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In part 2 of our three-part series, we chat with several talented women making indie filmmaking magic — the ones to watch, the names you should know.

When I decided that I wanted to celebrate Women in Horror Month by conducting as many interviews as I could, I put out a status on Facebook requesting anyone that was interested to contact me. I was expecting maybe about six to seven people, at the most, to respond. To my surprise, I had an overwhelming response!

I could not believe the amount of talented women who wanted ME to help showcase them. From actresses, to artists, filmmakers, writers…every single one of these women is insanely gifted, and I cannot wait to showcase them each. These are some of the best in the biz, and I feel extremely grateful that they’ve all trusted me to make them shine.

Here is the second in the series featuring six talented women calling the shots behind the camera in indie horror. Thank you to Jennifer Carchietta, Cindy Maples, Heidi Moore, Vanessa Ionta Wright, Comika Hartford and Roxy Shih.


JENNIFER CARCHIETTA

1. Please tell us a little about yourself and your projects (past, present, future).

I am half of a film making team with my partner, Brian Darwas. I write and produce, he writes and directs. Kind of like Eve and Russ Meyer (LOL). We met while working on a documentary film and formed a partnership from there. I produced and he directed 6 documentaries together. Around the same time we met, my brother was producing and writing indie horror films, which gave me an insight into that world.  At some point, a few years ago, Brian and I decided to cross over into the narrative world with GET MY GUN. We are currently co-writing our second feature now. Actually, we are writing two which is a little tricky. One leans towards a slasher and the other has more of a sci-fi feel.

I am also an avid film collector (35mm & 16mm). I have been building the collection for many years, mostly horror and grindhouse era films. This is not a world you see many women in either, for what ever reason. It is an absolute labor of love- very space and time consuming. But in a world where people rely less and less on physical media, but still use the word “film”, I believe it is important that these movies remain safe and preserved for as long as possible.

2. What made you want to become a filmmaker?

I love watching movies, collecting movies, and talking about movies.  It seems like the next logical step was to make one.

3. Who inspires you?

I’ve got a couple here, both in front of and behind the camera. Growing up, every Friday night my brother, mother and I would go to our local video store and pick out a stack of horror movies to watch over the weekend. On regular rotation at our house was CREEPSHOW & THE FOG, I was in love with Adrienne Barbeau. She was kind of scary, but totally funny at the same time. Tough, intelligent and beautiful. Her range of characters was crazy.

Behind the scenes, I continue to be inspired by Debra Hill and Sally Menke. Women are not always recognized in the fields of producing and editing, yet these two women stand out. Debra Hill is responsible for producing and co-writing HALLOWEEN 1-3, THE FOG, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, and THE DEAD ZONE.  It always surprised me that Hill was rarely mentioned. Producers are the glue behind the film and without a solid producer, the film can easily fall apart and fail. We function (especially on indie films) as casting directors, accountants, production managers, mediators, writers (and re-writers!) and set psychologists! Producers keep it together, keep it on budget and keep it on track. Debrah Hill’s list of credits show that she was not only intelligent, but a bold creative force as well.

Sally Menke is another one for me. She was Tarantino’s long time editor and collaborator on RESERVOIR DOGS, PULP FICTION, JACKIE BROWN, KILL BILL and INGLORIOUS BASTARDS. Editors amaze me. They are creative geniuses, but strict and organized disciplinarians too. Menke’s timing, eye for little (but important) details and music pacing make her a master at her craft. She has been referred to as “the definition of precision” and I think that says it all. We are lucky to have the cannon of films left behind by Hill and Menke and their early deaths are a tragedy to film making. Who knows what these two women would have continued to create if they were still with us. I also love Anouk Whissell & Francois Simard’s SUMMER OF 84. I am really looking forward to seeing what their partnership produces next.

