ARTIST SPOTLIGHT - WOMEN IN HORROR
Interview by Nate Ludwig
NL: What's your story? How has it shaped your life as a filmmaker?
BE: I grew up on movies. My Mom has always had an insane amount of movies and when I was able to watch, I spent most of my time watching anything she watched. It was how we bonded. I have always been the creative and weird girl. So, I used my passion for movies to make friends throughout school, although a lot of times it meant that I would be made fun of instead. I spent my middle school years watching Empire Records and Welcome to the Dollhouse. My walls were covered with Eddie Furlong and Corey Haim posters. But for some reason I gravitated toward horror. I remember watching Nightmare on Elm St: Dream Warriors in theaters when I was way too young to be seeing it, and when I was old enough to request a copy on VHS, my mom bought it for me. Movies were my happy place. They still are. I never dreamt that I could make a movie. I grew up in a time when camera equipment was beyond my budget, and there were no programs in schools to encourage it. When I finally got the courage to give it a go, I think I realized that making movies was cathartic. I hope to help people find that happy place that movies take me to. I know that my mind is warped and weird, but the horror community welcomed my brain with opens arms and I'll never stop loving them for it.
NL: In addition to being a filmmaker, you're also a photographer. Tell us a little bit about that. Do you feel that being a photographer got you ready for the world of indie filmmaking?
BE: Photography was an accident for me. I was helping a friend who wanted to start doing photography and she had me take a few photos of her. I discovered that I had an eye for it. I bought a camera and worked on a volunteer basis for almost 5 years. I volunteered for musicians, models, wrestling companies, festivals, movies, and so many things, just to learn as much as I could. I see a lot of people that buy a camera and start charging for photo sessions, and they do not have the basic knowledge to take photos. I never felt ok about charging for my work, until 2015 when I started gaining my own personal style. Now I prefer to shoot for fashion, and clothing lines. I also love working on film sets as a still and BTS photographer. Horror scenes are some of my favorite things to shoot. When I started out creating photos, I built sets and created short scripts. I used photos to tell a story. People told me that my photos looked like a movie. After almost 10 years I finally got the courage to use my photo and lighting skills to help me create She Was So Pretty.
NL: You've directed two features so far, She Was So Pretty and She Was So Pretty 2: Be Good For Goodness Sake. Did you do any shorts beforehand or did you just jump into features right away?
BE: I didn't know much about short films growing up. It never occurred to me to make a short before I jumped Into a feature. Everyone always asks me what helped me get the courage to jump in, but honestly, it was my naïveté that got me here.
NL: The She Was So Pretty movies are dark, nasty, and ugly but also funny and somewhat touching. Did they turn out how you envisioned them? What were some of the triumphs and struggles on each film?
BE: She Was So Pretty is dark. When I was writing the basis for it I didn't plan for it to be funny. The actor who played the Detective had some a lot of improv comedy, and when he took on the role, he took it in that direction. I always imagined the movie being completely heartbreaking, and never letting up, but also people began to fall in love with Alfie. They found something charming about him. I know that some of my favorite films have those sort of quirky characters, so I'm sure that helped me shape him. Jerry also brought a lot of his own mannerisms and ideals into Alfie too. I loved watching him build on the character each day that we shot. One of our main struggles on set was sound. We never planned for it to be a movie that a lot of people saw. So we didn't use sound equipment. It still haunts me. I love the second half of that movie. I'm very proud of the lighting, and music choices. I love the tone and the feelings of dread it brings.
She Was So Pretty: Be Good for Goodness Sake was way more polished and scripted. I wanted to step up our game in every aspect. I read so many reviews from people who didn't take the first film seriously, and I had something to prove on this one. We upped our budget from $0, on part one, to $5,000 on part two. We sunk all the money into equipment, lighting and sound. I still struggled to add in the comedy from the first movie, since comedy isn't my strong suit, but I think we found a great balance with the newest Detective Baldwin, Corey Rutter. This time Jerry and I wanted to add even more charm into Alfie. I knew Eleanore would help us take it there, and Destiny Loper was a my dream for that character. Twisted love stories are hard to come by, and I wanted to create one. Part 2 helped me showcase my eye for lighting even more, and my love for horror without nudity. Grossing people out and making them squirm is my favorite thing in this film. I think there are a few issues with sound I hope to clear up before we release it, but I think we are bringing a lot more to the table this time around.
