As the founder of Women In Horror Recognition Month (which has since been shortened to Women In Horror Month), Hannah Neurotica is a rabid horror film fan who just so happens to be a staunch supporter and vocal ambassador of the feminist movement that continues to reshape the way the world thinks to this day.
When her Women In Horror Month manifesto spread like wildfire across the internet, Neurotica quickly and proudly became the face of a global movement in support of a topic that had fallen dormant for far too long. Joining forces with some of the biggest names in indie horror (including Heidi Honeycutt, Shannon Lark, Jovanka Vuckovic, Maude Michaud, Karen Lam and Stacy Pippi Hammon), Hannah was able to celebrate a cause near and dear to her heart.
It only makes perfect sense that I immediately fell in love with Ms. Neurotica the second I got in touch with her. With a mutual affinity for Women In Horror, it seemed just a matter of time before we worked together in some capacity and I interviewed her.
Tonight, I am thrilled to showcase Hannah Neurotica, a strong woman whose effervescent personality and contagious enthusiasm has made a world of difference throughout the film-making community.
So sit back, relax and get ready for a good ol’ fashioned horror chat- full of sharks, curse words and exclusive insight on Hannah’s first film!
MANGLED MATTERS: Hello, Hannah! Let’s dive right in- what the heck are you up to these days?
HANNAH NEUROTICA: Hello, Justin!
Right now I am so super obsessed with sharks. Shark movies, shark documentaries, shark fruit snacks, shark bookmarks, shark trivia. Did you know sharks might hold a key to curing cancer? They were around before the friggin’ dinosaurs! This has lead me into being super fascinated by the ocean. I am like in this weird shark, ocean trance. My friend Megan (who was also the PA on The Water’s Fine) said I should be a marine biologist. I explained to her I am terrified of fish. If a friggin’ tadpole touched me I’d have a fucking heart attack. Maybe that is why I find it all so fascinating, ya know, because it scares me so much. The ocean is nuts! One of my life goals or dreams is to make a shark movie. I’m serious! But you can’t make a shark film without a ton of money. Unless you go the SyFy route but I’m talking REAL shark movie. Like we would need wranglers on set.
(Editor’s Note: This seems to squash any chance of Hannah fronting Jersey Shore Shark Attack II…. sigh…)
MM: You recently did a short film titled The Water’s Fine for a 48-hour film project. It was your first film and I absolutely loved it. It had a great Texas Chainsaw Massacre grittiness to it, in my mind. That really creepy and vibrant contrast between white walls and natural light to dark hallways and dim rooms. How did this project come about?
HN: It means so much to hear that you loved it! Seriously. Thank you, Justin. It’s so scary to put yourself out there and it took me way, way too long to make it happen. So to get a positive reaction from someone who really loves the genre means a great deal. And “contast” was something Tammy and I were really loving about the story and our location. We were both in awe of our location.
In terms of how this came about..
During a staff meeting at work, I learned one of the women who had recently been hired was super into film and screenwriting. A couple months later I went up to her (Tammy Dwyer) and suggested getting together to start some sort of screenwriting group. We were (and continue to be) working on our own separate screenplays but felt stuck in the process and like we needed support. By getting together we were able to really help each other sort out what we were trying to say, give feedback, and get writing discipline back in our lives. After a couple meetings I came into work one morning and Tammy says, “have you heard of the 48 Hour Film Project?” Instantly I thought back 5 years to when I stumbled upon the website. I was so in awe of the idea that people were writing, shooting, and editing a complete film in 48 hours. I assumed only seasoned filmmakers would dare take on that project and figured I didn’t know jack shit about film making from a technical standpoint. I just wasn’t confident in reaching out to whatever resources might have been available to me. At the time, it was just this cool thing that other people were doing. Needless to say that morning I didn’t hesitate before saying HELL YES.
MM: What was the experience like working on your first film?
HN: HOLY GODDAMN! It was like nothing else I have experienced in my life.
