CAMP WEDDING: A Story Of Love, Marriage…and Hilarious High-Tech Horror!
The day before a wedding is as stressful for the spouses-to-be as it is for their family and friends, but it’s absolutely terrifying for an ambitious bride and her supposedly devoted party in the new comedy/horror feature Camp Wedding, directed by Greg Emetaz (who co-scripted the film with executive producer Cara Consilvio).
Inspired by Consilvio’s own wedding at a summer camp, the film can be pre-ordered now on iTunes before it makes its digital premiere August 20th on various streaming platforms. Camp Wedding is set in one of the most questionable venues that anyone could ever choose to have a wedding in: a haunted old summer camp.
Despite its deadly history (a girl camper perishing after a lightning strike, witches burned and Native Americans purged), the run-down Camp Pocumtuck is chosen to host the wedding of soon-to-be newlywed Mia (Kelley Gates). Mia is confident that her wedding to overly considerate fiance Dalvero (David Pegram) will be an absolute success, and she’s prepared to pull out all the stops to make that happen.
Before Mia exchanges her “I do’s” with Dalvero, some peculiar pre-wedding drama is caused by her idiosyncratic friends/guests of honor: deceptive yet optimistic Alexis (Melissa Roth), handsome and prosperous Trask (Adam Santos-Coy), gossip hound/unlucky romantic Gore (Sean Hankinson), Mia’s ex-bestie/budding sleuth Eileen (Wendy Jung), overprotective mom Flynn (Cadden Jones), and equally watchful ex-CIA recruit Paulette (Morgan McGuire). Interpersonal drama notwithstanding, Mia and her chums are more connected to texting and social media than they are to themselves.
As the whole group spends the night exploring the outer and inner surfaces of their cursed location, the biggest danger they face on the campsite isn’t from a masked serial killer, a gruesome swamp creature, or even a possessed Teddy Ruxpin doll! It’s from their attachment to the digital world, and the only way they can defeat this danger is by confronting it — and each other — face-to-face.
Camp Wedding might bring back memories of the classic summer camp slasher Friday The 13th, as well as those of other memorable horror/comedy combinations (the Scream and Scary Movie series, specifically). What makes Camp Wedding both different and relevant, though, is its satirical look at how unreasonably attached people are to impersonal methods of communication — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, text messages and the like.
Also setting Camp Wedding apart from other horror spoofs is its unexpected subversion of one of the horror genre’s biggest tropes. In many horror movies and TV shows, endangered characters who try to call for help end up losing their lives when technology fails. In Camp Wedding, by contrast, its ill-fated protagonists get into trouble because of technology.
From selfish selfies to mystifying misunderstandings, the characters of Camp Wedding battle to survive some deadly digital dangers before they lose the power to stop them. As Emetaz and Consilvio discuss in this interview, Camp Wedding is a funny yet cautionary tale of electronic miscommunication run amok; one told on the big scale of a feature-length comedy.
What (and/or who) inspired you to make this film, and how did you come up with the idea for it?
Greg Emetaz (director/co-writer, Camp Wedding): It really goes way back to 2002 when I was in grad school for theatrical lighting design and Cara and I were roommates in New York. I had spent a summer working on a grad film in Kansas about anti-government drug dealing Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts that thwart their plan to blow up the county courthouse. After that, I knew I wanted to make movies.
So we shot a film called Neat Freak with our roommates and friends basically playing ourselves living with an obsessive-compulsive ghost cleaning our apartment, which is great until someone gets vacuumed to death. We must have shot something like 42 pages in a weekend. It was an insane process, but an amazing learning experience that I think hooked both of us on making movies.
For years after that, we talked about revisiting the concept with more experience having made a few shorts together. At first it was going to be set in a supposedly haunted cabin Cara’s family owned in New Hampshire, and that’s where the idea of technology playing into it first originated.
We took a trip up there and I had just got an iPhone, but Cara and our friend Adriane both still had regular cell phones. I was Googling places to have breakfast while they were actually looking out the windows and I said “stop using your eyes, we have an iPhone!” We had no idea how unfunny that would end up being in a few years when basically no one uses their eyes to find anything anymore.
I went on to make a series of shorts about miscommunication via text message and a malevolent Speak & Spell. Then Cara had her wedding at a summer camp. Nearly the whole original cast of Neat Freak was there. We even had a screening of it and that’s when Camp Wedding was really born.
We ended up resurrecting many of the characters from Neat Freak, but as they might be years later, having been somewhat estranged, keeping in touch mainly via social media and then brought together by a wedding. The movie really mirrors our experience at the wedding…minus all the swirling occult forces and cell-phone zombies.
In what ways did your own summer camp wedding experience inspire/influence the story and characters of Camp Wedding?
