Bloody Women - Interview With Writer/Director Jen Moss
By James Whittington, Wednesday 2nd March 2011

Jen MossJen Moss is a multi-talented lady who loves horror movies. She works in the music industry but recently dipped her toe into movie production, writing and directing the acclaimed horror short, Dumped. Here she chats about her life long appreciation of the horror genre and how she feels about women's role within it.

HC: Can you recall the first horror movie you saw?

JM: My earliest horror memory has got to be watching The Shining when I was about 9 (my babysitter's boyfriend was a big horror fan!). Of course, I didn't actually understand any of it but I do remember being fascinated by the sheer weirdness of it all. Funnily enough, more so than the twins in the corridor or Jack Nicholson’s axe wielding, it was the guy in the teddy bear costume that scared me the most.

HC: Tell us about the movie you made when you were 11 and what inspired you to make it?

JM: It was Christmas at my dad’s and rather than just sticking to the usual board game family activities, I suggested we all make a movie together. My step brother had just been given this really cool magic tricks book which had some great ideas I thought we could use (levitation tricks, eyeball “eating”). I came up with the idea for this house of horrors short which involved my dad playing a lonely stranger looking for shelter who gets taken in by two maniacs (played by my 9 years old brother and 7 years old step brother). It was amazing fun, we had a mummy, Frankenstein’s monster, a vampire, the whole shbang. Tragically we’ve lost the VHS tape so that masterpiece will never see the light of day…

HC: Though you work in the music industry your passion is in movies, but why the horror genre?

JM: As far back as I can remember, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for horror. I think it’s the one genre that can be enjoyed in a multitude of ways, it’s certainly the only genre I can think of where a bad film can be enjoyed just as much as a good film: as bad horror films often make for great comedies. Of course, I love the thrill of being scared, the whole heart racing, hand squeezing, nervous laughter aspect of a good scary movie but also the ability of horror to genuinely disturb and distress and to indulge the darker, voyeuristic aspect I think most people have within them but are afraid to admit to.

HC: How did you get involved with FrightFest?

JM: I’d read about the festival in a few trade magazines etc and had always thought it sounded great but never had the chance to make it down. Then in 2005, I went to the Hostel event they put on at the Prince Charles and it was like I finally found my home. To be surrounded by a screen full of other horror geeks like me, the cheering and laughing and general sense of belonging was overwhelming. I knew then and there that I needed to become a part of this family so I got in touch with Ian Rattray and offered up my services as a volunteer. Without a shadow of a doubt it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

HC: Last year you managed to create your own horror short, Dumped, which is humorous take on the break up of a relationship with a horror twist, where did the idea come from?

JM: Ha ha! That’s an easy one really. For my first real foray into directing, I knew I needed to do something fairly basic so I figured a single location/2 character story would be a good idea. My boyfriend of 4 years had recently ended our relationship and so that conversation was still very fresh in my mind. I thought it could be funny to use that very recognisable situation that all of us have been through at some point in our lives but to put a horror spin on it, allowing me to add-in a few in-jokes, references etc… It was also a wonderfully therapeutic exercise for me so I highly recommend it for anyone trying to get over a break-up!

HC: How did you get the project off the ground?

JM: I sent the script to my fellow Frightfest Lovelies (the nickname given to myself and the other Frightfest volunteers who have since become my closest friends) as we had discussed trying to make a film of our own in the past. They loved the idea and so not only agreed to help financially (we all just dug into our not very deep pockets) but also to be involved creatively. I also sent the script to Ian Rattray who also enjoyed it and offered to come onboard as DoP. From there it just sort of snowballed and we gradually got cast and crew together and shot the film in one day in my flat.

HC: Was it an enjoyable experience?

JM: JM It was incredible. Both the pre and post production phases were really interesting processes for me and the hard work never felt that hard as it was something that I was doing for myself. But the day of the actual shoot was one of the best of my life. The weeks leading up to it, I don’t think I slept at all, I was just so nervous about messing it all up having never had any directing experience before but when it came down to it, I loved every second. The atmosphere was wonderful, to have a team of people coming together to help create something that initially only existed in my head was an incredible feeling for me. We also had a lot of fun!

