Megan Tremethick: The Vivien Leigh of Modern British Indie Horror

Megan Tremethick

Megan Tremethick is one of the hottest new talents at micro-waving pizza rolls at Hex Studios to feed Colin. Colin helps to clear rats from our old movie sets, and without a well-fed diet of pizza rolls, he often finds those rats — especially the plump mother rats filled with kittens, bursting at the seams with kittens — and… eats them. All of them.

But Tremethick is also one of the hottest new talents in the indie British horror scene, emerging as a prodigious new talent in filmmaking, performance, and writing. She’s also something of an entrepreneur and a keen film producer in the making (she’s even got a copy of Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad’s Guide to Investing), a book that’s far less controversial than my own instructional paperback Investor Daddy, which has often been compared to the darker works of the famed French author Marquis de Sade.

With the zeal of a cat hearing a tin open in the kitchen, Megan has thrown herself at the challenging and disastrous realm of independent film, pulling herself upwards through a pyramid of screaming corpses to somehow arrive at an impressive place in her career, at the age of just 25.

A beautiful young lady, Megan has been compared to classic era actresses Hazel Court and Vivien Leigh, (or Kate Bush whenever she has bangs). She has won herself an impressive array of followers across social media. Before this, she was already appearing in indie horror films such as The Lockdown Hauntings and indie fantasy films such as Dragon Knight, where she played a black-clad assassin with a smile more deadly than her blade. That last sentence is a perfect example of a puff-piece line of journalism, by the way. But, I can say that in a meta-sort of ironic way since I was, in fact, the director of Dragon Knight. So there!

Megan Tremethick as Jigme the Assassin in Dragon Knight

Megan established herself as a leading lady of Hex Studios, subsequently starring in Ghost Crew opposite full-time Irishman Tom Staunton, and a plethora — yes, a plethora — of other Hex Studios films currently in post-production. These include the film noir Black Chariot also starring Laurence R. Harvey, ’80s throwback sword and sorcery epic The Slave and the Sorcerer, and gritty fantasy epic Crown of Shadows, where she plays a spine-tingling queen, not to mention a big role in Amicus Productions’ very own In the Grip of Terror.

The lady is catapulting herself to success with a die-hard devotion to indie filmmaking, with an especially keen interest in the film producing and marketing side. This has helped Megan to make her Kickstarter Crowdfunding campaign from earlier this year a startling success, raising enough funds to procure over 2,000,000 jelly cola bottles. Instead of purchasing those gelatine treats made from the eyelids and bumholes of the unemployed, Megan will be using her pieces of eight to produce two horror short films for inclusion in Hex Studios’ new anthology feature film sequel For We Are Many 2, inspired respectively by The Shadow over Innsmouth and The Haunter of the Dark.

Achieving so much in so little time isn’t easy. So with great interest, we ask Megan Tremethick to impart some of her experiences with us by answering 10 sacred questions! If you would like to follow Megan on her journey, you can reach out to her on social media on Instagram.

Megan Tremethick as Queen Ginnara in Crown of Shadows

Can you share your journey into the world of indie filmmaking, specifically within the British horror genre? What inspired you to pursue this path?

I’ve always loved horror films and dark, creepy things! My dad has always been a huge horror and sci-fi nerd. Together we’d have movie nights watching his complete edition box set of the Phantasm films and countless others. He’s always had a particular love for British horror, too. In fact, when I was young, he introduced me to the Amicus Productions’ classic The Vault of Horror, and I was in awe! (My favourite is the Tom Baker segment, in case you were wondering). Another favourite that he showed me was Hammer’s The Gorgon. I felt a bond in particular with the Gorgon, as she strongly reminded me of my late grandmother… in a good way!

As for my journey into the indie film scene, when I was around 17, I wanted to get experience acting in film, so I decided to write and produce my own short film based on the life of Jennet Humfrye, aka The Woman in Black from the chilling novel by Susan Hill. I played Jennet. After that, I got involved in every local student film I could — the most enjoyable ones were horror and neo-noir for me. And I just kept going!

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the indie film industry, particularly in the horror genre? How did you overcome these obstacles?

As a young woman in the horror filmmaking scene, overcoming self-doubt has been an ongoing challenge for me. I enjoy setting myself quite ambitious goals; however, shortly after, I often find myself thinking, ‘Argh… How am I actually going to do that?’ Especially during this past year, it has felt like almost every day I’m facing something that feels ‘too scary’ or ‘too difficult,’ and in the past, I might have given up. Now, I combat this by seeking mentorship from more experienced individuals, surrounding myself with a supportive team, and sometimes, just internally raging at myself until I just ‘do the thing!’ I’ve found that it’s gotten gradually easier, though, with thankfully less internal raging needed.

In the realm of indie filmmaking, some individuals focus on a single discipline while others juggle multiple roles such as writing, directing, acting, or producing. Could you describe your approach in this regard? How do you balance your responsibilities, and what unique challenges does your chosen path present?

