Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gore Gore Dancer Interviews Fatally Yours

The lovely Aleata Illusion of Gore Gore Dancer Review was gracious enough to interview me for Women in Horror Month!

In the interview you can check out such tantalizing tidbits as what got me interested in the horror genre, how came to be, my favorite female horror personalities and insight into my favorite horror film of all time!

Check out the interview HERE!

Many thanks to Aleata and Gore Gore Dancer Review for the fun opportunity!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Interview with Actress Michelle Tomlinson

Donned Scream Queen of the Month (Nov. 2009) and the recipient of the 2007 Shriekfest Film Festival’s “Pretty/Scary One to Watch” award, Michelle Tomlinson is receiving rave reviews in four separate feature films currently captivating audiences throughout the film festival circuit.

Tomlinson earned the Pretty/Scary Award for her work in The Cellar Door, a horror and psychological thriller that is earning its own recognition for improving upon the girl-trapped-by-a-serial killer storyline. The award is sponsored by the online magazine Pretty/Scary: For and By Women in Horror which called Tomlinson’s performance, “groundbreaking.” Scream TV said, “Ms. Tomlinson is fascinating to watch in this role … (her) strong performance as (the heroine) Rudy is one of the most exciting in recent memory.” A sequel to The Cellar Door is slated for production in 2010.

Tomlinson also stars in the Kevin Tenney (Witchboard) directed, humorous, high-concept horror film Brain Dead. Brain Dead was honored with the “Best B-Movie” award at the ShockerFest Film Festival, and has picked up nominations and awards for visual effects, makeup, screenplay, and best horror feature at over a dozen film festivals.  The film just finished a theatrical release and is being released on DVD. George’s Intervention, a tongue-in-cheek horror comedy feature directed by JT Seaton is also making the Festival Rounds with 11+ Film Festivals.

Tomlinson’s acting abilities span far beyond just the horror genre. She also currently stars in the indie drama Indelible, which has received several awards on the festival circuit and just wrapped shooting two features back to back (Second Class Citizens playing a white supremacist and …Xtra Man playing a fluffy and vapid ex-stripper!)

In her approach to her craft, Tomlinson exhibits the kind of discipline and creativity one might expect from the child of a Marine and an artist. While festivals feature the work of scores of actors, rarely does a performer enjoy four feature films (playing diverse characters) circulating the festivals at the same time.

Fatally Yours: What are your first memories of the horror genre and what drew you to it?

Michelle Tomlinson: Watching Freddie scare the hell outta teenagers with my Dad. I love gory special effects, even since childhood. I always wanted to play the girl who gets to kick the villains ass.

Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you?

Michelle Tomlinson: Taking ordinary circumstances, adding a twist of lime and making even the most mundane moment explode with suspense and fear. Also something that can get deep in your psyche and disturb you at the sheer possibility of ‘that’s something that could actually happen.’

Fatally Yours: When did you discover you wanted to pursue acting as a career and how did you set about fulfilling this dream? 

Michelle Tomlinson: Ever since I was about six. I did a few plays when I was a kid then switched gears in high school and focused on Video Productions instead. I got to learn the other side of the camera. I picked acting up again when I was in college at ENMU and got my Bachelor’s in Theatre. Shortly after graduation, I scooted to L.A. It seemed like the logical next step.

Fatally Yours: Was there one specific role you played in a horror film that made you want to pursue more opportunities in the horror genre or have you always wanted to act in horror? 

Michelle Tomlinson: Hands down, it was working with Kevin Tenney in the Feature Film Brain Dead. Not only did I have a blast with my character, work with the greatness that is Kevin, I also got to see some really cool special effects happen behind the scenes. I fell in love.

Fatally Yours: Many of your performances have been very well received. Do you have a favorite character you’ve played or performance you’ve given? 

Michelle Tomlinson: It might sound nuts, but I love them all. No matter what character it is, I still see room for growth and improvement in every film I’ve been in. I love the process and the experience of getting to put on different “skin suits” and consider myself blessed I’ve been able to do that and that some people dig it.

Fatally Yours: What upcoming horror films are you working on?

Michelle Tomlinson: There’s a sequel to The Cellar Door in development that I’m particularly excited about.  I have a few other projects in the fire, but that’s the one that’s horror.

Fatally Yours: When can fans expect to see more webisodes of The Mis-Adventures of McT & A, your web-series with Kimberly Amato? 

Michelle Tomlinson: As soon as humanly possible. Amato and I are working on our scheduling for that as we speak and talking about different avenues and ideas of shooting things simultaneously across the coasts. The short answer: SOON.

Fatally Yours: How did The Mis-Adventures of McT & A come about?

Michelle Tomlinson: A Skype meeting in the middle of the night. We were up late and brainstorming. Keep in mind I live in LA and Amato lives in NY…So when I say middle of the night it was around 11:30pm here and 2:30am there. We got a little slap happy and started tossing out ideas and came out with that one. It was Amato’s original concept and we both tinkered with it from there.

Fatally Yours: What is one thing you’ve done within the horror genre that you are most proud of?

Michelle Tomlinson: Simply being a part of it is something I am extremely proud of. I have met life-altering people in this genre. I’ve accomplished one of my lifelong goals: To be in horror flicks.

Fatally Yours: Are there certain roles you haven’t taken or will refuse to take because they are too exploitative or make you uncomfortable? 

Michelle Tomlinson: It takes quite a bit to make me feel uncomfortable in a role. That doesn’t mean I haven’t turned down a role here and there, but ultimately if it’s a good project I’m in. I’ve done the nudity thing, but it was something that added to the storyline of the film. Not to mention it was in a blink and you’ll miss it section. I suppose if I were asked to run around naked for the majority of a film just for sales, I’d respectfully decline.

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? 

Michelle Tomlinson: It really sucks that women have always been a target for violent and torturous acts in film. I know it’s twisted, but it’s understandable to a certain degree. We’re supposedly softer, weaker, nicer and more vulnerable than the fellas. The juxtaposition is that we’re actually quite the opposite in every way so we’re all playing against the type of who we really are! I also feel like most guys like the idea of being the hero to a damsel in distress. It’s a male dominated genre and industry. It only makes sense. This is where I quote Ani DiFranco though: “What if there are no damsels in distress… And I called your bluff… Don’t you think every kitten figures out how to get down whether or not you ever show up?” 

Fatally Yours: Do you ever get annoyed by the stereotypical “bimbo in distress” who always seems to end up naked for no apparent reason that many horror movies feature?

Michelle Tomlinson: Yes. I do. I know T & A increase sales, I get it. Thankfully, it seems like we are heading into an arena where that’s not always the case and those aren’t always the roles. In watching The Strangers,  Liv Tyler did not once bare all. And she was most certainly a girl in distress. The lack of showing her rack did not lend to a lesser film. It scared the hell out of me plenty without it.

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?

Michelle TomlinsonHostel.

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

Michelle Tomlinson: My thoughts are conflicted. Sometimes women are shown to be these weak and feeble creatures with zero redeeming strong qualities. Other times, there’s some meat and strength to them. Like in Wolf Creek. Albeit the ending made me go nuts, there was some seriously strong and weak female character work going on simultaneously throughout the whole film. The roles are balancing themselves out. It’s not just high school bimbos getting axed whilst pleasuring the male lead anymore!

Fatally Yours: What has been the most challenging character you’ve had to portray? 

Michelle Tomlinson: Definitely Rudy from The Cellar Door. She had extreme moments of vulnerability that made me cringe. I don’t care to share my vulnerability with people just being me! But between the kick ass script that Chris Nelson wrote and an amazing Director in Matt Zettell mixed with me allowing myself to just GET OVER IT, I did get there. Rudy was such a cool ride.

Fatally Yours: If you could play or play against any fictional horror villain in a film, who would it be and why?

Michelle Tomlinson: I would kick Freddie’s ass for scaring the living hell out of me as a child. As for being the Villain, I’d love to play a wicked twisted serial killer…Just to see if I could.

Fatally Yours: Since you’ve been involved with the horror genre, have you noticed more women becoming involved behind the camera as directors, producers, writers, etc.? 

