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, the official podcast to Metrosource magazine and home of short form interviews with your favorite personalities from the lgbt world and Beo Quick Fun and informative. It's metral source on the go out in cousins like 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 be devas can't be outfits. Well, not actually camping hate it. We also love those hollmark movies. You know the ones I'm talking about with the same storylines but different actors, and we love those movies on Scifi Shark Nado. Anyone. What is that old you that there was a pioneer from our community that was bringing those genres together? Yes, Michael Zar is an lgbtq writer and with a passion for telling poppy character, driven stories that are female and queer focused hes, developed original pilots. It's a mystery for the CW and kill the lights for Youtube. Originals and his horrod comedy a homewark channels, Christmas paroty letters to Satan Claus Er this past December on Scifi, which was also his full screenwriting debut. By the way he was a writer on the upcoming drama series, crime farm by Nicol, Kidmin's blassan films. He also wrote for Tandt's major crimes. He also cowrote the unauthorized musical parody of tean witch at the ground lames and he is coewriting the horror feature of prom dress, based on the classic, and by classic I mean in the S, that's now considered classic Youg adult novel. We featured him on Metrosourcecom. Please welcome Mike Zara. I that's a mouthful wow. Well, that's at the first time, I've heard that s Michael, why? Why Do Game Men love camp? 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 were typically very imaginative people and creative and- and I almost feel like it's it's the adult version F of cartoons of our childhood right. I mean the Saturday morning, sort of bright and shiny and fun. You know bringing itto adulthood. Well, I ein your career. You really focus you know, bringing that camp quality, but you you really focus on women characters as well as characters from our own community and we love ourdevas. You know we love our Barba Stri sans. Our LIESA MINALES are lady Goga. Why are gaymen drawn to female devas rather than like some of the? Like? You know some of the mail characters from entertainment, yeah that I meanit's so interesting. Isn't it I don't know. I think there is something maybe getting to live vicuriously through them in a way like it's. It's just such an interesting thing. Yeah, I don't know it's like playing with barbies, which I did as a kid. You know it's sort of this fantasy right come to life, I mean there's I mean drag race and all the drag queen stuff, 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 almost like 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 do religious plays and the most popular characters which they had to tone down and totally change were the the villains. You know was the devil character or like the evil snake, because they're so fun and I think the female characters I mean they get to wear the outfits. They have the makeup. They have the jewelry, just aesthetically they're more interesting to look at than say you know a cowboy...

...on a horse, even though that has its own. You know givintry that we loved, but it's just. I think I think you Nawtba it's like this bigger than life, and you know I think, when we're in the closet 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 center of 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 do that, be the focus and they look damn good right, wan it yeh yeah being loud and 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 talked before about your early influences. You loved nightmare on Elm Street for and Little Mermaid, which is such a delicious combination of you know like the Disney like everything's happy, but then kind of like that camp, horr kind of sensibility, and then you know, whae, look back at the hoar films from th s and there's a lot of eye candy going on for the boys. You know you know the like. We know it's from nightmare on El Street, the first one of course Johnny Depp in his crop top and his Grac web pants. But there's you know, there's some homoerotic qualities there as well, but we typically think of horror as straightman genre, but that's not necessarily the case. No, I think gay queer people. I can't remember. I read this article once I did a bunch of research on on horror, conventions and sort of sometimes sort of the underdogs of the world, which you know W en, when you're in the closetor you're being bullied as a kid which I was 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 of like it's almost like we can relate to being the quote, Unquote Freak Right, interesting yeah. I thought that was such an interesting thing because I feel, like you know, if you go to the horror conventions, when you know we weren't in a pandemic, there's all walks of life and I met a lot of Qeer people. I met a lot of people with you know that, were you know in wheelchairs or had had you know cancer and had gone through that and there's something about there's a unifying thing with you know, people that have gone had struggled through things that you know so there's something about like seeing the popular beautiful people getting chopped up. You know that's ansaiig yeah, it's kind of like oor little payback, you know that'sthat's it that's very interesting and it's this escape. You know I experience that same kind of feeling when o go to like a start, trek convention where you have all of these other people that are not necessarily in the mainstream public view. That may me a little different in so many different ways and it's a way for everybody 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 forauly enjoyed because I love like. I said I love those homemark films, which was your your full film, screenwriting debut. How did you get involved with Scifi and what was that pitch meeting like because it's an interesting fil right? 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 and really bonded with the executive, and we just had very similar taste and a couple months. I think later I was...

