Me with horror film producer Lynne Hansen, who inspired my t-shirt.
February isn’t just about chocolate hearts and bouquets of roses. It’s also the official Women in Horror Month!
While I’m nowhere near high enough on the food chain to be showcased on the big horror websites and magazines (I’m working on getting up there though!), I do want to share a little about my experiences as a female director in the horror industry.
First of all, I never wanted to be a director until I was dragged kicking and screaming into that position a few years back. I knew how tough it had been just getting my foot in the door as a special effects artist and I was certain that my foot would be completely amputated if I tried to enter the ring as a director. But I had some very supportive men by my side who talked me into the director’s chair and then talked me off of all the virtual window ledges when all I wanted to do was jump.
About halfway through my first film project as a director I felt like I was getting the hang of it. By the end of that production I had to admit that I enjoyed directing.
While my first film was in post I did a couple more shorts that were pretty much slated to just be YouTube videos and I went back to doing special effects for other production companies. Not surprising but nevertheless annoying, I did run into a bit of misogyny on a couple sets. My favorite was after being held up all day because the director wanted to “shoot a quick scene” before the big effects scene that I’d told him would take at least 5 hours to do, my FX team ended up having about an hour or so to kill several people. Obviously things had to get cut down and in the end we ended up just sloshing a lot of blood everywhere. What did the director have to say to me afterward? The men on my team were great but the women sucked. Seriously.
Then I started working on my fifth project as a director and a strange thing happened. I stopped getting calls to work. True, I had taken myself off the market for a few months to shoot “The Family Way: Coming Home”, but after it was safely in the editor’s hands I put myself back out there. And to be completely honest, it bothered me to know that other companies I’d worked for a few times in the past were working on projects and I’d not been invited to the party.
Was it a coincidence that I stopped getting FX job offers after announcing I was directing again? Maybe. But I’ve also been told by more than a few people that it may be because I dared to enter the Boy’s Club. I really hate to think that that is true.
So instead of being up to my eyeballs in fake blood and silicone, I spent nine months promoting and touring with “Coming Home” on the festival circuit. Given how often I’d been kicked in the teeth with reviews on my past work, I was very surprised at how well my latest film was received. One big lesson I learned was that you should always have a speech prepared when you are in attendance at a festival and your film is nominated for an award. I’m sure everyone has seen the photos and videos floating around that should all be captioned “Shiva gets caught off-guard and fumbles her way through public speaking.”
I’m very glad that I did a festival tour. I attended some very memorable ones and met a lot of fantastic people who are very much in favor of female directors. I got a lot of encouragement and some great advice on moving forward. Now I’m working on my sixth and (hopefully) seventh projects in hopes of having the opportunity to do it all again.
My advice to any women thinking about entering this Thunderdome: Prepare to wear your skin like heavy armor and take no shit from those who would try to stomp on you. Keep working on projects and don’t give up, no matter how battered you get from bad reviews, nay-sayers, and haters. Be honest and realistic with yourself while at the same time reaching for the stars. But if you are just in it strictly with the goal of having a glamorous life and making lots of money, get out now!
#WomenInHorror #WIHFF #WIHM #IMakeFilmsLikeAGirl