[Interview] Rachel Belofsky for Screamfest 2022

[Interview] Rachel Belofsky for Screamfest 2022
Rachel Belofsky at Screamfest 2021
Considered one of the largest and longest-run horror film festivals in the United States, Screamfest was created in August of 2001 by film producers Rachel Belofsky and Ross Martin. Its growth and progression over the past two decades have been nothing short of amazing, and – honestly – it doesn’t feel quite like Halloween until we see the Screamfest press release come into our inbox.

Before Screamfest wrapped for the season, Nightmarish Conjurings’ Sarah Musnicky chatted with founder and festival director, Rachel Belofsky. Throughout the course of their conversation, they chatted about Screamfest’s growth over its 20+ years, the progress that still needs to be made behind the scenes in programming, and what the future goals for Screamfest are like.

In a previous interview with us, you said that you had originally created Screamfest to promote the spread and love of horror. From conception to seeing it evolve over the years, what has the process been like in putting it together, but also adjusting it as time has gone by? For a festival that’s been around for over 20 years, things must have been adjusted along the way.

Rachel Belofsky: They have. The very first year that we did [Screamfest], from creation to fruition, it was not even quite eight weeks. So that was crazy. Obviously, as things have gone on, we’ve had more time. We’ve built up a team that helps go through submissions and curate them. The first time, in the beginning, was a weekend. And then the second year, there were four days, and then by the third year, we went to nine days. We’ve been at 10 days now for a decade and a half. So that’s kind of how it’s changed in that capacity.

How has your work as a producer helped you in producing the festival?

Rachel Belofsky: I think just understanding timelines. As a producer, I’m understanding of the blood, sweat, and tears that go into filmmaking and knowing the importance of having your movie screen at the right time, and seen by the right people, and knowing the stress behind that. So I keep that in mind when we’re programming or slotting films in on the schedule.

Let’s say a movie already has distribution, or we know is going to get it. Unless there’s going to be a big DoD or some kind of release party, we might put it towards the end of the festival. And then if we know someone’s looking for distribution, we might put them further up in the festival and it’s in a timeslot that’s more amenable for buyers to come. We try. There are only so many 7:30 slots one can get, right?

But we do our best with that and, of course, we’re working with Hulu, and they’re coming out on the 21st. We certainly want to give fans something to see and be excited to see beforehand too.

Rachel Belofsky l IMDB

I hate to ask this, but what obstacles have you encountered as a woman creating an event like this?

Rachel Belofsky: Oh, I’ll tell you! It’s a boys club. There’s no doubt in programming it’s a boys club. There’ll be films that we will try to go after, and that one male programmer from one place will hook up the male programmer from another place, and then we basically don’t get said film. So that happens a lot. I think the boys club is still very much alive in the horror world, in my opinion. You have to find that. Don’t you find that too?

I do find it. For me, it’s also interesting, because, in my day job, I work in different industries that still operate as a boys club. It’s just with a slightly different twist. Regardless of which industry I’m operating in, it’s weird seeing how nothing has changed, even though so much has changed.

Rachel Belofsky: Right?

Especially, in the case of the film industry, we can see the change in terms of what films we do get to see now compared to when you first started Screamfest.

Rachel Belofsky: That is true. I would say there are more female directors, which is good. I don’t know if they’re still getting the studio gigs. But I’m seeing more female producers and definitely more female directors like Issa Lopez. You have Issa Lopez working with Guillermo del Toro now. But there are definitely more women in this space and it’s exciting. We see it on the shorts as well. It’s probably like 25%, if not more. I think it’s 40 women or something in the 92 shorts [at Screamfest]. Whether there are producers or whether there were directors, there’s more and I’m seeing more of it, and I’m excited for that. I hope that studios would give more women chances at pitching and helming horror films on a bigger level.

This is year 22. But the future of Screamfest is still bright and amazing.

Rachel Belofsky: Our houses have been great. We’ve had multiple sold out. Deer Camp ’86 also sold out. They didn’t really have a chance to go hype that but they sold out. So we had multiple sold out. The shorts blocks sold out. It’s been a really good year for sure. We’re alive and well and still kicking.

In terms of the future, what do you hope to do more of with Screamfest?

Rachel Belofsky: We would want to run in more cities, and we are talking with other programmers and such to do it in other cities, year-round type of stuff. Adding more theaters for Screamfest 2023 is definitely in the realm. We would like to help some of our filmmakers with some stuff as well. We want to help be able to produce some more. We did some shorts this year with a grant that we have. Julianna Robinson was one of the filmmakers that we were able to produce a short called Whaley. So we have a grant to do historical films on historically haunted places in California. Say that three times fast. But we were able to hire and pay screenwriters, and alumni directors to do so, and we want to do more of that kind of thing and then give them more projects to work on and be able to share their talents. And growing the YouTube channel. We have about 100-120 of our past short films on our YouTube channel.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m pretty hyped for what’s to come for Screamfest in 2023. To learn more about Screamfest, venture over to the website here.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Sarah Musnicky
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