Although Kristina Michelle considers herself an actress first and foremost, she does many jobs behind the camera, as well. The Ohio native is the producer and host of The Reel Show on the Reel TV Network, as well as producer and host of the Indie Gathering International Film Festival, which she has organized herself since last year.
After taking up martial arts a few years ago and earning a first degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, she’s well-qualified to do her own stunts and action scenes in all her films. Since adding stuntwoman to her resume, she was presented with the top honor at the 2011 Indie Gathering Stunt Competition.
In addition to the positive things I read and heard about Kristina before doing this interview with her, I can add that she’s very punctual, gives good, detailed answers, and gets an “A” for spelling and grammar. Oh, and she’s definitely not afraid of snakes.
CHRIS CHARLES: Thanks for doing this interview, Kristina. I see you’ve done quite a few interviews on the other side of the table, on The Reel Show. Would you say you feel more comfortable asking the questions rather than answering them?
KRISTINA MICHELLE: And thank you for asking me for an interview. I’ve been doing The Reel Show for about two years now, so I have a lot more experience asking the questions. So, yeah, I guess I’m more comfortable with doing the asking in that sense. I think when I’m hosting and interviewing, I know what I have to say, so I know how long to talk. With being asked the questions, I usually think, “Am I talking too much?”
CHRIS: As you know, our mutual friend, Carlo Rodriguez was the one who told me about you.
KRISTINA: You know, I’ve never actually met Carlo in person. I had been promoting something online, and I posted on one of his pages about The Reel Show. So, he contacted me and said if there was any way he could collaborate, he’d like to help out. We have a few representatives throughout the country that get interviews for us and send material our way, so he’s our Texas correspondent. He’s also sent some of his films to The Indie Gathering, and I really respect his work. I think what he does to promote indie films and people in the industry is great.
CHRIS: I can sure second that. So, who have been some of your other favorite people in Indie films to work with?
KRISTINA: I’ve worked with a lot of really good people in this business, so it’s hard to point out just a few. I think as far as directors I’ve worked with, I really enjoyed working with my Dying 2 Meet U director, Bruno Tatalovic. Some directors I’ve worked with have been, you know, all business. Like, let’s get this film done and over with. Then there are others that just have too much fun with it, and it’s kind of chaos on a set. That set was a great balance between the two, and I think Bruno really kept his calm with all of the problems we all came across and getting the project done. I also got a chance to work with Michael Madsen on an indie film last year, and it was just so great seeing this guy work and getting a chance to know him. He’s a really dedicated actor, and I definitely respect that. I have a lot of friends in this industry that I enjoy working with over and over, but I try to branch out and work with new people as well.
CHRIS: I won’t ask for names, but have there been some you’ve worked with and would never work with again?
KRISTINA: There are so many incredibly talented people I’ve worked with, but yes. There are a couple of people I’ve worked with that really didn’t know what they were doing or weren’t taking it seriously, and it’s hard to work on that kind of set. It’s really just a small handful of people. For instance, I worked opposite an actor not too long ago who just made everything really uncomfortable on set, for myself and some of the others. I think it was mostly me, because we had the most time together on screen. It’s definitely not something I’d want to have to deal with again. Most of the people I’ve worked with have been awesome though.
CHRIS: Were you born and raised in Cleveland?
KRISTINA: Northeast Ohio in general, but not specifically Cleveland. I moved around quite a bit when I was younger, but Cleveland has always been my base, I guess. I love working with the people I do here, so that’s the biggest reason I’m still here doing what I do.
CHRIS: According to your IMDb bio, you’ve been acting for 12 years, so you must have started when you were a kid in school plays?
KRISTINA: I haven’t updated that bio in quite a while, so it’s actually been longer. I did start out as a kid, really young, working in theater. Not school plays, but community theater stuff. There weren’t too many opportunities, but I took a lot of classes and took whatever roles I could. I always knew I wanted to be an actor, but after a few years doing that, I said, “This isn’t for me”. So, I found some film acting classes in Cleveland when I was 11, and I’ve been working in films every since.
CHRIS: When was the last time you acted on stage?
KRISTINA: It’s been probably about ten years since I was on the stage, and I’ve spent a lot more time working in films
CHRIS: Do you miss it at all?
