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New Women in Horror Festival announces official line-up; Exclusive interview with WIHFF co-founder Vanessa Ionta Wright

WIHFF

Horror is one genre where women have historically thrived, often being the hero and the only one brave enough, and smart enough, to slay the monster at the end (at least until the sequel). It is then not surprising that so many women filmmakers have been drawn to the genre, especially as of late.

Enter a new film festival that celebrates these women – the Women in Horror Film Festival (WIHFF)

WIHFF kicks off this year in the greater Atlanta area, the weekend of September 21st through the 24th, and will feature celebrity guests like Greg Nicotero (Executive Producer of The Walking Dead). Nicotero will be joining the Nightmare panel, where festival attendees will enjoy a screening of Wes Craven’s New Nightmare followed by an interactive Q&A with the film’s producer, Marianne Maddalena, as well as actresses Heather Langenkamp and Amanda Wyss.

WIHFF Greg Nicotero

Other celebrity guests include: Producer Marianne Maddalena (Scream 1-4, The Hills Have Eyes, The Last House on the Left), Jen & Sylvia Soska (Hellevator, American Mary, Dead Hooker in a Trunk), Lynn Lowry (The Crazies, Shivers, Cat People), Sonya Thompson (The Walking Dead, Zombieland), Shane Evans (Collective Soul, Cursed), Ross Childress (Collective Soul, The Skulls), Chalet Brannan (Crepitus, Cyborg), as well as Horror Authors Mylo Carbia (“The Raping of Ava DeSantis”) and Meg Hafdahl (“Twisted Reveries Series”).

This week, WIHFF finally announced its much-awaited list of finalists that will be screening at this year’s festival. 

All films were required to have 3 or greater of the following different specified creative roles fulfilled by women: Producer, Director, Writer, Cinematographer, Composer, SFX Artist, and lead talent.  Any unproduced screenplay or TV pilot had to be written by or co-written by a woman.  Here are the official selections:

WIHFF Soska Sisters

WIHFF FEATURES

  • Ruin Me – 1:27
  • Get My Gun – 1:30
  • 3 – 1:22
  • Dead Thirsty – 1:16
  • Murder Made Easy – 1:16

WIHFF SHORTS

  • Nasty – 15:00 – UK
  • Adam Peiper – 16:29 – Spain
  • Jules D. – 14:04 – Spain
  • Alfred J Hemlock – 14:08 – Australia
  • Childer – 18:43 – Ireland
  • Squeal – 5:16 – UK
  • Shortcut – 5:00
  • Chomp -12:00 – Georgia/Florida
  • I Should have Run
  • Cherry Bomb – 7:29 – Georgia
  • Marco Polo – 2:45
  • The Tell-Tale Heart Sisters – 20:00 – South Carolina
  • Stitched – 3:35
  • Huff and I’ll Puff – 7:27 – Nashville
  • The Chute – 4:20
  • 106 White Lake – 5:18 – South Carolina
  • Unbearing – 9:57 – North Carolina
  • Girl #2 – 9:11
  • Undress Me – 13:33
  • Blood Sisters – 10:30
  • Creatures of Whitechapel – 25:00
  • Earworm – 5:06
  • Liz Drives – 7:59
  • Humbug – 6:58
  • Let’s Play Dead Girl – 23:39
  • Blood Shed – 13:18
  • Smile – 13:52
  • From Hell She Rises – 8:03
  • Suffer – 14:30
  • Satanica – 8:56
  • Caravan – 10:03
  • Juliette – 6:38
  • Scratch – 14:35
  • Sell Your Body – 11:09
  • Jax in Love – 20:20
  • Chasing Jenny – 3:21
  • Little Lamb – 22:22
  • Delirium – 11:26
  • Psycho Therapy – 10:00
  • Deadmeat – 12:00
  • Dead City – 8:05

I had a chance to talk to Vanessa Ionta Wright, who co-founded the festival with Samantha Kolesnik, and ask her a few questions.


INTERVIEW WITH WIHFF CO-FOUNDER VANESSA IONTA WRIGHT 

What inspired you to start WIHFF?

Simply put, to create a platform that shines a light on some amazing female filmmakers and screenwriters in the industry.  Samantha Kolesnik and I had been submitting our scripts to festivals around the world, and as proud as were to be doing so well in competition, we realized the low percentage of women being recognized in those competitions.  We started looking at genre festivals in particular as mine and Samantha’s work is primarily based in horror.  I would constantly look at the finalists and semi-finalists and ask Sam, “Where are all the women?”  We knew they were out there, but we really didn’t understand why the representation was so low.

