Jason Paul Cullom’s newest opus, ‘October Moon’, is the story of young 'straight' Elliot who is rejected by family and friends as well as his fiancée when he discovers he has fallen in love with another man. To complicate matters even further the object of Elliot’s affections is already involved in a long-term committed relationship. Emotionally confused and distraught, when Elliot finds himself rejected by all those around him as well as his beloved things get very ugly.

The veteran cast of ‘October Moon’ includes some well-known figures in horror cinema such as Judith O’Dea (Night of the Living Dead), Brinke Stevens (Grandma’s House, Delta Delta Die, The Haunting Fear), Jeff Dylan Graham (The Faculty, Zombiegeddon, Cremains), Tina Ona Paukstelis (Aswang: The Unearthing, Julia Wept), and Darcey Vanderhoff (The Frightening, Deadly Stingers). The film also features a fine performance by relative newcomer Sean Michael Lambrecht as the Elliot’s crush.

The pivotal role of Elliot in ‘October Moon’ is being played by established stage actor, and relative film newcomer, Jerod Howard. His realistic, simmering and ultimately combustive performance has been receiving much deserved attention. It definitely seems the start of something big! Recently I had the chance to talk with Mr. Howard about his role as Elliot as well as the film.


  Owen: You've had some smaller parts but 'October Moon' is your first major film role.  How did you land the role of Elliot?

Jerod: Director Jason Paul Cullom and I met in a club through acquaintances. We hit it off. He talked about film, I talked about stage. Jason is really a fun guy. We ran into each on and off over a couple of years. Being the dedicated artist he truly is, Jason had moved to the west coast to pursue his film career. While back in town once, He told me about this project he was working towards, and I could see the fire in his eyes already. Around that time I had landed some background and stand-in work on major studio projects in Chicago. I was already quite familiar with the production demands of film. He told me his game plan. I was impressed by his spirit. I was immediately drawn in by the story. Then he really threw me when he offered me the role. He had faith in my acting and that I could utilize my background in stage to really propel the script forward. After that talk we kept in touch and around three years later we began principle shooting for "October Moon".  

Owen: How difficult was it to inhabit the role such a demented character?  What were the primary things it helped to keep in mind to get into character for Elliot?

Jerod: Wow. Where to start. When I first look at a script, it's a surface study and eventually what's under the skin is realized through other characters and circumstance. But in this situation, with the unique style of October Moon and our tight shooting schedule, I was afraid I wasn't going to find Elliot. Not to the level that was called for in the flow of the story line. Then I realized that true to the script, what happens to Elliot is not planned, and for him it's definitely not the right time. He gets hit right in the gut and he's got to go on from there. There is a progression to his evil, but he is truly a tortured soul. I gave my best shot to try to hit every mark while staying spontaneous in the moment.

Owen: Elliot's violence stems from his own self-loathing regarding his repressed sexuality.  Is it gratifying to be in a film that, although it is classified as horror/drama, actually contains an underlying message on the importance of self-acceptance?

Jerod: You hit the nail right on the head. I can't even describe how rewarding it feels to be a part of conveying that message. What I found in common with the character is how easily people tend to be so damn hard on themselves for whatever reason, valid or not. Self-acceptance is so important on many levels. I saw a film a couple nights ago that had this running line and theme of "how am I not being myself". It really can become a tragedy when people don't like or even appreciate the wealth within themselves.

Owen: You're primarily a regional stage actor with a long list of diverse credits such as 'The Foreigner', 'Godspell', 'The Twelfth Night', 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest', 'The Glass Menagerie', etc.  What were the basic differences between acting on the stage and acting for the camera?

