I got the insane pleasure of interviewing Lou Simon; writer, director, producer and woman in horror. We discussed her newest film, 3: An Eye for an Eye, what it’s like being a triple-threat, being a woman in the industry, and her favorite scary movie.
I’m not afraid to admit, I was super nervous as this was my first phone interview. But the incredibly kind Ms. Simon quickly put me at ease. When you’ve finished reading this, be sure to check out my review of 3, which you can read by clicking – here.
PopHorror: So last night, I got to watch 3, and I really, really enjoyed it. I thought it was great.
Lou: Oh, I’m so glad.
PopHorror: And I’m not going to lie, when I first read the synopsis, I thought it was going to be your typical rape/revenge flick, because I got a really short synopsis of it. But, I was really wrong, which I like, I like being proved wrong. And I wanted to know, what inspired you to create this story, and to not go the usual route?
Lou: You know, creativity is so weird, it’s not like…it’s kind of a convergence of two things happening at the same time. I wanted to make another film that was kind of like a contained location, you know, few characters that we could do with the budget that we had. I already had in my mind that it had to be something like that. I thought of that movie, Bound, and thought, “oh yes, something like that.”
I wasn’t sure exactly why or what, you know, but just at about the same time, Aniela, who plays the woman in the movie, was diagnosed with cancer, and she had a double mastectomy. And she posted these pictures of herself after the surgery, like right afterwards, topless, and I had such a reaction to it because I couldn’t even imagine what that would feel like, you know, and my very twisted mind turned that even darker and started thinking. Well, what if that happened to a rape victim and blah blah blah and the next thing you know…I integrated that into the story.
PopHorror: Oh, wow. That’s really hardcore. Seeing that you wrote, directed and produced it, you’re definitely mastering the trifecta there. I was doing some research and the phrase ‘triple-threat’ kept coming up, which I think is amazing and I wanted to know, how did you get your start in making films?
Lou: I actually started by writing. I studied creative writing in college, but when I got out of school, there weren’t any writing jobs so I ended up doing something completely different in this other career that I didn’t really have time for anything else. I didn’t write for years, and then a friend of mine was writing a script, and I thought, “okay, you know, I can help you with that. I know a little bit about writing and whatever.” Then I started learning to write ‘script-style,’ and I thought this is easier than writing a novel or even a short story. There was a lot of white space in scripts. And I found that I have a natural knack for it. So, I started writing scripts, and after a couple of years doing that, because I have no patience, I was like ‘okay, how come they’re not knocking down my door and asking me to write movies?
So I thought, I’m going to make my first movie and it’s going to be so great that everybody is going to love it and then I’ll be discovered and world famous. So I did it, but I kind of had to jump in the director side because it just wasn’t turning out the way I wanted it to so I had to learn directing on the spot, and then the producing. You know, producing is like running a business and I had my own business for a long time. I had the background for that already. That part is the one that came so natural because I’ve been doing it for so long. And that’s it. After that, you know, believe it or not I did not get discovered after one script haha. So, I made four after that, there you go.
PopHorror: And going off of that, you said you started with creative writing. I saw that you got a degree in English. You had moved here from Cuba and I read that you didn’t even know English at that time, so to go and get a degree in it, I think that’s amazing. I also saw that you had were law school as well.
Lou: Thank you. Yeah yeah, I’m an attorney. That’s actually what I did for many years, that’s the business I had for many years and still practice. Not full time because I don’t have the time for that, but I do contract work where I work for a little while, that gives me the freedom to make movies on the side. You know… there’s no paycheck in movie making haha.
PopHorror: I don’t know how I missed that! That is amazing. And going back to 3, the surprise ending kind of smacks you in the face, but I also thought it was kind of heartbreaking. And I just want to know, because sometimes it’s hard to keep those kind of things secret. Did you find keeping the secret ending to this film hard with it going out and being shown?
Lou: As far as I know, nobody has gone out and spoiled it, thank God. I’ve had movies before, where in the review they’ve gone and said something and I’m like “Are you crazy? You’re like reviewing the whole thing.” So far, everyone has been really sensitive to it and not spilled the beans. I think everyone realizes how important the twist is, because otherwise the rest of the movie doesn’t have any value to it. I’ve been pretty lucky about that, but yeah no spoilers so far. Every time we watch it with an audience, they don’t have a clue of what’s going to happen. It made the movie work. Otherwise, you don’t get the ride you’re supposed to go through with it, you’re supposed to be able to go back and forth on whether this guy is guilty or not.
