Sequins, blood and scalpels: An interview with Tristan Risk

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Canadian genre cinema is back and in a big way. Production groups like Astron-6 and directorial powerhouses the Soska twins have all cannon balled into the international scene in the last few years and the ripples are still being felt as far as Germany and Japan. Part of that phenomenal success lays not just with the incredible direction and drive these groups have but also with the fantastic actors and actresses residing within our northern borders that they can draw upon. One such actress is the incomparable and ridiculously multi-talented Tristan Risk who you’ve no doubt seen in the Soska’s American Mary and will see again soon in The Editor from Astron-6 and Sixx Gevargizian’s CALL GIRL. I was lucky enough to be able to talk to her about her experiences in the Canadian horror scene and pick her brain about our favorite genre.

Scotty Floronic: For the woefully uniformed, can you tell us who you and a little bit
about yourself and what you’re all about?

Tristan Risk: Corsetier, chocolatier, baker, ta-ta shaker, hip swayer, tight lacer,
troublemaker, red lipstick, magic tricks, swizzle sticks, voodoo
kicks, and a urban myth. Hello, my name is Tristan Risk. You likely
know me as burlesque dancer/circus darling/ foodie/fetish model/pin
up/actress and general social nuisance Little Miss Risk! Professional
ecdysiast with West Coast burlesque troupe Sweet Soul Burlesque and
mermaid, licorice/cocktail/lingerie aficionado.

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SF: You’ve sort of moved up the ladder of entertainment from burlesque to
short films to bigger (but still underground) films. Was this always
your goal or was it more of a right time right place sort of thing?

TR: You can only really plan so much for things to go a certain way before
you concede to the organic development of your path. If I went back in
time and told 20-year-old-me when she was diving in Fiji that she’d
tour internationally as a burlesque dancer, make life long friends
because of it, and be able to make her favourite kinds of films to
watch – she’d have not been surprised per se, but definitely excited
at the prospects. But she’d have had no idea how it was going to
happen.

Back then, the idea that you had to be discoverd by either a talent
scout or a show (cough cough PopStars) was absolute. But I knew I
wanted to model, so I started working with photographers, building a
website. I began doing burlesque for my friend’s band’s shows then
produced my own. All of this DIY attitude was probably why the Soskas
and I worked well together, since we’ve all been in positions where
the only way to get it done – all of it – is to do it yourself. A lot
of the people in my circle are of the same mettle where we just made
it happen rather than wait for someone to wave a wand and offer it to
us.

So you get a collective of people who have this attitude where we do
it all ourselves, and then we start working together, cross
pollination happens. Then this generation and movement of artists
builds a following. It’s in this way I met the Soskas and they gave me
the opportunity they did… but in that moment when we started Mary, it
was just as exciting to work on something fun with my new friends and
create. It’s possibly one of the most wonderful and addictive feelings
in the world.

Your role in American Mary was a very strange and very memorable one.
Did you have a hand in creating the character of Beatrice or did the
Soska Twins write it and you happened to be the best fit?

The Soskas and I had a lady date one night prior to my audition where
we were drinking and watching movies and we watched Little Shop Of
Horrors. My first musical theatre project was LSOH so I sand along.
The whole movie. All of the characters. Especially Audrey. So I stole
a little from Ellen Greene and a little from Madonna in ‘Who’s That
Girl’ with the Brooklyn lilts. Also having a background in dance was
helpful for the body language of Beatress as well. It was a fun
character to play, and even now, when I have one cocktail too many, I
find myself slipping into ‘Beatress mode’….

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SF: Though you are likely bound to some (deserved) secrecy, can you talk
at all about your role in Astron-6s The Editor? What was it like
working with them?

TR: Oh it was awesome. It was pretty much as fun as you’d hope it to be.
August in Winnipeg leaves a lot to be desired for a mild-temperature
West Coast girl such as myself. one of my best friend’s originally
hails from that prairie place and sometimes would wax philosophical
about it. The Astron 6 guys not only made me forget about the heat,
but gave me (in my opinion) a lot of fun things to do on-camera that
I’ve never done on or offscreen. The whole crew put up with my
off-colour jokes with a lo of good grace and again, like working with
the Soskas, it felt fun to be creating something with these people.
You tend to form a coterie and bond when you do these films, and I had
seen both Manborg and Father’s Day prior to being approached about The
Editor somy toes curled with they asked me. I hope they ask me again,
some time.

SF: How about the other project I’ve seen you attached to recently, Jill
Sixx Gevargizian’s CALL GIRL. Any fun stuff you can tell us about
that? What is your role in it?

TR: In Jill Sixx Gervargizian’s CALL GIRL I get to share the camera with
horror icon Laurence Harvey who is very good at making people watch
his films and feel uncomfortable. This is highly amusing since he’s
one of the kindest, sweetest people to walk this earth and a VERY
underrated talent out there. I play the role of the title character,
named Mitzy on a ‘date’ that goes a little bit sideways.

I have always held a deep love for the Midwest and the folks from
there. You might not think it, but Kansas City has a very awesome and
thriving arts scene (I feel like I’m blowing it’s secret by mentioning
this) in it’s town perimeters. So with these great underground artists
who are horror fans working on films is just about the most wonderful
grassroots way to be authentic and respect my craft. I really want to
see the other work that Jill will come up with, because she’s got a
great eye and is a honey to work with. She can also drink more vodka
than me, but that’s probably because she was using mix.

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SF: Is there a dream project or director you’d love to work on/with?

TR: Geez, how much time do you have? Anything with heavy prosthetics, a
mermaid, a high fantasy film a la Labyrinth or Lady Hawk, a cyberpunk
piece… I love playing make believe for a living… it reminds me of
Crystal Precious’ lyrics:

“I’d like to confess I’m still obsessed with burlesque
I’ve been working pretty hard since you seen me last
I passed the class to amass true believers in sass
I ain’t talkin’ about no uninspired titty flash

The cash will come but I ain’t one for money grabs
Not tanning or perfecting my abs
I’m still me, and forever CP
And I’ll be killing it onstage like I’m meant to be

A little slice of advice for free
Not every player in this game’s got integrity
Had to take a step back, was beginning to crack
Had to reassess my means, a new plan of attack

It’s the way that we do, it’s the freedom inside
So invite your best friend, let go if you can
We’re going to gather here together and say
‘FUCK THE MAN”

That’s why they call us all troupes
Cause we’re fighting the fight
Trying to get some shit started
Like we are tonight, alright?

Before I hit the stage I always got one thing to say
A shared love can be as simple as a DJ
A lotta times my saving grace is play
As think as far as playing goes we be doin’ ok

I never wanna lose my sense of pretend
Cuz that is how we will survive in the end
Ajd if you find yourself left with just yourself and your friends
You got everything ya need
We’ll be proving that next.”

I hope to have the sort of wonderful and varied career as many of the
actors and actresses I’ve for a longtime and admired and make the
horror/sci fi/fantasy community proud.

SF: And to finish this off, what’s your favorite horror movie and why?

TR: Jaws. Cryptozoology flicks (or ‘big animal eat small, dumb people’)
are my jam. Jaws was important to me because I grew up in a village
that was a seaside swamp. My grandfather had a boat, so we sailed
frequently and I loved the ocean and sharks. Seeing Jaws didn’t make
me afraid; it made me passionate about sharks. So while it scared
everyone else out of the water, all it did was drove me into it….

Jimmies rustled? Wanna fight about it? Let us know why below!

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