2015 Etheria Film Night Spotlights Women in Genre Film and Honors Genre Powerhouse, Jane Espenson
An all-female slate of quality genre film? Don't mind if I do!
Los Angeles was the place to be this weekend if you enjoy quality sci-fi/action/horror content from amazing female creators. Saturday marked the 8th Annual Etheria Film Night, which celebrates female filmmakers who create genre (ie: sci-fi/fantasy, horror, action, etc) content. Held at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater, the evening included the North American premiere of an Australian horror film, a screening of six awesome short films, and Tricia Helfer and Amber Benson presenting the 2015 Etheria Held at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theater, the evening included the North American premiere of an Australian horror film, a screening of six awesome short films, and Tricia Helfer and Amber Benson presenting the 2015 Etheria Inspiration Award to the inimitable Jane Espenson!
Sadly, I didn’t get to the event for the premiere of the feature-length horror film, Inner Demon, earlier in the afternoon (though maybe not all that sadly, as I’m a complete wuss when it comes to horror movies). It was the North American premiere of the Australian film, directed by Ursula Dabrowsky, and tells the story of a teenage girl who’s abducted by a serial killer couple and escapes…only to be trapped in a house that contains even greater terrors and an evil spirit. Just your average day in horror movie land.
Also contained in that first feature film block? Oh, nothing but the directorial debut of Karen Gillan (yes, Amy Pond/Nebula Karen Gillan), whose short film, Coward, screened and stars iZombie‘s Rose McIver! It tells the story of about two people who bond over the mutual experience of murder. You know, how you do. Sadly, Gillan had a last-minute schedule change and couldn’t attend the event. However, I’m thrilled that she’s taking chances behind the camera as well as in front of them!
After a red carpet cocktail reception in the Egyptian’s courtyard, attendees went into the theater for the award presentation and short film screenings. Of course, when one thinks of “women in genre,” one of the first names that pops into your head is Jane Espenson, who’s had a hand in shaping our favorite genre stories, from all of her work in the Whedonverse, to Battlestar Galactica and Caprica, to Once Upon a Time! Amber Benson helped present Espenson with the 2015 Etheria Inspiration Award for her incredible body of work, and the way she inspires countless women to create in genre, by speaking to her experiences with Espenson on Buffy. Tricia Helfer was also on hand for the presentation reading a lovely statement from Whedonverse alum, Juliet Landau, who also praised Espenson and her creativity. Espenson was her usual gracious self when accepting the trophy as she encouraged all the female creators in the audience to keep creating.
After that came the six short films, each a genre film directed by a talented woman with a unique perspective on her chosen genre. The screening started with Sheila Scorned, directed by Mara Gasbarro Tasker. Sheila Scorned was a 1970s exploitation film-inspired short about a go-go dancer named Sheila who seduces her ex…in order to kill him. However, before she can get home to celebrate her successful revenge, she’s abducted by the gangster types her ex was connected to – and they’re not happy their friend is dead. She then has to fight her way out. Luckily, she’s good at it. Not only was this film beautifully shot (and very much in the vein of Tarantino and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse/Death Proof), but the ending wasn’t at all what I expected, which was really nice, and delivered the feminist angle I hoped would be there!
Next up was Shevenge, a fantasy/action/comedy directed by Amber Benson, whom you all of course know from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as well as for her Calliope Reaper-Jones novels, among other projects. Shevenge shows us what happens when you get into the minds of three women who fantasize about getting revenge on the boyfriends who don’t treat them the way they want to be treated. Spoiler alert: it’s not pretty. This film was definitely campy fun, and also went to an unexpected place at the end. Check the trailer:
Next was my least favorite film, if only because…EEEEEEW! Which, I suppose, means it did its job as a horror film! El Gigante is a short horror film directed by Gigi Saul Guerrero, and is based on the first chapter of the Shane McKenzie novel, Muerte Con Carne (Death w/Meat), about a cannibal family on the Mexico/US border that captures illegal Mexican immigrants and….aw, hell. Soylent green is people. But there’s also a luchador. This film was really, really hard to watch, but if you’re into gore, this’ll be right up your alley! Here’s the trailer:
I have to say, as talented as all these filmmakers were, the second half of the evening featured the films that were my personal favorites! Godel Incomplete, directed by Martha Goddard, was the only sci-fi offering of the evening, and it was beautifully executed. It’s a time-travel love story about a female particle physicist who manages to travel through time to have an affair with Kurt Godel, one of the great minds of the 20th Century. Their affair becomes the catalyst for his theory about time, and as each person feeds the timeline of the other, it becomes harder to tell which came first. I’d love to see a feature-length version of this. Trailer ahoy:
Another one of my favorites was a Spanish thriller called De Noche y De Pronto (Suddenly, One Night), directed by Arantxa Echevarria. This tense piece explores the horror women feel in their everyday lives when a desperate man, claiming to be Maria’s upstairs neighbor, asks to be let in to use the phone after his apartment’s been broken into. This is another short that I’d love to see made into a feature-length film, as there’s so much more that could be explored when it comes to how unsafe women feel doing very normal, everyday things. Trailer alert:
And last, but certainly not least, was an awesome 1970s-style retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” called Slut, in which a nerdy girl sees how much attention the scantily clad girls get, but when she alters her look, she attracts a Big, Bad Wolf. Don’t let that description fool you. This piece is all about the hypocrisy of slut-shaming, which is why I love it so much. This was directed by an American Film Institute student, Chloe Okuno, and by the looks of this project, I know this woman is going places! Last trailer of the post:
I was so thrilled to be able to attend this event and be exposed to so many talented and creative female filmmakers. It’s insane to me that there still seems to be this impression that women “don’t want to” or “don’t enjoy” directing genre films at any budget. To any people who think that and are reading this, you are wrong, and the women I discuss above would be more than happy to create something for you for a respectable fee.
Seriously though, check these filmmakers out. And if you’re a female creator yourself, think about submitting to Etheria Film Night for next year! Submissions for 2016 begin July 1st! And keep your eyes peeled here at The Mary Sue for some one-on-one interviews I did with some of these talented ladies at the event!
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