5 Questions with Filmmaker L.C. Cruell

Describing L.C. Cruell as just a writer is a massive understatement. Even though her first comfort is penning, she has produced and directed independent film and television productions with an astuteness that is enviable. Looking at her work and resume, I was blown away. This woman is busy. Read more below and you'll see just how busy. Passionate and determined, Cruell has worked with some of the most well known women in horror and shows no signs of slowing down.

She's nothing short of inspirational...

Everyone's story is unique. Tell us how you became enthralled with horror as a genre.

The What if? I’ve always loved that question. It takes apart the obvious, digs under the layers of what you think you know, makes you want to know more. It’s the reason I was drawn straight into the arms of sci-fi as a child with horror, the supernatural, legends, myths, mythologies, then hard science, physics, astronomy, anthropology, neuroscience and so on all soon to follow.

The history of our collective thought is fascinating. The possibilities of where it may take us astounding. To me sci-fi and horror are both a part of that, with horror representing the dark side of the answers, of us. The dark side isn’t evil, it just is, and it’s a part of us, a large part of who we are and how we came to be what we are. It’s fascinating to explore.

What inspired you to become a horror filmmaker?

I love movies. I love horror (Thank you Mr. King!). Horror films are fun and before I even thought about writing any, I’d seen as many as I could get my hands on from the mind-bending to the utterly ridiculous. I started writing short stories and had 25 or so published but even though they were all sci-fi, even my sci-fi tends to be a rather bit dark. After studying film and starting to write scripts, though I’ve written sci-fi and comedy, the majority of the what ifs I wanted to explore needed a darker world to thrive in so I wrote more and more horror and found that I loved every minute of it. 

Especially with my love of horror films, it’s always fun to play with established conventions or take things to the a new level or just inject my own heretofore-unseen perspective onto something. I never wrote to become a director; in fact I actually only started directing  (outside of student films) to get my writing out there. It worked. Turned out I was pretty good at it. Who knew? I certainly didn’t. I’ve had friends on set watch me direct, they almost passed out, so apparently I wasn’t alone in my shock. I was never the type who wanted the responsibility/center of attention part, but when you’re doing it you find you’re too damned busy to care about any of that anyway so with no freak-out time and focus on the amazing creation of the creative, it works. Oh, who am I kidding, I love the power!

What challenges and triumphs have you experienced as a Black woman in the horror industry?

I try not to dwell on the negatives too much. If you do you’ll never get out from under them, but if you don’t at all they’ll never change either. So, of course, from some there’s the surprise to find you in the genre at all. I’m not sure where they expect you to be but apparently not in horror/sci-fi. Why? I have no idea. So, it’s the usual getting people to look at you and not see already assumed outcomes and limitations but see the amazing potential and possibilities of new perspectives.  But that’s Hollywood in general; hell that’s life. 

And I must say, in the midst of all the ridiculous nepotistic favoritism, stereotypes, and 101 different barriers to entry for anyone born outside the industry flowing throughout the film world, horror folks are by far the best group to fall in with. Awesome, cool, laid-back, but smart, sharp, eager. Once you’re in, you’re in. All that surface nonsense is checked at the door when you are having a heated discussion on The Ring versus Ringu. If you love the genre, the films, the fans, they sense that, and they love you back. I have had a blast at every horror festival I’ve gone to as a finalist or winner and had a blast with every crew on every shoot. That is one of the greatest things about the horror genre, the fans. Maybe it draws the open-minded, or by it’s very nature opens the mind. (Notice how I refrained from the go-to cleaver joke there?)

What are your aspirations for yourself and other Black women filmmakers in the horror industry?

Write, film, have fun, feel no limitations within yourself, and don’t let others limit you either.

To be seen by everyone else just like everyone else; an unknown artist with a blank canvas. Don’t assume you know what we’re going to paint. Come and see!

(That last line was me unashamedly quoting the first line of my pilot “The Four,” and the Bible too of course. It got there first.)

What can you tell us about any of your future projects?

Good grief. Let’s see-

31The war between the living and the dead takes a new turn.   
Genre: Supernatural Thriller
Status: In development 

Based on my web series “31.” The entire web series version was shot for a whopping $390, pulling in incredible support, crew, and talent in all areas based on the script and concept alone. 

31 opens on a woman trapped, alone, in the dark with no memory of who she is and nothing to go on besides a “31” branded into her skin. When she finally escapes her prison, she finds a world outside far scarier than her dark prison. Known for its cliffhangers, this experimental work is 31 episodes long, 31 seconds per episode, and initially aired as a web event for 31 straight days. 

It led to rave reviews, interviews, con appearances, hundreds of thousands of views across 6 continents, a YouTube partnership, 6 non-exclusive distribution deals, and international festival selections and wins. The television series explores the strange dark version of our own world that lies beyond the darkness and 31’s journey through it as she tries to navigate her present, uncover her past, and save everyone’s future.

Mistresses of Horror – All female written and directed horror anthology feature. 

All short segments and the script as a whole are already award/festival winners/finalists. Ten top female directors in the genre are already attached: Mary LambertKatt SheaRachel TalalayJen LynchKaren LamMaude MichaudDevi SnivelyBarbara StepanskyMae Catt, and Tammi Sutton.  

I’m actually a writer/creator/producer on this one. (I love MOH, but being one of the producers? Never again!)

Tales From Morningview Cemetery - A classic horror anthology featuring four chilling tales from four award-winning independent directors.

The segment I wrote/directed is called “I Need You” and is currently in post.

Flesh, Be Still – Both short films I’ve written and am set to direct are in pre-production with Morning Star Productions Najma Cade. 

Flesh (horror) where a man meets someone from his past who demands their pound of flesh is the seed for a feature. 
Be Still (sci-fi/horror)-  is the seed for Pallas, a pilot. Cyberzombies! Oh yeah!

Neph & The Four – TV Pilots 

In Neph, six young adults, the last of the Nephilim, struggle to survive in a world where both good and evil see them as abominations to be destroyed. 

In The Four,  4 losers discover they may be destined to become the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Crimson, Lizzie, The Guardians, Last Call for Angels – Feature Films
Status: Currently marketing/in talks/development on each. 

Vampires in the Ivy League. Axe wielding spirits. A sci-fi, centuries old, international conspiracy. And depressed Apocalyptic Angels. Respectively.

Samarra – Feature Film
Solar-flare apocalypse (“the Burning”) story in progress for director Jacob Cooney.

Seekers, Through a Glass House Darkly, In Nomine, World’s Shortest Horror Movies – Short Films

Status: scripts optioned/sold to an international list of directors/producers currently in various stages of production. 

I love the thought of having stories of mine filming at different places throughout the land. And there’s nothing like finding that one director/producer who loves a script of yours as much as you do and you know it was meant to be. I am always excited to work with new directors and producers since I write more than I could ever direct myself and never want to produce again. It’s been nice talking to ya. 

Absolutely, L.C. And thanks for your time!

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