Why aren’t more horror films directed by women? It’s a simple question, but perhaps the answer isn’t so simple.
Our project, The Ditch, is a horror film written and directed by a woman with an all-female cast. It surprises me that this is something even worth noting, but apparently it is. So I decided to sit down with my friend and collaborator Sheena Holliday, director of the film, to discuss the issue.
[I’ve broken up the discussion into segments so that people with limited time can pick out the bits they’re most interested in, but you can watch the whole thing at one sitting here (runtime 9m 43s) if you prefer.]
We talked first about Sheena’s reaction to her experiences at FrightFest 2012, in which the issue of sexual violence against women seemed to be a constant theme running through the selected films. It was this experience that prompted Sheena’s interest in gender representation in the genre, and which has led her to research the issue of women’s role in horror:
(It should be noted that no one is accusing FrightFest of advocating or promoting sexual violence – at least, not intentionally.)
I went on to ask Sheena if there were any films in that festival which she did like, and she cited one example of a film which dealt with sexual violence in a more sophisticated way – and just happens to have been directed by a woman:
So why aren’t more women making horror films? Sheena thinks it’s inexplicable, given that more women than men attend horror films. She speculated on what it is women have to do to be more evenly represented among directors (since this is an issue which cuts across all genres, not just horror):
There’s an assumption, when it comes to horror, that women prefer to make films which concentrate more on psychological drama with more focus on character, as opposed to plot. Sheena agreed with this to an extent, but pointed out that horror has to be a blend of character drama with more visceral content:
Finally, we discussed the attitude which women have to face when they raise gender issues, both in this and in other areas (we filmed this discussion before the revelations of the threats made against Caroline Criado-Perez, but that disturbing story only makes our conversation more relevant):
Sheena will soon have a post up on her blog about this subject (which I’ll link to), and tomorrow I’ll be posting my own thoughts; not so much from my perspective as a man, but more as an attempt to summarise the situation and suggest advantages to having more women contributing to the horror genre.