Tribeca 2024: #AMFAD: ALL MY FRIENDS ARE DEAD – A Chat with Star Jade Pettyjohn and Director Marcus Dunstan

Jade Pettyjohn as “Sarah” in the horror/thriller, #AMFAD: ALL MY FRIENDS ARE DEAD, a Cineverse release. Photo courtesy of Cineverse.

#AMFAD: All My Friends Are Dead the latest by Marcus Dunstan (Saw, Feast, The Collector), premieres this Saturday at Tribeca and will be released In Select Theaters and On Demand on August 2. Dunstan not only wrote/directed the excellent Collector duology, but wrote the Feast trilogy and a bunch of the Saw films. Here with a script by John Baldecchi, Jessica Sarah Flaum and Josh Sims, Dunstan is tackling a film premise that is fast becoming a genre unto itself in indie horror, the social media slasher. 

In a meta take on the current obsession with true crime and dark nostalgia. The film takes place two decades after Karmapalooza, a fictitious music festival that was tragically marked by the deaths of seven college students that spawned a podcast, a netflix true crime series and a feature film. In a morose cash grab the notorious fest is back to cash in on that notoriety and #AMFAD follows 7 friends who book an airbnb cabin in the woods on their way to the fest. 

We, the audience, are then paired off with the final girl-esque Sarah (Jade Pettyjohn), the newcomer to the group of long time friends who harbor a terrible secret. Jade is probably best known as Summer in the School of Rock TV Series and will no doubt be someone to watch after this film. 

I really dug #AMFAD (Review soon!) and got to chat with both Marcus and Jade about not only this film, and costar JoJo Siwa who has a surprising role to play here, but also got some great news about The Collector 3, spoiler alert, it might be FINALLY happening. Enjoy!

First off congrats on the film, Marcus you’re a pretty prolific writer/director with some of my favorite franchises under your belt. Normally you write your own films, so what drew you to this script and its take on the toxicity of social media?

Marcus Dunstan: Well, I had never been able to take the helm of a murder mystery, and I love that. We were ghost writers on the reboot of My Bloody Valentine, and I loved the architecture of it, because what I found is if it was a straight, “we know who the evil person is and we’re watching bodies pile up” okay? Those movies, you can cut ’em down to about 80 minutes and you get it. 

But the murder mysteries had character development, it had suspicion, it had the closeup of, is that the same boot as the killer? It had the characters, and layers. And often I found them to be just more engaging and more realistic to watch. That’s what was really fun. So that was the inspiration to get into that. 

And in terms of social media, it’s kinda like the mantra of this that I was keeping in my head is, well, this is modern voyeurism. Voyeurism used to be on the shoulders of the person standing far away. And with social media, we’ve invited the voyeur in.

Jade, I love Sara’s journey in the film as an actor that has to be a great script to get, what kind of prep did you do for the role, physically or emotionally and where do you find the tools to play a character like that?

Jade Pettyjohn: So my prep for this particular project was a little bit different than my normal sort of prep when it comes to a project. Sarah is a really interesting character. She’s very nuanced, and I think within the first two acts of the film, you really explore how she is this outsider in a group of friends and she’s trying to find her footing in this world. And she acts as sort of the fly on the wall, as all of these extreme things are happening and she’s just sort of trying to discover her place in that.

I think that is a very sort of quiet rooted moment that Sarah gets to have. And then when everything hits the fan and the chaos ensues in the third act. How Sarah breaks and how what she turns into and evolves into under very heightened intense circumstances, was very physical.

JoJo Siwa as “Colette Campbell” in the horror/thriller, #AMFAD: ALL MY FRIENDS ARE DEAD, a Cineverse release. Photo courtesy of Cineverse.

So I have to ask both of you about JoJo Siwa. I am honestly a low key fan. How did she come to the project? I know Jade, you’ve worked  with her before and I honestly have to say, I didn’t know she was in the film when I first saw it and I was really surprised at how great she is here. 

Marcus Dunstan: I want to give a shout out to Jessica Schwartz and I believe she started the ball rolling to even approach the team representing JoJo. From that, I would just have to fast forward to the result of all those efforts. I am not privy to how it happened, but I’ll tell you who showed up for us as an outgoing, soulful, caring, dedicated, wonderful collaborative entity that just said, push me. I’m here to win and let’s go. 

Thank goodness, because we could have done what was just on the pages with that character, but because it was her, because of Jade, because of everyone really just giving beyond the norm, there’s so much more there.

Jade Pettyjohn: I think what she did really was the haunting heart and through-line of the story, and she is so dedicated. I mean, there’s really something to say about someone who comes in and, and does this performance and she’s never done a project like this before or a role like this before. There was a lot that was required of her to be able to do something like that and she didn’t complain once. 

Marcus – Any Sequel Plans for #AMFAD, I know that post credits scene definitely got me? 

And speaking of sequels…

I also have to ask any update on The Collector 3 I am a huge fan of that series?

Marcus Dunstan: Bless your heart for asking. 

When it comes to the universe of All My Friends are Dead, we’re gonna satiate the appetite, if the appetite’s there, and we’re ready to launch. 

When it comes to The Collector there’s a Gordian knot of things to untie, and I wanna say, the last hurdle was just jumped. So what I’m hoping to do, if I’m so fortunate, Josh Stewart (the star of the Collector series), and I are intending to hang out and watch this movie together in New York this Saturday. I want nothing more than to just send out a thumbs up at some point and be like, guess what? Miracles can happen twice in one night, but we’ll see <laughs>.

Sometimes the legalese of stuff moves a little bit slower than the optimism <laughs>

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