Michelle Tomlinson: Absolutely. Look at Heidi Martinuzzi! The girl is her own mutli-hyphenate in the Horror Industry.  One of my best friends is Brooke Lewis, for those few who don’t know her, she’s been Producing and Acting in Horror Films. Her latest project is the critically acclaimed iMurders. Amato was a co-Producer on Under the Raven’s Wing and my girl Alexis Adkins is writing a series called Be Nice that’s more twisted than anything out there. So yes, I definitely see a rise with women on that side of the camera!

Fatally Yours: What women in horror do you look up to?

Michelle Tomlinson: Definitely the aforementioned females from the last question. I’m lucky because I actually know them and adore them. And of course there’s Jamie Lee Curtis and Lynn Lowry. Lynn was a joy to work with on George’s Intervention and Jamie Lee just seems like a bad ass who all but originated the term Scream Queen.

Fatally Yours: What would be your dream role/project?

Michelle Tomlinson: As far as non-horror, Amato and I have two feature film projects in development that are dream projects, Touch and Dreaming Reality. Touch is a really gritty Sundance indie drama and the character is a private investigator with a pretty serious past who has to kick a lot of ass in the present. Dreaming Reality is more a dramedy and the character is sassy as all hell. Both will be a lot of fun.
In the horror realm, I really would love to play some kind of supremely mental-case twisted chick who’s a serial killer. I don’t know why that appeals to me so much, but it’s just so beyond dark that I’m fascinated to see if I could pull it off and still keep the character likable in some respects.

Fatally Yours: What advice would you give aspiring women actors?

Michelle Tomlinson: Always side with integrity and you’ll be ok. We get put in some pretty hairy situations sometimes and are forced to make some pretty serious decisions. When we start to make a dent in our careers, you’ll be amazed at the slime that will ooze up from the gutters in the form of a flashy smile and sports car.

Keep your head at all times and live in integrity.

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

Michelle Tomlinson: To me, a Scream Queen is a strong female character in a horror film played by an actor strong enough to pull her off. The ultimate? Jamie Lee Curtis.  Hands down. The more modern Scream Queens that I love and adore for their skill? Kimberly Amato and Brooke Lewis. Perhaps I’m biased, but I am attracted to focused and skilled human beings – so I think that my opinion is a strongly supported one!

Fatally Yours: What inspires, influences and motivates you?

Michelle Tomlinson:  Never knowing when the end game is. I’m so in love with life and I’m excited to still be a part of it. My Mom, nature, animals and my friends all inspire me to constantly reach higher.

Fatally Yours: What are your goals for yourself within the horror genre?

Michelle Tomlinson: To create even stronger and more interesting female characters set within extraordinary circumstances that creep people out and maybe even make them think a little bit. I just want to keep going, ya know? This is what I love.

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

Michelle Tomlinson:

Interview with Filmmaker and Actress Kimberly Amato

Kimberly Amato has appeared in a variety of independent films, including Fistful of Sand, Deception, Perfect Criminals, Weekend Rental, Amity and Billy’s Choice. Most notably, she portrayed the title character in Susan Adriensen’s Under the Raven’s Wing. The role garnered Amato with critical acclaim with coverage from wide variety of places including, and Curve Magazine. The film was awarded the best film of 2007 by

Amato has a knack for getting into a characters mind having in her arsenal a BA in Psychology from Hofstra University and a MA in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. She’s been called a “Jack of All Trades” working behind the camera as well as in front as often as possible.

Along with the award winning television pilot Party Girl Amato has co-produced Under the Raven’s Wing and two other short films. Most recently she and Michelle Tomlinson created The Mis-Adventures of McT & A as sketch comedy series which will be screened at the Pretty Scary Blood Bath Film Festival in 2010.

As if that wasn’t enough, Kimberly Amato is also working with Bridge and Tunnel Media on a Spanish Novella trilogy and is in the final stages of editing her first novel.

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

Kimberly Amato: I don’t know exactly when, but I remember Nightmare on Elm Street being the first horror film I saw. There was something fascinating about it. I’ve always been interested in the macabre and this is just an extension of it.

Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you? 

Kimberly Amato: It’s the ability to take the simplest and most inane thing and make it terrifying.

Fatally Yours: What are others’ reactions when you tell them you are involved in the horror genre?

Kimberly Amato: Some people scoff at it asking how often have I taken my clothes off. Others ask to become part of my next project if I’m producing it. I’ve met very good mix of people and I truthfully enjoy hearing everyone’s opinions. It gives me more to work with on the next project.

Fatally Yours: Why do you think the horror genre has primarily been a man’s domain?

Kimberly Amato: I think it’s because there has always been the idea of women not being strong enough to combat evil. Fortunately, with the advent of the women’s movement, strong female characters have gained momentum.

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?

Kimberly Amato: I do think I’m viewed differently, partially because of my gender but also because of my background. The viewers are used to seeing women in certain roles, so it’s hard to bring a strong female character to life and still give the fans what they want. You have to bring sex appeal across even if you are fully clothed, buried in mud or just sitting at the kitchen table.

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?

Kimberly Amato: I think it’s because it’s difficult to be taken seriously in other genres after you have directed horror. For men it can be a stepping stone, but it feels like for women it makes you a one trick pony. I co-produced a feature horror film and didn’t get credit for the hard work I did from people outside of the horror industry. However, once I co-produced, starred, co-wrote and directed a comedy television pilot – I earned more respect. The work load was the same, but the recognition and respect was not, unfortunately.

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

Kimberly Amato: I don’t think it’s that we bring something specifically different to the table. I think it’s the opposite. Women in general can make a movie just as well, complete with gore, nudity, and all the elements that make a great horror flick – but are not being given as many opportunities to do so.

Fatally Yours: Do you think it’s harder for women to be taken seriously in a genre that seems to be dominated by males? 

Kimberly Amato: In some ways, yes. If you notoriously have women being used as nothing more than skin, why would you take them seriously? Film has some basis in the real word – does a woman who sells her body for show get respect? Not really. Why would filmmaking be any different? Unfortunately, women in general are utilized for our bodies more than our talent or our minds. Slowly, we are dispelling these generalizations but in order to succeed we have to play the same game as men. We have to sell DVD’s or tickets and skin sells.

Fatally Yours: Since you’ve been involved with the horror genre, have you noticed a change in women’s roles in the industry? 

Kimberly Amato: I have seen more women taking strides behind the camera to make quality productions as directors, producers and writers. Having been in a horror film directed by a woman it’s wonderful to see the trend continue with more fervor than ever.

Fatally Yours: Do you ever get annoyed at how women in horror movies always end naked or with their clothes ripped off? 

Kimberly Amato: Very much so. I understand the main audience demographic is male, so that’s the driving force behind it. I wish it was different, but at this point in time it isn’t. Personally, if the female character is going through something where nudity will enhance the story line – I’m all for it. However, seeing a woman nude for the sake of nudity just seems wrong and such a step in the wrong direction for women in the entertainment industry.

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?

Kimberly Amato: I wish I could name a few, but honestly none come to mind.

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? 

Kimberly Amato: I have become extremely desensitized at this point. I love horror and enjoy watching it regardless, but sometimes I wish the tired old adages would change. Heck, at least shoot them in a different way. To be blunt, my friends are not huge horror fans, but for them to tell me a film is very predictable with specific cliché scenes – things need a new point of view or a different presentation.

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?

Kimberly Amato: I don’t know if people view women as “soft” since we are expected to be easy going. So, I wonder if “soft” is the right term. However, some people would view women as incapable of making a good, solid horror film. The only way to combat this view is to keep our integrity, never quit and put the most amazing project we can out there. Once more people see what women are capable of, the more doors open.

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

Kimberly Amato: I admire Jamie Lee Curtis as a mainstream Scream Queen. She took her following and made it into a massively successful career. Then there is the obvious choice of Brooke Lewis, she can create a feature, a web series and anything else she puts her mind to – all the while bringing the best possible performance to the screen to accompany the project.

As far as up and coming actresses, I admire Michelle Tomlinson. I saw her film, The Cellar Door, and found she did more stuck in a box (literally, she was trapped in a wooden cage) than someone with a script full of dialogue and a huge set. Since I started working with her, I find her ability stretches much further than the average Scream Queen.

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

Kimberly Amato: You better have a thick skin. This industry is hard and there are women and men willing to knock you down a few pegs to get what they want. Be true to who you are, fight for what you believe in and don’t be afraid to say no. Sometimes passing on a project you feel ill at ease being a part of is a good decision. Don’t be afraid to say no.

