Screenwriter Michael Zara Puts the LGBTQ in Horror!

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Michael Zara is an LGBTQ writer who has a passion for telling poppy, character-driven stories that are female and queer-focused. Mike has developed original pilots IT'S A MYSTERY for The CW and KILL THE LIGHTS for YouTube Originals. His horror-comedy Hallmark Christmas parody, LETTERS TO SATAN CLAUS, aired this past December on SYFY, which also served as his screenwriting film debut.

Michael was a writer on the upcoming drama series, CRIME FARM for Warner Horizon/Nicole Kidman's Blossom Films, and for TNT's hit MAJOR CRIMES. Mike also co-created the unauthorized musical parody of TEEN WITCH at The Groundlings. Mike is co-writing the horror feature PROM DRESS - based on the classic YA novel. 

We chatted with Michael about our obsession with camp (not actual camping, just the style lol), gay themes in classic horror films, growing LGBTQ represenation in the genre, his creative process, working on a serial drama, and his creative process for his new project...with host Alexander Rodriguez.  

This is metrosource Mennis, theofficial podcast to Metrosource magazine and home of short forminterviews with your favorite personalities from the lgbt world andBeo Quick Fun and informative. It's metral source on the go out in cousinslike well, hello, hello, Helo, Thehorse,minies, I'm your host, Alexanda Rodrigaz, lead writer for Metrosorte,an avid podcaster. We gay men love camp with camping films. Those can't bedevas can't be outfits. Well, not actually camping hate it. We also love those hollmark movies. Youknow the ones I'm talking about with the same storylines but differentactors, and we love those movies on Scifi Shark Nado. Anyone. What is thatold you that there was a pioneer from our community that was bringing thosegenres together? Yes, Michael Zar is an lgbtq writer and with a passion fortelling poppy character, driven stories that are female and queer focused hes,developed original pilots. It's a mystery for the CW and kill the lightsfor Youtube. Originals and his horrod comedy a homewark channels, Christmasparoty letters to Satan Claus Er this past December on Scifi, which was alsohis full screenwriting debut. By the way he was a writer on the upcomingdrama series, crime farm by Nicol, Kidmin's blassan films. He also wrotefor Tandt's major crimes. He also cowrote the unauthorized musical parodyof tean witch at the ground lames and he is coewriting the horror feature ofprom dress, based on the classic, and by classic I mean in the S, that's nowconsidered classic Youg adult novel. We featured him on Metrosourcecom. Pleasewelcome Mike Zara. I that's a mouthful wow. Well, that'sat the first time, I've heard that s Michael, why? Why Do Game Men lovecamp? So much I mean why are we just drawn through it yeah? I? I love this question and I think it's for me personally, I feel like weretypically very imaginative people and creative and- and I almost feel likeit's it's the adult version F of cartoons of ourchildhood right. I mean the Saturday morning, sort of bright and shiny andfun. You know bringing itto adulthood. Well, I ein your career. You reallyfocus you know, bringing that camp quality, but you you really focus onwomen characters as well as characters from our own community and we loveourdevas. You know we love our Barba Stri sans. Our LIESA MINALES are ladyGoga. Why are gaymen drawn to female devas rather than like some of the?Like? You know some of the mail characters from entertainment, yeahthat I meanit's so interesting. Isn't it I don't know. I think there issomething maybe getting to live vicuriouslythrough them in a way like it's. It's just such an interesting thing. Yeah, I don't know it's likeplaying with barbies, which I did as a kid. You know it's sort of this fantasyright come to life, I mean there's I mean drag race and all the drag queenstuff, and- and why is that? I mean I'm curious what you think too, because it's just I don't know, I feel like it's almostlike in our DNA. You know we well. You know it's funny like in the Middle Ages,when they had these like traveling theater groups. You know they would doreligious plays and the most popular characters which they had to tone downand totally change were the the villains. You know was the devilcharacter or like the evil snake, because they're so fun and I think thefemale characters I mean they get to wear the outfits. They have the makeup.They have the jewelry, just aesthetically they're more interestingto look at than say you know a cowboy...

