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By James Whittington, Tuesday 8th March 2011 Emily Booth is one of the hardest working women in the entertainment industry today. She's an actor, producer, columnist and scriptwriter and above all been the face of Horror Channel for four years. Emily will be part of a discussion panel at this years Bloody Women event at the Birds Eye View film festival and here talks candidly about her opinion on women in the horror movie business. (Photo courtesy of beckphotographic.com)
HC: Can you recall the first horror movie you saw?
EB: I have vague memories of surreptitiously sneaking behind my parents sofa at night to watch Hammer Horror movies when I was really young but I think the first films that ensnared me into this genre were Cat People in 1982 and Company Of Wolves in ’84. I also watched Jaws when I was FAR too young (!) and have since had a suitably irrational fear of and admiration for Sharks. I still get scared swimming in the sea! But unlike everyone else who wanted the killer shark dead I felt really sorry for her and wanted her to survive and keep killing! I’m a bit anti human sometimes.
HC: Why do you think horror movies captured your attention so much?
EB: It’s because I caught them when I was quite young like 9 years old or something maybe even earlier. If you watch them then when you still have that wonderful naïve nature and really believe everything they have such a profound effect on you. Especially if you are embarking on adolescence and you see a film like Cat People which really taps into the psycho-sexual natures of humans. I watched that film and just wished I was different and special and from another planet. Sounds really stupid now, but horror films are often about feeling like an outsider, different from everyone else, not fitting in and coping with all the changes going on in your body sexually. So these films provide a real escape into fantasy land when you’re going through this, and – well you can get addicted!
EB: How did you start your media career?
EB: I always wanted to be a presenter really but never knew how to make it happen. I did a Media and Film degree at Goldsmiths and while I was there my brother got me an audition on a film called Pervirella as he knew the people producing it. So it started then when I was 20. I finished my degree and wrote to a TV station called L!VE TV to get work experience. They got me in and on the day asked if instead I’d be interesting in Screen Testing for a TV show. Bit of a dream come true – not sure that happens anymore, they were great at taking chances on people and I got the job presenting Blue Review – a porno review show! Great fun and taught me tons about hosting and auto cue.
HC: Did you plan your career at all or did your love of horror inadvertently guide you?
EB: Well no I didn’t plan my career at all! This is a very cut throat industry and I just took whatever I could and felt so lucky to be getting work! Most of the time success is not from going to endless auditions, it’s from people who just want to work with you and gaining contacts from each job. I did the sex movie show then from that a producer on Channel 4’s Bits really liked me and asked me to screen test for Bits which I got. So then my career for the next 2 or 3 years was solely concentrated on the computer games industry. While I was doing that though the director of Pervirella had another movie – Cradle Of Fear, which he asked me to do a role in – so that kept the horror side of things alive for me, I always wanted to return to horror movies as this was much more my area than computer games.
HC: When you tell people about your love of horror how do they react?
EB: Well everyone knows now! If it’s a guy they are often really pleased to have someone to geek off to about it! But now I’m finding lots of girls on Twitter and bloggers and its really nice – there’s a great common ground and lots of support for each other. My parents think I’m a bit morbid I guess as I am a bit obsessed with death really!
HC: Why do you think this genre appeals to more women more than ever before?
EB: Lots of reasons. Horror movies now are not so exploitative, you don’t really get the Grindhouse type movies like Women Behind Bars anymore or SS Experiment Camp, and these were very much male orientated really lets be honest. Horror and sex and nudity went hand in hand and always will to a certain extent but there’s tons of intelligent girls who really like these films and take them with a pinch of salt and don’t get offended. It’s all acting after all. So I guess it’s the sexual revolution of women, its women being more demanding and open about what they want and joining in, and it’s the shift in horror (which is probably a good thing I think) not to just show women being slashed and tortured whilst having lingering shots of her breasts. I think directors are a bit more understanding and conscious. I’m not against sex or nudity at all, I’ve done it myself – it’s the WAY its shot and how a scene it treated that’s important. The so called ‘Torture Porn’ movies have a nice fair sprinkling of male and female kills too – so, I know this sounds awful – but it does make a nice refreshing change for women in the audience to see men be vulnerable too, rather than constantly see your sex as victims. Also – there’s so much amazing clever horror out there, once women know horror is not just porn with blood there’s so much amazing clever stuff like The Shining or creepy stuff like The Others that horror can appeal to a really wide audience. You just have to be open and realise that horror has just been given a bad name in the past from scandals like the Video Nasty.
