In celebration of the 9th annual Women In Horror Month, (WiHM) we reached out to one of our favorite award- winning filmmakers, Emma Dark to get her thoughts on filmmaking, past projects, currents ones, and anything else she wanted to share with us.
DB&B: Emma, I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to speak with us here at Dead, Buried, and Back! The last time we spoke it was right after the release of ‘Seize The Night’, a fantastic film which turned out to be huge hit among genre fans and won multiple awards. I believe it also brought you some international acclaim as well, correct?
E: No problem at all, yes, it did! I have to say it feels like a long time ago as I completed “Seize the Night” in 2015. It won me the “Outstanding Female Filmmaker” Winter 2017 award at Stormy Weather Horror Fest, and the “Rising Star” award at The Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival 2015. It also won The “Richard Gladman Best Monsters Award” at Hyperdrive Sci-Fi and Fantasy Film Festival in 2016, Awarded “Video of the Week” in 2016, was nominated for “Best Short Horror Film” in the 2016 Fright Meter Awards, and iHorror’s “Best Horror Short Film” in 2017, plus picked up various other nominations and runner up awards along the way.
Awards aside, it also had a lot of media coverage, including a three page print article in Scream Magazine, press on AMC’s Horror Channel website, reviews on the Starburst and Dread Central website, and much more. It also had a rather lovely review here on Dead, Buried, and Back!
DB&B: I want to turn the clock back for a moment. When exactly did you decide that you wanted to produce/direct films, particularly horror films?
E: Horror is something that I’ve loved pretty much since birth. That might be a ‘slight’ exaggeration, but in all seriousness as far back as I can remember I’ve always loved Horror, Sci-Fi and Fantasy, and I can remember pretty far back as it goes. I’m a deeply creative person who likes to push and challenge themselves – sometimes a bit too much, there’s not always enough time in the day, but I’m extremely passionate about art. For me art is my lifeblood, if I’m not creating I’m not really living, and that’s honestly how I feel about it. I’ve been involved in a number of artistic pursuits over the years. As a child and into my teenage years I drew and painted, and received school prizes for my artistic efforts. I even applied for a job as a greeting card artist before I went into higher education, and failed sadly – they were looking for a cartoonist, not a fine artist! I discovered photography in my teenage years, and that’s something that’s still very close to me heart, that ultimately helped move me into a filmmaking direction.
Sadly the opportunity to take my artistic skills into filmmaking didn’t present itself until later in life, and it’s only in recent years that I’ve taken it up. I also spent a number of years modeling after being mistaken for a model when I joined a London based photography meetup group, and then quickly became a recognized name on the alternative modeling scene. I’ve also experimented with singing. It’s a culmination of all of these things, and also being afforded the opportunity to act in front of the camera that has led me to where I am today, creatively speaking.
DB&B: When you decided to write, produce and direct your first horror film, was finding cast/crew or financial support difficult?
E: Finding cast and crew was fairly easy. I know I might be the exception there rather than the rule as I know so many filmmakers who’ve had to chop and change cast and crew several times before or during production due to date clashes, personality clashes and a whole range of things.
Financial support was more difficult, certainly for my first film. I raised a small amount via crowdfunding, but did have to pour in a thousands of pounds of my own savings into the project, and that money isn’t ever going to come back into my pocket. However, I don’t expect other people to pay for my passion projects – like short films that will not recoup money, but if I can offer something fans are seeking and will find value in using crowdfunding, and that helps pay the way then that’s great and really does help ease the financial burden.
DB&B: Emma, as a filmmaker you wear many hats, but do you prefer to direct or be an actress in the film?
E: I wear so many hats I’m surprised I haven’t been mistaken for a hat stand! If it’s my own film, having done this a few times now on limited resources I can tell you it’s much easier not to act in my own films, although I will always plan to have some kind of role or appearance. Given my front of camera history I think people expect this, and I do enjoy it, as long as it’s not too intensive.
With regards to what I prefer, well I definitely prefer to be Creator/Director. It’s a far more rewarding path to take, for me, and lets me explore my imagination and create and shape something. Acting has less creative scope, and if you’re working on another creator’s film then of course you have limitations and boundaries, it’s the filmmakers vision, not yours. I do enjoy acting though, and I do enjoy being front of camera.
DB&B: Since we’re celebrating the 9th annual Women In Horror Month, (WiHM) what are your thoughts on the progress women have made with regards to their roles as filmmakers?
