Friday, September 28, 2007

Interview with Filmmaker Shannon Lark

Shannon Lark is a multi-talented director, writer, producer, performer, actress, dancer and manager in the horror business. She has written, directed and produced her own films, acted in many independent horror flicks, founded indie-filmmaker forum (where those in the horror film industry can mingle and mangle) and production company The Chainsaw Mafia, founded The Viscera Series and Film Festival that encourages women in the male-dominated horror industry to submit their own artwork and films, and is the gore wrangler and dancer for the zombie dance troupe, The Living Dead Girlz, among MANY other horror-related things! Currently, she is running for this year’s Miss Horrorfest.

She loves horror and isn’t afraid to show it!! And that’s what we love about her…

Lark is extremely passionate about what she does, and even though she has accomplished so much, she has no plans of stopping anytime soon! Fatally Yours recently got the chance to interview the lovely Ms. Lark, whom you should definitely go vote for in the Miss Horrorfest competition (go here and vote 5 stars on the video!). She definitely deserves it…if you read on, I’m sure you’ll see why!

Fatally Yours: Shannon, your love of horror is apparent. You’ve acted in, directed, written and edited numerous horror films, founded the production company and indie forum The Chainsaw Mafia, performed in splatter theater with the Living Dead Girlz and the Primitive Screwheads, written for horror sites including, created and run the Viscera Film Festival for women and now you are running for Miss Horrorfest. Horror definitely flows through your veins! How did your love of horror begin and what made you decide to pursue a career in the horror business?

Shannon Lark: It all started with an experience at the ballet when I saw a gruesome rendition of Romeo and Juliet when I was four. Ever since I have been hooked to the genre and every morbid image I could get a hold of. It was just a natural progression from obsessive viewing to obsessive creating. Being an artist in the horror genre is what fuels my imagination and that means everything to me.

FY: Most people take their whole lives to accomplish as much as you have. How have you accomplished so much in such a short amount of time?

SL: Oh wow. Thanks for the compliment! I would hope that people accomplish more than this though, since I feel I have done very little in the big scheme of things.

How I did accomplish what I have so far is by obsessiveness. If you want something bad enough, you don’t just stand around and talk about it or allow your fears to engulf you so you never do it.

I jumped in, head first. I harassed people, made them teach me what they knew when I was hired to act in films. I took independent classes, bought books, and created The Chainsaw Mafia, my horror production company and website.

I started directing films, even though I felt like I had no idea what I was doing. I learned how to edit films, how to write them, how to direct and produce them (along with splatter theater productions).

Directing film festivals came just as naturally as making films. I knew a lot of horror filmmakers in the Bay Area whose films deserved to be shown. Festival Directing, The Chainsaw Mafia, and the Living Dead Girlz have sprung off from these platforms I set up.

It’s all about networking…which is more like beating people over the head with a bloody mallet until they comply.

FY: What was the first project you worked on in the horror genre?

SL: Haha. This is a fun one. I directed this film when I was a junior in high school about nuclear proliferation and the potential effects it could have on the world. I grew up where the US Government tested the first Atomic Bomb, so it was a pretty hot topic.

The film is called “Blood in the Sand,” and features a bunch of my classmates. It had a Marilyn Manson soundtrack and took place in the desert, after the world had been “blown” up. It was cute and we showed it to a panel of Los Alamos Scientists. They really didn’t know what to say….

They probably just said we were all Satanists. Hail Satan!

FY: How did you learn how to act, direct, write, etc.?

SL: My sister was a pretty popular director in our hometown by the time she was 13. She was always an influence in the acting field (she once did an 8 minute scene for a class where she had multiple personalities, it was brilliant!). She really helped me get into acting and dancing and putting on shows.

Directing and writing films came from reading books and talking to people. It takes a while to get down the formatting of writing scripts. It took a lot of crappy scripts to finally get it right!

FY: How did the Living Dead Girlz gig and the Primitive Screwheads opportunity come about?

SL: The LDG were created after I made this film called What Ever Happened to the Zombie Killers. It was one of my first short films and had a cute zombie dance sequence. Amber Steele designed and taught the choreography for the zombies (along with acting in the film). At one point she turned to me in a half joking manner that we should start a zombie dance troupe. That’s where it all started.

