Women in Horror Month Interview: Director/Writer Izzy Lee

As a part of Women in Horror Month, we had a brief chat with writer, director, and producer Izzy Lee.  Hailing from Boston, Lee's films seek to shake up the status-quo.  She's a strong voice calling for change in the film industry, and we spoke to her about the challenges faced in her work, and the imperative need to bring more talented women into the fold. 

Nightmarish Conjurings:  Hi Izzy!  Thanks so much for speaking with us today.  To start things off, what is it about horror that draws your attention as a filmmaker? 

Izzy Lee:  The world is horror.  We live and breathe it daily.  It's the most honest thing I know. 

NC:  You've stated that many of your films are politically motivated, and are your way of expressing disappointment with rife injustice in the system.  How important is horror as a tool in broadcasting your message to the audience? 

IZ:  Well, I don't use it as a tool to shove ideology down anyone's throat.  It's a form of therapy for me, because there's so much wrong with the world. 

NC:  What do you feel could be done to inspire more female filmmakers to work in the horror genre? 

IZ:  I'm going to talk about filmmaking in general.  If someone wants to work in horror, they'll do it. They system is systematically biased to favor white heterosexual males.  Those are the guys that are in power, and they like media and stories that they can relate to.  This is why you'll see a dude who's never directed anything being given an opportunity to make a feature, or why you'll see Spielberg say of indie filmmaker Colin Trevorrow "he reminds me of myself." And then Trevorrow gets to make the leap from SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED to JURASSIC WORLD and STAR WARS.  A systematic bias is in place to favor these guys, and they get excited about it, and that's great.  But it means that there's very few opportunities for everyone who's not a straight white guy, unfortunately.  There's also blatant discrimination, which is deliberate and rampant. 

What could be done?  The guys - and the few women - in power need to step outside their comfort zones and hire women.  That's as simple as it gets.  Showrunners - look around your writer's room.  Who do you see?  Producers - look at your director rosters - are you only being offered white guys?  Specifically ASK agents to include women on those "to hire" lists.  Give women jobs. 

Izzy Lee at the Etheria Film Night

Izzy Lee at the Etheria Film Night

NC:  You've recently expressed desire to write a feature length version of your short "Innsmouth".  Is that something you're still interested in doing? 

IZ:  Perhaps if we can get it funded.... and after a few other projects I'm trying to get off the ground.  There's been a lot of fan interest in seeing an INNSMOUTH feature get made.  If it were simple, it would be in the can by now. 

NC:  How difficult is it adapting Lovecraft's material and updating it to be more culturally relevant while still treating it with the respect it commands in the history of horror? 

IZ:  I'm not sure INNSMOUTH applies in terms of "respect" as it is a very loose adaptation. For me, it was easy to give the characters a brand-new spin on a classic story, because I have a very different point of view than Lovecraft ever did.  

NC:  You've primarily worked on short films up until this point in your career.  What stands out as the biggest challenge you'll face in transitioning to features? 

IZ:  Getting any producer to trust me that I can make a feature and finding the money to do so. I've had plenty of meetings but no traction.  Looks like I'll have to do it on my own. 

NC:  You recently had a short story titled "Tilberian Holiday" published in the horror anthology "Wicked Witches".  Could you tell us about the story, and is it something you'd like to put on the screen some day? 

IZ:  Thanks!  "Tilberian Holiday" is about a suicidal woman who's just lost her child, has been essentially abandoned by her husband, but get a mysterious letter in the mail from an attorney. She's inherited property on the Strandir Coast of Iceland (the country where this all takes place), and something else quite different.  This supernatural story is something I've visualized pretty well and could be filmed, but I'd need a good budget to do it. 

NC:  Lastly, you're currently working on a short titled, "For a Good Time, Call...".  Can you tell us a little bit about it? 

IZ:  It's about a jerk who uploads a homemade sex tape to the Internet.  He gets his comeuppance in an unusual way, via Tristan Risk.  We actually shot this two years ago, and it was our first time working together.  I'm excited to see it with an audience.  The short was originally supposed to go into an anthology, but I'm not sure it will ever happen, so I pulled it to unleash on festival audiences - sooner than later, I hope!  I've just begun submitting it, so nothing is official yet. 

NC:  Thank you so much for your time and we will make sure to keep an eye out for all your upcoming projects! 

For more information and to follow Izzy's work, make sure visit her website at www.nihilnoctem.com and follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nihilnoctemfilm, Twitter @nihilnoctemfilm and IMDB at http://www.imdb.com/name/nm5642855/?ref_=fn_al_nm_2.  Izzy Lee's short, INNSMOUTH, is also available to stream on Shudder.