An Interview With Hannah Forman

Women in Horror Recognition Month: Special Interview

Some women prefer chocolates for Valentine’s Day. Others prefer a bouquet of flowers. Maybe a teddy bear. But we think the women behind Women In Horror Recognition Month might prefer something a little more exotic. Like a chainsaw. Or some cute plushie organs. Maybe even a teddy bear WITH a chainsaw. Den of Geek is honored to have interviewed Hannah Forman, the founder and director of operations for Women in Horror Recognition Month. For more information, check out their website http://www.womeninhorrormonth.com/#!

Den of Geek (DOG): What inspired you to start Women in Horror Recognition Month? And why February?

Hannah Forman (H.F.): I was angry by the glaring discrepancies in how women and men were celebrated/viewed in both the horror industry and in horror fandom. February was selected because there are 28 days (unless it’s a leap year) and that, of course, falls in line with the menstrual cycle. For over a decade I have worked on a feminist horror zine called Ax Wound, which is also a reference to women’s “time of the month.” I guess it’s a theme for me. Another thought behind picking February was that Valentine’s Day is such corporate bullshit, but I won’t deny I am a girly girl too who loves any time of year when there is an abundance of pink and red hearts. So the image of hearts also came into play since we are really looking at a gender roles and trying to change misconceptions about what women do and are capable of doing if given the opportunity and support. 

DOG: Why do you feel that women have been excluded from the horror genre? Especially after Mary Shelley practically invented it.

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H.F.: I don’t feel that women have been excluded. I know they have been excluded. This is in large part due to our invisibility, something we are shifting a little bit more every day, but we still have a very long way to go. Major corporate Hollywood film studios are not interested in seeking out anything new or inspiring. They are focused on one goal: making dollah, dollah bills, making it rain, cash money! And if shitting out a zillion remakes is what will bring in the box office numbers then that is where they are going to put their money and time. Men are considered the “masters” of horror: Craven, Carpenter, Hitchcock, Hooper, etc. and to seek out anything out of the ordinary is just not in their monetary interest. All the really amazing films these days are independent and fan supported. It is only with the fans backing that larger companies take notice (if you are lucky or make very well calculated decision).  A great example of what showing support for female filmmakers can do is Twisted Twin Productions’ Jen and Sylvia Soska. They got so much support, leading to a deal with Universal Studios. Women are not only excluded from this industry but every form of art reflects disturbingly low numbers compared to their male counterparts.  The mission and goal of Women in Horror Month is to really assist the underrepresented female genre artists in gaining opportunities and exposure. We need to let people know we exist. And that is where the second part of our mission comes in:  providing education through altruistic events, printed material, articles, interviews and online support. As the years move on we aim to continue expanding our services to help as much as possible.

DOG: What are some of the challenges women face trying to break into the horror genre?

H.F.: Women face many challenges. The best way to answer this question is by sharing a quote from Film Industry’s Gender Inequality Targeted by Sundance Institute and Women In Film’s Research (Indiewire.com, Jan 2013):

Five major areas were identified as hampering women’s career development in film:
Gendered financial barriers (43.1%)
Male-dominated industry networking (39.2%)
Stereotyping on set (15.7%)
Work and family balance (19.6%)
Exclusionary hiring decisions (13.7%)

The part that sticks out the most for me is the male-dominated industry networking. If men would reach out to the creative women in their world and include them then ladies will have more opportunities to be considered for top positions and to be taken seriously. A lot of the jobs/breaks people get in life are from networking and the people who we know in our every day lives. If you are a man in a top position who is only surrounded by other men who is only surrounded by other men; then well, it becomes ridiculously difficult for women to penetrate that status quo. It’s like red rover but only the men are being sent over. 

DOG: How have roles for women in the horror genre changed since the beginning of the genre? Where do you see it going in the future?

H.F.: We have taken steps forward and steps back simultaneously. For example Heather Langenkamp was a great female character in the original Nightmare on Elm Street. You might think over two decades later that we would have made even more progress, but instead you look at the remake and her character is dull and lacking anything that could be defined as empowering. On the flip side we do have more roles for women that are groundbreaking, though not anywhere near enough. The more we create spaces for women to tell their stories the more genuine and strong roles will start to see the light of day. I do not mean that men cannot craft strong female roles. I know they can. I just wish more of them would exist.

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DOG: What can we do to help increase gender equality in the horror genre?

H.F.: Support each other. Women are conditioned to tear each other apart and compete. Let’s show the world that we can actually come together. The world is waiting for us to fail.  So, the first step is women not hating on each other. We also need the various powers that be to put trust in women and open up spaces for them to shine. If you are a guy on a film set and working with a female director, editor, whatever, don’t jump in and say “well, you may wanna do it this way…” or “let me just show you…”  This is not what women need. We need you to support us and not assume we don’t know what to do or trust we will ask for help. Or offer your help but don’t assume it’s needed or wanted. This may seem small, but it’s a huge thing.  Don’t take away the voice of your female partner. Gender equality in horror will only happen when we have gender equality overall. And if we can start in our own niche communities, it will all spread and over time, with hard work and dedication, we will see these shifts. Just never get complacent.

DOG: Who are some up and coming women in horror that you’d like us to know about? 

H.F.: This list is in no order and I am most definitely leaving out people that I will later be angry at myself for not thinking of. So please only use this as a starter list!

Jen and Sylvia Soska
Jovanka Vuckovic
Jennifer Lynch
Maude Michaud
Shannon Lark
Ashley Lauren Carter
Lisa Hammer
Amy Lynn Best,
Devi Snively
Karen Lam
Ursula Dabrowsky,
Katie Carmen
Tristan Risk. . . .  and many many other ladies.

DOG: What resources are available for female horror fans? 

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H.F.: It depends what you are looking for specifically. If you are looking for community and networking, check out the Women in Horror Month website which has a ton of links to all sorts of blogs, podcasts, etc by women who love horror.  There is also Planet Etheria which is a great resource!

DOG: Can you tell us about the seal and how organizations can become recognized in their efforts to promote women in horror?

H.F.: Getting the seal is super easy. We decided on the seal system as a way to make sure the mission of the organization was being represented properly. After all, we don’t want a women hating event claiming to be an official WiHM event, ya know? It’s really just to make sure everything that happens has the best of intentions and is not in it for profit or self promotion. To get the seal just head over to our website and click “Get the Seal” http://www.womeninhorrormonth.com/#!get-the-seal