Kool Kat of the Week: Local Filmmaker Debbie Hess Brings Tricks and Treats to The Plaza Theater with the Return of the Fifty Foot Film Festival on October 30

Posted on: Oct 25th, 2018 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

In this season of ghosts and goblins, Debbie Hess, Executive Producer of the award-winning web anthology series, HORROR HOTEL, where the only recurring character is a menacing dilapidated motor court hotel where “People check in, but they don’t always check out,” along with jack of all film-trades son and Kool Kat Ricky Hess brings Atlanta a special treat (and maybe a few tricks) with the Return of the Fifty Foot Film Festival, invading The Plaza Theater on All Hallows Eve-Eve, October 30, at 7pm!

Return of the Fifty Foot Film Fest gives local sci-fi, horror, suspense and fantasy filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their films at this one-night only event. From premiere screenings to award-winning film shorts, this wee festival delivers a one-stop-shop of terror you won’t want to miss! Last year’s inaugural event, Attack of the Fifty Foot Film Festival, sold out to a hell-raising standing-room-only crowd and featured films by Ricky Hess, Kool Kat Vanessa Ionta Wright (Women in Horror Film Festival) and so many more! This year’s event promises twice as many filmmakers as the previous event, so you’ll definitely want to get your tickets early! Tickets can be purchased here.

ATLRetro caught up with Debbie to chat about the Return of the Fifty Foot Film Fest, the web anthology series HORROR HOTEL, and the importance of local film festivals for indie filmmakers.

ATLRetro: Attack of the 50 Foot Film Festival invades Atlanta for a second exciting year! Can you tell us a little about the event and what inspired you to bring it back to film lovers Atlanta-wide?

Debbie Hess: We decided to bring the event back for a second year because it was so well received last year and we still saw a need to provide a venue specifically for Atlanta-area filmmakers to raise the awareness of the awesome creative talent we have here. Events like this help to promote content creation and provide a chance for the community to support, encourage and recognize our Georgia films and filmmakers who can get eclipsed by all the media attention and national focus on the larger studio films that are coming here for production. And that is a great thing of course, but we need to constantly be aware that we have content creation going on in our own backyard as well and foster a support system to be able to show these quality films to the community. There’s nothing quite like seeing the film you have so lovingly and laboriously produced shown on the big screen.

What makes this event different than other film festivals?

Several things really. First off, it is for Atlanta-area filmmakers only. Most film festivals have entries from all over the world, although many festivals now program sections for local content only, which is good. When you are thrown in with filmmakers from countries that have a lot of grant programs available to make indie films and they are given a lot of money to make a short film, it’s not a level playing field. Most of your local indie filmmakers have similar resource restrictions, which makes it a load more fun to see what everyone has been able to do with that. And with this festival, all the ticket proceeds are split between the filmmakers (whose entry fee is their split of the theatre rental) allowing them more resources to help with their filmmaking. Both last year and this year we have covered the theatre rental fee and had earnings left over to go to our filmmakers. It’s a win-win. Secondly, it’s not a competition festival so there’s no stress involved or disappointment if you don’t win something. Everyone is a winner who has the fortitude to produce a finished film in the first place. It really is more of a celebration of the accomplishments of our local filmmakers right here in our own backyard.

Can you tell our readers what it takes to put on this type of film event?

Horror Hotel – “No Time For Love” (Jason Gaglione and Kat Rarick)

Sure! It’s quite a bit of work even for a small one like ours. We start out by reaching out to area filmmakers to see if they have a recent film (preferably a premiere) that they would like to submit. I can truly appreciate the dilemma that larger festivals must have in deciding which films to accept. Being a filmmaker myself surely helps because I can judge a little better and appreciate the qualities of an indie film. Some things just don’t require a big budget to get right – a good story, well-written and executed with attention to good filmmaking techniques, along with good editing, good sound, good acting etc. Since this festival is limited to films in the sci-fi, horror, suspense and fantasy genres, we are looking for films that have done a good job creating that “environment” for a visually appealing film in those genres. And then there is the challenge of programming those films in a fixed amount of time and in our case, a short period of time. We would love to have been able to include more of the films that were submitted.

Then there is the promotion work involved to get the word out. Because we want the community to come out and see the films, you have to go as wide as possible to advertise and market that. We post on all the larger and more popular community calendars that are online. We post on all social media and encourage all the filmmakers to do the same. We send out mass emails and loads of press releases and market packages to all the local media including TV stations, radio stations, online publications, student newspapers, podcasts creators, etc. This year we are so grateful to be covered by a number of great media outlets in the Atlanta area that are helping promote the event and the filmmakers. But by far, the filmmakers themselves have the most influence over who comes out to see the films.  It’s their invitations to friends, family and people who worked on their film that will garner the most attendees.

Care to share a little about the films and their directors/creators?

I’d love to since that’s what it’s all about!