Fatally Yours: What’s the last disturbing horror movie you saw?

Kimberly Amato: The Descent – I hate small spaces and seeing the women trying to climb through these little caverns, with no air, the roof collapsing. Yeah, it freaked me out a bit.

Fatally Yours: What’s one horror movie you think is HIGHLY overrated?

Kimberly Amato: Paranormal Activity – the new Blair Witch… all hype and very little return on my money. What makes it worse, they ordered a sequel.

Fatally Yours: What are your favorite horror films, books, etc.?

Kimberly Amato: I read mostly non-fiction books about various criminals so that in itself is frightening. I have always been very partial to the Nightmare on Elm Street series, The Descent, the first Saw film (the subsequent sequels lost the essence of the original) and Silence of the Lambs.

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

Kimberly Amato: To create films that showcase the worst of humanity in the most realistic manner possible. They don’t have to make a fortune, but they have to be good quality films.

Fatally Yours: What upcoming projects are you working on?

Kimberly Amato: I’m working on a bunch of projects this year. First, there is the web series, The Mis-Adventures of McT & A, Michelle Tomlinson and I have begun working on. The first episode is located on my YouTube page and we have a Facebook group where fans can send us suggestions, emails and images. Michelle and I are also working on two feature films this year. One called Touch – the teaser trailer is also available on my YouTube page. Then there is Dreaming Reality – both are in the pre-production phase. We’re also doing a benefit for abused women in Los Angeles.

I’ve also been brought on board to work with Bridge & Tunnel Media on a Spanish novella trilogy. We’ll be shooting the first episode of the first novella in the next few months. And last but not least, I’ve just completed my first novel.  It’s a murder mystery and the lead is a female psychotherapist.

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

Kimberly Amato:
“The Mis-Adventures of McT & A” Facebook Group

Interview with Producer Debbie Brubaker

Debbie is a seasoned producer in the world of indie feature films and considered “the godmother” of the San Francisco Bay Area independent movie arena. One of her recent production successes was co-producing Peter Bratt’s film La Mission, an audience pleaser at Sundance 2009 that is set to be released in the spring of 2010. Debbie also produced the soon to be unleashed comedy/horror pic, All About Evil, directed by Joshua Grannell. She has also worked on many other films, including Karen Goodman Hawk’s One Way to Valhalla, Finn Taylor’s The Darwin Awards and Cherish, Mark Decena’s Dopamine and Unflinching Triumph: The Phillip Rockhammer Story, Martin Guigui’s Swing, Lynn Hershman Leesom’s Teknolust, and Bartleby and The Californians by Jonathan Parker. Debbie is currently working on a documentary with Jennifer Seibel Newsom called Miss Representation as well as executive producing and editing the feature film Wheels directed by Jennifer Juelich. She also just finished writing a horror script called The Ghosts of Alcatraz.

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

Debbie Brubaker: Watching the movie Dracula hiding behind my dad’s knees as he slept on the couch. He was supposed to stay up and watch it with me. I was 6.

Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you? 

Debbie Brubaker: Something scary that stays with you, sure it’s fun to get the devil scared out of you in the theatre, but good horror makes it hard to get into the car and drive home without being terrified.

Fatally Yours: What are others’ reactions when you tell them you are involved in the horror genre?

Debbie Brubaker: Nervous laughter.

Fatally Yours: Why do you think the horror genre has primarily been a man’s domain?

Debbie Brubaker: Because historically the perps and evil doer’s are male. Maybe they relate better than we do (women).

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?

Debbie Brubaker: People always seem a little surprised. Sometimes they comment about it being a guy’s kinda thing. Good scary stuff is for everybody! But I think they get stuck in the grove of thinking it’s a guys thing. There haven’t been any famous horror directors that are women. But then women directors are in short supply as it is.

Fatally Yours: Even though women seem to be getting more and more involved behind the scenes in horror, why do you think there are fewer female horror directors, writers, producers, etc. in the genre than males?

Debbie Brubaker: I think it’s still a male dominated genre. Like war pictures and thrillers. Hell, it’s a male dominated business. Still. Hard to say if that’s ever likely to change. The horror scripts are given to men first. I guess the writers must think women are too wussy to make good horror. How wrong they are!

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

Debbie Brubaker: Stuff that can really make the audience scared in a less classic way. I think we can twist it up with scary female protagonists. Done in thrillers, less in horror.

Fatally Yours: Do you think it’s harder for women to be taken seriously in a genre that seems to be dominated by males? 

Debbie Brubaker: Absolutely. I have gotten the double take from guys when I said I was involved with a horror film. They think it’s outside of my box. (ha ha)

Fatally Yours: Since you’ve been involved with the horror genre, have you noticed a change in women’s roles in the industry? 

Debbie Brubaker: Unfortunately not really. Heck, this business is hard no matter what. But classically women are taken less seriously than the men.

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?!

Debbie Brubaker: Not all GOOD horror has that element. I loved Session 9 and there isn’t anything like that in there. One of my fav’s is The Haunting. Neither one has that stuff.  So if they resort to that, it’s a cheap shot and cheesy in my opinion. It can take me out of the picture – I think it shows no imagination.

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?

Debbie Brubaker: In horror? Doesn’t exist.

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? 

Debbie Brubaker: Depends. I find it a kind of a parody of horror now days. The movies, even the cheapies, have gotten a lot more sophisticated. Sometimes the women are the heroes. Imagine that!

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?

Debbie Brubaker: Ever since Sigourney Weaver busted the ovaries on the Alien she was doing battle with, maybe even before that with Terminator, we have had strong women  heroines. That “oooh ooooh somebody save me crap” (meaning a man) is really old hat. Old dead smelly needs to be tossed out hat. Not to say that a woman character can’t be a dumb shit. But now it doesn’t have to be a woman, it can be a man too. And a few filmmakers have smelt the chapeau and have womaned up. (so to speak)

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

Debbie Brubaker: I love Natasha Leone. I think she doesn’t even know her own strength as an amazing actress. I will always love Cassandra Peterson and Mink Stole. Sigourney Weaver is permanently in that Hall of Fame. Linda Hamilton was a great Sara Connor. I also liked Naomi Watts in the Ring movies.

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

Debbie Brubaker: Trust your guts don’t spill ‘em (just a little horror humor). Work with what scares you. Don’t be afraid to be afraid!

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

Debbie Brubaker: The best experiences have been with people using amazing creativity in place of no money. I’m always in awe of what the art/efx folks can come up with even when you don’t have anything but dimes. They make fine wine out of sour mash!

The worst has been when executive producers try to take over what’s being done. They don’t understand the biz necessarily and can really muck up your day.

Fatally Yours: What’s the last horror movie that made you think “this is some effed up shiznit!”? 

Debbie Brubaker: I recently watched Exorcist: The Beginning. BORING. What’s up with that? They had mega bucks to make that thing and it sucked scum off the Nile.

Fatally Yours: What’s one horror movie you think is HIGHLY overrated? 

Debbie Brubaker: SAW, pick one.

Fatally Yours: What are your favorite horror films, books, etc.?

Debbie Brubaker: I think that Hitchcock’s The Birds is still my favorite. I will never forget seeing it for the first time at 6 years old hiding behind the front seat at the drive in. My parents thought I was asleep. Ha! I saw most of it. Scared the, what was that word you used, shiznit outta me. And every time I saw it again (for many years), thought it was just, well, scary wrong. (I am truly surprised that no one has tried to remake it – thank the Goddess!). I loved The Lovely Bones. That one was really a good horror/thriller.

I have hopes for Legion, we’ll see.

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

Debbie Brubaker: I work in a whole plethora of genres. But for horror it’s never my goal to gross anybody out. For me that’s taking the cheap shots. To really do horror well, I like for the characters to have great fear. To successfully do that you have to create something unknown that is really scary, and film it in such a way that makes your audience feel what the characters feel. Remember that movie The Hand? The one where the astronaut comes back to Earth and the guy finds the hand on the beach and puts it into his trunk and it crawls into the back seat and then gets him? I love that kind of horror. When things happen that shouldn’t. Birds, Astronaut hands, Ghosts, Psychopaths – they’re all part of the scary fun.  I would aspire to having a horror movie I’d done being described as “peculiar” and “disturbing”.

