Early on in my filmmaking career I realized the subject matter for my films was trending toward the macabre. Horror films were films I really enjoyed watching, and despite the undertones of sexism in some of them, I found a certain niche of the genre where I felt at home.
It could be a conundrum in some respects that I consider myself a strong proponent for women’s equality, yet work in the horror genre, an area of movies that can at times be overwhelmingly sexist. The film industry is already a male-dominated industry and sexual politics are at play in the horror genre and in film in general, both behind the scenes and in them.
Even between women filmmakers themselves -- the unintended side effect of this inequality can be a sense of scarcity for roles and jobs for women in the industry, which unfortunately can lead to feelings of competition and negativity. I can speak from experience.
For example, when I first heard about “Women in Horror Month”, my reaction was somewhat negative -- I felt at the time that by differentiating ourselves and pointing out our ‘otherness’ from our male colleagues that we were only pushing ourselves farther outside the circle of acceptance.
I soon learned though that WiHM is much more than a slogan or a banner cause. It is a movement that is taking shape and actually transforming the image of women in the industry, and bringing people together in support of more equality in the horror industry.
Considering Hannah now has some breathing room after the epic planning of Women in Horror Month which takes place every February, I thought it would be a treat to introduce you all to her, so here is a quick interview I had with her recently. Enjoy:
Hannah Forman: Growing up my wonderful dad Michael Forman (who tragically passed a couple weeks prior the first Women in Horror Month) is responsible for my love of horror movies and scary stories. He introduced me to classics when we got our first VCR and would read me and my brother books like "Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark." He and my mom always really encouraged my brother and I to explore our creativity no matter how weird. My dad knew I loved to write and being a writer himself he would give me little assignments that he'd type and print out for me to work on. I still remember him telling me in one assignment, that if a witch is in someone's closet you don't want to say "and then the witch jumped out!" He explained how that wasn't scary, you needed to build up to it. And he had me write different ways of describing the witch appearing from this person’s closet. Not many kids grow up with dads who do shit like that. When I was in high school horror became a big part of my social life. Friends and I would go to hole in the wall video stores and try to rent the most crazy looking horror movies we could. Then we would spend all night watch marathons, eating junk, and being ridiculous. When I went away to college I became engrossed in feminist studies and had this weird feeling of guilt when a slasher movie came on in the dorm room one night. It was a really uncomfortable conflict going on in my mind: on the one hand I loved these films and on the other I could understand why they were problematic and wondered if I was somehow a bad feminist/person for enjoying them. I felt guilty. So, like many, I avoided the thing that was making me uncomfortable. Sadly, that meant I turned my back on horror for that brief period. I felt like I was seeing the world in a completely new lens and wasn’t at the point of understanding how to interpret it all yet. It was a couple years later when I discovered Carol Clover and was able to finally "get" that feminists were all living under their own subjectively constructed philosophy. We do not all need to like the same movies, listen to the same music to be “feminist.” I could like horror and fight for women's rights all at the same time, imagine that! I wasn’t a bad person. However it was at this critical juncture that I was in desperate need of other feminist horror fans to talk to and really explore what was going on in my head.
'"Women in Horror Month is...another way for me to contribute to the building of spaces for women in the horror industry."
KCL: Ax Wound Zine came about first as an art project, from what I understand - what was the initial impetus to start that, and what eventually drove you to create Women in Horror Month in 2010?
HF: Zines were already my go to art form so it made perfect sense to apply my need to explore gender/horror in that format. Not to mention, creating a press is the oldest way to start a dialogue and create new spaces for groups with no visibility or ability to find others like them. In that sense, I think Women in Horror Month is an extension of that idea, another way for me to contribute to the building of spaces for women in the horror industry.
HF: It has grown so much it's surreal when I step back and observe the whole thing. It's not every day you post a call to action on your website and look back 4 years later to see it has affected so many people all over the world. I don't even know that I have internalized it fully. How can you? In 2010 the movement exploded in the horror community and as each February approached it only kept getting more and more recognition amongst horror fans and the media. New parts of the world seem to come into the mix with each passing year. This year, in January, I got an email from a female filmmaker in Serbia named Jovana Dimitrijevic. She expressed reaching a point of giving up hope that she would find other women making horror films. She then went on to create a weeklong art event to showcase women’s contributions to horror art forms. She has made an impact in her community, empowered herself and others, and took action regarding something important to her. People like her inspire me so much to keep fighting.
