David Opie sits down with actress Jocelin Donahue to talk about Summer Camp, a Spanish/American collaboration that follows a group of camp counsellors besieged by a zombie-like virus. The film is currently having a successful run at film festivals worldwide and our four star review is available to read here…
David Opie: Summer Camp deserves to be a huge hit and you were fantastic as one of the four leads. What originally attracted you to the project?
Jocelin Donahue: Thank you! I loved The Conjuring, and Peter Safran, who is a producer on Summer Camp, also made that film. Also, I was really inclined to do the movie after I met the director, Alberto Marini, over Skype. He has an enthusiasm and passion for horror films that is infectious (excuse the pun ;). With Summer Camp, he hit on all the horror touchstones and themes, but also brought an original idea to the table. The opportunity to spend six weeks in Barcelona was also a huge draw.
DO: Can you tell us a bit more about Summer Camp and the journey your character takes?
JD: Summer Camp starts with a familiar premise; young Americans come to a remote camp in Spain to teach English for the summer. Inexplicably, one by one, the counselors are infected by a rage-inducing virus. My character, Christy, is someone who has been pampered and protected her whole life, someone not used to being outdoors. She must learn to survive and fend for herself in the woods where her friends keep turning into monsters. She doesn’t readily trust other people, and that actually helps her stay alive.
DO: Summer Camp may be a horror movie, but it looks like it was really fun to film. What was your favourite scene to shoot?
JD: I love doing stunt choreography, as did Maiara and Diego. We had a lot of fun working on all of the fight scenes.
DO: What challenges did you face filming Summer Camp? What kind of preparations did you make for the role?
JD: We spent a lot of time with Alberto figuring out the physicality and the rules of the infection. We tried to find specific ways to portray primal rage, to behave more animalistic than zombie-like.
DO: The mechanics of the infection in Summer Camp required you to play both the victim and the antagonist, the pursued and the pursuer. Which role was more fun to play?
JD: I’d never tried to portray pure animalistic rage before, so that was fun and freeing (and silly sometimes!). But it was more fun playing Christy, because she starts off as such a brat. She can seem ridiculous to other people, but she takes herself very seriously. There’s comedy in that.
DO: Summer Camp is a unique take on the zombie genre. If a zombie apocalypse ever happened, what would be your plan? Everyone has to have a plan, right?
JD: Since I live in LA and the “big one” is always impending, I already have a disaster kit in my garage filled with food, flashlights, first aid supplies, a ham radio and an axe. The plan would be to take the go-box, jump on the back of my husband’s Vespa and head for the hills!
DO: One of your most famous roles to date was as the lead in Ti West’s House Of The Devil. How did your involvement in that film differ from your experience working on Summer Camp?
JD: The pace of the two films could not be more different. Summer Camp was a very adrenaline-fueled experience. The characters are immediately thrown into an unfathomable life-or-death situation, and must try to survive for the entire movie. Shooting those kinds of scenes can take a heavier physical and emotional toll. House of the Devil is always described as a “slow burn”, because the dread continually builds to the finale. Samantha had some time to wander around unwittingly before pure terror sunk in.
DO: You’ve also appeared in Insidious 2. Do you actively seek out roles in horror movies? You’ve made great choices so far!
JD: Thanks so much. I’ve been really fortunate to work with some great filmmakers who explore the psychological aspects of fear. No matter what the genre is though, I look for stories that are about deeper themes, with three-dimensional characters. Even though Summer Camp is about rage-infected killers, it’s also about trusting other people, and the morality of self-preservation when your life is threatened.
DO: If you could have the career of any actor, who would you choose and why?
JD: I really admire Julianne Moore’s work. She’s played some very inspiring roles and I think she always brings a ferocity and vulnerability to her characters.
DO: Do you think there’s a chance that a Summer Camp sequel could ever be made?
JD: I could see it happening. It’s a creative twist on both slasher flicks and horror films about zombies and viruses. The filmmakers could certainly expand on the premise.
DO: What projects are you working on next?
JD: I just wrapped a cool horror/thriller about sleep paralysis called Dead Awake, where I played twins. One sister investigates her twin’s mysterious death in her sleep. This month, I will be working on an indie called Boomtown, where I play a woman who takes care of her infant son when her husband goes to the oil fields of North Dakota to look for work.
Many thanks to Jocelin Donahue for taking the time for this interview.