Fatally Yours: What upcoming projects are you working on?

Debbie Brubaker: I’m working right now writing a screenplay – it’s a work for hire but I’m having a blast. It’s called The Ghosts of Alcatraz. I’ve been given cart blanche to create it. I know how it ends and I’m on page 57. So I have to get from where I am to when I need to be. It’s a really good scary movie.

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

Debbie Brubaker: I’ve been threatening to put up a web site for some time now. So in the present the IMDB is my only outside link movie-wise. I am planning on creating a Facebook page for another movie that I’m in production on that I am really excited about.

It’s called Wheels. It’s not a horror movie, it’s a drama.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Interview with Filmmaker Maude Michaud

Born and raised in Montreal, Maude Michaud has been involved in various artistic activities – including music, theatre, dance, writing, and photography – for most of her life. When she was 14, upon spending a summer watching Reservoir Dogs and other indie hits from the ‘90s, Maude decided that she wanted to become a filmmaker.

She produced, wrote, directed and acted in her first short film, Finding Hope, which was screened as part of the official selection of the International Teen Movie Festival in Toronto. The following year, she directed her first horror short, Spirits, which screened at the same festival. She then enrolled in the Communication Studies undergraduate program at Concordia University where she got a hands-on training in film and video. She is currently directing her first feature length documentary on women and horror films as part of her master thesis in the Media Studies program at Concordia University.

Over the years, she independently wrote, directed and produced over 15 short films and video projects. In addition to the aforementioned film festival, her films also screened as part of the Young Cuts Festival (Montreal & Toronto), the Wreck-Beach Film Festival (Barrie, Ontario), the Short Film Corner during the Cannes Film Festival (Cannes, France), and the Montreal Fetish Film Festival. In 2004, she was a finalist for the Jeunes Cinéastes (young filmmakers) contest for which one of her films won the best original music award.

Even though she is a huge horror fan, she loves to explore a variety of genres in the films she directs, which results in an eclectic body of work including: horror dramas, slightly surreal quirky tales, and explorations of unconventional relationships. She also works as a photographer and, occasionally, as a director of photography.

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

Maude Michaud: My love for the horror genre began when I was a kid. I don’t know why, but I was always attracted to dark and creepy stories, so I never missed an episode of the show Are You Afraid of the Dark? and was an avid reader of the Goosebumps series (and any other similar books). Contrary to most kids my age, I was not scared by the content, I wanted more! Then, one afternoon, I watched Poltergeist III on cable TV (I think I was 9 at the time) and this marked the true beginning of my long love story with the horror genre! I started watching every single horror films I could get my hands on and I became totally hooked on the genre!

Fatally Yours: What does “horror” mean to you?

Maude Michaud: I find that “horror” means different things at different moments in my life. It used to be about confronting my fears and getting an adrenaline rush or about making me uncomfortable and testing the limits of what I was able to watch. Right now, I feel true horror is all about pushing psychological boundaries and giving in to our deepest, darkest urges. We all have really sick ideas crossing our minds at some point or another, so I ask myself: what if we followed up on these ideas? To me this is truly horrific because there are no limits to the human psyche and how sick or twisted someone can be. If you can think it, then most likely other people are also thinking the same thing (or worse) and maybe even doing it! It takes you away from fiction because it has the potential to be real. I find this kind of horror that slowly creeps up on you much more effective than formulaic films that look like they’re made to show off special f/x! Of course I do enjoy almost all subgenres of horror, but in order to be truly bothered or horrified there need to be a twisted psychological or human nature element involved.

Fatally Yours: How and when did you become involved in the horror industry?

Maude Michaud: When I turned 16, I decided I wanted to become a filmmaker, so I wrote and directed my first short film using my father’s handycam. It was a really lame ghost story shot with no budget and no special f/x in my parents’ house with friends acting in it. I loved the experience, but realized that if I really wanted to make a good horror film, I’d have to get more varied filmmaking experience. I went to film school and kept making short films projects on the side, but I couldn’t find any like-minded people who loved the genre enough to work on projects with me. As a result, I put my horror ideas on the back burner and started experimenting with other genres. Then, fast-forward to a couple of years later, I decided to rework one of these ideas and made Recessed with the help of my friend and longtime collaborator Sandra Lombardi. The end result rekindled my love for the genre and convinced me I was finally ready to try my hand at horror again! Since then, I’ve continued to experiment with the genre and tried to contribute as much as I can to horror-related events by getting my films screened and collaborating on various projects.

Fatally Yours: I’ve had the pleasure to see two of your short films, Snuff and Recessed, and was impressed by how much you accomplished and conveyed through mood and atmosphere (both shorts had none to very little dialogue). What inspired the creepy, dark stories of both films and what draws you to the darker side of life in general?

Maude Michaud: I do like to keep the dialogue to a minimum in my projects. One of my film teachers used to say: “Remember the basic rule of filmmaking: show, don’t tell.  Cinema is a visual medium.” It influenced my way of thinking about films, so whenever I think of a story, I focus on how the story unfolds visually first, then worry about what needs to be said (or not) after.

In the case of Snuff, I was inspired by the medium itself (8mm black and white film) and the urban legends surrounding the idea of snuff films; I thought it would be interesting to use this specific type of film stock to create a fake ‘snuff’ film – with a twist at the end!  The inspiration behind Recessed is a tad more complex. At the time, I was really into Japanese ghost films, especially how they use everyday moments and domestic spaces as a menace for the characters, so that inspired some of the creepy parts of the film. I also really like the idea of telling the story from the madman’s perspective and exploring the human psyche, which is what Recessed essentially is. I just love to leave things open-ended and let the audience decide how they want to interpret what it all means. Don’t get me wrong, I do have an explanation for what happens in Recessed, but I much prefer to know what people make of it as I’ve heard so many different interesting theories! I guess I could sum up by saying that many things draw me to the darker side of life, but there seem to be recurring patterns such as the uncanny, the darker side of the human psyche, and playing with people’s expectations.

Fatally Yours: Can you tell us about your upcoming films Hollywood Skin (selected as part of the Viscera Film Festival) and your documentary about women in horror?

Maude Michaud: Of course!  I made Hollywood Skin for an anthology project helmed by director Lis Fies and titled I Hate L.A. (as the title suggests, the different segments have to deal with a negative aspect of life in L.A.). Inspired by my previous short film Reflection (which is a segment of the Frankenstein Unlimited anthology) in which the main character is the one inflicting the horror upon herself, I decided to follow a similar line of thought with Hollywood Skin. It’s a very introspective story centered on the main character’s descent into madness as she becomes so obsessed with her body image that she sees only one solution: self plastic surgery.

As for the documentary project (which will also serve as my master’s thesis project), I started it because I felt that women in horror were underrepresented (if not completely absent) from academic literature and mainstream media. As a woman who loves horror, I felt conflicted reading feminist critiques of the genre; was it possible to call oneself a feminist AND love horror films? I got started researching women actively working in the horror industry and started interviewing them to get their thoughts on the genre, their opinions of feminist critique, and how (if) they try to change the genre through their work. As I keep meeting more and more female filmmakers, writers, journalists, etc, the project keeps increasing, so I’m starting to seriously reconsider the scope of the documentary! I can say it is slowly transforming into a series of shorter documentary segments that will allow me to cover a wider variety of topics! I’m aiming to release the first segment this summer, but in the meantime you can visit the temporary website ( to get more information!

Fatally Yours: Many (though not all) horror films feature violence that’s explicitly shown against women. Why do you think violence against women has usually been shown more explicitly than violence against men?

Maude Michaud: I think a lot of it has to do with stereotypes that are the backbone of cinema: men are often represented as being the heroes while women are typically the ones needing to be rescued. Horror films do play with these stereotypes by usually killing off characters regardless of their gender and by offering women the heroic role of the ‘final girl’. However, it is true that even though men get killed almost as often as women do, the scenes depicting the murder of female characters are usually longer and more explicit that those of the men characters. I don’t know why that is. I think there are a lot of societal taboos associated with the representation of violence against men; if we look at the news, we tend to see way more stories of graphic and brutal violence against women, while stories in which men are victims are usually only briefly mentioned. I don’t know why, maybe it makes people uncomfortable, maybe it shows a certain weakness that screws up with the stereotypes of the male’s heroic untouchable strength, or maybe it’s just easier to represent a cat-and-mouse game between the killer and female victims. Hopefully things are changing now as we start having more male victims (with graphic murder scenes) and seeing interesting reversals in terms of gender roles within horror.