...up at night late watching in bed a hallmark movie as one does and ha o do as we Dani thougt. I just kind of had that OPRA Aha moment. You know I'm sure Oprah would be offended. Bi Masing the Omomen, the tin, but but I just thought like there should be, and why isn't there a horror paroty of these Christmas TV movies and that's really how it was born? I wrote up like an eight page document and I think the original title was a very murdery Christmas and t e sent it to Scifi and all of a sudden we were, you know I was it was greenlid and I was writing the script and then we started shooting a couple months later and he's bink. It was very fast- and you know I remember the very early days of Scifi and as we were talking, it seemed like a very macho guide channel. You know we had o have naked girls running around. We had these bigger than live creatures that were kind of in all these Macho Macho men, but it thin tha that culture is changing. Your film is very representative 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. Are these conversations being ad by the network or you just kind of brought it to them or yeah? I brought it. I brought it to them. I I this. The script was chalk ball of o diversity, a D, and you know I had written this before the sort of onslaught of the the lgbtq themed movies that came out at the around the same time. I obviously didn't know what other people were. Writing so I mean I was happily ssurprised to see other people doing similar things, just not with horror yeah, but no, it wasn't really a discussion it 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 interest because there were multiple as making fun of like all the options the hole you 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 a transactor and he was amazing and and and that was a choice of our director, Ema, Gen, Soi, Linden Yeah. It was very, very cool. I've never 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 the past. Ha had have kind of shoe away from, so I wanted to lean into it. So you're kind of poking fun of the the Gen re, but also trying to you know push it into our current time right now, if somebody that usually gets pigeon 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, you I can do other things. Do you think it's career limiting to write in a certain genre? Because not only are you writing in the LGBTQ genre, but then you also are you know you have this love and writing these kind of nich horror scripts. Do you think it's like double limiting? Do you think it's going 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. You know that that's a totally different genre and that's pretty you know much more straightforward. I you know I have a little bit of comedy. I have a little bit of Ya. I have I really...

I kind of refuse to be. You know boxed in and I I think, just in general genre is sort of changing and, and I think somebody like Jordan, peel kind of made horror. You know sexy again a yeah annstream and you know you have big places like Hbo and Net Max and Netflix doing more horror. Esq, you know shows so I don't know I I mean knock on wood. I'm not like just you know, forced to write a SIDFI movie every year I want to do. I want to do it all and and currently I'm developing a bunch of stuff that are, and it's from Hya mystery to horror, comedy to like a fantastical kind of Harry Potter 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 major crimes. It's a network! It's a Straightforwad serial crime show which is much different than you know like we talke about what you're writing now what Di you learn from your time there and was it stifling at all towards your creativity, 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 bouncing off 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 you know rite for like a district attorney and her seech. You know in the courtroom, but but it was it. It showed me that I had more tools in my belt than I thought, so no, I really embraced it and loved it. And yes, I was scared at first, but you know it. It worked and paid off and I meate some amazing friends there and really really wonderful people. It was a great group and yeah. I really did stretch some muscles there N, and that was that was awesome. So no and I got to also have my Mycozara Sniss to you know I got to really put my humor and, and we had an lgbtq teenage character that I used to. You know really identify with and and was really focused on his storylines and stuff like that. Now. What is your creater process when you're writing something new where you hold up in your room somewhere like in the corner and it's dark and you have like candles in the back you're like drinking every night, or do you doouline it it do? You do you have like postet notes on your wall y? I don't drink, I don't drink and write it's a weird thing. I try yeah a lot of coffee, but you know for me: I usually it just there's sort of a kernel of an idea that kind of comes to me and and then I start to explore it, and I either send the idea to my my representation Y, my agents and managers and and see what they think and then it from there. I expand and yeah. Typically what I do is kind of come up with a treatment or an outline and go from there. But I am you know I don't have the beautiful mindwall of of postits and everything like that, a lot of it's just here and and yeah I just I just kind of go, but I it's very I'm an instinctual writer I was self taught I didn't go to sow for...

...it and- and I kind of learned by watching a lot of TV and film, but also you know, I learned when I was an assistant in writers, rooms and really the structure and and character and and all of that but yeah, it's all it's all there. I don't know if it's that's a good method, but that's kind of well hey t seems to be working. I woant to talk about prom dress, which is kind of you know, kind of the last project that you've been able to talk about yeah. How did you choose this book and for our audience as the title suggestit's about a prom dress, yeah, maybe a little sinister, maybe a little bad things happen when you wear it. But how did you choose this book out of so much material out there and are you going to update it? What can we expect sure? So it was a book from my childhood. It was part of these point core novels that scholastic did and a bunch of Christopher Pike and Dean Coops. And all these all these big corro writers, Aralstein wrote these point. Horror Movies or these point horror novels, excuse me and I always thought prom dress could be a movie and it's yes, it's about this Pirst vintage prondress that once you put it on it kind of takes over your body and you start to do bad things and and yeah. I chased down the rights for that book for ten years and last I just thought I just I just knew there was something special about 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 twenty nine wivhe, two kickass queer leads. You know one's nonbinary, the other one is 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 twenty one version of the story and Yeah we're out to some producers, and I hope, to share some news soon. But I can't say anything until you know: There's income t e the contract. Now what were you that kind of Nerdy kid like? I was remember in school. They would have this cholastic book far and then Om and they would bring like noe samples and then you would have they would hande you like a menu almost and then you would check off all the ones you wanted. It was like hundred and hundreds of dollars and your parents had to say no yea. You were the nerd that would delivery. Day was like the 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 of stuff, 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. Just that was like something very I don't know, maybe in Arizona that's what they do, but yeah kind of a similar sort of thing where you kind of checkmark things, and then your mom says no, that's way too much but yeah, but it was 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 almost like a newspaper time. Oi had certain Smell, Oh God, even Talki, like you said talking about it. Just kind of puts me back yeah, okay, so they announce that paranormal seven is coming out and you know I love horror films. 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 care for I'll still see it is this kind of captured, footage or Filma. We know they're so cheap to to produce, and then they make millions and millions and millions at the box office m. But...

