Dennis Villelmi: Welcome to “The Bees Are Dead,” Miss Massie. This is one of those interviews we really lie in wait for because, with an expanding profile such as yours, we know we’re going to receive rich insight regarding the horror industry today and what a newcomer like you is doing to revivify it. We always welcome…fresh blood. How have you been doing lately?
Brialynn Massie: Hi Dennis! Thank you so much for having me. I’ve been fantastic! Living the dream here in Hollywood.
DV: When did you first realize that you wanted to be an actor?
BM: Its kind of a twisted story and my love for acting actually developed over the course of a couple events in my life, but the first event that made me realize there was some kind of “magic” to this craft was when my younger brother and I were toddlers. We use to play “make believe” around the clock, but there was this one story we played out where he was a puppy and I was the owner. I remember I needed to set him free to save him from our dad even though I loved him and all the adventures we went on together throughout the day, so I turned my back and started yelling at him to get out of here and that I didn’t want to see him anymore. It was for his own good etc. He refused to leave me and the more I pressed him, the more emotional my little brother got. He was so moved he started crying hysterically even though it was just a game, and although the game took a turn emotionally he still was in character and invested as the puppy and me as the little girl in the story. And in that moment, I realized, we weren’t just playing make believe. We were really living out our story, and we were both so moved and invested in it, there had to be a certain “magic” at play.
DV: I understand your journey began with a road trip from your native Washington to Los Angeles in a tin lizzie with very little money to your name. If that isn’t a textbook illustration for determination! What was the driving force at that time; what were you telling yourself along the way?
BM: Haha! Oh yes, I was quite the impulsive teenager. The story was that I was 18 fresh out of high school and dating a guy who was 30 and, like any naive 18 year old, believed we were going to get married and live happily ever after. Well, when that of course didn’t work out, I had just a handful of cash in my pocket and an old beaten down car with no power steering, no handles on the doors and no AC. You would have to crawl through the window to get in, haha! So I packed up my little car with me and my cat and just drove and kept driving. And my naiive little brain thought it was a good idea to look on craigslist for couches to surf on in this big new city, haha! So I was looking them up on my phone and contacting them AS I was driving! I was determined to get out and jump full force into my acting career. Something I was timid about for my teenage-hood that kept me stationed in WA as a big fish in a small pond. I had nothing left but my craft and I was going to make it.
DV: Where did you begin studying your craft?
BM: I started out a child doing community theater. My family was very poor and my father was less than enthusiastic about it. Both of my parents were working full time so I remember having to walk across the 520 bridge (which is a major highway floating on the pudget sound) for hours to go to rehearsal because I was determined to break in and learn. I then grew into other theaters and even co-founded a teen program called BYTeens which gives opportunities and budgets to teens to write, direct and produce their shows and be mentored by experienced people in those fields. It was shortly after than I turned to film as a better outlet for what I wanted to do since the Theater scene was a little too loud for my taste. I recently just graduated from the Baron Brown Studio with DW Brown.
DV: Your filmography is, of course, almost exclusively horror. Is there a reason why that genre predominates with you?
BM: I love most genres, but horror definitely grabbed my attention. What I love about it is that there are no rules, you can literally do whatever you want for your story and go as graphic as you’d like, as ugly as you’d like, as real as you’d like. I find with dramas, they tend to glamourize or sate certain elements of a story. Where even in dramas, the “unattractive” character, is still drop dead gorgeous. Where horror, anyone can be anyone. And you are “allowed” to utilize real people you’d meet on the street, and real situations you’d encounter in life.
DV: What are your favorite horror films; the ones that have inspired you?
BM: The Conjuring is of course a masterpiece, but honestly The Ring I & II have inspired me so much as not only a filmmaker and an actor, but as also a person. There is something so beautiful and melancholy yet aggressive and violent about it that really draws me in and gives me validation for these scary misunderstood feelings I and most people have had at some point in their lives. It also did a really good job at not painting everyone as a black and white stock character. Plus Naomi Watts is such an dynamite actress. I really enjoy character driven slow burns that are less about jump scares and gore and more about the “what if” and the stakes someone is presented with emotionally.
DV: Aside from acting, you write, produce, direct, and edit. Is it essential for you to multitask on a film project, or is it just budgetary?
BM: I love all aspects of film making, so I choose to hone these crafts so not only will I be versed and understanding of them in my acting, but I can also utilize these tools to tell better stories and the stories I want to be seen. My goal or purpose rather, of why I decided to pursue acting is that I wanted to give a voice to the little girls who were like me, that didn’t have one. I never wanted anyone to feel as alone as I did. And my honing all aspects of film making, I can give an unpopular but needed voice to these people who are forgotten amongst the loud selfish crowds and the people who are cast aside and invalidated because they don’t embody a mainstream audience. I want to show the ugly side of these things that are glamorized and although they are ugly, there is something beautiful and peaceful about them. This odd strange world that the lonely submerge themselves into.
DV: Tell us now about some of the films you’ve worked on; e.g., “Rvth: Genesis,” and “Vengeance Girl.”