...on a horse, even though that has itsown. You know givintry that we loved, but it's just. I think I think youNawtba it's like this bigger than life, and you know I think, when we're in thecloset as youth, we want to just explore ourselves and, be you know,bigger than life. I mean. I know. Many gay boys hat always wanted the centerof attention myself included and these kind of devas, starting from you, know,Betty Davis. All the way up to you know, lady Goga. Now they were able to dothat, be the focus and they look damn good right, wan it yeh yeah being loudand proud, and you know everybody's eyes on them yeah.I think yeah yeah. I think it's really interesting. Now we talk. We've talkedbefore about your early influences. You loved nightmare on Elm Street for andLittle Mermaid, which is such a delicious combination of you know likethe Disney like everything's happy, but then kind of like that camp, horr kindof sensibility, and then you know, whae, look back at the hoar films from th sand there's a lot of eye candy going on forthe boys. You know you know the like. We know it's from nightmare on ElStreet, the first one of course Johnny Depp in his crop top and his Grac webpants. But there's you know, there's somehomoerotic qualities there as well, but we typically think of horror asstraightman genre, but that's not necessarily the case. No, I think gay queer people. I can't remember. I read this articleonce I did a bunch of research on on horror, conventions and sort ofsometimes sort of the underdogs of the world, which you knowW en, when you're in the closetor you're being bullied as a kid which Iwas you know, you're an underdog right and and there's something about the kind of rooting for the horror villain.You know like Freddy Kruger or Chuckia, you know ha I mean, and it's sort oflike it's almost like we can relate to beingthe quote, Unquote Freak Right, interesting yeah. I thought that wassuch an interesting thing because I feel, like you know, if you go to the horror conventions, when you knowwe weren't in a pandemic, there's all walks of life and I met a lot of Qeerpeople. I met a lot of people with you know that, were you know in wheelchairs or had had youknow cancer and had gone through that and there's something about there's aunifying thing with you know, people that have gone had struggled throughthings that you know so there's something about like seeing the popularbeautiful people getting chopped up. You know that's ansaiig yeah, it's kind of like oor littlepayback, you know that'sthat's it that's very interestingand it's this escape. You know I experience that same kind of feelingwhen o go to like a start, trek convention where you have all of theseother people that are not necessarily in the mainstream public view. That mayme a little different in so many different ways and it's a way foreverybody o to unify and kind of come together in a kind of elevated genre.So I have to know Scifi. You know your letters to Satan Claus which I foraulyenjoyed because I love like. I said I love those homemark films, which wasyour your full film, screenwriting debut. How did you get involved withScifi and what was that pitch meeting like because it's an interesting filright? I had met with Scifi just general meeting, as you know,you kind of do when Youwere, a writer and just kind of talked shop and andreally bonded with the executive, and we just had very similar taste and acouple months. I think later I was...

...up at night late watching in bed ahallmark movie as one does and ha o do as we Dani thougt. I just kind of hadthat OPRA Aha moment. You know I'm sure Oprah would be offended. Bi Masing theOmomen, the tin, but but I just thought like there should be, and why isn'tthere a horror paroty of these Christmas TV movies and that's reallyhow it was born? I wrote up like an eight page documentand I think the original title was a very murdery Christmas and t e sent itto Scifi and all of a sudden we were, you know I wasit was greenlid and I was writing the script and then we started shooting acouple months later and he's bink. It was very fast- and you know I remember the very earlydays of Scifi and as we were talking, it seemed like a very macho guidechannel. You know we had o have naked girls running around. We had thesebigger than live creatures that were kind of in all these Macho Macho men,but it thin tha that culture is changing. Your film is veryrepresentative of the LGBT community in front of, as well as behind the camera.Tell me about the culture indevelopment and actually on set for the film. Arethese conversations being ad by the network or you just kind of brought it to them oryeah? I brought it. I brought it to them. I I this. The script was chalkball of o diversity, a D, and you know I had written this before the sort ofonslaught of the the lgbtq themed movies that came out at the around thesame time. I obviously didn't know what other people were. Writing so I mean Iwas happily ssurprised to see other people doing similar things, just notwith horror yeah, but no, it wasn't really a discussionit just you know I put it in the script in and it didn't change we did. We did have incasting our director cast one of our league love interestbecause there were multiple as making fun of like all the options the holeyou has. I was so happy with the as by the way, because it was like yes, but one of the final guys is a is atransactor and he was amazing and and and that was achoice of our director, Ema, Gen, Soi, Linden Yeah. It was very, very cool. I'venever seen that in a in a movie, let alone something on. You know, cable,but you know so yeah it wasn't really he was it was. I wanted diversity,because that's something that I feel like post. You know Christmas movies in thepast. Ha had have kind of shoe away from, so I wanted to lean into it. Soyou're kind of poking fun of the the Gen re, but also trying to you knowpush it into our current time right now, if somebody that usually getspigeon hold really fast they're like Oh, it's Alexander, like the lab gay guy.Let's hire him for this because he'll be loud and gay andit's like well, youI can do other things. Do you think it's career limiting to write in acertain genre? Because not only are you writing in the LGBTQ genre, but thenyou also are you know you have this love and writing these kind of nichhorror scripts. Do you think it's like double limiting? Do you think it'sgoing to limit you at all? I don't know because in my career, in terms of what I've,what I've worked on in writers, weens have been crime, showd, so yeah. Youknow that that's a totally different genre and that's pretty you know muchmore straightforward. I you know I have a little bit ofcomedy. I have a little bit of Ya. I have I really...

