One of the most genuine and energetic humans I know is the one and only Vanessa Ionta Wright. She is a jack of all trades. A director, writer, producer, and co-founder of the Women in Horror Film Festival. I was blessed to meet her at the festival back in 2018 – an experience I hold very close to my heart. WIHFF 2020 is just around the corner, so I thought Vanessa was the perfect person to open 2020’s Women in Horror Month aka WiHM 11!
This is the first time WIHFF is happening in February and it also has a new location! WIHFF 2020 will be held during national WiHM, February 27-29, 2020 at the historic STRAND THEATRE on the Marietta Square just outside of Atlanta, GA. The festival is also offering $11 off all submissions in honor of the 11th year of WiHM. Use the code: WIHM11 when you check out at FilmFreeway! www.filmfreeway.com/WIHFF
PopHorror – It’s always great to catch up with you Vanessa! What was your initial goal when you co-founded Women in Horror Film Festival?
Vanessa Ionta Wright – It was and still is to bring more visibility to women working in genre film. We didn’t want to create such a narrow criteria that women would simply be competing against other women, we wanted to create a more equal and level playing field that encouraged inclusion. It was also important to celebrate the contributions of women beyond the director chair, as it is such a collaborative process to create a film.
PopHorror – That’s exactly why I love this festival. This year, you’re hosting WIHFF 2020 in Atlanta versus Peach Tree City. Are you excited about this change/experience?
Vanessa Ionta Wright – Very excited for this change. Peachtree City has a great mood to it, as it was an all-inclusive experience with the theater inside the hotel. But the location limited attendance as it was tucked so far away, and somewhat trapped the attendees as it wasn’t convenient to leave the property. We are so thrilled to be in the beautifully restored historic Strand Theatre, right on the Marietta Square. Lots to do in between screenings, plenty of restaurants to choose from and a wonderful venue to showcase these films.
PopHorror – So exciting! You have some amazing celebrity guests joining you this year. One of them is the legendary Heather Langenkamp (read our interview – HERE). How did you originally connect with her?
Vanessa Ionta Wright – I was introduced to her by my cousin, Kathy Oliver, who worked with Heather on American Horror Story: Freakshow. Heather was immediately on board with what we were doing with the festival and has been an amazing supporter and mentor over the last several years. I am forever grateful to her and honored to be working with her.
PopHorror – That’s amazing – you know I adore her! What are you excited most about this year for WIHFF 2020?
Vanessa Ionta Wright – The people. It’s always so great to see returning guests and meeting new guests. It’s such a supportive environment, everyone is just so thrilled to be there among their peers and cheer each other on. It’s beautiful to experience. It’s so inspiring to be around that much creative energy.
PopHorror – As the festival continues to grow, do you have any new perspectives or goals for it?
Vanessa Ionta Wright – I would like to continue creating opportunities for the filmmakers and screenwriters beyond the fest. If there is anything WIHFF can do to help foster and further someone’s film career, we will do it.
PopHorror – Because you guys rock! You’re a fantastic director, writer, and producer. There’s nothing you can’t do. And you recently worked on the film 13 Fanboy this year with Deborah Voorhees. What was that experience like?
Vanessa Ionta Wright – Thank you! Working with Deborah Voorhees and her crew was amazing. I met so many wonderful people who are now friends, and we are actually collaborating on projects together. Deb did a great job of bringing really great people together. It was a blast getting to know and work with the fabulous talents of the Friday the 13th franchise. Getting to know everyone on a personal level was really special. Living and working around the clock over the course of several weeks, you really do become a family.
I have some phenomenal memories that I will cherish forever. Like getting lost in the woods with Judie Aronson and almost starring in our own real-life horror movie, laughing harder than I have in years with Nora Hewitt, bonding with Pam Witte over paperwork and Bang energy drinks (thank you Jason West for introducing me to obscene amount of caffeine), goofing off in town with Jason Bradford and Rick Serra, spending 6 hours in a car with Corey Feldman and his lovely family, pranking Kane Hodder (read our interview –HERE) by plastering googly eyes all throughout his trailer, zip-lining on our day off, it was a remarkable experience.
PopHorror – Oh wow, I’m so jealous! What other projects are you working on that you’re excited about?
Vanessa Ionta Wright – Currently, I am getting ready to direct a short western proof of concept called Goldentooth. Edward Santiago and I just won a $10k film grant for the film and we shoot March 14th. Goldentooth is the origin story of one of the characters from the feature that I am directing and co-writing called The Badge, The Gun & The Hangman’s Noose. The feature stars horror icons Thom Mathews, Vinny Guastaferro, Robert Mukes, Andrew Leighty, Vincente DiSanti and Anissa Matlock. You’ll be hearing more about the feature this year, for sure!
PopHorror – I absolutely can’t wait! While working in this business, what is one of the most important things you’ve learned?
Vanessa Ionta Wright – Put everything in writing ;). Also, it’s ok to make mistakes. Mistakes are great learning tools, in fact, I encourage people to make all the mistakes you can.
PopHorror – Great advice! Who are the women that inspire you?
Vanessa Ionta Wright – This is always a tough question because I’m inspired by so many different people for so many different reasons, I couldn’t possibly make a list with names. I will share qualities that inspire me though. I admire those who do not quit in the face of adversity, and I am inspired by those who persevere through whatever obstacles are in front of them in order to achieve their goals. I don’t believe in “I can’t”, it’s a lie and it’s a negative voice trying to break you down. If someone ever says to me “I can’t do it” or “I couldn’t do it” I always think to myself “no, you just didn’t do it”.
PopHorror – So very true! Favorite movie directed by a woman?
Vanessa Ionta Wright – Ugh, the dreaded favorite movie question. HOW CAN I POSSIBLY PICK ONE? There are so many movies out there! Clearly, you enjoy torturing me. I’ll give you a few, in no particular order, that I really enjoy:
Drama – Awakenings directed by Penny Marshall
Drama – Boys Don’t Cry directed by Kimberly Pierce
Horror/Thriller – American Psycho directed by Mary Harron
Horror – The Babadook directed by Jennifer Kent
Comedy – Fast Times at Ridgemont High directed by Amy Heckerling
Comedy – Slums of Beverly Hills directed by Tamara Jenkins
Horror/Thriller – Ravenous directed by Antonia Bird
Comedy – Little Miss Sunshine co-directed by Valeria Farris