Harrison Abbott chats with Gremlin star Katie Burgess…
Star of the upcoming high concept sci-fi, The Jurassic Games, Katie Burgess is a promising new talent in the world of genre film-making, one who is definitely worth keeping an eye on. You can catch her now in this year’s horror thriller Gremlin, which tells the story of a family who are terrorised by an ancient creature residing within a cursed box.
I recently had the pleasure of asking Katie a few questions about her upcoming projects, as well as her experience working on Gremlin.
You star in Gremlin and The Jurassic Games, both of which are directed and co-written by Ryan Bellgardt. What was it about working with him on Gremlin that attracted you to return for a second project?
Ryan is incredibly passionate about what he does, as am I. Working with someone who loves what he is doing is so much more fulfilling and fun than working with someone whose motivations are misplaced. He respected my creative perspective and would always ask how I felt about different parts in the script concerning my character. I got to know Ryan on the set of Gremlin and loved working with him. He allowed me to do what I love and gave me the freedom to make some of my own decisions and suggestions, so of course I was eager to work on another project with him and his crew.
Can you tell us anything about The Jurassic Games? What can audiences expect from it?
The Jurassic Games is a futuristic film about prisoners on death row who are placed in a virtual reality game to fight to the death for their freedom. I’m super excited about this film because not only is the talent incredible, but it’s filled with action and dinosaurs and conflict. All of these things make for a very entertaining story. I have the privilege of playing the main antagonist of the film, which was a very new and very fun experience.
It sounds like you’d get to play a very different character in that sense. Is there anything exciting you can tell us about Joy?
Joy is the youngest person on death row and she is placed in a situation where she must fight for her life against people much older and stronger than she is. I don’t want to spoil anything because learning about Joy throughout the film is something I think the audience needs to experience themselves. However, I will say that playing her allowed me to explore the psyche of someone very different from me.
Moving onto Gremlin itself now. The film is an independent production, but one that is also quite ambitious and effects heavy. Did this make it a particularly challenging, high pressure environment to work in?
Definitely not! Everyone on the set was very helpful and patient. I think what helped the most was that we were all learning together. There was no pressure, just a bunch of professional people working together to make the film as good as possible for our audience.
The creature in the film is a CGI effect, so I was wondering if Ryan Bellgardt gave you any idea as to what the Gremlin was going to look like beforehand? Were you given any frame of reference, or did you have to rely mostly on your imagination?
Ryan talked to all of us about what he had in mind for the Gremlin before production even started. Eventually, he had a very realistic model that gave all the actors a better idea of what we were working with. Of course, the model didn’t move, so during the scenes with the Gremlin, we had to use our imagination. The model definitely made it easier, though.
You play Anna, the daughter in the centre of a dysfunctional family and one who is also dealing with her own personal problems. There’s quite a lot going on with her in this sense. When you initially read the script, what was it that particularly appealed to you about Anna?
I was the exact same age as Anna when we filmed Gremlin as well as when I initially read the script. Most teenagers go through a stage of feeling lonely and detached from those they were once close with. I felt for her and I wanted to make her struggles as real and raw as possible. She isn’t much different from a lot of kids her age and I thought it was important to portray her in a manner that the audience could also relate to.
You share most of your screen time in the film with Caleb Milby and your characters are in a romantic relationship. Did you put in any extra work to develop chemistry with him?
Caleb and I actually hit it off as friends immediately. We are both pretty outgoing so it was easy to interact with him throughout the shoot. While Anna and Tyler are in a romantic relationship, it’s very much an awkward one. Because we were two teenagers ourselves, the chemistry came easily. Watching the parts of the film where we are together always makes me laugh because of how real they are.
The scenes that the two of you share have a natural quality to them. Were these moments all taken directly from the script, or did you improv anything to make the relationship feel more believable?
While a lot of it was from the script, Ryan Bellgardt trusted us to make any changes in order to make the dialogue more natural. We said everything the exact way we thought our characters would say it.
Anna gets some of the more emotionally charged moments in the film, especially going into the second act. How did you prepare for immersing yourself in the darker material that crops up later in the film?
At the time of filming, I learned that a boy I had gone to school with a few months before had died suddenly from a gunshot wound. My whole school community was in mourning and I, of course, was upset as well. While we were never told whether or not what happened was an accident, the sudden loss took a toll on everyone that knew him. I was able to channel those feelings into the film. I actually don’t think I told anyone on set about what I used to get in character so you’ll be the first to know.
Spoilers for Gremlin Below
Going deep into spoiler territory now, I must say I was quite taken aback when the Gremlin killed Anna. She was one of the most likeable characters and it was quite a bold and surprising move to kill her off so unceremoniously. I am really curious as to how you reacted to this when you first read it in the script? Were you as surprised as I was?
I wouldn’t say I was necessarily surprised, but I was sad that she wouldn’t get to grow up. I get very attached to characters, whether I’m playing them, watching them on TV, or reading about them in a book. At first, I was actually excited to have such a dramatic and tragic death scene, but later I remember telling my mom how sad it was that Anna didn’t get the chance to overcome her obstacles.
Not only is Anna’s death one of the most unexpected in the film, but it is also one of the most shocking, given that she is pregnant. It’s certainly the darkest moments in the film, and I was wondering if you had any reservations about it, or were you just confident that it would work?
I trusted Ryan with what he had written. I had no reservations, actually and that might just be because I’ve never had a child. I was more focused on Anna’s pain during her final moments, but a lot of the parents on set had a hard time with it, I think.
How did you shoot the death scene itself? Were there any practical effects involved on the day, or was it all up to you to sell it to the audience?
I had sound and visual cues to help me know where the Gremlin would be, but other than that it was just up to me to make the death as real as possible.
Thank you very much for your time. I thought you did great work in Gremlin and I am looking forward to The Jurassic Games, it’s definitely got an exciting premise. Good luck with both films.
Thank you so much for your time and feedback on the film!
The Jurassic Games will be released in 2018.