Jerod: I get different responses from people who look over my body of work in acting. "Wow, you've done allot of different projects", or "It appears that you're very versatile". My goal has always been to become a well-rounded artist. I've tried to accomplish this in my acting through different style and medium. I began working on stage adaptations of films, such as the Pulp Fiction. This was a turning point for me since I was also working through a film-casting agent in Chicago at the time. I believe that stage and film are both demanding art forms. And it is true that each has it's own school of thought. For stage, there are times when you need to be larger than life, yet controlled so as to make it appear effortless. Yet film may require the same (even though it’s assumed that when you're projected on that screen, you already are). On stage you can get a feel for the audience since they too are a living breathing part of the performance with their responses. In film, you may get that response more intimately from the crew or director following a take. I guess to me I needed to find the similarities instead of the differences so I could do my best work.

Owen: So were you a horror fan prior to the casting?  Were you aware of the work of Brinke Stevens, Judith O’Dea, Jeff Dylan Graham, and writer/director Jason Paul Collum?

Jerod: Yes. I was watching late night Universal re-releases when I was a kid along with Hammer films. The wildest scene I remember was a Dracula version with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. They had this exciting confrontation at the climax of the film that blew me away. I remember it was intense, adventurous, as well as horrific at the same time. As for my fellow actors on ‘October Moon’? Let's say I was already a fan, and if not, I became one. Judith O'Dea I had already seen when I was a teen. On set, she was professional and friendly. I learned that we share a stage background as well. Brinke, I had also seen as a teen. One of my friends has a shrine to her in his home to this day. His wife isn't too happy about that. I was already familiar with Jason's work. I am happy to know his documentary was picked up by Showtime. I was not familiar with Jeff, but was really impressed by his intent when on set. On the same subject, during a break in shooting, I was finally turned on to Tina's work. I saw ‘Aswang: The Unearthing’ and was blown away. I was excited like a kid all over again seeing her work. This happening after just shooting with her a few hours earlier that same day. It was great working with them all and watching each of these people at their art.

Owen: So what were you primary memories of the filming of 'October Moon'?

Jerod: I will never forget the unique experience of making this film and the people who gave their best to be involved. Unfortunately, during production I lost one of the most influential as well as dearest human beings that I have ever known and been able to call friend. I got the call while working on a scene. The cast was so supportive and Jason was willing to re-arrange the schedule to accommodate my leaving. I decided to stay on. My friend who passed was also an actor, and one of great talent and heart. I know that she would have wanted me to stay and finish the work -- for her, my cast, as well as for myself. The circumstances were very complicated and personal. The shooting schedule being very demanding already, I didn't think I was gonna hold up. I don't like to admit that. I try to be strong like bull whenever I can. I couldn't. If it weren't for the great people I was working with, it might not have been a film completed, as you will see. For their support, patience, and tolerance I was and am still grateful.

Owen: Any funny stories from the shoot?

Jerod: We came back from a late shoot with drinks to follow for sanity's sake. The line producer stayed behind to get some down time before the next days early call. The D.P. and I just got back and were talking about some thing or other and she (the line producer) was just coming out from a shower. Being the hard worker she is, she tried to grab something for one of us, and she lost her towel completely. We all stood in that panic shock for what felt like over 5 mins. After a few apologetic words, she was a little irritated when the only value we found in being flashed was that we didn't shoot it for the film. It was full frontal. Well, it could have made the out-takes at least!

Owen: Has this role opened doors for you careerwise?  What's next on your agenda?

Jerod: Currently on stage, I am appearing in the musical Forever Plaid, (a far cry from Elliot) and will be running up into the holiday season. During this I have also been taking trips to St Louis for more pre-production work on Paradise Lost, The Musical in which I will be playing the lead role of Satan. With the rights and legalities finally secured, I just found out they will be hiring on a great arranger for the score. What part I've played so far for this show has been a lot of fun. It looks to be a great production. For film, Jason and I have talked about another project, and I have also been recently approached by another independent producer. As long as I can create, and hopefully inspire, there's nothing I can't see myself doing for some time to come. I am just grateful for the opportunity, as well as the chance to share some of the insanity with you all.

Owen: What's something that scares you in real life?

Jerod: The fall and decline of art.