E: If we’re talking about the indie scene, which is the only scene I really know, then I think the WiHM movement has definitely helped shine a spotlight on female filmmakers. However, I’d like to see more technical female crew interviewed, for example Composers, Cinematographers, Sound Designers, etc. I’d like to see those people interviewed more regularly anyway, regardless of gender. When it comes to independent Producer/Directors usually we shout the loudest – we have to, it’s usually down to us to promote our films most of the time as we can’t afford PR, so I think sometimes these other important crew members are sidelined by the media.
DB&B: You’ve mentioned you’re a huge fan of the ‘The Crow” but what other films past or present, do you draw your inspiration from?
E: I’m a fan yes, Alex Proyas is a wonderful director. In terms of stuff I’m watching and finding inspiring right now I’m looking further back in the past to the 60’s-80’s. My current film “Salient Minus Ten” has a lot of retro influence in its overall feel. I didn’t actually set in the past, but I wanted the colour grade, score etc. to feel very 70’s and retro.
DB&B: There have been dozens of horror movies released both in theatres and on DVD/VOD during the last few years and horror/thrillers like ‘Don’t Breathe’, ‘Split’, and “Get Out’ have become very popular. They seem to be breaking the proverbial “mold” when it comes to the genre. What are your thoughts on creating films like those?
E: I have to confess I’ve yet to watch “Don’t Breath” and “Split”. I have seen “Get Out” and I thought it was excellent. I don’t think it’s breaking a mold as such, however I do think it offered up a level of originality that we are sorely lacking in bigger budgeted films these days with the jump scare and gore phenomenon’s taking precedence. It was nice to see a horror film featuring a black lead actor, and not playing out to the typical horror trope of having one black male character in a group of white friends who always ends up the first to die – just before the busty blonde!
We’ve had more artistic films out there for years, and in the past they’ve been more popular. I think we’ve just been spoon fed the same tropes and styles over and over by Hollywood recently, and that’s kind of led audiences into thinking there’s one or two formulas. I have to say friends and peers are constantly saying they are bored of these films and want something fresh and new but studios keep turning out the same themes, and festivals keep programming the same themes. So where does it all begin and end?
DB&B: Now that your film ‘Salient Minus Ten’ is making it’s way through film festivals, what can you tell us about your current projects?
E: “Salient Minus Ten” is my current project right now. I think because films can take so long to make from first press I think fans don’t necessarily realize that I only recently completed the film at the tail end of last year, so my focus is currently on promoting it and getting eyes on the film and the wonderful work of all the cast and crew that have contributed.
I have a couple of creative pieces planned for the near future though, very small scale direct to web pieces. If you look on my Vimeo channel you’ll find some other visual pieces on there from me, with my own cinematography. I don’t class these as short films, so I don’t really promote them, mainly because it’s too easy for people to interpret them as such as that’s not my intention. They are simply artistic test pieces, mainly for my cinematography skills and kit, and to help generate creative thoughts for my more serious pieces. So I want to explore that a little more, and then I’ll probably commence pre-production on my next short film later his year when I have more bandwidth to put 100% of my time and effort into something serious again and make it the very best it can be.
DB&B: Do you have plans to attend conventions or film festivals in the U.S. this year?
E: I’d love to attend a U.S. based convention, so if a convention organiser approaches me to sign/appear with expenses paid I would be very keen (big hint to any convention organisers reading). It would be a great opportunity for me, and I’d love to meet some of my U.S. fans. In terms of festivals, I have submitted “Salient Minus Ten” to a number of U.S. based fests, and I’d really like to attend at least one of them. I’m somewhat reliant on festival programmers to give me early notification / adequate time to make arrangements to attend though.
DB&B: One final question, if you don’t mind. Every filmmaker has a dream project. If you had the resources and money for a full-length feature film, what kind of film would you make?
E: My dream project of today might well be something different tomorrow, but right now I’d love to make a full on retro style film. Most likely 70’s style again, Horror/Sci-Fi cross genre, as artistic as possible, and shot on film! What the exact content of this film might be I really don’t know, but I do know that the feeling and aesthetic of many genre films of the time period is something I’m interested in exploring further.
DB&B: Emma,thanks again for speaking with me today. Good luck with your future projects and we’ll look forward to sharing them with our readers.