February means WOMEN IN HORROR MONTH, and it’s time for Daily Grindhouse to show recognition to the wonderful women who are spearheading some of the finest examples of genre entertainment out there. We urge all readers to check out the amazing events surrounding the month, founder Hannah Neurotica’s terrific Ax Wound Blog, and the Massive Blood Drive headed by Jen & Sylvia Soska.
One hugely exciting element of that blood drive is the incredible PSA video, which features 60-second bite-sized anthology chunks from a who’s who of female filmmakers, including Gigi Saul Guerrero, Hannah Neurotica, Maude Michaud, Tamae Garateguy, Jimena Monteoliva, Jessica Cameron, Patricia Chica, Jill Sixx, Chelsey Burdon, and the Soska Sisters.
We were privileged enough to get some time to chat with internationally renowned director Patricia Chica and her wonderful producer Tara Kurtz about working on the segment RIPE N’ BLOODY (soon to be available in an expanded version called A TRICKY TREAT) from the PSA. We also delved into some of the larger issues surrounding Women In Horror Month, the personal significance of the blood drive, and how the heck you get a high quality severed head.
Doug Tilley: Guys! Thanks so much for taking some time to chat with Daily Grindhouse about RIPE N’ BLOODY, the Massive Blood Drive, and Women in Horror Month 2015.
Patricia Chica: It is my great pleasure!
Doug Tilley: Let’s start with the basics: How did the two of you get involved with the Blood Drive PSA? How were you approached, and what guidelines were given for your short?
Patricia Chica: The Soska sisters invited me to be part of the PSA last year. It was a great first collaboration with them, as I am a huge fan of their work. I was even more excited when they asked me to be part of it again this year. I have recently moved to Los Angeles, so it was a wonderful opportunity for me to shoot something with a brand new team and expand my professional network in this town.
The guidelines were very simple: to stick to this year’s theme, which was “Blood from unexpected places.” The tagline was “If there were other ways to get blood, we wouldn’t need you.” Each director had to send a one minute edited piece. The subject matter was up to me, and it could contain any content I wished as the Soskas aren’t big on censorship! I really loved having the freedom of expression.
I am thrilled to have Tara Kurtz as my Executive Producer. Tara is not only a great collaborator but also a smart industry person and a go-getter who knows how to bring value to her team! She’s the best ally any filmmaker can dream of!We are about to release an extended version of the short called A TRICKY TREAT which contains an extra scene and extended material! It will debut on the festival circuit shortly with announcements to come.
Tara Kurtz: I was given the opportunity to become involved by speaking to my good friend Patricia Chica. A mutual friend introduced me to Patricia, and from the first moment talking to her I could sense the passion and commitment she had for filmmaking. I was waiting for an opportunity to become involved with a project with her. I was actually unaware of this blood drive or Women in Horror Month previous to speaking with her about it, and that was just in the beginning of this year, but needless to say I was more than thrilled to jump on board!
Doug Tilley: Over the past few years horror anthologies have come back in a big way, but despite their success, one of the things they’ve really shown is how difficult it can be to tell a satisfying horror story in a short amount of time. How did you and Kamal John Iskander devise the concept of RIPE N’ BLOODY, and what were some of the difficulties in — no pun intended — cutting it down to the proper size?
Patricia Chica: Kamal John Iskander is an award-winning writer and director that I have had the pleasure to collaborate with in the past. I love the way he brings the humor out of a dark situation, and he definitely has a twisted mind like me! So when I told him that I was asked to direct a one minute PSA about blood donation, he offered me a story he’d written a long time ago and sent me the brilliant script of A TRICKY TREAT! It was perfect! We then sat down and collaborated together to incorporate the two concepts proposed by the Soskas: “Blood from unexpected places” and “There is no substitution for human donors. It’s in you to give.”
Improvisation is a process that I like to utilize during pre-production. During the rehearsal with the actors, I decided to let them play with two opposite tones: Comedy vs. Horror / Funny vs. Scary. What they came up with was hilarious! It was such a liberating creative process for them, and they brought in so many cool ideas that made it into the final film.
The primary challenge in editing all this was to bring a four minute short down to the required ninety seconds for the anthology. Since the script was so well constructed and self-contained, all I had to do was get rid of the icing on the cake and go straight to the heart of the story. I have to admit that it really paid off. The shorter version is punchy and really works well.