Fatally Yours: In reference to the previous question, 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? 

Maude Michaud: Wow, I think I could write a whole essay on this weighting the pros and cons!  I’d say my initial gut reaction is that I feel very conflicted; part of me agrees with the quotes and understands what Argento and Hitchcock mean from a director’s point of view, while the other part of me feels like strongly reacting to the quotes because it just furthers the stereotypes of female as victims. Either way, I think they illustrate very well one of the driving force behind slasher films and I think it would be interesting to shake things up a bit by subverting these ideas and seeing if people react differently to them.

Fatally Yours: Why do you think sex and violence are so intertwined in the horror genre? How often would you say that nudity and sex scenes are actually relevant to the story in a horror film? 

Maude Michaud: The first thing that comes to mind is Freud’s notion of the two basic conflicting human desires: eros (the life/sex drive) and thanatos (the death drive). Also, there’s a very fine line between sex and violence; sex itself can be very violent… There is also this whole idea of struggle for power over another person, both in sex and in violence, which is something horror films represent very well.

In French there is this expression “la petite mort” (the little death) that is a metaphor for orgasm; I think that is an interesting juxtaposition of the two ideas. This might be why it is so easy to intertwine them in horror films… As far as how often nudity or sex scenes are relevant, I tend to say it depends on many factors such as the story, how the scene is shot, etc. I’ve seen as many relevant sex scenes as I’ve seen unnecessary gratuitous nudity, so I think it would be fair to say that it’s a good half and half.

Fatally Yours: How do you respond to people that believe that horror films can only be enjoyed by males or that feminists can’t possibly enjoy horror films? 

Maude Michaud: I don’t agree with this because I think horror can be empowering for women; there are so many great roles for women within horror that consist in way more than being the victim…  People tend to take horror too seriously or think of it in a way that is a bit too literal…

I think the main problem is that when we say the word ‘horror’, people automatically think of slasher films even though there are many other subgenres of horror! A lot of people also see horror as a misogynist genre because of its representation of women, which I think is a shame because I can think of other genres that are way more demeaning! Romantic comedies for example! (laughs) If we stop and think about it, defeating a psycho killer is way more empowering than finding the perfect pair of shoes or the perfect boyfriend, no?

Fatally Yours: Though the horror genre has primarily been a “boy’s club”, it seems that more and more women filmmakers are getting behind the genre. What is your personal opinion on why there are less female filmmakers than males?

Maude Michaud: I think some women might be intimidated by the idea of the horror genre as being a “boy’s club” and as a result, do not dare to try it or do not know where to start. I think it’s a shame because this kind of thought helps maintain the status quo instead of allowing new voices to be heard.

That’s why I have one thing I’d like to say to women who would like to make a horror film: “Go, pick up a camera and start shooting. Dare to try. Tell your story like YOU want to tell it.” At first, I had trouble finding people to work on my projects, so I went ahead and did (almost) everything on my own. Then I started networking, meeting like-minded people and it just went from there.

I feel like the horror genre is at a turning point where it needs new voices and new kinds of stories to evolve. Wouldn’t it be great if female filmmakers end up being the catalyst for change?

Fatally Yours: Have you noticed any new trends in the horror genre that empower women? If so, what are they and do you think they will change the way horror films are viewed?

Maude Michaud: In the last 10 years or so, there has been more stories that focus on women’s experiences and are told from their points of view, which I think is a refreshing change. Ginger Snaps and Grace are my two favorite examples as they both deal with very female-centric, horrific situations in a way that is different from how similar subject matters were represented in the past (by taking a male perspective).

Another interesting trend is the subversion of audience’s expectations. The segment with Anna Paquin in Trick R Treat is a great example of that (I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen it!). I don’t know if these trends are going to significantly change the way horror films are viewed, but I certainly feel empowered by them and it just makes me want to contribute even more to their evolution through my work!

Fatally Yours: Have you faced any challenges in the film industry because of your gender? 

Maude Michaud: Apart from macho comments from classmates and the constant need to tell people I wasn’t interested in directing romantic comedies or chick flick (the genre people automatically assume you want to work in when you’re a woman), I can’t really say I faced any challenges because of my gender. Well, maybe a bit at first as I wasn’t always taken seriously when I said I wanted to direct horror films, but it stopped when I showed people what I can do and proved that I was serious about it.

Fatally Yours: What women in horror do you admire?

Maude Michaud: There are so many! The first one that comes to mind is Kathryn Bigelow because she devoted her career to genres that are traditionally considered as “boy’s clubs” so kudos to her for that. Also, Mary Harron for her version of American Psycho, Karen Walton for writing the wonderful Ginger Snaps, fellow Montreal filmmaker Izabel Grondin who always has crazy and wicked ideas, and Marina de Van, director of the French film In My Skin which is one of the most disturbing (and one of my favorite!) horror films. Of course, I also have to add Maila Nurmi (Vampira), Barbara Steel, and Elvira on the actress side of things. I’m sure I’m forgetting tons of others, but those are the first ones that come to mind.

Fatally Yours: What are your thoughts on the modern horror climate? 

Maude Michaud: As I quickly mentioned earlier, I feel that things are changing. It seems that the horror genre is at a point where it needs a good rejuvenation and I think that is why we see more films that are genre cross-over or throwbacks to older, lesser known films. I think it’s a good thing as injecting new blood into the genre will only make it stronger!

Fatally Yours: If you could direct one woman, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Maude Michaud: That is a really hard question; it’s nearly impossible for me to pick just one, but I promise I’ll keep the list short!  First I’d say Tura Santana as I’ve had the chance to attend a Q and A where she was the guest and she has a kick-ass personality which I’m sure would make working with her super fun! I’m also a huge Rose McGowan fan, so I would definitely love to direct her in one of my films. In terms of Canadian actresses, I have a few that I’d really love to approach one day to work with, mainly Katherine Isabelle and Mia Kirshner. Lastly, I also need to include Melanie Laurent because her performance in Inglourious Basterds completely blew me away.

Fatally Yours: What inspires, influences and motivates you?

Maude Michaud: I’m very influenced by psychology and perception! I love Freudian theories and I think a lot of them are fun to incorporate in horror stories. I also have a fondness for insanity and unstable characters, for telling the story from the madman/madwoman’s perspective… I read a lot of psychology books about personality disorders and I find them inspiring for characters! And of course, I love to play with people’s expectations by twisting the story in different ways and taking the unexpected route.

Fatally Yours: Do you have any upcoming projects you can discuss with us?

Maude Michaud: Of course! In addition to finishing my documentary and promoting my short films, I’m also finishing the script of my first feature film, which is definitely an upcoming project as production will start later this year if everything goes as planned. I’m also working on a DVD compilation of some of my short films that I’ll independently distribute through my website later in the spring.

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

Maude Michaud: I’m currently building a website for my production company, Quirk Films, but in the meantime people can find basic information about my films on my main website as well as my blog, which is where I post upcoming screenings, events, news, etc. I’ll make an announcement on the blog as soon as the Quirk website is up and running, but until then I hope you’ll stop by and drop me a line!

Interview with Author Skyler White

Skyler White crafts challenging fiction for a changing world. Populated with angels and rock stars, scientists, demons and revolutionaries, her dark stories explore the secret places where myth and modernity collide.

The child of two college professors, she grew up in an environment of scholarship and academic rigor, so naturally left high school to pursue a career in ballet. She’s been dancing around research and thinking through muscle cramps ever since. She has a master’s degree in theater and work experience in advertising, has won awards as a stage director and appeared on reality TV. She is mother to a tall red-headed athlete and a short blond Lego master, married to a Mohawk-wearing inventor, and lives in Texas.

Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you?

Skyler White: For me, horror is a way of doing with fear what tragedy does with sorrow: It gives us a protected space to not just confront, but to actively play with, an emotion we typically avoid. It’s a little perverse, really, because there’s nothing saying we couldn’t just keep avoiding it; but I think that’s what’s interesting about fear and about the people who are attracted to it. We have a special relationship with fear.

Fatally Yours: How did you fall in love with the darker side of life? 

