie making partner, Steve Hudgins, Woodside has created Big Biting Pig Productions, a company dedicated to creating intelligent, original Horror tales that speak to genre fans on many levels. She started out in editing films with her own company, PJ’s Productions, but when she crossed paths with Hudgins, she realized that she had a real passion for Horror, and once that cat was out of the bag, she never looked back. Her first feature film, The 3rd Floor (2007), had her wearing both starring and editing hats, and this multi-talented woman handled them with ease. She has even added directing, producing, and writing to her resume on later projects. In 2011, her film Creepy Doll was acknowledged during the Tabloid Witch Awards, and the following year, she took home the Best Actress Award for her work in Spirit Stalkers, while the film itself won for Best Sound at the same award ceremony. Recently we sat down with Woodside to talk about her previous successes, future endeavors, and more.
CrypticRock.com – Thank you so much for taking time out to answer some questions for us. You have been in the Horror movie making business for close to a decade, with your first movie, The 3rd Floor, having been released in 2007. What inspired you to get into making Horror movies?
PJ Woodside – As you know, Steve Hudgins and I collaborate on all our Big Biting Pig Productions films. What many people don’t know is that Steve worked on another project with some other filmmakers before 2008’s Maniac on the Loose, and I was brought in to do the editing on it. The other group wasn’t interested in continuing, but Steve was – and that’s how we came to be a team. He is the real Horror fanatic. I was not writing Horror at the time – although I am a writer (I have an MFA in Fiction). After working with his story ideas, I began to take an interest in developing my own. I find that I enjoy rooting around in the dark subconscious of the mind, and the Horror community is so welcoming that we’ve pretty much made our home here. I like to say that Steve is the creepy and I’m the crazy!
CrypticRock.com – Horror fans certainly do love the creepy and crazy! How did you meet your Big Biting Pig co-producer, Steve Hudgins?
PJ Woodside – We became serious partners while working on that earlier film I mentioned above. However, we had met about a year before that while doing theatre. We were both interested in acting, writing, and directing, which are all good skills to have for filmmaking. Just FYI – we are not a couple (though we get mistaken for one sometimes). We are, however, a strong creative team. We have different writing and editing strengths which we combine for the best outcome.
CrypticRock.com – You two sound like the perfect team! Big Biting Pig Productions has also produced several plays. Do you prefer live theater over moviemaking?
PJ Woodside – We’ve only written and produced one play, Killer Casting Party, which was a fun project but not something we’re really interested in pursuing further. Both Steve and I have directed numerous plays for the local theatre, but as our filmmaking keeps us busier and busier, we have had to let that part of our lives take a back seat.
CrypticRock.com – Sounds like it is going the way you want it to go, which is awesome! You not only directed, wrote, edited, and produced 2015’s Frances Stein, but you also played the main character. Was it hard to spend so much time both in front of and behind the camera?
PJ Woodside – Yes, but since we have such a great working team, Steve and I are able to cover for each other when we need to. He also plays a large role in Frances Stein. However, we are never onscreen together. This enables us to always have one of us keeping an eye on direction. There are always challenges in filmmaking, and being in front of the camera just adds to the list of challenges. However, the advantages of playing the role of Frances Stein outweighed the disadvantages, I would say. Also, why would I give such a juicy role to someone else to play? I thoroughly enjoyed making her character come to life.
CrypticRock.com – You did an amazing job! She was definitely an all-time favorite character. Where did you get the idea for the Frances Stein script?
PJ Woodside – Wow, it was a long time in the making. The initial idea was simply about jealousy, and how it can go to a very dark and evil place. The characters and situation had begun to firm up when I realized how well the Frankenstein myth fit into the elements. From there, I began using it as inspiration.
Even after I had the story, however, I still needed a stronger structure. That’s when I came up with the interrogation/interview sequences that allow the story to be told in a more interesting way. The Avery character provides key suspense for the film – we know he’s lying, and we know something has happened to Frances, but we don’t know what until the end. He tells the story, so to speak, and keeps it focused on the Frances character even when she is not onscreen.
CrypticRock.com – It is compelling to see Avery and his dedication to Frances. Seeing her through his “Igor’s” eyes was a refreshing change of pace. Could you relate to her at all?
PJ Woodside – Oh absolutely! Frances Stein is smart, confident, and knows what she wants. Because she’s a woman, she doesn’t get away with this – she is thought of as either a bitch or a crazy woman. She has to fight for what is rightfully hers, and sometimes yell and scream to be heard. This situation will be familiar to any woman in a position of authority. So yes – I know Frances Stein. I don’t think most women will turn into evil scientists as a result, but I do think they will enjoy seeing Frances do so.
CrypticRock.com – Agreed. Tell us, what is next on the horizon for you?
PJ Woodside – At Big Biting Pig Productions, we have been alternating years for our projects. Though we collaborate on most aspects of the filmmaking, this year is Steve’s turn to write and direct. We are just about to start filming on our 2016 feature. The title has yet to be released, but we’ll be promoting it soon. It promises to be dark and creepy!
CrypticRock.com – It looks as if you just started casting, so good luck. You have been involved in making both Supernatural and Psychological Horror. Do you prefer one over the other? Which aspect scares you the most?
PJ Woodside – I am partial to psychological stories. I especially like getting into the head of one character and not knowing whether reality is as it’s perceived to be. Steve, on the other hand, prefers to give an unexpected twist to a classic Horror genre.
I think the scariest stories to me are the ones in which the brain goes awry and characters begin acting evil or crazy based on some false sense of reality. Movies like The Shining (1980), The Machinist (2004), and Fight Club (1999) come to mind. I also enjoy movies with a central creepiness that belies a different reality, such as The Others (2001). I’m a fan of The Walking Dead, but more so for the people and what they are rebuilding, rather than the Zombie kills.
CrypticRock.com – If the monster is in your own mind, there is no escaping it. Speaking of being scared, what is your favorite Horror or Sci-fi movie?
PJ Woodside – My recent favorite is It Follows (2015). What a terrific film! I also thought Under the Skin (2014) was creepy and psychologically interesting. Alien (1979) is one of my favorites of all time – it fits into both categories! Note that all three of these films have women in the lead roles. There should be more of this!
CrypticRock.com– Totally agreed. At CrypticRock.com, we also cover a broad range of music. If we were to take a peek at your playlist, what would we see?
PJ Woodside – Well, for sure, you would see music by Emmy-nominated rapper T.O.N.E-z, who played the part of the torturer Victor in Frances Stein! He’s currently working on a Vampire short that he wrote and stars in – and is writing the soundtrack for! You would also see the soundtrack for Young Frankenstein the musical – because you can never have enough of that in your life. Third, you’d see some classic Carole King. I love her so much. Finally, “Purple Rain” by Prince, and when it plays, I sing along really loud. Is that eclectic enough for you (laughs)?