This year’s FrightFest (or Horror Channel FrightFest, as it’s now known) is expanding to include a specific female-horror focus. As well as including a panel on the Women in Horror movement, the festival has nominated Kate Shenton for the inaugural Screen International Horror Rising Star Award. Shenton’s new feature, Egomaniac, will have its world premier at FrightFest, which is intriguing as the film’s a (sort of) satire on the horror film industry itself. Ten points to anyone who can identify the targets. Charlie Oughton got very drunk with the devious director to enquire about what axes Egomaniac has to bump and grind.
What is Egomaniac about?
It is not the most conventional film. It is basically a semi-autobiography based very heavily on my experiences in the film industry – the point where I released my previous feature film, On Tender Hooks, to the point where I was writing Egomaniac. It’s about an alter ego character called Catherine Sweeney. She is desperately trying to make a zombie horror romantic comedy but everybody in the industry tells her to put a talking dog in the film. So she puts the talking dog in the zombie horror romantic comedy. The industry people ask her to compromise more and more and more and eventually it leads to deadly consequences.
Compromising in a variety of areas, on and off camera, then?
It’s in many ways a personal, personal film which was a huge cathartic release of frustration that I’ve had and experiences that I’ve felt.
Are there any sections where you had to go out of your comfort zone, such as writing and directing the more sexual scenes?
I think people are certain to have questions but I’m not uncomfortable with any of the content. This isn’t a direct autobiography. But I think it’s something needs to be expressed and it’s something that needs to be talked about. I’m hoping the film will generate that conversation. I’m not uncomfortable and I’m not worried. At all. Are people going to interpret me or the film? It’s up to you to interpret what was true and not. I’m never going to tell anyone what was fiction and what was close to the bone.
Has the Women in Horror movement had any impact on you as a filmmaker?
I like to be seen as a filmmaker in horror. I think it’s a good thing and raises awareness but… I don’t really want anyone to give a fuck about my gender. I don’t really want anyone to know who’s behind the camera. I do think it’s harder for women and I do you think you have to create double the content to be taken half as seriously, but I would quite like it if we didn’t need to have a woman in horror movement. We should all be ‘Filmmaker in Horror.’
A section of the film parodies a (famous?) photo shoot by the Soska sisters (directors of American Mary). Does talking about the sexual branding of women in horror, particularly when working with an attractive actress, just reinforce that brand to those of less…nuanced tastes?
No, because I think it’s a conversation that needs to be talked about. I have no issue with anyone who wants to use their sexuality to sell a film. What I do have an issue with that is if someone puts pressure on me to use my sexuality to sell a film. I’m a behind the camera figure. My sexuality and my gender is a very, very private thing. I don’t want to see a situation where people feel that they have to do that to become a successful film maker because you don’t.
Several industry figures have said that crowd funding and distributing means the market gets flooded by flaccid films. Is this a problem or a case of the more the merrier?
I think that at the moment the whole of the horror industry is a case of the more the merrier. It is considerably more competitive because you can pick up an iPhone and make a film. It’s the same with crowd funding. I think that what makes anyone stand out and what people should be focusing on is audience building and audience connection. Getting people engaged in your work. There is a big wash but you know what? The film industry used to be incredibly elite. It was all about the rich and you had to be able to have a certain amount of money to even be able to get to film school so that you could film a 35 mm film. We are now in an age where you can fund your film by crowd funding and self distribute. It has opened up the competition but the competition needed to be opened. I think that competition makes you better; it makes you fight more. It makes you think more outside the box. I don’t see it as an intimidating thing, I see it as an exciting thing.
Also, we have more and more people wanting to watch films. They may not want to pay for them but they want to watch films. What we have to figure out is how do we get all this awesome film content to people and find a way in which people can actually sustain themselves in order to create more.
What do you think to the idea of failing?
Failing is one of the best things that can happen to you. Failures and humiliation will haunt you a little bit but it doesn’t matter. You bounce back and you fight back.
What about going to Horror Channel FrightFest and your nomination for the Screen International Horror Rising Star award?
I am super happy that Egomaniac is screening at Horror Channel Fright Fest. It’s a fantastic platform for the film and a great opportunity to get it in front of a horror loving audience. This will be my fourth film screening at Fright Fest. My feature documentary, On Tender Hooks (about body suspension), screened there and I’ve had two shorts screen there including Send in the Clowns last year. I have a really strong love of the festival and it’s played a vital part in my career. I’m ecstatically happy that Egomaniac will be having its world premiere there.