Black Women Horror Filmmakers: Interview With L.C. Cruell
In broadening the “Black Women in Horror” interview series beyond authors, I’m showcasing another filmmaker/director, L.C. Cruell (the first interview with Meosha Bean is here). L.C. is the creator and co-executive producer of 7 Magpies, a horror anthology project written and directed by black women. Cruell is a longtime writer/director passionate about breaking the stereotypes of Black people not being involved in horror, especially Black women.
“As hot as horror anthologies are right now (the ABCs of Death series, the V/H/S series, Tales of Halloween, Holidays, etc.), not one black woman has been included in a single one, not even the all female-directed XX.” Inspired by advice from noted filmmaker & cinematographer Ernest Dickerson, Cruell crafted 7 Magpies out of the creepy nursery rhyme, which gave rise to the superstition that the bird can be an evil omen, depending on the number of them you see.
Here in England, I’ve heard many people saying, “How’s the family, Mr. Magpie?” in order to avoid the bad luck that comes from seeing only one. Cruell feels the rhyme represents, “a form of oral storytelling key to many cultures of color – and the perfect framework for the first all African-American female horror anthology feature.” L.C. was kind enough to talk to me more about her inspirations and what she wants to see in horror’s future.
Thank you for granting me this interview. Tell us a bit about yourself and your filmmaking process. Where can we find your work?
At heart I suppose I’m just a small town, country girl with a passion for learning and an insane imagination. I got a full academic ride to Duke University and graduated from there and Harvard Law School with honors. But I took as wide a variety of courses as possible. I always wanted to create either as a writer or an entrepreneur or inventor or game designer or whatever. I like to bring things into this world that weren’t here before.
Currently, I suppose you can see my work at various websites and festivals although things are in the work for more. Everything though is on my website, CruellWorld.com. Pilots, features, anthologies, etc. Process-wise I can’t write everyday on a set schedule or anything. When an idea takes me I just ride it out, usually to keep my mind from wandering, I write two at a time until one fully captures my focus or just a lot of shorts when I need breaks. Coming up with ideas has never been a problem. Time and money are the problems.
I became a director to get my writing out there not the other way around. Though I studied it and made student films, I never saw myself as a director, but I admit I found it fun, fulfilling and I was pretty good at it so just kept doing it. The visual part is easy because I pictured everything when I wrote it. Writing and directing, meeting, marketing, distributing. Oy god, this industry takes time and energy. Making it happen is a whole lot of work for a nocturnal Type B.
What inspired you to make films—was there a particular movie you loved and/or hated?
Living in the country. Playtime requires a lot of imagination in the country. And it’s awesome. Of course I loved Star Wars and Indiana Jones as a kid and my favorite comic book characters were Wonder Woman, Black Widow, and Catwoman.
When you get angry at a movie, what sets you off? Are there tropes in horror movies that you dislike? How do you deal with them?
I really don’t get angry at movies. Usually there’s at least one line or scene that makes it worth the watch. But sure there are tropes I could do without. The black best friend whose sole purpose in life is to help the white lead find romance. That one has probably damaged more friendships in the real world than any other when your friends actually expect you to play that role in their lives. I also think this weird belief that white audiences can only relate to white leads, while the rest of us can relate to anyone, is total BS and incredibly insulting to white audiences.
How can female filmmakers and filmmakers of color gain a larger share of the dark fiction fan base?
Let them know we’re here for one. I’m not sure why but some people think there are certain spaces that women or people of color don’t inhabit. It’s like how people thought video games were only a guy thing until they actually did the numbers. So let folks know we’re here. Honestly, it never dawned on me that people would think gender or race has anything at all to do with one’s ability to write or direct a certain kind of movie. It’s still pretty hard to believe. I’m willing to bet that there’s a kid right now in Thailand trying to make a hip hop romance. Outer trappings just don’t matter, why would they. Inside we’re all the same in that each one of us is completely unique. Don’t let the cover fool you and open the book and see.