Kamal and I always strive to excel as storytellers. One of my main goals is to tell stories that have a purpose, a strong message, and a surprising ending. It’s my trademark. A TRICKY TREAT allowed me not only to talk about blood donation but also to create an interesting metaphor, using role reversal, about how humans treat animals (i.e. turkeys for Thanksgiving), waste trees (at Christmas), and pumpkins (on Halloween) in a voraciously consumptive and unconscious way for the sake of ceremonial tradition.
Doug Tilley: More than some in this collection, your short is reliant on the quality of a physical effect. In order to preserve the final “gag”, much of it is spent in close up on a really terrific looking severed head. Were there any concerns that it might not hold up to that level of scrutiny? And who fashioned it?
Patricia Chica: To make this work, we simply had to find the best effects team to make the severed head look super convincing, and we did in Danny McCarthy of 800lb Gorilla Films and Stu Segall Studios. Also, because the duration of the film is so short and the actors are so funny, it keeps the viewers hooked and entertained for just the right amount of time. Without the actors’ outstanding performances and the hyper realistic practical effects created by Danny and his team, I don’t think this little film would have had the same impact.
An important thing worth mentioning is the tremendous advantage on this production of having two different VFX techniques incorporated within the storytelling. The practical effects team, supervised by Danny McCarthy, is located in San Diego. They created the severed head by casting a foam latex mold of lead actor, Leonard Waldner’s face.
The visual effects team is from Fame Cube Productions, located in Kiev, Ukraine and supervised by Henry Lipatov. They created the animated faces of the family members by using various techniques, combining green screen compositing and computer-generated imagery.
The completion of the post-production was done in Toronto by the amazing team at RedLab Digital in Toronto, who also did the VFX on my previous film Serpent’s Lullaby.
It was a very international production, from planning to execution, as the key team members are from various parts of the world: US, Canada, Ukraine, and even Italy!
Tara Kurtz: I had no doubt that Patricia, combined with the amazing and talented team of filmmakers she has access to, would make something that looked really cool. I was confident about this from seeing how incredibly well done her previous work had been, no matter the challenges of budget constraints.
Doug Tilley: You’ve both worked extensively in a variety of genres, often tackling dark or difficult subject matter. What about the darker or more deviant side of human behavior appeals to you as subjects for films?
Patricia Chica: I can’t profess to be a horror fanatic and know everything there is to know about the genre. I think I’ve only watched a few horror movies in my entire life (including AMERICAN MARY, MANIAC (2012), THE SIXTH SENSE, JAWS, SEVEN, and PSYCHO to name a few of my favorites). It just happens that the genre of fear was the best suited for some of the stories I wanted to tell. I’m particularly attracted to the psychological thriller and horror genres as a context for my narratives.
I like to delve into dark and challenging subject matter in order to find a positive and self-empowering outcome… at least for my characters. It’s like a healing process through art…a kind of therapy if you will.
However, I’m not terribly interested in gratuitous violence and scary content for its own sake… for “just entertainment”… without an underlying deeper subtext. I imagine that fans of the genre who have really suffered and lived real-life horrific experiences (like civil war and loss in my case), want to find a deeper and more profound meaning within the construct of fear. What is fear made of, why do some of us live in a constant state of fear, or what represents fear in our conscious lives… our subconscious minds, and how can we overcome it? These are questions that interest me when it comes to delving into the dark genre of horror.
How can we explore the Darkness of humanity in order to find the Light? How can we bring the horror genre to a level of consciousness that will not only entertain but make the audience think, inspire, enlighten or awaken a deeper sense of identity and strength? As a female voice in the genre, I have an opportunity now, more than ever, to make a unique statement and be heard by the legion of loyal and enthusiastic horror fans…an audience unrivaled when it comes to passion for the cinema.
My deepest wish is to inspire and motivate other artists to find empowerment through intelligent horror films that speak to the mind, the soul and the heart.
Tara Kurtz: Patricia actually has a lot more experience tackling dark subject matter. In the two films I was involved with last year, one called SOMETHING ABOUT HER (I was EP on that) dealt with a woman struggling with ALS, and the other called BLUE WEEKEND (Co-Producer) is at the end, a feel good teen type of film. However, I have always been intrigued by the horror genre and again after seeing how Patricia tackles dark subject, matter I wanted to team up with her. I have been a fan of horror since seeing the classic 1974 THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and when it’s on TV, I’ll watch it over again. Another horror film that made an impact was the first A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET film. When my brother and I were kids I decided to try to scare him and put together a Freddy type glove with unusually sharp plastic knives and left it lying in his room. He did not appreciate that!
