“If you keep creating things that mean something to your heart, they will find their place in the world and connect with others”
She’s been making films for over half her lifetime. Now writer / director Emily Hagins is coming to FrightFest with her latest Sorry About The Demon. Alex Kronenburg sits down to talk about the journey…
You made your first feature – Pathogen – at the age of 12. What was that experience like? And how did it point you towards a life in filmmaking?
In some ways, making a first feature at 12 was very creatively liberating. I was exploring cinematic storytelling, learning and growing with the highs and lows of the project, and each lesson brought me closer to the realization that this was the path I wanted to continue on. Even when I learned I could’ve done something better that just made me want to try to do better on my next project. I didn’t see failure as an option because even the mistakes were valuable. I think of those early projects as time capsules of my budding passion for making movies. Eighteen years later, I still try to keep those early sentiments close to my heart!
Sorry About The Demon – as with your films in general – exists in that sweet spot between horror and comedy. Why do you think these genres work so well together?
My main theory on this is that horror and comedy both follow the structure of a set up and a payoff, so that can lend itself to a cohesive story on the page. And in execution, I think it’s important to consider the visuals and tone of your horror and comedy, since everyone has different sensibilities on what they think is scary or funny. While a viewer might really enjoy dark and dread-building horror stories, they might not like a slapstick sense of humor thrown in that takes them out of the suspense and maybe diminishes what the characters are going through. So I think the genres can work extremely well together to create wildly unique stories, but the choices of the filmmaker should be intentional to create a whole movie that works well together.
The majority of projects you’ve been involved in are ones you’ve written as well as directed, with you dialogue being integral to your overall style. How important is it for you to have creative control of your films, specifically from a script perspective?
I’ve always enjoyed being both a writer and a director, but I love collaborating and I hope to work with someone else’s material at some point too. I think one of the reasons I’ve always written and directed my own work is because I like to be able to fully explore the mindset of what I was intending with a line or a character choice with the actor, so we can find the right headspace for them to bring it all to life. If I didn’t write it, I think it would be a bit more challenging at times, but I’d be open to that challenge too.
I’m also very interested in working openly with the actor if they’re not fully sold on a line or action or point in their arc, so they can get in the headspace they need to be for the words to be true. So I definitely feel more comfortable potentially throwing out my own work over someone else’s! I’m also a big believer in the dialogue having a sort of “rhythm”, or at least what feels like a rhythm in my mind, haha. I think that can be very helpful for both horror and comedic pacing.
At the moment it’s a really strong period for female horror directors, writers and critics. Why do you think this is?
I’m hoping it’s because of more awareness in the film industry to create space for diverse voices. I also hope that space keeps growing as new filmmakers and writers and critics keep emerging, and that there is less of a divide between us and our male colleagues. I hope the number of opportunities keep growing for all of us. And any chance we can get to champion these voices by reading their work or buying a ticket to these films, I think we should take it to keep that momentum going!
As a largely independent writer/filmmaker/producer do you have any advice for writers trying to get projects picked up?
Always keep creating! I think this industry can have high highs and low lows, and it can be easy to feel discouraged or excluded for a variety of reasons. If you keep creating things that mean something to your heart, they will find their place in the world and connect with others. Our technology can sometimes divide us, but it can also help us reach a wider audience, so I encourage aspiring writers and filmmakers to keep learning and searching for ways to get their work out there. And once it is out in the world, move on to your next one! Keep going!
What’s next for you?
I have another project I hope to be able to speak more on soon. It’s a little more horror and a lot more Christmas.
© Alex Kronenburg
Sorry About The Demon has its World Premiere at FrightFest on 29th August 2022, before coming to Shudder later in the year.