With Women in Horror month still in full swing, it made perfect sense to check in and grab a chat with another of the up-and-coming talents on the British horror scene, Kate Shenton.

Having just returned from flogging her debut feature film Egomaniac to impressed audiences in Berlin, Shenton is looking to build on a clutch of well-received (and pretty out-there) short films, as well as her recent eye-opening documentary On Tender Hooks.

And with her earlier work having gone down a storm at Movie Ramblings towers, we were delighted Kate agreed to field our questions:

Q. What was your inspiration behind entering the world of filmmaking? Any films or directors you consider influences?

Different directors inspired me in different stages of my life. My original reason for going into film was down to my teenage obsession with Tim Burton. Though I am fully aware he is not the greatest filmmaker, many of his films still take a very personal place in my heart.

My favourite classic horror film is Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which I first watched when I was 14. My favourite modern horror is Martyrs. Both of them are very inspiring to me, and recently I felt very inspired by ‘The Voices.’ I think comedy and horror is such a perfect marriage as they are both very similar to each other. However, often horror comedies don’t get the balance between the lightness and darkness right and to be honest I’m yet to find zombified animals funny! For me ‘The Voices’ was a perfect example of a very dark story told with a sprinkle of sinister humour. This is something that I want to achieve with my own work.

Q. It’s fair to say the work you have produced thus far is a mix of horror and pretty twisted comedy – where do you get your ideas?

I’ve been asked this a number of times and I can honestly say I have no idea. They do quite literally just pop into my head. What usually happens is that I will observe something very mundane and then a whole flash of ideas happen at once. Then very quickly I’ve a fully formed story in my head and I have to tell it. With Gimp I was lying in bed one morning and noticed that I always seem to have my alarm on snooze for a least an hour, quite often two, before I wake up. It was then that I thought what if a Gimp was chained to a radiator with the alarm on repeated snooze at the other side of the room. This tends to be how my imagination works.

Q. You obviously dabbled in the world of documentaries with On Tender Hooks – what influenced that decision?

I ended up making On Tender Hooks because of my friend Damien Lloyd-Davies. He told me that he was planning on doing the suspension and when I first saw the images I was completely shocked. I didn’t know what to say or think. But then I became utterly fascinated by it and that’s what led me onto filming On Tender Hooks. In order for me to film a documentary I need to be completely obsessed and consumed by the subject matter, which is something I felt with suspension. I couldn’t stop thinking about it which meant that I had to go out and film it. I hope to make a documentary again at some point in my life but once again I would have to find a subject matter which would fascinate me to the point where it took over my life. I’m open to film in all kinds of genre and styles. I would also really love to do something in virtual reality one day. I don’t think it’s good to stick to just one style. I want to explore as much as possible with my filmmaking.

Q. Your work is pretty full-on when it comes to imagery – is there anywhere you would draw the line?

I used to believe there was no line, but I’ve actually changed a lot over the past few years and my reasons for making films are quite different to when I started. Now I feel that I wouldn’t draw a line at anything as long as there is a good and strong reason for something being there. For me the best horror is the one that has a point. Horror has the potential to be one of the most intelligent, challenging and clever genres but only if you break the rules and avoid generic stereotypes. The film that got me into horror films was 28 Days Later. This is because it made me realise that horror was more than just blood, guts and screaming. It actually had the potential to express a very powerful, and very scary, message.

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Q. A lot of your work – Bon Appetit, Gimp and Send in the Clowns – plays heavily on facial expressions (and masks) rather than dialogue – is that a conscious decision?

I think in shorts it is natural to resort to using limited dialogue because you have such limited time. My feature film Egomaniac is actually a very dialogue-driven film. I would say that 90% of the film is dialogue heavy and when it comes to writing dialogue is my passion. However my passion for dialogue has been something of a transition. When I started out in film I was actually scared of writing dialogue. I remember being at film school and being told to avoid dialogue at all cost because there is such a risk of writing it badly. However once I actually began writing dialogue I realised I completely love it. I’m fascinated by the way that people work and the main thing that people do is talk. We also never get to the point of anything. Dialogue often dances around the edge of the topic instead of getting to the point. This is why you can have so much fun writing it.

Q. You are now entering the world of full-blown feature making with Egomaniac, which you bill as somewhat autobiographical – care to explain?

Egomaniac is a semi-autobiography with an alter ego character of myself called Catherine Sweeney. It is not a proper autobiography because it is fictionalised but the script is very heavily drawn from my personal experience being in the film industry. None of the characters or scenes are based on anyone or any particular event but they are based on situations and groups of people that I’ve experienced in the industry or have heard other people have experienced. It is a deeply personal film because in order to do a satire of the film industry I also felt I had to do a satire of myself and my motivation for being a filmmaker. I’m never going to tell people what is true and what is not. All I’m going to say is the more surreal it gets the closer to the bone it is.

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Q. Just how difficult is it trying to operate as a female horror director, getting your own projects off the ground, in the current climate?

For anyone it is virtually impossible to get films made. Film is not in a good way at the moment. Illegal downloading is practically destroying the industry and because investors are not getting their money back from films they are getting less and less willing to invest in small indie projects. In many ways this is the worst time to be an emerging filmmaker. However I do think this is a good time to be a woman in horror. I think women in horror are bringing a new voice to the genre which is breaking away from the stereotype, and exciting audiences. Film is still very much a male-dominated industry and I do think women have to work doubly hard to be taken seriously. I remember, five years ago, doing an interview and the interviewer was shocked that there was blood in my work. According to the interviewer this was not what women stereotypically directed. Luckily this stereotype, and other stereotypes, are getting well and truly smashed by the incredible women that are making horror at the moment. Personally for me I think this is an exciting time to be a woman in horror.

 

Q. Anything already lined up down the road?

The next feature film I want to make is Bloody Burrito. It’s a lesbian, cannibal love story comedy set in a Mexican restaurant. I spent four years as a waitress whilst I was building up my film career and the script is very much based on those experiences. It has been a labour of love for a while now and I’m hoping to get the film off the ground soon.

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.