Interview with Filmmaker Katherine Sainte Marie [Women in Horror Month 2021]

Please introduce yourself.
Sure. I started on this journey as an actress, then became a screenwriter, and then eventually a director. A lot of what pushed me into these other positions is the lack of decent acting opportunities. I quickly learned that I wasn’t going to be fulfilled as a creator until I started telling the stories that were important to me. I am drawn to female-driven stories, social issue stories, and also stories that root for the underdog in society.

What is it that attracts you the horror genre for your chosen field of creative work?
I don’t 100% know the answer to that. Maybe my attraction to it has to do with my early relationship to fear. I had crippling shyness when I was a girl. I was borderline agoraphobic at times and found it hard to connect to people. When I read or watched horror, I was able to sort of tap into my fears and strongly identify with some of the female protagonists in the stories. One of the first films I remember identifying with was Polanski’s, Repulsion.

I had great compassion for the character that Catherine Deneuve played and it was then that I began to question why I had the disposition I did, and also how I could go about changing it. I entered into acting classes sometime after that and it really opened me up to being free from many of the fears that were plaguing me at that time.

Who inspires you in your work and in life?
I am a big fan of Anne Rice, Daphne du Maurier, Mary Shelley and a lot of female literary writers. In life, my mother inspires me the most. She is generous to a fault and so, so kind.

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 amazing to have fellow female horror writers and directors working in the genre, as it is often a male dominated space. So WIF to me is all about having that support system or sisterhood to help women feel understood, appreciated, and inspired.

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 think that things are changing in the world, especially after the movements like Me Too and Black Lives Matter. I think the industry is more open than ever to inclusion and is looking for fresh voices and diverse perspectives. It is the perfect time to share your unique point of view. People want to hear your voice, so don’t despair. Rather embrace your differences and what makes you, you.

What are your favorite bits of helpful advice that you have received about your work or your field?
Be kind to yourself. When you are first starting out in filmmaking you’re not going to make your masterpiece right away. People should not be put down for their early work because it is all a journey and a learning experience. It takes time to develop your style and your voice. Just keep persevering and keep creating.

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 have been following the careers of Jennifer Kent and Anna Biller for awhile now. They both have very bold voices and approach their stories from interesting points of view. Jennifer Kent’s stories are honest and unflinching and her director’s vision is so strong. While Anna Biller is all about exploring the feminine gaze or female desire in her films and invoking them with this wonderful air of fantasy. They are both so unique and I love that. I can’t wait to see what they do next.

What do you have coming soon that you can talk to us about?
I’m working on a dark fable/historical horror short called, The Devil in Bitter Woods. It takes place in the south in the year 1875. It is centered on an intellectually disabled man who meets the devil in the woods and tries to bargain for his life. There is an interesting dynamic between the two leads, this intellectually disabled man who has always been pushed around by society and an African-American woman who has protected him from afar for much of his youth. I think it’s a new take on the familiar ‘man who met the devil’ story, so I’m excited for people to see it. We started filming in late 2020 but had to shut down because of COVID. I’m hopeful we will resume filming within the next month or two, so stay tuned. And thanks so much Emilie for the interview!

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