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Q&A: 19-year-old writer-director Emily Hagins

August 28, 2012|By Amanda Boleman, @aboleman

Walking into Tavern on Rush in a modest black dress and tights with a chic, chin-length haircut (the result of a "double-do-over" of cuts gone wrong), 19 year-old writer/director Emily Hagins transcends the "teen filmmaker" title she is so often pegged with--reinforcing that there is much more to the petite producer than meets the eye.

On her first ever press tour to promote the theatrical release of her third feature film "My Sucky Teen Romance," out on DVD and Blu-ray Sept. 4, Hagins caught up with RedEye to talk making movies at 10 years old, vampires and bath salt zombie apocalypses.

You're 19 years-old, and you're already promoting your third feature-length film. Tell us a little bit about "My Sucky Teen Romance."

"My Sucky Teen Romance" is a teen comedy, coming-of-age story about a group of kids at a science fiction convention. 

What was the process behind making the film? How long did it take to write and produce it? 

It was about two years. I kind of include now as we're wrapping it up and getting the DVD out there. I started writing it and it was a really quick process. I felt like the movie should have taken longer because it's a high-concept movie. I wanted to take longer with the process but also wanted to strike while the teen vampire phenomeon is still very present in pop culture, so I wrote the script very quickly, did the crowdfunding through IndieGoGo--not a lot of money--but we just did what we had to do to get the movie done without making many compromises and get it out there. It was not a long period in terms of making movies, but we wanted to get it out there. 

Your first movie "Pathogen" came out when you were just 13. What sparked your interest in filmmaking? 

My dad, one day when I was 9, as just a fun day-activity, just wanted to walk me through the process of making a short film. He had a background in advertising so he knew you needed to have a script, a plot list, and all that stuff so he just walked me through it one day. I knew off the bat that it wasn't something that you can just take your camera and go shoot whatever you wanted. You have to have your whole story outline and an idea of something you really want to tell. Every short film I made after that, I wanted it to be bigger and better and then I started doing feature when I was 12. It was just kind of a snowball effect. 

So even from a young age you had this very big-picture mentality. And most of your subjects have been along a supernatural and horror path. Why horror? 

The fanbase of horror is very loyal. They'll like your movie no matter what the budget is as long as there's something they can connect to and enjoy. I think that's a really good place to start as an independent filmmaker because you don't need the big budget and special effects and everything. You can make something really scary by not showing anything. So I wanted to take a scary, darker route at first and then my second movie was just so dark I was like, "I don't wanna go there again; I gotta do comedy now." I got really into horror for a while and got into the different subgenres and I could kind of pick and choose like, "I like the zombies that ooze liquid" or "I like the purple zombies - still zombies - whatever," and vampires are the same way. It's cool to know what different rules resonate with different fanbases. It's a cool jumping-off point and then you can creatively take it wherever you want with your story. It's a catalyst for different themes like, growing up and dealing with consequences in "My Sucky Teen Romance." I've always enjoyed making horror. I want to branch out and do other things, of course, but I think it's always something that will mean a lot to me and I always enjoy a fun horror movie. 

What is your stance on the supernatural? Do you think we might have a zombie apocalypse in our future?

I used to babysit this kid that every time it was cloudy weather, he'd say, "That's zombie weather." So now every time it gets cloudy I just think of zombies. I think there are things in horror that people relate to. The idea of your family and friends all turning on you and not being your family and friends anymore is something that I think is an innate fear within people, so I think there are things that can translate to real life through these monsters, but I'm not sure about literal monsters--I hope not! 

Just keep the bath salts away from people. 

Every time I see someone staggering down the street I think bath salts and lock my doors!

In the midst of all the vampire hype, how does your movie stand out against those? What fresh perspective do you bring to the vampire phenomenon? 

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