We chat with the multi-talented filmmaker and champion of extreme horror, Jessie Seitz, about her flourishing career and the healing power of horror.
Filmmaker Jessie Seitz had a huge year in 2019, and 2020 looks to be more of the same for this inspiring and incredibly talented woman. Beyond Horror: The History and Sub-Culture of Red Films, the documentary about extreme horror she co-created with her partner in life and work, Marcus Koch, enjoyed a massively successful crowdfunding campaign with enormous support from the horror community. The film ended up landing Seitz and Koch a shared Best Director Award at the famed Nightmares Film Festival. She’s been traveling all over visiting conventions and working on several productions, doing makeup and FX. And her own film, Devotion (2017), which features another incredible woman of horror, Linnea Quigley, will be in the hands of fans sometime this year.
As we excitedly follow her rising star, we had the chance to sit down with Seitz to discuss her love of horror, her exciting new partnership with Unearthed Films, and her award-winning documentary film.
INTERVIEW WITH JESSIE SEITZ
1. Jessie, you recently announced some exciting news stating that your company Midway Picture Show is now proudly partnered up with Unearthed Films and will be booking theatrical screenings of their legendary catalog. How did this unholy union with Unearthed come about, and what does this mean for everyone involved?
Stephen Biro and I had been talking for a little while about how to get Unearthed titles up on the big screen. Midway Picture Show has been growing its relationships with Art House theaters for the last two years and was finally at a point where I felt confident in approaching Biro about taking on Unearthed Films bookings. We’re now working together to get these amazing titles in theaters and I’m so excited for everyone to see these films in a new way!
2. Are there any particular titles from Unearthed that you hope find their way on screens?
We’re currently working on our first official tour with The Unnamable, which is a treat for me. Biro is picking up new titles seemingly daily and I get more excited for each one! 2020 is a big year for Unearthed Films. And while I can’t spill the beans on everything just yet, there’s a lot for genre fans to be happy about. Adding a theatrical component to these releases is only going to make things better.
3. You accomplished a lot in 2019. How does all your progress and success feel — and what do you have up your sleeve for 2020?
Last year was such an intense year. There were a lot of personal hardships behind the scenes, but I’m very thankful to have a husband who not only would through all of the bad stuff with me but also share in some of the most fantastic things I’ve ever accomplished in my life. There were a few years that I felt like my career was just sort of dead in the water for a lot of reason, so it was really important to me to end the decade on the highest of notes. I really feel like that happened.
My whole life has changed for the better, and that makes me want to be better. I’m the Queen of setting crazy goals for myself because it gets me off my ass and keeps me focused. So I’m doubled down for 2020. We’ve started working on our second documentary, there’s a short film in the works, and collaborations with some of my favorite people. 2020 forever.
4. In your documentary, Beyond Horror, the question of whether or not horror — especially extreme horror — can have cathartic value was explored. I admire your personal candor on this sensitive subject. Is this a topic you plan to explore further?
Absolutely, yes. I’m not sure what that exploration is going to look like just yet. But I strongly believe that extreme horror can (and does) offer an important voice to marginalized people. There’s so much left to say, and these films can be made for fractions of what other productions can. There’s space to develop all of this into something more.
5. This month marks the 11th annual Women in Horror Month. Some say we don’t need to have this anymore, that there has been enough strides made to level the playing field. Do you feel the yearly celebration and recognition is still warranted?
My feelings on this are pretty complicated. I wish, for starters, that we could move to have Women in Horror Month not in February, because Black people have an ever harder time being seen in the horror industry, and it doesn’t feel right to have this celebration the same month as Black History Month — especially since WiHM is strongly rooted in White feminism. I don’t think anyone meant for it to distract, but I believe White women should also be more aware of the spaces they occupy. And I’m saying that just as much to myself as I would anyone else.
There’s also this whole thing where I personally would love to be seen as a filmmaker and not have my gender be any part of that. On the other hand, these last few years have really shown me that there’ still so much work to do when it comes to women in the horror industry being acknowledged for the work they’re putting in.
For an example, when Marcus and I were first announcing the documentary, even though we both said we were co-directing, people assumed it was just Marcus directing and a lot of press releases were written with only his name attached as a director. While someone who is already set in their career might not see this as a big deal, it’s incredibly important to properly give credit. Being visible is everything, and for whatever reason people still are not willing to extend the same platform to women as they are men.
It’s important to note that it’s not just men who do this. Other women shrink women’s work too. We have to do better. This whole ‘play it up for the boys’ attention grab that no one asked for is foolish. If women would spend half the time promoting/seeking out other women’s work (or, to that end, actually make their own movies) as they did trying to impress boys on Facebook, then no one would be saying things like “Women aren’t really into horror.”
There’s room to grow, there’s room to make great work together.
6. I know you have a background in programming films, so I’m going to hopefully throw a fun question your way. Name your dream programming gig! If you could screen any movie at any venue or location in the world, what film would it be and where would it be experienced at?
That’s a great question! My dream venue is a restored Lincoln Theater in Decatur, IL showing a 35mm print of Jaws, as it was first seen in 1975 by my family.
7. You have contributed to the genre in a multitude of ways, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to stop anytime soon. What is it about horror that makes you love being a creator and a fan?
Horror has always felt like home for me, and I can honestly say that I love it top to bottom. For me, there’s no other genre that speaks so true and allows the release of so much.