Friday, October 10, 2008

Interview with Shriekfest Film Fest Founder Denise Gossett

The warm and friendly Denise Gossett is the founder of Shriekfest, a horror and sci-fi film festival that runs every year in October in Los Angeles. Founded in 2001, Shriekfest has just wrapped up its eighth year of celebrating independent horror and sci-fi films, and we have Denise to thank for that! Besides being the festival organizer (and so much more!) for Shriekfest, Denise is also an accomplished actress who has worked with Dennis Hopper, Kristin Bell, Will Patton and many others!

We had a chance to chat with Denise about her passion for film and how Shriekfest began…

Fatally Yours: Denise, how and when did you start Shriekfest? Why did you think there was a need for a horror/sci-fi film festival?

Denise Gossett: Shriekfest just finished it’s 8th year. 9 years ago I starred in a horror film and wanted it to be put in festivals, but at the time, there really weren’t any, so I came up with the idea and told my sister in law my idea and she loved it. 2 months later we held our first festival.

Fatally Yours: How do you prepare for the annual festival each year? 

Denise Gossett: Well, we have judges who narrow down the best films and screenplays and then we have another set of judges who pick the winners. Parties have to be planned as well. Press releases must go out. It really has become a full time job.

Fatally Yours: How are the films for the festival chosen? Do you make the final decision on which ones will screen at Shriekfest?

Denise Gossett: Well, Todd Beeson, my partner, and I try to stay out of the voting as much as possible. We will help settle a tie if there is one, but really we leave all the judging to the judges. It’s really the fairest way to do it.

Fatally Yours: Besides running Shriekfest, you are also an accomplished actress that has appeared on many TV shows, theatrical productions and films. What has been your favorite experience and why? 

Denise Gossett: Well, I absolutely loved doing the TV show The New Adventures of Old Christine, it was very professional and the entire cast and crew were a blast! I’ve also enjoyed every other project I’ve worked on. They are all a little different, but I come to life when I’m on a set. I adore acting. It has been my love for many years.

Fatally Yours: Has it always been your life-long dream to act? Do you ever want to try to write, direct or produce? 

Denise Gossett: Acting has been my dream since I was a little girl. I have tried writing and I just don’t enjoy it like I do acting. Directing, I did in college and everyone said I was great at it, but  I’m a perfectionist, so I didn’t really enjoy directing either. Producing…probably some day, I know I’d be good at it, but for me to be passionate about a project, I’d have to be acting in it as well.

Fatally Yours: At what point in your career did you realize, “Wow! I’ve finally made it!”?

Denise Gossett: That’s funny, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt that. I always feel the need to go farther, do more, discover more. That’s the beauty of this business.

Fatally Yours: Going back to Shriekfest, what has been an especially fond memory for you?

Denise Gossett: Every year there are fond memories just by meeting all of these new people and catching up with the regulars. This year, we had an especially memorable memory! Right before our awards show the power went off in the theatre! There were a few emergency lights, but that’s it. We weren’t sure how we were going to pull it off, but everyone that had video cameras brought their lights up on me so I could do the awards show! It was the coolest thing…it gave a great mood, got many laughs out of everyone and showed exactly what I think the horror community is…loyal and loving. I think everyone in this genre is really giving and loyal.  It was the best awards show yet! Thank you to everyone for their help and patience in that crazy situation.

Fatally Yours: What is the hardest part about planning a film festival? What has been the biggest obstacle you have overcome?

Denise Gossett: The hardest part is the logistics of everything…there really is sooo much involved to make a festival work. I really hate rejecting people…it just breaks my heart, because everyone puts their heart and soul into their work and lots of great projects don’t  make it in the festival because of time constraints or another film scored higher. I would say that is my biggest obstacle…getting passed wanting to give everyone an award.

Fatally Yours: Being a woman in Hollywood and in the film industry, how do you feel women’s roles are changing? How about women’s roles in the horror genre?

Denise Gossett: I think there are more and more women out there doing every aspect of this industry. People are seeing that women can handle any position. It’s very exciting to be in the business in this day and age because you might have a female casting director, director, DP [director of photography], writer, grips, etc all on the same set! Women in horror are making leaps and bounds too…more directors, writers, producers, etc and the roles for women are even better…women aren’t always that weak little ditzy woman who takes her clothes off. Now, there are strong roles where the women fight back and win! It’s very exciting…this change I think has made the horror genre more enticing to a female audience as well.

Fatally Yours: What films are you most excited for people to see at this year’s Shriekfest?

Denise Gossett: I think everyone should definitely check out our winners Bane and Alien Legend. But, all of the shorts and the rest of the features all have something wonderful about them and deserve recognition as well.

Fatally Yours: Anything else you’d like to add or mention?

Denise Gossett: If you have a dream, don’t ever give up on it…pursue it until you get it or realize you don’t want it anymore. Be passionate, be loyal, be honest, and be determined!

Visit Shriekfest’s Official Site!

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