Actress/Producer Erin Áine on Following a Group of Bullied Cosplayers Harassed For Being Simply Who They Are and What They Like in ZombieCON

Erin Áine – Actress and ZombieCON, Big Squid Productions and MewNowTV Producer


The creators of Los Angeles based and Big Squid Productions announce their Indiegogo campaign launch for ZombieCON – feature film about cosplayers forced to evolve into heroes amidst an undead apocalyptic threat. More on why they’re crowdfunding here


Film Courage: Where did you grow up?

Erin Áine: I spent my first 19 years living in the same house in Buckhead, Atlanta. Life at home was like one continuous theater production – there was always room for playtime, theatrics, love, team activities, imagination, learning on the go, the unexpected… I have very supportive parents and a wonderful older sister. We are a tight knit family with a lot of love for each other, heart and laughter. I was fortunate to have a wonderful childhood.

Erin_Aine_ZombieCON_Filmcourage_11Film Courage: Which of your parents do you resemble most?

Erin: I resemble both of them in different ways. I’d say my humor is more like my Mom’s and my energy around people is very similar to my dad. I admire them both so much and try to learn from them always – most of all I respect their choice to be happy. No matter the circumstance or what life is currently throwing their way, they have always been just plain happy people, keeping on moving forward. It’s a beautiful thing to be around. My older sister Kitsy and I were pretty different growing up- Not like Elsa and Anna level different, but she was much more calm, thoughtful, studied, and mature than I was. We learned from each other growing up – I was always dragging her into my playtime schemes (which inevitably involved shooting “tv shows”, short films and “reality shows” on our home camera!) And she was my intellectual role model, confidant, teacher, protector behind the scenes, and the one companion who understood me through and through. We’ll always be close.

Film Courage: How did you get involved in acting?

Erin: Whew! Can’t answer this because I literally have always been performing – really. When I was 3 and my family was on vacation, my dad signed my sister and I up for the local North Carolina town’s talent show. My act: tumbling, because I’d just learned to somersault and of course I did the show and even jumped into Kitsy’s act too! I’ve been in choir and theater productions since I was 5 years old, and added TV/Film/Commerical acting when I signed with a talent agent at 12. I feel alive, at home and strangely at ease when I’m performing, and it’s always been that way. I’m lucky I have had supportive family to encourage and foster that passion.

Erin_Aine_ZombieCON_Filmcourage_10Film Courage: What was the first play or acting role you for you?

Erin: Aside from performing anywhere, at any time, at any chance I could get, I performed in my first play, my school’s, ‘You’re a Grand Old Flag’ when I was 5 years old. I was assigned to choir but actually almost got booted out of the play because I was so restless. All throughout rehearsals I would dance my heart out in the front row of the choir – I just could not sit still (and I probably loved the spotlight). The director finally had it with me when I accidentally dance-kicked the speaker box over, nearly breaking the equipment (my dance moves were not subtle). She called my mom to tell her I couldn’t be in the play any longer. What did my mom do? She attended rehearsal every day with me so that I could be allowed to still be in the play. And when I’d start dancing, she’d wave and give me the “FOCUS” signal, and I’d sit still. When opening night arrived, I was good. That’s the kind of dedicated love that raised me and nurtured my passions and dreams.

Erin_Aine_ZombieCON_Filmcourage_3Film Courage: Did you go to school for dramatic arts or film?

Erin: Nope, I went to Vanderbilt University in Nashville (my “Plan B” though I never intended to use the diploma for my career). I didn’t want to skip out on the traditional college experience, and Vandy was still close enough to Atlanta to continue auditioning via self tape, which led to many drives back and forth for callbacks and bookings throughout college… I always had the plan to move to LA permanently upon graduation, and I took several trips, internships for school credit, pilot season, etc. living in LA during my college years, ultimately graduating a semester early to pursue my dreams.


“The tough part about graduating early to move to LA was the fear that comes with leaving what you’re most familiar with in exchange for the unknown. But even then, I had already spent long periods of time in LA and knew for certain this was the only path I wanted to take – so I embraced it...”

