We chatted to Naomi McDougall Jones about her new film Bite Me and much more!
Naomi McDougall Jones is an actress, writer, filmmaker and author. With one feature film under belt, Naomi’s next acting-writing-producing effort is Bite Me, a very different take on the vampire character.
We chatted with Naomi all about the film and her wider career. Read on below to check out our conversation.
We’ll be chatting about your new film Bite Me. Before getting into that directly, what made you decide to pursue a career in the entertainment industry?
Naomi McDougall Jones: I wanted to be an actress from the time I was very small. My mom tells a story that she took me to see The Nutcracker when I was 4 years old and I stood up somewhere in the middle of the second act and said, “I want to do that!”
Who knows where that comes from? I just had the burning passion to be a part of storytelling from a very, very young age. I went to acting school in New York City, got out of school and became quickly disillusioned by the roles available for women. They are, as you may have heard, horrible.
I decided to become a filmmaker to write better roles for women. Also, I wanted to tell stories that I wasn’t seeing on-screen.
Bite Me has been described as a “vampire rom-com” yet also subversive. Could you elaborate on this? What makes the film stand out from previous vampire-romance stories?
Naomi McDougall Jones: For one thing, our vampires are not supernatural. In our actual, real world, there is a global community of people who identify as vampires. They don’t believe they’re supernatural or that they’re going to live forever. But, they believe they need to either drink blood or feed on energy to stay healthy.
Our vampires in Bite Me are part of that community. While we may have seen vampires fall in love before, we rarely see them fall in love with IRS agents. It’s really a film about finding the courage to be who you are and being brave enough to let somebody else see that.
You wear many hats on Bite Me. How did you find approaching the film from these different angles?
Naomi McDougall Jones: I write, act and produce my films and love that so much. As a writer, you only get to be part of the beginning of the process. As an actor, you only get to be part of production. Of course, producers get to be part of the whole thing.
It’s like getting to be a wizard, you know? You write stories and characters, imagine them in your office and spend years working on the script. Then, on some magical day, other grown-ups play dress-up with you. Build the sets that you wrote and make the props you dreamed up.
To what extent did you write the lead role with yourself in mind? If so, did that inform any choices within the screenplay itself?
Naomi McDougall Jones: I think because my career as a filmmaker and author has taken off, I’m less able to act in other people’s projects. I just don’t have time to act in other people’s movies as often. The deal I’ve made with myself is “Okay, I’m going to get to act in a couple of movies every 3-4 years. But, I get to write literally the best parts I can imagine myself to play.” It’s kind of like an actor’s dream.
Not so much that I’m in characters that are close to me, necessarily. Sarah’s very, very different from me in the film. I get to write the characters I’m most interested in playing, Particularly, from a woman’s perspective, I always try to write female characters that we’ve never seen before on-screen.
Where can people see Bite Me once it’s available?
Naomi McDougall Jones: In the UK, it’s already available for pre-order. You can go on Apple TV and iTunes. From February 15th, it is available on Amazon as well. So, Apple TV, iTunes and Google Play.
Away from the screen, you’ve also given TedTalks about parity and womanhood in Hollywood. How important is it, for you personally, to speak up about these topics?
Naomi McDougall Jones: This is something I just fell into. I fell into it because I had a lot of experiences in my early 20s as an actress in New York that were less than ideal. They were also kind of the experiences that you expect to have as an actress. Abuse, being overlooked and all these things.
At the time, I honestly brushed those off. I was like, “it doesn’t matter, I’m just here to do what I’m here to do. I can survive this.” Then, I became a filmmaker and that was when I really started to understand the depths of sexism in the industry. On my first feature film Imagine I’m Beautiful, we had an all-female producing team.
People would say things to us like, “Well girls, you know you’re going to need a male producer on board. Just so people trust you with their money.” This never-ending refrain that people don’t want to see films about women. It never made any sense to me, women are 51% of the population. So they don’t want to see films about themselves? It’s insulting and just insane. This was 2011.
At film screenings, we would talk about what happened. It was like sticking my finger in an electric socket. There was this huge response, people were outraged and flabbergasted to hear this was happening. I got put on the global speaking circuit, talking about this. I think some other people were talking about it, too.
Then, a lot of people were not talking about it. They understood how dangerous it was to one’s career to talk about it. I was too dumb to know it was risky.
In addition to Bite Me, are there any other projects people can look out for?
Naomi McDougall Jones: Sure! Well, my third feature film is called Hammond Castle and we’re shooting it in March 2023. It’s a magical realism piece about a 7-month pregnant woman who gets locked overnight in a castle full of famous ghosts. I wrote it, I’m in it and producing it again.
What would you like to accomplish with the rest of 2022?
Naomi McDougall Jones: I just submitted my second manuscript to a publisher. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to sell it and re-write it. Hopefully, that will come out either late 2022 or early 2023. I’m also acting a film that I didn’t write called Cherry Raisins that we’re shooting in May.
It’s about 2 estranged sisters who get stuck on a road trip together heading to their father’s deathbed. I’m really looking forward to shooting that as well.