Talent on Tap – Mackenzie Gray, Marika Sila and Mark Sommer Flesh Out Ditched

When was the last time you were scared out of your skin, jumped so hard you launched your popcorn? If you miss that adrenaline rush that you can only get from watching a great horror film, January 18th is your lucky day! The horror/thriller Ditched is released on VOD, like a mad hungry hound thirsty for blood. There is carnage, there is a deep ditch with impossible odds, a psychopath, guns, fire, the darkness and a story that you’ll be sharing around the campfire for years to come. If it’s a fright you seek, then Ditched is your destination. If you miss the elements we grew to love from ‘80’s fright films, you’ll connect with this film. The music score is creepy as hell and is married perfectly to every dark gasping scene. Just when you were hoping for an ambulance or cops to show up, they do… because chaos has no boundaries and you can’t reason with evil intentions.


This Canadian Horror Thriller, Ditched stars Marika Sila (The Twilight Zone, Tribal) and Mackenzie Gray (Rabid, Fargo, Riverdale, Man of Steel). The North American release date for VOD is January 18 and the Blu-Ray comes out February 15, 2022 by Epic Pictures on their Dread Presents genre label. It’s written and directed by Christopher Donaldson and Produced by Mark Sommer. 


A routine prison transfer crashes in the forest and desperate to escape an overturned ambulance, a group of paramedics are trapped with violent prisoners. A young Inuit paramedic, Melina (Marika Sila) finds herself surrounded by murderers with a mere 100 feet to climb out of a ditch, to escape when they are attacked by an unseen force in the forest. Melina’s short journey to safety becomes the ultimate contest of wills. 


Ditched features a pumping synth soundtrack with guitar elements created by musician Clayton Worbeck (Revolting Cocks/Ministry). The film has already visited over 10 festivals, including Popcorn Frights Film Festival in Florida, IFI Horrorthon in Ireland, Dead of Night Film Festival in the UK, Monster Fest in Australia plus the digital festivals Cine-Excess in the UK and Molins Horror Film Festival in Spain. Ditched also played at EIFF, Rio Grind and Toronto After Dark Film Festival.


I was ecstatic when I heard I would be talking to Marika Sila, Mackenzie Gray and producer Mark Sommer about their contributions and performances in Ditched. It was fun, it was revealing and intimate at times and it was incredibly inspiring. Roll the tape!   


HNMAG “I really enjoyed this horror film. Both the music and the story seemed to be a homage to ‘80’s horror films. Was that the inspiration behind the film?”

MARK “Chris and I are big film geeks and it was how we first bonded. We were watching John Carpenter films 15-20 years ago.”


HNMAG “How did you become attached to the film, Marika?”

MARIKA “It was the first role that I had offered to me. I had been driving back from Vancouver to Canmore, Alberta and was at Kamloops when my agent contacted me. He asked me if I could read a script that night to let him know if I was interested. It had just arrived and it was a first offer. I decided to pull over and get a hotel room. I read the 90 plus pages that night and was super pumped about the whole project from beginning to end.”


HNMAG “Marika, you play the lead in this film and there’s quite a lot of dialogue. Considering you’re still quite new to acting, did you have any hesitation in saying yes?”

MARIKA “There was no hesitation at all. When the opportunity came down the pipe, I was more excited than anything. Having the opportunity to play an Indigenous character, rather than portraying a stoic Indian from 100 years ago, which is how Hollywood always paints us. It was a good opportunity to play a modern character and the lead character in this movie.”


HNMAG “Mackenzie, you play a really bad guy in this film that is always wearing a heavy camouflaged suit. It looked hot inside there but I don’t know what time of the year you were shooting. How was the temperature?”

MACKENZIE “We were shooting at night and it had got quite damp inside and that dampness makes you feel cold. I was grateful for the suit for that but it did attract mosquitos and they loved to follow me around and hide inside of it (laughing).”


HNMAG “I understand that this film was shot in Edmonton?”

MARK “Just outside of Edmonton between Fort Saskatchewan and Edmonton. There’s a deep valley there that we used to shoot it.”

MACKENZIE “While we were shooting, there were a lot of forest fires burning. In the film, there’s quite a bit of fire involved, so it had to be so carefully controlled.  We also had to shoot fast because at that time of the year, we had a small window of darkness. The light would be gone at 9:30 – 10 and come back up at 4 am.”

MARK “We would also set up blankets and tarps to be able to shoot inside the ambulance before it went dark, in order to keep shooting as it became darker outside. Once it did, we could shoot outside the ambulance. Marika was stuck inside the ambulance for days on end.” 

