Whilst many of the actresses I
have interviewed are used to being chased, tied up, stabbed, raped and
often beaten to death, this next lady had an even tougher time than most
when working on her latest project as she was only able to use her voice
to convey terror. If you're a fan of all things gothic, you'll no doubt
enjoy reading what Emma had to say about her love of Poe and Roger Corman
movies, and you may even want to buy her creepy new CD too.
When did you first become
interested in the arts?
Iíve always wanted to act since I was very little. Thereís something
thrilling about performing that nothing else can compare to.
Did you complete any formal
I studied drama and film at college and then decided to go on to study
scriptwriting at university rather than formally train as an actor. As
much as I adored acting, my perception of drama school was (wrongly, Iím
sure) of a load of pretentious aspiring young actors, pretending to be
trees or Mars Bars or whatever, and doing weird vocal warm-up exercises
just to make them look good. I was in a play once, where the actors who
were in the production after ours would come in and start warming up as we
were removing our set and props. One girl in particular used to go
through a whole repertoire of ridiculous noises in order to apparently
warm up her voice and, when I finally got to see the production, I sat at
the back of the theatre and could hardly hear a word she said! I find it
much more useful and productive to have a couple of brandies at the
theatre bar before going on stage! In my opinion itís certainly the best
way to warm up your vocal chords, though Iím not sure that most voice
coaches would agree!
How did you go about finding
work in the creative industries?
Whilst I was at university, I had so many ideas and aspirations but,
sadly, when you enter the real world you find that itís extremely
difficult to get creative projects off the ground, mainly because of the
lack of funding. Due to the fact that the British film industry is almost
non-existent, itís a real struggle to get scripts read by film companies
or ideas heard. I turned to theatre but, again, found that there was a
huge lack of support in financing new work.
You recently narrated the CD
'Beyond the Shadows'. How did you get involved in the project?
I was looking for something new and the prospect of producing a
spoken-word CD was suggested to me. I immediately jumped at the idea.
Did you help choose the
I selected all the stories, although it was quite tricky to narrow it down
to four. There were so many Edgar Allan Poe stories that I wanted to do,
but realised that I could only really fit one into the compilation. The
main problem with gothic horror stories is that the majority are in first
person and that person is usually male. It was great to find Louisa May
Alcottís story 'A Pair of Eyes, or, Modern Magic', which she wrote
anonymously before she made her name with 'Little Women'. It was
rediscovered in the mid-eighties, along with a number of other short
stories that she wrote, so itís nice to have it on the CD because few
people have read it.
"I have a particular fondness for
'The Tell-Tale Heart'".
How difficult is it to act
when you only have your voice to convey emotion?
I'm an only child and always used to amuse myself by reading stories out
loud to my toys when I was a little girl! The four stories are quite
different and this was important with regard to the selection of them, as
I wanted to make sure that there was a certain amount of light and shade
on the CD. I still used my body to a certain extent whilst narrating the
stories, which I think helps in the over all effect.
Which of the stories is your
I have a particular fondness for 'The Tell-Tale Heart' as it was the first
story I recorded and, also, the way itís written makes it perfect to
narrate. I love the whole cycle of Roger Cormanís Poe films of the 1960s,
although he never actually made 'The Tell-Tale Heart', which is a shame.
I think that most people associate Edgar Allan Poe with a male voice
(predominantly Vincent Price) and, on first reading of the ĎThe Tell-Tale
Heartí, you immediately imagine the story to be told by a man. However, I
thought that it would be interesting to put a new slant on it - hopefully
Did you find any of the
stories particularly challenging to record?
The recording studio I used was great but, unfortunately, it was right
next to a car park! So in the middle of a solemn rendition, a car would
start revving up right outside the window. So any madness in my voice is
probably for real! I was driven (excuse the pun!) to distraction by it
all and the CD took at least three times as long to record.
Have you always been
interested in gothic stories and other creepy things?
I used to get frightened really easily by ghost stories and scary films.