The disciplines which I love most and are my main focus are, well, all of the above: acting, producing, writing, and directing. It’s a challenge to juggle all of these for sure — each requires a great deal of time and focus to hone. I’m nowhere near where I’d like to be yet, and I’m a crippling perfectionist, but I try my best to set a few personal goals for myself, and I won’t move on or get distracted until I’ve completed them. There are often small goals within one craft, for example: to finish reading a book on cinematography, in the hope it will help inspire the visuals of future films I’ll direct. I’m still getting through said book, and I’m loving it and learning lots from it!

Some directors who are my biggest inspirations are Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock, and Brian De Palma. One of my favourite horror films is Carrie — it boasts striking visuals, phenomenal performances, and a seriously uncanny sense of horror! 

How has the landscape of the British horror genre evolved in recent years, and how has this impacted your work and approach?

Traditional distribution for independent British horror films — or any truly independent films, for that matter — is clearly in slow decline. It’s harder than ever for an independent filmmaker to get a distribution deal that will make them some money back. Hex Studios, the team I love to collaborate with, has the right idea for their films, and my desire is the same as theirs: to make strange, daring horror films that excite us, distribute and promote them ourselves to horror fans who will hopefully also be excited by them!

How do you navigate the financial constraints typical of independent filmmaking? What impact does this have on your creative process?

When a new idea comes to me — if it could be done simply and affordably — then I’ll want to write it as a short screenplay; and if not, then I’d rather turn it into a short story, instead of altering it into something I may like less but would be filmable.

Crowdfunding has opened up a new world of creative possibilities to me, and I’m so unbelievably grateful to those who supported my The Haunter of the Dark campaign on Kickstarter! I can’t wait to begin filming!

As an actor, this can affect me in ways like, for example: how much I can rehearse for an upcoming fight scene scheduled in a film. I have always loved performing fight choreography, and in a perfect world, I’d take a few months off and train so that I could become a ninja for that scene! But unfortunately, this is rarely possible in indie films.

Megan Tremethick in Revenge of Innsmouth

Balancing creative freedom with commercial viability can be challenging. Have you faced any significant compromises in this regard?

As I’m just starting out as a writer and director, I haven’t really had to experience this yet. However, as an actor, I’ve missed out on roles in the past because distributors thought a female-led film wouldn’t do well commercially.

However, that doesn’t mean I don’t think about what might go down well with horror audiences when coming up with ideas because I certainly do. Which I think is good to a point, but it’s important to stay true to your own vision rather than fall prey to people-pleasing. If I have an idea that I just can’t get out of my head, then I’ll get it made in some format — if even just a short story! 

What advice would you offer to aspiring filmmakers looking to break into indie filmmaking, especially in the horror genre?

For creative inspiration: Watch as many classic horror films, and read as much horror literature as possible. I’ve been trying to do more of this!

I also like to look at normal everyday activities, safe spaces outside of the horror genre, and think of ways for them to be flipped on their head and spiral into some macabre outcome, worthy of being in a horror tale. But, perhaps that’s just my twisted mind… Anyway! Don’t wait for the elusive perfect idea to form or a huge pile of gold coins to land in your lap. Work with what you’ve got at your disposal right now, and create your own opportunities with like-minded friends! Oh, and wasting time is much worse than wasting money! (Well, within reason, of course! Haha).

What personal or professional sacrifices have you made in your career, and how have they shaped your journey in the film industry?

I’d say the decision to pursue a less conventional path in the film industry. From school age, aspiring young actors are mostly taught that the path to success is paved by a series of milestones. At age 18, you must apply (and get in) to one of the UK’s prestigious drama schools. If you don’t get in on your first try, you have to keep applying each year and pay thousands of pounds in audition fees until, eventually, you are selected from thousands of applicants and get in. You must be a member of Spotlight and pay its membership fee. You must join Equity and pay some more. You should aim to score a part in a TV drama or become part of an established respected theatre company. And if you don’t, then you’re ‘not a real actor!’

That path is actually paved with elitism, and although it is a valid route for an actor to pursue, so is working in genre film independently. There is a stigma against independent film, which can often bias modern audiences’ perception of the work. If something can’t be considered ‘slick,’ doesn’t have ‘names’ attached, or millions spent on it, then it can’t be good! I disagree. And I want to continue working with independent creatives who feel the same as me.

What changes or developments do you hope to see in the British indie horror scene in the coming years?

I would love to see more options and support arise for independent British horror filmmakers to self-distribute their films and receive fair compensation for their work. That could be by having more funding available to independent filmmakers — especially to less established, upcoming creatives, as it’s much harder for them to gain funding — or more platforms to self-distribute their work which pay better than 0.000001 per one million hours of watch time!

Could you share a particularly rewarding experience or project in your career that reflects the unique challenges and triumphs of working in indie horror filmmaking?

One particular project that comes to mind, which is yet to be released, is the neo-noir horror film Black Chariot. We were working long hours; I was acting and also the makeup artist on the project, sometimes on the same day, and I loved it. Also, it was an absolute honour to share scenes with the legendary Laurence R. Harvey of The Human Centipede films — he’s an inspirational performer and a really lovely guy with a dark witty sense of humour. We have some amazing stuff in the can for Black Chariot, and I would LOVE to be involved in more projects like that one in the future.