|Interview with Barbara Stepansky
By Ray Hom
1) In a few sentences, tell us who Barbara Stepansky is, and the inspiration
behind her work.
I'm a European feature film director specializing in psychological thrillers
with horror elements. As a teenager, I was heavily inspired by V.C. Andrews'
"Flowers in the Attic", which thrust me into the dark side. I also grew up
for about nine years living with my windows facing a cemetery. The dead were
the quietest neighbors I ever had and I very much appreciated them. I'm
obsessed with True Crime TV shows, and I love any type of work that explores
the complex dark side of the human mind. I'm a big fan of Roman Polanski,
Brad Anderson, and Sam Raimi.
||2) What is your take on the current state of female directors in the horror
I'm not sure what the current state of female directors in the horror genre
is, because the overall state of there being working female directors is
still pretty abysmal. And I don't believe there ever was a woman hired to
direct one of the "Masters of Horror" episodes, which is a little sad. I
think the horror genre is a great playing field for innovation - in terms of
storytelling, camera angles, sound, and the filmmaking craft in general.
Also, it is one of the few genres left that allows you to have successful
films without a name cast and most of the time there is an actual female
lead character that survives against all odds. I've always loved watching
horror movies, but once I figured these points out, I couldn't get into
directing them fast enough. Personally, I like making movies that evoke some
sort of visceral reaction from people, like gasps, laughs, screams, and
horror is a perfect genre to achieve that with. The bottom line is to find
your own voice and tell the fun scary stories you want to, without having to
overcompensate just so you can play with the boys.
|3) Any advice on how one should begin grabbing a foothold into the film
If you want to be a director, you have no other choice than actually being
one. There is no secret recipe or ladder to climb to that position. You can
intern and work small assistant gigs in the industry to meet people, but
ultimately nobody is going to trust you with a schedule and a budget if you
haven't already proven to them that you can handle storytelling and actors.
And in this day and age, there is really no excuse not to go out there and
shoot something. If you sit around complaining how nobody's letting you
direct a movie, then you're doing some serious self-sabotage. You could
literally shoot something on your IPhone these days, cut it on your laptop
and post it on YouTube. The whole filmmaking system is much more accessible
than it ever was. If you can show that you can tell a story visually and
entertain people, then that is all you ultimately need to do. I'm not saying
the long-term process of working in the film industry is easy, but it's an
absolute must to get up and just do it, if that's what you really want.
||4) What are your favorite horror films? Which one is the scariest, and why?
I have so many favorites, so I'll probably leave something out and be upset
about it later. But I do absolutely love "The Fog", "Session 9", "Creep",
"Them", "The Descent", "The Ring" and "The Orphanage". My all time scariest
movie is "Alien" - I remember, as a kid, the moment I started watching
"Alien" with friends, I was struck with such fear that I couldn't continue.
I ran out of the room with tears of fear. I still think it's one of the most
effective "Monster-in-the-House" type films ever made. My most recent
scariest movie is "Martyrs", because even though it's gorier than most of
the horror films I generally appreciate, it's completely unpredictable and
blew my mind with its constant plot twists. I'm also completely terrified of
any Nancy Meyers movie. I just can't watch any woman flail their arms around
as much as she does with the characters she plays and break out into these
gratuitous yelps of joy or woe.
5) Scenario: You're lost in a dark forest area, and you come upon an
abandoned cabin. Do you enter? Or continue on your way into the dark woods?
(Of course, your cell phone has no signal.)
That's a great question. I'm screwed either way. There's probably a
cannibalistic deformed recluse living in the cabin who will hang me on a
meat hook in the basement and sample my eyeballs, and there's probably a
serial killer in the dark woods who's already been watching me and is ready
to drill a machete through my gut once I turn the corner. So I choose to
stay in the woods. Enclosed spaces do not make me feel safe, and at least
the last breath I take will taste of fresh air and misty evergreens.
To find out more about Barbara