Ashton Helton is a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina Ashville, who majored in mass communication, and that’s a major that sure isn’t going to waste. She wrote and directed Fine Lines, a short film that was featured here just last month. Besides writing and directing, she’s the creator and host of Blue Echo Radio’s Cinema Bizarre radio show, a weekly horror-themed show that has segments dedicated to film reviews, horror news, and more to feed horror fans’ fire. Her “day jobs” are screening films for a movie house and working as an administrative assistant at a film company. You could say this lady lives and breathes the film industry.
As for being in front of the camera, even though she says she didn’t see herself as an actress at the time, Ashton relished a role she recently took on at Hickory, North Carolina’s Lake Hickory Haunts. “Malice,” is a character Ashton calls the “love of her life” and whom she describes as a “psychotic, zany, undead babe.” Ashton has just completed another short film, a dark-comedy entitled Nova, and is now working on her next, which combines some horror fans’ favorite ingredients. Find out what those are and more in her following interview. Above photo is Ashton at this year’s Cat Fly Film Fest in Asheville, North Carolina.
ASHTON HELTON: I originally wrote the story with the intention of fleshing it out into a feature length psychedelic thriller. I got inspired to write it during my first semester in college while exploring conspiracy theories regarding the death of Kurt Cobain. I became obsessed with true crime podcasts and documentaries on the subject, but what I was really interested in was the almost fable-like dynamic between the two main characters, Jess and Chelsey. Two of the biggest ideas I wanted to explore in Fine Lines were “What is the farthest extent of evil that a person can be driven to by jealousy” and “How can I make the audience feel as if they’re suffering along with my main character?”
CHRIS: Where did you find the ladies you cast?
ASHTON: All of the ladies that I cast in Fine Lines were also students at the University of North Carolina at Asheville while we were filming. All of the actors were participating in a course specifically designed to teach acting for film. My team and I collaborated with them through a course on directing that the three of us were taking together.
CHRIS: You also host Cinema Bizarre radio show. That’s broadcast from the University of North Carolina Asheville campus?
ASHTON: Yes, I host my weekly radio show on Tuesdays at 4:30PM EST. Recently, I’ve been posting my recorded live shows on my Youtube channel and on Soundcloud. Each episode includes the following segments; Horror Hearsay (horror news), a feature presentation (film review), Creature Feature (monster highlight), and Twisted Topics (open opinion). I’ve recently been bringing a lot more guests hosts including other podcast hosts, filmmakers, film festival programmers, etc. My show is hosted by Blue Echo Radio, which is a university sponsored station at the University of North Carolina at Asheville.
ASHTON: I did create the show by myself, but I have a whole group of people helping me run the show. I couldn’t host the show without the following people:
Chelsey Radford – My partner in crime and my art director, who is responsible for all of my promotional art.
Elijah Hensley – The musician responsible for my show opener who put up with half a dozen amendments and revisions before churning out the perfect introduction.
Jake Morley – My editor, who is solely responsible for all the podcasts.
Nick Strauss – My station manager, who’s always at the ready in the case of a station emergency and who was gracious enough to let me renew my show, even after graduating in the spring.
CHRIS: You also work at a movie theater and are an administrative assistant at a film company, so you pretty much live and breath films, don’t you?
ASHTON: Yes, I am lucky enough to have four jobs that all have to do with the art of making, distributing, and screening films. On top of my jobs, I also have a full slate of side projects. I’ve been described as an “evil energizer bunny,” but I am so grateful to live the life that I do. I’d rather constantly be on the go and pouring everything I have into my work and my slated projects than working a 9-to-5 somewhere and being complacent with my evolution as a filmmaker, a storyteller, and a monster.
ASHTON: I adore Jen and Sylvia Soska. American Mary is one of my all-time favorite films!
CHRIS: Yes, that one has some awesome ladies in the cast. Who are some indie film actresses you’d really like to work with?
ASHTON: I have a whole list! Casting is one of the most exciting parts of pre-production on any project. I love discovering new local talent every time we host open auditions.
CHRIS: You’re also an actress at Lake Hickory Haunts. Tell me about that.
ASHTON: Yes, I never saw myself as an actor at all. I originally applied to work in the Monster Mart because I felt that I fit best in a “non performance” role, but my acting manager Allie saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. My role actually changed before the season started. I was originally going to be a simple pop scare inside a scene in the Nightmare Factory, but I ended up being placed on the midway where most of my job includes doing improvisation and interacting with customers directly. I’m forever grateful to Allie for seeing my ability to talk to people and for giving me the opportunity to work at Lake Hickory Haunts.
CHRIS: You were recently a character named “Malice” whom you were pretty fond of, right?
ASHTON: Malice is the love of my life! (laughs) I was initially a bit lost when it came to fleshing out a backstory and building a character that fit with the rest of the narrative of Nightmare Factory and Lake Hickory Haunts as a whole when all I had was a general concept and a job description, but the more I worked with other actors and really immersed myself in the scene, the more bits and pieces of Malice came to me. I’ll never forget doing the first run of her makeup and feeling that I had become a monster almost instantaneously.
ASHTON: I do Malice’s “beauty” makeup; her eyeliner, lashes, and lips. Everything else was designed and executed by the immensely talented Sarah Grimshaw, who plays Cannibelle, one of our feature monsters.
CHRIS: What are some other behind-the-camera roles you’ve filled?
ASHTON: I’ve done just about everything aside from editing and camera op. I’ve been a makeup artist, a stunt coordinator and supervisor, a director, a festival outreach manager, a social media liaison, and so much more.
CHRIS: What is your most recent project?
ASHTON: I’m actually attending a screening this Sunday for a dark comedy that I directed over the summer called Nova about a hostage situation gone terribly wrong. I am also in the process of writing my next short film, which is about punk rock lesbian cannibal chefs.
CHRIS: I’ll have to keep a eye out for that one. So with that, I thank you very much for doing this Ashton. In closing, any shout-outs to anyone?
ASHTON: I’d just like to thank you again for the opportunity to be on Idol Features!
The full, one-hour first episode of Cinema Bizzare, Season Three.
To hear more, subscribe to Ashton’s Youtube channel.