THE WISH & THE WISP – Written/Directed by Vashmere Valentine is a delightful fantasy film currently sweeping up awards globally on the festival circuit. It’s about two bickering siblings that learn the true magic of believing when they find a real wish and encounter the menacing creature who wants it back. RESIDENCE 906 (premiere screening) – Directed by Heather Hutton, written by Michele Olson and produced by Iesha Price. Made with over 50 females, this film is a paranormal thriller about the mysterious deaths of a paranormal investigator’s team that force her to confront an enigmatic demon. NO TIME FOR LOVE (premiere screening) – Directed by Ricky Hess. This new episode of HORROR HOTEL is a sci-fi tale about time catching up to a reclusive sailor when a pretty girl brings the modern world into his life. It includes loads of special effects. Fans of The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons will enjoy this one. FEAST – Written/Directed by Melissa Kunnap is a horror short that recently won best regional film at the Women in Horror Film Festival. The logline reads “A young intern finds out more about his boss and circle of friends than he’d wished to know,” and contains well-done effects. LIVING NIGHTMARE – Created by Jonathan Gabriel and Kristina Miranovic is an anthology of three actual nightmares based on unforgettable accounts, contains very nice sets and effects and is a real skin creep! BAD CANDY – Written/Directed by Scott Hansen is a horror short about a naughty trick R treater which has stunning cinematography and excellent costumes. Creepy clown alert! MR. SMILES (premiere screening) – Written/Directed by Tyler Hunt Weddle is a horror short about a girl who discovers a storybook in an attic whose characters come to life. Goosebump inspired, Freddy Kruger executed. PET’s tagline says it all, “A man with a short fuse and an empty checkbook introduces his irritating boss to man’s best friend,” written/directed by Justin Craig (premiere screening).

With HORROR HOTEL, you’ve made filmmaking a family affair [you as producer, your son Ricky Hess as the horror anthology’s creator/director and your husband Al Hess as the writer]. Can you tell us a little about the creative process within the family unit and any pros/cons working so closely with your family?

Yes, it has been a family affair and this year we added a new addition to our family, my new daughter-in-law, Allyson Hess, who works on set with us as well. My son Ricky is a powerhouse of talent. He not only is the creator/director but he also does nearly all of the post-production work including editing/color/sound/effects etc. PLUS he is a skilled camera operator as well. My husband, Al, is the writer for the series but he is also a talented props builder, lighting technician, set builder and so much more. Over the years, we have all increased our skill level and learned to do more in other areas which is pretty typical in indie filmmaking. The more you can do yourself, the higher the likelihood you can get something finished. Working within the family has its advantages in that decisions can be made quickly and you have a trusted unit to bounce things off of and get honest feedback on your ideas.  There are always differences of opinion in the filmmaking process and you have to work through those sometimes a little more carefully within family, but in the end we all have a deep respect for each other’s opinion and we work it out.

HORROR HOTEL has become a successful horror anthology, haunting into its 3rd season. What can our readers expect to experience this season, and where can they go to catch new episodes?

For our upcoming 3rd season, we have made longer films than we normally do, so there will be fewer of them. We tried to up the bar on our production with more challenging episodes that required more effects than we normally have had. Our pilot episode SLEEP TIGHT is about killer bed bugs that invade the hotel rooms. And yes, we did use some real bugs,  although they were not bed bugs of course, but we used what is referred to as movie bugs, hissing cockroaches, which are pathogen free and harmless to humans. Nonetheless, quite creepy! It premiered in last year’s festival and got a great response and feedback. It was probably one of the more ‘horror’ episodes we have done as a lot of ours tend to be more sci-fi themed.

The episode we are premiering this year from the 3rd season is sci-fi with loads of special effects and centers on a reclusive sailor (Jason Gaglione) who has shuttered himself away in his hotel room for decades. No one locally has ever seen him. A pretty girl (Kat Rarick) tricks her way into his room and the story is about what happens inside the room after that. We turned the room basically into a time machine. It was extremely challenging and required a ton of SFX make-up, pulled off beautifully by master make-up artists Greg and Sandra Solomon of Etcfx in Newman. If you like stories like THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, you will like this episode!  Ricky did some exceptional work in post-production as well with some of the visual effects. We had to experiment with quite a few things. So, expect more production value out of 3rd season. It will be releasing later this year or early next year. Currently HORROR HOTEL can be seen on Amazon Prime as an anthology feature film of our 2nd season, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu and select episodes are on DirectTV as well.

What drew you to become a filmmaker and what keeps you playing within the horror genre?

I entered filmmaking by wanting to help Ricky make his HORROR HOTEL series. We had our house used as a set a few years back and we became fascinated with the process and thought it would be great fun to do some ourselves and help him out with that project. Really, the show has more sci-fi stories than mainstream horror. More like THE TWILIGHT ZONE-type of tales, which I love –  stories and films that take you to another place and stretch your imagination. I will always tend towards that type of films as favorites.

Is there a film/series you have always wanted to make? Or still plan to make?

We’ve tossed around some ideas for other series but have not nailed anything down. We are just focused at the moment in getting the 3rd season ready to distribute and let the creative juices flow after that!

Smaller local film festivals are all immensely popular these days. How important are these festivals to independent filmmakers? What’s the draw to submit a film and have it screened at one?

It’s much easier to be seen in a smaller local film festival, plus because it is in your community, more people will be able to actually attend and support you. The festivals are vital to indie filmmakers especially those making primarily short films as shorts don’t have much distribution possibility like feature-length films, yet they serve a vital purpose to showcase a filmmakers creative ability as well as those who work on them. Festivals add credibility to a filmmakers resume and at least prove a curator thought highly enough of them to be accepted.

Who would you say are the filmmakers or films that inspired you the most and what was it about those particular filmmakers/films that inspired you?

