‘The 16th Episode’ Star Rebecca Ramon Discusses Dynamics, Disconnecting, and Going Dark [Interview]
How many views is your life worth? Written and directed by Jérôme Cohen-Olivar, The 16th Episode invites audiences to question their dedication to social media as “Three YouTubers, each with their own inner demons, visit the fictional town of Casablanca. With their viewership down, they get invited to attend a satanic ritual and soon realize that maybe all their audience wants is to see them die.” The found-footage mockumentary stars Rebecca Ramon, Cody Heuer, and Einar Kuusk.
Playing the lead and chillingly complex role of Helen, Rebecca Ramon embraces a confident sense of pride in being “a tough woman,” all her own, one “who is able to overcome any obstacle in pursuit of her career aspirations”. In addition to working in broadcast television and film production, Ramon also has experience teaching college students at The Art Institute of CA-Inland Empire.
When filming of The 16th Episode came to an end, Ramon began working on her own web series, Housing Skid Row, as well as maintaining a position at No Roads Productions, a full-service marketing agency that specializes in behind the scenes and electronic press kits.
If that is not impressive enough, she has served as an Assistant Editor and Logger for films including Paul Feig’s A Simple Favor, Baltasar Kormákur’s Adrift, Nicolas Winding Refn’s Too Old To Die Young, and has done additional work on Brian Henson’s Happy Time Murders and Netflix’s When They See Us. I was fortunate enough to speak with Ramon about the power of dynamics, applying her Youtube experience, and finding dark inspiration as she stars in her debut feature film.
Tough woman? You bet. That and so much more.
I had a great time watching The 16th Episode. It was a lot of fun!
Awesome, thank you!
I loved your character, Helen. In the beginning I wanted to be friends with her. It’s seems like a half and half role going from good Helen to bad Helen. You really don’t expect the intensity of what happens to her and that’s something I really like in a film. How did you get involved with The 16th Episode? What drew you to the role of Helen?
Well, I feel like I’m at the top of my life. I was really creating my own projects and putting them on YouTube. In that aspect I definitely resonated with Helen as a YouTuber. I am a filmmaker who, as a child, has always wanted to act. As I grew up I just kind of became more practical and thought I wanted to do something where I know I can have a job that actually pays me. I thought I would go into post-production and editing, so I’ve always had that as my strong suit so to speak. I also thought the story resonated with me because I just felt like she got lost in the world that she was creating and I feel like that often sometimes happens for filmmakers, to become so engrossed in their own projects that they often lose sight of what’s going on around them in their own world. That really kind of resonated with me at that moment.
“Having those experiences and knowing what it’s like to desperately need to present something that’s marketably viable definitely was right at the forefront of my mind as well as in our performances. We just had a really interesting dynamic.”
When I read the script I fell in love with it and then I watched all of Jérôme Cohen-Olivar’s films and I just love the way that he was able to apply his visual style of storytelling and I just wanted to be a part of it because I thought it was pretty amazing to have this person just change from day to night simply because she was so involved with what she was doing.
I thought the idea of social media and the importance of social media in society is a theme that was very strong there and I can totally relate to that. I just think that it will resonate with a lot of people because with social media we all try to connect using that, but at the same time we’re just disconnecting on more personal levels and I feel like it’s kind of like the end of civilization in a way.
Telling these types of stories is important for people to see that and to be able to do it all through a horror movie makes it even cooler because it’s a fun film and it’s scary at the same time where there some serious messages being told.
“…the story resonated with me because I just felt like she got lost in the world that she was creating and I feel like that often sometimes happens for filmmakers, to become so engrossed in their own projects that they often lose sight of what’s going on around them in their own world.”
There are a lot of serious themes. What better way to put it than in a horror movie perspective that resonates with a lot of people? Those themes are so heavy and everybody is so easily influenced. I totally get what drew you there. I did not know that you were a YouTuber before, so that’s another thing that’s really great. Were you able to use your experience there as far as like as your role, going to the different locations and all?
