Women In Horror: Interview with SHANNON LARK – ACTRESS, WRITER, DIRECTOR, SPOOKSMODEL, Co-founder of Viscera and former CEO of The Chainsaw Mafia by Alan Kelly

February 17th, 2011

Welcome back to the 9th Circle of Horror Reanimated; right in time for Women in Horror Recognition Month and an in-depth chat with Shannon Lark.
(BTW Adam Wolf has paid for his crimes – abducting me and claiming the Soska Sisters interview as his own! I still can’t get the smell of sulphur out of my hair! Adam’s punishment involved a shiny new cage and a few hours on the wrong end of my pliers…)

The following interview was conducted via Ouiji Board from HRHQ – because we haven’t paid the telephone bill.

Flame haired, chainsaw-wielding, bold, brutal and bloody beauty queen Shannon Lark is a woman who epitomises the unique diversity of the horror genre and all of its surrounding culture: someone we can root for as a new force in the darker creative arts.

As co-director of the Viscera Film Festival and former CEO of The Chainsaw Mafia she is a force to be reckoned with, exploring every facet of the horror genre as a writer, director, producer, actress, and film festival director. Shannon is a woman who understands the alchemy of horror and the transformative power of the macabre. She has worked in a variety of different disciplines from a splatter theatre provocateur with The Living Dead Girlz to producing The Elm Street Murders AND playing Nancy Thompson as well as holding the crown for the First Fangoria Entertainment Spooksmodel!

Alan Kelly: Hello Shannon, welcome to Horror Reanimated, hope your trip down here wasn’t too terrifying…

Shannon Lark: Not at all. I’m used to strange company. :)

AK: Now first I want to ask about The Viscera Film Festival which was created in 2007 to promote, distribute and honour female horror filmmakers. When the festival first began it specialized in showcasing short films. Now, with the aid of sponsors and viral marketing, lots of awareness has been raised and in 2010 you teamed up with superbitchextraordinare and cult journalist/filmmaker Heidi Martinuzzi (Wretched) and suddenly Viscera has screenings all over the world! Could you give me the skinny on what’s in store for us gore aficionados in 2011?

SL: Viscera has come a long way from conceptualization to a full blown Festival. We have become a 501(c)3 non profit with an awesome staff (Annette Slomka, Jamie Jenkins, Stacy Hammon, Shersy Benson, Heidi Martinuzzi, and myself) who work hard all year to get these films created, seen, promoted, distributed, and to throw our annual event in Los Angeles. So many women are coming out of the wood works and out of the kitchen to make these films, and the quality of the submissions this year is truly blowing us away.

AK: You’re a pioneer for people wanting to make their mark on the horror genre – both in theatre and film – by championing new filmmakers, writers and artists wanting to work in various areas of the film industry being the former CEO of The Chainsaw Mafia (The Chainsaw Mafia is a production company and website which offers services to artists who come together to create. They have an array of services such as resume posting, discounted equipment rental, interviews/reviews of artists and filmmakers, up-to-date news, film festivals, and the Slaughter Shop) before you handed the baton over. Now you pour all your malevolent energy into Viscera, directing, acting and dismembering men in back-alleys with a chainsaw. Can you tell me a bit about why you felt compelled to start a gender-specific festival?

SL: Back in 2007 I made a short film called “Go Ask Alice” with a small group of women. I had an epiphany about the importance of this type of Festival that supports female’s working together, instead of competing. The idea is that there is enough room for everyone in the film industry: men, women, varying races, and talents. Viscera creates a platform where women can support each other in public, which is not what we are taught to do. Our species is conditionally encouraged to compete, but this is not competition, it’s about fulfilling your potential as an artist and a person.

AK: When you are selecting films to screen at the festival are there any particular subgenres you are partial to – vampire, home-invasion, zombie, noir, rape-revenge, werewolf, serial killers, ghost stories, fantastical realism, B movies, Classic et al? Roughly how many films are sent your way and do you find the process of choosing the ones which are right for the festival exhilarating or exhausting?

SL: We receive more films each year, as women all over the world discover the Festival through press outlets (like yourself), advertisements, and word of mouth. We have about 30 submissions so far, all of them directed and/or produced by women, including several feature film trailers.

It has become apparent to myself and many of the Viscera judges that women tend to make different horror than men. The female gender sways more towards psychological, body issues, rape, abstract, childbirth and child loss, and the issues of dealing with how society expects women to be perfect, tucked, plucked, and bent over. The majority of the films contain social and gender commentary from a woman’s perspective and I say it’s about damn time we have more of this dynamic in the horror industry, it will only make the genre better, more diverse, with stories more complex.

