ARTIST SPOTLIGHT - WOMEN IN HORROR

MONICA DEMES

Interview by Nate Ludwig

NL:  Lilith's Awakening is your first feature film. It's a daring and auspicious debut right off the bat. Did you do any short films before this or is this literally your first film period? How long have you had this story in your head?

 

MD:  I shot 4 shorts films before. 

 

First one was called Rose and it was shot in NY when I was studying at the New York Film Academy (that was my first short in a film festival and it was an amazing feeling)

 

Second one was experimental and it was shot when I was living in Spain - it’s called Ahora Seras Castigada - this was my first awarded film.

 

Third one was an animation called Halloween. This film was awarded by David Lynch and it’s the one that took me to Iowa to shoot Lilith’s Awakening.

 

Fourth one is called The Reservoir and it was also shot in Iowa, but in summer, before I shot Lilith’s Awakening in the winter.

 

It took me 5 months to write Lilith but that was the kind of film that was constantly changing, even in the set I would try something different. Things were pretty magical with that film, almost as if it was alive and searching its vibe on the set. A pure manifestation of the unconsciousness. 

 

NL:  You attended the David Lynch screenwriting program at the Maharishi Institute of Management in Iowa. What was that course like? How did it help you as a writer and as a filmmaker? Did it give you enough confidence to make Lilith's Awakening soon after?

 

MD:  Actually, I attended a course that doesn’t exist anymore. It was called David Lynch master in Film program. We were 13 students and my project was the only feature that came out of it. I did Lilith while I was in the program. Actually there’s a video on line where Lynch wishes me good luck in my last day of shooting. Amazing times.

 

As an artist, Lynch showed me that I cannot be a coward. That was his big lesson to me. Believe what you feel, connect with the Universe and it will all come together.

 

I traveled to the US with the intention to shoot a film there and I wouldn’t come back to Brazil without it, that I was sure. And the people from the program were amazing. I totally recommend it. It was a lifetime experience to me, one year and a half of full and profound devotion to my film.

 

NL:  You're from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Have you lived there all your life? What is the filmmaking scene like in Brazil and South America in general?

 

MD:  2017 was my first year in Brazil after 15 years abroad. I lived in Europe before moving to the US to attend the master in Film. Here, there’s a big demand of author films, much like in Europe. 

 

NL:  Where did you shoot Lilith's Awakening? What was the hardest part about bringing the film to life for you?

 

MD:  It was shot in Fairfield - Iowa. The most difficult thing was to find people to work in the film - we had very few money to shoot so it was practically impossible to bring people from other places.  

 

NL:  There are a lot of clever references to vampire lore in Lilith's Awakening, specifically Stoker's Dracula. How much of that was originally planned and how much of it was added in during production?

 

MD:  Actually one of the things I had in mind when I was writing Lucy’s character was: “how would be Mina’s life when she married Jonathan. How would be her existence by his side in a society where her main role is to be his wife”. 

 

Thinking about van Helsink - who would be a vampire killer nowadays - where would he work - what would he do? And that’s how I got to ABE, the owner of an old gas station in the middle of nowhere, who is always hearing the WORD of a priest and trying to control his daughter. He is the compleat opposite of lust. 

 

The character of Jonathan follows the original Stocker character - a guy who wants to have a wife and a good job, ambitious and boring. And incapable of seeing his wife as she really is, because of his own sociological limitations.

 

I choose to call my protagonist Lucy instead of Mina because Mina comes from Mine, while Lucy comes from Light. And my protagonist was not to be anyone’s object of desire as in Dracula. In my film Lucy is the one who desires. So I took the Nosferatu name to my protagonist. Lucy - which means - the last light of the day. 

 

But I didn’t want to make a film where a woman is kidnaped by the prince of darkness as in Dracula. And that’s when I combine Lilith’s myth with stocker story, bringing Lilith’s Awakening to life. 

 

So instead of the prince of darkness we have the first woman (adam’s first wife) haunting  Lucy’s dreams, the one who was condemned by God to be the first demon of humankind because she didn’t want to obey.

 

NL:  Have you had a chance to attend any festival screenings for Lilith's Awakening? What has that experience been like for you?

 

MD:  Oh, yes I did, film festivals are the best! I love attending them. Unfortunately I couldn’t go to all cause it’s expensive to travel so much but I could attend some and it was always a great experience - you meet very interesting people, meet new friends, talk to the audience. Couldn’t be better. That’s the best part for me.

 

NL:  Why do you feel like you have to tell stories through film? What drives you?

 

MD:  When I am in a film set is the only moment in life I feel compleat. It’s like I’m part of something bigger. So it’s not that I have to tell stories, it’s more like they use me to be told. 

 

NL:  What are the challenges of women making movies in South America or Europe compared to women making movies in America. Are there any differences at all?

 

MD:  It’s a tuff question but I guess the challenges are pretty much the same everywhere: To be respected as a professional. To have a voice where most of the voices are masculine around you.  

 

NL:  Do you have any advice for young women coming up in the film industry that might help them succeed in telling their own stories?

 

MD:  Go for it and do it. Don’t wait for perfection. It will come with the mistakes, but without the mistakes you go nowhere.


NL:  Seen any good movies lately? 

 

MD:  The best Of 2017 to me was called Lady Macbeth.

 

NL:  What's next for you? Do you have another feature in the works? Care to share and juicy details with us?

 

MD:  Next is a thriller called “The Muse”. I just signed with one of the most prestigious independent film companies of Brazil to give birth to this project and I’m very excited about it. It takes place in a music conservatory, it has 2 strong female characters (mother and daughter) and it’s about music creation and fear.