...when we're looking at a script, there's kind of like it's like a poring script, they barely do an exposition and then the 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 the people that are seeing paranormal activity, you know, will go see. Prom dress, you know, but there you know we all have our sort of preferences. I think I think the more the marrier honestly. I don't think you know the sort of trends they kind of come and go right like it's like a you know, the found footage thing was really hot in the lates early sands and then it died down, and then it came back in like two thousand and eight and then it died down and now it's coming back and and so it's a cycle. So I don't think it's to be scared. F of that stuff, and you know in this pandemic world. You know that kind of thing is is much easier 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 that they 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. They wouldn't have been able to shoot it F if it weren't, for you know that technology now I remember when Blair witch first came out and it was the first kind of video movie like that that I had seen. I was so scared. I actually slept in my mom's room for two nights, because my imagination made it more scary than I think anything they could have put on film right, but when it was new, it was like that's the scariest thing I think I've ever seen and then of course now we just kind of look back at it and kind of laugh, but your woll take on on that kind of film and you know if it could kind of ruin the genre your take on it, its so positive and that's from our discussions and from you know getting to know you a little bit is that you know you're not like a mean girl, gay in the industry. You tend 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 I know that I love like you, know bloody stuff and people dying, and but I do try to have heart in everything that I write and it's just it's just who I am it's not. You know sure I can. I can get down on myself and be you know a little jealous if I hear of like some amazing project, and you know why didn't I get that job or why didn't I get hired for that show I just I just you just can't sustain that and if you do yeah, there's there's a bitterness and an ugliness that I just life is life is way too short for that personally, 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 to get some of that anger out you when you're a writer, you can do it through your characters. You know so you know, maybe I'm killing somebody in a script that I'm you know taking out mator on on a certain situation, but no I do try to be positive and it is just it's just inherent it's not it's not me. You know trying to be more Hollmarky thatthat really does come across as that it does come from a sincere place. It's not put on you know, there's a lot of us in the community. That kind of put on this kind of positive face. That's not you know it's not 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 are villain from the Hor Genre? Do you wish was real O hm? I mean just because he's so fun chucky. 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, my friends, I'm so mad at them still got me hooked on this MTV reality show called. 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 early twenty somethings that are thrown in a house together and they through experts have been paired up, but they don't know who is their perfect match and then they have to pair each other up every week. And if you have perfect pairs by the end of the season, you collectively win a million dollars which sounds like a tankgn teny people they all get so drunk and have sex with everyone in there. So like determined that this is their person. But it's like 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 that is my guilty pleasure. I am not usually a reality dude unless it's baking with British people o that it's yeah argue the one who yeah well, I'm like I'm, literally literally when we're done, I'm going Ta watch it because that's like my speed like when you don't want to think that is what I me. The first season is on Netflix. I think the first two seasons are on Netflix and then they may be on paramount plus, because it's an MTV show 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 of your script. What is your personal ritual? Do you light a cigarette log on to grinder like what do you do? Neither of those things I I put it away and then I reread it the next day and hate it okay. What is your favorite moment from your script? Letters to Satan clase my favorite moment has to be when the angel cookies start to talk, Lovan acky and she eats one and the enther one start to cry and then she's thrown in the oven by Satan Claus. I love that scene so much because after seeing that movie every time- and you know during Covid we're eating way too much- or at least I am- I literally envision that scene I'm like do. I really need to eat this. It's like not Ri rat's, like I could end up dead in the oven, Yeah Ive, your cookiesis, your little cookie 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 Tikila and then I'm on twitter and that's where I'm more active and that Zara talks, like speaking so I'm very you know interesting with M my handles...

...there. You Go. That's it well, Michael! Thank you so much for chatting me with me today and I just I just have to tell our veers. You have to watch letters to Satan clause it's available for streaming and even though it's not Christmas, it's such great viewing and it's going to give you a lot of a lot of pleasures. So look that up- and that has 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 for Metrosource you can follow me at Alexander, is on the AR on instagram and until next time, stay true stay healthy and do you boo that has been another metof sorce many lake share, subscribe on your favorite podcast player and check out the latest issue, O letroscorts magazine on New Stans or online at Nettcortscom. Follow us on Facebook, instagram at Dase sort and on twinnere TAT's a course tat until next time, ta a.

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