Horror Writer Catt Dahman Turns Horror Director – Interview

Her name is Catt Dahman, and she is the tour de force in the world of horror and true crime. She serves on the board of the Horror Authors Guild and she writes, writes and writes! Her books include the Extinction Island series, Diatlov Nine: Death Below Zero, the Z Is For Zombie series, Curse of Cain, and many more. Recently, however, she has stepped into the world of cinema and is in the process of directing her first movie, so we had to sit down and talk with her about her new scary project.

PopHorror: What have you enjoyed the most about making a horror movie?

Catt Dahman: Okay, I admit it, I love the appliances and how they look, and I love the blood. The best, safest blood is food-grade and it’s made of Caro syrup and cocoa. And red food coloring! Hey, did I mention I love the blood? I do.

PopHorror: Sounds like you are excited about this project.

Catt Dahman: I was excited before, during, and after. I can’t wait to see it. A director does less than the actual actors and film cinematographer.

PopHorror: How did you get involved with this project? What was going on that either you or someone else said, “Catt needs to direct this”?

Catt Dahman: I began when a guy I know, Marc Pearce, asked me if I could write a screenplay based on his vision. I thought I could, since I write novels. I learned a ton from that producer and enjoyed writing the film. It’s on track to be made. He has mentored me a lot. He acts, produces, and directs. Then someone else asked for two features and a short film, and I got more practice. Then Pin Up Zombies came up, and I was asked to write it, and as soon as I did, the producer decided that I had the vision, so I should direct it. I only said that a certain scene had to be a certain way to be effective and that was that.

I love to juxtapose beautiful music with death scenes and have crazy music for sweet scenes. Maybe that is my quirk as a director. As I write, I see every bit of the scene. It’s good with my OCD because OCD helps. “Do I leave that leaf on the sidewalk, do I move it, or do I remove it? How will my actor work with that leaf? What does the leaf symbolize?” And right now, I am on tap to direct four movies by the first of June and two more in the fall.

PopHorror: What is this movie about? What was it about this story that caught your attention?

Catt Dahman: All I had was a fun picture of the producers and the title. They had me at “zombies” to be honest. I can’t imagine disliking directing many movies. Writing is like 3-D, but directing is 4-D. It’s fun to see stories acted out and be able to change things. That being said, whether a movie is good or bad depends on actors, cinematographers, sound techs, editors… A lot of people are involved!

In Pin Up Zombies, nice girls go to a photo shoot and are drugged by the bad guys. There is a bad reaction, and they become similar to zombies but quicker and not so dead. They get some gory revenge! It’s a fun movie that doesn’t get too serious.

PopHorror: How long of a shoot did you have?

Catt Dahman: I learned that I am driven and crazed when we shoot. I take zero breaks and push. Pin Up Zombies isn’t an overly long film, so we knocked it out in 10 hours. But I got spoiled… we generally did one take with just some blocking and discussion, but we didn’t practice. I like to be quick, accurate, but not overly practiced. The next ones are long, and I anticipate about 60 hours.

PopHorror: What was the casting process like? I imagine finding the perfect one was great, but telling someone, “Oh, I am sorry but you are not right for the part,” was rough.

Catt Dahman: I had some ask if they might get a role, and yes, turn downs are never pleasant. But it’s the norm, same as with authors and rejection. Then, with most, I was able to pick and choose. Working with Angie Guinn, Maria Morrison, and Justin P. Warren was something I had already wanted to do. It’s who you know… all of it.

When I got ready to cast for the one this April—Sundown which is about Texarkana’s phantom killer—people heard great things about what happened with our previous movie like that we were super professional, pleasant to work with, supportive, and the biggest… we, the producers, had lunch catered to the max!

Anyway, people just found my messenger or asked for it, and asked if they might have a role. We also have a core group that I want to work with on all films.

PopHorror: I imagine working with people is so different.