Doug Tilley: Patricia, I was wondering if you could speak a little about the personal significance of this blood drive. We certainly want to make sure any readers get out there and donate.
Patricia Chica: I started getting involved with blood donation when my mother was diagnosed with leukemia thirteen years ago. She needed a lot of transfusions in order to survive. It made me realize how important each liter of blood was for the survival of my own mother and all of the patients at the hospital who were suffering from similar conditions. Moreover, my recent film Ceramic Tango dealt with the issue of blood and HIV awareness.
Donating blood is something that many people find off-putting and terrifying. By using humor, innovation, and provocative imagery, this PSA will hopefully encourage viewers to face their fears and take action. Each donation can save lives! I invite everyone to donate today!
Doug Tilley: The Blood Drive is obviously a terrific cause. It’s also part of a much larger initiative — Women in Horror month. While you haven’t worked exclusively in horror, it’s obviously a genre you both have a lot of affection for. Why do you feel the film industry as a whole has been so slow to recognize the contribution and talents of women behind the camera?
Patricia Chica: I personally think this is part of a much larger issue. Women, in general, have had a hard time getting recognized in the film industry for decades.
In horror, the contribution of women has mostly been noticed in front of the camera as the “Scream Queen” or the “Final Girl.” What fascinates me is that within the subgenre of slasher films, the female heroine (the Final Girl) forces the male audience member to identify emotionally with her, which is almost a reverse psychological device. According to author and film studies professor, Carol J. Clover: from 1974 on, the survivor figure in most slasher films has been female. I guess in matters of life and death, it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl, as long as you have an axe and an escape route!
The good news is Women in Horror Month and other initiatives like Women in Film, encourage women like me to put our best foot forward with confidence. It can only lead to an evolution and even a revolution in the genre, when more talented female voices are heard and taken seriously as authors and creators of quality horror films.
Tara Kurtz: Working behind the camera has historically been a ‘Boys Club.’ I feel one reason for this was that women were not taken seriously for their creative input. It feels like it was almost looked at as being too much thinking for a woman to handle.
Doug Tilley: Horror and exploitation have historically gone hand in hand, and in particular the exploitation of women seems to be quite deeply ingrained in the horror industry and its films. Do you feel like that tide is starting to turn? And what about the horror genre – and its fans – make it open to that change? Have either of you experienced pushback from male fans who feel threatened by the change?
Patricia Chica: To be honest with you, my interpretation is that as a woman, I’m not competing at the same level in terms of physical power and domination as men, because physiologically we are made differently. So this fact influences how I create my female characters on screen; I have them use their mind and their intelligence to overcome and dominate the enemy, the killer, or the antagonist.
It’s a psychological game.
The female characters in my films DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY (2010) and SERPENT’S LULLABY (2014) for example, are faced with and must overcome their biggest rival; themselves. It’s a psychological and emotional battle against something within and their own undesirable life situation, rather than an exploitation of them by others.
That being said, my involvement in the industry as a female director has been very positive so far. I have heard so many horror stories from female director friends who say that male crew members are very “macho,” that men don’t take them seriously on set, or that they don’t feel respected by their male colleagues.
Thankfully, my experience has been the opposite.
I find that men (producers, technicians, writers, actors, promoters, and fans) have been very supportive of my work. I have not felt discriminated against because I’m a woman. I actually prefer to surround myself with male energy on set. I’m very geeky when it comes to camera lenses, equipment, VFX, the technical stuff in general, and men really appreciate that. We are like kids in a candy store playing with toys! I come from a family of boys where I was the only girl and also the oldest. By virtue of that, I have always been a leader, and generally get along with men just as easily as I do with women.
Regarding male horror fans and journalists, I find them very enthusiastic and encouraging when they see my films. They have shown overwhelming regard to my work since I first presented CERAMIC TANGO. The women too! The horror community is the best because they’re very loyal and supportive! My impression is that they like seeing women take the camera and tell stories differently.
All in all, my experience has been extremely positive. What I could consider a challenge (being a woman, being Latina, being a director of dark subject matter) has turned out to be my biggest asset!
Tara Kurtz: I also work as a talent manager and I know first hand about this because one of the first clients I ever had was consistently getting the role of the ‘hot chick’ running around half naked in horror films until she eventually gets murdered. I feel this is largely due to the fact that mainly men are behind the camera, and mainly men are writing these scripts, so it’s what men want to see – not the murder part (hopefully) haha, but the rest of it and horror films give that opportunity and it is accepted. However, with all that said, I do feel like the tide is turning but especially in the horror genre it’s slow.
