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Gena Shaw interview

Gena Shaw

Can you tell me about the film A Savannah Haunting?

A Savannah Haunting is a film that's based on actual events and it's about a family that moves across country after the death of one of their daughters to start fresh. And almost immediately after arriving in this new house in Savannah, the mother starts experiencing things that lead her to believe she is being haunted by her dead daughter.

Were any scenes particularly hard to film?

Well, we were shooting in the house that the film is based on, which is something that you don't really experience as an actor. You don't, you're not usually shoot, I mean, unless it's a location, a specific location. So the house itself is very unsettling and weird and scary. So that added a layer of difficulty in some ways to shooting. But we were shooting also during COVID and we were the first production to go back up in Savannah. So we were dealing with so many different COVID restrictions. So that definitely made it difficult. And then shooting in an actual haunted house presented its own obstacles.

Did you do any preparation or research for the role?

I didn't do too much research because the story just, it's a haunted house. I like to experience things for the first time. I don't like to overanalyze too much, I guess. So I just did character work and just did, I guess what your basic actor work is. You do character work, story work, but I didn't do anything too much to prepare. I was like, "Let me just get there and see what happens once I'm on set and once I'm in wardrobe." And usually that helps me even get into the character even more. And then I find things and discover things kind of along the way while I'm in it.

I know you love horror. Can you tell me what about horror films do you like?

I love horror. I've been obsessed with it ever since I was a little kid. I love that horror can be anything; it can be funny, it can be dramatic, it could be just suspenseful. You can go anywhere. It's like there's certain, there's comedy and then there's drama. And then I love sci-fi too. I don't want to include it. I love me some aliens, but horror. There's just so many different things that you could do. Every things are so, it's symbolic. It's like it's not a monster in some stories. Sometimes it's really a monster and sometimes it's just symbolic of something else. I love that there's so much freedom to do whatever you want. You can kind of make up your own rules because it's the paranormal, It's things that we don't experience in this world that we're living in. It's something above and beyond. So I feel like there's so much more room to play. And I, but I also love blood and guts and monsters because it's cool.

If you had a major studio type budget for a horror film, what would your ideal horror film look like? Assuming you're happy to reveal such a thing?

Oh my gosh, that's a good question. Oh man because I would want to make 10 different types of horror movies, but if I had unlimited funds, I'd want it to have that creepy feeling of The Shining where just the Kubrick-y just kind of disturbing, slow moving. It would be probably in one location, one grand, crazy location. It would probably have a monster that you don't really see. It would have the Jaws thing. We just see hints of this thing. So your imagination can take over. Oh gosh, that's such a good question. Yeah, it would be something grand like The Shining.

What was it filming in a place that people say is haunted? Did you notice anything strange?

Shooting in a place that's actually haunted? That was a first for me because I mean, I've been to places where I thought, ooh, this kind of feels weird but nothing ever happened. At this place, things happened. There's a story that I'm like, I'm not going to tell because people are going to think I'm nuts because it's so bizarre. I tease that there is another story, but one thing that did happen was there was this closet in this room, which is apparently the most haunted room in the house. But there was this closet and it was a really long closet and there were two steps that go down to it. And all of our wardrobe was in there, but we like to sit in there because it was kind of quiet and warm and we could go over lines or just relax.

And I was sitting on, there were the two steps, and I was sitting with my back against the door and they were shooting downstairs every, we had wrapped all the shots upstairs. So I was just sitting in there and I had my back against the door. And then I hear BANG BANG BANG, someone knocking on the door and I could hear, feel the door hitting into my back. And I go, "Oh wait, I'm, hold on, hold on." And I open the door and no one was there, but someone knocked on that door because I heard it. I felt it and nobody was there. And I ran down and I go, "Who came upstairs?" Who, no one came upstairs. And that was so it's like you just have to go, okay, well let's just forget that happen and move on with the shoot, which was hard at times.

How did you get into acting?

I got into acting when I was pretty young. I was kind of like this odd little introverted girl who didn't girly things, but I loved watching movies and I was always a big movie kid. And I think one day I must have thought, I want to try that. So I asked my parents to put me in an acting class and they were shocked because they were like, "You don't talk, you're like..." And they did. And I was like, "Oh, I like this, I want to do this." So they great parents. They were like, "Okay, we'll support this." They hoped it was a hobby. Didn't turn out to be a hobby, but it started then. And then I started working professionally when I was in high school.

What has been your favorite role to play?

Well, I mean, obviously being a lead in a movie is really great. So A Savannah Haunting for sure, because it was such a meaty role for me to play. And I got to just do a lot of stuff so that's definitely up there, if not number one. And then, gosh, there have been a couple of things. I had a blast, I did an episode of Cobra Kai and I got to work with Billy Zabka. And that scene for me was so much fun and working it with him, being a huge fan of Karate Kid and stuff, I was like, "This is pretty damn cool." So I would say that was definitely a highlight, but also being the lead in a horror movie, which is dream.

If you could play any role from past TV show and movies, what role would you have liked to play?

Sigourney is like queen, and if I could do something like that and kill some aliens, hell yeah. Yeah, I mean, that would be everything. That would be amazing.

Are there actors or directors that you would love to work with but haven't?

Oh yeah, tons. I would love to work with Spielberg, hello? I would love to, and Ari Astor. I think he's genius. Cronenberg. Oh my gosh, there's so many. I mean, all the greats you'd want to work. Well, he's not alive anymore, but De Palma I would've loved to have worked with. But of people that are living? Yeah, I mean, I'd say Spielberg, Astor, Cronenberg, probably Eli Roth, just because he's pretty damn cool. And there's so many others that I'm forgetting, which is embarrassing. But when you're put on the spot, you don't remember things.

You've been getting roles for 22 years. Have you developed any audition tips that you're willing to share?

Oh, so that's good. Because I was just talking about this with my friend the other night. Don't over do anything and always remember to instill yourself in, put yourself in the role because you're never going to be able to escape yourself completely. I know there's some actors that you're like, they're transformed. But I think even for audition purposes, don't try to do anything that doesn't feel natural or authentic to you or the character.

You've done lots of short films. What has been some of your favorite experiences with writing and or acting in short films?

Short films are tough. I mean, I've written and directed a couple of them, and some of them are okay and some of them are not great, and some of them I'm proud of. They're hard because you have so much to do in a short period of time. And that is a big challenge. I like working on them because you get a taste of something for a little bit. You can explore something, whether it's a character or a location or a type of story, whether you're working in front or behind camera, and just kind of experience that, but not have that full commitment of a feature film or a crazy TV schedule. So I think doing short films is great when you are a beginning actor and also when you've done a lot of stuff and you just want to explore different things, whether you're a creator, writer, director, or actor. I think it's the perfect opportunity to just play, if that makes sense.

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