Horror Stories

There was a panel called 'Directing the Dead 2' today, at the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW). It included Scott Weinberg, James Wan, Simon Rumley, Ben Wheatley, Jason Eisener, Nicolas Goldbart. And one woman, Emily Hagins. And WHAT a woman she is. Emily Hagins is 18 and has made three features. My Sucky Teen Romance is premiering today at SXSW ('today' around the world goes on rather a long time, as you know).

Anyway, I was up early, and fell across a live twitter feed from Scott Macaulay, @FilmmakerMag. And laughed, several times. I loved it that Scott's few tweets managed immediately to capture/attract so many of the different points of view about a complex issue. What a great way to start the day, some light relief from the real-life horror stories of Japan. (I can't get this image out of my head, dream about it. Long to help. Hope that over time there will be plenty of opportunities to do so.)

Japanese tsunami March 2011 (from Stuff)

I edited Scott's first few tweets a little, when I was about to re-tweet them, but then became caught up in the conversation.

@FilmmakerMag Scott Macaulay
Weinberg asks why there aren't more women horror directors? Lots of female horror fans. #sxsw 'Directing the Dead 2'

Eisener: "Don't know why -- I had babysitters growing up who could tell me scary stories better than any of my current friends." #sxsw 'Directing the Dead 2'

Rumley: "Well, forget horror, why aren't there more women directors?" #sxsw 'Directing the Dead 2'

@AyeQue .A.W. Quinn
@FilmmakerMag damn good question

@FilmmakerMag
Female audience member says women separate themselves through women's film festivals-everyone should be in one big pot. #sxsw 'Directing the Dead 2'

Wheatley: "Technology has freed up stuff -- there is no barrier to anyone making a film. So why isn't there equal amounts m/f directors?"

Wheatley says the biggest thing he had to get over at start of career was mental barrier that he needed "permission" to make a film.

Wheatley: "Is there cultural hardwiring that makes women think they can't give themselves permission to make a film?"
@mariannapalka Marianna Palka
@FilmmakerMag There must be. I didn't feel that way but the numbers speak for themselves. Let's all be audacious, male or female.

@FilmmakerMag
Nicolas Goldbart: "In Argentina, women are not fond of the genre. Lots of female directors, but not more women making genre films."

@ellenmaguirenyc Ellen Maguire
@FilmmakerMag Oh, come on. Did anyone laugh out loud at the idea that women filmmakers are holding themselves back?

@FilmmakerMag
James Wan: Says in his L.A. horror clique there lots of female directors, women who want to be producers. Sees more women coming out for horror.

Xavier Gens, dir of "The Divide," says he is seeing the same thing in France. He shouts out Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Gaspar Noe's partner.

@ellenmaguirenyc I'm just the messenger, but no one laughed. Although one female audience member said "women were more cerebral" for horror.

ellenmaguirenyc Ellen Maguire
@FilmmakerMag Lucile Hadzihalilovic ("Innocence") told me once that as a relatively new director she was, at times, uncomfortable.... ½

@FilmmakerMag (con't) confronting conflict. (And yes, I know you're the messenger, not the opinionator; thanks for the live tweets.)

[MOVING RIGHT ALONG NOW, STILL SMILING]

@FilmmakerMag
Eisener: Not a fan of current remake trend. Why don't producers remake old films with good ideas but bad execution?

Hagins says bad remakes at least direct young viewers to the good originals

Eisener: there are groundbreaking horror films now, but not from studios. Good horror has to risk alienating audience. Studios can't do.

Wheatley: Current "rehabilitation of the creature" trend is interesting. True Blood, Twilight -- monster as hero.

Wheatley: "I think that's wrong. They should all be fucking killed!"

Wan: If studios aren't making quality films we want to see, that's good -- inspires indie filmmakers to make what they want to see. #sxsw

Wan: Back in the day, the best horror films were all studio films. #sxsw

Weinberg: Have people watch 10 remakes and then the 10 originals. If they prefer remakes, they are not writers. #sxsw

Hagins: As someone who has had to sell her possessions to make movies, has problem with big-budget remakes. #sxsw

Audience member says producers asked him about his horror movie, "Where are the tits?" Wheatley: "Where were the tits?" #sxsw

Rumley: Finding a good producer is key. Few people can raise money and be creatively good too. Most on this panel have done it ourselves.

Wan: "To a large degree, you can control the business yourself. Oren Peli proved you can make a movie on your own." #sxsw

Rumley: If producers don't get your vision, just do it yourselves. #sxsw

Wan: Says he shot one scene from SAW to use as calling card. Off strength of that short, that made them read script. Producers came to us.