Catt Dahman: Pin Up Zombies was insane! We had about 30 latex appliances that were applied for wounds and about six to seven gallons of fake blood. We used it all and really needed more. We had actors lying on the concrete floor in cold blood for hours. In one scene, the appliance failed, so I took a water spritzer and turned it on stream and shot Angie Guinn in the face 12-13 times to show arterial spray. When things fail, you find a way. The people I worked with are beyond wonderful. There was never an eyeroll, complaint, or anything! Professionals they are, and I’ll be tickled working with them more. Oh, and 9-year-old Alvae Easterling is a budding star. She’s acted before and for the film we just wrapped, she loved and followed me. I had her helping to latex, and she seemed to be everywhere I was, watching me. Now, I have heard that she said she wants to do it all: produce, direct, act. I should have known she was after my job! I bet she gets it all.

PopHorror: Oh, that is awesome! Will she want to edit the movie? Speaking of which, any idea how long it will take to edit this?

Catt Dahman: We have a super film editor in Walt Mills. Not sure when he will finish, but I don’t rush him. He and I share a creative mind. He picked up on certain elements like Breaking Bad, Rob Zombie, Tarantino, and grindhouse influences.

PopHorror: When the film is all put together, where will people be able to see it?

Catt Dahman: Filmmakers should get their films straight to DVD, because more will see it and because of Covid issues. That means Wal-Mart and possibly Shudder or another source that offers films. Indie films are huge! In fact, there is more of a demand than supply.

PopHorror: How is moviemaking different from writing a story?

Catt Dahman: Writers describe the scene, and we have to find a scene. Writers have more control, while we never know what could happen. For example, last time, two actors really snorted the prop which was hazelnut creamer. Writers can get as creative as possible, but filmmakers have to worry about possible injuries. Characters are easier to develop for films. A screenplay is far more bare and the director interprets it as do actors.

None of my stories or books have been adapted. The reason is because most of my novels would take expensive locations, CGI—although I prefer practical effects—and would need $50 to $100 million dollars, at least, to film. I have to tell people I won’t look at their books for films, and it hurts them. But the fact is, most books don’t translate to film. Many people see a movie and are disappointed because it isn’t like the book. It can’t be. Some of Stephen King’s books do fine as film with a big budget, but many are not good. Changes get made to translate the book to film, and then people get angry with so many changes. This is why, with the exception of one book, my stuff will never go to film.

Short answer: books and movies use different skill sets. Somehow, I was blessed with both. Or cursed?

PopHorror: What are some horror movies you enjoy and can watch repeatedly?

Catt Dahman: Horror, to me, is loosely defined. I’ll list what has influenced me and that I enjoy watching over and over: the Alien franchise, Terminator, The Thing, Devil’s Rejects, The Rock, American History X, Near Dark, From Dusk Till Dawn, Train to Busan, anything zombie from Romero, Planet Terror, The Hills Have Eyes, Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Breaking Bad, Sneaky Pete, Justified, LetterKenny, Fargo, anything grindhouse, and Twin Peaks. I don’t like most horror movies, which sounds weird. I don’t watch slashers like Jason, Freddy, or Chucky, but I like Rob Zombie’s Halloween. I don’t get into ghosts or haunting. I don’t like shows with little kids or teens. I believe Korean horror is done right, and I can handle subtitles.

PopHorror: Finally, why horror? What is it about this genre that grabs ya?

Catt Dahman: I want to toss out that I started as a writer of horror and true crime. And can I say the name of a few of the next films: Sundown, which is based on true story, Bigfoot Tours, which is based on the legend here is Texarkana, Sweet Bite, and Vamp Tramps.  All different subgenres in horror. Horror is in many films that people don’t think are horror, hence my list including American History X. That movie is horror because it unsettles us as viewers and makes us uncomfortable. At the end, I was so scared, then I cried, and then—on the editors cut—I was speechless. Breaking Bad had horror. I can direct a serious horror movie, a grindhouse, a horror-comedy, anything! It’s never the same, and horror is what screenplay writers and actors present. In Jaws, it only took one glance at the Shark’s eye, and I screamed!

Visit Catt at her site, Cattd.com. Her books are available on Amazon.

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