Etheria Film Night, one of the most well-regarded and grand Women in Horror celebrations in the world. The festival has helped countless talents gain recognition and, most importantly, support throughout the indie horror community.
As a proud Women in Horror supporter who has championed the movement for as long as I have been a member of the social media and horror scene, I have had the wonderful opportunity to speak with so many incredible talents over the years. One of those ladies is Stacy Pippi Hammon, one of the hardest working and effervescent professionals you will find in the film industry. I highlighted her in an interview a few years back for a site I ran and now I had a great excuse to spotlight her again.
Stacy is the Festival Director of Etheria Film Night and the event went spectacularly on June 11th at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, California. This year, the event featured nine short films and a feature length movie. Ms. Hammon was kind enough to discuss the night as well as the shape of horror as the Women in Horror movement has been moving forward at a break-neck pace.
MANGLED MATTERS: The amount of talent you had at the event this year is just ridiculous. Every year, this festival assembles the cream of the crop as far as indie horror filmmakers go. Personally, how does it feel knowing you play such an important role in bringing together so many amazing people for a common cause?
STACY PIPPI HAMMON: This is my passion. I hope that when our selections are screened elsewhere and folks see the ETHERIA laurels that they know they are in for a treat and that the attention continues to carry forward for our filmmakers. They deserve the recognition for their abilities. So many supporters and collaborators gave their time and talent to assist us in making our event a success. It’s hard for any filmmaker to break in, and for many you get stuck in a catch-22 trying to juggle when and how to create content, market content, network, and so on. I want the filmmakers to feel that they didn’t just screen at a festival but were welcomed into a community that will continue to support them. Every year we continue to grow and I feel great knowing that it’s working.
MM: Jill Gevargizian and her team kind of pretty much cleaned up with The Stylist. What an incredible weekend for Jill and her film- to not only premiere at the event but then win both jury and audience Best Short awards.
SH: I love the complaints I get from the judges that every year we give them the impossible task of picking a winner because everyone always gets stuck. Our slate contains so many styles and sub-genres and reflects sort of a “Best Of” for each of those categories. There is not a single short that doesn’t get picked by one of the judges as their favorite. The jury comes from different positions within the industry so the films get examined through not just personal eyes, but the eyes of a scriptwriter versus the eyes of a director, producer, reviewer, or other festival curators.
The audience award is chosen during the festival itself. At the conclusion of the shorts program, we collect voting ballots from the audience as the filmmaker Q&A begins. Three people perform the count for accuracy and return the results to the presenter prior to the conclusion of the Q&A. Audience Choice tends to vote for cinematic enjoyment over technical – the “crowd pleaser”, if you will.
It was really exciting to see Jill’s stunned face when the winners were being announced and she and her team took both prizes. I was just a little disappointed she didn’t cry! Hard Broads took a close second place for Audience Award which also thrilled me because that short cracks me up, it’s so funny.
MM: It’s so awesome to see filmmakers band together and really celebrate one another and their work, in an industry where that isn’t always the case. Let’s also not beat around the bush here- as a huge proponent of the Women in Horror movement and with so much going on these days regarding gender equality in the entertainment business, it’s just marvelous to see these all-star ladies coming out to the event and speaking up about supporting one another. How has the landscape of the genre changed over the last few years, in your opinion?
SH: There is definitely a louder and much more visible presence in the horror scene over the last decade and especially the last few years. Accessibility to equipment and advancement in technology has helped this. Filmmakers can connect through social media and job boards. Many filmmakers are writing, directing, producing and editing their work themselves. WIH has absolutely instilled confidence and visibility in our filmmakers. We are seeing more and more amazing short films. Now, let’s see those features at the same level of output. Sure, everyone can name the same five or so films that everyone is talking about, but compared to the guys we are still far, far behind. It’s a matter of hiring and backing women. We will keep hammering away on that. Meanwhile, celebrating and supporting one another is exactly what we aim to do.
MM: If you had to pinpoint one specific moment of the weekend that really stood out to you, what would it be?
SH: Meeting up with the attending filmmakers for our photoshoot on Friday morning is one of the many moments that stands out to me. This was the first opportunity for most of the group to meet each other before the festivities began. Those that were more familiar with how Etheria operates still had a look of childlike delight on their faces to be there as the center of attention. Some that had no idea other than this was an activity for a fest they we playing seemed pleasantly stunned to be embraced into a group that was there to compete against each other but were acting more like we were at a slumber party. I thrive on the joy of the filmmakers.
MM: What advice would you give to young female filmmakers or creators out there who may not be getting the sort of encouragement they deserve?
SH: First, take a deep breath and listen to any criticism without emotion. After analyzing this and if you determine it is unfounded or irrelevant to what you are trying to achieve, find a new tribe that gets you. The first part is really important, however. Sometimes it feels like others are tearing you down, but they may be giving you good advice because they do care. Real support isn’t telling you that you are awesome all the time. Sometimes it means warning someone of a trap they don’t want to believe is there. Ultimately, keep charging forward. If you keep creating those supporters are going to start finding you.