Women in Horror Month: Katie Stottlemire on Majorly Owning Minor Roles in TRAGEDY GIRLS & MY FRIEND DAHMER

Women in Horror Month (WiHM) is an international, grassroots initiative, which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre. More information is available at the WiHM website.

 

With the recent releases of Tragedy Girls and My Friend Dahmer to VOD, Katie Stottlemire quickly became an actress to watch. While her roles in each — Bookish Student and prom date Penny, respectively — are minor, they’re imperative to the plot of these genre films. Bookish Student is present for many of Tragedy Girls‘ pivotal scenes, including the finale at the prom, while Penny’s romance with My Friend Dahmer‘s Derf (through whose eyes we get the film’s story) provides several scenes of extreme disquiet.

Even though Stottlemire’s IMDB credits might be short, her career is definitely one to watch. We were happy to speak with her via Skype last week about her acting career, relationship with horror, and what it’s like to be a reaction GIF.

You’ve been cast in two small, but pivotal, roles in some really well-received genre pictures lately. Which came first?

Tragedy Girls came first. That filmed in Kentucky —  I’m from Ohio — and Dahmer filmed in Cleveland area. My agent just sent me this really short audition [for Tragedy Girls]. I think it was just three lines. It was the prom scene. I said, “Okay,” and just filmed it in my basement. It took, like, 15 minutes.

I didn’t hear anything for three weeks, and then I got a call from my agent, and she was like, “Yeah, they want you on-set in four days and you’re going to be shooting for seven to eight days.” I was kind of like, “Really?” because from the looks of the sides, it looked like it was just a day-player role. I had no idea that my role was that big.

It’s really interesting that, for a role of that size, your character has no name.

I think that’s so funny. What I think is so funny, is that when you’re looking at IMDB, it just looks like an extra role, but when you see Bookish Student in the film, she’s actually pretty important. I just think it’s funny that her name is Bookish Student. I wouldn’t want her to have a name. I think I like it as Bookish Student. [laughs]

For that prom scene in Tragedy Girls, is there a specific process to pretending you’re drunk?

Um … [laughs] That’s a good question. I think, for her — obviously, for Bookish Student, that was her first time drinking. She has never been to a party before. I think part of it was just thinking how you would feel if you were drunk and you didn’t know what that was, and you didn’t want that to happen. Because she did not want that to happen, because then she has to go up and talk in front of the whole school — which is probably her biggest fear, because she does not want that much attention.

So, I think that’s it’s nervousness, because she had to do that big “introduce the prom king and queen,” and she hated that. I think, after that, it was just being like, if I was feeling kind of crazy and carefree and I just finished the biggest, most-scary thing in my life, I would just not care about anything. I think the dancing helped.

They were just like, “Just dance,” and I was like, “Okay.”

What’s it like being GIF’d? Because you’re a reaction GIF now.

Honestly, when those came out, I was so excited, and I sent them to everyone I know. I really didn’t think that I would be GIF’d, because I didn’t even know they were making them. Then, they released them, and I saw that there were GIFs of me, and it was so exciting that they made so many. There were four, I think, and the fainting one? Someone at Gunpowder and Sky said that it had a million views and that was when the GIFs were just released, so that was pretty cool. That was really exciting.

Was your involvement with Tragedy Girls what led to My Friend Dahmer, or was it because you’re from that area?

It is because I’m from that area. Both of those roles were locally-cast, so they brought in actors from that area — Kentucky, Ohio. Dahmer was the same thing. I got that audition a couple of weeks later, because I think they shot around the same time. I went into the casting director’s office and taped for her, and it was the same deal, just one tape. There was no callback process, and then there was the same deal, with my agent calling and saying, “They want you for a couple days!” It was really cool.

I know Derf, who wrote and illustrated the My Friend Dahmer graphic novel, was on set for part of shooting, but did you and the cast read the book?

Yeah, I read it before my audition, actually. It was so, so interesting, because I’m from Ohio, as I said, so I kind of knew who Jeffrey Dahmer was, and what he’d done, but I didn’t really know anything about his childhood or his high school years. It was really interesting to read, and then have the script, and see how similar they both were. The style of the book was really neat, but other than reading the book, I didn’t do any other research.

I think that was one of the aspects of My Friend Dahmer that made it so interesting: it’s a movie about high school that has high schoolers. The characters around Dahmer, and my character, they have no idea that he’s going to end up that way. We couldn’t let that conception play into our roles, because he’s just another high school kid.

The thing that I have really enjoyed about both of those films is the humor. Tragedy Girls is obviously more overt, but I wasn’t expecting to laugh as much as I did with My Friend Dahmer.

I think that was interesting. Both of them are humor, but they are different kinds of humor. Part of it with Dahmer is that, when you’re laughing, you feel like you shouldn’t be. When he does his spazzes, that’s funny, but when you think of it in the context, you’re kind of like, “That’s not funny.” But, sometimes, in the moment, you forget that you’re watching a movie about a serial killer, and it’s just like, it’s a movie about a bunch of high schoolers.

The role of Penny is really interesting because that scene in the classroom where Dahmer draws a chalk outline around her body kind of encapsulates everything you just said. You’re laughing at it because it’s silly, but also, knowing everything which will happen, it’s really creepy.

When we filmed that, Marc Meyers, the director, I really liked how he gave direction. He would tell you individually. He wouldn’t just say, “All right, Katie, here’s what I want you to do” in front of everyone. He would be really quiet and say it just to the individual, because I think when you hear the director give direction to other people, that might influence your performance a little bit.

For that scene, he would just say, “You know, you’re just talking to this guy, and you think he’s cute, and there’s this other guy who’s all like, ‘I’ll do it,’ and you’re just, ‘Ugh.’” It was really interesting because it was just, like, that — it was just like a little budding high school romance, and then this guy in the back, being, “I can draw you!” and ruining the moment. That’s what it was.

It wasn’t, for Penny and Derf, a case of “This guy is so creepy and weird: don’t let him do that!” It was more, “Uh, hello? We’re flirting and you’re kind of interrupting!”

My Friend Dahmer isn’t your first interaction with a strange killer. Your episode of Your Worst Nightmare, “Bump in the Night,” is about Daniel LaPlante, which I’d never heard before. I read the plot synopsis and thought, “This cannot be real.”

Yeah, that was — I think I filmed that when I was 15. After I was done, I was kind of nervous, because I thought he might be up for parole or something. Part of me was scared that somehow, this would get back to him, but that kind of horror — real stories that have happened — are what scare me the most, because it could happen.

It was really creepy, and the house that we filmed it in was really creepy. It was a lot of fun, though, but knowing the story was true was a whole other thing that added another layer.

Is horror your thing, at all, personally?

It’s not that I only go for horror roles, it’s that’s how my career has happened at this point, but I do love horror. I think that it’s so much fun, and there are so many different layers to it, and it’s always a really good time. One of my favorites is The Blair Witch Project, because when I saw it, it was so scary. I watched it with my parents, and when they saw it, it was when no-one knew if it was real or not.

My mom and dad said that they had to sleep with the lights on for a month, and that was hilarious to me, because they were adults and still had to do that. But, I love that movie and every time I watch it, I get creeped out so much. I also love The Conjuring. I saw the first Saw for the first time, and while I know that it kind of went off the tracks after that, I thought it was a good time. Oh, and I love Heathers!

You can follow Katie Stottlemire on Instagram @katiestottlemire. Tragedy Girls is currently streaming on Hulu, and My Friend Dahmer is available to rent via most VOD playforms.

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek

Nick Spacek writes about films scores in his monthly OST column for Starburst Magazine (http://www.starburstmagazine.com), and can be found talking about movie soundtracks via the From & Inspired By podcast (http:///www.fromandinspiredby.com). He was once a punk, but realized you can't be hardcore and use the word "adorable" as often as he does.
Nick Spacek
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