4. How have the roles for women in the horror genre changed, and where do you see these roles going in the future? 

I think the general perception used to be that women in horror only represented the scream queens. Early on, women were just the ones getting punished or killed. Often these roles required taking off their clothes or acting only as sex objects. I think as horror began to grow, so did the character development for women on screen. Women became heroes, problems solvers and complex characters that save the day. Women on screen have become positive characters, as opposed to negative ones. This isn’t to say there haven’t been strong positive female leads in the past, it is just more prevalent (and accepted) now.

When writing GET MY GUN, it was important for us to make our women real. Their characters develop into three dimensional people with real struggles and issues. Both funny and serious. Resourceful, but with honest flaws. I’ve said this a million times, I have no issue with the character who runs naked and screaming into the dark basement only to meet her demise, but that is not what I am trying to create in a character right now. I think horror fans are looking for something a little more complex.

As for “behind the camera”, women have always been involved in this aspect. If you look into the world of producers, cinematographers and special effects- women have always played an important role. However, I think it is only more recently that they are being recognized and appreciated for their contributions to the genre.

5. What does having a Women in Horror Month mean to you? 

It is a month to continue to recognize and celebrate the women of this genre that might not necessarily get noticed. It is cool to see all the articles about women creating important work and taking on important roles. It continues to allow us to learn about new projects and new talent that might otherwise not get showcased. This is especially true on the indie level.

6. Where can our readers find your work? 

GET MY GUN is being released on DVD in March and streaming to follow after that. The best places to contact me and find GET MY GUN info is at Tragicbus.com and facebook.com/GetMyGunFILM. Support indie horror! (we also have an Instagram page for the movie, give it a follow).

7. What’s your favorite scary movie? 

Do we have several hours to discuss this? I have a few and this is where I get nerdy. I first saw the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE when I was young.  My mother took me to see one of its many re-release screenings. TCM became a frequent rental in our house. The film terrified me, but also made me laugh. TCM feels like you are watching a documentary. The simplicity is brilliant. I was so connected to those kids in van, their building doom and dread as they travel through Texas unfolds very realistically. The camera shots, set design, sound design and character development make this a perfect horror movie in my eyes.

CREEPSHOW will always have a special place in my heart. I love anthologies and CREEPSHOW has everything. I remember going to see this in the theatre in 1982 and I was hooked. E.T. was playing at the same time and for some reason, the E.T. cardboard display in the lobby scared me to death. I was crying at E.T., but ten minutes earlier laughing during CREEPSHOW!  CREEPSHOW was in regular rotation on HBO and I memorized every single line. My brother and I would rent this on video and recite the lines as the movie played over and over, and all these years later I can still remember EVERY. SINGLE. LINE!

I am also a huge David Fincher fan and this is because of ZODIAC. While this isn’t a “horror” movie, it is very much a scary and near perfect film. I  have goosebumps for about 90% of ZODIAC! I could talk on this subject forever, but I’ll sum it up by saying I also love THE FOG (’80), THE THING (’82), DEMONS (’85) and Ms. 45 (’81).


CINDY MAPLES

1. Please tell us a little about yourself and your projects (past, present, future).

It seems that I’ve always been in front of people performing. In six grade, back when I was rather shy, I had a teacher encourage me to try my hand at speech competitions. I embraced the opportunity and started competing in those and I’ve just never stopped chasing that exhilarating feeling of entertaining people and trying to make them feel something with my performances. It’s the best kind of natural high for me.

And then in 2008 I had the opportunity to work on my first film Widow, and I simply feel in love with the process of film making. Since that film, I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in over 45 film projects, and I’ve written, produced and directed 5 of my own short films. I’m currently out supporting my two recent releases E-BOWLA and 98.6%.

2. What made you want to become a filmmaker?

Funny thing is, I never thought about becoming a filmmaker. I’ve always thought of myself as an actress. Then the opportunity to produce and direct my first short kind of fell in my lap and I thought, I can do this. Wow, did I have a lot to learn. I stumbled my way through RANDOM back in 2015 with the help of some amazing local filmmakers and it did well for me. With my second short OUT OF MY MIND, I continued the learning process and made more mistakes.

