The 5th edition of Stranger With My Face International Film Festival begins in Tasmania, Australia tonight with the Tasmanian premiere of the all-women horror anthology XX with special international guest Roxanne Benjamin (V/H/S, The Devil’s Candy, Southbound) in person for a Q&A.
The festival this year includes the return of The Attic Lab. The festival’s intensive mentoring program for women genre filmmakers, the lab is run by the festival in collaboration with guest mentors.
Featuring eleven invited participants, the lab is designed for filmmakers developing or pitching feature length projects. It takes its name from the archetype of the ‘Madwoman in the Attic’, suggesting a place where violent and disruptive female impulses are hidden away, and yet grow more powerful.
“There are so many great projects coming through in the area of female-led genre,” says Festival Director Briony Kidd. “Our aim with the lab is not only to support our filmmakers but to make that point to the industry. Looking for women creatives to collaborate with on exciting material? There a plenty here this week in Hobart.”
This year’s mentors are celebrated New Zealand filmmaker Gaylene Preston (Perfect Strangers, Mr Wrong), producer/director and screenwriter Roxanne Benjamin (XX, V/H/S, The Devil’s Candy), in person; and cinematographer Sandi Sissel (The People Under the Stairs, Salaam Bombay).
The Attic Lab projects in 2017 are:
Slammer Savages ~ horror ~ pitched by writer/director Caitlin Koller (Vic)
In pandemic-stricken Australia, an ex-soldier must escape prison or face being eaten by her cannibal cellmates.
Hidden Valley ~ thriller ~ pitched by writer/director Megan Riakos (NSW)
To celebrate turning 50 Addie plans a hike with her two best friends. But when her abusive ex-husband follows her, threatening her life and that of her friends, Addie must confront her fears.
Lost Gully Road ~ supernatural thriller ~ pitched by writer/director Donna McRae (Vic)
Lucy travels to a secluded cottage in the forest to wait for her sister, but somebody else may already be there.
Morgana ~ documentary ~ pitched by co-director/writer Isabel Peppard (Vic)
A lonely house-wife’s plan to commit suicide takes an unexpected turn when her last hurrah begins a radical journey of sexual exploration and personal re-invention.
Siti Rubiyah ~ supernatural horror ~ pitched by writer/director Katrina Irawati Graham (Qld) Deep in the steamy jungles of Sumatra, a desperate young woman must find a way to escape her violent marriage to a vicious dukun (witch doctor).
Dark Half ~ supernatural horror ~ pitched by writer/producer Marisa Brown (Vic)
When troubled young Thai-Australian woman realises that the haunting visions she’s been experiencing her whole life might be tied to a cursed twin sister she never knew existed, she embarks on a journey to Thailand bent on discovering the truth behind her own dark heritage.
Westermarck Effect ~ dark arthouse drama pitched by writer/director Saara Lamberg (Vic/Finland) There is nothing like the love between a mother and a son. Sally gave Sam up for adoption 20 years ago. When they meet again, the pair fall in love with devastating consequences.
Proxy ~ drama/horror pitched by writer/director Kaitlin Tinker (WA)Proxy
Logline: An exotic dancer forces her male driver to physically assume a female identity in the wake of a violent incident.
Wet Girls ~ supernatural/horror/romance/comedy – pitched by writer Sonja Hammer (Vic/NZ)
The tide is up when Mer Girl meets Yabbie Girl! It’s a fishy tale about a love that is oceans apart.
Sightlines ~ thriller/black comedy pitched by co-writer/director Elizabeth E. Schuch (UK)
A series of accidents cripple a traveling circus struggling to stay afloat, forcing an overworked wardrobe girl to unravel the web of suspicions to discover the culprit. Expect surreal visuals and ridiculously flexible performers in a behind-the-curtain blur of death and sequins.
The Motel at the End of the World ~ psycho-biddy thriller ~ pitched by co-writer/producer Catherine Pettman (Tas)
A mother and daughter running a motel in post-apocalyptic suburbia are each other’s fiercest ally, until the arrival of a disturbed solider turns their relationship deadly.
The Attic Lab filmmakers will work with the mentors, culminating in a public pitch session that’s open to the public and to members of the film industry.
The Attic Lab Pitch takes place on Friday 5 May 2017 at 5.00pm in the Founders Room, Salamanca Arts Centre, followed by networking drinks.
Caitlin is an award-winning Australian filmmaker. She completed an Honours degree in Film and Television at Swinburne University in 2012 and her graduate film Maid of Horror has since played around the world. Her new short film, Blood Sisters, will premiere at Stranger With My Face International Film Festival in 2017. A lifelong devotee of genre filmmaking, she is currently developing scripts for her first feature film.