KRISTINA: I enjoyed it, but it was never my calling. I feel much more connected to film. Theater is just so big and you really have to exaggerate everything. Film is a lot more personal, you know, with the camera so close to you. I think if you can realistically portray a character on camera, make an audience believe you and connect with you – that’s a powerful thing. That’s not something I was ever able to feel with theater.
CHRIS: You’ve done many jobs in front of and behind the camera. Everything from actress and stuntwoman to producing, casting and wardrobe. What would you consider yourself first and foremost?
KRISTINA: Acting has always been my main focus, so first and foremost, I’d say I’m an actress. Over the years though, I’ve gotten really involved with working on the other side of the camera as well. So, I really enjoy producing. It’s something I think I’m good at, and I like being one of the people putting the projects together. I can’t see myself ever leaving acting for the other side of the camera, but I don’t think I’d want to give either up. It’s kind of hard to separate them.
CHRIS: You were one of the ladies featured in a recent article at Awesome Online Magazine entitled “The New Breed of Women in US Horror Films.” What would you say differentiates the “new breed” from the “old breed”?
KRISTINA: The new breed is more independent. You know, Scream Queens back then were great, but they were still too much like the damsel in distress. Scream Queens now are perfectly capable of kicking some ass and putting up more of a fight. I think they’re stronger, and I think an audience is more likely to root for that. They still have their vulnerabilities, so I think a great scream queen is someone who can play the tough chick, but at the same time has her weaknesses and just keeps on fighting.
CHRIS: Are there any old school Scream Queens you admire?
KRISTINA: All of them! Well, no, specifically I guess there are some who stand out. Jamie Lee Curtis and Marilyn Burns would probably be at the top of my list. I’ve met Marilyn a few times, and she’s really nice and down to earth. I think in more recent years, though I think it’s been a while since either did horror, I’d say Neve Campbell and Sarah Michelle Gellar. I know I’m going more mainstream here, but I think they’re both phenomenal actresses and were great Scream Queens.
CHRIS: Yes, Jamie Lee Curtis seems to be on every lady’s list whom I’ve asked that question. So, what martial arts have you studied and what got you interested in them?
KRISTINA: I train in Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido, and I have a first degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do, working towards my second degree. I have various other stunt training, but those are the two arts I actively study. My instructor, Grand Master Ray Szuch, tried convincing me to take up martial arts for years, knowing it could give me more opportunities in the film world with stunts. I couldn’t take it up for years because I was a competitive dancer and didn’t have the time. I actually had an injury that made me stop dancing for a while, so I figured, why not try it out? I never really thought I’d stick with it, but I loved it and have done it ever since!
CHRIS: Ever been injured while performing a stunt?
KRISTINA: Fortunately, no, I’ve never gotten hurt with stunts. I’ve made sure to only work with people who really know what they’re doing. Not just a director who says, “Hey, this looks cool. I saw it in another movie. Do this.” Unless everyone working in the scene is trained in what they’re doing, stunts can be dangerous. I mean, I’ve gotten banged up in rehearsals before, but bruises and sore muscles is really the extent of it.
CHRIS: You seemed to have had a lot of fun while filming Night of the Cannibals. What was it like filming that one?
KRISTINA:Night of the Cannibals was different. It was definitely a fun project, but there were also difficulties shooting it, like with anything. Probably half of the actors on that one didn’t have any prior experience, and it was the director’s first time directing. So, there were some rough spots, but I think it came out pretty well.
CHRIS: You’re going to play the title character in Lady Dragon as well as producing it. How is that project coming along?
KRISTINA: It’s coming along well. We’ve got most of the cast together, and the script is just going through some final edits. We’re hoping to shoot by the end of spring. We’re still looking for more funding, but the ball is already rolling on the project. There are a lot of great people on this project, and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s gotten a lot of good buzz so far, and I know a lot of people who already want to see it. This will be my first time producing a film, so we’ll see how it all works out.
CHRIS: Did you design the outfit yourself?
KRISTINA: Sort of. The artist, Rick, who put together the artwork and designs for the film based it off of a lot of things he knew I had. I had the pants, the gloves, the wig, the boots. I’d just never paired any of it together. I even had some of the weapons. So, it was just putting everything together and seeing how it worked out. The only things I even had to buy for the costume was the top, the belt and that specific sword. We may make some changes to it, but this is pretty much what it will look like on screen.
CHRIS: I’ve seen photos of you rehearsing a sword fight scene for Lady Dragon, with Annette Lawless. Does this film mark the first time the two of you have worked together?