Skyler White: I fell in love with it because I couldn’t escape it. A sort of interior Stockholm Syndrome, maybe. I saw the dark side of myself, and my interest in the darker side of life as a pathology, as a deformity, and I chose to create myself around it. I don’t have a natural talent for happiness the way some people do. It took years of travel through some pretty dark places on my way to the life I have now. I’ve earned my visitor’s badge to Hell. And I go back the way you visit an aging but demanding parent, so they don’t arrive unannounced one day, plunk their shit in your kitchen and stay for six weeks.

Fatally Yours: How and when did you start writing about the darker aesthetic? 

Skyler White: Writing has always been my battlefield. Long before I thought of myself as a writer, when I had something I needed to hash out, anything I needed to wrestle with, I did it through writing.

Fatally Yours: Why do you choose to write about horror as opposed to other genres? Would you ever write in another literary genre? 

Skyler White: My past is too checkered to claim to be a purist in anything! I write a messy tangle of genres. and Falling, Fly (Berkley, March 2010) is part dark fable, part love story. In Dreams Begin (Berkley, December 2010) is part horror, part time-travel. Genres, to me, are like moods. You may have one that predominates, but it’s never all you are, or even all you feel in any given moment. Each of those books is also about many other things, too.

Fatally Yours: What sub-genres in horror (vampires, zombies, werewolves, etc.) are you sick of? What sub-genres do you want to see more of? 

Skyler White: I’m not really sick of any sub-genre. Vampires, zombies, and werewolves are centuries old, but they’re still exciting and enduring, and we always have something to learn from them. A werewolf can be Hesse’s Steppenwolf or Rowling’s Professor Lupin; what the beast-in-man means for each writer is so different! Sure, they can become a kind of shorthand, and writers can get lazy and let monsters-as-symbols carry too much of the narrative burden, but you can’t blame that on the werewolf!

So OK, I’m sick of certain portraits of vampires, but not of vampires altogether. I’m writing vampires. I’m writing vampires because I believe they will always have something new to say, and we have new questions. In and Falling, Fly, I’m using them to ask questions about desire, particularly about women’s relationship to desire. So take, for example, the old trope that vampires don’t have a reflection. Olivia (my vampire) can’t see herself in a mirror unless someone is looking at her. Her body alters to conform to the tastes of those who want her. She feeds on the desire of others, and would break her teeth on someone who wasn’t either attracted to or afraid of her. So I’m playing with the story to ask questions about what it means to have your survival depend on your beauty. To be so desirable to others that you can’t see who you are.

Fatally Yours: Why do you think the horror genre has been primarily male-dominated? 

Skyler White: You know, my first reaction to that was, “It is?” Most of the horror I read is written by women, so my perception is skewed I guess. I’ll give you a cynical answer and a speculative answer:
  1. Men have traditionally dominated most fields, why should this one be different?
  2. Men, perhaps, have a more convoluted relationship with fear. There’s less social permission for men to admit to being frightened and more direct interaction with things that are scary. Because the taboo is stronger for men, more of them have been attracted to exploring it in their work.
Fatally Yours: What elements can female authors bring to the horror genre that are lacking in males’ perspectives? 

Skyler White: I think there are anxieties and fears that are, if not unique to women, at least more prevalent among us, and female authors are more likely to explore those.

Fatally Yours: Do you feel women authors in horror get the proper recognition when compared to their male counterparts? 

Skyler White: Honestly, I’m new enough to this to just not know; but there is a tendency, I think, in the world in general to take the work of women less seriously that than that of men – as though male attention, by definition, makes something attention-worthy – so it certainly wouldn’t surprise me to find that the case.

Fatally Yours: As a woman who writes about horror, have you found it harder to be taken seriously in a genre that seems to be dominated by males? 

Skyler White: I never really had any expectation of being taken seriously. Not because I’m female, but because I’m kinda weird. The things that interest me, the intersection of fear and desire, the line between sex and god, or sex and satan, I’ve always thought of belonging to conversations most people don’t want to have. It’s been incredibly gratifying to find other like minds “out there” who do take it seriously. It may be because I’m so new to it, but I’m just loving the conversation, and whether others outside that dialog take it seriously doesn’t concern me at all.

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? 

Skyler White: I think people often think of women as more vulnerable than men, so you have to careful not to invite the thought “a man could have defended himself in that situation.” It’s a sticky issue though, because a reader, even a female reader, is likely to judge a woman’s behavior differently than a man’s. You don’t think the man is stupid for going into the woods alone, but you’d have a hard time taking a mortal heroine seriously if she did. And you have to be aware of that in the minds of readers, even if just to point out it’s there.

Fatally Yours: How do you go about creating strong female characters? 

Skyler White: I try to write all my characters as a mix of strengths and weaknesses. I’m not a quick writer. It takes me quite a long time to write a book, so when I begin sketching the characters, they have to be interesting enough to hold my attention for the hours and months I’m going to be dealing with them. Pure weakness isn’t interesting to me. Damage, on the other hand, is interesting, as are compensated-for weakness and hidden or unknown weakness.

Fatally Yours: What women in horror do you admire? 

Skyler White: Anne Rice, Caitlin Kiernan, Poppy Z Brite, Elizabeth Hand, and Mary Shelley, of course…

Fatally Yours: What inspires, influences and motivates you to keep writing about the darker side of life? 

Skyler White: It’s where all the interesting people and ideas are! And honestly, I can’t do ‘light’. I’ve tried. I just don’t have the voice for it. I tried to write a straight, single-title romance. The female lead was a chef, ‘cause I love food, and food’s a happy thing, but even with antics in the kitchen and silliness on the stairs, I keep seeing the shadows under them finding myself drawn there instead.

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

Skyler White: Write the stories you want to tell. Write them and work on them. It’s the work that matters.

Fatally Yours: Who are your favorite horror authors and what are your favorite horror novels? 

Skyler White: I know Charles deLindt isn’t standard horror, but I just recently ready his Wild Wood and thought it was deliciously eerie. Add Poe and Lovecraft to the list of women (Rice, Kiernan, Brite, Hand, Shelley) from above, and that’s a pretty decent representation.

Fatally Yours: What was the last good book from the horror genre that you read? 

Skyler White: The Red Tree. If you want to talk about women in horror, there’s a voice, a delicately creepy voice, that I think could only be female. It’s a beautiful mind-worm of a story and done with such a light touch that you can never feel confident about where the real danger is located: In the story itself, in its narration, or in your own mind.

Fatally Yours: What are your goals for yourself within the literary world? 

Skyler White: To keep writing things that challenge and excite me. Period. Now, that isn’t to say critical praise and popular recognition aren’t things I’d love to land, but I feel like they’re mostly out of my control, so I can’t really assign them ‘goal’ status. A goal is something you deliberately and methodically work to achieve, and I have enough trouble managing the stuff I’m directly responsible for.

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

Skyler White: My website,, has all the standard info, an appropriately dark tattoo contest, an excerpt from and Falling, Fly and a ‘contact me’ link.

Interview with Author and Actress Barbie Wilde

Barbie Wilde was born in Canada and educated in the USA and England. As an actress, she has appeared as the Female Cenobite in Clive Barker’s classic horror movie Hellbound: Hellraiser II, as a vicious mugger in Death Wish III, as a robotic dancer in the Bollywood blockbuster, Janbazz and as a drummer for an electronica band in the so-called “Holy Grail of unfinished and unreleased 80′s horror” Grizzly II: The Predator, AKA Grizzly II: The Concert.

In the early 1980′s, Barbie performed in New York, London and Amsterdam with the mime-dance-music group, SHOCK: supporting such artists as Gary Numan, Ultravox, Depeche Mode and Adam & the Ants.

As a television presenter and writer, Barbie helmed The American Hot 100 for Skytrax TV, The Morning Show and Supersonic for Music Box TV, The Small Screen for ITV, Hold Tight for Granada, and The Gig for LWT. She also presented the film history show Sprockets, which is still shown on Sky TV.

After completing her first novel, The Venus Complex, a fictionalized journal of a serial killer, Barbie is currently working on an erotic vampire novel called Valeska.  She has also contributed a well-received short story entitled Sister Cilice to Hellbound Hearts, a horror anthology based on Clive Barker’s novella, The Hellbound Heart, which was the basis for eight subsequent Hellraiser films.

Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you?