We receive quite a few humorous entries, but most of the Viscera films are just plain twisted.

AK: You are one of the women changing the way people experience horror right now; what other changes will you be pushing for within the horror industry and more importantly what areas do you think most need to be addressed and why?

SL: What? Really? I am? That’s one of the best things anyone has ever said to me! If it’s true, it’s not just me, it’s all these women collectively combined. They are the rock stars and I only hope they keep creating.

I would like horror to be more well rounded, not completely overshadowed by typical B-Slasher films. I love slashers, and watching men and women be penetrated with phallic objects is fun, but it has swarmed the genre to the point where many people think that’s what horror is. I would like that to be changed. Yes, let’s keep the slasher sub genre, horror wouldn’t be the same without it, but we should be looking at the varying types of horror that creates an internal, disturbed feeling that permeates your cells. Horror can be more than simply the fear of death, it can be much, much worse than that.

AK: Do you pitch in with all aspects of running the film festival? How difficult is it securing the right venue to screen movies and what kind of budget constraints (if any) do you encounter along the way – is there a place where people can make a donation or contribution to the festival?

SL: Absolutely! I oversee everything regarding the staff (who work really, really hard) so nothing is missed. The venue is one of the most difficult items on the list, as you have to find a perfect fit that creates the feel and respect you wish to give to your audience, Special Guests, Press, and Filmmakers. Our after party is vital for networking, so I had to do a lot of research on venues in the LA area to provide for everyone’s needs. Budget constraints are always there, however we hope to grow into an organization that can actually pay their staff, and expand our marketing to reach more women all over the world.

We have just launched our Donation Campaign, which is integrated with Women in Horror Month! You may go to our IndieGoGo page to contribute. As for independent artists, we are taking product sponsorships, wherein we promote you, as an artist, in return for artwork for our goodie bags.

AK: Can you tell me a bit about soliciting the right films and is there anybody you would like to see contributing to Viscera?

SL: Heidi is in charge of wrangling not only the Special Guests, but also contacting female filmmakers whose work we discover online. She reaches out to them for a screener, then it goes in front of the judging board.

I would love to see a directorial debut from Debbie Rochon and also from Juliette Lewis.

AK: As a director can you tell me about any forthcoming projects you will be working on?

SL: I am currently working on my first feature film, about a girl who grows up in a funeral home who can talk to the dead. It’s definitely the best thing I’ve ever written. I truly hope to shoot the film this year.

AK:Can you give me a list of filmmakers/artists/writers you admire, who you would most like to work with?

SL: Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Lynch, and Mary Harron. However, I am open to working with anyone who is professional, respectful, and creative, no matter the budget.

AK: Do you have any plans on expansion with Viscera? Will there be a Viscera films somewhere down the line?

SL: I would love to get the Viscera Film Compilations picked up by a distributor who can repackage the DVD and get it onto the shelves (or netflix). It’s important for these films to get out there, especially to a more mass market.

AK: I understand Viscera is a festival created by women for women but I’m curious, if you were sent an exceptional film directed by a man which covered terrain and themes which really interested you, would you consider screening it?

SL: I’ve seen plenty of exceptional films by men but Viscera specifically involves women to be in leadership positions on the film set.  However, I would promote the film and do whatever I could to help the filmmaker advance his work.

AK: Well this leads us to the end of our journey, thanks for talking to HR and be careful how you go….

SL: Thank you for having me! And remember, if a woman can go through the terror of pushing out a baby, she can make a horror film!

Entry Filed under: Interviews

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. blingking  |  May 25th, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Shannon is a woman who understands the alchemy of horror and the transformative power of the macabre When the festival first began it specialized in showcasing short filmsIt has become apparent to myself and many of the Viscera judges that women tend to make different horror than men They are the rock stars and I only hope they keep creating Shannon is a woman who understands the alchemy of horror and the transformative power of the macabre. When the festival first began it specialized in showcasing short films.It has become apparent to myself and many of the Viscera judges that women tend to make different horror than men. They are the rock stars and I only hope they keep creating. I would like that to be changed.I would love to see a directorial debut from Debbie Rochon and also from Juliette Lewis. I truly hope to shoot the film this year. I would like that to be changedI would love to see a directorial debut from Debbie Rochon and also from Juliette Lewis I truly hope to shoot the film this year

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