I am a very retro kind of gal and most of my favorite filmmakers are classics like Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling. I like the kind of horror/sci-fi they brought to film by creative storytelling and excellent tension building without all the fancy effects. I am a huge fan of most of Hitchcock’s more successful films. No favorite one in particular.

As an independent female filmmaker working in the horror genre, what challenges have you personally faced that seem to be a common theme amongst women in the industry?

I’d say probably just getting taken seriously and being respected. There are a lot of basic female common traits that work for us in filmmaking. Most females tend to be much more organized than our counterparts. I can always count on female cast and crew to be a little more attentive to details, return correspondence quickly and keep their calendar events in check. No male bashing here, just a noted difference in my own experience.

Within the last few weeks comments were made by a well-known production company insisting that he would hire female horror directors if only there were women to be hired. What is your response to this claim? How important do you feel it is to ensure representation exists within the industry, on local and international levels?

Well, the backlash was immense after that came out and they have since apologized, but it obviously was misspoken as hundreds of people if not thousands of people cited their own female peers as adequately qualified and we know that to be perfectly true just from our own local gals who produce quality work. I think the horror genre was just generally thought to be more male-dominated in the past because of the nature of the content, but festivals like the Women in Horror Film Festival held right here in Georgia certainly proves that to be false.

Claims that there aren’t any female horror filmmakers are obviously ludicrous, as Atlanta is chock full of them! Who would you say are your favorite women horror directors and why?

I know of several first-hand that as it happens, have been in our film festival or are this year. Vanessa Ionta Wright, founder of the Women In Horror Film Festival held in Georgia, has done some beautiful and creative films. One was from a Stephen King short story which screened at last year’s festival. And we have not one but two female filmmakers in this year’s fest. Melissa Lee Kunnap has a horror film in there as does Iesha Price. They BOTH contain high quality work. As a matter of fact, Iesha’s film, RESIDENCE 906 was primarily a female production with over 50 women in the cast and crew, only 2 males. That’s impressive to say the least.

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be watching, reading or listening to right now— past or present, well-known or obscure?

Watching – Just finished up OZARK on Netflix. Give the series GOLIATH a try on Amazon Prime if you are into Billy Bob Thornton, which I am. I am a huge fan of the FARGO series and the original movie – just plain good storytelling with most excellent creepy characters. I am retro when it comes to music stuff – mostly oldies from the ‘70s. I love reading mystery novels and am constantly burning through books and am currently reading Randy Singer.
Any advice for up and coming filmmakers out there trying to get their foot in the door?

Whatever your budget, start with the basics. A good story is first. Get advice on what you have before you film. Don’t get too attached to an idea if it needs to be improved or trashed. Film with the purpose of making it as good as you can possibly get it and employ all the good filmmaking techniques you possibly can. Do your best work always knowing that people will judge you for it. Always be learning and improving your work.

Getting back to what brought us here, Attack of the 50 Foot Film Fest! Anything exciting planned for fest-goers? With this being the second exciting year, can we expect this to be an annual event, something we all can look forward to in years to come?

We will be talking briefly after the screening to the filmmakers and I think a few of them will have some exciting announcements about upcoming projects they will share. Annual event? We will see. We take that one year at a time and see if there is interest among the local filmmakers to make it happen!

Photos courtesy of Debbie Hess and used with permission.

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Murder, Mayhem and Madness! Our Top Horrorific Reasons to Haunt on Down to WOMEN IN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL 2018

Posted on: Oct 3rd, 2018 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

The Women in Horror Film Festival kills it at Crowne Plaza Atlanta & Conference Center – Peachtree City this Thursday-Sunday Oct. 4-7. Festival creators Kool Kat Vanessa Ionta Wright and Samantha Kolesnik showcase one helluva line-up of creative kickass female minds in every aspect of the horrorific cinematic and filmmaking experience, contemporary and retro alike, with over 70 short films to whet your most nightmarish appetities!. The festival has much to offer all the genre cinephiles in your life, from slasher gore-fests to comedic catastrophes, check out our top reasons to get your spine tingled at the WIHFF!

1) BOOGIE DOWN AND BRING OUT THE DEAD. The gals of WIHFF throw some hellacious parties! So guys and ghouls, why not VIP it up and make your way to the fest on Thursday night, get your photos taken on the Dead Carpet and get hell-bent at the VIP Party (Oct. 4/7:30pm (photos); 8pm (party)). Or get horrorfied on Friday at the After Party, hosted by HorrorPack (Oct. 5/11:00pm). And the rest of the fest wouldn’t be the same without after parties on Saturday (Oct. 6/10:30pm) and Sunday (Oct. 7/9:00pm), so why not monster mash it up with the best of ‘em!

2) MARIANNE MADDALENA. One killer genre Producer, Marianne Maddalena has produced 26 plus films and television series including THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (1991), WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE (1994), SCREAM (1996), DRACULA 2000 (2000), THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006) and more!

3) TRINA PARKS. Best known for her role as Thumper in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971), Parks’ career spanned the ‘70s with appearances in an episode of Rod Serling’s NIGHT GALLERY (“The Phantom Farmhouse” – 1971); DARKTOWN STRUTTERS (1975); THE MUTHERS (1976) and more. She came back deadlier than ever in David DeCoteau’s IMMORTAL KISS: QUEEN OF THE NIGHT (2012).

4) ELM STREET GORE-GAL, HEATHER LANGENKAMP. Langenkamp won our horror hearts with her portrayal of nightmare-filled teen Nancy Thompson in Wes Craven’s ‘80s classic spawning its own hellacious franchise, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984).