Erin Áine, Actress/Producer of ZombieCON


Film Courage: Upon graduation, was it a tough decision for you to pursue a Hollywood career? How supportive or concerned were family and friends before doing it?

Erin: Ha! I think I got ahead of myself and answered this in my last answer! My family and friends were very supportive, thankfully that’s never been a problem. The tough part about graduating early to move to LA was the fear that comes with leaving what you’re most familiar with in exchange for the unknown. But even then, I had already spent long periods of time in LA and knew for certain this was the only path I wanted to take – so I embraced it. Those earlier LA trips included 2 stays during pilot seasons, in which my mom literally dropped everything to live with me in a one bedroom Oakwood Apartment for a month so that I could audition. After a childhood of chasing my dreams, growing my career inch by inch and sometimes having to live across the country from family, the ‘big move’ after graduation wasn’t something I was uncertain about whether or not to do; I just knew it was my next step.

Erin on the set of Vampire Diaries for a guest star role (Season 4, Ep 10: After-School Special)

Film Courage:
Which actor/actress did you idolize as a teen?

Erin: I didn’t have one actor that stood out in particular – though I was SO envious of the Harry Potter cast. The HP books were the first series that I’d ever really wanted to read, and simply put I was obsessed. I loved imagining growing up on those movie sets, with the cast as your second family, playing those iconic characters and getting to be in the wizarding world on the silver screen…. Of course, I loved imagining and playing within the Harry Potter wizarding world too – but I’m such an actor! I thought equally as much about what it would be like to be the actors getting to portray what it’d be like to live within that world. I admire how the three lead actors, Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint, have kept their personal lives out of the spotlight and pursued different acting opportunities and spoken out on important causes. I imagine that growing up in this industry with a huge amount of success at a young age would come with a lot of challenges – but just like Harry, Ron and Hermione, these three actors seem to have their heads on straight.

erin_aine_smith_IMDBFilm Courage: What is something you do every day toward your career?

Erin: Working not only as an actress, but also as a producer, editor, casting director, etc. for Big Squid Productions has given me a very unique perspective. Every day, I am doing something film-related, usually working on multiple projects in various stages of completion from pre all the way to post. I think having the opportunity to immerse yourself in all of the aspects of the filmmaking process is invaluable; It has definitely positively affected my perspective as an actress. But the most important thing I do every day for my career is to stay positive and keep pushing. In this industry, you hear more No’s (or even worse, you don’t even receive a response) than you’d imagine you could possibly bear. This town can also be very isolating and lead you down wrong paths taking you further from your dreams if you don’t have sources of positivity and grounding like family or family-like friends. Before I had my fiancé and business partner Kyle, and then my Big Squid Production family, in my life, my time in LA was very lonely. I don’t know what I would do without these wonderful people. They give me the kind of love, support, and pure happiness that only a family can; to be able to work together, to actively bring our dreams to life, to face all of the challenges that LA and this industry bring, is just priceless to me. That chemistry will show when we play a group of best friends in ZombieCON – I have no doubt.

Erin Áine and Manny Luke for ZombieCON

Film Courage: How do you know you’re on the right path?

Erin: I’m learning new skills, growing every day and my work allows me create art with my best friends – I can’t imagine another path that would make me happier. But getting on the right path is only half the battle – I don’t have time to sit and ponder what if’s because we have too much work to do! Gotta keep pushing to get to the next level – and thankfully that next level is very clear – producing this feature film. One step at a time.

Film Courage: What was the biggest audience you have performed in front of?

Erin: Hard to say – I suppose one of the high school or college plays I performed in. I always loved the live performance/live audience aspect of theater vs. acting for the camera. There’s something about the audience’s presence and energy that boosts your adrenaline, even as they’re fading away into the back of your mind and you step on stage, you still feel that energy. It’s thrilling and I love it. Always have.

Film Courage: What character was the toughest for you to change into?

Erin: That’s a tough one! My role in Quarantine 2 had some unique challenges – I played a German tourist and in many scenes we were given the opportunity to improv lines. Thankfully I’d memorized a long list of phrases in German in addition to prepping my lines and accent (I had never spoken German before booking the role), but it was very challenging to stay fully in the scene, while racking my brain for translations on lines I wanted to improv! The roles I play are most often heavily emotional, dramatic characters, so I’m used to the character work being demanding, I love that aspect! A female tossed into a sudden, life or death scenario, usually involving a supernatural threat… it seems most of my roles have all been preparing me for ZombieCON.