Barbie Wilde: Horror is a very intimate thing for me – rooted in my childhood. I watched a lot of horror movies when I was a kid and I took them very seriously. I believed them and I was quite a fearful child because of it.  My nightly routine was to check in the closet for monsters, underneath the bed for alien pods (from Invasion of the Body Snatchers) and underneath the covers for flesh-eating spiders.

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

Barbie Wilde: I can’t really say that I’m unconditionally in love with the horror genre, but it certainly had a major impact on me.

As a kid, I was fascinated by vampires, but to be frank, it was more a pre-teen/teen sexual thing. After all, who wouldn’t want to get bitten on the neck by Dracula (played by Christopher Lee) or Barnabas Collins from Dark Shadows?  I wrote a term paper in junior high entitled “The Vampire in Gothic Literature” and my teacher, Mr. Eugene Roche (I can’t believe that I remember his name), told me I had a truly Gothic mind, which was a thrilling complement at the time.

The things that really got me going are the 1950s and early 1960s Sci-Fi Creature Classics on “Saturday Afternoon at the Movies” that my older brother made me watch on TV. I recently viewed the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers again and I still found it hard to look at – it had such a devastating effect on me when I was young. (I was always devising tests for friends and family to see if they had been taken over by aliens. It made for a very paranoid childhood.)

Other favs were The Thing (1952), The Haunting (1963) and The Innocents (1961).  Of course, television horror was influential, such as repeats of the original series of The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery and The Outer Limits.

I’ve also enjoyed (if that’s the right word) the Alien franchise, Event Horizon, The Ring, John Carpenter’s The Thing, Audition and Constantine. I’m not really into the new visceral horror movie trend, such as Saw and Wolf Creek. I recently watched Drag Me To Hell and while effective, I couldn’t really take it seriously, although it had its truly gross moments.

Of course, to me, horror is much more intertwined with humans rather than monsters, hence my fascination with serial killers: horror with a human face, in other words.  Horror for me is more concerned with human yearning and anxiety. It’s not gore that turns me on, but the plausibility of the ordinary turning into the extraordinary.

Hitchcock’s Psycho still sets the standard for me and I remember very clearly watching it on television with my parents in the late 1960s. It was ground-breaking for its time and still is, in my opinion. My favorite modern equivalent would be Se7en.

Fatally Yours: You are most well known for your portrayal of the Female Cenobite in Hellbound: Hellraiser II. What drew you to this role and how did you land it? 

Barbie Wilde: I suppose I was asked to attend the audition because of my training as a mime artist. They used mime artists for 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968 and a lot of film-makers since then have gone for mimes or dancers for mask or creature work because of their physical discipline. I can’t think of any other reason why they would’ve call me in, other than the fact that I was the right size for the costume made for Grace Kirby, the “Female Cenobite” from the first Hellraiser film.

I nearly didn’t go to the audition, because I found the first Hellraiser movie so disturbing. I also thought that I was going up for “The Chatterer” and the concept of being in a complete face mask was too much for this claustrophobic. I was relieved to find out that I was auditioning for the role of the “Female Cenobite”.

Perhaps I got the part because I knew what a Cenobite was, since I looked it up in the dictionary before my meeting with the director, Tony Randel. He was under the impression that Clive had invented the word and I had to correct him on that point.

Fatally Yours: You’ve done a lot in your career, from acting to mime performances to interviewing rock stars to hosting a film review program to writing, among other things. If you can pick, what has been your favorite? 

Barbie Wilde: To be honest, I never felt that acting was my forte, but I really enjoyed being a TV presenter and being myself on camera. However, my new love is writing -  creating characters and stories, and being the ruler in my own little universe – but it is the hardest thing to do.

Fatally Yours: As an author, are there any sub-genres of horror (vampires, zombies, etc.) that you are sick of? What type of horror would you like to see more of?

Barbie Wilde: There has been a real glut of vampires on the market recently, but I can’t say I’m sick of them, because I’m writing a vampire novel. Trying to create something unique out of that genre is a challenge.

As mentioned above, the type of horror that I prefer is less blood and guts, and more suspense.
I know that this might be an unpopular thing to say, but I really don’t have much time for zombies. They’re weird, dead and boring. Werewolves seem to be mindlessly violent, but to be fair, I haven’t seen any recent zombie or werewolf films lately.

Vampires have a bit more class, depth, sexuality and character, which is why they’ve had such enduring popularity over the years.

Fatally Yours: Why do you think the horror genre has been primarily male-dominated?

Barbie Wilde: Well, let’s face it, the world is male-dominated, so it’s always going to be a battle to get your work noticed. I take heart that one of the first great modern horror stories, Frankenstein, was written by a woman. Think of the problems that Mary Shelley must have had, trying to get published back in the early 19th century, but she managed it. (Of course, the first edition in 1818 was published anonymously, so that may have helped.)

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

Barbie Wilde: Horror from the clichéd male perspective is normally a nasty monster chasing a screaming girl whose clothes are slowly falling off. The discomfort for men might be seeing this in reverse!

I don’t like to be judgmental of writers, male or female, so I can only speak for myself.  In my own work, I seek to use my imagination to expose the sensuality and sexuality that is inherent both in horror and crime. In my novel, The Venus Complex, which is still looking for a publisher to understand it, I wanted to show the sexual mindscape of an ordinary man who becomes a serial killer. I don’t think sexual motivations have been fully addressed yet in most of the fictional serial killer literature that I’ve read.

In Sister Cilice, the story that I wrote for the Hellbound Hearts anthology, I explored the sexual frustrations of a woman who was never allowed to be herself and who was so demoralized by her world that summoning the Cenobites was a relief and an escape for her.

By the way, one horror author that I know of that does address sexuality and sensuality beautifully is Clive Barker.

Fatally Yours: Do you feel women authors in horror get the proper recognition when compared to their male counterparts?

Barbie Wilde: Well, like I said above, it’s a struggle to get your work recognized, whether you’re male or female. I think that there may be a perception amongst reviewers and publishers that women may not be quite up to the task, or perhaps they find the idea of women writing horror unpalatable.

Fatally Yours: Since you’ve been involved with the horror genre, have you noticed an increase in women becoming involved with the genre, whether they be fans or writers?

Barbie Wilde: I’m seeing a lot more women being involved in all levels: writing, directing, running websites, you name it.

Fatally Yours: Do you feel that other people view women as not being able to endure horror as well as men? How do you fight this stereotypical view?

Barbie Wilde: I think men and women may view horror from different perspectives, as there are plenty of women of my generation that I know who wouldn’t dream of watching films like Hellraiser or Saw. However, there is a tough new breed of females out there that I’ve met at conventions who absolutely adore horror.

And as to how to fight the stereotype: well, three quarters of the men on this planet still regard women as their possessions who are just there for sex, babies and cooking.  As long as women are out there creating and making powerful statements about their art and the alterative ways to be perceived by men, there’s hope that this might change eventually.

Fatally Yours: How do you go about creating strong female characters in your stories?

Barbie Wilde: I just like to create interesting characters; their sex is immaterial. I loved inventing my serial killer, Michael. I think that I have a lot of hidden rage that I was able to tap into to make him a believable character.

To create Sister Cilice, I went back to the source material: The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker. I loved the sensuality and tone of that story. After thinking about it for a few days, I came up with the opening paragraph of the story and then it just spewed out of me. I don’t know where my ideas come from, it’s almost like channeling, if you like. Once I create the characters, I let them go and see where they take me.

Fatally Yours: Which women in horror do you admire?

Barbie Wilde: Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, Anne Rice (for Interview with a Vampire only). I liked Sarah Pinborough’s story, The Confessor’s Tale, in Hellbound Hearts. I really enjoyed the True Blood TV series – from the books written by Charlaine Harris. True Blood was violent, audacious, sexy and hilarious – and quite original.

Fatally Yours: What inspires, influences and motivates you to keep writing about the darker side of life?

Barbie Wilde: I’ve always been obsessed by the darker, criminal side, perhaps because it’s so alien to what I am as a person. Is it admiration with the power the dark side exudes? Probably.

As far as influences are concerned, you just have to turn on 24-hour TV news to be confronted with the dark side of human beings – as well as the more unpleasant aspects of Nature.

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

Barbie Wilde: Don’t give up. Follow your passions and obsessions, wherever they may lead. (Although keep it legal, if you can.)

