The Bloody Mary Film Festival
Krista Dzialoszynski has been working in the film industry in Toronto for the past 10 years. She’s worked on various film sets such Bruce McDonald’s Pontypool, before moving on to co-write and co-direct her own films such as the feature film Hills Green (2012). In 2015 Krista made her acting debut in Derek Mungor’s POV thriller You Are Not Alone. When not watching films, working on films, taking photos, or enjoying a beverage, she can be found working at Vice Media.
Laura Di Girolamo
The Bloody Mary Film Festival
In addition to being one of the co-creators of The Bloody Mary Film Festival, Laura Di Girolamo is also a social media professional, a performer at stand-up storytelling shows, and a writer for such publications as Exclaim! Film, Nasty Women's Press and Cinefilles. A graduate of York University's Cinema & Media Studies program, her research specialized in female representation in genre films and TV. Laura is a devoted fan of lipstick, ghost stories, gross bar food, and cats.
Interview conducted on 03/06/2017 (Skype interview)
throwdown815: So given that this is such a new festival, can you talk about how you actually started it?
Laura Di Girolamo: Well, I guess I initially had the idea for it. And seeing Babadook really got me thinking about things. I saw it at Toronto After Dark in 2014 and I was like, "Oh, this is so great." I really want to see more horror movies that are made by women that tell female stories, because I had always been really into that. I had always been into Rosemary's Baby and Carrie and all these classic horror movies about women and aliens, and I just kept thinking, "Wow. It's scary being a woman sometimes." It would be really cool to have female directors making films about that and, you know, to even the playing ground a little bit. I actually posted on one of those Bunz groups. I don't know if you know Bunz.
td815: Haven't heard of it before.
LDG: It used to be this Toronto trade group where people would be like, "I have this couch. Who wants to trade it for a bottle of wine?" Then, they made offshoot groups. There was this Bunz helping zone, where you could be like, "Where do I get my mom a gift? She likes this." People would then chime in. I posted in it and said, "Hey, I kind of want to do a screening thing about women who direct horror films and stuff. Would anyone be interested, or like want to participate?" This one girl, I can't remember her name, but she's friends with you [pointing at Krista], "Oh, my friend, Krista would be so into that. You should meet up with her and she gave me your contact information and we met and then kind of took it from there.
td815: Oh I see, so you guys didn't actually know each other before?
Krista Dzialoszynski: We didn't know each other before. The whole thing originated from this Bunz Facebook post, I guess.
KD: It was this group that I wasn't even part of, and a friend of mine saw it and was like, "Hey, you should get in touch with this girl, Laura,” and so I did. We just met up and both really liked this idea of starting a festival. We wondered how hard it would be, whether we could pull it off, like all these things. And then, we really just met probably around August or September [of 2016]. We decided to just try and do it really quickly in November and see if it would work.
td815: Wait, so last August or September was when you guys first met? That’s really quick!
LDG: Yeah, it might have been earlier in the summer actually.
KD: Yeah, it was in the summer.
td815: That’s still a pretty short period of time to start an entire film festival. So in terms of starting the festival, especially given that you had such a short period of time, did you find that it was fairly easy to do it in Toronto? And was the community pretty supportive?
KD: Yeah, I think so. Neither of us had ever done anything like this before, so we definitely had a lot of questions going in. I mean, anybody could book a theatre, but we were like, will anyone come to the festival? We didn’t know. But people were really supportive, especially I would say, people that work at other Toronto festivals. Even just with sharing information or recommending filmmakers that we should maybe look at. We did have people submit to our festival, so we did put out a call for submissions. We had a bunch of submissions based just on that. But given that it was our first year, we didn't really expect to be flooded with emails. A lot of other programmers or friends were really good at recommending filmmakers or films that they had seen and thought would be a really good fit. There was a lot of support, I think.
LDG: Yeah, Toronto After Dark was really great. The MUFF Society, which helped with some of the female programming at Toronto After Dark, they helped a lot. They were "This is cool. Let's do more female films."
td815: And before starting this festival, were the two of you pretty regular attendees of the other festivals in the city?
KD: Yeah, I go to TIFF every year. I've been doing that for a while. More recently, Toronto After Dark, The Canadian Film Festival, and a bunch of other ones.
LDG: I've been going to Toronto After Dark for a while and volunteered for them. I also briefly worked for just one season for Planet in Focus, which is the environmental film festival. I've been going to TIFF for a long time too and I've been to the Fantasia Festival in Montreal a couple of times, which is pretty cool. They’re kind of a bigger, sort of more widely focused than Toronto After Dark. So, they do more sci-fi and more fantasy and run for like a month long, which is cool.
td815: Is there any reason why you guys specifically focused on genre films as opposed to all types of movies made by female filmmakers?
KD: Yeah, I think both of us, in going to Toronto After Dark and Midnight Madness [at TIFF], we kind of felt like we were seeing films that had similar portrayals of women in films and not many films were directed by women. We thought that it was a shame, because there are some really good ones out there. So, we wanted to focus on that and also focus specifically on women filmmakers in Canada. Once you make a film, it can be so hard to get into a festival. Especially if that festival traditionally screens your more typical types of horror films. We just wanted to focus on that and really support those women filmmakers and inspire other ones to hopefully come out with horror films of their own.