Tammy and I both had never made a film before. We were jumping in together from the same level of experience which made it that much more exciting. I mean, seriously, we knew nothing about lights, or camera operation, or how the hell we would find a crew and actors and so forth, not to mention we needed equipment! Everyone had to work for free per the rules which of course added another layer of difficulty when looking for people to work on your film when you have no credentials. Did I mention we also had to have original music? Who the hell would be find to do that?! And now, seeing the finished product, we had two composers who did a brilliant job.
Tammy and I basically started getting together as much as possible when not at work. We pulled every resource and connection we had together, made a zillion phone calls, and really just put our all into making this work. Our team put their all into it too and together we were just this creative and determined force! We didn’t want to embarrass ourselves and we didn’t go into this with any intention of winning whatsoever. We just wanted this to be a learning experience so that we might win the next year!
Tammy and I decided to head over to the local public access TV station to inquire about policies regarding renting out cameras and such. I was shocked that it was free to join AND free to use ANY of their equipment. And they have EVERYTHING. I wish you could have seen the progression of our relationship with the TV station. Tammy and I surrendered our egos from Day One. We walked in there and basically said “Look, we love film. We’ve never made a film. We are making a film for the 48 Hour Film Project. What do we need and can you teach us how to use it?” You should have seen their faces. I don’t think that happens to them too often. I don’t think people are used to someone admitting they don’t know something. It’s a scary place to put yourself, it’s a big risk. But when you are passionate about something it’s the best thing you could ever do.
We borrowed a bunch of books about film making and, if I remember correctly, they told us nobody had ever borrowed them! We ended up going back there over and over to bug them and eventually we totally grew on those guys. Shout out to Mark and Rick! We’d say things like, “So, we want to borrow stuff to make a movie but what do you think we need? We don’t know about lighting- what lights do we use?” Mark was like “you mean a light kit?” Who knew there was something called a Light Kit??!! We didn’t even know that the “boom” was the actual mic and not the mic and pole together. We learned so, so much in the process. It all comes down to surrendering any ego and being 110% willing to let yourself admit you know nothing and learn. We took home the cameras and watched the instructional DVD (Tammy subjected herself to the DVD like 4 times!). In the end, we pulled together a team of thirteen incredibly talented people. The weekend was filled with exhaustion, hysterical crying (our footage wouldn’t come off the camera!) and then laughing so hard during editing to release tension that we physically couldn’t breath. Honest to God I think we laughed for 30 minutes straight. I was in pain! It was hands down one of the best experiences of my life. Every single person on the team gave everything they had to this project. It was amazing, amazing, amazing. And double triple amazing on top of that. All I want to do now is make another film.
HN: Well, funny how you worded the question because I didn’t know how “well received” it was until just the other day when I found out our film was selected to be screened at the “Best Of” (1) show in August! If your film get’s invited to the Best Of, it means you won something. We just don’t know what award or awards we won until the screening. I cannot believe we went up against filmmakers who have been doing this for years and out of 29 films, we were one of the winners. It’s surreal actually to think something I was so terrified of turned out to be successful! It makes me want to conquer more of my fears. I truly believe if you are passionate about something and you surrender yourself to it you will come out on the other side beaming and empowered. Whenever you are excited about something it’s infectious and other people want to be part of that energy.
A few people have asked me if we are planning to make it into a feature. Tammy and I would love to but there are no plans in place. I think the only way that would happen would be if someone wanted to invest in our project. If we had the money, we’d make that story into a feature in a heartbeat. I’d be in heaven working with that group again, in that location! Talk about a dream location! Did I mention how in love we all were with the location?
MM: Do you have any other film projects starting up shortly?
HN: Tammy mentioned to me she has an idea up her sleeve but we haven’t gotten together yet so I have no idea what it is. I’m dying to know.
