Monday, February 15, 2010

Interview with Shriekfest Founder Denise Gossett

Denise moved to Los Angeles from Orlando, Florida and has been in the entertainment business for over 18 years primarily as an actress. She can be seen in The Last Ride with Dennis Hopper and on such TV shows as The Office, The New Adventures of Old Christine, Samantha Who?, Veronica Mars and many more. Denise has also had lead roles in many feature films.

Denise started the Shriekfest Film Festival after starring in the horror film Chain of Souls. She can also be seen in the SciFi film Decaying Orbit and the horror films La Llorona, Carnies, MFright Club, and in the upcoming The Cellar Door 2: Preymate.

Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you?

Denise Gossett: Horror means something terrifying, frightening, or gross. A fun night at the movies.

Fatally Yours: How and when did you fall in love with the horror genre? 

Denise Gossett: When I was about 12…my mother wouldn’t let my brother and I watch rated R movies, but for some reason, she’d let us rent horror movies every now and again and we adored them!

Fatally Yours: You are an accomplished actress as well as the founder of one of the best horror and sci-fi film festivals in Los Angeles. Out of all you’ve accomplished, what is the one thing you are most proud of? 

Denise Gossett: Well, I’m pretty proud of all of my projects…Shriekfest is at the top and my new film A Chestful of Blood and of course my TV work.  But, I am most proud of my daughter…I know, sounds cliché, but it’s true!

Fatally Yours: How would you convince people who aren’t horror fans that the genre is worthwhile?

Denise Gossett: Well, I would probably show them the wide range of horror films…something is bound to appeal to them. If they don’t like the gore, there are plenty of horror comedies as well.

Fatally Yours: Why do you think there are less female horror directors, writers, producers, etc. in the genre than males?

Denise Gossett: There are less female directors, writers, and producers in general. It’s not the genre…but, we are changing that bit by bit. More and more women are seeing that it’s ok to make horror and to make “smart” horror.

Fatally Yours: As a woman in horror who champions females in the genre, do you think it’s harder for women to be taken seriously and given praise in a genre that seems to be dominated by males? 

Denise Gossett: Not at all…you have to remember, all these films that were made by men have women starring in them…hence the huge following of scream queens. Women are getting more and more respect every year that goes by.

Fatally Yours: What elements can female filmmakers/authors/journalists/etc. bring to the horror genre that are lacking in males’ perspectives?

Denise Gossett: Women can smarten the genre up a bit….what I mean by that is the female roles don’t have to always be naked and dinghy…the women can be smart and naked, or not naked at all.  Women will be able to bring the female perspective as well and it will probably broaden the fan base in the process.

Fatally Yours: What are your overall thoughts on how women are portrayed in horror films?

Denise Gossett: I think women have been beaten down in this genre…I can’t tell you how many films have the dumb, naked woman running through the forest, oops and then she trips…  In more current horror films we still see some of that, but we are also seeing the strong woman who kicks butt or even women killers. I think there is definitely a place for it all though.

Fatally Yours: What women in horror do you admire and why?

Denise Gossett: All of them! If they can tackle this genre with all the disrespect that it gets, I say hats off to them! I’m very proud of all the women I meet each year…the actresses, writers, and filmmakers. I’m even seeing lots of women editors and cinematographers. It’s very exciting for women and the genre!

Fatally Yours: In your opinion, what makes the perfect scream queen and who is the ultimate scream queen?

Denise Gossett: I have to say, I don’t care for that title…it implies that that’s all there is to the woman and that is not true. That aside…I think she should be strong when it’s required and weak when that’s required. I think she should be able to do more than just be pretty and I think she should choose her nudity and her roles wisely.

Fatally Yours: What inspires, influences and motivates you to keep working in horror?

Denise Gossett: The people I meet….there are some amazing people in this genre and if you look at most people who have “made it” in the entertainment business, almost all of them have some horror in their backgrounds. Talent inspires me, and I see a lot of it in the horror genre.  I am motivated every day because I truly like to meet people and help people, even if it’s just a pep talk.

Fatally Yours: What has been your best experience while working in the horror community? What’s the worst?

Denise Gossett: My best experience has been on sets…horror films are just fun to work on! My worst experience has been negative people…people who like to rip filmmakers apart just for the heck of it. How can one even review someone’s film if they haven’t seen it? This is happening on IMDB every day and it’s sad. I am constantly hearing from filmmakers that this has happened to. Let’s put a stop to any negativity in this genre and just support each other.

Fatally Yours: What has been your biggest challenge in your position as founder and festival director of Shriekfest?

Denise Gossett: Getting the filmmakers and screenwriters the recognition they deserve. I’ve also learned a few things that pertain to running an event and this advice can be used in your every day life as well…are you ready….here it is….you can’t please everyone…so, stop trying.

Fatally Yours: What is your ultimate goal while working in the horror genre?

Denise Gossett: To get the word out about the latest horror filmmakers and writers and to boost the current reputation of the horror world.

Fatally Yours: What are your favorite horror films and books?

Denise Gossett: My favorite horror films are Nightmare on Elm Street (the original), The Exorcist, and most of the Saw films. I really enjoyed The Lovely Bones…I don’t get to read as often as I’d like though.

Fatally Yours: What was the last horror film you saw that just blew you away?

Denise Gossett: I really enjoyed The Descent….again strong women….nothing has blown me away in a while though…I think I’m jaded because I see so many films.

Fatally Yours: What advice would you give women who want to become involved in the horror genre?

Denise Gossett: Just do it…don’t listen to others unless they are supporting you.  Push aside any fears you may have and just do it….a little at a time…less intimidating that way.

Fatally Yours: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to discuss?

Denise Gossett: Yes, soon, you will see me in the western A Chestful of BloodCarnies is just about done…this stars myself, Doug Jones, Reggie Bannister, Ford Austin, and Chris Staviski. I’m also set to star in The Cellar Door 2: Preymate with James Dumont and Michelle Tomlinson. Also, look for me in the 2011 Hot Hunks and Honeys of Horror Calendar to benefit breast cancer research.

Fatally Yours: Where can people find more info on you and Shriekfest?

Denise Gossett: All over the web, but specifically and

Thank you so much…this was a lot of fun!

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