Conquering Challenges: Interview With Horror Film Producer Sandy Ayesh

Sandy Ayesh is a Brooklyn native currently residing in Queens who spends time writing children's books, teaching bellydancing to kids, manages a dental practice, and finds time for her passion as a film producer and lover of the horror genre. This superwoman's latest producer credit is the upcoming psychological horror film, The Luring, about a man who returns to the childhood site of a traumatic event in his life in order to retrieve the truth of what happened; a truth that has been kept from him since. Along with writer and director Christopher Wells and fellow producer Brian Berg, Sandy has been hard at work getting the word out about the film with emphasis on The Luring as the "horror film that you always hoped someone would make."

With this bold and promising approach, I asked Sandy about the important qualities of a producer in getting others to believe in you and your project, "As a producer, I feel that my strength is in interacting with people and making them feel comfortable on set," Sandy says. "I love being creative with marketing and getting the word out about our film. I have a huge background in sales."

Sandy is very warm and open to discussing the multiplicitious work involved in being a producer, both enjoyable and challenging: "I’m fortunate enough to have worked with Christopher Wells (director) on several projects. He is extremely talented and his experience and insight has been so beneficial in my career as a producer. Since we are a small independent crew, we are always meeting and going over every aspect of the movie. I’m helping with responsibilities like raising the funds, marketing the movie online, and constantly interacting with cast and crew. Chris always asks for our creative input when it comes to the script, the actors, the marketing and any new ideas for the film. It’s a great working environment because I’m able to have my voice heard while learning so much from seasoned filmmakers.

It’s definitely been challenging. This is my first time working on a feature film. There are a lot of responsibilities and I’m the only female producer so I’m constantly trying to prove myself and work as hard as I can while juggling a full time job. I love the director and the other producers and we’re all friends. Sometimes I can’t make important meetings because of my schedule and sometimes I can’t offer the insight that the other filmmakers can bring. It was very fun and difficult driving from New York to Vermont to help film the opening scene. I was able to be on a movie set for the first time and interact with the cast and crew.

I’ve seen Chris in action before, but this was to a greater degree. It was challenging managing all the actors and making sure everyone was fed and on time. During production, the red balloons that we had filled, lost air right before shooting. So we were in a crunch to get more balloons on a Sunday when all the stores were closed. When you have deadlines and a fixed budget, you turn into a superhero and exhaust all resources until you find a way. I think that’s what it takes to make a movie, and once you experience a few hardships, you feel stronger and braver to tackle new projects in life."

The way in which Sandy has managed to overcome obstacles in this arena has only encouraged her to grow as a producer, make more films and encourage other women of color; "There are endless ideas for movies and horror especially. Horror, to me, is a very important genre. Not only does it ignite the imagination and awaken the senses, but it's a necessary part of the film world.

It's also important for me to continue filmmaking  because there are not too many middle eastern female producers out there and I feel like I can set an example. If your true passion is film, then nothing should stop you. If you are the only female filmmaker in a crowd of male professionals, then you absolutely must go after your dreams."

This is generally a pretty exciting time to be a horror fan with the accessibility of both mainstream and independent products along with Blu-ray and streaming revivals of old, obscure classics. Since The Luring is intent on being a standout, I wanted to know from Sandy's perspective, what work in the horror genre currently matches its quality: "American Horror Story is a great series. It's so dramatic, the actors are very talented and loveable, and the story is super engaging and unpredictable. It weaves a layered web of fear, seduction, jealousy, insecurity, confinement and we're never quite sure who is alive and who isn't," Sandy discusses speaking on the horror anthology's first season. "In a strange, inexplicable way, we can relate to the feelings of the souls that are trapped in the house. Our movie, through suspense and character development, engages our audience and pushes them to think and feel in ways they don't normally. A good horror film, should excite and surprise. It should be relatable enough where the viewer can experience what the characters do, yet artistic enough to shock and captivate."

With Sandy's other priorities working with youth who usually show a broad interest in more 'kid-friendly' genre films, to end our conversation on a fun note, I was curious as to what Sandy grew up watching, "I love working with kids. They have the best imaginations and they are never afraid to explore new things," Sandy laments. "Horror films are so much fun because they stretch reality and really get you to think about life and what’s possible. They are super creative. I have always loved the movie Beetlejuice. That’s one of my favorite films. It’s definitely creepy but kid friendly. Tim Burton films like Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride and Batman Returns are classic films with a spooky horror style. The Nightmare Before Christmas is awesome and a movie that all kids would enjoy. Also, would recommend Casper and Gremlins. I still own those VHS tapes."

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