Cara Consilvio (co-writer/executive producer, Camp Wedding): Well, I would say that Gore and Mia are versions of Greg and myself (with their more annoying characteristics brought to the forefront). Greg was the man of honor in my wedding, and I certainly asked him to do a few things to help out with the wedding (like hanging string lights) that he might have not enjoyed so much. As a producer, I also ran my wedding like a production and perhaps did show up with detailed hour-by-hour schedules delineating tasks for the wedding party.
The other element that influenced the film was that at my wedding the cell phone reception was not great, and I did warn people in the informational emails I sent out! There was a talent show at my wedding as well, and canoeing. So I would say it had a huge influence. We actually tried to shoot the film at the actual venue of my wedding, but they were not interested in accommodating us.
Greg: The moment in the film where Gore looks at the schedule and says “so it’s time for canoeing?” and Mia says, “whenever you’re done” was nearly verbatim from the actual wedding. I had just spent about an hour trying to hang one string of lights with our friend Adriane and there were about seven more to go.
I also did not anticipate the playhouse would be in a state of total chaos when I was asked to transform it into a talent show venue with full stage lighting, sound and video projection. All that said, Cara was so organized. Everything got done and (we) did get to canoe eventually!
How, if at all, did that experience prepare you for making this film?
Cara: I wouldn’t say it prepared me for making this film other than providing story inspiration and a location vision. However, Greg and I have worked together in theater and film since college, so we have a long working relationship that allows us to take on challenging projects. Also, we each had directed shorts that the other also worked on.
I was Greg’s producer and he was my DP (director of photography), and we both learned enormously about creative producing on our shorts. My short that I directed and wrote, C.I.T., was also filmed at a camp the year before Camp Wedding was shot. So we learned a lot about filming at a camp and the pros and cons of using a camp location where the entire cast and crew lives during filming.
Were any of the characters based on real people? Were they exaggerated versions of people you knew, or were they totally original?
Greg: Nearly all of them are exaggerated versions of people we know. Trask was also a character in Neat Freak and was based on an underwear model that was briefly a roommate of friends’ of ours and would always be taking a shower and going to and from his room in a towel when they had house parties.
Eileen was written for my friend Wendy Jung and is both inspired by her and Eileen Brennan’s performances as Mrs. Peacock in Clue and a kind of super-aggressive Jessica Fletcher (the legendary author/sleuth character played by Angela Lansbury on Murder, She Wrote).
I originally wrote Paulette for my friend and frequent collaborator Amanda DeSimone, but she refuses to see herself as an actor and insisted I cast someone else. Morgan McGuire began reading the role as we developed the script at The Shelter (a theater company in New York that does cold readings of new scripts every Sunday) and what you see in the final film is certainly a hybrid of the two of them.
The main character, Mia (Kelley Gates) also happens to have been an opera singer, even breaking out into operatic vocals at times during the film. You’ve produced opera in the past, and you have also trained as a singer. How did those experiences come into play during the making of Camp Wedding?
Cara: The character of Mia was originally written for me to play. When the dates of the shoot were finally set, I had to go direct an opera during the second half of the shoot so I could no longer play Mia. In casting, we were not able to find an actor who also sang opera that fit the part, so eventually I helped out with some opera stunt singing in the film.
I also coached Kelly a bit on set about breathing and mouth placement. Certainly, my background in opera and being a singer who no longer sings informed the character of Mia a great deal.
Were there any horror movies/tropes that you wanted to spoof in this film, and if so, which?
Greg: I’m a huge fan of the elaborate backstories that you often find in horror movies and wanted to just go over the top with them in this. My friend Rachel Carey jokes that my scripts always have a “little did they know, 200 years ago” element to them, so I just decided to lean into that and make this so insanely elaborate and layered that the characters are just annoyed with all the revelations after a while.
Since the camp is in and of itself a main character in Camp Wedding, was the first Friday The 13th (also set in a camp) an influence on this film, in any way?
Greg: This may horrify horror fans, but I actually had never seen Friday The 13th until after I wrote a few drafts of the script. I only watched it later as visual/directing research and had a realization that a horror movie at a summer camp was kind of…a thing.
We honestly had always just based the camp location on Cara’s wedding so as hard as this might be for people to believe, it was not much of an influence on the story. When I did see it, I totally loved it and found it kind of hilarious, especially the trailer. I was hoping for that kind of feel to our trailer; just an escalation of bizarre events that doesn’t give too much away.
Camp Wedding completely upends the popular horror movie trope of people who get in trouble once they lose contact electronically (via phone/social media), and instead makes miscommunication via those methods the undoing of some of the film’s key characters. What inspired you to take that approach to the film’s tone, and does that function as a satirical commentary on how problematic it can be to connect solely via electronic means?
