Hi folks. Welcome back! One of today’s interviews is with the lovely Vanessa Ionta Wright. She’s a screenwriter and executive producer of the upcoming short film, Rainy Season. This film is based on one of Stephen King’s stories and promises to be really good. There is an Indigogo link at the bottom of the interview, so I encourage all readers to enjoy meeting Vanessa, and if possible, support the production of this new horror film. Many thanks to Vanessa for stopping by my blog for a chat!
Q. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?
VIW: My name is Vanessa Ionta Wright and I am the Writer and Executive Producer of Rainy Season, based on the short story by Stephen King. I started writing at a very young age, short stories and poems. As I got older, the stories got longer and more detailed and I noticed myself writing them for the purpose of being filmed or performed in front of an audience. When I was in high school, my parents bought a video camera and that sealed the deal for me. Every possible project that I was assigned during those years in school was met with an immediate “Can I do this as a movie?” The teachers never said no so I kept on making short films. Once it was time to choose a college and career, I panicked. I had never had any interest in any other subject and I had no idea you could study film for anything else other than a hobby. I settled into Ohio University and pursued my education in Video Production and Film learning as much as could about all aspects of the industry so I could graduate with enough experience to land a career directing films. That seemed reasonable, after all, I had been writing and directing since about the age of 7. Apparently you needed an “in”.
Q. What draws you to horror generally, and was there a defining moment where you something mad you think “Fuck it, I’m writing a horror story!”?
VIW: I think the adrenaline rush of fear draws me to horror. “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” – HP Lovecraft. Fear is something everyone knows and can relate to. There is a huge difference between graphic violence that shocks you and makes your stomach turn and that moment when the hair stands up on the back of your neck. That is what draws me to horror. I’ve always been a huge fan of horror films, starting when I was 7 and snuck downstairs to spy on my parents watching The Amityville Horror. I would constantly sneak around and try to watch something scary. Cable television was relatively new so me, and my parents, were quite naive as to what you could watch during the day. I would set up camp in front of the television on saturday afternoons and watch Commander USA’s Groovie Movies and scare myself silly watching movies like Friday the 13th III (I watched that whole series out of order), My Bloody Valentine, Cat People, An American Werewolf in London, just to name a few. I suffered from terrible night terrors, and yet I still couldn’t stay away from watching these films. I was hooked.
In some ways I’ve always written “horror” starting with my first book “The Witch’s Castle” when I was in the 2nd grade. I won a halloween poem contest in the 6th grade and it all grew from there. My first screenplay was a thriller, “Melting Point” that was written my sophomore year in college. I write a lot of comedy too, mostly as a reprieve from all the terror 😉
Q. What is your favourite horror story and what about it specifically rustled your jimmies?
VIW: One of my favorites is ‘The Bogeyman’ by Stephen King. It rustled my jimmies (I am totally stealing that phrase 😉 That story freaks me out, even more so now, as a mother! An entity and a terror that you can never escape from. That was some creepy s#@!.
Q. What is your favourite horror film?
VIW: Oh god, this dreaded question…I had a friend ask me once and I couldn’t answer, so I went home and made a spread sheet of my top 10 favorite films across 21 different genres and categories…she got my 210 top films (that was some fast math!) I seriously don’t know how to answer this. I have favorite psychological horror films, favorite supernatural horror films…you’re torturing me on this one!!! I’m gonna name a couple. I love the 1978 John Carpenter Halloween. It was a very simple concept and executed so well. It also had the moral message of “you sin, you die” which every great horror movie should have 😉 I think Hitchcock’s Psycho is phenomenal, it broke boundaries in film making. They killed the main character a few beats in! No one had done that before, go Alfred! I adore 1973 The Exorcist. I’m not a religious person, but that movie had me praying…rustled jimmies for sure. Stephen King’s Misery blew me away, Kathy Bates owned that film. “It” also really freaked me out. Pennywise the clown, JIMMIES. The concept of of this being, this entity that is everything you ever feared…so many jimmies.
