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Episode Seven: Behind the Screams of James Gunn’s “Scream Queens”

Episode Seven: Behind the Screams of James Gunn’s “Scream Queens”

Blog - James Gunn: Behind the Screams

MOVIEMAKER TIP OF THE WEEK: Wet your monsters!

Almost any prosthetic effect looks better and more realistic when it’s wet, especially if it’s a creature of some sort. Fuck dry puppets! Always keep your fake monters covered in Ultraslime or some other wet liquidy substance. Re-wet in-between takes!

Scream Queens Episode 7: SPOILERS!



All photos John Sampson. L to R: Michelle, Angela, Lindsay, Tanedra.

I’m going to try and keep this short and simple this week—save my energy for next week—the GRAND FINALE OF SCREAM QUEENS! Who will be awarded the role in SAW VI?! I already know, of course, but we’ll let all YOU in on the SECRET in just seven short days…



Episode Seven was easy in that I think, like last week, it was readily apparent who we were going to send home. Hard in that the one we sent home was yet again one of my favorite people on the show…

Let’s run through the FINAL FOUR…<
LINDSAY



I was actually a little bummed watching the episode with Lindsay talking about how we had “ripped into” her. It’s true, we blasted her for part of the Grand Ballroom in Episode 6, but I did put a stop to it and did communicate a lot of positive things to Lindsay by the end. Sometimes when I was talking to Lindsay in the ballroom, she seemed to shut down and start internally combusting… as if she was taking everything we said, positive or negative, as another example of someone beating her up. I don’t think we always were and it was disappointing to see THAT was all she got of that particular Grand Ballroom. Sometimes it was very frustrating trying to speak to her and feel like you were being heard.

This isn’t to say our criticism to Lindsay wasn’t harsh at times. It was. But it was no harsher than Jessica’s repeated trips to the bottom three or Michelle’s criticisms in Episode 3.

I was hoping that Lindsay was going to take in what we said, focus on the work instead of her feelings, and kick ass. I kind of thought that IS what she did when she performed so well in both Shawnee’s challenge and in the Director’s Challenge while shooting Episode 7.

In watching the episode I think what Lindsay did was a little different than that. I think she was feeling so beaten up, and so at-the-end-of-her-rope, that she didn’t give a fuck anymore. It seems she was almost over getting sent home, almost expecting it. But, paradoxically, this gave her exactly what she needed.



Sometimes the only way to succeed is by not giving a fuck whether you succeed or not. This is one of the reasons I focus on multiple projects most the time—by not putting all my eggs in one basket I don’t care too much about any one. I, in a way, trick myself into not giving a fuck. And I find my work is freer, more creative, and more fun.

Let me also say, that Lindsay’s fear that she comes off as “unpleasant” wasn’t true at all. Quite the opposite, I think all of us liked Lindsay so much, and felt so empathetic towards her, that when she was feeling miserable, we felt miserable too. Maybe it’s a fine distinction, but it’s a distinction nonetheless.

All that said, it didn’t matter how Lindsay got there, but got there she did. She was great in the mirror challenge. For the first time I felt like I could direct her – she seemed to work with me as my partner in my scene, and looked at me as a director and not a judge. People in this blog and on the show itself accused me of having my favorites – if one thing would determine who may favorites were, it would be how well they listened to me in the challenges. Finally, I felt like Lindsay was listening.



Lindsay’s performance in Shawnee’s solo camera challenge was probably the best performance of the entire show up until that time (perhaps excluding Tanedra’s ‘Whoo! Whoo! Whoo!’). AND Lindsay’s burst of growth was amazing. It was a toss-up between her and Michelle in the mirror challenge, but Lindsay’s performance was probably the best on the “good” side of the mirror—altogether she well-earned Leading Lady. She walked through fire and she deserved it.

In this episode, during the Grand Ballroom, I also told Lindsay that I had learned more from her than any other contestant. I am a very driven guy. Sometimes I drive forward so hard in my work, and my personal and professional relationships, that it can be a detriment. It is very difficult to get across basic ideas to these girls on a show like SCREAM QUEENS, where you’re talking to them while simultaneously talking to the audience in Massapequa, and sometimes needing to get a shitload of information across in a fifteen-minute long directing sequence. I think I drove a little too hard with Lindsay at times. I think I could have used a little more tenderness with her, just like I needed with Tanedra. Lindsay’s the one who taught me that, and I’m grateful to her for it.

So, overall, this was an incredible week for Lindsay. Sometimes we thought we were idiotskeeping her around, as she did let us down a few times. But John, Shawnee, and I always had the instinct she had a lot of talent, and it just hadn’t shown up yet. It really came out this week, especially in that camera challenge, and it was an amazing and beautiful thing to see.

MICHELLE



Michelle was pretty good in Shawnee’s challenge (though I have no idea who did the sound FX for that scene, as it sounded like Michelle was farting maniacally under that bed.) She was okay in John’s talk-to-the-puppet challenge. But she was great in the Director’s Challenge.

Yes, she was a little melodramatic at times. And the scene played into many of her strengths – dynamics, brashness, and being a bitch (I didn’t know it at the time, but Michelle had been rehearsing for the evil role for six weeks in her confessionals.) But she was by far the most entertaining in the Director’s Challenge.