5) FRIGHTENING FILMS! The WIHFF has heads rolling with three days of non-stop action filled to the bloody brim with films galore! Friday’s (Oct. 5) schedule includes an Experimental Horror Block, a Horror Comedy Shorts Block, a Features Screening (SHE WAS SO PRETTY: BE GOOD FOR GOODNESS SAKE, dir. Brooklyn Ewing), a Sci-Fi Shorts Block, an International Shorts Block, a second Feature Screening & World Premiere (BUGS: A TRILOGY, dir. Simone Kisiel), and a Macabre Thrills Block! Saturday (Oct. 6) terrifies with a Psychological Shorts Block, a Thriller Shorts Block, and a Feature Screening (ECHOES OF FEAR, dir. Brian and Laurence Avenet-Bradley)! And Sunday (Oct. 7) gets gory and kicks off the day with a Feature Screening (ALL THE CREATURES WERE STIRRING, dir. Rebekah and David Ian McKendry), a Regional Horror Shorts Block (including Kool Kat Dayna Noffke’s 2018 “Teaser”), an Animation Horror Shorts Block, a Feature Screening (RELICT: A MESOPOTAMIC TALE, dir. Laura Sanchez Acosta), a Student Horror Shorts Block and a Body Horror Shorts Block! So, come on out and discover some new terrifying talent!

6) KILLER PANELS. WIHFF offers several killer panels including From Indie to Studio – Making the Leapfeaturing one helluva line-up with Gillian Albinski (THE WALKING DEAD; THE STRANGERS), Mark Simon (ONE MISSED CALL; NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET III), and Marianne Maddelena (Oct. 6/12:30pm). Or catch the Diversity & Visibility panel featuring Trina Parks and horror author Mylo Carbia (Oct. 6/4pm).

7) WARPED WRITERS. There wouldn’t be films without writers, and of so WIHFF offers up highly acclaimed horror/thriller/suspense writer Mylo Carbia, a.k.a. Hollywood’s No. 1 horror film ghostwriter turned author (THE RAPING OF AVA DESANTIS / VIOLETS ARE RED). Carbia will be selling and signing during the festival.

8) SCARE-TASTIC SHOPPING.  You won’t want to miss out on the horrorific wares the festival vendors have to offer, from handmade horrors, to gothic gifts. During your stay, why not stock up on macabre movie memorabilia, cult classics and creepy clothing, costumes, accessories and more. Keep your eyes peeled for our fiend and horror filmmaker, Lynne Hanson and her spooky horror art! Vendors will be selling/meeting guests from daily during the festival.

Women in Horror Film Festival main festival hours are Fri. Oct.5  from 11 a.m. – 12 a.m.; Sat. Oct. 6 from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.; and Sun. Oct. 7 from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more info, visit the Women in Horror Film Festival official website here.

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The 2017 Buried Alive Film Festival Gores it up with Five Days of the Best Global, US and Local Indie Horror Treasures!

Posted on: Nov 14th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

The Buried Alive Film Festival is back for its 12th chilling year, brought to you by the Buried Alive team of Kool Kat Blake Myers, Luke Godfrey, Mark Malek and Alyssa Myers, with five killer days (November 15-19) of film terror, including six features, 54 short new independent horror films from around the globe, and three extra special events.  Its sinister shenanigans return for a second year to 7 Stages Theatre in Little Five Points.

This year’s festival features five brand new movies, including our Kool Kat of the Week, Ashley Thorpe’s BORLEY RECTORY is a documentary feature (rotoscope/animation), described by Thorpe as “an ultrasound of a haunting” (see ATLRetro’s exclusive interview with Ashley here). The opening (Thursday) night feature is the latest from director Mickey Keating (POD; DARLING; CARNAGE PARK), a bloody tale of seven serial killers and their deadly agendas as they cross paths over one night, PSYCHOPATHS, which premiered at the Tribecca Film Festival earlier this year. Other feature films include AMERICAN GUINEA PIG: THE SONG OF SOLOMON, a story of satanic possession and the clergymen who confront it directed by Stephen Biro (AMERICAN GUINEA PIG: BLOODSHOCK); WHO’S WATCHING OLIVER, the tale of a mentally unstable loner and his killing spree directed by Richie Moore (CRAZY MEDICINE); and the World Premiere of BB, a provocative psycho-sexual thriller outlining the dangers of technology and who just may be peeking on the other side directed by CJ Wallis (DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK[editor]).

This year BAFF features will go beyond the usual horror narratives and include documentaries. FOOLISH MORTALS: A HAUNTED MANSION DOCUMENTARY explores the fan culture surrounding Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion ride from director James H. Carter II featuring interviews with Disney legend Rolly Crump, artist Topher Adams, AMERICAN MARY’s Tristan Risk, Robert Kurtzman, SpookyDan Walker and more.

Buried Alive also continues to show its love for the local Georgia horror scene. This year’s festival includes six local shorts, with two  directed by our very own Kool Kats Dayna Noffke (UNDER THE BED about a girl and her favorite monster fiend) and Vanessa Ionta Wright (I BAKED HIM A CAKE). Other local shorts include AHEAD IN THE ROAD about three college girls learning the dangers of “the middle of nowhere” directed by Walt Guthrie and Matt McGahren, WEED WHACKER MASSACRE about a grumpy old man-turned-deadly machine vs. the HOA directed by Benjamin R. Dover, MONGO’S GOT A SPIDER GUN changing the world one arachnid at a time directed by Tim McGahren, and SKY TRIPPER featuring ancient artifacts and perilous actions directed by Philip Freeman.

