I began my Women In Horror Month interview celebration 28 days ago with the fantastic Heidi Honeycutt’s interview starting us off on the right foot. It’s only common sense that Honeycutt’s counterpart and fellow WiH activist Shannon Lark wrap up the month’s festivities.
Shannon writes, directs, produces, acts and runs her own film festival. The wildly popular and blossoming Viscera Film Festival is her baby and like any proud mother, Shannon has gone to great lengths to promote her creation as well as ensure it is held to the integrity that she as an actress demands of her work.
Shannon has said that creating art is what saves the world from destroying itself. With 6 producing credits, 5 directing credits, 5 credits as a writer, and 22 acting credits, Shannon is certainly doing her part in saving the world.
It was an absolute pleasure chatting with Shannon and as a Women In Horror fanatic, I must say- thank God there are women like Shannon out there in the world!
1. You came up with the incredible idea of ‘Viscera Film Festival’ and with the help of fellow horror powerhouse Heidi Honeycutt, got the project off the ground.
Why was it so important for you to make ‘Viscera’ a reality? How did it all come to start?
I founded Viscera in 2007 after I collected a small group of female friends together to make a short film inSan Francisco. Fascinated by the women interact with each other in social situations, I had an epiphany while on set. I immediately went home and created Viscera. It started out as a film festival created to assist women in reaching their dreams to become filmmakers in the horror genre. Viscera began very grassroots: working with our Festival Partners who would screen the films as part of their program, enabling the films to tour all over the world at no cost to the filmmaker. In 2010, with the help of Heidi Honeycutt, Viscera grew into a full blown carpet event in Los Angeles and our tour exploded.
Viscera has grown exponentially over the past 2 years. We have become a 501(c)3 non profit organization, and offer an array of services: Viscera Film Festival (horror films by women), Etheria Film Festival (fantasy and science fiction by women), Women In Horror Month (a month long celebration of the past, present, and future contributions women have given to the genre), and our brand-spankin’ new film club.
We have a growing staff of over 12 and the Viscera films have screened all over the world, garnishing awards and recognition for the filmmakers. We couldn’t be happier.
2. How awesome has it been to see the female community come together and support one another?
It has been simply amazing. Our philosophy is that it is women who must stand up and take responsibility for their actions to achieve equality. Men definitely play a part, but until we support each other in positive environments in private and public settings, how will anything ever change?
I definitely see that taking effect in the female community of the horror genre, thanks to the internet, digital technology, and what women in horror have done for the past century.
3. You’ve made your criteria for a Scream Queen quite clear- “a women who works her way through the ranks and takes her acting career completely serious.. She.. finds validation in her work, not in compliments from men she wouldn’t talk to in real life.”
Who are some of your ultimate scream queens?
Paula Maxa,Frances Bay, and Debbie Rochon. Those women take the cake, and it’s effing delicious. I hope to be half as wonderful and hard working as these women were/are.
4. The Chainsaw Mafia is another great outlet you’ve created for indie artists. Can you tell us a bit about this venture?
I’m naturally drawn to being socially conscious. In 2001, I launched the first website of The Chainsaw Mafia, after I noticed the lack of connection over the internet for horror filmmakers. Living inSan Franciscoat the time, starting the Mafia was one of the ways that I could gather up like-minded artists, promote them, and assist them in finding other artists to work with. The website went through several revisions and we opened up the Slaughter Shop, selling horror artists’ works, and the Mafia Staff conducted interviews and articles.
I have since left my position as CEO of the Mafia and handed it over to the Mafia’s Editor, Jamie Jenkins. She is a wonderful person, friend, and loves the Mafia to bits. It’s in great hands.
5. You’ve written, directed, acted, danced in a zombie burlesque show and created your own indie horror empire. I truly admire your portfolio as a business woman.
What aspect of the career do you enjoy most? Is there a downside or least favorite part to your career?
I love acting. I love going onto different sets and being told what to do and use my body, voice, and emotions to help bring a vision to life. It’s so liberating to give up control, especially since I have to be in charge so much. I love delving into a character and letting everyone else worry about angles, lighting, and funding. Being a director and producer, it’s relaxing to go and just be an actor. I am completely in love with it.
As far as the downside? It’s time. I wish I never had to sleep and could just work. Forever.
6. Throughout the interview process, I find it interesting that just about every woman I’ve asked prefers psychological horror over the punch-you-in-the-eyes gore. Why do you think this is so?
Gore has definite place in the genre, but I’m desensitized. Gore is cute, but it doesn’t scare. I want something that gives me a sick feeling and creeps me out in ways that gore cannot.
Adults need more than blood, guts, and T & A. Compare any 14 year old boy with an adult and you can see the difference. The great thing is that there is room for it all.