MARIKA “I didn’t get too hot though, because my outfit was perfect for the weather. A short-sleeved shirt and pants. I’m really glad we were able to shoot before Covid had hit. I really can’t imagine 4-5 people inside there with Covid.” 


HNMAG “It did look very confined in there. Mark, would you have to mic everyone up that was inside, as opposed to using a boom?”

MARK “We used both. We also cut apart the ambulance so we could take part of it off to have better access but many of the times, they were confined to the constraints of the ambulance – so it was pretty close quarters.”

MACKENZIE “For me, I had no limits. I was outside in the woods (laughing). The scene that I did, walking around the ambulance and talking, we shot that in one take with a steady-cam. It was 19 pages of dialogue and was one of the hardest jobs I’ve had.”


HNMAG “I’ve read that you’re quite versed in Shakespeare. Did you lean on a Shakespearian character when you were walking around the ambulance, describing your plans for the occupant’s?”

MACKENZIE “I wouldn’t say it was a Shakespearian character but it’s interesting every time you play a villain, because they believe that they’re good and not bad.  In this case, he feels very justified in what he’s doing. You learn something new every time you take on a role and learning from Shakespearian characters, they’re very vocally driven because they are plays. My character was describing his motives and I’d say it was very theatrical, which is very helpful but I didn’t draw on any specific  Shakespearian character. I was trying to find out who he was and what he’s all about. I felt like he was someone that’s been through a lot of stuff and as he gets older, he’s gotten more rigid and focused on his anger. That’s what I was trying to bring out of his character.”

HNMAG “Marika, can you tell me how you prepared for your role as a paramedic?”

MARIKA “With every script, I always do diligence by reading the script multiple times over so I can get a good grip on the story. As actors, we’re storytellers first and foremost. I want to know where my character Melina is coming from and where the through line is. Every time I take on a new role, big or small – I always work with an acting coach and run through it with them. I’ll play with different versions of the character and sometimes work with multiple acting coaches to develop  different ideas and find inspiration. I’ll also do research on my own, which includes watching other TV shows with paramedics or doctors. I want to see how other actors will play a character, to see their choices and determine which one I like the most/ who’s believable. I try to draw inspiration from others and always find a way to relate to the character to bring truth into the role.”


HNMAG “Mark, you come from a music background, so what was it that turned you toward film?”

MARK “Being born and raised in Vancouver, film is always around you. I’ve always been interested in film since I was young. My mom was an extra on MacGyver, 21 Jump Street and all the classics from the ‘80’s and ‘90’s. She would come home to tell me she was 2 feet from Johnny Depp.  There’s a lot of similarities working with music artists, creating albums, packaging them and selling them. I see the similarities more, having done it now. I love movies, they’re my bread and butter – I’ll watch them like people listen to music. Certain movies will stimulate different feelings, so if I’m down I’ll put on The Goonies or The Lost Boys and it will pick me right up. I’ll treat it like throwing on an album of Led Zeppelin 4. We’ve got a few irons in the fire. Chris and myself have a few projects that we’re pushing for and we have to strike while the iron’s hot.”


HNMAG “Mackenzie – I recently read that you lost your leg. I’m terribly sorry to hear that. Can you tell me what happened?”

MACKENZIE “I was teaching and directing a film in El Salvador and when I was using the shower, a super-microbe had gotten into my foot. When I arrived back in Canada,  my foot was swollen and they had to amputate a toe and part of my foot. It was going to be ok, it was healing but the damage from the super-microbe was so bad that it had infected the bones in my foot. I was walking around with a cast boot for 6-7 months in the hopes it would get better. Covid kicked in and it took a turn for the worse and I had to lose the leg. I’ve had to accept many things in my life; I got diabetes when I was 13, I’ve had many people die that were close to me and I’ve always been able to accept what’s in front of me. I don’t waste time feeling sorry for myself. I said, if it’s got to come off, I’ll know when I wake up, and when I did, it was gone. I had to adapt and my immediate goal was to walk again. I have a large following on Facebook and had put a photo up on my profile from the hospital of me looking out at the ocean. It was similar to the ones where people have their feet crossed and a beer in their hand. I had my good leg beside my bandaged stump and wrote in the caption, ‘it’s a pirate’s life for me’.” 


Mackenzie Gray is a force! He is larger than life and his resilience is the stuff of legends. After the necessary amputation, his goals were to be acting again, walking again and dancing by New Years. He’s achieved all 3, faster than anticipated and he continues to smash the ceiling as he forges on. His first return to work was on an episode of Nancy Drew. He’s also doing voice work as he navigates his way back to performing. The industry is grateful to have his talents, his professionalism and his ability to encompass any character he is portraying with the skill of a marksman. He continued to demonstrate that humour can pull you through the toughest chapters in your life when he said…

“they’re shooting a new Peter Pan and I was trying to tell them they could save a lot of money on CGI if they had me play Captain Hook. Mark, if you guys are putting together a film with a 1-legged cyborg guy, I’m your man (laughing).”