Back by popular demand is the BAFF Sinema Challenge, which challenges local filmmakers with the opportunity to make a horror film in 13 days. Production starts on November 1 and the films will screen on the festival’s opening night, Wed. Nov. 15, at 8 p.m., judged by co-creator and exclusive programmer for Turner Classic Movies (TCM) weekly late-night cult movie showcase TCM Underground, Kool Kat Millie De Chirico and “Archer” animation director and Atlanta-based filmmaker, Marcus Rosentrater.

One of the real strengths, and our favorite part, of Buried Alive Film Fest is the shorts programs. This year brings five shorts sets (The Groundkeeper’s Faves; Cult of the Grave Worm; Weirdness from 6 Feet Under; If These Tombstones Could Make Movies!; and If this is all there is my friend? Then let’s keep digging.) presenting 54 new films that will enlighten, scare and disgust you to the fullest extent. A few highlights from the selections include Huseyin Hassan’s 2AM about a middle-aged man, a white rabbit and supernatural events, the American premiere of Finnish animator and Buried Alive awardwinner Tomi Malakias’ THE ZOO and Mathew E. Robinson’s RIGOR MORTIS about gory and guilt-ridden sibling rivalry. 

Finally, no respectable horror film festival would be complete without screening a few horror classics, and ATLRetro loves the two special events chosen this year. On Friday night at 10 p.m., BAFF will present a special screening of Robert Wiene’s silent horror classic THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1921) with a live soundtrack by Atlanta-based jazz group Samadha! And on Saturday night at 10 p.m., BAFF offers a special treat with a digitally remastered Tim Burton’s ED WOOD, the 1994 biopic starring Johnny Depp, Martin Landeau (as Bela Lugosi) and more. The screening will be hosted by Atlanta’s award-winning Blast Off Burlesque, who will stage one of their signature TabooLaLa events including a performance inspired by the film before the screening. With Plan 9 Graveyard photo-ops, auditions for ED, drag races for prizes and costume contests…let’s just say, things will get wonderfully bizarre.

The 7 Stages Theatre is located at 1105 Euclid Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30307. Individual program block tickets are $12, and five-day festival passes are just $100.

For more information and the complete Buried Alive Film Festival schedule, visit the website here. And view the official BAFF bumper here.

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Murder, Mayhem and Madness! Our Top 10 Horrorific Reasons to Haunt on Down to the Inaugural WOMEN IN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL

Posted on: Sep 19th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

The Women in Horror Film Festival kills it at Crowne Plaza Atlanta SW – Peachtree City this Thursday-Sunday Sept. 21-24. A showcase of creative kickass female minds behind every aspect of the horrorific cinematic and filmmaking experience, contemporary and retro alike, the festival has much to offer all the horror cinephiles in your life. From slasher gore-fests to comedic catastrophes, here are 10 of our top reasons to get your spine tingled at the WIHFF!

1) ELM STREET GORE-GALS HEATHER LANGENKAMP & AMANDA WYSS. These ladies won our horror hearts with their portrayals of nightmare-filled teens Nancy Thompson (Langenkamp) and Tina Grey (Wyss) in Wes Craven’s ‘80s classic spawning its own hellacious franchise, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET (1984).

2) LYNN LOWRY. From Kathy in George Romero’s THE CRAZIES (1973) and Ruthie in Paul Schrader’s CAT PEOPLE (1982), Lowry’s a swell scream queen who’s been killing it since the ‘70s, and is going strong as ever with at least ninety on-camera titles to her name (some current titles are announced or are in pre-production).

3) TRINA PARKS. Best known for her role as Thumper in DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (1971), Parks’ career spanned the ‘70s with appearances in an episode of Rod Serling’s NIGHT GALLERY (“The Phantom Farmhouse” – 1971); DARKTOWN STRUTTERS (1975); THE MUTHERS (1976) and more. She came back deadlier than ever in David DeCoteau’s IMMORTAL KISS: QUEEN OF THE NIGHT (2012).

4) WIHFF CASKET OF TERROR. For all you gore-lovers and horror hounds, just purchasing a festival pass earns you the chance to win some pretty monsterific prizes in the Casket of Terror, which includes autographed memorabilia, DVDs and other horror goodies. Purchase a VIP Pass and you get 3 entries; a Weekend Pass earns you 2 entries; and a Day Pass will get you a single entry. Who doesn’t love terrifying treats?!

5) FRIGHTENING FILMS! The WIHFF has heads rolling with three days of non-stop action filled to the bloody brim with films galore! Friday’s (Sept. 22) schedule includes a Thriller Shorts Block, a Features Block (SHORT CUT, dir. Prano Bailey-Bond; MURDER MADE EASY, dir. Dave Palamaro), a Non-Competition Showcase Block and a Comedy Shorts Block. Saturday (Sept. 23) terrifies with a Horror Shorts Block, a Features Block (MARCO POLO, dir. Chelsea Peters; DEADTHIRSTY, dir. Jason Winn), an International Shorts Block, and a bonus Features Block (I SHOULD HAVE RUN, dir. Gabriela Staniszewska; 3, dir. Lou Simon). And Sunday (Sept. 24) gets gory and kicks off the day with a Features Block (STITCHED, dir. Heather Taylor; BUZZARD HOLLOW BEEF, dir. Joshua Johnson), a Student Shorts Block, a Southeast Block, and a second bonus Features Block (THE CHUTE, dir. Stacy Sherman; RUIN ME, dir. Preston DeFrancis). So, come on out and discover some new terrifying talent!

6) WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE SCREENING. You won’t want to miss a special screening of WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE (1994), followed by the Nightmare Panel with panelists Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss and Marianne Maddalena, Friday, Sept. 22 at 6:30pm.

7) TWISTED TWINS – THE SOSKA SISTERS. From DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK (2009) to AMERICAN MARY (2013), Jen and Sylvia Soska have soaked up the indie cult-classic limelight as writers, actors and directors, churning out homage after homage of grind-house filmmaking. Come on out and catch the twisted sisters during their panels “You Finished Your Film, Now What?” (Sept. 23, 3:45 pm); and “Whose Film is it Anyway?” with Amanda Wyss (Sept. 23, 8:30pm).

8) MANIACAL MAKE-UP. Nadine Al-Remaizan and Christine Ramirez of Ramirez FX demonstrate the madness that is monster make-up and SFX with their “Create Big Budget Looks on a Shoestring Budget” panel/demonstration (Sept. 23, 11am).

9) WARPED WRITERS. There wouldn’t be films without writers, and of so WIHFF offers up two highly acclaimed horror/thriller/suspense writers Mylo Carbia, a.k.a. Hollywood’s No. 1 horror film ghostwriter turned author (THE RAPING OF AVA DESANTIS / VIOLETS ARE RED) and Meg Hafdahl (“Dark Things” / TWISTED REVERIES: THIRTEEN TALES OF THE MACABRE series). Both will be selling and signing during the festival.

10) SCARE-TASTIC SHOPPING.  You won’t want to miss out on the horrorific wares the festival vendors have to offer, from handmade horrors, to gothic gifts. During your stay, why not stock up on macabre movie memorabilia, cult classics and creepy clothing, costumes, accessories and more. Vendors will be selling/meeting guests from 12pm – 8pm daily during the festival.

Women in Horror Film Festival main con hours are Fri. Sept. 22 from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.; Sat. Sept. 23 from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m.; and Sun. Sept. 24 from 12 p.m. to 9 p.m.For more info, visit the Women in Horror Film Festival official website here.

Category: Features, Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: Dayna Noffke, Local Independent Filmmaker and Retro-tastic Gal Joins the Killer Cast and Crew of the Inaugural WOMEN IN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL

Posted on: Sep 18th, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Photo by Andrew Shearer of Gonzoriffic

Dayna Noffke, lover of all things retro, Jill of all trades and local filmmaker (ThrillRide Pictures), joins the gore-tastic ranks of the inaugural WOMEN IN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL (WIHFF) brought to you by Festival Directors Kool Kat Vanessa Ionta Wright (“Rainy Season”) and Samantha Kolesnik (“I Baked Him A Cake”). The festival invades Peachtree City promising a weekend filled to the bloody brim with kickass independent women filmmakers, creators and horror film enthusiasts. You won’t want to miss the horrorific lineup of shorts and feature-length films, panels, vendors and special guests including Heather Langenkamp (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET), Amanda Wyss (A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET/BETTER OFF DEAD), Marianne Maddalena (SCREAM), Lynn Lowry (CAT PEOPLE/THE CRAZIES), Trina Parks (DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER) and more! Noffke has been given the excruciating task, yet a highly rewarding opportunity to get a sneak peek at the talent before it’s unleashed on the unsuspecting masses, as a WIHFF film judge. Competitor’s films for the film competition will screen throughout the festival weekend (Friday, September 22, 12:00 p.m. – 10:45 p.m.; Saturday, September 23, 12:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.; Sunday, September 24, 12:00 p.m. – 6:45 p.m.;  Crowne Plaza Atlanta SW – Peachtree City; Tickets $45 day pass ($55 at door) / $125 full fest pass ($140 at door); and $200 VIP Fest Pass (includes all speakers, workshops, films and special events including the Thursday night VIP party); Schedule for each screening block here; Tickets here)! Kick off this season of horror and make your way to the WIHFF, take a walk down the “Dead Carpet,” and experience a weekend full of killer cinema!

Noffke’s film career began in 2008 when she was cast as an extra in Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN II (2009). She’s been churning out what she calls “backyard no/low budget” short films ever since, while working part-time as a set dec-buyer/dresser (V/H/S VIRAL, THE VAULT) and working towards directing full-time, with no end in sight. Since 2009, Noffke’s made ten short films including “Safety First” (2009); “Mouse” (2012); “Picnic” (2012); “Recompense” (2014); “Under the Bed” (2015); with her latest being “Teaser,” which wrapped this past week. She’s also written three feature film scripts, which have done well in the screenplay contest circuit, prompting her to take the next step to produce a feature-length film in the near future. As a filmmaker who has had some pretty amazing life experiences (researched Mantled Howler monkeys in Nicaragua; took Gross Anatomy and dissected a human body, just to name a few), Noffke seems to be a perfect choice to judge some of the best independent horror films coming our way this year.

