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2016 Ax Wound Film Festival

Earlier this month, Sean and I (this is Nicole writing. Hi.) drove up to Brattleboro VT to take part in the second annual Ax Wound Film Festival, which screens horror shorts (and this year, one feature) directed by women. 4MileCircus was an official sponsor, and we offered a social media and crowdfunding workshop at the fest. Filmmaker Christina Raia, whose short film Hello screened as part of the fest, rode up with us, as did Small Talk composer Shawn Setaro.

The 4MileCircus road trip crew
The 4MileCircus road trip crew. Our eyes don’t all usually look this dead/possessed. Special creepiness 4 the fest.

I was planning to write a fun, photo-filled recap of our trip last week…and then the election happened. It has been hard to focus on anything not directly related to dealing with the catastrophic fall out of the United States kind-of electing an unquestionably unqualified fascist, who ran on a platform of fear-mongering and hatred, to what is arguably the most powerful office in the world. The impact on our family, friends and communities has been harsh and frightening, and he has barely even been the president-elect for a week.

Back on November 5th, most of us didn’t think the election was going to go this way, and we got to all bliss out on our beautiful horror community.

Let me tell you a little about what Ax Wound means to me. I went last year, which was the also the first year. My film Small Talk screened. Small Talk has screened at a number of festivals, and this was one of the absolute best festival experiences I’ve had. Founder Hanna Neurotica does a wonderful job fostering community and making filmmakers feel welcome–sadly that is not always the situation at film festivals! I found the program to be much better than your average horror fest–while I liked some films much better than others, I was never bored. There were no films that felt like a waste of time, labor and gigabytes. Everything had something going for it, and I left so creatively inspired that I quickly found myself writing a ten minute sequel to Small Talk* after a long bout of writer’s block.

Nicole with Ax Wound Organizer Hannah
Nicole with Ax Wound Organizer Hannah

The people at Ax Wound were also a joy to hang out with for the day. In general, there was so much talent and so little shitty attitude in the theater that it was a bit astounding. Horror Happens host Jay Kay ran an excellent panel with all the filmmakers present that was far better than such crowd-everyone-onstage Q&As generally are. Graveyardshift Sisters founder Ashlee Blackwell led a discussion with My Final Girl director Kristina Leath-Malin about black women in 1970s horror blaxploitation films that was fantastic. I met so many filmmakers and other members of the horror community with whom I am still in touch. I have genuinely never felt as at home at a festival as I did at Ax Wound. There, I have this incredibly rare and wonderful feeling that I am among my people.

Nicole with Ashley
Nicole with Ashlee of Graveyard Sisters

This year was no exception. I saw friendly faces again and met so many more. Sean and I enjoyed our workshop, especially the lively discussion and questions from the audience. Jay Kay yet again managed to ask specific, thoughtful questions of all the many filmmakers in attendance who piled on the stage. Filmmaker Heidi Moore screened a feature at the end of the night, the delightfully demented Dolly Deadly, and Hannah conducted a great interview with her afterwards about the ins and outs of making the film (Sean and I also talked to her about it afterwards for the latest episode of The 4MileCircus Podcast, you can hear our interview right here).

Nicole and Sean Teaching the Workshop
Nicole and Sean Teaching the Workshop
Sean with Heidi Moore Director of Dolly Deadly
Sean with Heidi Moore Director of Dolly Deadly recording for our podcast.

In between all that were the shorts. I unfortunately did not get to see them all (someone had to stay with the 4MC sponsor table, and that someone was occasionally me), but there was some great stuff there–from Rebecca Fieschi’s beautifully shot B&W throwback Mauvaises Tetes to Jahnavi Misra and Apoorva Mundoor’s stop motion animation story of The Sweetmeat Boy to Porcelain Dalya’s funny and relatable Calling In Demons. I was especially sad that I missed Andrea Wolanin’s Cleaning House as her short Penta was a highlight of 2015’s program, and Izzy Lee’s Innsmouth, about which I had heard great things. I also really dug the VHS ode Nasty, psychedelic Black Saturnus, the psychologically-oriented Paralysis, and so so many more. I urge you to check out all these filmmakers and their work.

Jay Kay Interviewing the Filmmakers
Jay Kay Interviewing the Filmmakers

I also recommend you to check out Ax Wound in 2017, if you can. I’m already planning my return, and 4MC is plotting some enhanced tomfoolery, now that we’ve successfully staged a more straight-and-narrow workshop 😉

Looking forward to seeing some of you there in a year, hopefully by then the US will have gotten its shit together and rejected this fascist regime, one way or another.

*which, funnily enough, ended with Al being unable to control her reaction to a then-candidate Trump on television and accidentally-kind-of explodes him. Yeah. No, I’m not planning to actually shoot this any time soon.

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