It was so awesome going to the initial screening and see all the other 48 Hour Film’s that each team made during that same weekend. It was on a huge IMAX sized screen at a multiplex movie theater. It is so surreal to see your work on a screen like that! One of the best parts was meeting another local filmmaker named Chris Dubey. His team, Unwatchable Drivel, made a bad ass zombie comedy. Chris came up to us after the screening saying how much he dug our movie. That was one of the best moments of the night because we I had no idea what people thought. Everyone else made a film that had at least some humor to it but ours was the only one that had people quiet. We didn’t know if it was a good quiet or a bad quiet. Chris and his team were also just selected for an award and we have started talking about teaming up to make a zombie movie together. More on that soon for sure.
(Editor’s Note: Hannah has had a project titled HOTLINE simmering in her think tank for some time now…)
HOTLINE is a project very dear to me and I hope to be making it this year. It’s not a project I want to rush though, it needs to happen when the time is right. It’s a very intense story. I will give more updates as I have them. But it will be made. That I can tell you. There is just a lot of logistical stuff to work out.
Another project I am doing is called Shitfucked: A Vile Love Story. This has been in progress for a very long time but I am happy to announce we are shooting this summer! It’s a short I wrote years ago that will be directed by Victor Bonacore of Chainsaw Kiss and produced by both of us. It’s a punk rock girl gang film influenced heavily by the Cinema of Transgression, John Waters, Gregg Araki and all those filmmakers who I grew up in awe of. We have some incredible people working with us on the project, and some amazing cast members that those familiar with Cinema of Transgression films will recognize.
I have also been experimenting with stop motion animation which I plan to share with people soon! Speaking of my obsession with sharks, the short I have been working on is called Cupcake Shark. It’s a slow process but it’s so meditative!
MM: To whom or what do we owe the gratitude for in turning you into the horror fanatic you are today?
HN: My dad. I would answer this more in depth but I will get super emotional and I don’t wanna mess up my eye make up. Ha. I am totally sitting here in PJ’s. But do you really have to bring up my grief and pain. Fuck you, Justin. 😉
Okay fine, I’ll answer. But I’m gonna cop out and share a clip from an interview I did in 2010 during the first Women In Horror Recognition Month. It’s very hard for me to discuss this in a new way right now because my dad would have loved to know I conquered my fears and made a film. I hate that I can’t share that with him. It’s very painful but I am thankful that I was blessed with such an amazing dad while he was alive. Not everyone gets a great dad. He is to blame though- straight up.
Here is a snippet from an interview I did in 2010 with the blog Ghouls on Film. I was asked what the first horror movie was to make an impact. This was my answer:
“For some reason this question makes me think about technology. Is that weird? So the Sony Betamax came out in 1975 (I think), I was born in 1981 and I remember super vividly my parents getting our first VCR. I was young and my dad (who sadly passed away this year) took me to the video store. I remember picking out cartoons and he picked out Ghostbusters. That was probably the first movie I watched that freaked me out. It was that fucking library ghost who looks all innocent and purple and quiet and you think ‘aww’ and then she jumps out really fast at the screen with a skull face and screams. I seriously thought she was going to come out of my closet at night. (Ghouls Note: I had a very similar experience with a VCR and that librarian ghost growing up in upstate NY.)”
Previous to that, I would get scared super easily. One episode of ‘Burt & Ernie’ (yes, I really am referring to ‘Sesame Street’ here) scared me because they went to the Museum of Natural History and these statues of themselves started moving. My dad was like “those statues are in our bathroom!” My dad really influenced my love of horror in a huge way. Even though I started out as a scaredy cat, it grew into an obsession of pure love. My dad and I watched horror movies together religiously until the day he died.
Again, sorry if that was a cop out.
MM: That’s not a cop out at all. My horror upbringing was very similar. I was almost reluctant to embrace the creepies and ghouls at first, thanks to my mother terrorizing my youth with films I was far too young to be watching. Can you suggest a little-known horror film that you consider a must see for the horror masses?
HN: There are so many amazing horror films being made by women that I wish were more widely available. One of my favorite things that I get to be part of is being on the Viscera Film Festival judges panel. It’s not that I like “judging” people as much as the opportunity to watch all these great films and discover new artists. I am able to learn so much by watching what others are doing with the art of short film making. It’s hard to narrow it down so I’ll just mention some that pop in my mind first.