The first time I saw 'The Omen' I had to ask my friends, who lived in the
flat above me, if I could stay with them for a couple of nights, because I
was too scared to be on my own! Horror is a great thing because, at the
end of the day, itís all in the mind. Thatís why sometimes stories are so
much more frightening than films, because we create the images inside our
heads. Iím pleased to say Iíve hardened in recent years and never seem to
get frightened now, which is a good thing as I live overlooking a huge
graveyard, with my collection of taxidermy. When people come to visit me
they tend not to come back in a hurry for some strange reason - must be
the dead cats!
You appeared in a play in
Edinburgh in 2003, did you visit any of the haunted locations?
There was so much that I wanted to do in Edinburgh, but never actually got
round to it. Itís a really beautiful City and Iíd love to go back.
However, the theatre we performed in was called ĎThe Cavesí and was under
street level and supposedly haunted. Just before we arrived, Professor
Gunther Von Hagens (the anatomist who did the live autopsy on Channel 4)
had showcased some of his dead bodies on the same stage, which, I have to
say, was a perfect setting. I only realised the day after, so never got
to see them, although he left some glossy photos of corpses at the
theatre, which I unexpectedly came across in the dressing room!
You have a drama group called
Act One Drama, what was your intention when setting up the school?
Itís quite difficult to find full-time work in the acting industry and, at
the same time, I didnít want to digress. I was lucky enough to find a
base at a small, respected theatre and built the school up gradually. I
wanted to explore some challenging stuff with the students and our first
production was 'A Clockwork Orange', which was slightly controversial
seeing as the majority of the cast were around twelve! Some of my pupils
have gone on to study drama full-time, which is fantastic. Of course, I
try not to encourage them to drink too much brandy before going on stage
in order to warm up!
"Iíve been interested in Spiritualism for over ten years now".
You have directed many short
films, are any of them horror shorts?
My first 16mm short was called 'A Lesson in Wagner' and was about a public
school boy who became obsessed with the operas of Wagner and tied his
music teacher up and shot him to the strains of 'Parsifal'. I was always
interested in exploring the darker side of human nature through film.
I believe that you are also
writing a book on spiritualism, is that something which you believe
Iíve been interested in Spiritualism for over ten years now. I would love
to interview Gordon Smith (the Psychic Barber) as I find his work of great
interest. (I've met him - Phil) Iím incredibly passionate about the
subject due to the fact that my Grandmother promised me that she would
return to me after her death. When I first went to a psychic meeting I
was really excited and full of expectation. Years on, I have yet to
receive a message.
Iím extremely interested in the work undertaken by Harry
Houdini in uncovering fraudulent mediums. Thereís something utterly
terrible about individuals making money from peopleís grief and, during my
teenage years, I came to realise that I had been throwing away my cash to
be given nothing more than cold readings from those skilled in deception.
Many prominent psychics in the public eye today acknowledge the fact that
there are lots of people out there using deceptive methods to supposedly
speak with the dead. In fact, one well-known medium I contacted actually
directed me to a sceptic website.
Iíve also been looking at the Evangelical view of
Spiritualism, which is, in itself, fascinating. Certain Christians tend
to believe that Spiritualists are not contacting the dead, but rather
demonic spirits who are impersonating dead relatives etc. The whole
subject is truly very interesting and I feel that itís so important that
people take a healthy, questioning attitude to this sort of thing.
Would you like to act in a
horror film one day?
Absolutely. Iíve got quite a few ideas in my head for projects I would
like to produce personally but, of course, itís the finance side of
things. The theatre company Iím a partner of are in the midst of
developing a script for the stage which is a very real and very scary
piece, so it might be interesting to develop into a film treatment further
along the line. I know that they remade some of the Poe films a couple of
years ago, and Iíd love to be involved in something like that.
Finally, what can we expect to
see from you in 2005?
Iím in the pre-production stages of arranging a tour of 'Macbeth' and Iím
also very interested in turning it into a low budget film. When I was at
school, I always felt intimidated by Shakespeare and never really enjoyed
it, but Iíve rediscovered 'Macbeth' in the last five years or so and have
absolutely fallen in love with it. Itís an amazing play. My idea is to
be very loyal to the original script, but to make it completely
contemporary by having the characters as London gangsters and Macbethís
castle as a nightclub. I would dearly love to play Lady Macbeth, so nowís
my chance - I canít wait!
Visit Emma at www.emmalouisechamberlain.net
"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."