Sometimes being an aspiring horror filmmaker can be depressing. When I originally created this blog, I had intended on discussing more about film production, but it slowly evolved into mostly reviews. It’s pretty obvious why that happened. Talking about movies, criticizing them, and even enjoying them are much easier activities than actually making movies. The film industry can be a strange place and I’m definitely way more comfortable in the horror fan section than the filmmaker one.
Throughout my life and especially during film school, I have been discredited as a legitimate filmmaker and filmgoer simply because of my horror fandom. Because I love Dead Alive or find continuous entertainment in Friday the 13th Part 3, people seem to think I have no right to judge films (specifically non-genre movies). The continuous response I’ve encountered is that horror films are categorically bad movies and that horror fans have categorically poor taste. Joan Hawkins makes an excellent point in her book, Cutting Edge, that horror aficionados (or paracinema viewers as a whole) often participate in much more sophisticated discussion than other moviegoers. Still, the fact that I have a degree in Film Production and even have a blog dedicated to analyzing film doesn’t give me any additional credit in the horror-haters club.
Shooting my first 16mm film on the ancient Arri-S, the same camera used for Evil Dead and El Mariachi
Film school is full of all sorts of stereotypical cinema nerds. The Martin Scorsese lovers all think that every good movie should be accompanied by 3 minute shots uncut and blaring period music. The David Lynch types think that any discussion of genre is pointless and that everyone else is too mainstream for them. The Michael Bay kids need no description, but their films are sure to be presented in epic indulgency. The Quentin Tarantino co-eds believe that snappy dialogue and fractured narratives should supersede any actual story. There are many other “molds” I could write about and plenty of students that can’t be placed inside a single category, but nearly all of them have one thing in common: they hate horror films. But how can a QT fan hate horror? Well, for some reason, they think they are too good for one of the many genres from which their filmic god derives his inspiration. When asked what type of films they want to make, I’ve heard numerous students say “Anything but horror.” It’s a rare moment when any horror film is recognized for achievements in film school. Sure they’ll make you watch Citizen Kane in twenty different classes, but what about Psycho, The Exorcist, Jaws, Halloween, Alien, Frankenstein, Dracula, or a plethora of other highly influential and highly successful genre films? Admittedly, I had a few professors here and there that snuck in a good genre movie in between all the Fellini and Goddard.
On set of my thesis film, AKA: the worst time of my life.
The other difficult aspect of horror filmmaking, aside from the wannabe intellectuals that constantly undermine you, is finding support for the production and finished product. Locations, permit offices, cast, and crew will sometimes give your film less consideration than normal if you tell them that it is going to be a horror film. I can recall the scene in Brutal Massacre: A Comedy when the filmmakers refer to the movie as a “thriller” to make it more acceptable to those around them. Once the film is complete, film festivals may disregard the horror submissions in favor of more dramatic flair. Lots of people see “horror” and it somehow connotes repugnant filmmaking.
Becky: "Will my ghetto tricks really make this look like moon shining through trees?"
Fortunately, the answer was "Yes!"
While I’m sure we’ve all experienced similar issues as horror lovers, there is definitely a flip side to all of this. Sure there are a lot of people opposed to horror in general, but you know what? The horror community is stronger than any genre’s fan base. There were times when locations were concerned about my film being a “horror” movie, but I usually worked it out by showing them that I was well-intentioned. There have also been other times when people have given me access to things simply because I was making a horror movie and they were a genre fan. Talented genre stars will act in an independent horror film simply for the love of the genre and they often do it for next to nothing or even free at times. The other production benefit? More horror movies are made than any other genre because they are usually less expensive to produce (not relying on celebrities or elaborate scenarios to propel their films) and they almost always make a return on their investment because their audience is so dedicated.
Several months after graduation, I’m looking into a deep, jobless abyss—one that’s full of snobs, assholes, and immoral excuses for human beings. Although the economy sucks and the film industry is scrambling to make a comeback, horror films are going strong and that’s encouraging for me. I get the opportunity to be part of a generous, passionate, and intelligent sub-culture, which makes all the unnecessary insolence worth it.