HC: Did everyone just pitch in to help or did you choose your cast and crew carefully?

JM: It was a bit of both really. I met Paul Davis at Frightfest in 2009 and we’ve become good friends since, I knew he’d be perfect for the Killer role as not only is he the tallest man I know but gifted with wonderful comedy timing. We held auditions to find our Survivor Girl (which was a lengthy process!) and when we saw Glenda Robinson, I knew she was the one. Crew wise, I was really lucky to have contacts in the industry who were willing to come onboard and help out. Dan Martin who is an incredibly talented SFX artist made us this wonderfully creepy mask and I also benefitted hugely from working with an experienced editor like Jacob Proctor who is himself a very talented director with several award winning shorts to his name, his advice has been incredibly useful.

HC: Will you be showing this at festivals?

JM: I don’t think so, the idea with this first effort was always to challenge myself to see if I could deliver a short that holds it’s own and to get it online to get feedback from industry professionals and fans alike to help me move onto bigger and better projects with a view to getting those to festival standards.

HC: When you tell people about your love of horror how do they react?

JM: If they’re not horror fans themselves then the general reaction tends to be that people think I’m a bit of a freak. I think that there are a lot of preconceptions about what being “a horror fan” means. My boss for example thinks that just because I like scary movies, I am also a goat sacrificing Satanist. Horror so often gets dismissed as an unworthy fanboy genre so I often make it my mission to change people’s minds by showing them that horror films are not just about plotless gorefests (not that those aren’t fun too). I’ve even managed to convert a few of my friends which is great.

HC: Why do you think this genre appeals to more women more than ever before?

JM: I’m not sure if it appeals to more women now, rather I get the impression that as the genre has seeped more into the mainstream so too have the fans, including women. I think the high profile of films like Pan’s Labyrinth, Let The Right One In and even to a certain extend Black Swan have helped people and maybe women in particular to see that there is more to the genre than slasher films and that horror films can be just as emotionally involving and beautiful as conventional dramas.

HC: In your opinion is it getting easier form women to be taken seriously in the horror industry?

JM: It’s hard for me to say as I’m only just moving from fan to filmmaker. Most creative industries tend to be male dominated but I get the sense that the horror community in particular is a very open one and that talented, hard working individuals get the chance to have their projects come to fruition regardless of gender.

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?

JM: I think there will always be room for the clichéd big breasted bimbo roles and in fact I’d hate to ever see them disappear completely, it’s a part of the genre’s heritage and I think you’d have to be a pretty extreme feminist to actually be offended by them. Having said that, there have been some wonderful female performances in the past few years, roles like Belen Rueda’s in The Orphanage, Manuela Velasco’s in REC or even Ellen Page in Hard Candy are great examples of strong, intelligent heroines.

HC: What’s your favourite horror movie?

JM: Oh God! That's impossible to answer! I guess if you're putting me on the spot then I'm gonna go with Nightmare on Elm Street. It's one of my earliest horror memories and I just think the concept is amazing. I'm one of those people who does tend to dream about scary things I've just watched so the idea of not being safe when you're asleep is utterly terrifying! Between that, the amazing kills such as Johnny Depp being sucked into the bed and the fact that Freddy Kruger is basically the ultimate boogeyman means it's right up there for me.

HC: What projects have you got lined up?

JM: I’ve got a couple of ideas for my next short so it’s just a case of figuring out which ones have the potential to stand out and have something interesting and original to say. I’m currently doing an evening directing course which I’m learning loads from. Making Dumped was a wonderful experience but I want to be able to take my future projects to the next level in terms of production values and that means developing my technical abilities and knowledge as a director. There will definitely be a new Not So Lovely Films production out this side of 2012 though so watch this space…

HC: Jen Moss, thank you very much.

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