In the Grand Ballroom, Shawnee told Tanedra she would have flipped right past her channel if she had come across it on TV. And that was based on an actual conversation the three of us had after watching the Director’s Challenges cut together. Without a doubt, Michelle’s was the one that would have made us stop. It was a lot of fun and she was the one person who was great at BOTH distinct characters. You could tell with any one frame of film from the challenge which character was which just by the way Michelle held her body.

It may have been a little more Disney-Channel-esque than we wanted for SAW VI, but it was good work. And there was again no doubt that Michelle was the one who consistently grew from week to week to week in the challenges.



Lindsay had a huge burst of growth, but it was her first one in the competition. Angela actually seemed to be deteriorating. And Tanedra seemed to be completely flatlining for the past few weeks.

TANEDRA



This was Tanedra’s weakest challenge yet, and it was showing up at an extremely inopportune time. In the past, we may have had enough contestants around to forgive her for a single poor performance, but not with only four people left.

Tanedra was competent. But she wasn’t someone who you wanted to watch, and her calling card of emotional presence seemed to have been halved—she was far outdone in that department by Lindsay. Also, she seemed to be confused by me giving her even very basic directions

A couple weeks before I would have been fairly certain Tanedra was going to make it to the final two. Now that seemed a bit less likely.

However, the most discouraging thing about Tanedra that week happened AFTER the Grand Ballroom. This was really the first week we gave Tanedra any criticism at all. After the Grand Ballroom ceremony was over, John, Shawnee, and I were hanging out talking, when we suddenly heard Tanedra FLIPPING OUT. Shawnee and I, being the 10-year-olds we are, snuck to the door, cracked it opened and listened. It was essentially Tanedra screaming at the top of her lungs about how “She knew this was going to happen,” and how we were going to get to the end and then drop the bomb on her and kick her off.

It was discouraging to say the least. Firstly, we of course had no such plan. We had always been fond of Tanedra, and she had always been good enough (or, from time to time, not bad enough) to not warrant criticism in the Grand Ballroom. But it was also discouraging because the criticism she had received was so light in comparison to what almost all the other girls had received (strike that—I think EVERY other girl in the competition had received criticism harsher than Tanedra had on that day). I wondered whether Tanedra was toosensitive to be able to deal with the harshness of a professional movie set. It’s not always an easy place to be.

You’ll see a very tiny, muted amount of this on next week’s show, but the majority of it happened in this episode, so I thought I’d include it here. Whatever the case, it was something that colored my judgment, and I was going to need to deal with it the next time I talked with Tanedra.

On the good side, though, Tanedra was at her absolute hottest in the Grand Ballroom.

ANGELA



What can I say? I certainly didn’t want to kick off Angela. If I could have magically imbued her with more vulnerability and experience I would have done it. I liked her as a person an awful lot, and thought she had a fuckload of potential. She had grown an incredible amount from the first week of the competition—I would have never guessed that she’d make it to the final four after seeing her in the bathtub that first week. But she simply wasn’t as far along in her development as the other three girls.

As I watched the episode this week, I wondered if the slam against Angela the week before—making her give Leading Lady to Michelle—is what brought her down. I do think what happened the week before was unfair. And it did affect her performance. But I also think actresses need to deal with greater strains many times over the course of a movie. A professional can’t afford to just shut down.



Still, watching Angela go sucked. You can tell by the tears this week, that out of all the girls on the show, Angela’s leaving affected the other girls the most. Part of this was because by this time in the competition everyone was in a weakened emotional state, but part of it was because everyone liked her. She had been compassionate and easy to get along with. It was rough seeing everyone cry that day.

And Angela’s words of gratitude in the Grand Ballroom seemed sincere and were moving, at least to me personally. This reality show shit can be so hard. But you hope that, in the end, maybe you affected at least some of these people’s lives in a positive way. Angela seemed to be a better actress and a better person than when she came in. I’d like to think that I was a part of that in some way, and that that would continue outside the walls of the mansion.

I waited around for Angela to be done with her final interviews, and we chatted. Despite her claim on the show that she would regret getting kicked off the competition forever, she seemed fairly comfortable with her plight, and happy that she had made it so far. I’m not sure which is the real face of Angela—the sad face she showed in the final interviews or the accepting one she showed me backstage—I suspect it’s somewhere in-between.



We talked about working together on one of my Web series, which I would still love for her to do. I think there’s an even greater chance of that as she was my brother Brian’s favorite on the show (he is going to be very bummed to have seen her gone this week), and Brian is often my writing partner.

I also encouraged Angela to keep acting. I didn’t feel that way about everyone on the show. I don’t think she was as refined an actress as the three girls left. But I think she has some deeper wounds than some of them—through dealing with those issues, and furthering her training, she could potentially be the best actress in the room. But I didn’t think that was possible in the couple of months before shooting SAW VI.

Oh, Jesus. I’m beginning to sound like Dr. Fucking Phil. It’s not just the girls whose emotions get wrapped up in each other as the show goes on and on. It’s us the judges as well. We hated seeing Angela go.

NEXT WEEK: As you might imagine, it’s the roughest week of all. The Finale. Three girls: Lindsay, Michelle and Tanedra. One will be gone within the first half of the show, and it will be down to two. Those two girls I will push farther than I pushed anyone thus far—it’s really something exceptional to see, and I can’t wait for you guys to share it with me!

See you fuckers there! OR I’ll see you tomorrow in this very blog with the very first photos ever of SPARKY AND MIKAELA—the only puppet raccoon/teenage girl superhero team ever, and the stars of my upcoming show on XBOX!

I’ll leave you all with a photo of Sparky solo:

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