Interview with Filmmaker Kirsten Keeton [Women in Horror Month 2021]

Post WiHM Coverage

Please introduce yourself.
My name is Kirsten Keeton. My friends call me Kirstie or KK. I’m 29 years old. A Leo. I feel like purple isn’t just a color, it’s also an attitude and I embody that. I enjoy a good cackle and Tatcha skincare products are my love language. I would love to think of myself as an intellectual, but some of my life choices… I talk with my hands, I’m an overactive listener, but I swear I’m not aggressive – I’m just passionate about a lot of random things. I love having my feelings manipulated by a good story – whether it’s narratively, visually, or both. Even going as far as when people lie to your face – I’m the kind of person that is so straight-forward because I’m a bad liar, but I can really appreciate a good lie. Those are stories, too – in every sense but that’s for a whole other conversation.

What is it that attracts you the horror genre for your chosen field of creative work?
I have always been attracted to the horror genre because I like the heightened sense of anxiety, or fear, I get from watching something I know that is not real. Being terrified is a rush. I don’t live in fear everyday, so the horror genre allows me to tap in on that fear without any real consequences. I think it’s why everyone watches it – to get that rush. You get to play with a very harsh and unpleasant emotion. In my opinion, horror is the best genre because the best horror films are always so much more than a scary movie – it also has a running commentary about life. I think that’s why you can get all types of emotions out of the really good ones. The fear gets you invested quickly and all other emotions can just start to flood. If a horror film is not a scary, or it’s terribly done, it will attract other extreme reaction, which is laughter. Either way, it will pull something out of you.

Who inspires you in your work and in life?
A ton of things inspire me. I run hot and I’m a passionate person so when I’m really feeling something, as a result of a movie I’ve seen or a book I’ve read, or even a news article from the real world, I get hyper stimulated. It happens at least 2 times a day. I people watch a lot and I love talking to random people in social settings. That fuels how I develop characters, because I need a source – a real person or a mix of people – to create good characters. Characters drive the investment in a story no matter what it is so that’s important to me. My family inspires me a lot because I always get inspiration from talking with them about the most random things. Random ideas come to me all the time, but the ones I get from interacting with the fam, I normally have to write down or type in my phone’s note app immediately. It’s that serious.

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?
It’s a great way to highlight that women have something to contribute to the genre that we all know and love. Women are usually at the center of the best horror films on-screen, but we don’t necessarily see a woman’s point-of-view told through the eyes of the director and/or writer. I think the reason we don’t see a lot of women in horror is because we don’t see a lot of publications like this, constantly highlighting the new talent nor the existing talent. I also think that most of these major studios don’t present female directors in-particular with enough opportunity to make horror films because they assume we don’t exist. The more we lift each other up with platforms like this and support each other, the bigger the waves we will create. I’d love to see how much progress we can make in the next 10 years. Streaming platforms have opened the space up a bit for more diverse, female voices to be heard in general, but for horror genre, I think we need a bigger chunk of that pie.

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?
Lean into it. Embrace it. That struggle gives you an edge. It can work in your favor if you really want it. This is coming from a person who is an up-and-coming creative myself so it’s funny to give that advice was I’m testing it out myself, but I DO believe that.

What are your favorite bits of helpful advice that you have received about your work or your field?
Be ready to explain some of your choices because a lot of assumptions can/will be made about your work when you present your work to men. They may miss what your perspective is if there is a particular commentary you are making about the female experience that they just don’t get. That perspective will also account for about 50% of your potential audience (men and women), so if you are making a horror film, you really have to be able to articulate your ideas in pre-production. Everybody involved in the film needs to somewhat understand the “language” you’re speaking. Don’t get offended. Use that feedback to help you better translate these ideas onto the screen.

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?
Nia DeAcosta, Misha Green, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Karyn Kusama, Issa Lopez, anyone who participates at the Etheria’s film festival. Rose Glass is my latest obsession. She’s made a pretty big splash with Saint Maud – but she’s been cultivating her vision, writing and directing her short films for years. She got a crack at a full feature and I killed it. It wasn’t your traditional horror film, but it’s the kind of horror that I relate to because it feels real – and it is also beautiful. Just that whole concept where any one of us can become the “monster” – I can ramble all day, so she definitely has my attention. Please tap into Glass, if that’s the kind of horror you can get into.

What do you have coming soon that you can talk to us about?
I have my first horror short coming out next year called “DELIVERUS” – be on the lookout for that. It is about a woman who is losing her mind in her own home, which I think is very relatable given this whole pandemic we have been experiencing internationally. It’s about how something as simple as receiving a package in the mail can change the trajectory of your whole day/life. It’s also a projection of my own fears of what is expected from me as a woman in today’s society.

What women are expected to want and what happens when the motivation behind what we are supposed to want doesn’t necessarily match-up with who we are. Then to take it a step further, what happens when we don’t think we are living up to who we think we are supposed to be. Of course, this is all played to the extremes – but not really because I feel like I’ve seen stranger things in the news these days…I’m excited to share that part of my mindset because I think a lot of people will relate to it.