7. What scares you?
Compared to a lot of women who enjoy horror, I think I’m a bit more extreme. I like really, really twisted situations. I get off on seeing the horrible things that people do to themselves and each other. I want manipulation, I want rape, and I want that dark exploitation of innocent people. I want worlds to be destroyed and insecurities revealed. I want it to be horrible.
That’s what scares me. It’s people. We are disgusting monsters. Some more than others.
8. What advice would you offer a young woman aspiring to become a filmmaker or join the woman in horror ranks?
I ALWAYS suggest that if you want to work in the horror genre, pick up a camera and start making your own films. Learn all aspects of production, drop all ego, and be willing to fail. Give in. Completely. Making good horror films is not about being hot; it’s about creating beauty through horrific situations.
Also, be socially conscious. Help other women. Be a good person. Love everyone, even if they are insane. We are all in this together. It’s time for women to stop aiming the weapons at each other, otherwise WE become the monsters.
9. Through the creation of Women In Horror Recognition Month, Viscera and such, a main focus has been on uniting women and breaking down stereotypical walls. Who are some of your Women In Horror heroes?
Alice Guy, Paula Maxa, and Ida Lupino.
Paula Maxa is my favorite, however it’s difficult to choose who is “best” in cases of social and gender change. Fay Wray was not the first Scream Queen. It was Paula Maxa, and she would have kicked Wray’s ass AND taken on King Kong. Maxa was the only female actress in Le Grand Guignol.
She never did film, it was all on stage. She was raped, stabbed, strangled, and beheaded thousands upon thousands of times. It was all live. Maxa strongly stood up for women in art to display acts of violence. She was an absolute innovator and way ahead of her time.
10. What are some horror films you love?
“Irreversible” by Gaspar Noe. “Inside” by Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury. “Santa Sangre” by Alejandro Jodorowsky.
11. Why do you feel it’s STILL such an uneven playing field between men and women, particularly in the horror film industry?
Because the entire film industry is still an uneven playing field. Let’s face it, the banks still own Hollywood, as they have since the 1920’s, and it’s all run by men. They want to sell something “marketable” and it’s so easy to discriminate by saying that a film made by a woman “just won’t sell.”
However, I think women play a HUGE part in their own repression. It’s so easy to blame a man for the injustices and not take responsibility for their own actions and willingness to submit. If women want equal pay and opportunity, they have to demand it. Once and for all. That’s really the only way change has ever come about in history, why would it be any different?
12. As a director, are there taboos or subjects you simply refuse to touch?
Absolutely not. Every injustice should be revealed in allegory. Film is incredibly powerful; it’s a medium that should be utilized.
13. As a director, who are some of your role models behind the camera?
For the modern female contemporaries, I would say Mary Lambert, Mary Harron, and Christine Vachon.
For the male contemporaries, Peter Jackson, David Lynch, Alejandro Jodorowsky, and Simon Rumley.
14. What is a subgenre or topic in horror you wish got more exposure?
Female Sexuality, which generally plays into the more feminist horror subgenre. This is where most of my own work tends to delve into: the complications and implications women deal with in regards to their own sexuality and how they use it, abuse it, or suppress it.
15. Who is your favorite horror villain? Hero?
Charlotte Gainsbourg in “Antichrist”. Picture perfect example of a woman’s guilt over her lust causing her to be a horrible, hateful person. She despises herself, what she is, and what she’s done.
Angela Bettis in May. She’s a traumatized individual who you truly feel for. You want her to kill the bastards around her. You want her to have love and peace and a wonderful life. She deserves it dammit!
16. How can one contribute to future Viscera Festivals or the Chainsaw Mafia?
Viscera opens a submission phase once a year for those who would like to submit their films, free of charge. You can also donate to Viscera, which will immediately go back into our awesome events and services (Viscera Film Festival (horror films by women), Etheria Film Festival (Science Fiction and Fantasy by women), Women in Horror Month, and our new Film Club.
17. Can you recommend an underappreciated horror film to the masses?
Absolutely. “Red White and Blue” by Simon Rumley. I had no idea it existed until a friend pointed it out. Very, very well done.
18. What is one particular ‘horror history lesson’ that fascinates you?
Most history lessons have been bloody and horrifying. My favorite is the Illiad/Odyssey. A woman is taken as property from another man and a war commences. Thousands of men die, and for what? For property? That woman should have refused to be property, and the war never would have started. Again, it’s the willingness to submit that brings horrible events and strife.
There you have it, folks. The amazing Shannon Lark is in it for the long haul, thankfully. I would like to sincerely thank Shannon for all of her time and insight as well as everything she is doing for WiHM as well as filmmaking from a woman’s perspective in general.
Keep up on all things Shannon by regularly checking out her website!