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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Women in Horror Month 2016 Special: Etheria Toronto – Women Behind The Scenes in Genre TV & Film

This February, we celebrate Women in Horror Month with the Etheria Film Night in cities across North America. It’s a night where women who direct, write, produce and work behind the scenes in genre film are singled out so the people who love genre film can become familiar with their work. 2016 boasted the first Canadian event in Toronto on February 20th, 2016, where this annual showcase screened some great shorts directed by women and we heard from some of them about their craft.

Etheria Toronto was hosted by the voices behind The Faculty of Horror: Andrea Subissati and Alexandra West, two women in horror that definitely deserve the title. As well as hosting the popular podcast, they’ve written about horror extensively, both in academia and popular media. You can find more about them at www.facultyofhorror.com, with past podcasts, bios and great information on all things horror.

The night kicked off with screenings of five horror shorts:

De Noche y De Pronto (Suddenly, One Night), directed by Arantxa Echevarria.  

This almost 20 minute film from Spain brings us a story about a woman’s uncertainty and trusting her instincts.  She has to decide whether a neighbour is telling the truth when he seeks refuge from apparent robbers in his apartment.  Tense and paranoia-inducing, this film won the 2015 Etheria Jury award.

And They Watched directed by Vivian Lin.  

I first saw this dark film at the Blood in the Snow Festival this past fall, and again at the Little Terrors Shorts Christmas edition. It still resonates as a gripping tale about a custodian, the electric chair and the lingering effects of execution in the natural and supernatural worlds.

Mitten directed by Amanda Michael Row.  


This 3 minute gem is all tension as a man finds a mitten and searches for the owner.

Seiren directed by Kat Threlkeld.  

When a model is bitten in the water at a photoshoot, she becomes infected and slowly transforms into a nightmare.

Slut directed by Chloe Okuno.  

This retro film follows a girl who is awkward, nerdy and desperate for a boyfriend. When she transforms into her version of a sexpot, she becomes the target of a violent psychopath. This 20 minute film won the Etheria 2015 Audience award.

After the screenings, the Faculty of Horror hosts sat down with some of the directors showcased, as well as women who work in other areas of the industry to talk about some of their experiences in the industry.

Along with directors Vivian Lin, Amanda Michael Row and Kat Threlkeld, we also heard from Laura Perlmutter, an award-winning producer and co-founder of First Love Films; Brigitte Rabazo, a seasoned film editor who has worked on major feature films like Pacific Rim; and Richelle Charkot, a freelance writer, programmer and marketing associate for The Royal Cinema, and co-producer for feminist screening series The MUFF Society.

The discussion started with asking the panel if they could narrow down to one defining moment when they realized they wanted to make genre film, or film in general. They all referred to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the 90’s supernatural cult series that influenced, and is loved by, so many people. Other influences included Titanic (Amanda), Watership Down (Richelle), Pet Cemetery and The Exorcist (Laura), The Omen (Brigitte) and Interview with a Vampire and Anne Rice (Kat).

Arantxa Echevarria

The next question asked them how they reacted to the resistance against WiH/girl power and if they were perceived as wanting to bring down all the men. The panel all agreed that people tended to be suspicious of women in horror, and feminists to boot. Amanda hadn’t experienced any resistance and just did what she wanted in terms of directing. Brigitte found that with her highly technical job of editing, people assumed she wouldn’t know her job just because of her gender. She also pointed out that woman editors were behind some of the most famous films out there, and many don’t acknowledge that fact. Richelle noticed a weird pre-judgement towards female directed films, and Kat made a great point about women and horror.  

Vivian Lin

She said that women know horror better than anyone in film because of our gender and experiences, so who better to represent the genre behind the scenes. Ultimately she made horror because it was fun, and wondered who cared who did what?  They agreed that this could be overcome by doing what feels right to you, with Vivian adding that you should direct what you want.

Kat Threlkeld

As far as having a mentor, receiving great advice, and facing obstacles, the women all had some great things to say. They unanimously agreed that fostering relationships and creating a community around you for support was extremely important, as well as abolishing the competition mentality. Vivian pointed out that even though at first you may not be accepted because, for instance, you may not “look like a director”, you had to sidestep stereotypes and eventually you’ll find like-minded people who support you.  Laura stressed that there should be conversations about why people think it’s weird that women and people of colour do genre film. 

Richelle also noted dealing with a boy’s club when it came to film criticism at film festivals. Confidence and a good first impression were key, as well as “knowing your stuff”. Amanda stressed that knowing the nuts and bolts of filmmaking, like how a camera works or sewing costumes was mandatory just in case you had to do things yourself. Even though Kat and Richelle both admitted to dealing with perfectionism in what they said or created, Laura noted that women have to allow themselves to make mistakes because they are worthy of working in the industry, and would learn from those mistakes.

As far as doling out any advice, the panelists all felt networking, making contacts, and being clever about resources and finances were at the top of the list. A lot of them warned that there was never enough money, and you have to really love what you’re doing in order to deal with financial and personal sacrifices. 

These women were an inspiration because despite any challenges they may, or have faced, they still follow their passion. They all felt that believing in yourself even when you’re at your lowest would be the most important since being true to yourself would guide you. It was a great and insightful night, and it’s so important to support these and other women in horror and genre film. We need to spread the word that they are skilled artists and writers, and accept that women can create great original horror films.

Here’s what the panelists are up to next:

Brigitte is taking a break for now.

Vivian Lin is co-creator of Midnight Print Studios (http://www.midnightprintstudios.com/) and also directing another short film Hysteria, about a woman’s war with her uterus.

Amanda is working on The Creeps, a horror anthology web series due out in October 2016 on YouTube.

Richelle is starting a new series at the Royal Cinema call Retropath, where she’ll be screening cult films such as The Tingler, and is presenting Bring It On for the MUFF Society in March. 

Laura has produced the documentary Looking for Mike, a chilling look at one man’s quest to find the true identity of his dead friend. It airs on the CBC March 3rd at 9:00 pm.

Kat is hard at work doing her next short film and promoting Seiren. You can find more info on her Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/seirenfilm/




About The Author
Carolyn is the founder of Rosemary’s Pixie.  She is a horror and sci-fi fanatic who was named after a character from Dark Shadows, is an avid animal lover and lives in Toronto, Canada. (@rmpixie)
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