Megan Freels Johnston Talks Being A Filmmaker And Her Upcoming Films In Our Interview

December 20, 2018

Written by Kelli Marchman McNeely

Kelli Marchman McNeely is the owner of She is an Executive Producer of "13 Slays Till Christmas" which is out on Digital and DVD and now streaming on Tubi. She has several other films in the works. Kelli is an animal lover and a true horror addict since the age of 9 when she saw Friday the 13th. Email:

Megan Freels Johnston, that’s a name you should get familiar with because you are going to be hearing it a lot in the very near future. I sat down with the writer/director/producer to talk about her past film The Ice Cream Truck and her upcoming films, The Hunting Season and Payback’s a Bitch.
Horror Fuel: “Where did you find the inspiration for your film The Ice Cream Truck?”
Megan Freels Johnston: “I lived in a neighborhood that happens to have a lot of ice cream trucks and I had just moved there. What struck me about those ice cream trucks was that they were actually selling the whole ice cream cones and banana splits. When I grew up they just sold wrapped up ice cream bars. It seemed so old-fashioned to me. I had just had my second child and I was home with the baby. I kept hearing the trucks go by with the music. It occurred to me that there was a story there. I was in my thirties at the time and the trucks very much represented nostalgia for me. It started there.”

Horror Fuel: “You’re currently working on a new film, The Hunting Season. What is it about?”
Megan Freels Johnston: “We were supposed to shoot in the fall, but it’s been pushed to early next year. I would say it’s Get Out meets Psycho. It’s about a woman who goes on a weekend getaway with her new boyfriend who seems great on paper, but it turns out that he has some interesting extracurricular activities. It’s a really fun horror film. It’s definitely more horror than my previous two films. There’s more action. It’s a little less artistic than The Ice Cream Truck. It’s straight horror-thriller.”

Horror Fuel: “Have you cast anyone yet?”
Megan Freels Johnston: “Yes, Jamie Lynn Siglar is the star. Deanna Russo from The Ice Cream Truck is in it as well as Sean Maher from Firefly and Serenity, and Paula Carson has a small role in it, and Bruce Davison. We are all really excited to get going on that one.
Horror Fuel: “That’s a fantastic cast. Will the film be mainly practical effects?”
Megan Freels Johnston: “Yes. I prefer practical effects.
Horror Fuel: “Oh, me too. You can’t beat them.”
Megan Freels Johnston: “I haven’t done anything supernatural yet, so I haven’t had to use a lot of CGI so far, but I’ve always loved practical effects. I think you do have to use some effects in everything that you do. A lot of the time you don’t even realize that you’re seeing it. I am a lover of older films so I think that I will always prefer practical.”
Horror Fuel: “Speaking of your fondness for older films, what is the movie that made you fall in love with the horror genre?”
Megan Freels Johnston: “I love old slashers but I am also a lover of films like Rosemary’s Baby and Psycho. I love a more slow burn that speaks just as much to mood as in your face scares. I like suspense often more than the reveal. I try to layer my films with those atmospheres.”
Horror Fuel: “I understand. I’m more a fan of movies that get in your head versus a thirty-second scare.”
Megan Freels Johnston: “I agree.”
Horror Fuel: “Besides Hunting Season are you working on any other projects?”
Megan Freels Johnston: “After Hunting Season there’s a project that I wrote called Payback’s a Bitch. It’s an ensemble horror that takes place in one location and it’s fun and really zany. I would love to do that right away. I’m hoping that that will be my next one after Hunting Season.
Horror Fuel: “That’s fantastic. I hope that we will see Payback’s a Bitch sooner rather than later.”
Megan Freels Johnston: “It kind of has a #MeToo element in a more palatable execution.”
Horror Fuel: “Oh okay. That sounds very interesting. I can’t wait to see what you have cooked up. What is it like to be a female filmmaker in the world of indie horror right now?”
Megan Freels Johnston: “It’s a great time for female filmmakers, for sure. I love the horror community, they are so supportive. I’m thrilled about that. It’s always hard to be a female filmmaker period though because women are telling stories that are a little bit different than you are used to. My films are about what’s scary from inside the female psyche. We deal with things that are a little bit different. I think there are subtleties of what is scary to women in my films that some men may not pick up on, well some do and some don’t. I love when people really understand what I’m trying to express. If that makes any sense.”
Horror Fuel: “It does make perfect sense. There are a lot of fears women have that men just don’t understand.”
Megan Freels Johnston: “For me, there are things that a male filmmaker is not going to be afraid of, like the cable guy in the house. Women have to worry about their intention when they look at you a little too long. That’s not something a male has to deal with. Women have more things to be afraid of and they may not be about a psycho with a knife.”
Horror Fuel: “You make an excellent point. I agree. There are some things men will never understand about the female mind. ”
Megan Freels Johnston: “Right.”
Horror Fuel: “If you could, what piece of advice would you give to up and coming female filmmakers?”
Megan Freels Johnston: “I would say don’t wait for anyone to give you an opportunity. Find a way to create the opportunity yourself. It’s extremely difficult to get films made. You have to wear more hats than just being a filmmaker to make that happen. You almost have to produce no matter what. It’s almost a prerequisite to be a producer if you are an indie filmmaker unless you happen to have a friend that is an indie producer who is going to do it for you. You should know how to do it yourself because no one is going to work harder for you than you.”
Horror Fuel: “I imagine growing up with Elmore Leonard as a grandfather had to be an amazing experience. He had so many fantastic novels adapted for film and TV, Desperado, Get Shorty, Jacky Brown, 3:10 to Yuma, and the series Justified, which I am a big fan of. I have to ask, how has your grandfather’s legacy affected your work?”
Megan Freels Johnston: “It helped me to learn about the business earlier. I gained a good education in that way. I think his work has taught me to be a storyteller. Mainly what I learned from him is to write the story you want to tell and not worry so much about pleasing everybody. Everybody’s got an opinion.”
Horror Fuel: “That is very true. I’ve interviewed a lot of filmmakers and one thing seems to always be true, the ones who make films because they love it and because they believe in their stories always seem to be happier and more satisfied than those who do it for the paycheck. I think that’s important.I’m glad you’re one of those who do it for the love of it.
I can’t wait to see your future films. I really enjoyed The Ice Cream Truck and I think the film industry needs more films like yours.”
While we were talking our conversation took a detour after Megan’s dogs began to bark. I myself am a dog lover and as we discussed our canines I learned that besides being a filmmaker, Megan does an extremely important thing, serving as a foster mother for the group Tails of the City which only makes me respect her even more. Opening your heart and home to a dog in need is such a rewarding but hard thing to do, I know because I served as a foster mother myself through my local shelter for many years.
Megan on fostering:

I have three dogs but I almost always have a foster dog. Right now I have this foster dog, Roxie. I’ve been fostering for about five years. I like fostering dogs because if they come from the street they don’t know how to be in the house, they don’t have any structure. Fostering is great because it helps prepare the dog for when they get adopted. It makes them more adoptable.”

Be sure to follow Megan Freels Johnston on Instagram and Twitter for regular updates on her upcoming films.  The Ice Cream Truck is now out on DVD. Check it out, it’s a delicious indie treat.

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