An Interview with Independent Filmmakers The Soska Sisters – Women in Horror Month Special
On the last episode of “Horror Thursdays”, as part of our Women in Horror Recognition Month theme, we looked at American Psycho, Directed by Mary Harron. We also put a spotlight on the twin independent filmmakers Jen & Syliva Soska, creators of the films Dead Hooker in a Trunk and American Mary. They are currently finishing up production on See No Evil 2 starring Kane from the WWE. They also have a short film that will be included in The ABCs of Death 2 and another film to be included in XX, an anthology film made up entirely of short films directed, produced, etc by women including Mary Harron. The Soska sisters were able to take some time out of their busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.
1. February is ‘Women In Horror’ Recognition Month. Who are your favorite female film directors?
Sylvia: Mary Harron is the reason why I went into directing, she’s phenomenal. Alice Guy-Blache pioneered early cinema and the industry wouldn’t be what it is today without her contributions. Dorothy Arzner is hugely inspirational as the only female director during Hollywood’s golden age. I’m a big Punisher fan and loved Lexi Alexander’s vision and she’s got real balls, I really admire her. I’m really looking forward to Tammi Sutton’s Isle of Dogs this year! Also, Kathryn Bigelow is brilliant.
Jen: That’s tough. There are so many women that inspire us and our work. Jennifer Chambers Lynch is amazing. I love her body horror. She’s so unique and original. BOXING HELENA is one of our favorite films. I am so honored to be working with her and Mary Harron, Jovanka Vuckovic, and Karyn Kusama on XX. We also had the amazing opportunity to work with a collection of phenomenal female filmmakers for this year’s WiHM Massive Blood Drive. Maude Michaud, Patricia Chica, Isabel Peppard, Jessica Cameron, and WiHM founder herself, Hannah Neurotica.
2. Have you seen an increase in the number of female independent horror filmmakers in recent years?
Sylvia: Not really – there hasn’t been a lack of female directors as much as there has been a lack of attention for female filmmakers. It’s been a problem for years, but it’s getting more and more attention which is shining more light on the talent we have out there.
Jen: There is an increase in indie filmmakers in general right now. Smart filmmakers are seeing that the studio system is not the only way to make your film and it’s a very unlikely way to make your first films. We are in a recession and in addition to that, digital is taking over. It’s never been easier to make a film than right now. Being a female in particular, you hear “no” a lot. Fuck that. Go make your own movie. Make it your way, answer to no one, and show the world exactly what you can do.
3. You did all of your own stunts in Dead Hooker in A Trunk. Are there any female stunt workers that you admire?
Sylvia: Zoe Bell is a real badass, I love her work.
Jen: Sylvia Soska. We did our own shit in our PSA this year, too. It was a lot of fun. I love the good old days when actors used to do everything. I understand how it’s not always possible these days, but I’m pretty organic as a filmmaker. I will say that Melissa Stubbs is a living legend.
4. You’ve said that American Mary was an analogy for the challenges you’ve faced as females in the film industry. What kind of problems have you needed to overcome as women in the industry?
Sylvia: I think it’s not just a this industry problem, it’s a world wide issue where we are still struggling with equality. It’s such a simple concept to treat people with respect and dignity, yet that doesn’t always happen.
Jen: I wish I could say that our experiences were unique to ourselves or even unique to the film industry, but it’s not. Sexism is alive and well everywhere. In our film careers I’ve experienced everything from being drugged to having my ass grabbed while at work by my “boss”. Thankfully I’ve always had Sylv with me, so we’ve been able to maneuver out of some terrible situations. I’ve also been told we only have success in this industry because we’re hot twins and it’s just a gimmick. When someone doesn’t like our work, they personally attack us. It always comes back to the way we look. I’ve been told that wearing make up and dressing nice means that we’re asking to be sexually harassed and raped o it somehow represents us as being less capable or intelligent than our male counterparts. I’ve been paid consistently less than a man. Men I’ve worked with have made up stories about how they fucked one of us or the other. I’ve overheard my crew discussing which one of us is bitchier or that they’d rather fuck. The list just goes on.
5. A number of articles say that when women make horror movies, they feel pressure to make a film with more exploitation elements, like nudity and blood, in order to be as successful as male film makers. How true is that statement?
Sylvia: The whole one of the boys statement with content is ridiculous. Each gender doesn’t have a point of view specifically just for their gender, content is an individual approach to storytelling. Making a good, quality film is how you can be as successful as your peers.
Jen: I don’t feel that statement is true. With AMERICAN MARY we intentionally made a film that wasn’t exploitative. We wanted to show that we don’t need to rely on what people could call “cheap tricks” to tell our story. The most famed exploitation films are made by men. I don’t think either gender feels more or less pressure to be extreme. I would say that a woman’s film usually has to be much stronger than a man’s film to get the same respect and response. People toss around, “it was really good for a woman.” That’s unacceptable to me.
6. What are some misconceptions that you think people make about female horror film makers?
Sylvia: That general statements specific to gender have any truth. It’s ridiculous. I’ve heard people say that women can’t direct and I’m more offended that sexism is seen acceptable whereas other forms of bigotry are considered unacceptable.
Jen: That we hate men. I love and hate men and women equally. And that we want to be part of the boys club. If it was a “boys club” I wouldn’t want any part of it.
7. What advice would you give to other women who aspire to make horror films?
Sylvia: If you can do anything else and be happy, do that. Not just women, that’s for anyone. If this is what you truly want to do, not be famous or just be a filmmaker, but if you really have a story to tell – then do it. Focus yourself entirely, give everything you have, learn as much as you can – always be learning – and then apply yourself.
Jen: Go make your own film. Make it DIY style and do as much as you possibly can in it. Show the world everything you can do. Don’t take no for an answer and don’t wait for someone to come along and make your dreams happen for you. NEVER change who you are, no matter what you come up against.
8. Each year you do a PSA to promote a worldwide blood donation drive. Is blood donation special to you for a particular reason?
Sylvia: We’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years with loved ones in the hospital. That blood donation saves lives and it’s needed. Most people don’t want to do it, so we want it to seem cool.
Jen: It’s because I want to give back. Blood donation in association with horror is a no brainer and it’s actually a very worthy and serious cause that’s somehow become some else’s problem. We’ll all more than likely NEED blood in our lifetimes, but so few of us donate.
9. I know you two are big Stephen King fans, if you had a chance to make a Stephen King book into a movie, what book would it be?
Sylvia: CELL was really cool, but I’d jump at a chance to direct any of his work.
Jen: Oh, that’s tough! I’d like to do THE GIRL WHO LOVED TOM GORDON.
10. What does Women in Horror Recognition Month mean to you?
Sylvia: It’s awareness and celebration of those who have formed the industry into what it is today. I love female artists and I learn about so many different women out there every year during this month, it’s rad.
Jen: Education, celebration, and equality. I am very proud to be a part of it.
You can find out more about Jen & Sylvia Soska here on the tWISTED tWINS Productions web page.
You can also find them here on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/pages/tWIStED-tWINS-PRODUCtIONS/122032761355
and on Twitter here https://twitter.com/twisted_twins