Wheatley: First film, 'Down Terrance," spent six thousand pounds and shot it in 8 days. #sxsw And on that note, the panel is over.

@FilmmakerMag didn't report any comment from Emily Hagins about the 'gender issue'. But she's on to it. This is what she says in a great interview on Fatally Yoursby Sarah Jahier:

Emily Hagins (photo: Fatally Yours)
SJ: Do you ever feel you are taken less seriously in the film industry because of your gender and/or age?
Emily Hagins: Sometimes, but I feel like the best way to get around that is to prove any negative assumptions wrong by making more movies. Technological developments have made it easier for people interested in filmmaking to start at a younger age. One of my goals with my movies is to tell stories that stand alone, instead of being brought down by my gender or age.
SJ: Why do you think the horror genre has primarily been a man’s domain?

Emily Hagins: I think women tend to gravitate towards romance or dramas, which is probably why romantic comedies have been dubbed “chick flicks.” Horror films (and action) almost seem like the opposite of romantic comedies, so they have become the “guy flicks.” I think studios feel more comfortable hiring a guy to direct a movie of a genre with an audience that is mainly men.

SJ: As a woman, do you think you are viewed differently than your male counterparts in the horror genre? If so, how and why?

Emily Hagins: I think so, mainly because I try to tell stories about what I know- and right now I know what it’s like to be a teenage girl. Pathogen is from the point of view of a teenage girl during the zombie outbreak, so it probably feels a little different from a horror movie told from a guy’s perspective. 
SJ: Even though women seem to be getting more and more involved behind the scenes in horror, why do you think there are less female horror directors, writers, producers, etc. in the genre than males?

Emily Hagins: The filmmaking industry is dominated by men in general, and as a result I think a lot of things about the filmmaking process are intended for a guy’s way of working. I think it’s a challenge for women to make movies, but entirely possible.

SJ: What elements can female filmmakers/authors/journalists/etc. bring to the horror genre that are lacking in males’ perspectives?

Emily Hagins: I believe writing what you know is any writer’s inherent strong point, so I think female filmmakers/writers have the potential to provide realistic and strong female characters.

SJ: Do you think it’s harder for women to be taken seriously in a genre that seems to be dominated by males?

Emily Hagins: In a way, yes. I think the common misconception is that girls don’t like gore or horror movies, so some people think a female filmmaker would skip out on those things. However, I think filmmakers of both genders understand that to make a successful movie one must love their story and genre.

SJ: Do you ever get annoyed at how women in horror movies always end naked or with their clothes ripped off?

Emily Hagins: Haha, yeah. But I usually just think, “A guy probably made this movie or insisted on this scene.” It depends on how good the movie is for me to be distracted or not distracted by it because it’s pretty common.

SJ: Do you feel you’ve become desensitized to stereotypical scenes in horror like the half-naked girl screaming and running for her life in slow motion? Or are these types of familiar horror tropes still effective and necessary?

Emily Hagins: One of the things I love about horror movies is how there are pretty specific elements that are interpreted as “rules”, but they can by broken or used to have a different meanings from film to film. For example, nowadays a stereotypical scene where a woman gets her clothes ripped off could be intended to be a comical homage to old horror movies.

SJ: Do you feel that other people view women as being “soft” and not able to endure horror as well as men? How do you fight this stereotypical view?

Emily Hagins: I’m sure some people do think this is true, but I can’t speak for all women and say that it isn’t. When I go see a horror movie (new or vintage), there tend to be less women in the theater. While I don’t hate the shorter bathroom lines, I won’t say that there isn’t a line. I know plenty of women who enjoy horror movies, and I think our best way to fight the stereotype is to keep showing up at the theater for horror movies.

SJ: What women in horror do you admire and why?

Emily Hagins: I think I would say Lexi Alexander, though I don’t know if her films would qualify as horror. She’s an independent filmmaker who doesn’t shy away from gore or action, I guess like Kathryn Bigelow too. I saw her speak at a Q & A for her film Hooligans at SXSW, and she’s very determined and passionate. That’s the kind of filmmaker I try to be.

SJ: What are your goals for yourself within the horror genre?

Emily Hagins: With any horror movies I make, I hope that people aren’t thinking “A girl made this.” I don’t like thinking “I bet a guy made this,” when I watch a movie. I’d rather just be lost in the story.

And now—with a sense of celebration—from the remarkable Emily Hagins, the trailer for My Sucky Teen Romance. Long may Emily flourish—she's an inspiration!

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