Doug Tilley: Who are some of the female filmmakers that you’ve found personally inspiring over the time you’ve been working in film? And what young female directors have you encountered who you feel have a strong chance of making an impact?
Patricia Chica: I have to admit that I became aware of contemporary horror and how cool it was after seeing the work of the Twisted Twins, Jen and Sylvia Soska. I watched AMERICAN MARY and was blown away! They are the ones who made me like horror!
I became a huge fan of their work because it inspired me to believe that it’s possible to make intelligent horror with a female twist. And I thank them for paving the way for so many other women, for so gracefully representing the gender, and for always staying true to themselves. They are not only outstanding entertainers, but also icons and legends in the making! Jen and Sylvia are the most supportive and encouraging female directors I have encountered in a long time. Their enthusiasm is contagious!
Another young woman who is making waves and whose work I think is brilliant is Ana Lily Amirpour, director of A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT. She brings a breath of fresh air to the horror genre by mixing elements of art-house poetry with world cinema. The stylish black and white cinematography, the retro tone and feel, as well as the mysterious and dark atmosphere are all very unique, nothing like what we’ve seen before. I can’t wait to see her next film.
Tara Kurtz: In the horror genre, a newcomer female writer-director Jennifer Kent, has done amazing work (with THE BABADOOK), confirmed by the title of an article last year that she created “…The scariest horror movie of the year, maybe the decade.” The way Kent told this story revolving around a widow and her troubled son who ends up to be telling the truth about the monster in his picture book coming to life, is brilliant. In other genres, filmmaker Diablo Cody is an inspiration. I met her briefly at a party, which she probably doesn’t remember, shortly after wining an Oscar for JUNO. She’s truly someone to model a career after, and went on to write a smart horror comedy, female-led indie and a successful TV show. I could go on and on about who inspires me, but I’ll name one other and that is Sofia Coppola. She is by far so much more than just the daughter of someone famous. She has proven with or with out the famous last name she’s a force to be reckoned with, with her truly unique directorial style to being one of the few women to receive a Best Director nod from the Academy.
Doug Tilley: For those looking to find out more about your current and future work, what’s the best way to do so? Where can we find you on social media?
Tara Kurtz: Right now I only use Twitter and Facebook. Facebook just search for Tara Kurtz. But I use Twitter the most and that’s @kurtz_tara.
Doug Tilley: Anything else to plug? What work will we be seeing from the both of you next?
Patricia Chica: My new film A TRICKY TREAT comes out in May! ‘Like’ the page:
Tara Kurtz: I will be involved with beginning a film fund company and have multiple projects in the development stages in different types of genres. So I would just say… stay tuned…
Doug Tilley: Finally, what advice would the both of you have for young or inexperienced filmmakers looking to tackle their first project?
Patricia Chica: If I could pick twelve things I wish someone shared with me when I first started it would be these:
1) Ask yourself why you want to make movies and how bad you want to tell this particular story.
2) Study the language of film and start making films as soon as possible, even if it has to be with your phone.
3) Learn the art of listening. Most of life’s wisdom will be yours if you can master this one little trick.
4) Surround yourself with people much better than yourself and people who have positive energy and attitude. They are the best allies!
5) Always trust your instinct and the feeling inside your guts. Your heart will never betray you.
6) In a challenge focus on the solution, and only the solution.
7) Work on your craft every single day.
8) Take responsibility for all your actions. Never blame others for your failures.
9) Find a mentor, and be a committed apprentice.
10) Drink lots of water.
11) Be grateful!
12) Never give up!
Tara Kurtz: If you are a filmmaker looking to get something made, I would stress the importance of finding passion projects because this industry throws so many challenges and hurdles that if you don’t have a true passion to get something made you are going to burn out. Also, be very wary of who you get involved with. Always do your research and make sure they are relevant and strive towards doing great work now.
- [NO-BUDGET NIGHTMARES] PODCAST #80: PLAGA ZOMBIE (1997) - July 25, 2016
Tags: a girl walks home alone at night, a tricky treat, Anthology, Ax Wound, babadook, blood drive, Director, females, Horror, interview, Patricia Chica, PSA, Severed Head, Soska Sisters, Tara Kurtz, women, Women in Horror Month