Exclusive interview for Women in Horror Month with the multifaceted writer, director, actress and producer Maria Lee Metheringham
Maria Lee Metheringham has always been recognized for playing strong female roles and is now becoming a recognized name in horror, for her contributions both in front of and behind the camera. Last year, Maria made an impact at Horror-on-Sea appearing in the Mycho Productions film Mask of Thorn where she played Mina Adams, and behind the camera with the feature film Pumpkins which she co-wrote and directed.
I got a chance to ask Metheringham a few questions about what Women in Horror Month means to her, as well as some of the other projects she is currently working on.
INTERVIEW WITH MARIA LEE METHERINGHAM
1. How important is it to recognize the female filmmakers during Women in Horror Month, and what does it mean to you?
I think it’s great that there is a Women in Horror Month to boost up the recognition. I don’t think it’s widely associated that we make horror movies as much as guys do, but it is starting to pick up momentum thanks to things like this. I think us ladies are pictured as chick flick/romantic drama types, but in reality, a hell of a lot of us just want to make badass, gritty horror movies. We are into yucky, grotesque and messed up stuff too!
2. You are a multifaceted filmmaker both in front of and behind the camera as a writer, actress and director; but how did you get into filmmaking originally?
I started off just doing the acting in student and short films locally. When Will started making short films with a media student, I kind of got roped into organizing things like locations and sorting out time schedules, due to my control freak tendencies, ha ha! I rather like a good solid schedule! Then I basically started doing more and more on each film set, until I ended up being Director and Producer on our latest productions. I’m now often hired as a Production Manager or 1st AD on other people’s productions too now, just because I get stuff done and get it done quickly.
3. As an actress, you are often portrayed as a strong female character. One of my favorite performances is Mask of Thorn (2018), where you have a very physical role as Mina Adams. Do you prefer to play strong female characters on screen?
Yes! I absolutely love playing strong female characters, and it most definitely is my favorite type. I am a strong female myself (mentally strong) so it makes sense. I do have roles coming up in 2019 which are very different to that and I’m really looking forward to. Mina Adams was a really fun character for me. Last year I played another great character, Katherine Parsons, in a genre film called Remember Remember: Grace & Mercy (2018) which will be released this year.
4. Are there any horror style characters that you would like the opportunity to portray on screen, either as a horror villain or character?
I really would like to play a nasty horror character. I would love to be the killer in a horror film, as I haven’t yet had that opportunity. Maybe someone like Hannibal Lecter or the Tooth Fairy (Francis Dollarhyde). So more of a psychological killer than a masked stabby person.
5. You have crossed genres with your acting, but when it comes to writing and directing you have concentrated primarily on the horror. What attracts you to the horror genre?
It’s a very fun genre to create. Horror is what I enjoy watching more than any other type of film, so naturally I want to get stuck in and immerse myself with it. It’s fascinating how people go about creating different deaths and effects and different types of killers, etc. Lighting on horror is so much more interesting, and you can get as crazy as you want with the characters — nothing has to make any sense. The options and room to play are so vast.
6. You have several projects which you are currently working on with your husband Will Metheringham, often sharing responsibilities as writer/director. When you are collaborating on a project, how do you decide who will direct which film?
We know who is best to do what depending on the size of the project. Will tends to prefer the more creative behind the scenes work or writing and sound and imagining what scenes will look like. I tend to do most of the Directing now, but Will is always there next to me advising me and getting me to see things from a different perspective. My way of thinking is quite strict and military, whereas he’s always thinking outside of the box. Some days we both Direct — it just depends on the scenes and the time frame involved.
7. You have also collaborated consistently with actresses like Dani Thompson and Panda Marcella Edgecombe-Craig on your films. When creating the characters, do you write them specifically with these actresses in mind?
Yes, that’s something I’ve always done. I don’t write characters FOR the Actors. I just started to visualize the actors who could play the characters as myself and Will write the scripts. Naturally, we want to work with people we know we have a good bond with and who get our way of doing things. It seems to work well for other filmmakers, and it works for us. Dani I always like to give her roles she doesn’t typically play, so I give her strong stubborn female roles and she always delivers. Panda is just a great all-round actress, and her facial expressions are always cracking me up and look great on camera. You’ll see a lot of similar faces in Pumpkins as well as my new feature film Party of Valice.
8. You form part of the production company Great Northern Productions UK. How did the company first come about?
We’ve almost created a Great Northern franchise. So, we first had Great Northern Hotel, which is the band Will formed back in 2005. I joined the band in about 2010 as a keyboardist then vocalist. The band was named after the hotel in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, as it suits the style. So, we named the film company based on that due to the weird Lynchian style films we used to make when we first started out. Me and Will were always the instigators of the films we were involved with, so it made sense to form the film production company and introduce different DOPs and other film specialists as we go along.
9. Can you tell me about some of the projects you are working on at the moment and when we can expect to see them?
I’m currently in post-production with Party of Valice. We actually spoke to you about this on our interview at last year’s Horror-on-Sea, so here we are having made the film a year later. It’s a very quirky, surreal, fun, crazy horror film. We wanted to recreate something which had the feel of films like Haunted Honeymoon (1986), Clue (1985), The Lost Boys (1987) and Shopping (1994). Our last film Pumpkins now has US and UK Distribution agreed, so expect to see that this year.
We are also just finishing a short film titled Red Street which is actually a gritty drama. We expect to turn that into a feature film later this year. The short will be entered into film festivals from March this year, and it has turned into a collaboration with Panda Marcella Edgecombe-Craig. She will be writing and producing the third installment of the film.
As a said before, there is a genre film called Remember Remember. I play an awesome character, and the film has just secured Worldwide release. Expect to see that release this year, most likely November (for obvious reasons). I’m also working alongside Panda on her feature film Death Promise currently in production. I have a very different character to play, which I’m really pleased to be cast for. That will be released in 2020.
10. Are there any other women working in horror who you feel do not get the recognition they deserve — and whose work we should look out for?
Funny enough, I don’t know many female filmmakers in the independent horror industry — not on a personal level anyway. Mainly actresses who I work with Like Dani Thompson, Panda Marcella Edgecombe-Craig, who also plays an awesome character called Mistress Morphine (you should look her up). Joanne Mitchell, who writes brilliantly gory and crazy horror scripts and also produces alongside her husband Dominic Brunt. Jade Campbell Wilson of Monster Minx, who has made the faces of the monsters in my previous films and does a lot a very cool SFX work. I would absolutely love to find and collaborate with other females in the industry.
11. If someone was looking to get into filmmaking themselves, what advice would you give them?
A successful filmmaker will find it stressful as well as fun, but you can’t have one without the other. Stick to genres you love. Work with people you trust and enjoy working with. Take risks and don’t be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. Also invest in yourself, because if you’re not willing to put money into something you believe in, then you can’t expect potential investors to believe in you either.
Filmmaking isn’t cheap even if you are making something for the lowest possible budget, so you need to be prepared to be a bit broke while you’re doing it. Just make sure you remember to have fun, otherwise what’s the point!
You can find out more about Maria and great Northern Productions on the website www.greatnorthernproductions.co.uk and on the following social media pages