This month kicked off with some ‘women in horror’ panel action as I was invited to be part of a discussion at the Liverpool Horror Film Festival for the ‘Horror Is No Place For A Lady’ event. The event itself was run by The Liverpool Horror Club, where founding members Chris Farrie and Ilan Sheady (Uncle Frank Productions) run monthly events for horror fans.
The panel was hosted by The Horror Club’s International Liaison Mariam Draeger, founder of Head Cinema Productions in Frankfurt, Germany; a very innovative company specialising in horror/sci-fi events, from live installations, stage shows, film, photography and graphic design.
Mariam is also making a documentary about Women in Horror which delves into the reasons why the female role is very different in the genre compared to others. Arranging the panel was very much close to her heart.
When Mariam first approached me, we spent almost two hours on the phone discussing my work, life, loves and hates. Then she explained how the panel would run. Which, in hindsight, I can see that Mariam was in fact preparing me mentally, because she could see that I had things to say that I perhaps hadn’t had the experience or chance to say before. And, I was quite nervous to have a discussion about my experiences within the film, TV and indie-horror industry. Post the event, I was able to ask Mariam about how she organised the questions to get the best out of us panellists.
“The key in preparing my questions was understanding that it’s impossible for me to be able to answer any in their entirety. I spent weeks before the event talking to people who wanted to attend the event (whether they could or not) on what they wanted to hear.”
“It was also important to me to look at it as an open conversation that could actually lead to change and not a PR stunt or following a trend. We weren’t going to find a solution to all our problems, but equipping people with the insight to have more rounded judgement and make better decisions, that’s something to aspire to with these kinds of events,” explained Mariam.
There were a varied group of women on the stage too, besides from myself. Rebecca Howard Marketing Executive of Arrow Films, Amanda Follit, founder of digital agency T_ink Live and Michaela Longden, actress of Book of Monsters amongst other titles.
Throughout the discussion, there were specific questions answered by Barbie Wilde and Joanne Mitchell Clair via pre-recordings which created nice informative transitions within the talk from women who have been in the horror industry for decades.
I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t clam up and was provided a safe space in which to talk about my own thoughts on women in horror which for me has another dynamic being a woman of colour in an industry that is already rather niche. Because Mariam had questions surrounding actually working in the film/industry, this alone had its own course of challenges. For one, being a woman of colour and considered in industry terms as a BAME, the statistics in the UK for this particular group aren’t exactly encouraging. It’s an ongoing issue where women are constantly at a struggle with their male counterpart. But if you add the a BAME woman into the mix, she will always be competing with both female and male counterparts.
Horror Is No Place For A Lady panel enabled me to explore these issues in depth through Mariam’s questions which not only made me realise my journey so far, but to also have the chance to express these challenges which aren’t unique to me.
In fact, I am supported greatly by The Graveyard Shift Sisters, an organisation based in USA, one of the founders, Ashlee Blackwell has just released a documentary on Shudder called Horror Noire – my review is to follow soon.
But it’s organisations like this who are really spreading the word and aren’t scared to publicise and celebrate the talents of women of colour in horror.
For a long while I’ve been in denial, not wanting to talk about this, pushing the struggle under the carpet and getting on with life. It’s only recently I realised that it’s a fact that people of colour in the film industry have to work much harder than our counterparts to get further, but I am not complaining. I suppose the fear of not talking about this also came from the fact that I didn’t want to feel like I was, since complaining is not part of my vocabulary generally speaking. And this is only the second panel I’ve ever been invited to speak about such matters.
During the panel, it was also interesting to hear fellow panellist’s talk about what they feel needs to be done. A joint theme was that we really need to be nicer to each other. I can vouch for a few times I’ve felt the sharp edge of this thing we call ‘bitchiness’.
Amanda Follit also made a valid point that women should invest in each other too. She stated that men in business tend to support other men which is why there are a lot of successful men. It’s something I hadn’t thought of.
The audience were very supportive through their listening, and I was happy to have spoken with a few people after the event.
In fact, I realised that there haven’t been many films starring a woman of colour as a lead heroine in a commercial horror movie in the last ten or more years who hasn’t been killed off.
Although this is getting better, with more diverse content especially in terms of television series, that place women of colour as leading ladies or important characters. But in terms of successful black horror movies where notions of blackness and black culture aren’t necessarily the main theme throughout the movie, I’m yet to see a leading woman of colour.
Once the discussion was over, we actually felt a sense of accomplishment, and gratitude to everyone who stayed and were genuinely interested.
“I’m very pleased with the level of compassion and intelligence everyone approached the matter with, both on stage and in front of it. It’s important to be critical and still willing to move forward in a positive direction,’ commented Mariam when we spoke a few days later. Her abilities in getting the best out of people is a talent.
Others who joined the event were Claire Aurélie Latimier who runs a company called LivLate Edibles specialising in cannabidiol products, such a lollipops, gummies and other fun edible products. I was happy to have had a delicious lollipop which has huge health benefits also.
The night was as Arrow’s Rebecca exclaimed ‘magical!’
Thank you to Mariam, Ilan, Chris and the Horror Club/Liverpool Horror Film Festival for giving me the opportunity to appear at such a wonderful event.