Q. What have you written? And what is your personal favourite of your own work?
VIW: I have written a few features and a handful of shorts. I always have unfinished works at various stages of completion. I wrote a remake of the original Friday the 13th with a longtime friend and colleague, Kevin Peterson. We added some backstory on Pamela Voorhees and combined the first two installments to give a more complete storyline of the question, ‘what if Jason lived’. We actually got a meeting out of New Line Cinema at the time, but they passed on the project, wanting to see how the release of Jason Vs. Freddy was going to do at the box office. I wrote a comedy, ‘Bayou Gold’ that was a semi-finalist in the 2003 American Zoetrope screenplay contest and an official selection at the 2015 Oaxaca Global Script Challenge. I have an anthology series called ‘The Time Changer’ that is a sci-fi thriller. The first installment, ‘Into the Past’ was a finalist at the 2014 Shreikfest Horror Film Festival and the 2015 Chicago Indie Horror Fest. The second installment, ‘Close at Hand’ was a finalist at the 2015 Shreikfest Horror Film Festival. This collection takes 4 separate tales and spins time on it’s side. I would love to see this project produced with 4 different director’s on board. The script for Rainy Season was an official selection at the 2015 Northeast Horror Fest Film Festival and the 2016 Milledgeville Film Festival. I think to date, my favorite work has been the Time Changer, I have a frightening obsession with time.
Q. Do you have a favourite form or media for story telling? E.g Film, Short story, Novel, Audio drama or podcast, audiobook
VIW: Film is my favorite form of story telling. I’m a visual person and there are things that can be said without saying a word in film, I love that.
Q. What are you working on at the minute?
VIW: Literally, this interview 😉 I am in full pre-production for Rainy Season right now. We are crowd funding through indiegogo to raise our budget of $30,000. I am thrilled with the script (5 rewrites later) and I think Stephen King is really going to enjoy what we’ve done with his story.
Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?
VIW: Shockingly, not a horror writer. My favorite female authors are Sheri Reynolds and Joyce Carol Oates, there are many more, but I think I’ve read most of what these two have written and have never been disappointed.
Q. Are there any projects involving other women that you’re looking forward to or would like to get on board with?
VIW: I am thrilled to be working on Rainy Season with producers Samantha Kolesnik and Stephanie Wyatt. I am also looking forward to working with Samantha on her feature, ‘Turning the Girl’. There is also some talk of possibly collaborating with Novelist and Huffington Post writer Pamela K. Glasner on one of her projects. Exciting stuff coming up. I would also like to work with Ellen DeGeneres and go through haunted houses with her producer Andy Lassner.
Q. Who are some of the other people involved with Rainy Season?
Q. What book/s are you reading at present and what is in your TBR pile?
VIW: I have three books going right now. I am reading East Hollywood by Ted Dewberry, Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King and Naomi’s Room by Jonathan Aycliffe. In my TBR pile…The Murder House by James Patterson, Joyland by Stephen King, Deeply Odd by Dean Koontz, and Uganda be Kidding me by Chelsea Handler.
Q. What films are you looking forward to?
VIW: I am looking forward to The Witch, 10 Cloverfield Lane, The Invitation. I’d like to check out that Ghostbusters reboot with Melissa McCarthy.
Q. What challenges have you encountered that are unique to being a woman in the horror genre, or can you describe some of the challenges have you faced that are complicated by your gender?
VIW: I think the biggest challenge is the feeling of having to prove yourself…that I am just as good, if not better and I deserve to be here writing these stories and making these films. I attended one of my favorite festivals this past fall and there wasn’t a single female winner. I don’t say that with a chip on my shoulder or that the winners were undeserved, I simply noted that every winner, in every category was a man. I think we need to continue ruffling feathers (or jimmies) and making a splash in the horror genre and in film as a whole.
Q. Why is Women in Horror month important?
VIW: I think it’s a great way to celebrate the estrogen filled pool of talented writers, filmmakers & artists. We are still the minority in film, especially in horror and it is a great way to bring awareness to some great works that have been created and produced by women. I’ve noticed when I see a film, for example The Babadook, and I discuss with with my friends and peers and they go on and on about how great it is, I’ll chime in that it was written and directed by a woman, the reaction is always “really?” YES! Women can make great films and write great stories and scare the hell out of you, why is that so shocking? Great film, by the way, if you haven’t seen it, please check it out.
Q. What advice would you give to aspiring writers? And is there anything that you would recommend for people who’d like to write for film or are interested in getting into the film industry?
VIW: I don’t like to give advice, mostly because I don’t feel qualified to give advice, but if someone said to me, “Vanessa, I want to be a writer, what should I do?” I would simply say, “Then write.” Read as many books as you can and write whenever possible. The more you write, the easier it becomes to find your voice. If you have a story to tell, then tell it. Your writing will get better the more you do it. And keep a thick skin about you, you have to be able to handle criticism and feedback, both good and bad. It’s easy to take it personally, don’t. Stephen King wrote a great book on the craft, ‘On Writing’. If you have a favorite author or filmmaker, chances are they wrote a book on the subject, check it out and go from there.
Vanessa Ionta Wright Links: