For Women In Horror Month 2019, we wanted to catch up with a duo we first interviewed during last years event; clothing designers, movie producers, and huge horror fans in their own right, Micheline Pitt-Norman and Lynh Haaga.
Micheline is the woman behind Vixen by Micheline Pitt, and shares design duties with Lynh for La Femme En Noire. For Women In Horror Month, we are so thankful that they took the time out of their insanely busy schedules to speak to us.
Thank you both so much for speaking with me today and being part of Women In Horror Month! Since we last spoke, what have you both been up too? Any new horror related collections coming to La Femme En Noir or Vixen?
Lynh Haaga: Thank you for having us back! For La Femme En Noir, we are really excited to collaborate with the estate of Vampira® to produce exclusive licensed items. We re-created her famous crystal studded dress we call The Vampira® Show Gown and made a more wearable version called the Vampira® Glamour Ghoul Gown. We also made various screen printed t-shirts based on Malia Nurmi’s original art, she did these wonderful self portraits that Micheline meticulously recreated for products for both men and woman as well as a tote.
Micheline Pitt: Vampira’s famous bat glasses were possibly the most involved item we have ever created and/or recreated.
LH: The original was made from hand carved wood as a prop from Edward Melcarth, and brought to Los Angeles by the artist ManRay in 1949 and later gifted to Vampira. Our reproduction was lovingly developed for almost a year before we both were finally satisfied with the material and results.
MP: Every single design we got back looked more like a pig than a bat, I just about gave up, and then I finally sculpted the face for the final design myself. I used some Magic Sculpt 2 part epoxy and sculpted on top of an old sample pair of glasses. We ended up mailing it off to our facility where we had them created. We even had to 3D print our final prototypes here domestically, a lot of work and development went into these babies.
LH: We hope it was a loving tribute to Vampira as she was one of many style icons that influenced the original concept of gothic glamour for us and why we started La Femme En Noir.
Speaking of which, La Femme En Noir will also be at Oddities Flea Market, curated by Ryan Matthew Cohn, May 18-19. It is a massive collection of weird, unusual and creative collective that is a once in a lifetime shopping experience.
MP: Vixen itself will be retiring our line of Ben Cooper collection pieces to make way for new projects and collections. We can not disclose anything just yet as to what will be happening in the future for Vixen when it comes to horror. As many people know, I am an avid collector of horror film memorabilia and merchandise myself. I know that my personal interests will always reflect on my brand in some way, and that there are some new pieces coming that are very much that. The prints and products are completely original designs with a vintage twist to them, that embody that horror element so much. We will be unveiling these items in May, so I’m really looking forward to seeing peoples response and interest.
Vixen will also be producing all the products for the GRUMMY movie and I am really excited for everything that is coming, especially the 80’s inspired design of Grummy I got to do. The concept that Kevin Yagher created is so killer and really fun to recreate into a graphic retro style. We have this nostalgic 80’s inspired poster made for promotion by Kevin Wilson from Ape Meets Girl, and though the film itself is set in the late 80’s it is super whimsical compared to our creations. I think people will be really surprised when they see Grummy and the world versus what we have made.
I personally am doing a big monster kid project in collaboration with a really amazing person for a big project that comes out this Summer. I can’t reveal who it is or what it is, but it’s old school monster kid goodness! I think they will unveil the product in June of this year.
What are some recent horror movies that you loved? Micheline, I remember you were really excited for THE MEG, what were your thoughts? And Lynh, any new horror in the works with your other half, Trent, and can we expect to see your designs in any of his upcoming films?
LH: I really enjoyed OVERLORD. I thought they did a fantastic job at a war period movie, but with an insane horror bent to the whole zombie/soldier creation. You have to go into it understanding that it’s a thrill ride movie, with super gore and a video game beat. I also thought ANNIHILATION was a solid movie, atmospherically different from OVERLORD, but a solid sci-fi horror movie. I thought it should have gotten a wider release.
Currently, Trent Haaga is in the middle of writing a script that I know I can’t talk about, and has 2 scripts he’s trying to push into production, so hopefully you’ll see some La Femme En Noir designs in those in the near future! He just finished his short for the fun holiday advent calendar themed anthology called DEATHCEMBER that will be coming out later this year. That one was a quick, down and dirty short that involved the entire family that we shot right before Christmas. It was definitely fun to costume and produce with our boys in the acting portion. It doesn’t feature La Femme designs, but my handiwork is all over it.
MP: Oh man, THE MEG was NOT a horror film, but it was a campy ridiculous mess of fun, really wish it was more violent and had been a little closer to the books but hey, I still got a giant shark movie. I think one of my favorite horror films this last year was PYEWACKET, it really struck a nerve in me as it reminded me of people I grew up with and it was a bit terrifying to me because of that. I also appreciate when a movie doesn’t show or give away too much. Horror is really hit or miss for me, as I feel like people go in trying to make a scary movie, instead they should go in trying to make a good or great movie, that happens to also be scary. I agree with Lynh, OVERLORD was amazingly fun, it was like a period war movie mixed with RE-ANIMATOR. The opening sequence was so INSANE I was yelling at my TV. I wish there was better PR and promotion about this film, as I completely missed it in theaters and would have seen it on the big screen had I know about it.
