Thursday, February 18, 2010
Interview with Producer Nikki Wall
Nikki Wall is an indie producer who has worked, so far, solely with her husband, Creep Creepersin. The two met at the age of 13 and became teenage sweethearts. Now married with two kids of their own, the filmmaker duo has completed several titles including Orgy of Blood, O.C. Babes and the Slasher of Zombietown, Vaginal Holocaust and Caged Lesbos A-Go-Go. Nikki also played keyboards and performed backup vocals in their horror rock band, Creepersin. She has begun writing and hopes to direct her own film by the end of 2010. Nikki is also currently a subject of the upcoming documentary entitled Brides of Horror by fellow female filmmaker, Heidi Martinuzzi, and is in the process of being filmed with her family for the first season of their own reality series expected to air in the fall of 2010.
Fatally Yours: How and when did you fall in love with horror?
Nikki Wall: I remember seeing my first “scary movie” when I was 12. It might seem funny but it was Lost Boys. Haha! I had a very sheltered childhood because I was raised Jehovah’s Witness. I had gone to a sleepover with some other girls from church and when we went to go rent our movies, we all paid with our own money to get that movie because we had to sneak it. We had to show her mom at least one movie we had rented with her money that was an approved movie. I don’t even remember what the other one was, but after that, we just wanted to keep watching more horror movies. When Bram Stoker’s Dracula came out, I believe I was about 14 or 15 and I ended up seeing that movie 17 times in the theater. I was so fascinated with it!
Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you?
Nikki Wall: Horror to me is just a genre of entertainment that I enjoy. It encompasses the more forbidden side of things. On a daily basis we don’t see giant monsters coming out of the ocean and destroying cities, or acid blooded aliens out in deep space or even masked killers going from house to house in a small town killing young girls. It just doesn’t work like that. It’s a fantasy genre. For me, I’ve always had an overactive imagination and a lot of fears and anxieties about what awaits me around the next corner. Watching horror, ironically enough, usually makes me feel prepared. That might sound strange, but I have learned a few things from all the flicks I’ve seen.
Fatally Yours: What are others’ reactions when you tell them you are involved in the horror genre?
Nikki Wall: Well most of my family hasn’t watched anything I’ve done. Even my in-laws are pretty conservative. I know most of my family would like me out of the genre. When I tell other people what I do, they seem interested more in the fact that we make indie movies than seeming to care that they’re horror movies so I can’t say that I’ve had any negative reactions so far. There are a lot of my friends that just think it’s the coolest thing in the world. Overall, I guess I would say the reactions are mixed.
Fatally Yours: Why do you think the horror genre has primarily been a man’s domain?
Nikki Wall: I don’t know that I’d necessarily describe it as such. I can’t think of a single horror movie that doesn’t involve a lot of female influence. Men may have been the ones making up the crew for the films but I don’t think by any means the genre would have been successful at all without women’s role in it. Some of the classics were written or co-written by women even. Frankenstein, Halloween, all the Anne Rice vampire movies, and a lot of others were created first when a woman put her pen to a piece of paper and got it all out of her head.
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?
Nikki Wall: I wouldn’t say that I am any worse off than anyone else that’s at my level. I think actually I might get a little more respect than some of the male peers I have because people fear mistreating me, but it might also be just because I’m good at my job. What I hate more than anything, and I’ve noticed this a lot, is that the lower on the totem pole someone is in the entertainment industry, the more attitude they usually tend to have versus the bigger players. For instance, I had the privilege of speaking with Francis Ford Coppola at one point and he was just the sweetest guy in the world compared to some of the indie actors out there that act like real a-holes because they have a film out with some no name distributor. I treat everyone the way I want to be treated until they show me that they deserve to be treated otherwise and I think that’s why I get the respect that I get. If more people did that, the world would be a better place.
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?
Nikki Wall: This is probably going to piss off a lot of people when I say this, but if you know me, you know I just go with what’s in my heart and don’t sugar coat anything. The best way I can put this is that women need approval. Bottom line. We’re insecure creatures and if you’re young and beautiful and/or talented, you can get in front of the camera and at the end of the day, there’s less judgment placed on you that affects you as a person. Let’s say your performance was off, there’s a million excuses that could be used later that would point the finger back at a male director. You could say he didn’t know what he was doing or the conditions you were in sucked, etc. On the other hand, if you do well, women have that hope of someday becoming a big Hollywood star instead of ‘just an actress’. I can also say that I think it’s ludicrous. Women are more in touch with their emotions and willing to admit them, typically speaking. That being said, I think female writers tend to really pull people’s heart strings for better or for worse than a lot of male writers do.