Kyle Valle – Co-Writer/Director of ZOMBIECON and Manny Luke -Co-Writer and “Rocket” in ZombieCON


Film Courage: At what point did you, Kyle Valle and any of the other Big Squid Production/ members decide to create your own content?

Erin: That’s always been the plan and the ultimate reason for launching our film production team! Kyle had the idea to start our own company together – Reel-Clips is a demo reel company that we created in order to gain extra funds for production equipment and ultimately it paved the way for us to launch and incorporate Big Squid Productions – the product changing from audition tapes to original content, shows, shorts, commercials, and now feature films, though Manny Luke now runs Reel-Clips. We added our closest friends into the company, whether it be in acting roles, them kindly stepping in whenever possible as crew, helping promote the series, and even creating shows centered around Punkie and Christian (whom Kyle has known for years as close friends). You’ll want to check out Talkin’ Points – Punkie Johnson’s show, and Tune Up/Tremen2 – Christian Casillas’ shows). Navid Mayel helped as crew with almost all shoots last year and designed/built our entire site. We also got so lucky finding Manny Luke last year – joining us initially as an intern, fresh from graduating from Full Sail University with a writing degree – and within one calendar year, he’s picked up a ridiculous amount of filmmaking skills from pre to post production, including also producing/writing/starring in his own show Manny’s World of Color. Finally, Rob Valle been with us since day one, creating original scoring and soundtracks for Big Squid Productions projects. We come from all different backgrounds within the industry – actors, writers, film school grads, programmers, musicians, etc., yet we all shared the same desire to get out there and create our own content, to be at the helm of our art and to take our ideas from page to shoot to completed product. I find there’s a serious lack of control for most everyone competing in the film industry, and none of the Big Squids wanted to wait for someone to give us ‘that perfect’ opportunity – we decided to work to make our dreams happen by ourselves.

MewNow Team

Film Courage: Aside from acting in the productions, what is your role at MewNowTV?

Erin: As is the case with most indie filmmaking teams (and start ups in general), no one at MewNowTV performs just one role; we are each learning new skills daily to be able to keep expanding our content quality and outreach. My role on a day to day basis deals heavily in social media and advertising, but I go to where the holes are and fill them – whether that involves a casting breakdown that needs to be drafted and released or finding that missing roll of blue gaffer tape. From the glamorous to the monotonous, we have our hands on all aspects of our projects, every step of the way.


Punkie Johnson

Film Courage: How glamorous or sometimes tedious (but necessary) is the work at Can you take us through some of your duties?

Erin: Let’s put it this way. We’re running several companies and managing multiple productions (in various stages of pre to post) at any given day – so the daily work isn’t usually tedious or glamorous; I’d describe it as more of a nonstop whirlwind of creativity, adrenaline, coordination, and yes, continuously chipping away at that never-ending to do list. But yes, from filing pre production SAG paperwork to attending the red carpet premiere (all together, dressed to the nines and ready to celebrate), our work at encompasses it all- it’s just all a part of the process.

Manny Luke

Film Courage: What inspired ZombieCON?

Erin: As a production team, we’d been advised to produce our own feature film in order to get more skin in the game – Kyle had been wanting to create a movie centered on one of his passions: Anime. The story centers on the anime fans and cosplayers who bring that world to life, despite their not receiving the adulation and credit they really do deserve for discovering, loving, and popularizing the superheroes and superhero culture that we see in blockbuster movies today. He’s loved anime, Warhammer 20K etc, since childhood and experienced the bullying and exclusion that sometimes unfortunately comes with loving an interest that is not considered mainstream. The cosplay culture is an amazing world of creativity and passion, and the ZombieCON cosplaying characters are no exception. A story about cosplayers’ perspective, mixed with some MewNowTV funk (i.e. the zombie apocalypse) was born. After creating the ZombieCON world, characters and storyline, Manny and Kyle teamed up and worked for weeks on rewriting and fine tuning the script. Within 2 months, the script had been written (and re-written and re-written…), lead roles cast, cosplay prop creation begun, locations booked, weekly acting rehearsals begun, and additional necessary film equipment secured. We also have been bingewatching anime for the last 3 months, which has been hard to balance with our workload – but seriously it’s impossible to stop. The stories, the heart, the narration that allows the viewer to get inside the heroes’ head unlike any show or movie – I just love anime so much. Top recommendations – Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood, Attack on Titan, Naruto, Bleach, Akame ga Kill and Rurouni Kenshin. Now that I’ve finished that tangent, we are literally ready to make this movie, we just need that additional funding for the shoot!