ATLRetro caught up with Dayna to chat about the Women in Horror Film Festival, what inspired her to dive head first into the film industry, her favorite horror movies as a kid, and rooting for kickass final girls. While you’re taking a stroll through our little Q&A, why not take a peek at a couple trailers for some of her short films here.

ATLRetro: How exciting to be a part of the inaugural WOMEN IN HORROR FILM FESTIVAL! Can you tell our readers how you got involved and a little about your role as film judge?

Dayna Noffke: It is exciting! We’re fortunate to have so many amazing film events in Atlanta and this is a wonderful addition. When I heard about the festival, I knew I wanted to be involved but I wasn’t certain that I would have a new film finished in time to submit for this year. I submitted to the organizers’ call for judges and before I knew it, I had a queue full of fantastic film work to review.

What’s it like to judge films of women who have dedicated their creativity and professional lives to the horror genre?

​It’s an honor to be entrusted with these films. I have been in the role of judge for a few different festivals now and I always take it very seriously. I know what it’s like to be on the other side — to have your work put out there for review, and I try to remember that and give each film my full attention and consideration. All of these filmmakers have my respect, because getting any film finished requires Herculean amounts of persistence and hard work. I greatly enjoyed judging, discovering new talents and seeing the evolution of those creators with whose work I am familiar.

We see that you’ve been involved in filmmaking since about 2008, when you were an extra in Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN II. What was it about that particular film production that made you want to make movies?

Photo by Andrew Shearer

​The experience of being an extra on that film gave me two things. First I was given the ability to see the filmmaking process and the roles on set, including watching a director who really enjoys his work. ​And secondly, I had a great freaking time on set. I felt very at home. It was a light bulb moment for me. All my life, I’d been struggling and bouncing through trying out different artistic disciplines with none of it ever “clicking.” Here it was. I got it. Prior to that experience, it wasn’t in my frame of reference to think of making films as something that I (and my friends) could do. Sure, I realized in an abstract sense that people were making them, but I hadn’t seen it up close and it was a separate world that I’d never experienced. Watching RZ direct that film changed my perspective, so yes – in a strange, roundabout way, Rob Zombie is responsible for my leap into the film world.

It was once thought that horror films were made by and generally made for a male audience. Of course we adamantly disagree, as horror is definitely right down our alley, especially pre-21st century horror. Can you tell our readers what drew you to the genre and why it keeps drawing you in deeper and deeper, as your own filmmaking career continues to grow?

The million dollar question. Why? Why are we so drawn to this darkness? I am actually a pretty light-hearted person. I consider myself lucky to have a great life that’s full of adventure and joy – which makes it perhaps even more of a puzzle. For me, I guess it is twofold. First of all, there’s the thrill. There is nothing like that feeling of being at the top of the clicking roller coaster hill or just before the corner in the haunted house – the anticipation, wanting to scream and laugh and run all at the same time. Monsters are fun, they’re fantasy, but most importantly, they’re an escape. Second, I am fascinated with human beings and that translates into a desire to understand them. While I certainly don’t empathize with people who are able to do horrible things to other people, I want to ‘get it.’ I want to know what makes them tick. Why do these things happen? I want to find sense and make something out of the chaos. I love writing about the survivors. I’m in awe of kickass final girls.

You’ve been employed in several roles in the film industry, including set decorator-buyer, writer, director, producer, etc. Is there any particular role you prefer over the others and why?

One of my favorite things about film is the collaborative nature of the art form. Working in different departments has given me an appreciation for the importance of the different aspects of filmmaking and a better view of the process holistically. I’ve been working professionally, for the past four-something years, as a set decoration buyer. I enjoy the work and it’s helped to develop my design eye, which has translated into better visuals in my own filmmaking. But ultimately, I want to write and direct. I want to be out there telling stories. I’m currently working on making that jump from set dec to being full time on my own projects. As for producing, I have done a lot of that on my projects out of necessity and while it’s a good learning experience, it’s not where my talents lie. I had a great producer, Chris Ethridge, on my most recent short, “Teaser,” and he was a lifesaver. I’m glad to hand that part over to people who are better-suited to the task.

Who are your favorite female horror directors and why are they your favorite? Were there any female role models in the horror genre that particularly inspired you growing up?

“Teaser” Cast & Crew, Photo by Ed Selby

I wasn’t really a monster kid. I was a kid who loved just about everything having to do with stories and pretending – from dolls to Grease to Star Wars – and also happened to be into all kinds of movies. I did always love the final girls who made it to the end of the horror movies — Nancy and Alice and Laurie, particularly. My list of favorite female directors is a long one! Not only are there the big ones, like Mary Harron – whose AMERICAN PSYCHO is a vision of absolute, all-out abandon – but there’s a huge list of indie filmmakers who are making waves in both short and feature length formats. Jen and Sylvia Soska, Karen Kusama, Izzie Lee, Jill Sixx, Lynne Hansen, Tonjia Atomic — the list goes on and on. What they all have in common is guts. They’re all out there taking chances and getting their stories told however they can. Their art is gorgeous and brave. I’m also a huge fan of the actors who make directing such a great job. I have been honored to work with Madeline Brumby (FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS, SPRING BREAK ZOMBIE MASSACRE), Katherine English and burlesque star Lola LeSoleil among others.

What would you say was your gateway drug/film that enticed you into the land of horror films?

