"Hello" at Ax Wound Film Festival Recap (& feelings post-election results)

I write recaps for every festival screening of my work that I'm able to attend. I originally planned to write and release this recap this afternoon with the exciting Hillary win surging through my fingers. But that win didn't happen. And I didn't feel like writing a recap at all because I didn't feel like doing anything at all -- I couldn't with so much hurt and fear pounding in my chest since last night. But I watched a helpful video that Kelsey shared about coping with anxiety and the first tip was to stick to your routine - to remind you that you are still in control of your life. So here I am, writing this recap. See below. Thanks for reading. 

Last Saturday, my short film, "Hello," screened at the Ax Wound Film Festival. My friend Nicole Solomon recommended I submit because she was part of the festival with her film last year and absolutely loved it. I see why, after being part of it myself. Nicole & other friend Sean Mannion were headed up to the festival in Vermont this year as sponsors, so when my film got in I jumped at the opportunity to tag along. It was nice getting to roadtrip with these two, who I had been on many trips with in the past for I Was There film workshops, my previous job pre-Seed&Spark. Getting to catch up with them was cool, but the trip was really special because this festival is so special. It screens only genre films by women directors. I watched at least 25 of the shorts that screened and, though didn't love all, I was never bored and always intrigued. All had female protagonists and were exploring complicated and often underrepresented issues and circumstances women face. I truly loved quite a few. And the closing night feature, Dolly Deadly, was an absolute delight; I highly recommend it. I'm honored to have been in such talented company all around.

A lot of people had wonderful things to say about "Hello." My favorite comment said directly to me was, "The hardest horror is horror of the heart - being able to make something that really connects with people. You so pulled that off." I also saw a couple attendees raving about the film on social media! But my favorite part of the festival was getting to meet other female genre filmmakers. I only wish I had had more time to chat with them. The highlight was definitely the Q&A, where we all got to discuss our work. A lot of festivals I go to either don't do a Q&A at all or just have the same generic questions for everyone. This one, run by Horror Happens radio host Jay Kay, was thought provoking and showed a real appreciation for each film and what made it unique. And I'd just like to give a HUGE shout-out to Hannah Forman, the festival director, who is absolutely lovely and clearly cares so much about the festival. I could feel how much she cares in every detail throughout the day. I loved being part of it. I hope to be back next year with my new horror short, "Night In." 

Speaking of, when I got back to my hotel room after the festival, I found myself thinking about during the Q&A when Heidi Moore, the director of Dolly Deadly, asked a question about whether or not we viewed our (women) protagonists as truly crazy and unstable or just as real people who had had enough and took action. It lead to a good discussion that I didn't really participate in because it didn't pertain to the whimsical poignancy of "Hello." But "Night In" is super relevant to that conversation. (I'm spoiling my not-yet-screened film a bit here but couldn't not bring this up because it's so on my mind.) So in my hotel room, I thought about how that conversation may come up at next year's Q&A - should "Night In" get into the festival and I'd be able to attend again - and I sort of imagined myself explaining the context behind making the film. 

While the initial decision to shoot a new short a few months ago came out of a desire to shoot one last short in my apartment at the time, the real inspiration for what I ended up making out of that decision is rooted in the fact that Donald Trump was polluting the airwaves, and blatant misogyny (along with racism, xenophobia, homophobia, toxic masculinity and a general entitlement-fueled bigotry) was not only being tolerated but accepted and excused at an alarming rate. I found myself feeling anxious and angry and wanting to take some sort of action that felt like I was slashing the patriarchy -- so I made this film.

And while lost in thought in my hotel room with this fantasy flash-forward I had of explaining this context at next year's festival, I assumed that I'd be discussing this from a far less anxious point of view with maybe even some hindsight humor because we were about to elect the first female president (also the most qualified person for the job). And while Trump would maybe have a news station and sustained influence in November 2017, Hillary would be commander in chief and he would no longer be the terrifying threat that he was last Saturday night, 3 days before the election.

But now here we are. He's our president elect and I feel a paralyzing sense of hopelessness and helplessness. But I'm determined to push through because I'm not powerless. And pushing myself to write this has reminded me of that. I've been thinking of what I can do in my personal life to combat the hate that now controls our nation. I'll make donations and volunteer at various organizations on this list, and I'll boycott all businesses I know of that supported/supports him, and I'll work my ass off to get out the vote for the midterm elections in two years. But I know that where my real personal power lies is in my art. I'm going to work even harder to use my voice and my passion to reach people and continue to tell inclusive, intersectional feminist stories. I have an endless pit in my stomach and a lump in my throat that seems to well up every few minutes, but I'm going to use that to keep from accepting what now is. I'm going to fight to make a difference using the only weapon I feel I was meant to use. I hope other artists feel empowered to do the same.