Megan Freels Johnston is a director and screenwriter who has delved into the horror genre with her latest film, "The Ice Cream Truck" which is scheduled to be released by Uncork’d Entertainment on August 18, 2017. The movie is an intense psychological thriller set in the suburbs.

Megan is a skilled storyteller which is unsurprising given her genes; she is the granddaughter of Elmore Leonard, a legendary crime writer. Megan as worked as a producer for more than ten years and she had adapted many of his grandfather's writings. "The Ice Cream Truck" is her own foray into writing and an experience she has been enjoying immensely.

Megan Freels Johnson recently discussed her latest scripts, her overall career in entertainment, and more in an exclusive Interview.

Becoming a filmmaker

Meagan Meehan (MM): What initially inspired you to get into movies and why did you initially focus on producing and directing?

Megan Freels Johnston (MFJ): I actually started out in the film as a producer. I had no desire to write and direct for a long time. But I did love story development. I became a producer when the economy crashed and quickly found out that people weren’t financing films. I had a lot of projects that were difficult to get off the ground or ones that were set up but then went into turn around. After years of this and the frustration that came with it, I decided I was going to make a movie one way or another.

So, I wrote my first script which was called “The Bed and Breakfast,” a horror. I tried very hard to get that made with another director but we couldn’t get the financing. So, I decided I would write another script that I could make for an even smaller budget and if no director wanted to do it, I would direct it myself. That became my first film “Rebound” and making it was a transformative experience for me and a life changing one--I became a filmmaker!

MM: Which genres do you enjoy working with most?

MFJ: I really like horror, thrillers, and film noir. I like putting everyday people into unsettling situations and seeing how they deal with it.

MM: Your grandfather was a famous crime writer, so do you think his legacy has helped to foster your creativity at all?

MFJ: I started out developing some of Elmore’s work.

I successfully produced two of those projects. I had a few others I was working on, even with pretty substantial talent attached, but they fell apart for one reason or another.

MM: What sorts of memories do you have of your grandfather?

MFJ: Elmore was a very kind and generous man. He would do anything for anyone. He was also a no crap kind of a guy. He did not believe in writer’s block since he felt that if you wanted to write you should be writing. The same goes for anything you want to do in life.

MM: When and why did you decide to start writing your own scripts?

MFJ: Truth be told, I did show an interest in writing in my younger days. This was in Junior High especially, before my social life got in the way.

But then I didn’t revisit it again until I had my first child. I’m not sure why then, but maybe I was reborn in a way. I started writing after I was in my early 30s and pretty much haven’t stopped since. I can write a script fairly quickly.

Latest film and forthcoming events

MM: What gave you the idea for "The Ice Cream Truck" and what do you think is most appealing about the script?

MFJ: I moved into a house in Highland Park, which is an area of Los Angeles and there were several ice cream trucks that would drive by. I was also very inspired by the fact that so many of them served actual ice cream cones and even banana splits. When I was growing up it was only packaged ice cream. To be honest, I found it to be kind of gross that they were serving real ice cream.

Who knows what goes on in those trucks? So, the story just sort of developed from there. But being the kind of storyteller that I am, I wasn’t going to just tell a story about an ice cream truck. “The Ice Cream Truck” became a metaphor for so much more.

MM: How long did the movie take to complete overall and what were some of the challenges of filming it?

MFJ: We shot the film over fifteen days. It wasn’t easy. The biggest challenge of indie films is always money. You don’t have as many resources, so people usually have to do tasks out of their job description, including me. I found all the locations for this movie. I also cast the whole movie myself. You have to be resourceful. I find though, that if you hire people who want to be there and you treat them well and appreciate them, it makes for a really positive set.

MM: How many other movies have you written and what are they about?

MFJ: I’ve probably written twenty scripts in six years, which is pretty crazy. I love many of them. They are mostly horror and sci-fi with a spin. They usually are about someone who is dealing with something else that serves as a parallel to the horror elements. I have a high school slasher film called “Bad Kids Die First” which is one of my favorites. I also love my new project called “Hunting Season” which I hope to shoot next year.

MM: What are some of the best things about being a professional writer, producer, and director?

MFJ: Doing all three jobs is a lot of hard work. But if you can do all three, you can really control the process.

I find in Hollywood when there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, things go SO SLOW. When you write the material, you can determine how expensive it will be, which most writers who don’t directly think about. As a producer, you can see that it gets into the right hands and you understand all the goings-on and all the variables that go into filmmaking. As a director, I can make the appropriate compromises that can benefit the story and the production as a whole. If we’re going late, it will cost more money, I won’t do it because I’m a producer, so I’m very focused on the bottom line. I think it serves me well when I’m not exhausted.

MM: Do you have any new projects or events are coming up soon and where do you hope your career will be in ten years?

MFJ: I hope to shoot another film next year. That’s the goal and, other than that, I will just take it one step at a time. I think I would be happiest only directing my own material. So, if I have four or five movies under my belt in ten years, I think that would be pretty great. There are also other projects I’m still developing, which I hope to produce. But making my own films is my true passion.