HNMAG “Mark, why did you want to shoot this film near Edmonton?”

MARK “It was one of the producers’ hometowns and Chris had also shot a TV show out there called Necessary Evil. He also used to shoot commercials in Edmonton quite actively and knew the talent that was available there. It was all pieced together better by shooting it out there.”


HNMAG “Marika, this was a very physical role for you. Were you pretty drained after each night of shooting or did your training in hoop dancing, fire spinning help to prepare you for the challenge?”

MARIKA “I felt pretty lucky going into it. As a hoop dancer and fire spinner, I would stay up till 4 am training. Before I had booked the role, I was considering switching to a normal schedule and start sleeping when everyone was sleeping. When I looked at the role, I thought I should stay on schedule, because we would be filming all night. Because I was already on that schedule, it was pretty easy for me, fatigue wise. From a physical perspective, I felt pretty lucky to have the experience of dance training as well as being involved in physical activities all my life.”


HNMAG “Marika, how familiar were you with the duties of a paramedic before the role? Did you know anyone personally that was a paramedic?”

MARIKA “Most of my experience was through television. My mom was a paramedic at one point and I had just acted in The Twilight Zone playing a cop. There were some similarities but also some obvious differences. My character Melina was much more caregiving and the switch from Sci-fi to Horror was quite a leap for me. I had never outright screamed on camera like that before. I had to let myself go and quit thinking about how I would look screaming on camera. I turned my focus to telling the story and doing the film justice the best way I could.”


HNMAG “Marika, you also cry quite a bit on camera. Is that difficult to do?”

MARIKA “It depends on where I am in my personal life because I can draw from it. With this particular role, it wasn’t too hard. I’ve played roles since then, where I’ve had to cry in every scene. I seem to always surprise myself when it comes to crying on camera. I try not to over rehearse those crying scenes because you can wear out those emotions. I’ll just cover the lines to ensure I have it and then bring the emotion once the camera rolls.”


HNMAG “Some actors can turn it on like a tap. Would you like 2 big tears and 3 little ones?”

MACKENZIE “Those crying scenes can be complicated. I was in a film where my character had to cry his heart out on camera, only to learn after the shot – that the focus was too soft and they’ll have to do it again. We ended up shooting the crying scene 8 times that day. I couldn’t bring the tears anymore and we had to turn to the menthol stick.”


HNMAG “Mackenzie, there are a lot of people killed in Ditched. Have you ever died on camera before?”

MACKENZIE “Oh god, I’ll tell you how many times I’ve died on film. Many years ago, I believe in 2003, I had put some extra footage at the end of my demo reel. It was called, ‘Producers Dream’. I had all my past death scenes that I could cram into 1 minute. It ends with the final scene from the film The Crow, where I get zapped with something and I blow up like chunks of green cheese. Although I’ve had so many deaths, I also have a high kill rate. On my series, The Net, I was a hitman and I think I  killed someone every episode.”


HNMAG “I’d like to ask a fun question before we go. If you could have anyone in the world to cut your hair, who would it be?”

MACKENZIE “My answer would be my ex-wife, Andrea. She’s a hairdresser and one of the best in the business. She’s on many of the TV series in Vancouver and in a pinch, I’d definitely ask her because I trust her and we’re still great friends.”

MARIKA “As an Indigenous woman, our hair is very sacred to us. I would probably only let my mom cut my hair.”

MARK “I think I’d go classical and have Vidal Sassoon fly in and trim me up (laughter).”


HNMAG “I have one more fun question. If you had to eat the same meal every day for a week, what would you eat?”

MARIKA “Traditional Caribou stew.”

MACKENZIE “I would have beef short ribs prepared the way my girlfriend cooks them because they’re unbelievably good and I never tire of them.”

MARK “I’m a pizza guy, so I’d say some type of Detroit style pizza, it’s so good. Detroit style is where they push the cheese right to the edge; they use a certain type of cheese. If you haven’t tried it yet, you will. It’s trending pretty hard.”


HNMAG “What has the audience reaction been like with the festival screenings?”

MARK “It’s been to over 10 festivals and there’s been good reaction, even better than I hoped for. The reviews are starting to come in, we already have North American distribution and we’re still working out the details for the international side.” 

Ditched is coming to VOD on January 18, so go scare yourself and the family, while supporting some incredible Canadian talent and our great industry!

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