Latin Horror’s Christian A. Morán caught up with producer, director, writer, and actress, Michelle Nessk to discuss her career, her Latinx heritage, and ‘Mother’s Day: Cicadas‘ (2019) starring Barbara Magnolfi from Dario Argento’s ‘Suspiria‘. Michelle is a well-rounded and versatile professional filmmaker and business women from the Pacific Northwest. From short films like ‘Make You Better‘ (2015) to features ‘O. Unilateralis‘ (2016) and TV movie ‘Highlander: Dark Places‘ (2016), Michelle has an impressive resume of horror movies. She owns her own companies which includes, Gloomy Sunday Production and horror news site theblood-shed.com. Nessk is also known to be the Zee Monsta, the host for ‘Horrors of the PNW‘ anthology series. To learn more about Michelle lets light up a candle and dive into her dark macabre world.
Christian A. Morán: Tell me about your film career? It seems that you do every role, from writing, directing, producing, etc…
Michelle Nessk: Haha yes. I grew up on ‘Xena: Warrior Princess‘ and I always wanted to be able to say with confidence; “I have many skills”. I always knew I wanted to make art, and performance arts of all forms have always enticed me. As far as my career itself, I’m just loving the experience to create, and I thank my lucky stars for many of the people I’ve gotten to create with.
Morán: How is it being a woman that owns her own production company and is navigating the horror industry?
Michelle: I think everyone in the indie horror scene is working to find their foothold. We’ve all got something to say, and there’s a variety of “obstacles” that we all face that’s different from one another. To be human is to persevere. In my personal experience, I have been very blessed to get to work with my childhood heroes. The very people that influenced me growing up, are the actual people here with me today helping me create.
Morán: Where did you grow up and how has it influenced your art of filmmaking?
Michelle: I grew up everywhere with heavy doses of the Pacific Northwest. I grew up living with various family branches, and my momma. I feel like I was actually quite fortunate for that overall nomadic experience. Because my family is so mixed I got to see how different cultures can mesh and create something beautiful. I had the privilege of experiencing different theologies held dearly by each family branch, and how the world of simple communication can be so diverse. I have come away from it with the tried tested and true phrase; “It takes all kinds” and I think it definitely bleeds through in my work.
Morán: Tell me about your Puerto Rican and Mexican heritage and being Latinx in Horror?
Michelle: My mother’s side is Puerto Rican, and my father’s side is Mexican. Puerto Rico much like Mexico is very diverse and many of us are mixed race. So I grew up knowing that, and I feel like it was presented to me with great pride. So it always felt magical, that we as a people have the blood of indigenous tribes that somehow managed to survive despite all odds. That always felt very powerful to me because it represents my favourite aspect of humanity, our ability to persevere.
Being Latinx in horror.. I feel like one of the most influential individuals in my life was my Nana. She’d tell us spooky stories about her childhood in Puerto Rico which was a completely different world then. It was always full of ghosts and inexplicable beasts. But I think, a major artistic aesthetic influence was from her particular flavour of Catholicism paired with Santeria. I’ve noticed in post how much of that has been incorporated into the way I see the world with a lens.
Morán: Describe your film style, especially with ‘The Devil’s Fool‘, ‘Make You Better‘, ‘3:33‘ and others movies?
Michelle: ‘The Devil’s Fool‘ was my first serious endeavor into making a film. I love silent films, and the inspiration came from that. ‘Make You Better‘ is another Silent film that stars my horror host persona Zee Monsta. She is always in silent film format. ‘3:33‘ was a project I did in conjunction with ThinkPiece Productions & My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. It’s not a silent film, but, it also kind of is. My other films are spoken word narratives, but I do lean quite heavily into ambiance and sound, heavy colour bleeds, and a birds eye view perspective even when doing found footage.
Morán: How did the ‘Horrors of the PNW‘ start? What were your motivations to doing a horror anthology?
Michelle: I love anthologies. When I was little, and I’d go with my momma to a video rental store she’d let me pick out any horror films I wanted and anthologies were always the ones that made me the most giddy. The first one I had ever seen was ‘In the Company of Wolves‘ which reads more as an anthology than a straight narrative. I always knew I wanted to make one myself, but how it turned out to be ‘Horrors of the PNW‘ was very organic. I love Horror and I love Washington. I was working in Washington State with many talented indie filmmakers who didn’t have the time and money to make their film, or if they already had one; submit it to various film festivals. ‘Horrors of the PNW‘ was born from that and the wrap around universe I had been building since I was a small child that all of my films take place in. It’s a series to not only feature my films but the fine craft of others as well. But most of all I just want to share spooky stories.
Morán: Explain to me your Zee Monsta persona?
Michelle: Zee Monsta is an ancient mad god who does as they please, She has many names, She survives off of human flesh, her family is large, and she started out as my imaginary friend.
Morán: Your new project ‘Mother’s Day: Cicadas‘, tell me about its initial conception and how you got Barbara Magnolfi to be in the film? Without giving away too much, what’s the story about and tone of the film?
Michelle: I wrote the first version of the story when I was about 11 years old. I had just seen Argento’s ‘Suspiria‘ for the very first time, and I found Barbara Magnolfi to be absolutely enthralling. So she was who I had envisioned when I first wrote it. Of course, I never thought I’d see the day where she’d actually be in it. I think that the film is very special and I love Barbara, she is a dear friend. As to the “how” it happened, I met Barbara at two conventions we were both guests at. I’m quite shy so it was brief but she was always kind. We were also repped by the same agency Vertical Talent, which is who connected us when we both expressed interest in working with the other. We got to know each other quite well over the process of pre-production to post, as she’s also a producer on the project. I’m still in awe of how it all came about. A dream come true, you know?
The film is at it’s core about a mother and a daughter celebrating mother’s day long distance. The mother is this larger than life timeless beauty who has lived extravagantly well, and the daughter being the utter and complete disappointment, who could never hold a candle to her predecessor.
Morán: How did ‘333 illuminaughty‘ with Debra Lamb come about?
Michelle: The idea to create another found footage film came about when I was with Tonjia Atomic in Toronto to visit the set of ‘Rabid‘. I had been wanting to make another one, after ‘O. Unilateralis‘ and it seemed like it would be something fun to create with her. A year later we found ourselves in Vegas repping our film ‘Just a Prick‘ (starring Tristan Risk) and we decided that would be the best time to create ‘333: Illuminaughty‘. When we approached Debra Lamb she was enthusiastic to come aboard. We filmed it in the course of 3 days, and it was incredible working with them both. The short version is available online, in cooperation with the WIHM: Massive Blood Drive PSA. The full version will be released in August, which should answer some questions, but also pose some new ones.
It’s about a mother, Iris, (Debra Lamb) who is seeking her two missing daughters via internet outreach.
Morán: When and where can we see ‘Mother’s Day: Cicadas‘ and ‘333 illuminaughty‘?
Michelle: You’ll be able to catch the full version of ‘333: Illuminaughty‘ in August in cooperation with Found Footage Critic, and various festivals. ‘Mother’s Day: Cicadas‘ will be touring various festivals for the next year. Both short versions can be found in ‘Horrors of the PNW VI‘, which is also touring select festivals.
Morán: What’s next your next project?
Michelle: My next project I am about to embark on is in cooperation with Alejandro Gomez and it’s based on his comic series ‘Leather of the Whip‘.
For more on Michelle Nessk visit:
Company Website: gloomysundayproducti.wixsite.com/gloomy-sunday-gsp