Even though I happen to be the person who came up with the idea and put out into the world, I do not want any credit for its success. Sure, I facilitated it and keep it moving and later had the help of an amazing group of staff and board of directors but none of us would have anything to facilitate without the work of event organizers, bloggers, pod-casters, and the like. It is those fans, artists, and organizations who have really made all of this happen and its truly fucking awe inspiring. My only goal is to help it grow, retain its mission, and support those in the endeavor of creating a fun and educational space in the world that didn't exist for females in the horror industry before. I want it to bleed over into other industries, inspiring and empowering women to stand up in other arenas and make loud noises too. Letting people know they are there. And it's happening slowly but we have such a long way to go. So, to answer your question, it has not stayed the same. It has grown, morphed, had controversy, been the catalyst for incredible career advancements, and brought women and men together to celebrate and create spaces to showcase what they love. I couldn't be more thrilled, humbled, and excited about what the future holds.
KCL: WiHM just passed for February 2013. Have any plans yet for 2014 you can share?
HF: This year I was very much wanting to launch the first Ax Wound Film Festival. It turned out that it was just way too much to take on during this last year. WiHM has been transitioning so much, getting settled into its new home with the Viscera Organization. It's a whole different experience working within an organization and a lot of learning curves. So, I spent most of this past year with everyone trying to strengthen our mission, find ways to support people more, and we even launched an official podcast and blog for the first time.
KCL: I understand you just had your first foray into filmmaking, during a 48-hour film challenge, which is awesome!! What was that experience like for you, being a film lover and then becoming a filmmaker yourself? Are there any plans for more Hannah Neurotica-helmed films?
HF: I had the most incredible experience taking part in the New Hampshire 48-Hour Film Project. The goal of doing that project was for me and co-writer/co-director Tammy Dwyer, to just have the experience of making a film. Something we both wanted to do for so long. We didn't have any intention of winning whatsoever, it was a joke we would make about how ridiculous it would be if we did. The reason we wanted our first film to be within a structured project was because we both craved structure. It's like when you are in school you get so much work done but when you lose those deadlines you are left to your own abilities at self-discipline. So we needed that structure and it was a complete shock when we won Runner Up for Best Film in New Hampshire. I mean, shock! There were 29 other films and many were by experienced filmmakers who had been taking part in the challenge for years. The experience changed my life. I have since had many short screenplays I want to make into films but never had the guts to before. My goal is to shoot my first solo directed project this year, in time for the submission phase of Viscera. I already know exactly where I am going to shoot it. For right now I haven't spoken much about it because I need to focus on getting the new issue of Ax Wound out. Currently, I am deep in the process of setting up a crowd funding campaign for it to get published like a "real" magazine. Needless to say, I need to be completely realistic with myself about how much I can take on at one time. Once the issue is out I will then assemble a crew and shoot the shit out of this short film I want to make. It deals heavily with sex and death. What a shock!
HF: I come from a long line of amazing women. Outside of my own family I could site so many women that is hard to pick one. I think if not for the works of Lydia Lunch and Kathleen Hanna I never would have had to guts to be the creative activist I am right now. Kathleen Hanna who was and continues to be outspoken on sexual abuse, women's rights, and art making has always inspired me more then I could ever put into words. Since blood donation is a big part of Women in Horror Month (thanks to the brilliant twisted twins Jen and Sylvia Soska) it would make sense to spotlight Clara Barton. I actually wrote a paper on her in middle school. She was an amazing woman, a nurse, who risked her life to help wounded soldiers during the Civil War. She then founded the American Red Cross and ran it for 23 years! I doubt many people know that a woman founded such a prominent and important organization.
To learn more about Women in Horror Month and Ax Wound Zine visit www.womeninhorrormonth.com and www.axwoundzine.com.