Interview with Indie Horror Filmmaker Tonjia Atomic [Women in Horror Month 2021]

Photo Credit: T L Rabbat

Please introduce yourself a little:
I’m an independent filmmaker, writer, actor, and musician. I’m most known for co-writing, co-producing, and directing Manos Returns, the sequel to the worst film ever made, Manos the Hands of Fate.

What is it that attracts you the horror genre for your chosen field of creative work?
I’ve always been a little darkling, I’m not going to lie. I’m not really sure where it comes from. I used to sit in the hallway and sneaky watch the television when my dad was watching Hammer films. My favorite show was The Addams Family. I’m just interested in spooky and creepy stuff. I like to work in horror as a genre because it is freeing. I can explore topics in a way I can’t in other genres. Many real-life issues can be explored in metaphoric or fantasy ways when explored in horror. It sounds counterintuitive but it can feel safer that way.

Who inspires you in your work and in life?
I’m inspired by so many talented friends and coworkers like Michelle Nessk, Jackey Neyman Jones, Andrew Shearer- there are too many to name them all. I also take inspiration from gothic horror, folk tales, fairy tales, and urban legends. I think there is something visceral and so human about the stories that are handed down in the oral tradition.

Women in horror have made great strides, but it’s clear that a lot of work is still needed to make it a most inclusive genre. To you, what is the importance of a movement like Women in Horror Month?
In my own personal experience, Women in Horror Month has connected me with so many peers and has offered me opportunities in that way. It has also exposed me to artists that I wouldn’t necessarily otherwise be exposed to. That is so valuable to me.

What would you tell an up-and-coming creative in the world of horror who sees that being a woman/identifying as a women as something that makes it so much more difficult at times?
I would tell them that because of Women in Horror Month and other such efforts there is a large group of peers that can offer support when needed.

What are your favorite bits of helpful advice that you have received about your work or your field?
Many of my fellow filmmakers always tell me just to make the film. They tell me to make the film no matter how I do it, just get it made. I’ve also been told to make the film the way I want to and then find the audience for it.

In honor of celebrating Women in Horror Month, who do you believe viewers should keep an eye on in terms of the creative ladies in horror?
Gigi Saul Guerrero and Jill Gevargizian are definitely ones to watch. Some of my favorite filmmakers, authors, and artists are Staci Layne Wilson, Michelle Nessk, Comika Hartford, Lucy Cruell, Lynne Hansen, Tiffany Warren, Sophia Cacciola, Carrie Juenger, Sheri Davis, Dylan Mars- I’m just going to stop here, but there are so many!

What do you have coming soon that you can talk to us about?
I’ll be in the new cosmic anthology film being produced by John Ward. I’m also in the next installment of the Things series by Joe Sherlock. I’m also working on two features and another anthology as a writer and director.

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