Megan Riakos is the writer, director and producer of the feature film Crushed which screened at a number of festivals including Montreal World Film Festival, Miami International Film Festival and Napa Valley Film Festival before completing a successful cinema-on-demand theatrical release through FanForce and digital release on iTunes, Google Play and Ozflix. Megan is an active member of the Sydney chapter of Film Fatales – a global female feature film directors’ collective, as well as an executive committee member of WIFT NSW, where she is a vocal advocate for women in film and a mentor through the WIFT Big Screen Sister Initiative.
After graduating from the VCA film and TV school, Donna McRae made several shorts, all travelling to local and international film festivals. Her first micro budget feature film, Johnny Ghost, (2012), made from a PhD scholarship, was selected into numerous film festivals locally and internationally, winning 7 awards including Best Female Director at Berlin Independent Film Festival, Best Feature at South Texas Underground Film Festival and two Special Jury Prizes, one at Hamilton Film Festival, Canada, and the other at MUFF Melbourne. The film has North American distribution with Continuum Pictures, and local distribution with Titan View. She has made several music videos with visual artist Michael Vale for Dave Graney and Clare Moore and has an interest in video installation and shows her work in art galleries here and overseas. Currently she is in post production on a feature documentary about a chimpanzee called Cobby: The Dark Side of Cute and in development for various projects, including her next feature film Kate Kelly, a ‘ghost’ western about Ned Kelly’s sister which was selected for Frontiéres co production market at Fantasia International Film festival in July 2016; and an untitled Female Horror Anthology with Unicorn Films. She has just finished principal photography on her latest micro budget horror feature Lost Gully Road. Donna works in the F&TV department at Deakin University.
Isabel started working as a special effects artist in 1999 inspired by her love of
visceral horror and creature features. Building on her skills amassed in spfx and commercial art, Isabel has explored the genre space through performance, sculpture, film and animation. Isabel’s’ most recent short animation, Butterflies (voiced by Rachael Griffiths), has screened at over 50 international festivals including MIFF, Sitges, and Annecy and was purchased by SBS Television. Isabel was a recipient of The Directors Acclaim fund from Screen Australia, allowing her to undertake a writing/directing mentorship in LA with horror director Jennifer Lynch (Boxing Helena, Chained, The Walking Dead). In 2015, Isabels’ feature horror script, Silk, won a project award at Asias’ biggest genre market at Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival in South Korea. Isabel is currently developing a feature documentary Morgana with Karina Astrup producer of Despite The Gods.
Katrina Irawati Graham
Katrina is an award winning filmmaker whose Indonesian blood frequently seeps into her
writing. She writes across genres and formats from crime, drama and kids animation, but her true love is feminist horror. Her Attic project last year, an Indonesian ghost feature film, Raesita Grey, was subsequently developed though Screen Queensland’s IncuBAIT genre initiative. Her play, Siti Rubiyah is currently in development with Playwriting Australia and Contemporary Asian Australian Performance. She lectures in scriptwriting at Queensland University of Technology.
Marisa is a writer and creative producer with a genuine love of the collaborative arts. She has ten years experience running Melbourne-based production company Ready to Roll, as well as producing countless shorts and music videos under the banner of Octopod Films. Her most recent short film as a producer, the zombie kangaroo film Waterborne, played at over 70 genre festivals around the world (including Sitges, Fantasia and Fantastic Fest) and won numerous awards. In 2014 Marisa was an associate producer on the Seattle-based feature film Brides to Be, a low-budget LGBT psychological horror which has nearly half a million views on YouTube; and in early 2015 she was selected for the Emerging Producer mentorship program at the AIDC conference in South Australia. As a writer, Marisa originally honed her skills in theatre, before moving into music and finally into screenwriting, and she is currently studying a Masters of Screenwriting at the VCA. In 2016 her comedy/fantasy feature Welcome to the Neighbourhood was shortlisted for development via ScreenACT’s new low-budget genre feature film initiative and now exists in a second draft stage, and in early 2017 she was one of only two international writers to be selected for the highly competitive Aotearoa Script Lab in New Zealand.
Finnish Australian Saara Lamberg is a director, actor, writer and producer. She has received several awards for her work, including Bronze prize at the Beverly Hills screenplay contest (Hollywood 2013), Best Actor at Comfy Shorts (Melbourne 2014), Best Drama at the Connect Film Festival (Melbourne 2014) and Best Actor (Lithuania 2004). She lived in England 2006-2010 and studied at Dartington College of Arts, graduating with a BA (HONS) degree in Theatre and Choreographic Practices in 2007. She moved to Melbourne in January 2010 and received a Distinguished Talent Permanent Residency in 2012 and citizenship in 2014. Having made five short films previously, Innuendo (2016) is her first feature. She wrote, directed and produced the film, in which she also plays the lead.
Sonja Hammer has almost a decade of experience in producing and presenting radio shows at LGBTIQ station JOY94.9, one radio show is Sci-fi and Squeam (now a podcast) a genre and geek show and until recently BROAD the only queer feminist show in Australia. She is the coordinator of the fan and advocacy group Queer Geeks of Oz. Queer Geeks of Oz has since 2013 been invited at various popular culture events such as Oz Comic Con Australia, Armageddon and PAX Australia. Sonja organised an all-female geek panel and podcast called: Geek Girl Speak in 2014 talking about women and girls in Nerd culture. Sonja was one of the panellists at the Midsumma 2015 Cartooning with Pride event to discuss issues facing the LGBTIQ comic book industry in Australia. In 2015 at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival she put together a discussion about the representation of Queer women characters in horror films called Sapphic Suckers. Sonja also was a guest GOFF Mother in 2015 for the Girls on Film Festival talking all things women in horror and curated two films screened at the festival. Another project was the co-development of a zine called Quartz (Queer Arts Zine) to further promote LGBTIQ talent in the community. This year she produced a feminist zine for BROAD. Sonja still guests on panels and discussions to do with feminism,queer politics and incorporates her favoured genre which is Horror whenever possible into the mix. Representation matters a heap to Sonja, being a POC and a woman, and after many years observing and interviewing filmmakers, Sonja now feels it is time to get involved in developing one of her own stories to show more inclusion and bring an Intersectional tale to the big (or the little) screen!
Filmmaker, burlesque mastermind and art school dropout, Kaitlin has a track record of celebrated horror shorts, a continued foray into cinematography and a graphic novel on the way. Her most recent short, The Man Who Caught a Mermaid – which made waves internationally via the Fantasia International Film Festival’s “Born of Woman” program in 2016 – had its long-awaited hometown premiere at Monster Fest in Melbourne and is screening at Stranger With My Face 2017. Tinker’s cinematic eye, feverish determination and theatre background allow her to create dramatic, colourful and memorable works with a distinct psychosexual bent.
Catherine has extensive experience as a documentary and docu-drama producer and has made short dramas including the award-winning Stripped Bare (2009). She took on a producer’s attachment with Vincent Sheehan and Porchlight Films on The Hunter (2011) starring Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill, and was also 2nd unit manger of that production. Catherine works across the theatrical, television and digital media markets, events, TVCs, music videos and iBooks.
Elizabeth E. Schuch is a London-based film director (The Book of Birdie) and producer specialising in creative visuals. Elizabeth has contributed artistically to dozens of films, tv, and theatre productions in the art department as a production designer, matte painter, or storyboard & concept artist (Wonder Woman, Pacific Rim: Maelstrom, Ted Talks.) Her Art Nouveau inspired poster illustrations have appeared at The Metropolitan Opera and Shakespeare’s Globe.
Gaylene Preston began in film by accident, while trying to give a voice to those that did not have one. Her first filmmaking experiences occurred while working at a psychiatric hospital near London. After seven years in England, Preston returned to New Zealand and soon made Learning Fast (1980) which documents life and looming unemployment for a group of teenagers. Three years later she directed Making Utu, a behind the scenes chronicle of Geoff Murphy’s epic Māori western. After meeting Robin Laing, partner of director John Laing, Preston decided that Robin had all the right qualifications to be a film producer. The pair formed Preston Laing Productions, and found themselves at meetings where people would continue to look at the door after they had sat down. “It gradually dawned on us that they were waiting for the man to come in, and we had to say: ‘Well there isn’t one. You’ll have to talk to us.'” The Preston Laing team would go on to work together on Mr Wrong, Ruby and Rata, War Stories Our Mothers Never Told Us and Perfect Strangers. Preston and Laing have been strong advocates of equality within the industry, and role models for a number of emerging women filmmakers. Mr Wrong (1985), Preston’s feature film debut, was partly an attempt to avoid genre conventions of glamour, sexism and cultural vagueness. Based on a short story by English writer Elizabeth Jane Howard, the movie follows a woman (Heather Bolton) whose car may be haunted. The film undercuts thriller conventions that the woman must always get rescued by Mr Right. After facing disinterest from local cinema chains, Preston successfully rented out cinemas, proving that the film had an audience. In the United States Mr Wrong was retitled Dark of the Night, where critic Judith Crist called it a “dandy little thriller marked by excellent performances”. Preston’s next two projects made nods to the past. Mini-series Bread and