Mannys_world_MewNowTV_filmcourage_6Film Courage: What is your role in ZombieCON?

Erin: In the ZombieCON world, I am Claire, a happy, wildly emotional, supportive, fun-loving, child-like, sassy cosplayer with a waitress-day job to support her real life and dreams: cosplaying with her best friends and roomies, Team Rocket’s Rockets. Claire’s also particularly skilled at sewing and photography, so those are her main roles within the team. She’s loyal and loving to a fault, ‘the heart’ of the team… but don’t make her feel threatened or bullied – it won’t go smoothly 🙂


Erin Áine

Film Courage: Claire or Gamora in ZombieCON… How are these characters like you? Different?

Erin: As Claire, I will be cosplaying Gamora during one of our team’s cosplay performances. Gamora and I have some fundamental differences. Where as I am sensitive, highly emotional, outgoing trusting, and wear my heart on my sleeve, Gamora has faced trauma and a painful family life, ultimately forcing her to become stoic, logical, and fierce as her resting emotional state, and emotionally closed-off. There’s a lot of pain, caution, and anger in her view of the universe and she carries that burden even when with the friends with whom she finally found happiness and belonging.

Erin_Aine_ZombieCON_Filmcourage_5Film Courage: Besides yourself, which actor in in ZombieCON is going to blow people away?

Erin: Thank you for the vote of confidence! Honestly, I can’t pick – these characters are so rich, detailed, full of heart and determination … as friends in real life, we have real memories, relationships and love for each other, which definitely adds to the realness and emotion of our characters on screen. You can’t fake that kind of chemistry. It’s palpable.I think that alone will blow people away. In addition to that unique aspect, they’re all very talented actors: Punkie (as Punkie in ZombieCON) is straight up hilarious, one of a kind, and fighting to win – no matter what she is doing in any scene. Christian (Javier) is dependably awesome – you root for him – whether he is playing a ferocious alien bad guy or down-on-his-luck LA bachelor, you can feel the vulnerability and his strength. Manny (Rocket) brings his own unique, characteristic humor and wit to the screen always – he’s quick on his feet and always has something up his sleeve. Literally with no formal training or prior professional acting roles, he is already surpassing most actors who’ve been in the biz their whole life. The kid is a natural. Finally, with my extremely talented, watchful, and just plain brilliant fiance Kyle at the helm directing, I have no doubt you’ll see and feel all of these qualities in the ZombieCON characters brought to life on screen.

Christian Casillas

Film Courage: Once you take off the actor “hat,” what does your producing role entail?

Erin: When I move into producer matters I do have to take off the acting hat – because you need to fundamentally view the film through a different lens. As an actor, every discussion topic leads you to think – how does this affect my character? Whereas a producer needs to view the project in its entirety and make decisions based on and for the whole. As a producer, I usually lead in casting, pre/production/post paperwork, as the point of contact for talent, head of advertising and social media… but really, simply put, it all comes down to plugging holes. Wherever they pop up. As I described earlier, it’s a nonstop whirlwind of activity and with a small team you just have to be ready to take on anything on the fly – and it you don’t know how to fix it, you need to learn whatever skill is being necessitated and pick it up on the go too.


Film Courage: What has you most excited about the ZombieCON Indiegogo project? Why?