The first real horror film I remember seeing is SILENT SCREAM. I recall that shortly after, my brother and I went on a FRIDAY THE 13TH and JAWS watching spree. I’d set the alarm to get up and watch films on Cinemax in the middle of the night. MY BLOODY VALENTINE also figures prominently into my childhood. ​

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be watching, reading or listening to right now— past or present, well-known or obscure?

Just five? I love reading, music and films, so I’m always on a tear. There are two books that I cannot recommend highly enough. DEVIL ALL THE TIME by Donald Ray Pollack is a jaw-droopingly dark and poetic trip into the Southern Gothic. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read. I’m also reading THE WITCHES: SUSPICION, BETRAYAL AND HYSTERIA IN 1692 SALEM by Stacy Schiff. It’s full of great information but not particularly academic, a more human approach to the Salem Witch trials story. As for films, Karen Kusama‘s feature film, THE INVITATION, is incredible. I’ve re-watched it a few times. It’s got a very tight, effective story and a killer cast. I will also add to the list of people singing the endless praises of Jordan Peele‘s GET OUT. It’s just that good! Since it’s September, I’m in heavy rotation on monster bop/classic Halloween music. I’m enjoying my new birthday present – Waxwork‘s limited edition MY BLOODY VALENTINE LP with score and music from the film.

What was your favorite horror film growing up?

As a child, JAWS all the way. My brother and I had a best friend who had a pool. We’d get the VHS and make a ‘movie theater’ with tickets, watch the film and then scare ourselves into a frenzy thinking that Jaws lived in the pool. I’ll also have to admit that we chased my brother around an awful lot as Jaws so… apologies on that front.  As a teenager, I really loved cheesy horror – things like MICROWAVE MASSACRE, TOOLBOX MURDERS and the like. ​I got hooked on RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, EVIL DEAD and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE then, too, and that has definitely stuck. TCM is my favorite to this day.

As an independent female filmmaker working in the horror genre, what challenges have you personally faced that seem to be a common theme amongst women in the industry?

While I hesitate to speak for every woman in the industry, I’ve certainly heard enough stories and had enough experiences to see that there are definitely barriers to being heard as female filmmakers. I have been put in incredibly uncomfortable positions at cons and film festivals, where I wanted to be involved in the film conversation but was compelled to speak up and/or leave because of the incredibly casual misogynistic and ugly talk about other women. All I could think was, “If they are saying this while I am standing right here, what are they saying about us when I’m NOT here?” I’ve been followed to my hotel room at night by creepy guys and on and on. These types of harassment are barriers to all women – not just filmmakers – feeling comfortable attending and enjoying film events and that sucks. I’m heartened to see a lot of men starting to speak out about this and standing up beside us to put an end to this kind of behavior. There are other problems, of course. Sadly, it’s a long list.

Any advice for women filmmakers out there trying to get their foot in the door?

Show up. Help other filmmakers with their projects and support them in their successes and challenges. Make movies whenever you can – it’s the only way to learn. Community makes the indie filmmaking world go round. Be relentless. The first time funding fell through for my feature, I was crushed. But I quickly realized that it’s probably going to happen a few dozen more times before that film gets made. Keep moving forward. We want to hear what you have to say.

As a filmmaker, and a film judge for the WIHFF, how does the competition look? Anything spectacularly horrorific and exciting you can tell us without giving too much away before the festival? Any particular film we should definitely check out?

​Hmmm. I’m not sure what I’m allowed to give away so I’m going to plead the fifth on this one. But trust me, the competition is FIERCE. You’re really going to enjoy this festival – it’s got everything from fun over-the-top gore to horror comedy and creature films to beautifully realized horror poetry.

What are you looking forward to most about the festival?

I’m really looking forward to meeting the filmmakers! I love catching up with the ones who I know and seeing what’s up next for them but I’m also excited to meet the creators of the films that I judged. There is so much talent out there. ​

And last but not least, what are you up to next? You’ve indicated that in 2018 you’ll be working on a feature-length project based on a screenplay you wrote. Can you tell us a little about that, and any other projects you’re currently working on or will be in the near future?

“Teaser” still with Jim Stacy and Lola LeSoleil

I have several projects in the works right now. I’m forever writing screenplays – who knows where they will take you? I finally finished up my short film, “Under the Bed” last month. It’s a fun little creature film that stars my daughter and one of my best friends – so we had a great time making it. I’m busy entering it into festivals right now. We wrapped on my latest short, “Teaser” last weekend. It’s a very lush and poetic burlesque-themed short and my biggest production so far. We have a hard deadline for getting it through post, so you can expect to see it at festivals soon!​ I am slated to shoot another short film, “Shark: A Love Story” for a local production company sometime at the beginning of the year. That one has a lot of special FX — blood everywhere! It’s going to be crazy!

I also have three feature film scripts that have been bouncing around for a while but nothing solid on production yet. It’s my goal to shoot my psychological thriller, EIDOLON, in 2018. It’s a very sparse psychological/paranormal thriller — a re-imagining of the classic Victorian short horror story, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” My feature script, GET CHINO! is a comedy/grind-house hybrid about five fan girls who kidnap their favorite action star in a bid to get him to star in their film. The screenplay has been chosen as an official selection at Oaxaca Film Festival this year and I’m looking forward to hearing some feedback on that one as well and maybe roll on it in the next few years.

All photos courtesy of Dayna Noffke and used with permission.

Category: Kool Kat of the Week | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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