About 5 years ago I was cruising Craigslist, looking for horror productions to be involved with. I saw a post by the director, Sean, and contacted him for the role of Annie in Evil Dead: Live. I drove in the craziest rain to get to the audition and was in traffic for 3 hours, arriving over an hour late. I found parking, ran to the theater building at SFSU.

He waited for me, I couldn’t believe it. I auditioned and he gave me the part immediately.

FY: The Chainsaw Mafia and The Viscera Series and Film Fest are both great opportunities for independent filmmakers, especially women. Can you tell our readers more about these?

SL: The Chainsaw Mafia is a free networking forum on the web, so it helps to facilitate link ups with filmmakers and let people know what’s going on in the independent horror filmmaking community. TCM is about bringing a feeling of family and unity in the genre. Discounted equipment rentals and a one stop horror shop coming soon!

TCM also houses film festivals, for men and women, and helps other filmmakers work to be seen and honored.

Viscera is a Film Festival and Series featured on The films in the Series are made completely by women, in every aspect of production. Any woman can enter their film (as long as it falls within these guidelines) for the Series.

Along with the Series are Viscera Women, these women are particular females who are being honored on the site because of their roles in the horror genre. Ones who are making an impact and creating their own art are especially candidates.

The Film Festival features women directed/produced films, and has a monetary award for women-only films. Viscera is also sponsored by many horror organizations and Festivals that will review the winners on the DVD and potentially view their favorite Viscera films.

FY: The roles for women in horror, both in front and behind the camera, have been pretty limited in the past. How do you feel about the role of women in film today and do you think there has been an improvement?

SL: I think a lot has changed for women in horror, and its just picking up speed as time goes along. I think more women than ever are creating their own productions and taking projects into their own hands. I think the majority of women are still a bit timid, not just in horror, but in many other career choices. I think we have a way to go before we are considered equal in the work force, but it might be reachable in our lifetimes.

FY: It seems that men make up the majority of horror fans. Why do you think that there are fewer women as fans and how would you convince women that aren’t fans to give horror a chance?

SL: I agree with you, and I think it’s because men are what horror films are marketed to. There is such a flooded market of slasher films wherein the formula is so straightforward. Women are used as objects to be penetrated (with whatever phallic object used in the film), and the final girl is the one in which men can relate to. She takes on a male-like character (not sexy, usually a virgin) and overcomes all obstacles.

I think as more horror films come to light that aren’t your typical slasher film, we will see more an more women become spectators. I also believe that as more women become involved in the genre, we will see a huge rise of female interest. It’s like a message to other females that the waters fine, and nothing bad is going to happen to them if they like it.

FY: Your films contain a lot of social commentary. Do you believe it’s important for films to carry a message along with being entertaining?

SL: For many of my films, yes. I don’t think all horror films need to carry on an important message, intentionally.

I think horror films carry on more of a subconscious message than any other genre of film due to its extreme content. It’s hard to make a good horror film without critics analyzing it to death and creating reasons on why you did what you did to make it effective.

Sometimes I just want to make something fucked up, and people point out to me their conclusions on morality issues on my material. It’s just a natural thing for humans to look for the message. Even if there really isn’t a message there, we want answers.

FY: You are competing for Miss Horrorfest 2007. What was the driving factor that made you want to do this?

SL: Well, I entered last year with a really great film called Prom Queen. It was just a really disturbing film that many people thought was snuff. Youtube ended up kicking the film off the site, even though it contained absolutely no nudity and showed no penetration of any object.

Although Prom Queen was effective, I don’t think it was right for the contest. So I entered again this year, with more of an iconic image in mind. I think it’s time for a strong female character to become more apparent in the genre and I hope to help many women become involved as well.

If I win, in 2008, I plan to start a Scream Queen Camp for budding girls who are interested in getting into the business and expand The Chainsaw Mafia to helping filmmakers even more so.

FY: Who do you look up to in the horror industry?

SL: Peter Jackson, David Lynch, and Alejandro Jodorowsky.

People who I know and love are Heidi Martinuzzi, Michelle Fatale, and Amber Steele.

FY: What are your top 5 favorite horror films?

SL: Dead Alive (Brain Dead), Santa Sangre, Evil Dead, The Shining, Elephant Man

FY: Shannon, you’ve contributed so much to the genre and the horror community is lucky to have you. We at applaud all your efforts and you definitely have our vote for Miss Horrorfest 2007!

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