Interview: Founder and Festival Director of Screamfest Rachel Belofsky

This past week was the start of the 16th Annual Screamfest Film Festival in Los Angeles, CA at the TCL Chinese Theater.  Screamfest has been an integral platform in helping launch the careers of filmmakers within the horror genre.  Films that have been showcased and premiered in the past have ranged from TRICK R TREAT, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE and more and have had the support of such prominent directors as Wes Craven, James Wan, John Carpenter, Sam Raimi and James Gunn.  This year, actress Lydia Hearst (#Horror, Condemned) was named the ambassador for the festival and will be introducing as well as moderating Q&A panels throughout the 10 day festival.  In anticipation for SCREAMFEST we spoke with founder and festival director Rachel Belofsky on why she started this festival and her love for the horror genre. 

Ambassador for Screamfest, actress Lydia Hearst with husband Chris Hardwick

Ambassador for Screamfest, actress Lydia Hearst with husband Chris Hardwick

Shannon McGrew: What inspired you to want to have a horror film festival?

Rachel Belofsky: I started SCREAMFEST because I love horror films.  Starting the festival came about pretty organically.  I had produced a documentary and during that time frame I was kind of learning how to navigate the waters on my own.  I wanted to do a festival where it would be about helping filmmakers make the connections they needed so that they didn't have figure out how to navigate the waters on their own.  I chose horror because to me, for a genre that brings so many talented filmmakers, it was mind-boggling how it was looked down upon with the stigma that it has and I wanted to champion that genre.  I don't want to say it's not respected but I feel like people are just like "Oh, it's horror" and people don't give it the same credit.  Look at the directors Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi and the list goes on and on that have done horror films.  I definitely want to champion the genre and the filmmakers that are creating this art. 

SM: People may not realize all that goes into creating a film festival.  What are some of the challenges you face in running such a successful film festival? 

RB: There are definitely a lot of challenges.  Getting certain films, especially mainstream films, or a certain sponsor that would want to "associate" with horror.  That can be hard and sometimes you need to remind them that there are films like SILENCE OF THE LAMBS that are out there that are Oscar winners.  Sometimes it's about re-educating people.  Now we have shows like "The Walking Dead" which is huge, but pre-Walking Dead days I think it was pretty hard to get a mainstream corporate America film.

SM: It's so sad that horror can sometimes get such a bad rap cause it's such a great genre.  I live and breathe horror, whether it's movies, books, theater, etc. so it always make me sad when people make assumptions about it. 

RB: Yeah, me too!  It's really frustrating and it's why I did this festival because it's like, look at these talented filmmakers.  Hopefully I've helped in some way.

Premiering at Screamfest, THE MASTER CLEANSE 

Premiering at Screamfest, THE MASTER CLEANSE 

SM: This year will be the 16th year for SCREAMFEST.  Is there anything that's going to be different this year than years past? 

RB: We are going to have a few more foreign films than we usually do.  We also have a few events such as pre-cocktail parties for fans to come and enjoy themselves and get hyped up for the festival.  

SM: Where would you like to see SCREAMFEST go in the next couple of years?  Is there anything you would like to see SCREAMFEST do that it hasn't done yet? 

RB: That's a really good question!  I guess just hoping to continue going on and showing independent films and giving spotlights to the filmmakers.  It's kind of hard to top when we premiered Oren Peli's PARANORMAL ACTIVITY.  In the years to come it would be great to knock another one out of the park like we did with that film, that was like lightning in a bottle and it would be great to see that happen again. 

SM: Well, thank you so much for speaking with me today.  This will be my first time attending SCREAMFEST and I've heard nothing but wonderful things about it.  I couldn't be more excited to attend because I think what you have with this festival is really incredible.  Thank you so much for your time and of course we wish you continued success!

If you would like to know more about SCREAMFEST or would like to attend any of the films that are premiering, visit their website at www.screamfestla.com

Opening Night Premiere of Ricky Bates TRASH FIRE 

Opening Night Premiere of Ricky Bates TRASH FIRE