Hi Johnny, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
Hello, thank you for having me! It has been exciting times; I just completed my latest project, a short film titled Queen Bee. I had begun producing this project late last year, so I’m anxious to get this film in front of audiences.
How did you come up with the idea for your latest short Queen Bee?
I was wanting to create a story that had a lot of suspense, and incorporated some of my own personal curiosities, fears and fantasies. I’ve noticed more and more that when people talk to one another, that they are not actually saying what they mean (perhaps I am just paying closer attention as I get older). They have silent motives that are masked behind their ‘representative’, the person that you think you are talking to. I found it interesting to write a short story about a group of people like this, all of them concealing their own true desires.
The short film blends different genres – was this always the case or were you initially focused on a particular genre and this other elements started to organically pop up?
My original blueprint was of a psychological drama. Most of my projects start with a serious tone, and then my sense of humor seems to bubble up onto the screen in one way or another. For example, in the climax scene of this film, I spoke an unscripted line that we decided to keep in the final cut and it ended up altering our movie’s genre into more of a dark comedy.
How much did Stanley Kubrick and Hitchcock get to influence the story?
Having watched Hitchcock’s Rear Window quite recently reminded me to keep the element of suspense a priority, but it was Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut that was a significant influence for this project. Myself and my co-director, Katie Larsen, referenced it for tone and cinematography. We modeled our story arc against the mystery that continually builds in that film and the erotic undertone was something I wanted to embody in Queen Bee as well.
Playing with some complex ideas – did you use any chalkboard or how did you get to work on the structure?
I always outline the structure before I write a screenplay. I hear of how some writers just start writing and see where it takes them, but I need to have a scene-by-scene plan from the outset, then fill in the details. I wanted the first scene to quickly engage the viewer’s interest with secretive, captivating dialogue. In order to keep the viewer somewhat grounded to reality during this unusual exchange between the characters, the scene takes place in a busy public place, and as the story progresses, the principal character becomes more isolated. I also intended to build the tension in every scene, and when it seemingly is about to payoff in some climatic finale, I used some extra ‘hang-time’ as I call it, to intensify the suspense. Our approach to this project was to intrigue and draw our viewers in as close as we could and as long as we could. I love playing with the audience.
Speaking of challenges, did you ever have second thoughts on directing and starring on the short film or was that always the plan?
It was always my plan to perform onscreen in this piece. The advantage of knowing that early allows me to be very strategic with how I write the dialogue and actions around the character, always keeping in mind my strengths as an actor and where I can push my limits. In order for me to make this happen, I trust my skilled co-director, Katie Larsen, to manage the set direction when I am performing onscreen. We’ve done this together on two projects now and it has proven to be a valuable partnership
Having some great new actors, both emerging and other established, surrounding you, as well as a professional crew – how did they come on board?
My years working in camera rentals/sales allowed me to network with producers and cinematographers, many of whom I have befriended over the years and have recruited as collaborators onto my projects. With the last several projects we’ve created, there was great effort invested into maintaining a high-level of production value and the resulting films are capturing the interest of a larger talent pool in the acting community.
How was the filming process and experience like?
I had a team of six producers, including myself, and a two-month head start on our three-day shoot. Some of us were simultaneously working on TV shows, or other day jobs, but we are a very efficient team. Each time I do a project like this, I learn more and more about the strengths of each of my fellow producers, and It helps me decide how to best distribute/delegate the objectives for future projects. The most important factor in making a great film is the people who help you make it, so I do my best to make sure everyone on the team is well-placed, takes ownership, and is having a good experience.
What would you say were some of the challenges you encounter?
My biggest challenge was on a story-telling level. The film includes a good amount of solid creepy/thriller elements in it, but the challenge that I took on in Queen Bee is to also make the story intriguing enough that a broader audience will engage and want to know more about these characters. I always want the viewer to wonder where the story is going, confused, but fascinated in a good way. To have this balance, my challenge is to include the graphic, fetish-undertoned elements required for this story, but use them within the perimeters of a normal and somewhat relatable world.
Where and when can people catch on the short?
I have just started marketing to festivals for our world premier, so we do not have a screening date as of yet. But there will be updates posted on the Queen Bee’s Facebook and Instagram pages soon.
What else is happening next in Johnny Healy’s world?
I am currently preparing for a couple roles in upcoming short films, opportunities that arose as a result of Queen Bee. But in the meantime, I am preparing a screenplay for a feature that I would like to produce in the next year.