Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Interview with Filmmaker Emily Hagins
Emily was born in Philadelphia, PA and moved to Austin, TX when she was 8 months old. Ever since she was 7 or so she has enjoyed seeing movies multiple times in the theaters and earned the nickname in second grade of “The Movie Girl”. Not too long after turning 9 she saw The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and was inspired to make her own short films. When she turned 11 she went to Butt-Numb-a-Thon 5 and saw her very first zombie movie Undead (released July 1st, 2005). She then became inspired to make her first feature a zombie movie and finished the screenplay by the end of May 2004. She wrote, directed, co-produced, edited, and did the camera work for the film, titled Pathogen. A documentary was made about Emily’s process titled Zombie Girl: The Movie, which has played at Fantastic Fest, Slamdance, Hot Docs, and other film festivals. Emily has made several short films since Pathogen, and a second feature titled The Retelling. She is currently writing her third feature script.
Fatally Yours: How and when did you fall in love with horror?
Emily Hagins: I was pretty scared of horror movies until I was 11-years-old. That’s when I saw the Australian zombie movie Undead. It’s both silly and scary, and at the time I didn’t know horror films could be anything other than scary (this was before Shaun of the Dead came out). Not only did this make me not as scared to watch horror movies, but it also provoked my interest in watching more.
Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you?
Emily Hagins: Horror movies are the equivalent of the thrill of a rollarcoaster to me. They’re fun to experience, especially with an audience in the movie theater.
Fatally Yours: When did you know you wanted to pursue a filmmaking career?
Emily Hagins: I started making movies when I got a home video camera at 8-years-old. They were just short films, but I had a lot of fun with them. I was always watching movies or making movies (aka, a movie geek), and it just seemed natural to pursue filmmaking.
Fatally Yours: What are others’ reactions when you tell them you are involved in the horror genre, especially at such a young age?
Emily Hagins: I think sometimes people wonder if I’m well-rounded or obsessed with horror. To answer those questions, I love all kinds of movies. Horror movies are fun to watch and make, but they’re not the only kind of movies that I want to watch or make. My parents were always open to talking about movies with me, which they did instead of trying to prevent me from watching horror movies. However, there were some movies that they made wait to watch too, haha.
Fatally Yours: Do you ever feel you are taken less seriously in the film industry because of your gender and/or age?
Emily Hagins: Sometimes, but I feel like the best way to get around that is to prove any negative assumptions wrong by making more movies. Technological developments have made it easier for people interested in filmmaking to start at a younger age. One of my goals with my movies is to tell stories that stand alone, instead of being brought down by my gender or age.
Fatally Yours: Why do you think the horror genre has primarily been a man’s domain?
Emily Hagins: I think women tend to gravitate towards romance or dramas, which is probably why romantic comedies have been dubbed “chick flicks.” Horror films (and action) almost seem like the opposite of romantic comedies, so they have become the “guy flicks.” I think studios feel more comfortable hiring a guy to direct a movie of a genre with an audience that is mainly men.
Fatally Yours: As a woman, do you think you are viewed differently than your male counterparts in the horror genre? If so, how and why?
Emily Hagins: I think so, mainly because I try to tell stories about what I know- and right now I know what it’s like to be a teenage girl. Pathogen is from the point of view of a teenage girl during the zombie outbreak, so it probably feels a little different from a horror movie told from a guy’s perspective.
Fatally Yours: Even though women seem to be getting more and more involved behind the scenes in horror, why do you think there are less female horror directors, writers, producers, etc. in the genre than males?
Emily Hagins: The filmmaking industry is dominated by men in general, and as a result I think a lot of things about the filmmaking process are intended for a guy’s way of working. I think it’s a challenge for women to make movies, but entirely possible.
Fatally Yours: What elements can female filmmakers/authors/journalists/etc. bring to the horror genre that are lacking in males’ perspectives?
Emily Hagins: I believe writing what you know is any writer’s inherent strong point, so I think female filmmakers/writers have the potential to provide realistic and strong female characters.
