Horror Academic, Screenwriter, Filmmaker Mikayla Daniels [Women in Horror Month 2022]

Photo credit: Lacy Russell of Prism Visions Photography

Horror academic, screenwriter, filmmaker, and so much more Mikayla Daniels in her own words.

Please introduce yourself: 
I’m Mikayla Daniels, a screenwriter, filmmaker and horror academic.I hold a BA in film and my MFA in Screenwriting. I have been writing horror genre since I was in the 5th grade and wrote two books inspired by Attack of The Killer Tomatoes! (1978), for school projects. I’m sure my teacher was only slightly concerned. Now I work on indie films as an actor, script supervisor, producer, writer, and director. I also am a writer and on-camera host on a PBS show, KSPS Saturday Night Cinema. I’ve written horror film reviews for sites like Netflix Life and Directed by Women, as well as horror related book reviews for The Journal of Screenwriting. I’ve even done a bit of horror themed modeling for photographer friends because I have the wardrobe for it.  

What is it that attracts you the horror genre for your chosen field of creative work? 
I’ve been a horror fan since I was a really young child. The genre helped me process the real-life horrors I had faced and then when I started writing horror, it allowed me to release my internal pain. I spoke with Ghouls Magazine last year for Mental Health and Horror about that a bit. One of the other reasons I love working within the horror genre in film is that you can really make social commentary films in a way that people will watch. The classic horror film Night of the Living Dead (1968) is a prime example of how horror writers and directors make big bold statements about humanity in a way that doesn’t feel preachy. Sometimes when you try to say those same things in a drama film, it can turn a potential audience away. Horror allows us to present ideas in a tone that more people are receptive to. Also, who doesn’t love a bit of gratuitous violence? I think horror is cathartic for many people when they watch.

What are your passions, cinematic or otherwise?  
My passion is telling untold stories. For far too long we have really been seeing a mostly straight white male viewpoint, and there are so many other ideas and view points in the world that I want to get out there. I also am very passionate about developing BIPOC and queer talent. I remember a few years ago I was trying to cast 11 BIPOC actors for a staged screenplay reading on a script written by a black woman. I was told by the people in my local film industry that it “would be impossible” to do. I cast it in 2 weeks with all 11 BIPOC characters being cast by BIPOC actors. Tell me I can’t do something and I will make it happen.  

Considering this is 2022, why do you think we still need a movement like Women in Horror Month?
The horror genre is a big business in film. It can be cheap to produce and bring in large profits without even having a known actor attached. With studios like Blumhouse and A24 pumping out so many genre films, you’d think more people could name a single female horror screenwriter or director. Most can’t.  

What would you tell an up-and-coming creative in the world of horror who sees that being a woman/identifying as a woman as something that makes it so much more difficult at times?  
I have always worked in male dominated fields so it’s nothing new for me to be the only woman in the room. I would say to women in horror that no matter the pushback, keep going. Some people don’t want to hear your voice, your story, but tell it anyway. I promise that there are people just waiting for you to create your work, those are your people, everyone else doesn’t matter.

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?  
My friend Jackie Perez is an incredible horror writer and director and you should check out her “Dollar Baby” Stephen King short film, Beachworld (2019) and I really love screenwriter Akela Cooper, who wrote Malignant (2021) and wrote 22 episodes on the TV series Grimm (2011-2017).  

What do you have coming soon that you can talk to us about?  
I can’t really talk about anything I am currently working on except that I had a queer themed music video I created last summer is about to be a part of a huge digital queer art project. Everything else I am still waiting on official word before I can let the cat out of the bag so to speak.  

What do you hope to leave behind in your legacy as an artist?  
I hope that my legacy is a body of work elevating the horror genre and that all my films and scripts are intentionally diverse both on the page and in production.  

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