I was fortunate enough to return to Atlanta this past weekend to attend the inaugural year of the Women in Horror Film Festival. There’s no argument from anyone that women play an integral role in the creation of some of our most beloved movies and television shows but while they are instrumental in bringing these stories to life they are often overlooked and disregarded in the world of filmmaking. In fact, unless a woman happens to be the pretty face of that final girl in a slasher film or the director in charge, her contributions are almost always forgotten. Women in Horror Film Festival set out to change that, highlighting women in all aspects of independent filmmaking.
With over 70 contributions from around the world screening during the three day festival, Women in Horror Film Festival managed to truly run the gamut on horror film and on recognition of the hardworking women who might otherwise go unnoticed by audiences otherwise. Unlike other festivals that insist the film be directed by a woman or that there be no male presence attached to the production of the film, Women in Horror set out to be much more inclusive and unifying. Rather than trying to deliver an inversion of the sort of sexism that is known in the industry, they welcomed all films that had a strong female influence in writing, direction, production, editing, and a host of other fields vital to bringing a movie to life.
To that end, the guests invited to speak and judge during this momentous event were nothing short of horror icons. Jen and Sylvia Soska, Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, and Lynn Lowry -just to name a few- not only presented awards and spoke on panels but made themselves available to filmmakers and fans alike in what was one of the most laid back and truly collaborative environments I’ve ever experienced. Everyone in attendance had the same things to say to me. “This doesn’t feel like a first year festival” and “Your first film festival? You’re going to get spoiled.”
And they’re right.
Most film festivals I’ve read about seem to be a bit more stodgy, closed off and segregated than Women in Horror was. This, in my opinion as a first time attendee and reporter at a film fest, is to the detriment of those other festivals. What I experienced as a creative talent myself was a great coming together, a sort of euphoric meeting of the minds. Many of us gathered were total strangers but the environment created and fostered by film festival creators Samantha Kolesnik and Vanessa Ionta Wright was nothing short of welcoming and all inclusive. If you didn’t know someone when you arrived, you’d know them before you left. Each night, after the last block of films and final panel were over, many of us would adjourn to the bar where, like most creatives, we’d indulge in a little alcohol, a little tobacco, and a lot of incredible conversation and networking. There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t personally witness filmmakers coming together and the seeds of collaboration sprouting.
A vendor’s alley was just outside the screening hall where artists from around the region had set up shop to peddle everything from trinkets and books to prop making and makeup effects skills. There were also booths set up for some of the stars of various film and media including Sonya Thompson (The Walking Dead) and Trina Parks (James Bond: Diamonds are Forever) to sell autographs and talk to fans about their work on film.
As for the films themselves, that is going to take an entirely different article to cover, which I’ll be doing shortly. I can say that in three days I never watched a single bad film which is impressive in my opinion. For there to have been so many movies you’d almost expect for at least one or two not to click with audiences but every last one ended in thunderous applause and there were more than a few people who said “I’d pay to see that in theaters.”
The awards ceremony on the final night was emotional at times as many presenters and nominees didn’t want to leave. I mean, I can’t blame them. For three days on constant comradery and the sharing of some incredible films and ideas, it was difficult to say goodbye. Despite the fact that not everyone left with a Lizzie, the awards statuette designed for the Women in Horror Film Festival, it’s hard to say that anyone lost. When so many incredible films are brought together in one place and receive the sort of reaction that every last one received, not everyone walked away with something to show for it, but they all walked away knowing that they had created something beautiful that fans would not soon forget. For a first year festival, Women in Horror was a sensation that even now I can’t seem to shake from my head. I’ve already been invited back to cover next year and I can say without a doubt that I’ll be there.
Filmmakers, if you have a project that you want to submit to the second annual Women in Horror Film Festival, submissions open October 1, 2017. The festival itself is set to run September 20-23, 2018 in Atlanta so there’s no excuse not to book a room and get your tickets now.
More reviews, interviews, thoughts, and stories from the first annual Women in Horror Film Festival coming soon.
Dan Lee is a horror fiend and freelance writer with a special place in his heart for monster movies and demonic possession stories.