Fatally Yours: What elements can female filmmakers/authors/journalists/etc. bring to the horror genre that are lacking in males’ perspectives?
Nikki Wall: I’ve noticed that in general, men and women tend to lack very good communication skills with each other, for many reasons and because of that I think the female perspective and therefore the female character, tend to be wrongly portrayed in story lines. That’s a woman’s fault just as much as it is a man’s however. I think when women write scripts they do the same thing to men. It’s almost like we make these caricatures of each other if you can get what I’m saying. Certain aspects will either be exaggerated or will actually be under-accentuated for fear of offending others. Either way, it’s just an imbalance of all things in general.
Fatally Yours: Do you think it’s harder for women to be taken seriously in a genre that seems to be dominated by males?
Nikki Wall: Bottom line is that there will always be a war of the sexes no matter what you’re doing and you can either take that to heart and use that “I’ll show you” mentality to get where you want to get, or just ignore it and follow your heart. I’m a fan of people following their heart because at the end of the day, the nature of women might make it even more difficult to get to the top of a female dominated industry more so than a male industry anyway. You gotta just do what feels right for you, in or out of the film industry.
Fatally Yours: Since you’ve been involved with the horror genre, have you noticed a change in women’s roles in the industry?
Nikki Wall: The only thing I can say about that, since I haven’t been around long, is that women seem to just get it done. I hear a lot of talk and planning on men’s parts and when women want to do something, we just do it for the most part. That’s not always the case, but it seems to be the case MORE OFTEN with women than with men, obviously my crazy husband excluded. Haha!
Fatally Yours: Dario Argento once said, “I like women, especially beautiful ones. If they have a good face and figure, I would much prefer to watch them being murdered than an ugly girl or man.” Alfred Hitchcock elaborated by saying, “I always believe in following the advice of the playwright Sardou. He said, ‘Torture the women!’ The trouble today is that we don’t torture enough.” What is your reaction when reading those quotes?
Nikki Wall: I agree wholeheartedly. I don’t care what anyone thinks of me for saying this, but it’s a movie, its not real life, get over it. It happens several times a day every day. It’s life. Women are the target of a lot of horrendous things, and so are men, so why are we sticking our heads in the sand? As far as attractive women go, yes, I would rather watch an attractive woman be the character in a story anyway, so if she’s the one that gets killed, so be it!
Fatally Yours: Do you ever get annoyed at how women in horror movies always end naked or with their clothes ripped off? Do monsters not like men’s abs?!
Nikki Wall: I really don’t and I think this is a common feminist question. First of all, in Cloverfield, the monster apparently really liked the fat camera guy so there’s that. But, outside of that funny thought that came to my mind, I think in general it is a fact of life. Women get brutalized in real life every day. I think instead of it sexualizing and brutalizing women, it’s making monsters out of men and I think that’s unfair. Most men aren’t killers. Most men just seek the comfort of a woman and just need their approval, at least as far as my experience has been. At the end of the day, men still seem to hold the majority of the power, but it’s all fueled by their need for approval just like we need their approval and I will argue that to my grave. When you really think about it, it seems almost cookie cutter for every film to have the surviving woman and the villain dead … at least until the sequel. Either way, this doesn’t irritate me at all, it doesn’t annoy me at all and I really wish women would just ‘get over it’. If you’re going to say that art imitates life then at the end of the day, most of the time a ‘sick’ man has turned into what he is because of his female interaction in life. That’s just a psychological stat. If you don’t like it, go yell at the psychologists of the world.
Fatally Yours: What horror movie would you say is equally fair in terms of men being objectified or at least, losing the same amount of clothes?
Nikki Wall: I don’t know if this is being completely missed in all of this, but there is an entire sub-genre of horror that revolves around gay men and every single one of those ends up the same way, but I don’t think, again, that this is a very fair question. I feel like its being implied that EVERY movie rips off a girls clothes and that’s just not the case. Most of the really popular films out there don’t involve that. I look at that as if there was an era of film and a very small portion now. I can’t say what took place within the industry to make that change happen but I think for the most part, the films that are using that now, are using it as a sales tool because the story just isn’t strong enough, unless it really is pivotal in the story. It’s like an easy special effect if that makes sense.