For myself, my husband R.H. Norman and I have a horror script that is really great that I love, it is a lower budget indie piece that is really dark, and beautifully disturbing. He tends to lean towards dark, heavy subject matter, and I think his ability to go places other’s don’t made up a perfect pairing for GRUMMY, the feature script is really something special. It is rare that something can be so fantastical and full of imagination but also incredibly gut wrenching. I don’t think there will be any of our clothing designs in either of these projects but I have been heavily involved in wardrobe and set design, so I think you will see a bit of my eye in this because of that.
When we last spoke, GRUMMY was in the midst of its Kickstarter, which got fully funded, so congratulations are definitely in order for that! What’s the process now?
MP: Well, like anything, we have to DO IT now. We are in full pre-production now and it is so much work, between having a full time job, or jobs in my case with both brands, it is a constant juggling act. We are building real sets, and worlds on this film project, it is very ambitious. A lot of people think we are completely insane to make what we are making and do what we are doing with what little money we have, but we are looking forward to surprising them all.
We have weekly meetings at times with our Art Director, DP, and producers. The Art Department and us are heavily involved, our Art Director Nicole Balzarini is a true blessing and is working some actual magic for us. There is so much building happening right now, and we still have a bit to go. Most of us are working on our days off and free time so starting in January was an absolute MUST. Kevin Yagher has begun the monster building which is going to be quite beautiful once we are able to unveil him. We really wanted to keep his final form designs secret until filming. I almost cried when I saw the final design, he is perfect. Kevin truly is the only person I can see making our beast what it is.
What would you both like to see in the way of women in horror in the future? More writers, directors? What do you think women bring to the genre and what do you think we need more of or less of?
LH: I would love to see more directors. Kathryn Bigelow is still the only woman who has won an Oscar for Best Director. That’s pretty appalling. However, I am seeing more of an awareness for filmmakers, studios, and film festivals to keep that in mind, and to make sure that women are actually considered in future projects.
I’m also super proud of Micheline for bravely telling her horror story. The work in progress I’m seeing from her and husband R.H. Norman is shaping up to be an incredible, lush short. I’m hoping to see more projects from them.
MP: I would like to see more women in every aspect of film. There is so much room for women in this industry if the industry will allow them to have space in it. I would love to see a woman come out and be considered one of films greats. I would love someone like Agnieszka Holland to rise above and become a beacon, there are not many great directors in general, and most of the prestigious filmmakers of all time are all men when their work is considered. I want to see a woman make something that truly rivals CITIZEN KANE, 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. I feel like films now are either tight shots of talking heads or super hero films, I am in general underwhelmed by most movies now. I hope this new wave of young directors will bring back the art of film. Women are such special beings, we see and feel things so different than men, our perspective has been shown and high-lighted in photography, art, sculpture, design and I really hope that it can get the same opportunity with film.
The male gaze is the male gaze, just like how men write women, I can always tell. I think the most telling of male gaze is when you watch a film that handles rape for instance, the film REVENGE was so CLEARLY done by a woman to me. That film isn’t this absurd hyper-sexualized to almost be pornographic content of rape, even the sex scene is from the female perspective. Next time look at a blow job scene in a male film and look at it in REVENGE and tell me how it makes you feel. I don’t know if when men make these sort of scenes or films they are trying to be shocking, but I feel that this subject matter is always and has always been handled awfully by men. Maybe if there were female producers, or writers or DPs they would be able to give input and perspective, unless we ourselves have lived that life, we can only gain perspective and knowledge from those who have. I think women will continue to shake things up, and make us feel like the women we see on screen will somehow be a better reflection of ourselves. I think in so many aspects and walks of life more people need to allow themselves to involve people creatively who have different life experiences than them, that will only make the art form of making film that much better.
I would also like to mention that there is a book about Milicent Patrick coming out in March and to date she is still the only female designer to ever design any iconic monsters in film. Mallory O’Meara has beautifully told her story in THE LADY FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and shown a light on a part of the industry that completely lacks the female perspective. It is an absolutely beautiful read about an incredible woman that more people should know.
If you could star in any horror movie, what would choose and why?
LH: ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE by Jim Jamusch for its tragically romantic theme. I mean, look at the sumptuous costumes – of course I’d want to be in that! And I love anything from Mario Bava – like BLOOD AND BLACK LACE – but my favorite from him is DANGER: DIABOLIK, which is not actually horror. It’s so sexy; all of his movies are sexy.
MP: Oh man, I would have loved to have been the lead in AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON as I would have been able to be turned into a monster by Rick Baker, I loved that scene when I was a kid. Absolutely would die so happy to be a monster in a film. I also would have loved to have been in THE SHAPE OF WATER or CRIMSON PEAK, I love the set design, costumes, and of course, the opportunity to see Guillermo Del Toro work would be a truly magical experience. I agree with Lynh on Bava movies, I LOVE BLOOD AND BLACK LACE, but for costumes I would have to say BRAM STOKERS DRACULA. It had one of the most talented costumers EVER on it, Eiko Ishioka. I love period films and her work still resonates to this day. I love how insanely romantic and heart-breaking Coppola’s version of Dracula is, it is one of my absolute favorite “horror” films because it covers so many levels of film, and invokes the classics while also being something completely new and original.
Last but not least, any final thoughts you’d like to share with your fans?
LH & MP: Thank you for your continued support! We are still quite a small, new company, and we wouldn’t be successful without our team and costumers who’ve championed our designs from the start. We love what we do and hope it translate into the quality and design of our collection.