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Interview with Marcella Renee and Jonni Shandor

 Marcella Renee, thank you for this interview. My readers will not know you or your daughter Jonni Shandor. Can you please provide details about yourself and your daughter.

My daughter, Jonni Shandor, is a child actor, director, writer, cosplayer, and YouTuber.  That’s a mouthful!  She started performing in musical theater at the age of 6 and then at horror conventions in every aspect imaginable and even hosts some convention events.  She is a staple at the Days of the Dead conventions in Chicago, Atlanta, Louisville, and Indianapolis and has been invited as a celebrity guest to Raptor Con in Evansville, Indiana this August.

As for me, I’m just the stage mom/momanger turned actress but acting is very tough. You have to have a certain “it factor” that Jonni definitely without question has, but I definitely do not.

I’m not at all a bad actor, but for me to get to that point is very hard.  I’ve done one serious role in The Embalmers where I play a drunk mom, misunderstood, loves her kid, but dang my character has some serious issues. I only do roles if the director really wants me in them with Jonni or if Jonni wants me in one of her films that she made and it’s a lighthearted fun role.  Aside form that I don’t really do much acting, but I am ready to audition with Jonni in any musical theater when that starts back.

Marcella, your daughter's most recent finished movie was in a film festival.  Can you talk about the story in the movie?  Also, what platforms can people view your daughter’s film online?

The films she has been in that have been in film festivals are the ones she wrote and directed herself.

When Covid shutdowns made it impossible to film, she went above and beyond and studied which she does so well.  One of her favorite horror magazines, Rue Morgue, had a film festival where several of the people she knows and loves from conventions were the judges.  She is the biggest fan I know to Blumhouse Productions and she wrote a horror short inspired by the Blumhouse Unfriended and Truth or Dare.  The contest requirements had to be quarantine related and had to do with the seven deadly sins.  

“Should We Be Doing This?” is full of easter eggs and filmed via Zoom and stars Happy Death Day’s Rob Mello and scream queen Julie Anne Prescott

Our star editor, (And actor in the film) Rebecca Rinehart, had to cut it down to 7 minutes based on the rules so the full story isn’t as much there as we would have liked but Rebecca is an amazing editor and did this movie justice.  Rebecca herself is an actress, writer, director and really huge in the world of Indie Horror!  Her sister, Diane Fraker, is equally talented and writes and acts.  These two sisters are AWESOME!!!!!  

Jonni’s other movie was for another film festival and won it, she has also received many laurels for this film, “There’s an Alien in my Backyard!”  This film was also shot during quarantine so the actors that were not living in our household filmed themselves and sent it in and I did the editing for it with the direction of Jonni directing me what she wants.  This film also has the sisters, Rebecca and Diane along with Diane’s cat, Boo Meowovich.

Right now you can view these two films on Jonni’s YouTube channel, Monkey Vader, which is located at www.youtube.com/c/MonkeyVader which you can find under her playlist “My Films” 

 Marcella, everyone has a story to tell. What one story do you wish everyone knew about you?

Really, there’s not much to say about me, I’m just a boring family gal who loves her family and loves horror.  One story that sticks out about Jonni though is that her first time in Atlanta at Days of the Dead, she was cosplaying as Alice Cooper (one of her favorite rockstars)  She was 7 years old and her dad and I were working as celebrity handlers and she was just walking in our area taking selfies with other people.  One of the celebrities has an open table next to him and told her she could sit there so Jonni decided she was a celebrity and started offering to sell her autographs and selfies too because she really wanted to save up enough money to buy this Gene Simmons figurine she saw earlier.  Long story short, she got the toy.

I think from that moment on she decided she was going to be a horror actress.

 Marcella, what book or movies have you been reading or watching. Meaning I am using this interview to find new books or films to watch. What have you been doing?

I wish I had time to read more!  😊 I did just finish the Netflix show Behind Her Eyes and it was so good and so very creepy and the ending, oh WOW!

Jonni reads all the time, she is currently finishing up Jenna Fischers book, The Actor’s Life and she is into the Warrior Cat series.  She just got The Hobbit and is anxious to start that before she delves deep into The Lord of the Rings world.

Her movies she is obsessed with right now are Willy’s Wonderland and The Banana Splits.  She wants the Five Nights at Freddys movie to start casting and when she found out her favorite producer, Jason Blum, was taking in that project, she doesn’t stop talking about it.  

 Marcella, can you talk about your daughter’s other work in production?  Are you planning to try any film festivals or are they going to be directly released?

Jonni is working on writing and directing her first feature as of now it’s titled The Find Franko Curse and I’ve read it; she is about halfway through and it is actually surprisingly good for a 9-year-old.  She has such an imagination.

She is so busy filming other people’s movies, so she has a bit to go but she also completed her first web series called Scary Haggis which is a one-woman variety show and it is funny.  She has 2 episodes plus a Christmas special released and 2 more are being released before she starts filming season 2.

She wanted to create something for kids who like horror but don’t want to be too scared and something their parents will let them watch.  She has put a lot of thought into it and it is full of everything you could need in a variety show.  It’s actually pretty hilarious.  Each episode is about 30 minutes in length and her Christmas episode is a little over an hour.

She finished filming He Knows, Vampire Santa, and The Embalmers and I believe they will be released this year.  She has many film projects she is cast in this year now that filming is starting back up on certain things.

 Marcella, what are you doing to relieve stress during this time of home lockdown?

Well, with our schedule its been pretty busy.  But Jonni has been running and doing yoga and I hate yoga so I just run and do Zumba or kickboxing all at home.  

It was rough after about 3 months of not leaving the house, but we got over it and since we live very far out in the country we never really leave the house anyway.

Dreams: what project or script or actor or actress would be a dream for you or your daughter to get to work with?

For me, I would love, I mean absolutely LOVE, to star in a film noir type black and white silent crazy horror comedy type thing.  That would be a dream project for me, I don’t care how low-key it would be, it would be FUN!

For Jonni, she scrapes and saves every penny she makes because her main goal, big picture dream, is to go to medical school and be a dentist and an oral surgeon.  She is serious enough about this that she has already researched schools and found the one she wants.  Reasonably priced, great reviews, and I’m not kidding, she has interviewed in person, dentists in the area that have gone through that school.

But her acting dream is to meet Jason Blum, and work on some of his movies, preferably an animatronic movie like the new FNAF that is not yet in pre-production.

Another great Jonni story is right before the shutdowns in 2020, she wrote a letter to Blumhouse Productions, she wrote it 100% on her own, I didn’t even know about it until her brother told me he had edited her letter.

That letter got her an audition for the starring role of the new Firestarter remake and then everything got shutdown and they still haven’t cast that role.  She keeps telling me she wants to write them again and ask for another audition because since shutdowns she has done nothing but self-tape workshops, private coaching, etc etc Jonni knows how to keep busy

 Marcella, the classic question: what charity do you work with and can you provide a link to it so others can see too please.

I used to do a lot of work with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation which you can find all kinds of ways of volunteering through www.cff.org