I kind of refuse to be. You know boxedin and I I think, just in general genre is sort of changing and, and I thinksomebody like Jordan, peel kind of made horror. You know sexy again a yeahannstream and you know you have big places like Hbo and Net Max and Netflix doing more horror. Esq, youknow shows so I don't know I I mean knock on wood. I'm not like just youknow, forced to write a SIDFI movie every year I want to do. I want to doit all and and currently I'm developing a bunch of stuff that are, and it'sfrom Hya mystery to horror, comedy to like a fantastical kind of HarryPotter world. So Oh Wy, I'm I'm doing all right so well! You know who to cast.You know for the loud gay guy, oyou on'tn, a scratch. Solet's talk about working for majorcrimes. It's a network! It's a Straightforwad serial crime show whichis much different than you know like we talke about what you're writing nowwhat Di you learn from your time there and was it stifling at all towards yourcreativity, kind of being so in a structured serial type of environment?No, I miss it so much I miss being in a writers room and having that bouncingoff ideas, and I fond it to be a really a challenging experience, an a good way,and I really stretched my abilities and you know I was so scared when I had to like youknow rite for like a district attorney and her seech. You know in thecourtroom, but but it was it. It showed me that I had more tools in my beltthan I thought, so no, I really embraced it and loved it. Andyes, I was scared at first, but you know it. It worked and paid off and Imeate some amazing friends there and really really wonderful people. It wasa great group and yeah. I really did stretch some muscles thereN, and that was that was awesome. So no and I got to also have my Mycozara Sniss to you know Igot to really put my humor and, and we had an lgbtq teenage characterthat I used to. You know really identifywith and and was really focused on his storylines and stuff like that. Now. What is your creater process whenyou're writing something new where you hold up in your room somewhere like inthe corner and it's dark and you have like candles in the back you're likedrinking every night, or do you doouline it it do? You do you have likepostet notes on your wall y? I don't drink, I don't drink and write it's aweird thing. I try yeah a lot of coffee, but you know for me: I usually it just there's sort of a kernel of anidea that kind of comes to me and and then I start to explore it, and Ieither send the idea to my my representation Y, my agents andmanagers and and see what they think and then it from there. I expand andyeah. Typically what I do is kind of come up with a treatment or an outlineand go from there. But I am you know I don't have the beautifulmindwall of of postits and everything like that, a lot of it's just here and and yeah I just I just kind of go, butI it's very I'm an instinctual writer Iwas self taught I didn't go to sow for...