It’s no secret that women in film have struggled to be recognized and respected in the industry.  For years many of Hollywood’s elite have spoken up and taken action to create more balance and equality for women in film and Samantha and I are simply trying to do the same thing for independent film.

How did you put it together? 

We started small. We thought about all the great things we love about festivals that we have attended and made sure to have those elements.  We also thought about all the things we didn’t love about festivals and made sure to leave those elements out. Sam and I were relatively unknown at the time (and still are to most 😉 so we reached out to my friend and colleague Kathy Oliver who has worked as a production coordinator on some amazing shows. I asked her if she would be interested in coming on board to help lay some ground work, and she had mentioned reaching out to Heather Anderson (Langenkamp), as they had worked together on American Horror Story. She thought Heather might like to support our efforts.

WIHFF Heather Langenkamp

One thing led to another, and I had an amazing 45 minute phone call with Heather that ended with “Who do you want me to reach out to?”  Honestly, if it wasn’t for Kathy and Heather, we wouldn’t have had much reach at all, and we owe so much to them. We are so grateful for everything that they put in motion. Heather and I both quoted this famous line during our initial phone call, “If you build it, they will come,” in hopes of growth for the fest.  Well, we built it, and now they’re coming 😉

There are a few genre film festivals for women, is there anything about WIHFF that is different?

One thing we did, and I’m not sure if the other female genre fests have done this, but as Samantha and I were attending many of these smaller, genre fests, we noticed that the audiences were mostly made up of finalists, sponsors, friends and family. As fans of independent film (specifically horror), we wanted to create an opportunity to get the general public in the seats to see some amazing films that they might not otherwise see anywhere else.

We decided to create an almost convention like atmosphere to get horror fans out to our fest and in those seats. We also wanted to create opportunities for artisans, authors and local businesses to share their work. We really want to create a fun, creative atmosphere with lots of opportunities for anyone attending. Even though it is a competition, we want the event to feel supportive and collaborative. We have joked numerous times because of how the weekend is set up that this is going to feel more like film camp, and everyone will go home with new best friends.

WIHFF Amanda Wyss

Women seem to be thriving in horror more than any other genre. Do you have a theory as to why that is?

Because we are making some noise. Horror has always been a primarily male dominated genre. And not to knock those men, some of my favorite filmmakers and inspirations are men. But we are in a new era of horror, and female filmmakers are writing a whole new set of rules. It is so inspiring to see filmmakers like Jennifer Kent, Karyn Kusama, Julia Ducournau, Jen & Sylvia Soska, Jovanka Vuckovic and so many more continuing to pave the way for young filmmakers.

Tell us about your own career as a filmmaker and what drew you to horror.

My career is just getting started, and so far so good.  I have seized every opportunity that has come my way, and I am utilizing those opportunities to the fullest. As far as what drew me to horror…I guess that rush you get when you’re scared. I grew up in the 1980s, so we didn’t have immediate access to films like we do now. I was a typical, “You say no, now I want it more,” kinda kid.  I wasn’t allowed to watch scary movies because they might cause nightmares.

But making them forbidden made me want to see them even more.  I remember peeking around the corner into the family room where my parents were watching The Amityville Horror, and I was so intrigued. I never knew a movie could create such a visceral reaction. In 1984, I saw Poltergeist for the first time, and it terrified me. But, at the same time, it was such a rush — I’ve been chasing it ever since. I grew up on Hitchcock, Rod Serling, John Carpenter and Wes Craven, and I was blown away by what they did. I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street at a slumber party, and no one wanted to go to sleep after that. A killer that gets you in your dreams! Brilliant! Who needs sleep when you have inspiration?

WIHFF Lynn Lowry


The festival will be coming to the beautiful Crowne Plaza Hotel & Conference Center in Peachtree City, GA September 21-24, 2017.  Tickets are available at www.squareup.com/store/women-in-horror-film-fest. Check out the complete schedule on the WIHFF website at http://www.wihff.com/ and be sure to follow them on social media at https://www.facebook.com/WIHFF/ and https://twitter.com/wihff.

My film, “3,” is an official selection, and I will be attending. I hope to see you all there!


WRITTEN BY LOU SIMON

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