Fatally Yours: Who are your favorite horror authors and what are your favorite horror novels?

Barbie Wilde:  Writers: Clive Barker, Paul Kane, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson. Novels: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Stand, The Shining (at the heart of the story is a perversion of family relationships, which is very interesting), The Hellbound Heart, American Psycho, Paul Kane’s Red.

Actually, my favorite books are usually nonfiction, because I’m constantly, continually researching.  My top non-fiction author who specializes in crime would be Colin Wilson – for Order of Assassins: The Psychology of Murder, Written in Blood and The Criminal History of Mankind.

Fatally Yours: What was the last good book in the horror genre that you read?

Barbie Wilde: I thought that Darkness and Light by Paul Kane was excellent. I also liked Closer by Sarah Gran.

Fatally Yours: What are your goals for yourself within the literary world?

Barbie Wilde: I’d like to get my first novel The Venus Complex published and finish my vampire book as soon as possible. I’ve also co-written a musical and I’d love to see that produced. It’s quite violent and contains elements of film noir. The website is at:

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

Barbie Wilde:  at

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Interview with Filmmaker J.A. Steel

One of the few female action film directors in Hollywood, and one of the first western women to study the art of Muay Thai kickboxing in Thailand, J.A. Steel rocked the film and music industry in 1999 with her first feature The Third Society. Steel drew on her experience in working on at least two dozen other feature films to write, direct, produce, edit, and music supervise the 35mm film which was released by Warrior Entertainment in 2003. The Third Society has won Steel numerous awards, including the 2004 Bare Bones Film Festival Indie Auteur and Best Soundtrack awards. Past projects include directing and hosting for the documentary television pilot Dive the Deep Blue and starring as the alien bounty hunter in Ford Austin’s Cerebral Print. Steel’s award winning second feature, Salvation, was released in June 2008 by York Entertainment. Currently, Steel recently completed her third feature, Denizen, for release in 2010.

Fatally Yours: How did you fall in love with the film industry? 

J.A. Steel: I was about three. There was a TV show called Kolchak: The Night Stalker. I would sneak out of bed and sit on the stairs, peering out of the bars on the railing. I couldn’t really hear the TV – but I do remember seeing the images and remember being really, really, scared. Sometimes my parents would catch me and put me back in bed. Usually, after watching the show I would have nightmares and have to fess up that I had snuck out of bed. No matter how scared I was – I kept watching and sneaking out of bed.

Fatally Yours: How and when did you get involved in acting and filmmaking?

J.A. Steel: I started acting very young in church plays. As soon as I could hold a pen, I was writing stories. In third grade, we did a skit based on Grease. I wrote it, directed it, and had a small role in it. Ever since then I wrote shorts plays and even a novel. I wrote my first feature length screenplay when I was 12 based on Buck Rogers: In the 25th Century. I wrote my first original script at 13. At 17, I went to USC film school’s Filmic Writing Program. In my junior year, I had to take an 8mm film class, which I blew off and failed. At that time in my life, I could have cared less about editing, lighting, directing, and acting. I just wanted to write.

I interned for Silver Pictures on Hudson Hawk and The Last Boy Scout. I then interned for a season on Tales from the Crypt. I learned more from my internships than in any film class. Film is a craft where you have to learn by doing – there is no magical book one can read or class anyone can take.

I held all the jobs on The Third Society my first feature start to finish because I couldn’t find anyone who shared the vision of a kick-ass chick action movie.

Fatally Yours: You are one of the few women to direct action films. Why do you think there are so few women directing films in the action and horror genres?

J.A. Steel: Directing in such a male-dominated genre is really, really, hard. Most of the support positions (Cinematographer, Gaffer, Key Grip, etc.) are all men. The foreign buyers are men. The financiers are men. And unless you are married (or divorced) or otherwise related to a male in a power position in the film industry – the odds are stacked against you. As a director you’re dismissed to the realm of romantic comedies or drama or any other emotionally driven genre.

Blowing stuff up and killing people is an area in human history that has been typically reserved for men. Few women have risen to the ranks as world famous dictators or serial killers.
It’s hard enough to get any film made – let alone face the internal pressures of your own crew not believing you can do it.

Fatally Yours: Have you faced any challenges/discrimination in the film industry because of your gender?

J.A. Steel: I once had a buyer at a European film market tell me he would absolutely NOT buy any of my movies because they were directed by a woman.

I’ve had crew problems. I had a stunt coordinator in The Third Society tell me I couldn’t do a fight scene because I was girl and he was afraid that I would get hurt. It was kind of funny because at the time I held a professional full contact fighter license from the State of California, and actually got in the Muay Thai ring and fought. He was not asked back for part of the shooting and I had to take over some of the stunt coordination.

I’ve been told by agents that they wouldn’t represent me as a director/writer in action/horror because they couldn’t even get Kathryn Bigelow work (this was before Hurt Locker).

Fatally Yours: As a female filmmaker, do you feel films directed by women are different than those filmed by men? If so, how are they different and why?

J.A. Steel: It depends. Is the script written by a man or a woman? A script directed by a woman, written by a woman will be different than a script written by a man and directed by a woman. As well as any of the other combinations.

Generally, women will take a more emotional approach to the characters. However, there are some really good male directors out there – James Cameron is one, who can really create an all ‘round good film.
When you are writing for action/horror you have to follow to a certain extent the conventions of the genre that you have chosen to work in. You are also limited by your target audience and their expectations of the genre.

A good genre film is a good genre film.

Fatally Yours: In your career, have you noticed a change in women’s roles within the film industry?

J.A. Steel: Not really. It’s quite tragic. I’ve noticed a couple new names in the past few years on the romantic comedy side and drama. Women still aren’t in the power positions in the studios or in corporations as a whole. And the disparity in wage earnings doesn’t help with the financing side of indie films either.

Fatally Yours: What is your main goal as a filmmaker?

J.A. Steel: I really just want to blow shit up. I want to get inside your head as an audience member without you knowing I’m getting inside your head. I want to be Hitchcock, terrifying audiences with something like the shower scene in Psycho. I want to have audiences go – “that was a damn cool movie” without the fact that I’m a chick ever being mentioned.

Awhile back the press called me the “female Roger Corman for the 21st Century”. I hope to live up to that honor. Corman propelled the B-movie genre into the mainstream. I want to keep moving the genre forward. Hopefully, we can get away from all of the horror remakes of the classics and come up with something new.

Fatally Yours: What women in the film industry do you admire?

J.A. Steel: Kathryn Bigelow of course. I remember seeing Point Break in college. It was the first time I ever believed women could direct action.

Fatally Yours: If you could work with one actress/writer/producer/director/etc. in one of your films, living or dead, who would it be and why?

J.A. Steel: Barbara Stanwyck. I remember her from reruns of the cowboy show Big Valley as a kid. I always remember her standing on the porch of the house wielding a very large gun. To me she is the quintessential “chick with a gun”. She was a really good actress. I would love to have her being a gun wielding granny against some army of the undead. In my last feature, Denizen, I would love for her to play the main female character’s grandmother.

Fatally Yours: What inspires, influences and motivates you?

J.A. Steel: I am inspired by everyday life. I’m always in the wrong place at the wrong time. I take everyday stories and experiences and turn them into films. “Denizen” was based on my real life scuba diving experience in Lake Tenkiller, Oklahoma. I also have a very supportive core team at Warrior Entertainment for my projects, and a family who loves me for who I am and keeps me motivated and working hard.

Fatally Yours: What are your favorite horror films, books, etc.?

J.A. Steel: Anything Hitchcock. I love the original Nightmare on Elm Street. Aliens. The Exorcist. For books, Stephen King – but he gives me nightmares so I have a tendency to shy away from his books. My buddy, Vince Churchill, writes horror novels. He’s the only horror author I’ve read lately.

Fatally Yours: What upcoming projects can you tell us about?

J.A. Steel: We currently are working on another action film, Take Out Delivery, about a female assassin. Operation Overlord is a sci-fi/action/horror film. But since our budgets are still limited to what we can scrap together, Take Out Delivery is going to be next. Overlord needs the help from some capital investors.

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

J.A. Steel: They can check out the Denizen trailer on as well as check out all my movies and upcoming projects.

My personal website at
My Wikipedia article at
My Facebook at
MySpace at
Twitter at
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