I’ve always been the kind of person who learns best from making mistakes. I think by the time I make my 50th film, I might get it right. I do find myself gaining more confidence with each new project and I’m always excited to see what I’ll learn next. When something works and it looks just like I saw it in my head, I’m usually more amazed than anyone else. It’s that feeling that makes me keep going back. Either that or I’m just a glutton for punishment.

3. Who inspires you?

This is a hard question to answers because I’m inspired by so many people. First and foremost, my husband Rusty James. He never lets me give up and every time I say that I’m done he’s there saying, “I think you should write a film about this or that.” He honestly just won’t give up on me. And then there’s my acting coach, friend and mentor, Jim Dougherty. Every time I feel like I hit a wall, I know I can turn to him and he’ll hand me the sledge hammer to knock it down. I’ve learned so much about acting and film making from him and I’m thankful every day that he came into my life. But I’m also inspired by anyone who simply never quits. I know too many people who have so much more talent than me that have simply given up on their dreams and that breaks my heart. I hate to see wasted talent, the world deserves to see what they can do.

4. How have the roles for women in the horror genre changed, and where do you see these roles going in the future? 

Gone are the days of the “final girl”, narrow escapes and barely clinging to life at the end movie. Now you see the women kicking ass and taking names and that’s fantastic! And even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the latest Halloween movie, I did love seeing Jamie Lee Curtis, at her age, portraying a gun toting, take no prisoners grandma. I think we’ll see more roles like that, and I would really love to see move female villains. Women can be evil, much more so than men and I think that’s an unexplored territory that needs a spotlight shown on it. And anyone who’s seen my last three films knows that’s a subject that I spend a lot of time on.

5. What does having a Women in Horror Month mean to you? 

Obviously, I think it’s great that for a month, once a year we get to celebrate and take a better look at the women who are involved in the horror genre. But I also find it sad that we need to do that. We are all out there working our butts off 365 days a year, and I don’t think that we’re forgotten during that time. I just feel that we need a big win, much like Jordan Peele and GET OUT, the Women in Horror world needs that one big, attention getting film to show the world what we can do. I’m completely confident that it will happen, I just don’t know when, but my money’s on the Soska Twins for the win.

6. Where can our readers find your work? 

I can be found on IMDb, http://www.imdb.me/cindymaples; YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/user/TheCindyMaples; Vimeo, https://vimeo.com/user42233381; FilmFreeway, https://filmfreeway.com/cindy.maples.243; Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/CindyMaples3; Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/cindymaples; and Twitter, https://twitter.com/cindymaples.

7. What’s your favorite scary movie? 

Forever and always it will be The Exorcist. I had the chance to see it on the big screen for the first time back in October and I was just amazed at how well that film holds up. Of course, the clothing gives away the time period it was made in, but the story, cinematography, acting and special effects are still some of the best I’ve ever seen. Every time I watch it, I discover something new that I didn’t see in the other countless viewings over the years. One of my favorite shots in that film is when Father Merrin dies. There is a beautiful image, shot from the floor, of the holy water slowing dripping out of the bottle in the foreground and Father Merrin laying dead behind it. That is such a powerful image that expresses such a sense of all is lost and evil has won. That’s the kind of cinematic magic that I think we should all strive to create.


HEIDI MOORE

1. Please tell us a little about yourself and your projects (past, present, future).

Howdy, I’m Heidi Moore; director of Dolly Deadly, More Blood!, Kill Dolly Kill and other do dads. I own Wretched Productions, run the Medusa Underground Film Festival, and am currently working on a top secret project that will support independent filmmakers everywhere (More info on that in March).

2. What made you want to become a filmmaker?

Since I was a kid I would go around to all the video stores in town…Chester Video, The Corner Store, Ches-Mart and Holiday Market. I’d spend hours in there at least a few days a week; my mom gave them all permission to let me rent any movies I wanted. Then there was “Up All Night” on USA full of all kinds of beautiful trash. I watched so many movies of all types, and would carry around a notebook to write my ideas in(I never showed it to a single soul). Honestly there never was any other career path I truly wanted or could stick with.