LDG: Yeah. We just both really like genre films and there's not a lot of female representation. Like Hot Docs is really well represented for female filmmakers, but there aren’t many horror female filmmakers. I feel like the industry can be very ‘bro-ey’, especially in horror. The horror community is getting way better and way more representative, but it's still kind of intimidating. People are like, "Oh, I don't know. I don't want to be in a space with all these guys." It kind of turns them off, so we wanted to make it a friendlier, more supportive place. It was really cool at our festival, because a lot of the filmmakers that showed up for Q&A's, they were all like, "Oh, I went out to drinks after. Oh, she's so cool. We met up and we were talking about projects." It was really cool that this Canadian horror female filmmaking community is helping each other, being supportive and hopefully, we'll end up seeing more projects happening.
td815: For sure. Just on the topic of opportunities for women, specifically behind the camera, why do you think there’s always been a lack of opportunities out there for women
KD: Yeah, I'm not really sure what it all comes from really. But I know that not only in film, but from working other jobs in life, it seems to be that when you have a company where there’s a lot of males in positions of power and an opportunity arises (management position or just any other position), they’ll hire their male friends or recommend their male friends. I don't know, sometimes I that's what it comes down to. It’s something that’s been really ingrained in society. By starting this festival, we want to break away from that and show that, "Hey, there's all these women out there doing these things.” Then one woman director will support another and get them in those doors as well.
LDG: Yeah, I think in the film industry tends to think that female directed films won’t sell because they sort of view the default to be white males. So if the movie doesn't appeal to them, then it won't sell tickets and it'll perform badly, because they don't want to see a girl movie, whatever that is. There's a horror documentary called Why Horror, and there's a segment about women in horror and they basically said that the horror audience is 50% female, if not more. I think there's actually slightly more women who watch horror than men. It's not that they're a minority that won't go see the movies. They're equally represented, so it's kind of silly that there aren’t more opportunities for female horror filmmakers, considering so many women watch horror. It's not even smart from a financial viewpoint to say, "Oh, we're going to pick this guy over this girl," if they're getting directors to do the project.
td815: And aside from Bloody Mary, are there other film festivals, obviously not in Toronto, but around Canada, or around the world, that do a similar thing?
KD: Yeah, we've come across a couple in the States, that are very women filmmaker focused. There’s also Women in Horror Month, which is a series of screenings all over the place, that focus specifically on women making horror films.
LDG: Yeah, there's a couple all over the world. There's one in Australia and there's one in Berlin. The one in Berlin is called the Final Girl's Film Festival and that's what we wanted to name our festival at first, and then we were like, "Shit. It's already taken." We're glad we went with Bloody Mary though. And it turned out to be pretty funny because everybody had a Bloody Mary bathroom story. We got people at our festival to tell us about them while they were up for the Q&A, so that was fun.
td815: Okay, so I guess just in terms of recognition, when it comes to recognition by award shows, film festivals, critic's groups, etc. Women filmmakers don't get recognized as much as their male counterparts. I guess from your standpoint, what do you think is the biggest problem with not recognizing women in the same way that men are?
LDG: You maybe just get less diverse stories. It's the same reason why at the past Oscars, people had kind of pitted La La Land and Moonlight against each other in this huge battle. On one hand, La La Land represented the status quo and this old Hollywood nostalgia with a story that, again, was about white people. Moonlight, on the other hand, was about a gay, black man in the projects and it was a completely different story than what we mostly see. It's definitely the type of story that doesn't typically breed rewards and gets widespread recognition. The industry is so slow to change, and maybe they're not used to seeing different stories yet.
td815: And just to wrap things up, in terms of the 2017 edition of Bloody Mary, what do you have planned for that, now that you have a lot more time to organize this one?
LDG: That was a good lesson. Don't plan a festival in four months!
KD: Well, we're currently building a new website, so we're excited about that. We're going to be back at the Carlton for sure in November. Our dates are still being finalized, but probably early November. We're going to put out a call for submissions much earlier than we did last times since it was so last minute. We're hoping for more great films and basically just have another go at it and trying to making the festival bigger and better this year.
td815: For the first edition of the festival, there was a mixture of both new and older films?
KD: We had a mixture of both, for sure. The festival was two nights and on both nights, we had a shorts program and then, a feature film to close out each night. Our features. One of them was a 2013 film directed by Trisha Lee [Silent Retreat], who’s a Toronto director. She's really great. We tried to get her new film, but it wasn't ready yet. I think she's going to be actually screening it at the Carlton later this year. So yeah, both nights, we had shorts and a feature. Some of the shorts were like, that was the first time they had played in a festival, so that was pretty neat. We also had a lot of filmmakers attend. One of them even flew in from Vancouver to come to the Q&A. But this year, we're definitely hoping for more new films and hopefully have some filmmakers come back with their second, third, fourth feature in the future.
LDG: We've also talked about having more films from women of colour too. Like, one of our programmers is talking to this woman, who I believe is Métis, and she does this kind of stop-motion-y horror stuff. It would be cool if we could get more people from even more under-represented groups in horror film.
td815: That would definitely be cool. The last question I have for you is what has been your favourite film festival experience so far? Just in general.
LDG: Okay. It's probably not the most memorable ever, but it was pretty memorable. This past TIFF, I was at the screening of Raw, and it was apparently the one where two people passed out, which I still don't think really happened. I heard one of them was just diabetic and he was low on blood sugar and it was two in the morning, so he passed out. But that was a really memorable experience, because people were so viscerally grossed out by this movie. Even though it's not that gory, it's just so raw. It's so realistic, it makes you so squeamish. Everyone in the audience was cringing and I saw a couple of my friends, who were also drawing back in their seats. The whole audience was like that. The other one was when I saw Grave of the Fireflies at TIFF and my entire audience was just sobbing, hysterically. Through the entire movie. Those would be my favorite two.
KD: I saw It Follows at Midnight Madness, and I've never seen so much dread in that theater before. The film wasn't even that scary, like there was one thing that happened, but then it was like, you know, you kind of settled in. But my heart was just racing and you could just feel the tension from everyone. It was horrifying, but it was also really fun to be in that sort of environment for two hours and then leave.
LDG: And get away into the night time.
td815: At two in the morning.