BM: Vengeance Girl is my first feature film that I wrote directed and acted in. Its a very excited time and SUCH a great learning experience. After Casey (Emily Kirk) encounters a traumatic bullying experience, she wakes up to find the next day that every wounds he inflicts upon herself, also cuts the bitch that drove her to do it. This is a great film about “control” and the stakes people put themselves through to gain it or lose everything. It’s a great study on why people do the things that they do and that mindset they are in where they can’t see outside of themselves so get blinded by this perceived need to “survive” in our first world society.
DV: Does social commentary factor into your work? Do you think that a good horror film should be reflective?
BM: I have always believed that you need to have a call to action in your films. Unfortunately, a lot of films now don’t have any call to action or resolution but rather are just a roller coaster that drops you off at the end and keeps on going. Stories since the beginning of time have been for the sake of a lesson or passing along information, when we forget to include that in our art, I think that is the basis for an incredibly irresponsible effect on our society. We still take in art as a reflection of our own lives and try to relate these lessons and information to ourselves and others, even if subconsciously. I absolutely think a good horror film should have a call to action, even if it isn’t necessarily a societal message or something overt. I should come out of the movie with questions and a new understanding or empathy for the world around me.
DV: How do you prepare yourself for the writing process?
BM: First I try to envision what I want someone to feel or take away from my story. Then I utilize Blake Snyder’s Beat Sheet to plot out key points. I listen to music and play movies relevant to my story and of course, give myself a free pass on whatever snacks I want for the remainder of the writing process. Snacks are THE MOST IMPORTANT PART of any creative endeavor. Haha!
DV: Are there avenues you’re exploring which you feel the horror genre hasn’t dealt enough with?
BM: I think horror is such a huge genre that its often hit or miss. Some people make horror for the fun shocking adventure element of it in lieu of a resolution or emotional impact, and some people take it too far in forcing a message down our throats to be “edgy” which is then superficial. I think there are some great horror that have a niche audience so don’t get out there or seen as much, but most horror I think misses the subtleties and honesty of some of the kills or gore and also misses the emotional impacts of it. It really frustrates me to see “good guy vs. bad guy”. You can obviously root against a character and most of the time, rightfully so, but what that does if used as a cheap hook, is exercises a dissociation part of your brain that becomes habit and unfortunately, trains your audience to execute a level of tribalism that becomes us vs. them. It is EASY to capitalize on these more primal behaviors but I want to see films that have completely fleshed out and balanced characters (even if they’re unbalanced emotionally). No person is completely black and white. And this doesn’t mean we need to glorify or empathize with killers nor do we need a whole back story, but there is an element of humanity I think that gets lost in the extreme nature of Horror from this all or nothing approach. It’s scarier to have someone you could actually meet in real life, turn and become the killer. Scream did a fantastic job of this.
DV: You had a bit part in AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” What was that like? Are you a big fan of the series?
BM: I actually was never on “The Walking Dead” and have tried and tried to get that taken off. Somebody gave me an uncredited role of IMDB, I think they must have thought I was someone else. I don’t even watch the show!
DV: When you’re not busy with film, you work with animals, yes? What exactly do you do?
BM: I LOVE animals. I actually studied dog training, animal science and hollistic care. So I do dog training on the side as well as work out my dog which I hope to start putting in movies. I use to work as a Veterinary Assistant and LOVED that. My dream is to buy acres of land and open an animal sanctuary.
DV: What else do you do to channel this great creative energy you have?
BM: I love to write poetry and draw. I also do lots of DIY crafts around the house.
DV: What books do you typically read? Is there a certain title you refer back to, or carry with you?
BM: I love “You Can Act” by DW Brown as well as Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat. Literary wise, I will always cherish “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” by Victor Hugo. I actually stole a copy as a preteen from the library and haven’t returned it since, haha! It still has the library sticker on it and everything.
DV: Among the veterans of the industry, actors and directors, whom would you most like to work with?
BM: Oh Gosh! My DREAM is to work with Rob Zombie or Lar Von Trier. These two are not only amazing story tellers but have a fantastic look into characters and relationships between them. Their voices really resonated with me and helped me to shape my voice not only as a writer but also as a director and actor. They make ugly… beautiful. Also, I think Sheri Moon is a BAD ASS and amazing female role model.
DV: What can we look forward to from you in the near future?
BM: Vengeance Girl is in post production so that will be out soon! (fingers crossed). I also starred in a close friend’s movie “Serena Waits” that we are all playing close to the heart so I can’t say too much about. I also was hoping once that we get deeper into the post production process, perhaps I could release my slew of short short films I wrote and directed. I shot these to find my voice so didn’t feel a need to release them to the public. I would love to re-cut them now with the knowledge I have and maybe just put them out somewhere that people could see.
DV: Speaking futuristically, in an apocalyptic, veritable “End of Days” scenario, what could we expect from Brialynn Massie?
BM: Well, in an apocalyptic scenario I might be teaming up with the demons, so get on my good side now! Haha, just kidding. In the end, I want to be atop of a mountain of work that I am proud of and I believe left the world with what I have to say to it. It isn’t about fame or fotune (even though that would be awesome), it is about being able to do whatever the fuck I want to do, however I want to. So long as I’m not a threat to others or the community of course. We have the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. So… what happened? I want to finally be in a place to execute those rights and help others along the way.
DV: Miss Massie, this has been a real pleasure; so much so because we know yours is a name which will soon be immediately recognizable in the film profession. We truly hope we can chat with you again.
BM: Thank you so much! Glad to be here.