Dana Buning fell in love with the world of filmmaking the second she picked up a camera and it seems the film world did the same- not too many people can say they are accepted into a college that only allows twenty-four new students per year.
For great reason, Dana is considered one of the most creative and ingenious filmmakers in the independent world today. Having studied abroad in the Netherlands and accumulated a ton of experience both in the classroom and on set, Dana isn’t going to be going away anytime soon. Which is lucky for us!
Dana has several top tier producing credits to her name, including working with famous television series such as ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, ‘The Apprentice’ and ‘Survivor’.
She has directed a handful of films, and three films in particular- two shorts and a feature length- offer a nice peek into Dana’s creative talents, considering they offer completely different textures in film.
2004’s ‘Zeke’ is a dark comedy that has drawn rave reviews across the independent horror world, having been showcased at a 2011 BleedFest film event.
2007’s ‘Since September’ is a psychological and emotional look at the tolls of September 11.
2010’s ‘JoJo Baby’ is a feature length documentary on the renowned Chicago-based artist who has been acclaimed by the likes of Clive Barker.
It’s safe to say Dana Buning isn’t simply a one-genre type of gal. But damn, am I proud to showcase her as a Woman In Horror!
Without further ado, I present to you my interview with the totally rad Dana Buning…
1. As a BleedFest alum, who were some of the fantastic women you hada chance to mingle with?
Well, the Fies Sisters are some super cool ladies, and I was impressed by their dedication and enthusiasm for BleedFest. It’s a really great opportunity they provide to female filmmakers and I know it must take a ton of work. They put together a great event and I was honored to be a part of it.
2. What is your favorite horror franchise?
It would have to be the ’28 Days/Weeks Later’ films. ‘Days’ in particular goes beyond cheap thrills and digs a lot deeper. It sends some amazing messages about hope, love, fear, authority, and gender. ‘Weeks’ is a great sequel (with a ridiculous opening sequence!). I’m hoping a ’28 Months Later’ comes to fruition and that it manages to keep up with the first two films.
3. You are currently working on a documentary in the horror genre. Can you tell us anything about this project?
We started shooting material for the documentary last year and we’re really excited about this project, which deals with zombie subculture. Zombies are all over the place lately but I think the approach we’re taking covers new ground. The research process has been fascinating, and we’ve met some amazing people through the process. I’m excited to see where we end up.
4. Who are some of your favorite directors? Whose films do you take cues from, if any?
My favorite filmmakers are not horror directors, although some of them make dark films. I admire the Coen Brothers so much. I think their treatment of grim material is brilliant and often hilarious. I like humor with my heavy – it’s a killer combination and a difficult tone to nail. I’m a huge fan of Danny Boyle, Darren Aronofsky, Ridley Scott, Quentin Tarantino… Kathryn Bigelow blew me away with Hurt Locker. Ondi Timoner’s documentaries are some of the best things I’ve ever seen. There are amazing filmmakers out there and my taste in film and where I draw inspiration from is continually evolving.
5. What led you into the world of filmmaking?
From the first time I ever held a camera for a film class in college, I was pretty hooked. I had no plans of becoming a filmmaker; I was going to be a teacher or some kind of writer, and before that, I was going to be a veterinarian. But on a lark, after graduating college, I applied to one film school that accepts only 24 people a year to see what would happen. I got in, and it followed from there.
6. ‘Zeke’ was a favorite at BleedFest this past year. What led you to do this particular project?
The idea for “Zeke” was inspired by my cat Jack. I wanted to make a film about a person whose life was consumed by his preoccupation with his cat, because that was the case with me. I lived for Jack and bent over backwards to make him happy. (He made me very happy in return; he was surly, demanding, and spectacular.) Drawing from a nightmare I’d had years before in which Jack spoke to me in an aggressive way, I wanted to explore the story of a guy who suspects his cat is trying to kill him. From there all I needed was motivation for the cat, and castration seemed a pretty good one.
7. Seeing as how ‘Zeke’ was made nearly eight years ago, how have you changed or evolved as a filmmaker since that project?
I’ve gained a better understanding of what my wheelhouse is (and isn’t). I continue to dabble in dark comedy, but overall I think my interest in film has begun to gravitate more towards exploring the truths of real people rather than trying to express truth through fictional people. That’s why documentary appeals to me right now.
8. Who is your favorite “final girl”?
I don’t know if this counts, but I really like the alternate ending for 28 Days Later, with Selena and Hannah walking away down the hallway. It’s a super badass image; the future is so bleak for them, but they’re wearing those dresses and they’ve got their guns and they’re strong together… I think they are pretty rad final girls.
9. What was the first horror film you remember seeing and what was your reaction to it?
The first horror film I remember watching repeatedly is Cujo. My childhood friend Lexi and I would have sleepovers and we’d rent Cujo every time. I’m not sure why we loved it so much. I think I enjoyed the simplicity of the problem: They’re trapped in the car. Everything they need is outside the car. Rabid brute force terror dog is also outside the car. Waiting. The first and only film that ever literally shook me with fear was The Shining. To this day that’s a favorite. Big love for Stephen King.
10. What one woman of horror, dead or alive, would you like to collaborate with and why?
I think it would be really fun to direct Jennifer Carpenter. I like her style and I think she brings something very real and different to her performances. I feel like she’s not afraid to get weird with her scenes of fear and trauma. Which resonates with me because people do strange things when experiencing extreme situations. I think it would be fun to explore that.
11. Do you have any advice for a young woman interested in delving into the world of horror filmmaking?
I think if I have any advice for any filmmaker – or human, really – it would just be to respect and honor your own voice. Don’t let it be squelched by fear, or judgment, or money, or the mainstream, and don’t defer to people that you may think know “better” than you. That’s not to say that there aren’t amazing people out there with amazing advice to be heeded. But if your inner voice is screaming no, please, no… then don’t let yourself be the bastard with the chainsaw mowing it down. Give the voice a chance.
12. What projects are you currently working on?
Currently I’m focusing all my free energy on the zombie documentary. I have a handful of other personal projects in the works, but right now that’s number one. Oh, and I’m learning guitar. Does that count?
Take a peek at Dana’s IMDB page for more info on her wide-ranging career!
Check out fellow Woman In Horror Char Hardin’s review of Zeke!