As we round out the end of Women in Horror Month, we spoke with up and coming indie horror director, Misty Dawn, about her upcoming horror short HOOKER ASSASSIN and what it's like to be a female indie director in a male dominated industry.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Misty! Thanks for speaking with us today! To start things off, for those not familiar with you, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your short film HOOKER ASSASSIN?
Misty Dawn: Well, I'm a Midwest girl that grew up surrounded by film lovers. In the early 90s, home entertainment was a BIG DEAL, so I remember events being planned around when movies were coming to HBO or to the video rental store. My stepdad and his friends had a particular love for horror films, and that's really where the seed was planted. The first horror film I ever saw was ARACHNOPHOBIA, and I saw it in the theaters! Can you imagine how insanely huge and scary those spiders looked to a 7 year old?! It wasn't until I was 28 years old and had gone to my first Horror Convention that I understood that it was entirely possible to make films outside of the Hollywood formula. I was meeting indie filmmakers that were putting matters into their own hands and making their own films. It was a beautiful thing. That, mixed in with a few other factors, inspired me to write, produce, and direct my own short film HOOKER ASSASSIN, which is now in post-production.
HOOKER ASSASSIN is about a human trafficking victim living a dual life. One night her parallel lives collide and she must figure out a way to get back to what matters most to her, her daughter. It stars Cortney Palm of SUSHI GIRL, ZOMBEAVERS and the upcoming DEATH HOUSE. I could not have asked for a better actress for my first project. She brings so much to any character she plays and she went above and beyond every day on set. I cannot wait for everyone to see how amazing she is in this.
NC: As you know, February is Women in Horror Month, so what does that term mean to you?
MD: When I first heard about Women in Horror Month I saw it as a way to showcase the women of the genre past and present, celebrating those that identify as female and the fact that we can and do make films. We still have so far to go in terms of getting female voices behind the camera, and I think even further in terms of women in color. WiHM has taken on an entirely new and deeper meaning to me, I intend on using it as a platform to showcase those women of color that have earned their place but may not get recognition from the mainstream crowd. I have yet to figure out in what way I intend on making this happen, but I have 11 months to figure it out! You will be the first to know though!
NC: You have a deep love for film, regardless of genre, who are some of your favorite female filmmakers and is there anyone you would like to work with?
MD: One of my favorites of the moment is actually outside the genre, and her name is Ava DuVernay. I think she is doing some incredibly meaningful work right now. Her latest efforts SELMA and the documentary 13TH have been influential to me and totally changed how I want to express myself through art. There are several actresses that have resonated with me that I would jump at the chance to work with ; Angela Trimbur, Jessica Lucas, Jordan Ladd, Naomie Harris, Hannah Marks, Sanaa Lathon, Heather Matarazzo and Rosario Dawson, just to name a few.
NC: What are some of the challenges you have faced as a director and how have you been able to overcome those?
MD: I can't go into specifics about a lot of the challenges I faced, but I can say that a lot of stress can be avoided if everyone signs a contract. By not having anyone sign a contract it opened up to an overwhelming amount of unnecessary issues. Be concise, and make sure everyone signs one! Everyone. No questions asked. Seriously, I'd even make Brian DePalma sign one at this point. Also, I don't think you can actually overcome the challenges, you more so have to fight through them with your chin held high. After that it becomes a learned lesson, and you don't make the same mistake twice. Filmmaking as a whole is one big learning experience.
NC: What advice would you give women who want to break into the horror genre?
MD: My advice is don't waste time. There is a clear hierarchy within the film industry. We hear a lot of stories of first time directors getting handed a big film to direct, and it's rarely if ever been a woman. So you cannot waste any time dreaming about your big shot, you have to go out and make things happen for yourself. I think the reason you are seeing more women directing in film is because a lot of women realized this and are doing just that. Learn your craft any way you can, get on sets, self-teach, take classes, learn as much as possible and just do it yourself outside of the industry. Also, it's going to feel real discouraging at times, but harness that pain and anger into your stories and you're going to have a never ending flow of material.
NC: Last but certainly not least, what can fans of yours expect from you in the future?
MD: I have been working on a feature length script and several scripts for short films, but what project happens next is up in the air. As far as HOOKER ASSASSIN, I hope to have it finished soon and maybe submit it to a few film festivals. One of the hardest lessons I have had to learn as a filmmaker is that things will not always go as planned, so it's best to keep an open mind and go with the flow.
For more information on Misty Dawn and to follow updates on HOOKER ASSASSIN, follow her on social media on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HookerAssassinFilm/