Hope's a funny thing. In horror, it's either the carrot we dangle at the end of a very long stick, or we remove it altogether. And in our real lives, as artists, it's the one thing we cling to for dear life. There's a bizarre irony to being a horror filmmaker. In the art we create, we take away the one thing that we hold to, almost desperately, in our actual lives.
Makes sense though, doesn't it? As a horror storyteller, you threaten the thing you hold dearest.
When I started making horror shorts a couple years ago, it was my earnest hope to just make a body of work that showed I had the chops to make long form horror, namely features and TV. But along the way, I gained notoriety for being able to create dread in less than 5 minutes, (something, by the way, which everyone said couldn't be done). Short form horror in film was impossible, they said. And by "they", I mean damn near everyone I met. "You need a good 90 minutes to set up your scares, layer in a sense of dread." And when they told me that it was impossible, it only fueled my desire to make short form horror even more.
So now, 3 years and 40 some horror shorts later, I think I've made my point and accomplished exactly what I'd hoped to. How'd I do it? I looked at my rolemodels, Poe, Blackwood and Lovecraft. They made their reputations on short form horror, albeit they were short stories. And I wanted a similar, modern legacy. So after a lot of hard work, I've got the portfolio I've always wanted. And it's paying off, because the studios that once laughed, frowned and scoffed at "my little youtube videos" are now calling, asking for me to tell them the secret. Don't get me wrong, I've still got a LONG way to go, but it's all part of this hopeful journey.
And it's a team sport. I have been helped by some great filmmakers along the way, and I want to help other filmmakers as well. I get these questions from budding filmmakers at least once a week, "How do I break in? How do I make a mark? How are you doing what you're doing?"
The answer is simple. Make films. Lots of them. Cheap ones, but smart ones. Don't worry so much about the sfx, just tell a good story. And don't forget to scare us. And if you don't know how to scare us, figure it out, and always go with what scares YOU. And don't put all your eggs in one short film, because it's likely not going to pay off. I'm not promoting a shotgun approach. Not at all. I'm talking about cutting your chops, creating a body of work that represents you, and really getting time on set and in the editing room honing your craft and realy learning what the hell you're doing.
When film historians look back on your early Youtube films, they should see "proto-you". That is to say, they should see where you were going, not where you ended up. It's a step toward a bigger, better thing. A step toward hope.
Just like the secret to losing weight is eating less and working your butt off at the gym, and the secret to being a great musician is practicing ALL THE TIME, so too is the secret to becoming a good filmmaker filming ALL THE TIME. And be ready to make a lot of sacrifices regarding time, money and sweat as you work toward your goal.
But most of all, have hope.
Gaudium Per Atrox.