To celebrate Women In Horror Month, it was a pleasure to interview horror director Caitlin Koller. Her most recent project 30 Miles From Nowhere was directed, written and produced by women, and had a 50/50 gender split, making it the perfect film to celebrate this month!
We spoke to Caitlin about how she became interested in the genre, her top five horror films, and her experiences working as a director.
Happy Women In Horror Month! When did you first become interested in the horror genre?
I first became interested in horror when I was quite young. I was a very easily scared child with a vivid imagination so that meant I would get nightmares from all types of scary movies, television shows or novels, even things aimed at children. When I’d walk the aisles of my local video store, I tried to stay clear of the horror section because just looking at the covers was enough to make me tremble. To combat this, in my teen years I decided to try to desensitise myself by watching as many horror films as I could stomach in a very short amount of time, and it worked. I watched classics like The Ring, Scream, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Candyman. I found that I adored horror because it had a consistently higher level of female protagonists than most other genres and gives them character arcs beyond finding their soulmates. They were characters who I could empathise with and be inspired by as they fought, stood up for themselves, overcame violent obstacles and discovered confidence in themselves.
What do you personally find scares you most when watching a horror film?
When watching horror films, the things that scare me most are the feeling of a slow creeping dread, things related to the uncanny valley and psychological horror films. However, I can’t go past a great jump scare, James Wan being one of my favourite directors who can get me every time.
How was working on 30 Miles From Nowhere? What was it like on set?
Working on 30 Miles From Nowhere was literally a dream come true. The cast and crew were warm, friendly, open and hardworking. The producers Seana Kofoed and Kelly Demaret were totally supportive and dedicated to getting the best result. On set there was a really collaborative atmosphere as a result of everyone’s positive attitudes and efforts.
One of the things I really love about 30 Miles From Nowhere is how you kept the cast balanced in terms of gender. How did you ensure there was a fair split?
Seana Kofoed wrote a great script that reflected reality with a 50-50 female and male split, which was originally one of the reasons I was drawn to the project. Seana and Kelly made sure that their crew hiring practices also reflected this split, as representation in the film industry, in front of and behind the camera, it is a very important issue to them, and to me. In fact 30 Miles received an official ReFrame stamp in recognition of our commitment to gender equality.
Have you experienced any discrimination as a female director?
As I’m just starting out in the film industry I haven’t yet experienced much discrimination face to face. But it can be frustrating when people who don’t know me assume that I’m exaggerating my professional capabilities for whatever reason, or that I couldn’t possibly have directed a feature film as a young woman. Thankfully however there are many talented filmmakers who are working right now and are becoming more visible in the genre space and are producing radical and original content, so hopefully it gets easier for the next wave of female identifying filmmakers to see themselves behind the camera, and to be accepted without question by the film industry, media and public.
What advice would you give to other women wanting to work in the industry?
I would say write and direct projects that you’re passionate about, and don’t let others or trends dictate what kind of film you make. Find and surround yourself with people equally as passionate as you and work with them. Use whatever funds you have to go and make short films, get them seen and then find your community. I’m lucky to have met so many supportive and inspiring female filmmakers on the festival circuit, especially at female-centric horror film festivals like Ax Wound Film Festival, Stranger With My Face Film Festival, Berlin Final Girls Film Festival and Sick Chick Flicks Film Festival. Finally, give hardworking people from all backgrounds and ages an opportunity to prove themselves beyond their current level of experience, use whatever privilege you have to be the change you want to see in the film industry and the world.
Which women in horror do you admire? Has anyone really inspired you?
There are so many, but a short list of them would be: Jen and Sylvia Soska, Anna Biller, Jennifer Kent, Mattie Do, Alice Lowe, Julia Ducornau, Elizabeth Schuch and Mary Harron. There’s a couple of ladies I’m particularly inspired by and they are Hannah Neurotica and Briony Kidd. Not only are they both filmmakers but they also run their own film festivals, Ax Wound Film Festival and Stranger With My Face Film Festival respectively. They also both do a lot of work promoting, supporting and encouraging female identifying filmmakers. Hannah and Briony are badass ladies who deserve significantly more recognition for the important work that they do.
If you could work with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
I would love to work with Jason Blum. Blumhouse consistently puts out a large amount of original, high quality genre films and gives emerging filmmakers the opportunities and tools to prove themselves in the genre sector. Working with such an influential producer, who has an eye for good content and the means to produce such inspiring films as Get Out and Upgrade, would be an incredible experience.
What are your top five horror films?
I have many favourite horror films in particular genres, so to celebrate Women in Horror month, I’ll pick my top five women directed horror films which are; American Mary, American Psycho, Raw, The Love Witch and Prevenge.
Are there any horror trends you’d like to see more of?
There aren’t any particular horror trends that I’d like to see more of. I prefer a variety of horror, as my mood helps decide what I feel like watching. However, I love a good slasher or horror-comedy, so I’m always partial to more films of that ilk being made.