Friday, February 12, 2010

Interview with Costume Designer and Makeup Artist Aly Greaves

Aly Renee Greaves hails from the northern suburbs of Chicago and works as a freelance costume designer and makeup artist in Chicago as well as resident designer for a large suburban community college. She is an ensemble member at Strawdog Theatre Company and Wildclaw Theatre. When not in the theatre, she knits like crazy, reads and draws comics, collects and creates for fashion dolls, writes scripts, and records podcasts. She has two podcasts: Undead America, Adventures in the Whedonverse and Alyrenee’s Copious Spare Time: A Hobby Hootenany podcast.

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

Aly Greaves: I’ve been a big fan for a long time. I remember watching Alien at much too young an age and being very concerned for the kitty not the humans. I went as a skeleton for my kindergarten Halloween party. I read Shining at age ten (leaving me with an unhealthy fear of topiary bushes). My first job was at the Dairy Queen and there was a comic book store next door. I began trading ice cream for Clive Barker comics and the obsession with horror was firmly entrenched. I have always been crazy for ghost stories too.

Fatally Yours: What does horror mean to you? 

Aly Greaves: I enjoy that adrenaline rush when something really spooks you. I feel that a good healthy scare reminds me of why I am alive. Horror is also an excellent way to make social commentary (i.e. Night of the Living Dead) as well as wrestle with personal demons (i.e. Frankenstein). Horror drags you kicking and screaming out of your safe little bubble…something everyone needs now and then.

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

Aly Greaves: Well since nearly everything was a man’s domain at some point…it’s no surprise. Mostly I think that the horror (and the porn industry) has become the last refuge for the misogynists of the world who know that there will always be an audience for sado-sexual violence. Personally the horror that scares me and interests me the most rarely involves buxom women in the woods being chased by maniacs with axes. And while I do enjoy some old school horror films for cheeky appeal, I will never watch the torture porn out there. The only way to wrestle the industry away from the clutches of the XYs is for smart women to get into writing, producing, and directing and for the female horror audiences to give as much support to these books, films, TV, internet media, etc. as possible so that we might have more Kathryn Bigelows and less Rob Zombies.

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?

Aly Greaves: I think women in the business fear being pigeonholed by the genre. I also think that the production companies have little to no imagination when it comes to new ideas. Every few years you will see something break into the scene that is vaguely new and then they will beat that idea to death (i.e. Grudge III, Final Destination 18 whatever). The only way we will see more women in the business is if more women see horror as a valid genre and pursue it, support it, and create for it.

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

Aly Greaves: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein…the body horror of that story is so haunting. The thought of man taking the power of new life into his own hands (and away from women) creeps me out to no end. I think that women have also knocked the idea of horror through social oppression out of the park (think Shirley Jackson’s Lottery or Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale).

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

Aly Greaves:  Right now the struggle is for the entire genre of horror to be taken seriously…all parties are equally scoffed.

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?!

Aly Greaves: Yes, I get very annoyed by this. Though in the recent My Bloody Valentine remake, the naked blonde won my respect through the sheer tenacity and ridiculous length of the naked fight while wearing stripper platform shoes.

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?

Aly Greaves: Rocky Horror? Ha ha. Gosh, I cannot even think of one. True Blood on HBO pays fair attention to both the sexes in a wonderfully non-offensive but still sexy way. Supernatural is all about the hotness of the Winchester Boys (though sadly they rarely remove their shirts). In the land of diet horror: Interview with a Vampire is all about pretty boys and the Twilight films have lots of boys with no shirts.

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?

Aly Greaves: Childbirth. You try it boys….

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

Aly Greaves: Elizabeth Hand writes smart horror. Shirley Jackson scares the be-jebus out of me. Charlaine Harris writes great sexy fluff (she’s my anti-Laurell K Hamilton…who’s work I cannot stand). Kathryn Bigelow kicks serious ass and still holds the title for best-vampire-movie-ever in my opinion.

Fatally Yours: What has been your most challenging costume or makeup dilemma and how did you overcome it? 

Aly Greaves: The monsters and fantastical elements in our plays thus far always require a ton of attention and budget. So the trickiest thing is always making everything look good when a chunk of your time and resources are going to be devoted to a costume and effect that will be on stage for like ten seconds.

Fatally Yours: Where did you learn costuming and makeup artistry? Did you ever think you’d apply these skills in a horrific way? 

Aly Greaves: Well I used to make bullet holes with morticians wax and watched The Making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller every chance I could get as a kid…so it really seemed inevitable. I got into costumes and makeup officially at Knox College when I got a work study job sewing in the costume shop. I was hooked and quickly changed my major to theatre.  From there I went on the graduate school for Costume Design at Carnegie Mellon University. While there, my wonderful professors and advisors were Barbara and Cletus Anderson…who worked on the George Romero and the Stephen King films shot in and around Pittsburgh. So it really always seemed meant to be…

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

Aly Greaves: Get a diverse education and sample all of the horror out there: books, comics, films, television, etc and then find your taste. Find people who you can work with and start making it on your own.

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

Aly GreavesQuarantine was disturbing (that compound leg fracture…man that was gross) and Descent is so haunting and freaky. I love a good CHUD in a movie.  Plus spelunking sounds like my worst nightmare. Midnight Meat Train was messed up in a wonderfully Barker way. Sigh, I love him so. I adored Drag Me To Hell…that was such a roller coaster…when the old lady was like gumming her…shudder…messed up!

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

Aly Greaves: Hostel, Saw, any of the Rob Zombie remakes are complete crap…

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

Aly Greaves: I love Cabal and the film version Nightbreed. Novels: Carmilla, Frankenstein, Coraline, Bag of Bones by Stephen King. I am a huge Buffy devotee. Supernatural is great fun. Films: The Descent, The Thing, Alien, Dawn of the Dead

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

Aly Greaves: I would love to get horror the respect it deserves.

Fatally Yours: What upcoming projects are you working on?

Aly Greaves: William Peter Blatty’s Legion for Wildclaw…and I am working on a stage adaptation for Wildclaw. I am also working on a film script with Brian Amidei. I also have an idea for a horror related craft book that I am developing.

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

Aly Greaves:  I have a blog/podcast called Alyrenee’s Copious Spare Time…and a Buffy podcast called Undead America.

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