Fatally Yours: Do you think it’s harder for women to be taken seriously in a genre that seems to be dominated by males?
Emily Hagins: In a way, yes. I think the common misconception is that girls don’t like gore or horror movies, so some people think a female filmmaker would skip out on those things. However, I think filmmakers of both genders understand that to make a successful movie one must love their story and genre.
Fatally Yours: Do you ever get annoyed at how women in horror movies always end naked or with their clothes ripped off?
Emily Hagins: Haha, yeah. But I usually just think, “A guy probably made this movie or insisted on this scene.” It depends on how good the movie is for me to be distracted or not distracted by it because it’s pretty common.
Fatally Yours: Do you feel you’ve become desensitized to stereotypical scenes in horror like the half-naked girl screaming and running for her life in slow motion? Or are these types of familiar horror tropes still effective and necessary?
Emily Hagins: One of the things I love about horror movies is how there are pretty specific elements that are interpreted as “rules”, but they can by broken or used to have a different meanings from film to film. For example, nowadays a stereotypical scene where a woman gets her clothes ripped off could be intended to be a comical homage to old horror movies.
Fatally Yours: Do you feel that other people view women as being “soft” and not able to endure horror as well as men? How do you fight this stereotypical view?
Emily Hagins: I’m sure some people do think this is true, but I can’t speak for all women and say that it isn’t. When I go see a horror movie (new or vintage), there tend to be less women in the theater. While I don’t hate the shorter bathroom lines, I won’t say that there isn’t a line. I know plenty of women who enjoy horror movies, and I think our best way to fight the stereotype is to keep showing up at the theater for horror movies.
Fatally Yours: What women in horror do you admire and why?
Emily Hagins: I think I would say Lexi Alexander, though I don’t know if her films would qualify as horror. She’s an independent filmmaker who doesn’t shy away from gore or action, I guess like Kathryn Bigelow too. I saw her speak at a Q & A for her film Hooligans at SXSW, and she’s very determined and passionate. That’s the kind of filmmaker I try to be.
Fatally Yours: What advice would you give women who want to become involved in the horror genre?
Emily Hagins: Persevere, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it. You’re the only one who can really stop yourself, and just get through the tough challenges along the way. It’s not gonna be easy, but it’ll be worth it to have your finished product.
Fatally Yours: What’s the last horror movie that made you think “this is some effed up shiznit!”?
Emily Hagins: Frozen. I have never been skiing, and now I probably never will. It’s a fantastic movie, but very scary in how the series of reasonable yet terrifying events lead to “some effed up shiznit!”
Fatally Yours: What’s one horror movie you think is HIGHLY overrated?
Emily Hagins: Highly overrated? Recently, I wasn’t very moved by Paranormal Activity. To be fair though, I did see it in the middle of the day, so I didn’t have to go to sleep when I got home from the theater. Also, I respect the efforts of the filmmakers to make such a simply scary movie. It was very hyped up for me before I saw it, so I bet that’s why I thought it was a bit overrated.
Fatally Yours: What are your favorite horror films, books, etc.?
Emily Hagins: The most recent horror movies I’ve seen that I really enjoyed were Daybreakers and Frozen. They’re both very scary, and have interesting character arcs. I know Daybreakers gets their U.S. release in January, and Frozen is playing at Sundance. Hopefully that will get a theatrical release soon!
Fatally Yours: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to talk about?
Emily Hagins: I’m working on a horror comedy script right now as my next feature, but it’s not as much of a horror movie as my last two films were.
Fatally Yours: What are your goals for yourself within the horror genre?
Emily Hagins: With any horror movies I make, I hope that people aren’t thinking “A girl made this.” I don’t like thinking “I bet a guy made this,” when I watch a movie. I’d rather just be lost in the story.
Fatally Yours: Where can people find more info on you and your projects?
Emily Hagins: My website: http://www.cheesynuggets.com/