Absolutely. A lot of the dialogue, there’s not a whole lot of it, which is one of the things I loved about the script. That’s why I want to be a filmmaker, because I want to tell stories visually and that’s what this is. So I was totally excited about that. The dialogue that was there included a lot of improv, which was amazing that we were all we given that freedom to do that because a lot of that came from us and from me just living with my co-actors we bonded so well. What you see on screen is how we would interact offscreen. So that was all that was amazing. My co-stars are also all actors and filmmakers so we got to definitely take from our real life experiences as filmmakers and interject that into the film. It was easy for me to kind of say “Hey guys, we really need to get this. We just need one episode” because I know how important it is sometimes to package something in order to get the end result whether it’s a pitch package or a good series that will help hopefully somebody will turn into a full length documentary.
Having those experiences and knowing what it’s like to desperately need to present something that’s marketably viable definitely was right at the forefront of my mind as well as in our performances. We just had a really interesting dynamic.
I really liked the dynamic. You mentioned the improv, it did seem so real, like that would be how me and my friends would be if we were in the car long enough, bickering back and forth. Your character seems like the peacekeeper in the beginning, trying to keep things calm and under control, a little bit more practical than the other two guys. It reminded me a lot of the one we hold to such a high standard when it comes to found footage, The Blair Witch Project, because there was a lot of organic chemistry there.
Awesome! Thank you, yes it definitely is and I felt that way too. For me, I was always intrigued with “How will the audience take that?”. I’m really excited to see.
“What you see on screen is how we would interact offscreen.”
I took it well, I liked that most about it. The dynamic worked. Now there are so many different kinds of standards and tropes when it comes to men and women, especially in horror. The 16th Episode doesn’t really follow a set rules, it kind of made its own rules. I appreciated that it was more organic.
I think that we probably all owe that to Jérôme Cohen-Olivar. His style of directing was really refreshing because I went into it with certain expectations of how it was going to be and how I might be directed and it was completely different than that. He didn’t make us over-rehearse anything which is kind of something that I went into this thinking that was going to happen and it wasn’t that way. He really put the importance on us bonding and loving and letting that be what we go with, so it was definitely organic. Him allowing us the freedom to be ourselves with one another and to create and use that dynamic on film I think was amazing.
Speaking of freedom, when Helen is possessed, how did you approach that? She goes pretty dark and it seems like you’re able to change your expressions so quickly, it was terrifying. How do you trigger those emotions, how did you prepare to go from someone similar to yourself to a demonic being?
That’s a good question! It was it was organic. I feel like a lot of it came from, again, the dynamics of the cast. They really know how to push my buttons in real life and they were able to do it in front of the camera as well. I definitely used a lot of that, just the frustration of working with two younger boys. Like we’re all playing a group of young YouTubers, but in reality I’m twice their age. In reality I kind of was the “mom” of the group, so there’s that extra dynamic. So it’s like when you have to punish your little boys for constantly misbehaving and they argue that’s what it was… to the extreme.
“I just wanted to be a part of it because I thought it was pretty amazing to have this person just change from day to night simply because she was so involved with what she was doing.”
Oh, I love it. I’m sure going dark like that is not part of your everyday life. It’s probably not your automatic personality state, obviously. I did enjoy that The 16th Episode utilizes a lot of practical effects. Like you said, just seeing things visually instead of relying on dialogue, which is where movies go to die. The practical effects. What was it like shooting some of those big scenes being this is your debut acting film?
That’s correct, yes. It was bloody. Those were some cold nights where we were in one particular location and there was almost a whole week that I was covered in blood and that was interesting and fun. I think the scariest practical stunt that we did was when I was on the ceiling. It was a 12-foot ceiling, maybe more, but it seemed endless. I panicked because I looked down and saw this porcelain tub underneath me and thought “I could fall and hit my head or something”. My mind was going crazy up there and I just I really had to just take it all in and start doing some breathing exercises and meditation and focus on the tile in front of me to put myself in the moment. It was scary, but it was very thrilling and exciting. It was definitely worth it.
Your fear was totally worth it! It all looked really great, scary authentic. Are you working on anything currently? Do you have anything planned in the future that you can share with me?
Actually I do. I’m developing so many products. Specifically in the past it has been documentaries, but currently I am working on developing a feature psychological thriller with a screenwriter friend of mine, we went to film school together at Chapman University. We’re hoping to pitch it this year because it’s a film that definitely has to be made. I’m hoping that everyone will be seeing it within the next two years.
My eyes will be wide open, that’s for sure.
Jérôme Cohen-Olivar’s The 16th Episode is coming to theaters as well as on VOD and Digital.