It’s Pride Month for the month of June, a month dedicated to the celebration and commemoration of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer pride.

Earlier this year we got to collaborate with Jem Garrard on their epic film ‘SLAY’. The film is centred around four drag queens who find themselves performing for a mostly unwelcoming crowd, but when vampires attack, the crowd looks to the queens to save the day. As Jem puts it: “At its core, ‘Slay’ is about celebrating queer people as heroes.”

The four iconic Queens who make up the main cast are well-known to fans of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Crystal Methyd plays Bella Da Boys, Heidi N Closet is Robin Banks, Trinity the Tuck is Mama Sue Flay and Cara Melle plays Olive Wood.

jem garrard slay pride month

We have had the pleasure of working with Jem Garrard on their sci-fi space western series ‘Vagrant Queen’ in 2020 and handled the Music and Audio on their two recent films ‘Slay’ and ‘Invasive’ (read more about Invasive here).

Jem Garrard is a British Canadian writer, director and producer. They are the creator and showrunner of the space opera series ‘Vagrant Queen’ for SYFY. An Emmy-nominated director, and five-time Leo award winner, Jem’s past projects include the comedy sci-fi series ‘Android Employed’, ‘Disney’s Mech-X4’, SYFY’s creature feature ‘Killer High’ and ‘Freeform’s Motherland: Fort Salem’.

In celebration of Pride Month, we asked Jem to answer some questions on ‘Slay’ which was released in March 2024 on TUBI for your viewing pleasure.

What was your vision for the film?
I wanted to create a fun, irreverent, and campy horror comedy full of heart, balanced with some over-the-top bloody horror and action. Tonally, it’s a mix of ‘To Wong Foo’ meets ‘From Dusk Till Dawn.’ Visually, Trevor (our DP) and I aimed to capture the vibrant essence of the drag scene through a bright and poppy visual aesthetic while maintaining a beautiful, cinematic quality. At its core, ‘Slay’ is about celebrating queer people as heroes. I wanted to showcase the strength and unity within the queer community. Instead of focusing on division and fear, I wanted to highlight themes of togetherness, resilience, and empowerment. The film is a tribute to the spirit of drag culture and a statement about the importance of inclusivity and community, with a lot of laughs and blood thrown in for good measure!

And what was your brief to Pressure Cooker Studios?
I told them to have fun with it! I wanted them to dive into an 80’s synth and 90’s pop vibe for our action scenes, giving it that fun, high-energy feel. For the horror moments, I asked them to go with a classic horror score, including using some B-movie vibes. With horror comedy, the key is to really lean into the horror parts. You’re not trying to make the scary bits funny – the humour comes after, when you release the tension. So, I wanted PCS to build up that suspense with classic horror sounds and score, then, we could break that tension with a joke, often by cutting the music completely.

How did music influence your filmmaking process?
Music is so important in the drag scene! Understanding what this movie would sound like was as crucial in prep as deciding how it would look. It’s a key element in setting the tone so I made a playlist of tracks to get the whole crew in sync with the film’s vibe, and of course “WAP” and “Boss Bitch” helped set that fun, sassy, high-energy tone. Knowing where I wanted to go musically influenced how I shot certain scenes.
Understanding the type of track I wanted for action scenes was especially important. It informed whether I used fast cuts or longer shots and impacted how we choreographed fight sequences. I also love switching between non-diegetic and diegetic music in my work, so having a clear idea of the final track was important to make these moments feel immersive.

How did the music and audio elevate the storytelling overall?
I tried to do a lot with this movie – I wanted laughs, horror, jump-scares, and heartfelt moments. It’s not easy to mix all those tones, but the music and audio helped these moments shift and change seamlessly.
We really pushed certain sound effects for comedy, like Bella’s latex squeak in the vents and the stakes through the heart, and then we hit the audience with heartfelt moments during deeper conversations between the Queens and Dusty. With all the tonal shifts in this movie, the sound helped keep it all cohesive so our audience was never taken out of the moment by these shifts and could stay immersed in the story.

Read more here about what Jem had to say about their experience working on both Slay and Invasive at the same time with Pressure Cooker Studios.