Chelsea Stardust is a rising talent within the world of filmmaking and has an undying passion for the horror genre. Having met her numerous times, I have always been blown away by her incredible optimism and dedication to the craft of directing, whether that be short films, feature films, or musical theater (which, if you aren’t familiar with Slashed: The Musical it’s time to remedy that).
To celebrate Women In Horror Month, I had the esteemed pleasure of interviewing Chelsea. During our chat, we discussed everything from her two upcoming features, SATANIC PANIC and ALL THAT WE DESTROY, as well as her experience working with Blumhouse and Fangoria, and the women that inspire her.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi, Chelsea! Thank you so much for being part of our Women In Horror series! To start things off, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and where your love for the horror genre came from?
Chelsea Stardust: Of course! I hail from the Midwest, the daughter of two artists, so art runs through my veins. I’ve been a horror film fan since about the age of 10 when my dad showed me George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Tod Browning’s Dracula. From then on I wanted to direct. During high school, I attended night classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art, where I assisted filmmaker Robert Banks Jr. in shooting Super 8 experimental horror. Robert also introduced me to films like Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Larry Cohen’s God Told Me To and Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes. Obviously, my mind was blown and I was hooked. After graduating from film school, I made the move to Los Angeles. I started out in the comedy genre, working for Ivan Reitman and then for Judd Apatow, but my heart was always in horror. I had a chance to interview to be Jason Blum’s executive assistant and I got the job. Blumhouse was my home for four years and it was an incredible experience! I was able to plant my roots in horror and, with Jason’s blessing, I left Blumhouse to pursue directing full time.
Nightmarish Conjurings: 2018 was quite a busy year for you, especially in regards to your upcoming film SATANIC PANIC. Can you tell us about the film and what interested you in wanting to direct it?
CS: Honestly the biggest draw to the project was Grady Hendrix. I’m a huge fan of his books and when I saw his name on the script I knew I had to be a part of it. Another huge draw was the FANGORIA team. I’m so honored to be a part of their legacy. I also loved tackling a horror comedy. I can’t give too many details about the film, since we’re still in post-production, but I can say it’s about a pizza delivery girl at the end of her financial rope who has to fight for her life, and her tips, when her last order of the night turns out to be for high society Satanists in need of a virgin sacrifice. It’s a wild ride with an incredible cast and I can’t wait to share with the world!
Nightmarish Conjurings: It’s also been recently announced that you directed a segment for Blumhouse/Hulu’s “Into the Dark” series titled, ALL THAT WE DESTROY. What was it like returning to your Blumhouse roots for this?
CS: It was amazing! ALL THAT WE DESTROY is such a special film for me, especially since it was my first feature. Blumhouse was so supportive and helpful with the whole process. It’s so hard for assistants to transition out of that role and break into directing and to be thought of as directors and not assistants. Especially to their past bosses. Somehow I was able to make the transition fairly seamlessly, thanks to Jason, Ryan, and the rest of the Blumhouse team. They were really rooting for me and they all believed in me, which was wonderful.
Nightmarish Conjurings: When it comes to directing, are there women within the genre that you look up to for inspiration?
CS: There are so many incredible women working in the industry. Kathryn Bigelow is maybe my biggest inspiration. I’m also in awe of Mary Herron, Karyn Kusama, Coralie Fargeat, Julia Ducournau, Leigh Janiak, Emily Hagins, Jen & Sylvia Soska, Mary Lambert, Ana Lily Amipour, Natasha Kermani, Brea Grant, Axelle Carolyn, Jenn Wexler, Roxanne Benjamin…the list goes on and on for me! Also, there are women doing fantastic short films that haven’t really had the opportunity to direct a feature yet. Some standouts are Vivienne Vaughn, Jill Gevargizian and Ama Lea. I’m honored to be in the same company as all of these incredible women.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What are some of the struggles you have faced in the industry and what advice would you give women who are interested in getting more involved in the horror genre?
CS: I think one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is having to adapt your vision due to budget or time restrictions. You go into a movie with certain expectations, and those expectations aren’t always met, and you have to know what to really fight for, and what to let go of or change. Sometimes the outcome is better than the original idea and sometimes it’s not and you have to accept that and keep moving forward. Also, no matter how difficult things get (rejection, movies falling apart, etc) try the best you can to maintain a positive attitude and keep pressing forward. It’s SO hard to do this, but I have found it to be a must in order to keep my general sanity. I want to direct with every cell in my body and cannot imagine myself doing anything else. I want this more than anything and I will keep fighting for it. When shit gets tough I remember this and it helps me power through!
To learn more about Chelsea Stardust and to keep up-to-date with her projects, make sure to follow her on Instagram at @chelseastardust and Twitter at @StardustChelsea.