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in Filmmaking
on Feb 27, 2007

I’m usually annoyed that whenever the horror genre heats up, a bunch of indie filmmakers decide to capitalize on the trend and “make a horror movie.” Most of the time, these filmmakers don’t really like horror, don’t watch it, and don’t understand its specific rules and traditions. And then they wonder why people don’t find their scripts scary.

So, this article in Variety by Archie Thomas is quite interesting. It reports on a new venture from the folks at the U.K. film production company Warp X. It’s called Darklight, and it’s a program intended to get horror newcomers — specifically, female horror newcomers — to develop films in the genre.

First, from Variety:

Low-budget digital film outfit Warp X is launching a training and production initiative to encourage more women to direct horror pics. Ten female directors from 76 applicants have been selected for the scheme, which goes by the name of Darklight: Women Direct Horror.

U.K. Film Council-backed Warp X aims to greenlight two projects as feature films for production through their digital slate in 2008.

The 10 femmes have already attended a horror master class at the creepy sounding Fawsley Hall in Northamptonshire, where they received expert advice from writer/director Richard Stanley (“Hardware”), producer Ros Borland (“The Last King of Scotland” co-producer), Lizzie Francke from regional screen agency EM Media, editor Celia Haining (“Dead Man’s Shoes”), Danny Perkins, head of distribution, Optimum Releasing, and Warp X production execs Robin Gutch, Caroline Cooper Charles, Barry Ryan and Mary Burke….

Next up for the 10 hopefuls is a second master class weekend, which will include work with actors. After this, four will be headhunted to develop their ideas into a treatment.

And next, from the Darklight site:

Why don’t women direct horror? In 100 years of cinema history we can barely name a handful of women horror directors. What is it about this incredibly successful worldwide genre that either excludes, or fails to appeal to women directors? This question becomes even more pertinent as women attending cinema screenings of horror films now marginally exceed male attendance figures for the first time.

It has been suggested this demographic change may be in part due to the way Asian horror and US remakes of Asian horror has shifted the emphasis from plot-driven teen-slasher franchises to something with a more sophisticated scope. Could it be that women have a renewed interest in the genre because there has been a move from plot-driven to relationship-driven narrative? Or that women in Asian influenced horror are portrayed as strong protagonists rather than as victims? Or are contemporary horror writers now working in an area that connects more to the female psyche?

In response to these changes Warp X, in partnership with Threshold Studios, have established a unique training and production initiative to encourage women directors keen to reinvent the horror genre for the 21st Century. With funding support from Skillset Film Skills’ Fund, DARKLIGHT: WOMEN DIRECT HORROR will provide an opportunity for female directors to develop their horror ideas through residential workshops and with specialised script editing and mentoring support. At least two of the ideas will be produced by low budget digital studio Warp X in 2008.

I think this is a cool idea on at least two levels. First, I like the idea of marrying a specific group of directors with a genre that they have little experience in. The program should both help women directors get movies made while also bringing fresh point of views into the horror genre. And second, I think this workshop and seminar approach to developing is an interesting one. As filmmakers we’re used to going to panels and workshops, but the idea of going to one that both teaches specific elements of genre narrative with an eye towards producing new work in that genre seems fresh. I’ll be interested to hear how the workshops, which take place this month and then again in May, turn out.

This post also gives me an opportunity to link to a great short horror film directed by a woman: Jennifer Kent’s Monster. Watch it below.

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