3. Who inspires you?

I have so many people who inspire me. First of all, last year I watched hundreds of films for the Ax Wound Film Festival and the Medusa Underground Film Festival; I saw so many films that blew me away. Every indie filmmaker out there doing what they do inspire me. I strive to collaborate with as many of these badasses as possible.

I’ve always been inspired by Lloyd Kaufman, Gregg Araki and John Waters. I grew up in a very small town kind of cut off from a lot, so when I found these guys’ films, it opened up a whole new world for me. They showed me that I’m not the only weirdo out there, and their art became a big part of my life.

4. How have the roles for women in the horror genre changed, and where do you see these roles going in the future? 

Women have been making huge strides in the horror industry. Growing up, I honestly didn’t know about any women making horror; I hate to admit that I always assumed it was something mainly men did. Now they’re everywhere, and it’s only getting better. I recently watched the entire series of “Russian Doll” in one sitting. It’s not fully horror, but definitely has horror elements; It’s so well written and executed…and guess what?? It’s written produced and directed entirely by women. I’ve never seen anything like that happening in the mainstream. I guarantee this is just the beginning.

5. What does having a Women in Horror Month mean to you? 

I used to be against women only events, months, organizations, etc. But once I got further into the industry and faced serious oppression on numerous occasions, I realized the importance of women coming together to support each other. It’s really crucial for women to know they’re not alone and never have to put up with certain treatments to further their career. I won’t get too into it, but once a male cinematographer sexually harassed me and put me in a very dangerous situation. I didn’t make it a big deal, and tried to keep the production going because I was afraid the movie wouldn’t happen if I didn’t. Eventually things went too far, and I had to stand up for myself…the cinematographer stole the footage and drug my name through the mud (And everyone believed him). I had a full mental breakdown and decided to quit filmmaking. One day I snapped out of it and kept going after my dream. Then I started hearing similar stories from other women, and most of them felt they were alone in this type of treatment. That there showed me that we all need to have each other’s back, so that no one has to put up with that shit. ***Once I told a male producer about what had happened to me, and he told me to not tell anyone about it because it shows I don’t know how to run a set. #fuckyou

6. Where can our readers find your work? 

Definitely not on Twitter; I don’t understand how it works! But you can find me on YouTube at Wretched Productions, Facebook at Wretched Productions or Dolly Deadly, and Instagram @thecoolestheidi @dollydeadlymovie @medusaunderground.

Dolly Deadly can be found on Troma Now and Amazon Prime (More places to come), and all my other films can be seen on YouTube.

7. What’s your favorite scary movie? 

This question always makes me draw a blank, but Nightbreed comes to mind. Decker (the “Bad Guy”) has stuck with me. He’s such a creep, and the way he manipulates is terrifying to me. The whole movie is so creative and beautiful, and it’s something I think about often.


VANESSA IONTA WRIGHT

1. Please tell us a little about yourself and your projects (past, present, future).

I am a filmmaker based out of Atlanta, GA.  I grew up completely entranced by cinema and as I got older, decided to immerse myself in the film industry and make a career founded in a love of film.  I have directed 3 short films over the last 2 years, Rainy Season, based on the story by Stephen King, I Baked Him a Cake written by Samantha Kolesnik and Be a Hero, a PSA for the Soska Sisters’ 2018 Massive Blood Drive.  I also co-founded the Women in Horror Film Festival in late 2016 with Samantha.

I am currently working on the next installment of WIHFF.  I have also just received my first contract to write a feature screenplay which is pretty exciting.  I always have a few creative seed sprouting for future work, directing shorts and eventually a feature.