HC: You’ve extended your talents into writing and producing, is directing next to be added to your CV?
EB: People often ask me that! I would love to think that I could, and maybe I could but I’m not sure I have the skills to write a whole script yet! I’m very happy writing fun comedy links for The Horror Booth and I produce them along with my partner so coming up with ideas, props, set ups is great – so I kind of direct myself. I’d love to do a very female orientated horror though, because lets face it, no offence guys, but women are just more interesting! In terms of our psychology, our bodies, the struggle we’ve had in society – you name it, the female is more alluring.
HC: In your opinion is it getting easier form women to be taken seriously in the horror industry?
EB: Yes definitely. It’s amazing how many roles we can take. For example I feel like I can be and have been everything, from victim in a movie to producer on the Horror Channel. Women have taken a lot of sh*t in the genre (in the movies themselves) but we come out fighting and stronger than any man and that commands respect. So there are two angles here, the roles of women in the actual films themselves and the roles we’re now taking behind the lens too. And its a lot less sexist. Its about time men woke up to our real talents above and beyond scream queen. Kathryn Bigelow is of course a great example and has been directing for some time, Near Dark is a fabulous female directed vampire film and there’s lots of women starting to direct now too. Not nearly as many as men and there’s lots of reasons for that I don’t have all the answers for, but when you look at journalists, bloggers and websites there’s literally hundreds of female produced ones popping up (like prettyscary.com) – you just need to scratch the surface.
HC: Do you think that horror movies now give a fair representation of females as few have the clichéd “female victim” character unless of course they’re being ironic a la Scream movies and the like?
EB: Yes I do. I mean this is a hard one for me to argue I have to say. I would never say that all horrors must now have an equal number of male and female victims just to be fair and nice to women. No. Again that’s political correctness in favour of artistic merit. To a certain extent one of the reasons women have often been victims in movies is because of two things. One – lets face it, in the real world women unfortunately often are victims of male abuse. Serial killers have often targeted women as the reason they kill is so linked to their psychosexual problems. Women get followed in the street and pursued by men and stalked. Every woman I know including myself has had some frightening experience with a man – really horrible but true. So really its more real and believable in a film when the ‘monster’ is male, the victim’s female. But this is also pretty grim, depressing and limiting our sex and I’m so pleased to see innovative films like Switchblade Romance prove that females can be just as good at psychos as men! On the other hand – and in a more positive light the reason concepts such as Final Girl work so well is because women really do have to struggle against all the odds more than a man does. So to see a woman spend a whole film being pursued and terrified and survive the ordeal, overcoming or often killing her killer is going to be a much more powerful story and character – arch than watching a man do it.
So, to answer this – which is hard (!) yes you can definitely see horror movies are a lot more conscious about how they represent women now, there’s not so many exploitative films and others, like Ginger Snaps and Switchblade Romance and Inside experiment with seeing the female as the psycho or monster and these movies work well.
But lets not forget some films like Halloween will always be classic and work psychologically for good reasons! Even if women are killed in the process.
HC: What’s your favourite horror movie and why?
EB: NO! Hate this question. Sorry – but there are many, I don’t have a favourite anything I know journalists wish I did! But I go back to your first question. My favourites are probably the ones I saw when I was very young as they had the most profound impact, but there has been tons I’ve loved since. Trick Or Treat, The Orphanage, Heartless, just too many….! An American Werewolf In London is one of THE all time greats though.
HC: What other projects have you got lined up?
EB: I’ve just got a part in a new movie filming in April! Can’t wait but I have to keep a bit schtum till I’m allowed to say more! Also I’ll be on the debate panel alongside Muriel Grey for the ICA’s Bloody Women event on March 16th.
HC: Emily Booth, thank you very much.
EB: Oh no the pleasure, is always, mine.
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