One of my favorites is this one short called JUMP by Louise Felden. You must check it out once it becomes available. It’s going to screen at the Viscera Film Festival this year. It’s the kind of short you wanna watch over and over and show everyone. Honestly, the line up this year is stellar! The short films that were submitted were just an incredible selection. Another one that comes to mind is Apple Head by Rebecca Thomson.
Rebekah McKendry of Fangoria made a short called The Dump which is just straight up great. I feel bad even listing names because I want to list so many more! A good place to start is checking out the Viscera Film Festival page. You will find loads of amazing horror films made by women.
I’m super excited to see Jovanka Vuckovic’s short The Captured Bird. I’m on the edge of my seat for that one! Her film is screening at FrightFest as well as some other great festivals.
(Editor’s Note: The Captured Bird caught the attention of film fans world-wide when it was announced the one and only Guillermo del Toro signed on to be executive producer)
I’m sure your readers are up on Dead Hooker In A Trunk but it bears repeating. With that- be on the lookout for the release of American Mary by Jen & Sylvia Soska of Twisted Twins Productions. It is their second feature. The script is brilliant and I know the film is absolutely beautiful. It’s gonna blow people away. Like for super serial.
Oh, and like, I’m super into shark movies right now but I wouldn’t recommend them because they are awful shitty movies.
You should all check out National Geographic: Amazing Planet. Even though it’s not a horror film, just watch it streaming on Netflix and you will understand why I suggested it! It’s intense! I had nightmares.
MM: I had the pleasure of assisting you with this year’s ‘Women In Horror Month’ celebration. The festivities grow each and every year. Any hints as to what we women in horror fans can expect for next year?
HN: It was so great to work with you!
There are not really “hints” as to what to expect because what to expect really comes from every individual who creates something for February. It is only a success when people take part and that is the most exciting piece- you just don’t know what to expect year to year. So it’s not too early to start planning your own events, blog serie’, radio shows, art shows, and more for February 2013! We are also working very hard to make our website very clear, build our archive, and work to find more ways we can support people who want to create film festivals and other events both on and offline.
I will tell you that during February 2013 I will finally host my very own WiHM Film Festival in New Hampshire. Soon I will put out a call for submissions and tell everyone the spin I have put on this event. It will be a bit different and very much focused on both arts and supporting important causes in our own communities. There is also an incredible event which takes that idea to another level being planned by Stacy Pippi Hammon in Los Angeles That is going to be totally incredible!
Jen and Sylvia Soska will bring us another brilliant Massive Blood Drive PSA and inspire us all to give blood! Hopefully others will continue being inspired to make their own PSA’s too! It’s so awesome to see people pick up a camera in the name of horror and a good cause.
MM: If you could have a round-table discussion with a small group of horror icons, past or present, who would be invited to your table and why?
HN: There are so many, but getting Frank Henenlotter, David Cronenberg, and Mary Shelley would make for a fascinating conversation on the body as the place of ultimate horror. Frank is one of the most sweet, genuine people you will ever meet. I don’t know anything about Cronenberg personally but I like to think he would be down with this conversation. Then we need to Frankenstein Shelley together so she can take part. Don’t let Frank though or he might turn her into a hooker…
MM: Any last words?
HN: Thank you for interviewing me. This was the first time I had the opportunity to talk about making a film! And thank you for all the amazing work you have put into this blog. It’s something to be incredibly proud of and definitely provides a wonderful forum for female horror artists and filmmakers!
The pleasure was absolutely all mine.
Hannah has done so much to help me and support me in my quest to celebrate women in horror all year round.
I can’t thank her enough for her dedication, suggestions and most of all, her friendship.
‘Best Of’ Screening Info For ‘The Water’s Fine’
|Date||August 2, 2012|
|Place||Red River Theatres, 11 South Main Street, Concord, NH|
ticket can be purchased here : https://www.boxofficetickets.com/go/event?id=190575