Victoria Vertuga (Actor/Writer/Director, Lexi: An American Vanishing)
The Horror Revolution: First off, what’s your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most?
Victoria Vertuga: Somewhat controversial take, but I'm putting Silence of the Lambs and Seven in the horror category. Those are two of my all time favorite movies. Recently, I just saw The Black Phone and thought it was fantastic. I also really enjoy a horror comedy and Ready or Not is one of my favs there. THR: You wrote, directed, and starred in your film Lexi: An American Vanishing. Which role of the three did you like the best? VV: This is actually so hard to answer!!! Lexi was a very unique experience all around because of the circumstances surrounding it. We made it during COVID lockdown, and because of that we had very specific limitations which affected the process for all 3 positions. But I'd probably say getting to play Lexi was my favorite part. So much of the film was just ME with nothing and no one to react to, and that was a really interesting challenge as an actor. THR: What inspired you to make the film? VV: So as I mentioned, it was born out of COVID circumstances. Like everyone, my plans got shot to shit and while things were totally shut down I was still wanting to find a way to be creative and do what I love so me and Eric (my writing partner) decided we should come up with something that I could film largely by myself in my house. Then it became all about, who is this girl? Why is she stuck in her home? How and why are we seeing this footage of her? How can we flesh out the universe? Etc. Me and Eric had always been really interested in the story of Elisa Lam. Actually funny enough after we'd shot Lexi but before it was out, there was a docuseries on Netflix that came out about her. But she went missing way back in 2013 and the last footage of her is this very bizarre elevator footage from the security cameras at the Cecil Hotel. And she's acting very strange, but because you only see a limited scope of the elevator cab and a tiny bit of the doors, you can't see who or what is happening beyond the frame. And I just found that idea very interesting to play with, and the idea of security footage super compelling. When you're watching security footage there's a sort of inherent tension and voyueristic quality to it which I really love. So I got the idea to use security camera footage to tell a lot of this story. We decided to make her a VLOGGER/INFLUENCER so that we could incorporate her vlogs and her social media posts into the story. Then we decided on the mockumentary format so that we could frame these kind of 3 distinct theories about what happened to her using the so called "experts" and their POVS. And we were able to incoporate videos of fans and haters etc sending their well wishes, talking smack, or just sharing their theories of what happened to her to kind of help build out the world. THR: I gotta say, you were absolutely fantastic as Lexi. A lot of your performance, especially near the end of the film, were exceptionally creepy. How did you learn the craft of acting?
VV: Thank you so much! I really appreciate that. I'm a firm believer in treating your craft with the respect it deserves and looking at it almost like an athlete. Athletes don't ever get to a point where they're like, great, I'm excellent. I'm in shape. Guess I'm done now. No. You have to stay in the gym. Stay practicing your sport. And I treat acting the same way. You have to put in your 10,000 hours right? I'm always in class to keep my skills fresh, always growing and learning and putting the time in to hone my craft. I studied theatre at USC, but it's really been my teachers after college that have made a tremendous difference. Shout out to Annie Grindlay and Tess Kirsch who are both fantastic and couldn't recommend them enough. Besides class, I'm always reading scripts, watching stuff, analyzing things with a critical POV, not just as a casual observer. You start to notice what makes a performance really compelling, and what traits draw you to an actor, etc. THR: If you could have one piece of trivia about you known to everyone who watches your film, what would it be? VV: Hmmm...I'm gonna give you a smattering of fun facts and you do with it what you will :P I skipped 6th grade. I was a straight A student my whole life. I'm allergic to bees and wasps. I'm a huge animal lover. I don't know how to whistle. I'm a natural blonde but prefer myself as a brunette. I'm ridiculously clumsy, but never during things where it would make sense to get hurt, only doing basic life stuff like, you know, walking, trying to make it around a corner or through a doorway. THR: You had a pretty brave nude scene in the film. What was that like, and was it easier or harder being the director of the scene as well? VV: I've always been super comfortable with nudity. Really and truly. I'd be naked all the time if I could. It's an ongoing joke with my family like, oh Vic has to put pants on...she hates that. But for me, in terms of having nudity in film, I think it's really important to have non sexualized nudity for women. It's so common for women to always be naked in a very sexualized manner, you know, just think of any Game of Thrones scene where the girl seductively drops her dress. LOL So I like to subvert that and show nudity in a less sexualized context. In the scene in Lexi, it's all about her crticizing her own body, kind of showing us that despite the persona she displays to her followers she still has