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?
Nikki Wall: It seems to me that a lot of the movies you’re referring to were limited to a very short time in horror history and also the small indie films that can’t afford to do more elaborate stories. I watch a minimum of 5 horror movies a week and frankly I’m not seeing as much of that as you seem to be seeing. Maybe for women in general, because I can’t include myself in this so I’m generalizing it, there is an irritation towards scenes like that, so they’re only noticing those scenes and that is unfair to the artists today who aren’t using those ploys. If anything I think they’re comical like the scene in the remake of My Bloody Valentine, where the chick runs out into the parking lot? Yeah, I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen it but I think that is hysterical!
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?
Nikki Wall: You’re asking the wrong girl. I would prefer to be soft and have my man protect me than be a ‘bra burner’ who feels like they have to bar brawl with men to prove themselves. Men and women were given different gifts in life and my femininity is my gift among many other things. I don’t feel like I have to be as strong as a man, nor would I want to be. But again, I’d like to stress that the horror genre in general typically has a heroine at the end of the story, so stronger than them or not, maybe we’re more spry or have more control over our weapons but most movies don’t end up with the bad man conquering all the women.
Fatally Yours: What women in horror do you admire and why?
Nikki Wall: My favorite actress in general, including the non-horror she’s done, is Naomi Watts. I love her versatility, the way she plays out her emotions in films, her beauty, it just seems like everything about her is perfect. I could easily be a lesbian for her Haha! She’s my girl crush. Other than her I love Sigourney Weaver but the Sigourney Weaver that was in the entire Alien series. Watching her character from beginning to end and the transformation it takes is fantastic! Throughout the series you see how she’s trying to protect something frailer than her and yet, to prove my point, she needed something stronger than her to protect her and yet there is so much love in her character. For her cat, her daughter, Newt, even the alien that was a part of her. Even when she’s getting all bad ass and buff, her maternal instincts are always there with her, first and foremost. I think it’s a beautifully written character in spite of all the chaos around her. I just think it’s amazing.
Fatally Yours: What advice would you give women who want to become involved in the horror genre?
Nikki Wall: Go for it! Be ready for the sacrifices though. It’s not easy these days. The indie scene isn’t what it used to be and the competition is becoming stiffer. Have a plan B, just in case. Also, do what feels right for you. Don’t let someone else tell you that doing something or not doing something will ruin your career or not because for each side of the argument there will be plenty of examples. It’s all about you at the end of the day.
Fatally Yours: What’s the last horror movie that made you think “this is some effed up shiznit!”?
Nikki Wall: I guess the answer depends on what you’re referring to. But I would have to say on several levels that Evil Ever After made me say that for a lot of reasons and not all of them in a positive way. I can see what the creator was trying to do, but it just didn’t work for me. I’m not a fan of putting down anyone else’s film and I’m always going to give props to anyone who can get a movie made and out there, because I know how hard it is, so I’m not saying that it was a bad movie. Just that I didn’t get it. I’m glad I got to see so many of my friends and other familiar faces in the process, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
Fatally Yours: What are your favorite horror films, books, etc.?
Nikki Wall: I like the entire Alien series, and some of my favorite Naomi Watts’ films are Funny Games (although the original was fantastic as well), The Ring series (but also the Ringu series) and I’m really excited to see her in The Birds remake. Of course when it comes to indie horror I would say my husbands’ films but that would make me prejudice right? Some more of the other random films I like are Cloverfield, Jeepers Creepers, The Descent, Feast…obviously I like creature features a lot.
Fatally Yours: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to talk about?
Nikki Wall: Currently I’m working on a script I wrote called The Catacomb Tapes which I’m really excited about because it is the first film I’ve decided to direct. I also am working with my husband to do The Brothers Cannibal which will be wrapped by the time this is published and a butt load of other movies him and I have been putting together.
Fatally Yours: What are your goals for yourself within the horror genre?
Nikki Wall: I just want to get my hands dirty. I really don’t see myself acting in very many things because I just don’t have that in me, although I can do it if necessary. It’s my roots from college actually. Other than that though, I don’t care if I’m writing, producing or directing, I just want to take part in making really good movies and hopefully get myself and my husband out of the indie scene and into the mainstream.
Fatally Yours: Where can people find more info on you?
Nikki Wall: Creep keeps a blog up at www.creepersin.com and while it’s mostly his projects I’m getting honorable mentions in there.