Interview with Horror Filmmaker Ashlea Wessel [Women in Horror Month 2021]

Please introduce yourself.
I’m Ashlea Wessel, I’m a writer and director with a love of aesthetically driven horror and a soft spot for stories rife with social commentary. You can watch two of my previous shorts INK and TiCK on ALTER now, and my most recent short, Weirdo is making the festival rounds as we speak.

What is it that attracts you the horror genre for your chosen field of creative work?
Horror is just something that’s always caught my attention, even as a kid. I loved the darkest, creepiest films I could find. There’s something about the genre that just offers endless possibilities. It allows one’s imagination to go wild even in telling a story that can feel raw or relatable. It allows for something to be both beautiful and terrifying and well, who doesn’t love playing with buckets of blood from time to time?

Who inspires you in your work and in life?
Artistically, I’m inspired by creators working in all mediums who push boundaries both technically and aesthetically. A painting or short story can excite my mind just as much as an amazing movie can. In film, I love seeing new filmmakers breaking out to tell fresh, challenging stories in unique ways. It’s so inspiring to see someone succeed at something completely outside the box. And you know they worked hard make it happen.

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?
I think it’s always important to remind ourselves that we’re still nowhere near where we should be in terms of elevating the voices and careers of women and marginalized peoples. We need to bring those voices to the forefront as often as we can in order to move the industry and the genre forward, and keep it from stagnating. Movements like Women in Horror Month work to keep the conversation going.

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?
Being a creative in general is not for the faint of heart. You have to work your ass off all the time, and constantly be hustling. If you’re a woman, you probably have to work harder than many others. If you’re racialized, trans or non-binary, even more so. But things are slowly changing. It’s never been a better time to be a woman creating in any genre. Then next year will be even better. We just have to keep pushing forward together.

What are your favourite bits of helpful advice that you have received about your work or your field?
Being that I never went to school for film, my whole learning experience has been from random bits of gold in the form of advice from mentors and peers. In relation to filmmaking, much of the advice has culminated in an idea that you have to keep a sense of destiny about you. You have to believe that you should be doing this. You belong here. Even if it’s just in some small way deep down. If you don’t, you’re never going to withstand the onslaught of rejection and the uphill battle that is working in this industry. That’s not to say you can’t feel bummed because you lost out on something or got another “no”. You just have to cry for an hour, dust yourself off and keep moving forward. And you have to really just keep going. Always be learning. Always be pushing for what you want because no one else is going to do it for you.

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?
I finally just saw Saint Maude, which totally blew my mind. It was gorgeous and disturbing and I absolutely cannot wait to see what Rose Glass has coming up next. I’m also super excited about Prano Bailey-Bond’s upcoming feature Censor which was just at Sundance. I loved her short Nasty and I find her style to be bold and unique.

What do you have coming soon that you can talk to us about?
We had a great time bringing our post-apocalyptic sci-fi feature Lest We Be Devoured (written by Jim Munroe) to the virtual edition of Frontières co-production market in 2020 and we’re working on keeping it moving in the months to come. Otherwise, I’m working on numerous projects that are in varying stages of development as writer, director or both, that I’m very excited about, but they’re not quite ready to see the light of day just yet.

Pop them links to follow your work here:
official website – www.ashleawessel.com
Insta- @ashleawessel
twitter- @ashleawessel
@youretheweirdo
@grumpybonespics
fb – /grumpybones