ARTIST SPOTLIGHT - WOMEN IN HORROR

sam kolesnik

Interview by Nate Ludwig

NL:  What's your story? Tell us how filmmaking and writing has shaped your life so far.

 

SK:  I don't want to stop. I have overflowing passion for it. There are often times where I resent needing sleep because I'd rather be working. This is the life I want to live -- creating. And I love being around other creative people. It's like a shot of inspiration right into your bloodstream. It's so good to dose up like that. That's why I love going to film festivals. There are people who go, "What's the point?" I love it, though. I don't want to create in isolation. I'd done that for time enough. 

 

NL:  What made you want to be a storyteller? When did you get the itch?

 

SK:  I was born itchy, I guess. (That doesn't sound attractive, does it?) I always had a rich imagination -- I had imaginary friends which spooked my mom. One was named Midge. She smoked and loved fruit. I read often and started very young. I think reading at a young age, and being fascinated with storytelling, is what inspired me to want to tell stories. It's always felt very natural, the desire. It wasn't something I had to set about to do, like climbing a mountain. The craft takes work, but "the itch" doesn't.  

 

You have a wonderfully dark talent for stories of depression, depravity and deviance. I assume at least some of it comes from your own life. Do you feel comfortable talking a little bit about it?

 

Ha! Thank you. The 3 Ds. It's really nuanced -- which parts come from my own life and which don't -- and mostly the ones that do are in more of a symbolic sense. I'm pretty open, but I don't think that's the type of conversation for this  medium. It should be interactive and had over a drink, or three. 

 

NL:  Your short films "I Baked Him A Cake" and "The Price Of Bones" both deal with an unsettling absence of a patriarchy. By unsettling, I mean the way it's portrayed. It's refreshing to see filmmaking where women are front and center, both good and bad characters, with nary a man in sight. Have you gotten any feedback to that point and what has that feedback been like?

 

SK:  The feedback I usually receive is, "What did the men in the story do?" or "Where is the father? What happened to him?" It's... interesting. People always want to somehow blame the father in I Baked Him a Cake. Reviewers even interpreted the film as a domestic abuse story several times, even though the father is absent and there are no signs whatsoever of domestic abuse. I find it fascinating the gaps people fill with their imaginations. The fact is, the fathers in both stories did nothing. You can interpret that however you like, but they're really not important to the narratives - only their absences are. I don't know if everyone is comfortable with that. People like to know what happened to dad, or what did dad do to make mom that way. Well, maybe mom just is that way. Maybe it has nothing to do with Dad at all. 

 

NL:  You, with Vanessa Ionta Wright, made a nutso decision to start up a film festival. Speaking from experience, what's wrong with you? What drove you to do that? Are you happy with the huge amount of success Women In Horror has turned out to be? 

 

SK:  The Women in Horror Film Festival owns a piece of my heart. It's passion fueled. We want to bring people together for the right reasons. We want people to shrug off their egos at the door and come enjoy each other's films and company. It's about friendship, celebration, and support. Independent films aren't made in this emotionless void. They're soul, heart, and sweat. We care about that. Deeply. That's why we do it. And yes, we're very happy with how it has turned out. It's the people and their films, their attitudes and openness, which make it a 'success'. Vanessa and I work every day on it. We just do it because we love the community. We love horror. 

 

NL:  What's coming up for you? What's in the can and what's in your head? Care to share?

 

SK:  I directed a quirky horror short called Friendsgiving in November of 2017, and it's just finished post. I have another short psychological horror film, Mama's Boy, which is currently in post production and will probably be finished by the end of March. Both will be on the fest circuit this year and next. For the rest of 2018, I am busy developing a feature project with several talented directors whom I respect greatly, but that's under wraps right now. I also have my hands full preparing for the 2018 Women in Horror Film Festival, which happens in October.

 

NL:  I believe you've also done some poetry and short fiction. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

 

SK:  Yes, I write dark fiction. I actually am currently beginning the assembly and editing process of my very first short fiction collection. 

 

NL:  What do you think a woman, young or not, needs to know before getting involved in the film industry? What should they be aware of? 

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SK:  If you wait around for the perfect moment to do something, you'll be waiting forever. Don't wait for the stars to align to go after what you want. Don't bank on "getting discovered". Own your own success. If you show up at a film festival and there's one other person there, then don't go home saying, "I couldn't network." You network with that one person. It's easy to fall into a trap of complaining, whining, and talking about what you don't have, or what isn't given to you. Take that easy route at your own peril. Make your own opportunities. Find that drive within yourself and then go give your dreams everything you've got. There's no perfect time to make the movie but if you want to make it, you will. 

 

NL:  What ultimately drives you to keep creating? How do you keep it fresh and exciting?

 

SK:  Stories and people! There are so many stories I want to tell -- some already in my head, some on paper, and some I don't even know about yet. I have a pretty big furnace when it comes to drive, so I usually only need myself to keep the propellers going. That said, the process is way more enjoyable, and the flames get fanned to greater heights, when you can find other people (ideally with equal or greater drives) to work with. Vanessa is certainly one of those people. She's got a huge sense of drive, as well, and when we're on a project together, we're like two creative fiends.  

 

NL:  Seen any good movies lately?

 

SK:  Well, I'll define "good" for the purpose of this question as ones that stuck with me, and had a profound impact on me. These aren't super recent films, but the last three I saw that I thought that about were Silence, American Honey, and Hell or High Water. I know, none of them are horror. I've enjoyed a ton of horror films this past year, but those three films got into the marrow of my bones. They had themes and questions that kept me up at night. And this is from a few years back, but I only watched it recently -- Behind the Candelabra. I found that film refreshing because it explored psycho-sexual themes which rarely, if ever, make it into mainstream films. I wasn't surprised HBO distributed it. I've been a lifelong fan of HBO for their boldness and commitment to innovative storytelling.