NL: Your current life partner, Jerry Larew, is also in a way your filmmaking partner in that he is the star of both She Was So Pretty movies. Do you consider him your muse, as it were? How did you meet him and which came first, your idea for She Was So Pretty or Jerry?
BE: Jerry inspired She Was So Pretty. I met him when he joined a local band that I frequently photographed. He complimented my horror collection, and I invited him to hang out a week later. When we hung out he had the weirdest mannerisms. I thought he might actually be a real life serial killer. So the night after we hung out I wrote a short story called, "Creep". That ended up being the basis for the film. Jerry inspires me on so many levels. He's so talented, and passionate. A few months after hanging out more frequently, I asked him if he'd be interested in making a horror movie with me. We started dating after a year and have been on this journey together ever since. He's my muse for sure. I love writing characters for him.
NL: Tell us about your experiences on the fest circuit with SWSP. Any interesting stories or anecdotes? What surprised you in your journeys?
BE: Festivals and conventions have been mind-blowing for us. Our Days of the Dead screening in Louisville was completely packed and I was so blown away by how many people fell in love with our first movie. My favorite thing was having Jerry wait till around 30 minutes into the film and then awkwardly enter the screening room. He would hand out circus peanuts and sit next to people. He once made a women so scared that she wouldn't even stand in a photo with him. Also watching women swoon over him in costume was totally strange. A character that I created that tortures women somehow came off as oddly romantic and sweet. I also lost my mind at Nightmares Film Festival because I never thought we'd get to screen somewhere so inspiring. I was such a wreck at the fest that I could barely function. I was so nervous because I didn't believe that we deserved to be there with all the other amazing films. Taking home the award for Best Director blew me away. I cried. Nightmares is pure magic. I love screening the films in places that let us decorate, and have Alfie show up. We love creating an experience for movie goers.
NL: You're currently in the midst of showing SWSP 2 on the festival scene. What's on tap after that? Anything in the works you can share with us?
BE: We are shooting a new short called NIGHT CLUB at the end of April. It's a female-fronted disco dream in the vein of Fright Night. We are hoping to gain the final $500 needed for our fundraising efforts by mid March.
I am also finishing up writing a brand new project that begins filming at the beginning of April. It's top secret, currently, but I am hoping to blow some minds with this one.
NL: Why is it seemingly so rare for women to be feature directors in genre films (action, horror, sci-fi, fantasy)? It seems like there's much more women shorts directors. Where is the disconnect, in your opinion?
BE: It's really hard to say. Women have the ability and awesome ideas. But I do think it's harder for women to get the backing and support needed to fund feature ideas. Shorts are so much more affordable and can help someone build a portfolio that will help them get funding. I just went for it, because I didn't know any better. I'm hoping to see even more females stepping out into the horror realm. I know there are tons of female horror lovers, and even more female filmmakers coming out of film schools. Hopefully, we can start standing out and making our mark. There are some ladies leading the way for us now like, The Soska Sisters.
NL: Can we expect a She Was So Pretty 3? If so, any plot details you can share?
BE: You can definitely expect a She Was So Pretty 3, but we want to make it the most beautiful, and complete piece of the SWSP puzzle. We are hoping to work on fundraising and combining that with our own savings to take the third one to even greater level. Once you see Be Good for Goodness Sake you'll have a pretty good idea of where we are going with it.
NL: What's the hardest thing so far about being basically your own everything as a filmmaker. Creative, marketing, hype, etc...?
BE: The hardest part about this was convincing my family that this is worth doing, and it's a real career. My Mom finally gets it, but it took Part 2 to help her see that I was serious. A lot of my family think it's a silly hobby, and I should just get back to shooting weddings and charge $5,000 a shoot, like the other wedding photographers in my area. When my Grandma saw the article in our local paper about the premiere of Part 2, she asked me if I was still making silly little movies. It's so funny and so sad. Something I love so much, and I can't even get my Grandmother to support me. She asked me what the movie was about and I said, it's a horror movie, she then asked me why I wanted to make trash and told me I should make love stories for women like me. If Grandma only knew that women like me wanted to see blood, guts and creatures she'd probably cry. But it doesn't matter, because I love horror, and I cannot wait to tour with She Was So Pretty: Be Good for Goodness Sake and share it with all the horror women like me!