tons of insecurities like the rest of us. There's also, obviously, something super vulnerable about nudity so I wanted to have it through that lens- of showing us her vulnerability and her insecurities and have it be a non sexualized type of nudity. THR: I caught the film on Tubi, where it’s currently streaming. Are there any plans for Lexi to get a physical media release? VV: We'll be live on a few other platforms in the coming weeks including Amazon. We're also on Vimeo on Demand and I'll be adding some bonus features of deleted scenes and other shenanigans onto the Vimeo page. I know horror fans love them some physical copies so we are definitely looking into that as well. THR: If you had access to unlimited money and any Hollywood stars that you wanted, what film would you make? VV: OMG I love to play in this sandbox. So we actually have the option on this amazing script that we didn't write but wish we did. It's called ALICE and it's this really interesting dark take on Alice in Wonderland where she's an FBI agent with a chip on her shoulder tracking down missing children and trying to catch these child murderers. And all of the familiar characters are criminals in wonderland. I love it. But because of the script and the amount of locations and action etc, it would cost us a decent amount to make. But, if we had the money I would LOVE to shoot that project. I'd play Alice. I'd love to have someone like Sam Esmail, Janicza Bravo, or Hiro Murai direct. Very visual directors with super interesting styles. Or someone like Vince Gilligan. Vince Gilligan always takes his time, each shot is so deliberate, and he's so good with tension. I would lose my shit to work with any of them. I have a spreadsheet of directors whenever I see an episode of something that I find particularly dope. And without fail, within 1-2 years, they're all moving on to direct amazing projects of their own, so I'm at least good at picking em even if I haven't been able to snag one yet LOL. I also have a long list of actors that I would be thrilled to work with so I'd try to get some of them in the supporting roles. So if you're reading this and you're like, wow, that sounds amazing. And I happen to know an investor who would love this project, COME FIND ME! LOL THR: What horror movie desperately needs to be remade, and would you be the one to make it? VV: Ooooh interesting. So real talk, I am NOT a lover of re-makes and re-boots because I think so often they don't live up to the originals. So I'd have to go super deep into the archives and find a movie where the original wasn't executed well but the story is really interesting and try to make it happen that way. I can't think of anything off the top of my head. But I wouldn't want to touch a beloved classic. Or it could be cool to take something and subvert it, I'm all about that. So make it a woman capturing and torturing men, etc.... kind of flip the usual tropes on their head. This is an interesting question and I'll have to think about this some more :P THR: If you could work with anyone in the industry, alive or dead, who would it be and why? VV: Oh man! Such a long, long list. Okay directors: Vince Gilligan, Sam Esmail, Hiro Murai, Janicza Bravo, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Taika Waititi just off the top of my head. I just love their work, how distinctive their styles are, how visual and interesting all the shots are. Writer/Creators I would just love to meet, pick their brains, and obviously work with: Issa Rae, Phoebe Waller Bridge, Michaela Coel, Pamela Adlon, Rachel Bloom. Actors: Bryan Cranston, Justin Theroux (and he's a pitbull lover! Double win) Kether Donahue, actually pretty much anyone on the cast of You're the Worst, they are all so fantastic, Callie Thorne, Regina King, Mechad Brooks, Aaron Paul.. We're gonna be here all day man! So many amazing artists out there. TV shows I wish I was on right now: The Boys, Atlanta. Writer's rooms I wish I was in: The Boys. OMG the satire and dark humor on that show is just so perfect and right up my alley.
THR: Are you into the types of social media personalities that you riffed on in the film? VV: Oh most definitely not. I am NOT a social media person. Like, I'm really bad at it and I really just don't care. I respect people who are great at it and really utilize it to their advantage, but that's just not me. I definitely have some resent on some level with regards to how much of an expectation there is for anyone in the arts to have a huge following and basically market the projects their in to their own fanbases. I'm like... how many followers do I have? How about my credits? My training? My work ethic? But again, no shade, people can make quite a nice living off of it. I just think it was ripe for satire for so many reasons right??? THR: What’s next for you? Are there any other projects you can let us know about? VV; Yes! So late last year me and Eric produced another feature that he directed and I starred in called Cold Blows the Wind. Jamie Bernadette who is big in a lot of horror stuff including the I Spit On Your Grave franchise, is in it. She's so great in her role and it was so amazing to play off of her. We're in the final stages of post on that project so we'll be keeping everyone in the loop on that as well. THR: Finally, if you were a salad, what kind of dressing would you have?
VV: Let's go with a lemon vinaigrette. Tangy, flavorful, and strong! :P
You can find the link to Lexi: An American Vanishing IMDB below.
You can find Victoria on