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Filmmakers on Women in Horror

“Chomp chomp, zombie.” A diminutive, grandmotherly figure says with a broad smile as she clacks a set of dentures in the air.

It’s been almost two weeks since I had the chance to visit the first annual Women in Horror Film Festival and that singular image from Lynne Hansen’s Chomp is still making me grin. The story centers on an elderly woman obsessed with a cable access pundit convinced the zombie apocalypse is nigh. Determined to be a guest on his show, she kidnaps a drunk frat boy in a zombie costume as he staggers away from a party and tries to convince him (and herself) that the man is in fact a zombie.

I got the chance to talk to Lynne over breakfast one morning during the film festival. A Florida native with a big personality, she was easy to find in her horn rimmed blue glasses that matched the shock of bright blue hair that came down just over her eyes. Wearing a t-shirt that read “I Make Films Like a Girl” she was eager to talk about Chomp and the importance of women in cinema.

“I’ve been a horror fan since I was a kid.” Lynne says. “I learned at a young age to love being scared.”

Why Women in Horror?

Lynne makes no bones about the fact that being a woman in the film industry, especially the horror genre, can be incredibly difficult if not impossible for some. “Often times you get asked ‘What film are you in?’ instead of ‘What film did you make?’ when you go out on the festival circuit. I’m trying to break that stupid trope of the barely clad woman in chains being rescued by the male hero.”

“It’s really important to showcase women’s voices.” She continues. “But it’s not just about empowering women. It’s about women and men working together equally. It’s a chance to build awareness and meet other female friendly voices that are behind the lens. I’m here building a horror friendly, woman friendly tribe of filmmakers.”

It’s a sentiment shared almost universally with everyone at the Women in Horror Film Festival. As I moved from breakfast to the first block of films I run into Tara Hall and Josh Johnson, creators of Buzzard Hollow Beef. The film about a newly single mother and her family at Thanksgiving ending up in a psychotic, cannibalistic murder frenzy not only has horror but heart and humor.

“No one’s going to give us permission so let’s just do it!” Tara Hall says about making Buzzard Hollow Beef. “We planned the film to have a feminist slant from the start. We wanted a smart, well rounded female character with some depth that could speak to the audience. Someone that could break that ‘Final Girl’ trope. There was a reason for everything that happens to her and the characters in the story.”

“It’s a psychedelic game of cat and mouse.” Josh Johnson adds. “We get to blend a lot of the horror sub-genres and make the sort of horror movie we want to see.”

With only five more festivals left in it’s run, Tara and Josh wanted the chance to experience the fan reaction to their movie while getting a chance to share their love of the genre and of filmmaking with other filmmakers and fans.

“It’s revitalizing.” Tara adds. “It encourages us to go out and make more movies.”

Bel Delia of Scratch shared the sentiment as well. “This festival gives us a chance to expand and share more in the genre. It’s going to highlight a lot of what might otherwise be missed.”

Scratch, a Hitchcockian styled 50’s took a different look at a woman in not only a leading role but the seemingly unlikely position of a female hero given the style of the story.

“It’s about creating more.” Bel says. “You get a chance to meet other filmmakers and actors and you create opportunities to collaborate and explore the genres that exist inside the genre.”

Bel is also a leading character in an upcoming sci-fi film from the creators of another WiHFF film, Murder Made Easy. Director Dave Palamaro, writer Tim Davis, cinematographer Sherri Kauka, and consulting producer/actress Jessica Graham were all elated to be in attendance.

“You need a passion for filmmaking.” Sherri says. “Especially during post production when you’re not on set and there’s no adrenaline flowing. Production itself is like triage.”

Making its world premiere at Women in Horror was important to cast and crew alike as they wanted to highlight some of the astonishing work done not only by Jessica and the other women on the cast but the work of women behind the lens.

“I had a shot I wanted of some pictures on the wall but I couldn’t get them arranged how I wanted to make it work.” Director Dave Palamaro said. “Sherri came in, took them all off the wall and laid them out on a table then took the camera and panned across them. It was absolutely amazing and came out exactly how I wanted it.”

A Word of Advice.

While I was waiting for a film block to start I met a young woman named Erin in the lobby. Erin is a film student and horror fan who came originally for the chance to meet Heather Langenkamp and Amanda Wyss from the Nightmare on Elm Street series but was staying for all of the incredible films being played. It really made me think about what I’d have wanted to know from some of my favorite authors when I started my writing career so I decided to ask everyone what advice they’d offer to Erin and every other girl out there who dreams about making movies?

“Filmmaking is about synergy and collaboration. Find the right people, the ones who are the right fit, and work at a pace you’re pleased with.” - Lynn Hansen, Chomp

“Just start writing. Tell a great story and put it out there. Your expectations can ” - Tara Hall, Buzzard Hollow Beef

“Don’t worry about rules or a perceived path. Just start making a movie and remember that not all problems are bad ones.” Josh Johnson, Buzzard Hollow Beef

“Study writing. Study story. Read and learn how to tell a good story.” Melissa Lyons, Alfred J. Hemlock

“Have a working coffee maker.” Tim Davis, Murder Made Easy

“Stay passionate about what you do.” Sherri Kauk, Murder Made Easy

“Be brave and share your ideas with the world.” Bel Delia, Scratch

Reviews of these films and many more coming soon so keep reading and keep making that scary.

Dan Lee is a horror fiend and freelance writer with a special place in his heart for monster movies and demonic possession stories.

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