Erin: The fact that we’re already getting the word out there and introducing people to ZombieCON. We’ve met so many wonderful people within the superhero fandom, cosplay, and collectors communities, and seeing that support grow is just everything. Crowdfunding gives the unique opportunity to speak to your future film’s audience and give them a taste of what you want to create before production ever begins. It’s different than post-filming advertising because with crowdfunding, you are also asking your future audience to become a part of the movie’s journey before it’s shot; to believe in your story and characters so much that they want to contribute. That’s what we’re in the process of doing and it is very exciting .. real, grassroots-feeling connection with the individuals for whom the movie is ultimately about and speaking to.

Film Courage: How much are you attempting to raise on Indiegogo?

Erin: Our flexible funding goal is set for $60K, which would allow us to get the ‘bells and whistles’ for production – hiring special FX makeup artists, additional crew, larger name talent, attaining certain film equipment pieces… all aiding the biggest step (at least for our team) – distribution. We want the world to be able to see ZombieCON in all of its glory: the more funding we get, the higher the chance we can get ZombieCON distributed into a theater near you! Every single dollar donated gets us closer to that goal, no amount is too small or unimportant particularly when it comes to just spreading the word, one share on Facebook, one post on Twitter, a comment to a friend about ZombieCON, anything helps!!!

Film Courage: Briefly, can you describe the allocation of costs that will go toward the campaign?

Erin: Luckily, we own our own film equipment, so we’ve been able to cut major costs in that regard – and constantly put out media for free as we produce, edit, and blast it out day by day. Owning your own equipment and also knowing how to do photoshop, after effects, editing programs, etc. allows us to do what we do. But the biggest expenses have centered around the costumes and props for our cosplay photoshoots/ Campaign teasers and marketing materials like post cards, business cards, etc. and time spent to devote yourself entirely to the campaign. We’ve needed to pull the trigger constantly on additional campaign items as the holes pop up (again – indie filmmaking is all about plugging the holes!!!). You’re in a race against the campaign’s metaphorical clock to attain the outreach needed and no amount of time spent ever seems to be enough – so essentially, your TIME is also a mammoth cost, because you need to shift all other responsibilities, projects and daily life necessities to focus instead on the campaign.


Check out the ZombieCON campaign here on Indiegogo!

Film Courage: What sort of person is going to love ZombieCON?

Erin: I think most anyone would love ZombieCON. Although the story most involves the cosplay, comic, and zombie themes, ZombieCON is not just relatable to only those fan communities. You don’t need to understand or be passionate about those things to enjoy or feel something from ZombieCON, because of the depth of characters and attention to story. Everything we produce has story and characters as the center focus, bar none. No matter what the crazy circumstances our characters face (i.e. a sudden zombie apocalypse leading to undead assholes attempting to consume all of humanity), the film will be grounded in truth. That’s thanks to Kyle and Manny’s writing and prowess as storytellers, and also to the talent of our actors. ZombieCON’s characters are the kind that you fall in love with, root for, cry over, and who will stay with you after the film credits have rolled.

Film Courage: Of your many notable roles, you played Whitney Elliot in the 2010 FAT BOY CHRONICLES? How was life after the movie was out? Did auditions come more easily? Did you ever feel typecasted?

Erin: I’ve had roles in a variety of projects – from studio films to indie web series. They’ve all led to positive growth in my career. With ‘The Fat Boy Chronicles’, I was surprised and humbled by the fan outreach; whether it was Facebook messages, YouTube comments, or mailed signature requests, I hadn’t experienced fans of a project I’d worked on being so outgoing and touched by the film before. The Fat Boy Chronicles tells the true story of an overweight, bullied, middle schooler Jimmy Winterpock who just wants to feel like he belongs and connect with real friendships. The movie has a lot of heart and touches on bullying and exclusion: very painful experiences that sadly affect many people, not just in the gossipy halls of school but of any age, race, or sexuality. Bullying is also at the center of ZombieCON’s story – following a group of cosplayers that gets bullied and even harassed simply for who they are and what they like. I think films that center on and speak about real problems like that often do connect more with the audience, so much that many want to connect further and even reach out directly to the cast/crew. Hopefully ZombieCON will touch people the same way. But in terms of auditions and type casting – whenever you book a role which is produced and/or distributed by a well-known studio, casting directors take note. Auditions definitely come in with more starring/guest star roles, particularly if the studio project credit is recent/still on air. And I’m almost always type cast in the traditional audition game. I auditioned for and booked more ‘popular, blonde, cheerleader, b**tchy’ roles than you’d like to know. But that’s why Big Squid Productions is so important to me – you don’t have to sit back and wait to be called in for the same character type that you’ve been constantly reading for and are just sick of; we have all of the tools and people at our side that we need to create roles, create projects, and ultimately tell STORIES – whatever story/character we want. That is creative freedom.