Roses (1993) dramatises the formative experiences of social activist and politician Sonja Davies. Over the next few years Preston concentrated on documentaries, directing Hone Tuwhare, Getting to Our Place, and Titless Wonders (about women who have experienced breast cancer). With twisted romance Perfect Strangers (2003), starring Sam Neill and Australian Rachel Blake, Preston returned to her beginnings in the thriller genre. She intention was to see how much she could push the conventions of genre storytelling. Reaction to the film was mixed; some argued that many of the negative reviews were written by males. Preston’s next feature was Home by Christmas, based on her father’s memories of serving in WWII, and her mother Tui’s life on the home front (as recounted in War Stories). Preston went on to co-direct award-winning docu-drama Strongman: The Tragedy (this time with Paula McTaggart), about the 1967 Strongman mine disaster. She followed it by spending extensive time in Christchurch researching mini-series Hope and Wire, which debuted on TV3 in mid 2014. In 2001 Preston was honoured by the NZ Arts Foundation, becoming New Zealand’s first filmmaker Laureate. The following year she was appointed an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit, for services to filmmaking. In 2016 screen organisation SPADA gave her an Industry Champion award for “her significant lifetime commitment to New Zealand film and television”; a few months later came an award for Services To Cinema at the 2017 New Zealand Film Awards. Preston’s work has won 11 New Zealand film awards (including best film) as well as many international awards including a Silver Clio (Cannes) and Mobius Award (Chicago) for outstanding direction of a commercial. Her films have been selected for major film festivals including Venice, Sundance, Toronto, and Melbourne. Stranger With My Face is celebrating Gaylene’s work in 2017 and will screen Mr Wrong and Perfect Strangers with Q&As.
Sandi Sissel Among Sandi’s numerous Academy Award and Emmy winning documentary credits are Mother Teresa, Jane Goodall: Chimps So Like Us, Blood In The Face, Chicken Ranch (she also co-directed). In addition she has been director of photography on the network television including Young Americans, Night Stalker and The Wonder Years and has many, many cable and TV move credits as director of photography. Sandi served as director of photography on the Academy Award nominated motion picture Salaam Bombay received the Camera D’or at Cannes. She has been 2nd Unit DOP on major films including Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Daredevil, Stealing Harvard, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and the Academy Award For Cinematography winning Master and Commander: The Far Side Of The World. Most notably for horror fans, Sandi was the director of photography of the Wes Craven cult classic The People Under the Stairs (1991). In 1994 Sandi received the Kodak Crystal Award for Lifetime Achievement from Women In Film. Sandi was inducted into the American Society Of Cinematographers in 1994 and the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2004. She also taught at Tisch NYU Film School. The People Under the Stairs will be screened at Stranger With My Face 2017 followed by an ‘in conversation’ session to discuss the cinematography of the film.
Roxanne Benjamin served as the Head of Acquisitions and Development for Snoot Entertainment (You’re Next, The Guest, Amolisa), co-producing Faults (2014) and Sean Byrne’s The Devil’s Candy (2015) before leaving the company to work on her directorial debut Southbound, which she also co-wrote and produced. The film recently premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival in the Midnight Madness section. Prior to that she ran the Bloody Disgusting Selects label, the genre division of management entity The Collective, where she oversaw the acquisition and distribution of 12 titles per year through Vivendi Universal. She also developed and produced festival favorites V/H/S and V/H/S/2 while at the Collective, both of which premiered in the Sundance Film Festival Midnight section in 2012 and 2013, respectively. Both films were acquired and released by Magnolia Pictures. Benjamin has worked in TV and Feature Programming, Acquisitions, Production, and Distribution since graduating from the H. J. Heinz College of Public Policy & Management at Carnegie Melon University with a Masters in Entertainment Business Management in 2009. As an undergraduate Roxanne studied Visual and Performing Arts and Creative Story Analysis at Belmont University in Nashville. While there, she worked at one of the nation’s top non-profit independent theaters, the historic Belcourt Theater, and the Tennessee Repertory Theater. Roxanne currently serves as an Advisory Board Member at the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater in Los Angeles. Roxanne Benjamin made her directorial debut with the anthology Southbound (which she also producer) and recently directed a segment of the all-women horror anthology XX. She was a screenwriter and producer on two of the four segments. XX is screening at Stranger With My Face 2017 with a Q&A with Roxanne.