KRISTINA: Annette is in my acting class, so I’ve known her for about a year now, but we never actually worked on a project together before this. I’ve interviewed her on my show, and she interviewed me for a segment on a local news channel. So, we have worked together professionally, but never acting. She’s definitely how we envisioned Pandora, and I know she’ll really bring the character to life, so it should be fun.
CHRIS: Any Lady Dragon action figures planned?
KRISTINA: I would absolutely love that! We’ve considered the idea, but that’s something to think about more after we’ve shot the film. It’s really just the logistics of it; what kind of company can do what we’re looking for, what kind of budget we have for that sort of thing, etc. I’ve always been kind of a geek, so having my own action figure, and in particular, just being my own superhero, is something I always dreamed of but never thought would happen. It’s all very exciting.
CHRIS: I understand The 17th Indie Gathering International Film Festival will be next August?
KRISTINA: Right now, we’re in the submission process. We’re accepting early bird submissions right now, which will be until December 31st. Then we move onto regular submissions which are until May. We have competitions for filmmakers, screenwriters, and film scorers open now. At the festival, there are competitions for acting, stunts and FX makeup. The festival will be August 16th, 17th, and 18th at The Clarion Inn in Hudson, Ohio. For anyone looking for details on the fest, they can go to TheIndieGathering.com, or find us on Withoutabox.com.
CHRIS: There will also be another film festival that you’re involved with, coming up even sooner, right?
KRISTINA: Yes, our other festival is coming up even sooner. Horror Hotel is on May 18th and 19th at the same place, and we’re still accepting submissions until March 1st. That fest is geared toward horror, horror-comedy, slasher and sci-fi. At the fest, we have a scream queen competition, FX makeup competition, convention, all day film screenings, networking parties and special guests. The website for that is www.HorrorHotel.net.
CHRIS: What films of yours have been featured at festivals?
KRISTINA: I don’t have anything on the festival circuit right now, but I’ve had a lot of films play at festivals. Most recently, a short film I was in screened at The Indie Gathering, and Night of the Cannibals just premiered at the Halloween Horror Expo. Dying 2 Meet U will be going to fests in 2013, and I’m sure Lady Dragon will be on the festival circuit when it’s completed. I would seriously love for it to play at Comic Con so I have an actual reason to go there!
CHRIS: I’d say the chances are good it will. So one last question: Are you really as comfortable with large snakes as you appear to be on camera?
KRISTINA: Up until a couple of months ago, I had eight snakes. I downsized to six recently, but most people think that’s still crazy. My two grey-banded king snakes are fully grown, but that’s only about three feet. My four pythons range from about four feet to over seven and a half feet. Most of the photos of me online with snakes are with Lilith, the biggest one. I haven’t taken any photos with her in a while though. I think snakes are really misunderstood. They are actually really passive animals, for the most part. I’ve never been bitten or anything, and I am really comfortable with them. They’re not much different than working with a dog. If you know how to handle them and don’t provoke them, you won’t get bit.
CHRIS: Well thanks again for taking some time for this. In closing, any shout-outs, plugs, or messages to fans?
KRISTINA: I’ll try and cram a lot in here, but I don’t want to list everything. For filmmakers, if you have a film on the festival circuit, check out Horror Hotel and/or The Indie Gathering at the websites above. Also, I hope the readers will check out our Lady Dragon Facebook fan page, which always has updates and photos. You can also check out my website, although it really needs to be updated, at www.KristinaMichelle.net and feel free to contact me if you have questions about any projects or things I’m involved with. The Reel TV Network is the online network I produce and where The Reel Show airs, and that’s at www.ReelTVNetwork.com. Or, you can check out some of the videos from it on our Youtube at www.youtube.com/TheReelTVNetwork. Other than that, thanks again for the interview, and I hope your readers enjoy it! (Also check out Kristina’s Her IMDb Listing)
Promo shot as Bridget Drake, the slightly nerdy alter ego of ….
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Chris flirted with the music biz there and in Nashville before joining the U.S. Army and serving in South Korea. He remained in Asia for several years afterwards, teaching English and covering the regional entertainment scenes. Currently in a mindset between Seoul and San Francisco, besides Idol Features, you can also catch his writings in the print edition of Effective Magazine, and add him on Facebook and Google+