The Movie Waffler Interview - I AM LISA Star Kristen Vaganos | The Movie Waffler

Interview - I AM LISA Star Kristen Vaganos

kristen vaganos interview
Kristen Vaganos discusses her new werewolf thriller.

In her new film I Am Lisa, versatile thesp Kristen Vaganos plays a young woman who, after being brutalised and left for dead in the woods, is bitten by a werewolf. We caught up with Vaganos to talk about her superlative performance in the film, comparisons to Ginger Snaps, and her blossoming producing career.

kristen vaganos interview


Congrats on all your success this year! Do you remember the day you were pitched I Am Lisa?

Yes, thank you! The writer Eric Winkler actually found me and my work online and sent me an early draft of I Am Lisa. At the time the script needed a bit of work - he’s a first time screenwriter - but I was so flattered that he’d pitch me a film that really stands on Lisa’s shoulders. When he sent me a new draft a year later, I was so stoked to take on the role.


Are there any other movies you think its reminiscent of?

Ginger Snaps is comparable in that both films use the werewolf transformation as a coming of age metaphor for their female leads but Ginger is much more excited by her change more than Lisa. She sees it as a near sexual awakening while Lisa is terrified of what she may become and even more so, what she might lose. When Animals Dream similarly depicts a young female werewolf killing those that bullied her.


How would you describe the tone?

I Am Lisa is more of a character driven revenge film than a gory horror film showcasing flashy effects - ours are actually quite minimal and realistic. We even incorporate brief moments of comedy or levity to break the tension which  (director) Patrick Rea, Eric and I all agreed on to help the film not take itself too seriously and give the audience a breather. In many ways, its a coming of age for Lisa, or coming into power may be more accurate.


How much of the film was on the page and how much came together on the set – via improvisation and input from you and other actors?

Most of what you see is scripted but the entire cast was very grateful to how open and collaborative Eric and Patrick were in terms of adjustments or alts. Any time an actor pitches an alternative line or questions an intention, they were open to discussing and Eric has said many times that his goal was to hire all the right people who are good at their jobs and then let them play, so it was a very open collaborative set. The only scene that is completely different to its scripted version is Deputy Nick’s death scene. Logistically we ended up shooting the scene with different SFX and in a different location so I remember Chris Bylsma, the actor, and I were rewriting the scene while getting our SFX makeup applied; it was kind of awesome!


How did you approach playing Lisa?

My first impression of Lisa was that she is an introvert whose happy place is sitting in a café with her best friend Sam, escaping into the fictional world of a good book, and smoking a joint. She doesn’t have much but is content and values what she has tremendously. I decided that her parents died young and she was raised by her grandmother, who dies just before the film starts and leaves Lisa the bookshop that I figure feels more like home to her than anywhere. I focussed on her devotion to those things because it's the threat of losing them that motivates her throughout the film. She’ll go down before anyone touches Sam and that store… she successfully saves one of them.


What do you think audiences will like best about it?

I think audiences will love watching the bullies go down… bit of a spoiler alert but Lisa is so easy to root for and it’s exciting watching her come into herself, take the reins on the changes, and avenge the town’s corrupt law enforcement. It’s so interesting to have several of the leads be female too because it’s more complex than just women win, men lose. The conflict in Lisa is hierarchal and the sheriff uses scare tactics and nepotism to control the town but Lisa fights back against that.


What do you think you'll do next?

I have a couple more films coming out this year but I’ve also leaned into writing and producing during the pandemic, while a couple films of mine are postponed. I just produced and have a role in a film called Bobcat Moretti starring Vivica A Fox, Taryn Manning, Matt Peters, Sally Kirkland and more. Eric Winkler and I are writing and developing an LGBTQ addiction-themed drama called Sober and I’m working on some projects of my own! It’s been really lovely to step into a higher position of creative authority on films; I’m eager to continue to do so.


What do you love most about the horror genre?

I love how devoted the fanbase is actually. Patrick, Eric, and our SFX makeup artist Jake can talk endlessly about horror films, comparing and reviewing, and I respect how much of an inner society it is and how read up fans are. It’s an honour to step into the world and play around. I hope I did the genre justice!

I Am Lisa is currently playing US cinemas. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.