PopHorror: Where can 3 be seen right now?
Lou: It comes out August 7, actually, on VOD, iTunes, Amazon, all of those. On 9/11, I hate that date, it’ll be on DVD.
PopHorror: I did notice the at least two references to Silence of the Lambs in the movie, and I wanted to know, what is your favorite scary movie?
Lou: That’s my favorite scary movie. I’m obsessed with Silence of the Lambs. That’s definitely my favorite. And you know there’s this whole thing, is it horror or is it not, and I don’t care if it’s horror, it’s scary. There’s something really scary about serial killers, period. I had been trying to put it in a script for so long so I was very happy to be able to get it in there.
PopHorror: All Girls Weekend was one of my favorites of 2016. I thought it was great. I loved that it was all women, in the forest. I loved that it was scary. I know it went from festival runs and into distribution, and your first film went into distribution quite quickly as well. How does it feel to see your film go from the very beginning, to a full festival run, to getting distribution and breaking out to where everyone in the whole world can see it?
Lou: Oh, my god. I wish it was faster because it takes so long. I don’t think people realize how long it takes. But, it definitely is so rewarding when I get a message from someone around the world saying ‘I just saw your movie, and I loved it.’ My god, who would have ever thought when we were making this movie that some guy in Pakistan was going to send us a message saying he’d seen our movie. When they go out of their way to tell you that they liked it? I don’t ever think of doing that. It’s never crossed my mind to send a message to some all the way across the world to say, “Hey, I saw your movie,” no matter how much I liked it. So the fact that they’ve gone that far out of their way to reach out to you, you’re like, “wow, that’s pretty cool!” That’s the thing that keeps me going because it’s not like, you know, we’re getting rich and famous out of this. We’re not even making money on it. So you do it for that. For those little moments of rewards, whether it’s going to a film festival and getting to hear the audience feedback or whether when it actually gets released and seeing your name there and knowing that it’s something you put together and it’s your hard work coming to fruition. That’s really the only reason at this level that you do it. And how long you’ve worked on it, because it’s not like something you put together and five minutes later it’s done. It’s quite rewarding when all said and done.
PopHorror: Being a woman in the industry, you are a true champion for women in horror. Do you have any advice, or words of encouragement to any other women who are out there trying to get their start in the genre?
Lou: The reason why, it hasn’t been an impediment to me, is because I’m making my own stuff. I think if you’re dependent on the Hollywood system, the studio system, then you’re going to be very frustrated. I’m not only a woman, but I’m also Latina, I have less than a 1% chance in being hired as a director in Hollywood. But I’m not going to let that sway me, and they shouldn’t either. You do your own thing and if someone wants to recognize your talents, great, and if not, then you’ve got to do it because you love doing it. Not because you’re doing it to get rich and famous because you know, you’re likely to be very, very frustrated. And that’s all we can do. It’s only of those things where it’s a long shot, so you just have to do it because you love it. And I’m just going to keep doing it as long as people keep watching it.
It’s those moments that we talked about, those brief moments of rewards. In the studio system, unless you have a huge name, you have no creative control. There’s no perfect existence in this industry, so you have to pick what’s really important to you.
PopHorror: I saw a thread on Facebook today, about women in horror, and how women aren’t being accepted into festivals. Someone made the comment that it shouldn’t be based on gender, it should be based on merit, but it’s the fact that women aren’t even being considered for it. Someone else brought up having to use her first initial when writing because gender had to be taken off the table to avoid her work being questioned, and rewrites requested. With the first name Lou, you could go either way, and I didn’t know if you were using that so something like this didn’t happen?
Lou: No, I was using Lou as a name way before I even thought of being in the film industry so it definitely didn’t have anything to do with that. What I did think about afterwards was this is kind of convenient. I’m my own boss so nobody will really be asking me for any rewrites, but what I did think about was I want my work to be judged on its own merit and not to say well that’s good for a girl. If it’s good, tell me it’s good and if it’s not tell me it’s not good. The things I would not ever want to happen is if there’s a competition and to win for Best Woman Director when there’s also a Best Director award, because that would be like saying, “Well, it’s good enough for a girl, but it’s obviously not good enough to be best director.”