Greg: I’m annoyed when movies (especially horror movies) have characters lose their phones or have no service so the plot can jump back in time and not engage with the world we now live in. I wanted to flip that idea on its head to show that allowing characters to only communicate via text messages would actually put them in more danger than if they were disconnected entirely.
I think we’ve all gotten into what seems like a serious fight with a friend over text only to talk to them in person and realize it was nothing…and vice versa. I honestly do think that a medium that does not convey tone is dangerous and deserving of satire. It’s odd how quickly we’ve gone from a culture that talked on the phone all the time, to one where cold calling someone is like a home invasion.
In a way, it must be like the time before telephones when all long distance communication was via text and showing up to someone’s house without previous correspondence was rude (well at least to landed gentry). There’s so much drama and especially comedy from that period built on miscommunication via letters and notes, so I think it’s only natural that we exploit it again in this modern context. I mean, Romeo and Juliet basically die because a text doesn’t go through.
How did you find the cast for the film?
Greg: Some of the cast I knew and even had in mind in the writing, but most were cast via a Backstage casting call. I must have looked at about 900 actors’ resumes and was watching reels until my eyes bled. I have so much respect for casting directors now and even more respect for what actors are constantly at the mercy of. It was all worth it, though. I’m so pleased with the cast we were able to put together and how their diverse personalities play off each other in the film.
What was the production process like for it?
Greg: Well, it started off pretty disastrously. The camp in upstate New York we had been negotiating with for nearly six months suddenly fell through and we had no location less than a week before the first day of shooting. I called a camp in New Jersey we had scouted eight months prior and miraculously they were still available. When I told the cast the news, I tried to spin it positively by saying that the first camp had bears and this new one, being in quasi-suburban New Jersey, did not. Turns out quasi-suburban New Jersey is full of bears!
We had thirteen days of shooting with only one actual day off and ten of those were night shoots, so it was pretty challenging outside of the occasional bear encounters. We actually had the opposite problem of most shoots. We kept losing the dark and (there were) a few moments we had to darken in post. The final sequence on the dock was shot over the course of three different days because our ambitions to finish it all on one day kept failing.
Our amazing AD (assistant director) Fritz Brekeller, however, somehow had us so disciplined by the end of the shoot that we shot every page of the 100 page script. On the last day we shot for about 16 hours and must have gotten through nearly 18 pages. I really owe it to the whole cast and crew for enduring wild temperature changes, long days and often being covered in tomato sauce. Everyone went the extra mile to get us to a finish line that for most of the shoot seemed impossibly distant.
Who do you think would like to watch Camp Wedding, and do you think it could be compared to other movies/TV shows that have merged comedy with horror?
Greg: My hope is that it appeals to fans of horror, wedding comedies and social satire. I feel like there’s a lot in there for all of them. You can see it as a horror movie set at a camp wedding, a wedding comedy at a haunted summer camp or social satire candy-coated with a genre movie. Cara and I both are huge fans of Shaun Of The Dead and wanted it to have the quality of being at once ridiculous, but also grounded with real stakes and characters you care about.
There have been many films/TV series that have combined horror and comedy elements, while some (the Scary Movie series) have parodied the horror genre. What do you feel makes Camp Wedding unique from other horror/comedy hybrids?
Greg: What people seem to have reacted to most is the way social media and texting is incorporated into the film. We heard that at a lot of festivals. Moments like when Dalvero imagines all the ways Mia’s “fine” text might be intoned played better than we ever expected and seems to resonate with people as something they hadn’t seen presented in movies before. Other horror/comedies also rely a lot on funny gory moments and I like to say the only gore in this movie is an over-dating man of honor named Gore.
What are your hopes for the movie’s success, and what do you want people to take away from seeing it?
Greg: I’d just love for it to find its audience, however large or small that might be. This is the first film I’ve made where people have come up to me in the lobby (after screening at festivals) and said how much they enjoyed the film. It seems to resonate with people that fall between the usual defining lines of genres and I’d just love if more of those people are able to see and enjoy the amazing work of this cast and crew.
The one thing I hope people get out of this film is to think twice the next time they get really angry or anxious about a text message or some interaction on social media. Maybe if they see a movie that takes that to an absurd extreme, they will. Also, you might try and avoid turning into a cell phone zombie after you see them on screen attacking people. Of course, I directed the movie and am certainly still guilty of that myself!
Pre-order Camp Wedding on iTunes here:
Camp Wedding on iTunes
Watch trailers, read customer and critic reviews, and buy Camp Wedding directed by Greg Emetaz.
View the film’s trailer here:
Find out more about Camp Wedding on Facebook: