Tragedy Girls- An Interview with Producer Tara Ansley and Writer/Director Tyler MacIntyre

A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of seeing Tragedy Girls. I had not heard of the film prior to seeing it, nor did I really know anything about it, so I went in not sure of what to expect. And I was pleasantly surprised by an entertaining horror/comedy. It is an interesting look at what happens when we disassociate ourselves from reality through using social media, all done in a gory, satirical manner. It's a fun play back to the classic slasher film, where in those teenage girls are the victims of horrendous murders. But here, it is actually the teenage girls who are the murderers themselves. It also has a fantastic ensemble, including Alexandra Shipp, Brianna Hildebrand, Craig Robinson, Kevin Durand, and Josh Hutcherson. Overall, I found the film to be cleverly written and very well executed, but you can read my full review for Tragedy Girls here. I had a really fun time watching the movie, and so I was honored to have the chance to talk to the film's producer Tara Ansley, as well as its co-writer and director, Tyler MacIntyre

You can read my interview with them below. 

Both of you have been involved in other productions in various capacities prior to Tragedy Girls. How would you say your past experiences helped prepare you for this film?
TARA: I have a heavy background in physical production, since I started as an office production assistant and moved my way up on union studio projects. Growing up, and even now, I have a huge love for all movies with practical effects, creatures, and of course horror. We had a team of producers, and Tyler came in with a game plan, so as a producer you just make it happen. Since our team had vast industry vendor connections, we were able to achieve what you see on screen. There was a lot of creative folks involved in the making of Tragedy Girls!
TYLER: Yeah, we definitely had an awesome team. I had worked as an editor for a number of years after school, but when I did direct short projects I used a lot of the keys we worked on this. Our cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski, production designer Mars Feehery, costume designer Dakota Keller and composer Russ Howard III all worked on those early projects with me. It really helps develop a shorthand and for people getting invested in a project if you are all moving up together!
What was Tragedy Girls' journey through production? Are there any interesting or funny stories from being on set that either of you would like to share? 
TARA: What surprised me is how fast production came and went. We shot the film in Kentucky. We filmed in a small town off the beaten path, so having time with each other as a team really builds a sense of film family, and you have to get creative with entertainment. I've never had an issue with blood, but I do remember walking into the room while Cody Williams and Bryan Sides, the "blood brothers", were making a vat of the red stuff and I almost passed out. It's got a funky smell. The Kentucky heat, fake blood smell, and it actually looking like a trash can of blood-- it got me. I signed everyone's thank you cards in fake blood, which was fun to do. We all had a blast with the practical effects and SPFX [special effects] makeup-- taking "selfies" with Craig [Robinson's] dead body was a must!
TYLER: Yeah, the heavy effects days were definitely a lot of fun! I remember we had one really dark and difficult day when we were shooting the motorcycle stunt with Josh Hutcherson at night, and the humidity in Kentucky was so intense that the ground was soft. One of our condors, which is a big heavy piece of machinery, ended up sliding into the ditch, which put us way behind schedule. We'd actually brought out a fellow horror director, Jeremy Gardner, who made a wicked little movie called The Battery, to play the part of the truck driver in the scene. But instead we had to concentrate on the stunt stuff and shooting Josh out, and so [we] ended up having to send Jeremy back home without using him at all, unfortunately. We shot the scene on another day and the part ended up going to our First Assistant Director, Gene Smith. He wasn't too happy about having a handle-bar mustache, but I thought it was hilarious.

One of my favorite aspects of the movie was how it used humor in order to help balance out the more grisly and violent parts of the film. How did you both approach finding this balance?
TARA: This is all our writers Tyler (also director) & Chris [Lee Hill]. Who knew they could speak young female serial killer? Only slightly concerning but oh so fun! My main goal was to make sure the girls continued to be received as strong and sharp. Alex [Shipp] and Brianna [Hildebrand] in real life are fiercely strong, independent young women with the biggest hearts and full of comedic gold!
TYLER: The balance was something Chris and I were super aware of in the script, giving ourselves enough opportunity for levity in each scene so we can have more control of the tone. On set, I just shot what I thought would work best, then made sure I had some options in case I was losing perspective on how it would fit into the big picture. In post, our editor Martin Pensa and I then tried to find the right mixture moment-to-moment, and ended up favoring the comedy a little more than the script did, which I think helps the darker moments go down easier.
In the film, Sadie (Hildebrand) and McKayla (Shipp) make a name for themselves on social media, and the movie itself certainly does comment on the harmful potential of social media. Would you say the film captures your own personal beliefs on the dangers/benefits of social media?
TARA: I won't judge. To each their own. It's the current way of communicating. I will say I'm much more of a visual person, so Instagram is a much better way for me to communicate personally. We love being able to communicate, see fan photos, or have people share their thoughts on the film. That's been enjoyable for me. 
TYLER: I definitely think there is something about communicating through media, and particularly social media, that causes people to disassociate from who is on the receiving end. I am not against it; it's just something to be aware of, as in people say things and act [in] ways that they would never do in real life. There's something great about that, but also something potentially destructive. We don't have any answers, really, just hoping to contribute to the discussion.

What's next for both of you? Any upcoming projects you'd like to talk about?
TARA: Well, Tyler is blowing up... and I've got St. Agatha (2018) which was directed by horror director Darren Lynn Bousman (Saw II, Repo), and Summer Night (2018), which was directed by Joseph Cross which we produced with James Pondsolt (Spectacular Now, The Circle).
TYLER: Next I'm working on my first studio project with Sony, produced by the legendary Bob Shaye and Vince Gatewood over at Unique Features. We're still finalizing the title, but hoping to shoot sometime next year! 
You can find out more about Tara Ansley and Tyler MacIntyre through their various social media sites, as well as on their IMDb pages.

What do you think? Did you like our interview with Tara Ansley and Tyler MacIntyre? Have you seen Tragedy Girls? Did you like the film? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Written by: Nathanael Moln├ír
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