That’s a key decision but also key is the producer, the AD, the DP, the sound, the editor, the colorist, the effects folks. It’s all key. They all have to be talented if your project is going to be all that you hope for. And not just talented but mesh well on set, have chemistry, get along, and are all on the same page working towards the same vision. Shooting is exhausting and draining but at the same time exhilarating and thrilling, especially when you are working with the right group of people. All of my shoots have been 100% awesome, from actors to PA's, but for one and I still believe there was a curse involved. That one taught me a lot though, and thankfully still turned out pretty decently, all things considered. I guess everyone needs that one to grow on.
What research do you perform—before or after the cameras are on? How important is “getting it right” for a filmmaker when bringing a story to the screen?
Well, research for the story is key as a writer. I love research. But then again I love reading non-fiction for fun. So when it comes to directing, prep is key, especially on an indie budget and schedule.
What’s your next project?
Let’s see… I’ve got a couple of pilots I have the bibles for that I need to finish and The Certainty, a sci-fi/horror I’ve been dying to write forever. But I would really like to see The Sitter, Crimson and Last Call For Angels filmed. I’d also like to direct my first full feature and get one of my pilots on the air. And I’d really like to see 7 Magpies (the first all Back female written and directed horror anthology) that I created happen.
Here are some links to Lucy’s work online:
What truly scares you? How do these fears inspire your filmmaking?
At this point in my life I believe there is only one thing, maybe two, that truly scares me. I suppose it works its way into my filmmaking just like all my other life experiences.
What do you like to watch? Or read?
I like to read science-fiction, mysteries and non-fiction. I like to watch sci-fi, supernatural, fantasy and horror, also superhero movies, really strong dramas, foreign films, and documentaries.
What shape would you like to see the future of horror take?
I would like to see it continue to explode in all directions. Each new advance brings a what if with it, and that’s where sci-fi and horror thrive. I would like to see it through the lens of people other than just wealthy, third-generation, LA insiders. I would like for no one to care who makes something and only care about what is on screen. I think with all the extra vehicles for film and the television renaissance, so much more is now possible than ever before.
If there was one thing you would change to make the film industry better for people of color and for women, what would it be?
Well I’d love it if everyone would just forget about color and gender and judge you by talent. I would love for people not to expect you to take that talent and only write a certain kind of story from a certain perspective. I’d love color-blind casting and hiring across the board. And I’d like to meet a unicorn.
What responsibility do filmmakers have to culture? If so, how do you preserve the integrity and message for a story while committing it to film?
To be yourself.
Is there a subject you refuse to touch?
I try to stay away from child abuse, rape, things that are too horrible and real to be casually tossed into a film about something else. I was blessed enough not to experience anything even remotely like that in a childhood that was idyllic, protective, and filled with love by two incredible parents and I don’t think things like that should be handled casually by a person from the outside looking in.
What do you do in your spare time? (If you have any, that is.)
I seriously don’t have any. If I do anything at all for myself not related to film, writing, or other work, I’ll read or go to a movie (still kind of work related), spend time with my family and friends, garden, binge watch shows I’ve missed, have fun, run wild, dance, party, travel if I can, work on my world domination plans, oh and men are pretty spectacular diversions as well. But again, very little time for any of it. You get to a level where a lot of people like and believe in your work and you have a lot of projects out there, any of which could break through at any time, so they all demand all your attention. So, yeah, I could use a true vacay or personal assistant or both. Ireland would be nice.
And a giant thank you to every single person who has given me the slightest scrap of help along the way. You know who you are. I know who you are. Thank you all so much!
Thanks to you, L.C.!
If you want to keep up with L.C.’s various scripts and projects check out her website, CruellWorld. You can also find her on Twitter. Check out and subscribe to her short horror film series 31. Check out and follow the 7 Magpies on Twitter (@The7Magpies) and like the project on Facebook.
Eden Royce is descended from women who practiced root, a type of conjure magic in her native Charleston, South Carolina. She’s been a bridal consultant, reptile handler, and stockbroker, but now writes dark fiction about the American South from her home in the English countryside. She has written for the Los Angeles Review of Books, Dirge Magazine, and is one of the founders of Colors in Darkness, a place for dark fiction authors of color to get support for their projects. Find out more about Eden’s brand of horror at edenroyce.com or follow her on Twitter (@EdenRoyce)