...it and- and I kind of learned by watching a lot of TV and film, butalso you know, I learned when I was anassistant in writers, rooms and really the structure and and character and andall of that but yeah, it's all it's all there. I don't know if it's that's a good method, butthat's kind of well hey t seems to be working. I woant to talk about promdress, which is kind of you know, kind of the last project that you've beenable to talk about yeah. How did you choose this book and for our audience as the title suggestit's about a promdress, yeah, maybe a little sinister, maybe a little bad things happen whenyou wear it. But how did you choose this book out of so much material outthere and are you going to update it? What can we expect sure? So it was abook from my childhood. It was part of these point core novels that scholasticdid and a bunch of Christopher Pike and Dean Coops. And all these all these bigcorro writers, Aralstein wrote these point. HorrorMovies or these point horror novels, excuse me and I always thought promdress could be a movie and it's yes, it's about this Pirst vintage prondressthat once you put it on it kind of takes over your body and you start todo bad things and and yeah. I chased down the rights for that book for tenyears and last I just thought I just I just knew there was something specialabout it and I finally got the rights and then I cared up with this wonderful,Australian, director and writer name Nicholas Perso, and he and I wrote the script together and updated it for two thousand and twentynine wivhe, two kickass queer leads. You know one's nonbinary, the other oneis a gay boy and they are, you know, Aur heroes and for battle the drafts and it's a really fun and sort of two thousand, an twentyone version of the story and Yeah we're out to some producers, and I hope, toshare some news soon. But I can't say anything until you know: There's incomet e the contract. Now what were you that kind of Nerdykid like? I was remember in school. They would have this cholastic book farand then Om and they would bring like noe samples and then you would havethey would hande you like a menu almost and then you would check off all theones you wanted. It was like hundred and hundreds of dollars and yourparents had to say no yea. You were the nerd that would delivery. Day was likethe best day of my life, and you would have all these bags of books delivered.Yeah know it was great. I totally remember that it was so much fun yeah, I loved I loved that kind ofstuff, and I don't know why that just tiggered me to they. We had like a gift.Far. I don't know. If you have that in school. Well, Kno, I don't know I don't Kowow Tha. Justthat was like something very I don't know, maybe in Arizona that's what theydo, but yeah kind of a similar sort of thing where you kind of checkmarkthings, and then your mom says no, that's way too much but yeah, but itwas exciting. Yeah E, O White Yeah I was I was such a Nerd, so that me too,I can still like remember what that paper felt like, because it was almostlike a newspaper time. Oi had certain Smell, Oh God, even Talki, like yousaid talking about it. Just kind of puts me back yeah, okay, so theyannounce that paranormal seven is coming out and you know I love horrorfilms. I love all kinds. I love, I don't mind the gory ones. I like you,know the more thoughtful ones, but the genree that I just really don't carefor I'll still see it is this kind of captured, footage or Filma. We knowthey're so cheap to to produce, and then they make millions and millionsand millions at the box office m. But...

...when we're looking at a script, there'skind of like it's like a poring script, they barely do an exposition and thenthe rest is all action. Do these? Do these kind of films hurt the horror,film, Genre and audience bect expectations of horror, films, you're, really good? I I don't think so I mean I like you said,there's so many like subgenres in yeah, and I think you know, hopefully thepeople that are seeing paranormal activity, you know, will go see. Prom dress, youknow, but there you know we all have our sortof preferences. I think I think the more the marrierhonestly. I don't think you know the sort of trends they kind of comeand go right like it's like a you know, the found footage thing was really hotin the lates early sands and then it died down, and then it came back inlike two thousand and eight and then it died down and now it's coming back andand so it's a cycle. So I don't think it's to be scared. F of that stuff, andyou know in this pandemic world. You know that kind of thing is is mucheasier to shoot right now I mean I know on on now: I'm blinking on the name of it, there's a one on shutter right now thatthey shot during the pandemic. That's all zoom, and it's really well done,but they you know it wouldn't have been INPOSSIB. It would have been. Theywouldn't have been able to shoot it F if it weren't, for you know thattechnology now I remember when Blair witch first came out and it was thefirst kind of video movie like that that I had seen. I was so scared. Iactually slept in my mom's room for two nights, because my imagination made itmore scary than I think anything they could have put on film right, but whenit was new, it was like that's the scariest thing I think I've ever seenand then of course now we just kind of look back at it and kind of laugh, butyour woll take on on that kind of film and you know if itcould kind of ruin the genre your take on it, its so positive andthat's from our discussions and from you know getting to know you a littlebit is that you know you're not like a mean girl, gay in the industry. Youtend to always put a positive, optimistic spin on everything. How have you not become a jaded gay? Thank you. I I don't know. I just I kind of lead with my heart on my sleeve, and Iknow that I love like you, know bloody stuff and people dying, and but I dotry to have heart in everything that I write and it's just it's just who I amit's not. You know sure I can. I can get down onmyself and be you know a little jealous if I hear oflike some amazing project, and you know why didn't I get that job or why didn'tI get hired for that show I just I just you just can't sustainthat and if you do yeah, there's there's abitterness and an ugliness that I just life is life is way too short for thatpersonally, but Um. You know I have my moments. I am not I'm not outterll, but you know, but I think to get some of that aggression out toget some of that anger out you when you're a writer, you can do it throughyour characters. You know so you know, maybe I'm killing somebody in a scriptthat I'm you know taking out mator on on a certainsituation, but no I do try to be positive and it is just it's justinherent it's not it's not me. You know trying to be more Hollmarky thatthat really does come across asthat it does come from a sincere place. It's not put on you know, there's a lotof us in the community. That kind of put on this kind of positive face. That's not you know it'snot since here anyway. Okay, are you...

