When people hear the name Nashville, their thoughts immediately turn to cowboy hats, rhinestones, and the Grand Ole Opry. Twanging country music and smokey honky tonk bars fill the mind and evoke a very specific style. The one thing no one expects is a vibrant and growing horror community deep in the heart of Music City.
Daisy Dukes, so named because they make “short shorts” is the collaborative brainchild of Dycee Wildman, Jennifer Bonior, and Stephanie Adams. The trio met during the 48 Hour Film Project several years ago and have been working together ever since making films the way they want. I had the privilege of meeting them first at Women in Horror and then again earlier this month when we sat down to discuss their contribution to genre filmmaking and the future.
Stephanie, unfortunately, was unable to join us but Dycee and Jennifer were happy to discuss their work on film and what drives their passion.
Dan - What Brought You to Horror?
Dycee - I came to horror real late in life. I saw The Exorcist when I was really young and didn’t sleep for three years. It wasn’t until college when I saw Invasion of the Body Snatchers that I really started to love it. With the exception of music videos (I mean, Nashville) I’ve written almost nothing but horror ever since.
Jennifer - I grew up watching a lot of really dark, weird things I probably shouldn’t have watched and liked. I didn’t realize I was a horror fan until I got into college and realized that this was the sort of film I love. My parents did their best to terrify me as a child and I turned out fine. I grew up in San Jose not far from the Winchester mystery house and I was obsessed with it. It had a huge impact on my life and imagination.
Dan - Do You Find it More Liberating to Shoot a Horror Film?
Dycee - I like working with the tropes. How are you going to take this set and make something new with it. It forces your creativity and builds suspense for the audience. Since we play in the short shorts, we get to play a lot with the idea of the twist and have fun with it.
Dan - Do You Feel that Shorts Get Overlooked in lieu of Features and Television?
Jennifer - I think it’s part of filmmaking in general. People want to sit down and be entertained for a certain time frame, want to make it an event to take the family or go for an outing. They want to be entertained for a certain period of time. You have to rely on the curator to understand the ebb and flow of a film screening when it comes to getting an audience in for a short film.
It’s also a challenge to tell a 4 minute story to entertain an audience and keep their attention.
Dycee - Horror fans are so hungry and there’s so much out there disappointing them. If they can find out what you’ve got they’re going to come looking for it. There’s an opportunity with the genre, with horror and comedy. Like Funny or Die I think we’re right around the corner for something like that in horror.
Dan - Tell me about I’ll Huff and I’ll Puff. French Noir with a werewolf.
Dycee - First there was the podcast. We were listening to a history podcast about werewolves and there was a time in early French history when people were being prosecuted as werewolves. There was a big fear of werewolves. Then there were also people identifying as werewolves.
Jennifer - We’ve got French history and werewolves and we wanted to know how we could make this cool. We thought about French new wave and werewolves and then we thought of our friend Drew who constantly needs a cigarette. We could just see him half in makeup smoking a cigarette with a werewolf arm.
Dan - What can you tell me about your new project(s)?
Dycee - We’re in preproduction on three projects. We’ve started a new photo based series as well as a new film that’s hitting the festival circuit.
Jennifer - We don’t know how to sit still.
Dan - Let’s start with the film.
Jennifer - Inside the House
Dycee - This has been so much fun.
Jennifer - Straight narrative. Fun twists. Plays with a lot of tropes. Has a very John Carpenter/Halloween inspiration behind it.
Dycee - This was a very short short. It’s a little over 3 minutes.
Jennifer - It’s too the point. The concept arrived from a joke that we can’t share yet. I’ve got to skirt around figuring out how to talk about it. We had a very specific end in mind and when we were talking to our makeup effects person Elizabeth (Goins) she said “You know, I can do that.” Once we talk to her we almost always go to Bill who composes the music for us.
Maggie, my fiance who joined me for this interview, also popped in with some excellent questions.
Maggie - So, typically, how long is it take you to film a short?
