Last weekend, Sean and I drove up to Brattleboro, VT (well, he drove and I “navigated”) for the third annual Ax Wound Film Festival aka pretty much The Happiest Place On Earth if you are me. This year the fest expanded from one to two days of films and presentations centered around women in horror, with 48 scary short films screened, all made by women.
4MileCircus short Mare screened on Saturday. Later that day, Sean and I recorded a live episode of our podcast featuring a panel of three filmmakers whose work had also been shown: Lindsay Serrano (Beneath, Mass Grave Pictures), Monika Estrella Negra (Flesh, Audre’s Revenge Film) and unofficial third co-host of the 4MC podcast, Christina Raia (Night In and Enough, Congested Cat Productions). We had a lively discussion about how we as filmmakers use “ancillary content” (bts, blogging, zines, podcasts, assorted art, and anything else that’s not your main movie) to expand stories, engage audiences, and promote our filmic work. That episode will drop on Monday, so be sure to check it out . I so respect, admire, and enjoy the work of all three panelists, and was honored that they agreed to be part of the show. It was super fun to record in front of a live audience and bring them into the discussion, and I hope we get to do so again.
The other discussions and presentations rocked, too. Christina gave a condensed version of her Seed&Spark crowdfunding class, which managed to get me hyped up about the possibility of funding my first feature that way. Usually when I think of running another crowdfunding campaign I want to crawl under the covers, at the bottom of a very deep hole, with a very large bolder on top blocking me from all sources of light and humanity, so good job, Christina! Cassandra Sechler of Dreams for Dead Cats Productions wasn’t able to make it in person, but sent a clear, un-intimidating, and highly informative video presentation (and step-by-step instructional handout!) on how to make fake intestines using a method that was new to me and I’m super psyched to try. And finally, Rue Morgue‘s Alison Lang gave an awesome talk about horror in the Trumpian era that included a satisfyingly unhurried section on Andrzej Żuławski ‘s Possession (please see it if you haven’t) as well as Starry Eyes (a film I found way harder to watch than anticipated, yet now want to subject myself to again) among the choices I was happily surprised to see included in Lang’s discussion of horror flicks particularly relevant to our current moment.
And then there were the films. So many films! Most of which I actually watched, all of which I was glad to have seen. One of the things I love about Ax Wound is the creativity, breadth and diversity of the shorts screened, and this year was no different. Even with nearly 50 selections, each made a distinct impression and they did not begin to run together into a blur of blood, retro synth scores, and dark rooms, as sometimes happens at genre fests. In addition to the awesome shorts already mentioned, I especially enjoyed some of the nonfiction/documentary selections like Kyra Gardner’s loving and lovely The Dollhouse, which explored her relationship to the Child’s Play franchise as the daughter of makeup artist and Chucky puppeteer Tony Gardner, and Nothing A Little Soap and Water Can’t Fix, Jennifer Proctor’s sharp and refreshing deconstruction of filmic tropes regarding women in bathtubs, comprised entirely of appropriated footage from many familiar flicks.
There were also awesome fictional shorts aplenty, like the delightful Inside the House by Jennifer Bonior and Dycee Wildman, which flipped even my own expectations on their head to my great delight, the gory and hilarious Blood Sisters by Caitlin Koller and Lachlan Smith, the excitingly experimental Brown Wreck Loose by Tristian Montgomery, the devastating Cowboys & Indians by Emilia Ruiz, the genuinely disturbing-yet-gorgeous Childer by Aislinn Clarke, the beautifully shot and perfectly executed gem Bride of Frankie by Devi Snively, the delightful and humorous spin on vampire mythology From Hell She Rises by Ama Lea, and so many more.
Horror Happens Radio host Jay Kay lead Q&As with all filmmakers in attendance (including yours truly). While film festivals can often feel off-putting and alienating, with (almost exclusively white, cisgender, male) trust funders drearily prattling on through the Q&As about which extremely expensive camera they shot on, their horribly predictable “influences”, and, perhaps most offensively, how they “don’t really see [themselves] as a horror director”, Ax Wound filmmakers tend to revel in the bloody, oft-DIY, and unavoidably political nature of our work. Founder Hannah Neurotica along with Ashlee Blackwell (Graveyard Shift Sisters) continue to fosters a truly welcoming environment for which I am truly grateful.
Some of the most uniquely lovely moments of the fest came from sources outside of the programming: I was surprisingly able to complete some holiday shopping thanks to the fantastic (and vegan!!!) lotions and potions of Ghoulish Delights. I had a blast meeting people (something I don’t always enjoy, if we’re being honest) and hanging out with fellow fest-goers between events and at the end of the day. Sean won us another year of Shudder in the always-awesome raffle and, more hilariously-embarrassingly, a DVD of the amazingly-titled Space Boobs in Space. And, perhaps most importantly, Ashlee and I got to debrief in person about the current seasons of Mr. Robot and American Horror Story, an event I’d been waiting for for far too long.
So basically, I had a blast, and you can bet some good money on 4MC going back next year. We’re already making plans for new forms of gleeful havoc to build on the awe-inspiring foundation Hannah has laid down. I couldn’t wish to be part of a worthier feat.