Samantha Kolesnik is a writer, editor and film producer living near Philadelphia. She’s a screenwriter and is one of the producers of the forthcoming Rainy Season short film. Beyond that she’s a fiction writer and also Editor-in-Chief of Five on the Fifth literary magazine. She’s one busy lady, all right! Special thanks to Samantha for taking some time out of her hectic schedule to stop by my blog for a chat!
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background
I am an American writer and film producer specializing in horror, dark fiction, and roles of substance for women in film.
Q. What draws you to horror generally, and was there a defining moment where you something made you think “Fuck it, I’m writing a horror story!”?
Well, I’m terrified of everything and I worry more than anyone I know. The world is often a very scary place, and I have a lot of fears. When you have a lot of fear, horror is part of that. I don’t think I had a defining moment to write. I always did it, and always will.
Q. What is your favourite horror story and what about it specifically rustled your jimmies?
I have to go with a classic. “The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe has to be one of my favorite horror stories of all time. I read it on my own when I was in middle school. I remember having to look up a lot of the words, but once it all clicked, I think I read it a few times in a row that night. I liked it because it demonstrates how wrong human perception can be, and there’s kind of a strange karma that unfolds in the tale. It’s so dark and so creepy, but there’s something more to it. I mean, Fortunato – does any reader really want him to live? At the same time, does any reader not feel great empathy when the chains can be heard from the shadows after he’s realized his fate? I feel my stomach drop just thinking about it. I want to save him, but I don’t even like the guy! Edgar Allan Poe is masterful.
Q. What is your favourite horror film?
My favorite movie is the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. My parents were very liberal in what they allowed me to watch as a child, but there were two films, in particular, that my mother said I couldn’t watch: the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Wes Craven’s original Last House on the Left. I begged and pleaded to be able to watch the original TCM on my thirteenth birthday. All I wanted was some pasta and to be able to watch that movie. I only had maybe one friend at that age, so it was just my mom, my brother, and myself. She caved in and let me watch it. I’m pretty sure we rented it from Blockbuster. I loved it, but I puked up the pasta later that evening.
I love how gritty it is. I love the character Franklin. My mom always goes, “How can you like Franklin? He’s so annoying!” And maybe he is a little. But he’s unique in horror, and the challenge he presents to his sister is unique and heart-wrenching as she tries to wheel him to safety through the woods at night. I love the lighting limitations in the night scenes. I love the grainy picture. Leatherface is iconic, terrifying, and mysterious. Most of all, I love that Sally gets away. I was rooting for her. I still root for her. When she simultaneously laughs and screams in the back of that pick-up truck as it rails off down the country road, it’s a triumph. That movie is a pure shot of adrenaline, but it doesn’t lose a sense of human struggle. There is just so much that the Texas Chainsaw Massacre did and does for horror.
Q. What have you written? And what is your personal favourite of your own work?
I write screenplays and prose. I’ll highlight a few pieces. I recently wrote a short screenplay, “Scratching the Surface”, which might be a personal favorite right now. It’s unsettling. Two women, Fay and Nancy, meet in an excoriation disorder support group and things go down a windy, twisted path from there. I like it because Fay is a predator, in her own right, but she judges Nancy how everyone judges Nancy, and well, everyone’s wrong. Way wrong.
I also recently wrote a short screenplay, “The Retreat”, which was a top 10 Finalist in the International Horror and Sci Fi Short Screenplay Competition. And another short screenplay of mine, “Pets”, is an official selection of Milledgeville Film Festival.
My short screenplay, “The Price of Bones”, was a Finalist at the 15th Annual Shriekfest Horror and Sci Fi Film Festival in Los Angeles, which is a really fun event. Shortly after, I produced the film with Hollow Tree Films, LLC and it is currently in post production.
Q. Do you have a favourite form or media for story telling? E.g Film, Short story, Novel, Audio drama or podcast, audiobook
Q. What are you working on at the minute?
I’m helping to produce a short horror film, Rainy Season, which is adapted from the Stephen King short story of the same name. The writer and executive producer, Vanessa Ionta Wright, is an amazing talent and fortunately, someone with whom I really “click” professionally (and otherwise).
I’m also developing a feature film project from a screenplay I wrote, Turning the Girl. It’s a psychological thriller with an all female cast.
In prose world, I’m writing a short story about a woman who’s lost a tooth too many, and now the walls are starting to whisper. Take that for what you will.
Q. Who is your favourite woman writer?
Right now, I have two. Mahdis Marzooghian and Mary-Anne Nelligan. When they send me a short story they’ve written, or a novel they’re working on, my heart jumps a little. I think it comes from the connection we have, as well as the common goals we share. When you dream with someone, you share a universe, and to be a struggling writer can be a very lonely universe if you’re doing it alone. It’s invaluable to have friends who write.
Q. Are there any projects involving other women that you’re looking forward to or would like to get on board with?
I currently manage a literary magazine, Five on the Fifth, with two other women – Mahdis Marzooghian and Mary-Anne Nelligan. We publish five short stories on the fifth of every month. I’m looking forward to continuing to grow the magazine with them. They are amazing writers, friends, and editors.
I’ve mentioned this elsewhere, but I am also really enjoying working on Rainy Season with Vanessa Ionta Wright.
Q. What book/s are you reading at present and what is in your TBR pile?
Oh wow. I’m reading way too many books, and at the same time, not nearly enough. I just started reading “Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America” by Jill Leovy. My TBR list is huge, but I definitely want to soon read “East Hollywood” by Ted Dewberry. He’s a writer I met maybe 6 months ago (ish) and he’s recently published a novel. I love it when people put their heart into writing and get to share that with the world. I want to be a part of that, so I plan on buying a copy soon and digging in.
Q. What films are you looking forward to? (Simon: Did you know there is a short film coming out this year, directed by Jovanka Vuckovic, based on Jack Ketchum’s Bram Stoker Award winning story, The Box? I’m excited about that!)
You know, I am pretty excited to see The Witch this weekend. And no, I didn’t know about that film, but that sounds awesome and now I am looking forward to that, as well.
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?
People may underestimate you and mistreat you. It can start at gender, but it can be based on more than that – usually shallow perceptions – first glances and other trivialities. But it all just fuels the fire. And who doesn’t love a good underdog story?
Q. Why is Women in Horror month important?
Heheh. Well, first let me say, I wouldn’t change any horror films out there. I’m a die hard fan – I love it all, even the “bad” stuff. There’s nothing I want to “rectify” or “fix” in the existing horror canon.
As for me, though, and what I create, and what I put out into the universe — that’s where I bring women characters to life who have depth.
Women in Horror Month brings attention to the genre and it gives women filmmakers, writers, and artists a chance to get recognition and support. It’s great. But any event, movement, celebration, group, or month, can only be as good and useful as the people who support it. As creators of all kinds, we need to be respectful and supportive of each other.
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?
Aspire, but be sure to also ‘do’. I recommend dreaming and working a lot, but don’t do either one more than the other. There’s a balance to desire and sweat.
Samantha Kolesnik Links:
Rainy Season FB: https://www.facebook.com/rainyseasonmovie/?fref=ts
Rainy Season Indiegogo: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/rainy-season-based-on-the-story-by-stephen-king/x/10475985#/
Five on the Fifth website: www.fiveonthefifth.com
Five on the Fifth FB: www.facebook.com/fiveonthefifth
Turning the Girl: www.turningthegirl.com