2. What made you want to become a filmmaker?

A combination of Rod Serling, Alfred Hitchcock and Quentin Tarantino.  I grew up on the Twilight Zone, it was a staple of television viewing in our home, as were those glorious black and white masterpieces from Mr. Hitchcock.  But it was a 1992 screening of Reservoir Dogs at the Neon Movies in Dayton Ohio that made me want to make films.  I was 16 years old, and I had really only experienced big budget studio films that starred huge A list performers.  My mom showed me the newspaper with an ad for this indie film from a new, up and coming filmmaker.  I didn’t know what an indie film was, but it had a cool poster so I figured we could check it out 😉  I was blown away.  It made me realize that you didn’t need huge stars or giant budgets or swanky studio execs to make a film…Just a really great script, a shit load of passion and a supportive team of people who believe in your vision.  I looked over at my mom and was like “This!  This is what I want to do!”

3. What inspired you to start the Women in Horror Film Festival?

I’ll preface this with the fact that I met Samantha Kolesnik at a film festival in LA.  We both had scripts in the competition and we actually got to know each other through social media after the fest.  I was embarking upon my first project as a director and she offered to help out.  Her help translated to executive producer and we started talking on a daily basis.  We were also traveling to a lot of festivals together and we were noticing something…a lack of women being represented.

We casually chatted about starting a fest with a focus on women in the industry.  Those casual chats turned more serious and more plentiful and in 2017, we launched the inaugural Women in Horror film Festival.  We wanted to showcase female directors, writers, producers, cinematographers and more, so we developed a criteria for submissions that allowed for more balanced and diverse films and filmmaking teams.  We wanted to celebrate these artists and share their work in a supportive and caring environment.  Our priority is to foster the indie community in genre film and to create more visibility for women in film.

4. How have the roles for women in the horror genre changed, and where do you see these roles going in the future? 

I think that roles are changing for the better.  I am seeing more women directing than ever before which is amazing.  We aren’t quite where we need to be, but progress is being made.  I hope for the future we see more balance and diversity both on screen and behind the camera.

5. What does having a Women in Horror Month mean to you? 

I think it means that more and more people have their eyes and ears on women in the genre.  We are getting on those radars and it’s amplifying the signal to let the world know that we are here and we are creating amazing content.

6. Where can our readers find your work? 

I am on Facebook, Twitter and IG.  You can get info on WIHFF at www.WIHFF.com. For info on my films, head to www.abovethelineartistry.com.

7. What’s your favorite scary movie? 

What!  Have you gone completely bananas?!  This is the worst question.  It’s like “Which child do you love the most?”  Ugh, why must you do this to me.  I’m just gonna a name a few that I love and your readers can guess which one is near the top of my list 😉

  • The Exorcist
  • Halloween (1978)
  • The Strangers
  • Friday the 13th
  • The Shining
  • Poltergeist
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
  • The Birds
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Hellraiser
  • The Amityville Horror
  • Jerry McGuire

COMIKA HARTFORD

1. Please tell us a little about yourself and your projects (past, present, future).

I’m Comika Hartford, a San Francisco Bay Area based horror writer. I grew up watching The Twilight Zone and reading the Nebula Awards, so my vision has definitely been shaped by the anthology format. The first episode (‘Bango’) of my six part horror anthology HINTERLAND ZOO, about a creepy California suburb is up on Amazon Prime and was a collaboration with my producer and fellow Emersonian Eric Shapiro. We’re also in post production on Chapter 2 of my feature film The Grey Area which was filmed in San Francisco.

2. What made you want to become a filmmaker?

I never wanted to be a filmmaker. I  just wanted to sit in a dark study alone with my writing and a cat on my lap… And YES I  know that’s  how we get supervillains!

3. Who inspires you?

I am in awe of Jordan Peele, and as a fan of his and of Serling’s original series, I cannot wait to see what he does with The Twilight Zone #fangirling

4. How have the roles for women in the horror genre changed, and where do you see these roles going in the future? 

I feel that we are moving towards a greater appreciation of the horror genre as a voice of resistance in general. While we all love Julie Adams in CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, she was a ‘damsel in distress’ while Sally Hawkins’ character in THE SHAPE OF WATER was a rescuer and a fighter.

5. What does having a Women in Horror Month mean to you? 

I love having a month that reveals the expertise of artists like Mary Harron (AMERICAN PSYCHO), Jennifer Kent (THE BABADOOK), the Soska Sisters (RABID), Nikyatu Jusu (SUICIDE BY SUNLIGHT), & Karyn Kusama (DESTROYER). It helps everyone see how many of their favorite genre films were helmed by women & that definitely makes it harder to discriminate against us.

6. Where can our readers find your work? 

You can watch ‘Bango’ the first episode of HINTERLAND ZOO for free with Amazon Prime and by going through the website: www.bangofilm.com & you can follow the progress of THE GREY AREA by subscribing to the film at: www.enterthegreyarea.com or follow us on Facebook: @thegreyareafilm.

7. What’s your favorite scary movie? 

I can never have just one! Right now my top 3 as far as inspiration goes are: GET OUT, THE THING, & RAW. They’re all not just examples of beautiful storytelling but also of highly effective commentary on the human condition. To me that’s what the genre is all about!


ROXY SHIH

1. Please tell us a little about yourself and your projects (past, present, future).

My name is Roxy Shih, I’m a Taiwanese-American producer/director based out of Los Angeles, and I currently have two released feature films THE TRIBE (2016) and PAINKILLERS (2019) with a sci-fi/horror anthology series DARK/WEB that’s on the way. I’ve done mostly work in the genre space, and I’m currently developing two more features. On the side I also run the Taiwanese American Film Festival in Los Angeles to give more of the filmmakers in my community a platform to be seen.

2. What made you want to become a filmmaker?

I was a sociology major in college and I took a basic film class to fulfill my humanities requirement. We watched THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG for a screening in one class and when it was over I was so moved that I was in tears and immediately applied for another major in film.

If there’s anything to affect change and create dialogue on a larger scale it was through filmmaking; through this medium we are be able to reflect what is happening in our world for future generations to experience. I thought if this film was made decades ago and still is able to emotionally affect and make an impact on people years down the line, then that was a magic that I wanted to be a part of.

3. Who inspires you?

This really ranges on who I’m having a conversation with. From Ang Lee, Lady Gaga to my parents, all are incredibly courageous and inspirational people but so is the guy that works at the liquor store next to my house. Everyone has overcome struggle and difficulty and the beauty of what I do is being able to engage in conversation and hopefully bring the message to light in a palatable way for an audience.

4. How have the roles for women in the horror genre changed, and where do you see these roles going in the future? 

It’s an exciting time; both women in front and behind the camera are owning their power in the horror genre. A lot of us are rising as directors and producers, but even though this shift is happening, we still have a long way to go. I would say it’s a revolutionary period where we are still set on evening the scales in representing our stories in horror; that we are paving the way so that opportunities can be more abundant for our daughters.

Story-wise, in the past female characters in horror were often depicted as “damsels in distress” or were sexually objectified whereas nowadays we are owning our own narrative, stepping into our power and fighting back.

It will only get better from here. What many studios have said that there aren’t enough qualified female horror filmmakers is simply not true; we are diverse, talented, and more than capable. The fight right now is getting that accessibility and fair playing ground.

5. What does having a Women in Horror Month mean to you? 

I think it’s incredible to have a Women in Horror Month, since it focuses on specifically those of us who work in genre. It’s already tough to have female filmmakers recognized, but to focus it even further on a specific genre group can only help us elevate each other to become more visible.

6. Where can our readers find your work? 

You can watch THE TRIBE and PAINKILLERS on streaming platforms nationwide such as iTunes or Amazon. You can also follow me on Instagram @roxyshih and check out my other work in digital and music videos on www.RoxyShih.com.

7. What’s your favorite scary movie? 

There’s so much! I really love the classics such as THE SHINING and PYSCHO. In more contemporary work I really love the Korean film THE WAILING and recently watched Luca Guadagnino’s SUSPIRIA (which I thought deserved more praise).

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