Jennifer - Typically we shoot in one day on a passion project budget. Everyone whose there is there because they love it. The editing is done on nights and weekends when we can. The shoot is planned for several months, we shoot in one day, and then we spend months editing.
Dycee - And with Inside the House it was a 14 to 16 hour day.
Dan - Tell me about the photo project.
Jennifer - It’s called Ladylike. A series of photographs of women in “beautiful monstrous poses.” The idea is to shoot a series each month for the entire year. The idea is to capture the inner monster that all women have. The ways we’re forced to act…
Dycee - Societally acceptable.
Jennifer - Yes! January’s was about a woman who has given herself so much to her family and her house that she has literally become the power source for the entire home. We’re playfully calling it Power House right now. This woman becomes the electric power source for this empty house. It’s our version of a ghost story.
Dycee - She made sure the family worked and kept up the home and had a superpower basically that no one noticed. And now that everyone’s gone she’s still stuck there running everything.
Jennifer - The one we’re working on this month is called Boss Bitch. It’s this strong, powerful woman who has worked to get where she is and she has wrongfully been called a bitch because of how she handles herself in business. We’re playing with these ideas and creating these Beautiful Monsters.
Dycee - It’s grotesque because in Power House she’s got all these wires coming out of her body, her eyes are blown out sockets, and it’s a result of the position a lot of women get put in.
Jennifer - Once the year is done, we’re hoping to have a gallery showing of the whole series.
Dan - Do you always use the same photographer?
Dycee - Yes. We use Danielle Shields here in Nashville, she’s our photographer and we get Elizabeth Goins who does all our makeup work. Then we find models who we really want to work with on this and we’ve been going to them and asking them what they think of as their monster.
Jennifer - It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve gotten to sit down and talk to the models and use these monsters that they feel are inside of them.
Dan - How do you feel you’re received as women filmmakers?
Jennifer - Such a fun and hard question to answer. Speaking from a pet peeve side first, the most frustrating thing is showing up to festivals and immediately hearing “So, what movie did you act in?” Can we please stop this? Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I have to be in front of the camera. Just the other day I had some guy ask me if I was an actress. Can we just stop that. It doesn’t feel like a compliment.
Dan - That’s almost verbatim what I’ve been told by other women in film. I can’t even begin to imagine the frustration that causes.
Dycee - We are in the south too and I think it’s a little harder to get noticed doing what we do out here. I think it’s just that people don’t expect to be working with people like us. It can be very hard to be taken seriously and get jobs. It’s frustrating in the little ways. It’s the insidious side of things where you can’t know if people have passed on me for work because of my work or because I’m a woman? It’s also really cool to hit those walls and fall into communities like Daisy Dukes where we get to do things that are fun and collaborative.
Jennifer - We try to have fun and make sure there is an openness and comradery on our sets.
Dan - What advice would you offer to filmmakers looking to blaze a similar path?
Dycee - Do it and be bad at it. Enjoy being bad at it so you can become good. Don’t be afraid to take a chance.
Jennifer - Just go out there and make your art. If you don’t put in the work you’ll never create anything.
The work being produced by Daisy Dukes and the trio of women behind it is nothing short of brilliant. Fun, thoughtful, funny, and dark with a love of practical effects and old school horror tropes turned sideways, they’re not afraid to take a chance to make something so desperately needed in the community today: good horror. Inside the House is currently entering the film festival circuit and will hopefully be playing at a festival near you soon. If you’re not already following them online and on social media they can be found at Daisy Dukes Films and on Instagram @daisydukesfilms. Be sure to check out the continuing adventures of Dycee, Jennifer, and Stephanie as they create their own unique vision of horror right here in the heart of Music City.
If you’d like to listen to the full, unedited interview -noises and pointless Dan-isms included- check it out here as part of an ongoing series of interviews and discussions with scaremakers in Tennessee that I’m calling State of Fear.
Dan Lee is a horror fiend and freelance writer with a special place in his heart for monster movies and demonic possession stories.