...ready to play a little rapid fire? Sure?Okay, if you were to write a horror film based on your love and dating life,what would it be called? ghosted, Ahahoh God what creature arevillain from the Hor Genre? Do you wish was real O hm? I mean just because he's so funchucky. You Know Yeah Yeah H. I think we culd kill Hem. What has been your guilty pleasure?COVID BINGWAT? Oh my Gosh, Oh God. What is it? Yes, myfriends, I'm so mad at them still got me hooked on this MTV reality showcalled. Are you the one? Have you heard of it now it's been on for like eight season.What what's it about it's? It's about these like sexy, drunk like the earlytwenty somethings that are thrown in a house together and they through expertshave been paired up, but they don't know who is their perfect match andthen they have to pair each other up every week. And if you have perfectpairs by the end of the season, you collectively win a million dollarswhich sounds like a tankgn teny people they all get so drunk and have sex witheveryone in there. So like determined that this is their person. But it'slike it's just a game. You could date them on the way you know after the show,but it's insane and there is a bisexual season which I ougtbecause, HEU couldnt,get it ofline, so God for like twenty fivedolars and it's worth it. But thatis my guilty pleasure. I am not usually a reality dude unless it's baking withBritish people o that it's yeah argue the one who yeahwell, I'm like I'm, literally literally when we're done, I'm going Ta watch itbecause that's like my speed like when you don't want to think that is what Ime. The first season is on Netflix. I think the first two seasons are onNetflix and then they may be on paramount plus, because it's an MTVshow yeah. I Haven' I had to buy the bisexual season just final season on it:N Apple, okay, after you type end or the end ofyour script. What is your personal ritual? Do you light a cigarette log onto grinder like what do you do? Neither of those things I I put it away and then I reread it thenext day and hate it okay. What is your favorite moment fromyour script? Letters to Satan clase my favorite moment has to be when theangel cookies start to talk, Lovan acky and she eats one and the enther onestart to cry and then she's thrown in the oven by SatanClaus. I love that scene so much because afterseeing that movie every time- and you know during Covid we're eating way toomuch- or at least I am- I literally envision that scene I'm like do. Ireally need to eat this. It's like not Ri rat's, like I could end up dead inthe oven, Yeah Ive, your cookiesis, your littlecookie children and you won't eat them. Ogat! That's you know. I loved okay,tell everybody where you want them to find and follow you sure, I'm on instagram on Itszara shots like pictures, Tbat, you might think Tikilaand then I'm on twitter and that's where I'm more active and that Zaratalks, like speaking so I'm very you know interesting with M myhandles...

...there. You Go. That's it well, Michael! Thank you so much forchatting me with me today and I just I just have to tell ourveers. You have to watch letters to Satan clause it's available forstreaming and even though it's not Christmas, it's such great viewing andit's going to give you a lot of a lot of pleasures. So look that up- and thathas been my chat with Michael Zara. You can read our full interview at Metro,Scortscom and that's our episode. Like I said, I'm the lead rider forMetrosource you can follow me at Alexander, is on the AR on instagramand until next time, stay true stay healthy and do you boo that has been another metof sorce manylake share, subscribe on your favorite podcast player and check out the latestissue, O letroscorts magazine on New Stans or online at Nettcortscom. Followus on Facebook, instagram at Dase sort and on twinnere TAT's a course tatuntil next time, ta a.

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