ax wound film festival
This weekend marked the end of the festival run for "Night In," and the beginning of one for "Enough;" and what a weekend it was! After last year's experience screening "Hello" at the Ax Wound Film Festival, I knew I wanted to attend again this year. I submitted "Night In" as soon as the festival opened up for 2017 submissions. The lovely festival director (and creator of Women in Horror Month), Hannah Forman, immediately watched it, loved it, and accepted the film for the new year. Then when I finished "Enough," I sent her a link asking if the festival would be down with something less horror/more of a thriller. She loved it as well and told me to submit it because they'd definitely screen it. So I submitted; and thankfully ended up getting to screen two films at the fest! Then also, because I knew Hannah was looking to expand this year's program with more workshops and panels, I offered to teach Seed&Spark's Crowdfunding class at the festival. I love getting to share what I've learned with other filmmakers and helping to empower them to build audiences for their work and make content on their own creative terms. So getting to do that specifically for a room full of bad-ass, women genre-filmmakers was a privilege. And, on top of all that, 4milecircus asked me to be part of a live podcast panel they organized for the festival. So, needless to say, it was a super fun & productive weekend indeed!
It was especially special because I asked my mom to come along with me for the weekend. We hadn't attended a festival together since SUMMIT screened in Rhode Island 2 years ago. My mom's one of my best friends (and my biggest supporter!) but not someone I get to see as much as I'd like due to my ever-increasingly busy schedule. So it was a ton of fun getting to experience such a great festival with her.
As for how the festival went, it was just as warm, welcoming and supportive as last year, but with even more thrills, gore and laughs in the lineup. Expanded to a night and a half, I was basically living and breathing the festival until we left this morning. "Night In" opened the whole festival Friday night. With just under 30 people in attendance, it was a lively group. The film got laughs in the right places and some compliments after the Q&A. The whole block was 15 films across 2 hours, which is a lot to sit through. But the films were so unique, compelling and flat out fun, that it never felt stagnant. The Q&A after was a thoughtful conversation with host Jay Kay of (Horror Happens Radio) and the audience. I loved getting to know the two women I shared the stage with, Caitlin Koller and Misty Dawn, both of whom made very different but equally impressive shorts. Caitlin, who's the director of the brilliant "Blood Sisters," which was already one of my favorites from the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival, mentioned to me after the screening that she was at the Sick Chick Flicks Film Festival and the audience there LOVED "Night In." She said they exuberantly laughed and clapped through the credits. That was really awesome to hear because that was one of the fests I was especially bummed to miss.
Day 2 was jam-packed, from 10am to 11pm. My mom and I missed most of the first lineup since I was prepping (read: caffeinating) for an interview and then my Crowdfunding class at 11:30am. The class overall went well. I had to condense it into an hour, but the audience still seemed to walk away with a solid amount of helpful info. (And it was really cool having my mom see me teach because she hadn't before and was excited to get to.)
Right after was the next block of films, which included "Enough," 4milecircus's "Mare," and 12 other shorts, most of which had filmmakers in attendance. With about 40 people in the audience, it was a really eclectic and engaging lineup with some extremely effective and evocative work (all of which apparently makes me want to use adjectives that start with "e"). I was curious how "Enough" would feel amongst such dark, gory, and/or macabre films. I've only screened it once before, at our own CongestedCat Screening, and it felt intense in our more dramatic but lighthearted lineup. But paired with the real intense films of this lineup, it was super tame. The sound was a little too low during its screening, but I don't think that hurt it much. And despite it maybe feeling a tad out of place, the audience had some nice comments afterwards. I'm debating whether or not I want to submit to more of the genre fests where I screened "Night In," since it isn't quite horror but is definitely a genre film. I'll have to see how broad the other fests are with their horror label. In any case, it was nice getting to experience it with an audience; and, of course, getting to be part of the excellent Q&A after, which included 12 filmmakers and was again hosted by Jay Kay. What I love about this festival, other than getting to see such good films and meet such inspiring filmmakers (who all happen to be woman-identifying), is how much it reflects the diversity in style, tone and perspective that exists not just within in the genre but also within work by women. I feel so often like my artistic perspective is supposed to represent all women because I'm so often the only woman in a room, on a panel, or in a lineup. So it's just wonderful getting to see such original, unique, and personally specific work coming from so many different women -- and getting to just be me, not having to represent my entire gender, in the process. (I also love attending the festival and not having to fear that I'll be sitting through hours of rape porn and other violence against women, as is so often the case with male dominated horror fests. While some work by women may have violence against women, it's almost always subversive, rarely exploitative, and always framed through the woman's lens and experience.)
After that Q&A, I participated in the 4milecircus podcast (which is always a blast), watched a thought-provoking presentation on Horror in the Trumpian era, and finally watched the last block of films. All in all, I saw 40 of the 48 shorts; I loved a bunch and enjoyed or appreciated most. And, best of all, I made some talented new friends! I'd like to thank Hannah, Ashlee Blackwell, and everyone else who helps put on this amazing event for allowing me to be part of it. And, of course, my mom for ... everything. Hope to be back with new work (or just to attend) next year!
In the meantime, "Night In" premieres online TOMORROW! And "Enough" will have more festival news in the new year!
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.