“I’m learning new skills, growing every day and my work allows me create art with my best friends – I can’t imagine another path that would make me happier. But getting on the right path is only half the battle – I don’t have time to sit and ponder what if’s because we have too much work to do! Gotta keep pushing to get to the next level – and thankfully that next level is very clear – producing this feature film. One step at a time…”

Erin Áine, Actress/Producer of ZombieCON



Film Courage: Since moving to LA, do you ever get starstruck?

Erin: Not really, but I did almost run up and hug Jake Gyllenhaal outside Equinox earlier this year because I thought it was Kyle for a split second, and that would have been really, really, really embarrassing. Thankfully he shot me a sketchy look – probably because I was getting up and starting towards him – which made me pause before I pounced. Everyone out here- regardless of whether they are a celebrity or actor waiting to catch a big break – is a dreamer trying to make their dreams come to reality- and that takes away from the whole ‘star struck’ thing for me.

Film Courage: What was the best job you ever had and why was it the best?

Erin: Big Squid Productions. Not even lying. I’ve done acting, working in a talent agency, coaching kids theater/dance/singing, and about a million things in-between, but my continuously flexible, growing role as a producer, actress, filmmaker, – even down to my role as chef for the Squids (I cook very healthy, largely vegetarian meals for everybody when the crew is in – gotta keep that good energy flowing), I just can’t get enough. Every day is challenging, new, demanding, and creative. Even working 7 days a week around the clock as we do, I feel more empowered and inspired than I’ve felt doing any singular other job.

Film Courage: What sort of acting roles do you hope to perform in the future?

Erin: I hope to work on my writing in the future. I’d like to take more of a hand in that direction and play meaty roles in the films I’ve created. At Big Squid Productions, if one of us has an idea there is always the floor to pitch it. It’s an extremely creative environment and I’d like to take more advantage of it within the writing realm. As for types of roles, I’m ready to play something completely, drastically opposite of myself – whether that be in terms of personality or circumstances. Honestly it’s hard to come up with many ideas right now because I’m so in my ZombiecCON-role mode as Claire. Yes, she’s similar to me in many ways, but she also gets to cosplay as several characters in the film – which will for me, Erin, be like playing a role within a role. And those cosplay characters like Gamora for example, are very challenging and very different from what I’ve played before. I’m so ready. With the Squids at my side every step of the way, the support of my family, and my hard working, talented fiancé at the helm, I absolutely. Cannot. Wait. for. ZombieCON…. Hopefully you feel the same!




Erin Áine has been a professional actress for over a decade, adding producing and assistant editing to her resume with a host of festival-accepted short films, web series, and now a feature film in Los Angeles. Erin built a thriving acting career in Atlanta, where she grew up, and also had the opportunity over these years to live and audition in LA for several pilot seasons. Erin went on to study and graduate from Vanderbilt University. During this time, she self-taped all of her auditions for southeast and west coast projects, booking many guest star roles in popular television shows and studio films, including ‘The Vampire Diaries’, ‘Revolution’, and ‘Quarantine 2: Terminal’. As you can see, horror is her forté! Erin currently works full time producing projects and overseeing casting, advertising and social media for Big Squid Productions and MewNowTV, and continues to further her career as a seasoned actress.


The creators of Los Angeles based and Big Squid Productions announce their Indiegogo campaign launch for ZombieCON – feature film about cosplayers forced to evolve into heroes amidst an undead apocalyptic threat. More on why they’re crowdfunding here



Instagram @erin_aine
Twitter @erinaine
ZombieCON Indiegogo