Unnamed Footage Festival Cofounder Madeleine Koestner [Women in Horror Month 2022]

Madeleine Koestner is a cofounder of the Unnamed Footage Festival, does effects work, and has a passion for horror films.

Please introduce yourself:
Hi, I’m Madeleine Koestner! I cofounded and organize the Unnamed Footage Festival in San Francisco, which is the only found footage horror film festival in North America. I’m also a cofounder and organizer of the Astoria Horror Club in Astoria, Queens (where I reside!) and I dabble in special FX make up, gore, and prop building. My specialty is creating dead animals – which upsets a lot of people! 

What is it that attracts you the horror genre for your chosen field of creative work?
Horror storytelling is like looking at the world through a psychotic, absurdist lens. It makes the body sculptural, and mundane issues into monsters. The level of creativity that horror filmmaking demands is just stunning to me, and even lending a hand on a movie or finding ways to put obscure, no-budget movies on a big screen is such a satisfying experience. 

Considering this is 2022, why do you think we still need a movement like Women in Horror Month?
As a film fest organizer, I watch a LOT of movies every year. Our fest is very niche, but you’d be shocked how many found footage horror, first person POV, and screen life movies are being produced each year. Yet… it’s extremely hard to find movies made by women. We need to inspire women and young girls to pursue this! Taking the time to draw attention to the feminine presences in the genre may inspire others to make something themselves. 

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? 
If most of your peers are men, it says nothing about you and your abilities. I talk to so many other women who feel self-doubt or have been made to feel they are difficult for simply advocating for themselves. There’s room for all of us here. Ignore the bullshit. Horror has been a boy’s club for the longest time and carving out space for this new generation of girls who want to be more than just fans has been an arduous, painful process – but the results have been amazing and worth every second. I want to work with women and see the work of women because there are so many unexplored perspectives. 

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? 
Three of my favorite movies we’ve shown at the Unnamed Footage Festival in the past few years were made by women. THE MIDNIGHT SWIM was written and directed by Sarah Adina Smith. It’s this meditative, deeply eerie, and sweetly quirky video diary of a woman reuniting with her sisters after the death of their mother. That just got put out on Blu-ray and it is an absolutely beautiful release. One of the smartest and most biting movies we’ve ever programmed, I BLAME SOCIETY, was made by the brilliant Gillian Horvat. She stars in it as well, as a fictional version of herself who is making a documentary about her potential to murder someone. That just dropped on Shudder, I cannot recommend it enough. And lastly, the festival we just wrapped, we showed THE ZAND ORDER, which is the definition of no-rules filmmaking. It’s part BLAIR WITCH, part THE DESCENT, and all screaming. No news on a public release of that, but if you want to hear the filmmaker, Sarah Goras Peterson, chat with my UFF teammates, you can check it out on their podcast, The Overlook Hour. Also shout out to Oksana, who cofounded the fest and produces that podcast. https://theoverlookhourpodcast.podbean.com/e/sarah-interview-1646252105/ 

What do you have coming soon that you can talk to us about?
I did some FX and props for a couple movies in the last six months which hopefully will be doing the festival rounds soon – the first is a found footage horror flick called MEAN SPIRITED which was such a blast. I think that movie is going to be ridiculously fun. The second is an atmospheric horror movie called GRIEVE which just wrapped. I can’t wait to see it, what I saw on set was beautiful and so unique. Also, I make an appearance in the movie as a burnt hand – I’ve been told my hand acting was quite good! 

But the thing that’s coming up real soon is the annual virtual edition of the Unnamed Footage Festival on May 7th. It’s an all day and night livestream of found footage horror shorts and features, which will be hosted live by our team. Check out our website for details in the coming months, or follow us on Twitter @UnnamedFootage (https://twitter.com/unnamedfootage) 

What do you hope to leave behind in your legacy as an artist?
I hope that there are well loved Blu-rays on the shelves of some horror fans that wouldn’t have been there if I hadn’t programmed and promoted the movie. And maybe a movie or two featuring a dead thing I built that is still absolutely disgusting. 

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