Lights, camera, equality action - tackling misogyny one shot at a time
Film-makers Kate Shenton and Jessica Cameron on how the horror genre is taking on misogyny in the film industry
Kate Shenton: “One of the most bizarre incidences was being in a meeting and having the vice president of the company ask me to stroke his beard”
The horror genre is not famed for its gender parity (The Final Girls notwithstanding), particularly behind the camera. Just ask Kate Shenton, whose new horror-comedy Egomaniac will receive its Irish premiere at this month’s Horrorthon.
Egomaniac takes a sly swipe at the movieverse’s behind-the- scenes sexism as its heroine – a young horror filmmaker – faces down financiers with stupid demands (talking dog is a must for one) and an industry that insists on a sexy photoshoot with a chainsaw and high heels.
Shenton – who made her feature debut in 2013 with the skin-suspension documentary On Tender Hooks – was, alas, inspired to pen her female revenge movie by several real-life encounters.
“One of the most bizarre incidences was being in a meeting and having the vice president of the company asked me to stroke his beard,” she says. “I actually couldn’t get though my pitch because he kept showing me photos of himself on his motorbike.”
Canadian horror auteur Jessica Cameron can recount many similar unsavoury incidences: “As a filmmaker, I take a lot of meetings, and about one in every four meetings with men will end up being inappropriate or unprofessional or sexist in some way or another,” says Cameron.
“I cannot count the amount of times I’ve been hit on, sexually harassed or belittled, which is just plain sad. Once, I had a producer confess to me that he would pick coffee shops with high-angled chairs to meet at so that when I was across from him he could see my underwear. I’ve refused to meet with him again.”
Disembowelment? Ground down by bad behaviour and mansplaining, the filmmaker heroine of Egomaniac (gamely played by Nic Lamont) fantasises that disembowelment might be just the thing for those who seek to mess with her art.
Happily, her creator did not have to do anything so drastic. “I think the horror industry is super supportive of female filmmakers and is really pushing to get women into the genre,” says Shenton. “Egomaniac has had so much support from within the horror industry. I found that I’ve encountered considerably less problems with men in the horror industry, then I have with men in the industry in general. It’s just a very small minority that seem to have this delusion that they are some kind of Harvey Weinstein.”
Things are getting better, insists Cameron. “Slowly. But it’s a process. One that requires women to step up and speak out and not allow it. I’m reminded that good people can be hard to find and that’s why you keep them close. I’ve had trouble with certain male crew members for the simple fact that they don’t listen well to women in charge; needless to say, I don’t hire these people twice.”
Shenton agrees. “The biggest thing I’ve learnt is that no one person can make or break your career. It is very easy to feel that you have to put up with certain behaviour because that person potentially could open the door for you that would otherwise be closed.
“However, I’ve now learnt that there are many different doors that you can use to get into this industry. You just have to find the right door for you.”
- Kate Shenton will introduce Egomaniac at Horrorthon at the IFI, Dublin on October 30th