What first inspired you to get into filmmaking?
I started off working with the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham doing various roles. I really enjoyed the festival experience and I’ve always loved horror movies, so I reached out to the folks working at Nevermore Film Festival, which is produced by the Carolina Theatre in Durham. I then got involved with another horror film festival—the Nightmares festival in Columbus, Ohio.
All of these years being around filmmakers and curating indie films really made me interested in getting involved in filmmaking. I really wanted to get some behind-the-scenes experience and see what it was like being on set and seeing the nuts and bolts of how a film comes together. I reached out to Chris McInroy when he started working on GUTS back in 2021.
Can you tell me a bit about the creation of GUTS?
Chris McInroy—the director and writer of GUTS—had created several short films prior to that; I had seen his films coming up every year [at film festivals] and thought, “This guy is great!” A lot of short filmmakers are kind of one-and-done, but he came back year after year with these great shorts that perfectly balanced the horror-comedy element
that I love.
It was the middle of the pandemic and he had a new short film that he was going to try to make. I saw his Kickstarter and thought I would love to have that on-set experience. I reached out to him and said, “I’d love to be a part of this. I don’t know what I can bring to the table really because I don’t have any filmmaking experience, but I’d love to see how the process all unfolds.”
What was the on-set experience like?
It was hard for me to watch a lot of the scenes being filmed because they’re just so funny. Everyone was like “quiet on set!” and we’d just be covering our mouths giggling and periodically gagging from some of the effects as well—it was just a blast and I loved every minute of it. We shot in Texas over a period of three days and I’ve maintained a great working relationship with them.
When did you learn that GUTS was nominated for Fangoria Chainsaw’s new short film category?
We learned about it as we were nominated and the new category was announced. We didn’t know anything about it before that. I got a text from Chris McInroy saying “Holy shit. We got nominated for a Fangoria Chainsaw award!” It’s crazy to be nominated alongside the likes of heavy hitters like Nope, The Black Phone, Barbarian, and other box office hits.
I looked and realized the reason it hadn’t even been on my radar is that they had never given awards for shorts before. It’s the first year they’ve expanded that category, and it’s really cool to see that they’re looking at short films as another area of recognizing talent.
Can you tell me about your new short premiering at Nevermore?
That’s another short written and produced by the same team as GUTS called We Forgot About the Zombies. It’s very short—just about four minutes long. We filmed it this past summer and it’s on the festival circuit right now. Its North Carolina premiere is here at Nevermore (February 24-26, 2023) and it’s also playing at South by Southwest at their Midnight Shorts block.
There seems to be a history of the public misunderstanding the horror genre—are we moving away
For many years, horror has been the underdog genre of the industry, and now it’s finally having its moment. In a sense, horror is still misunderstood.
It’s like an amusement-park-ride high—you get really anxious as you ramp up, and then there’s that climax and release. It all unfolds in this safe cinematic experience. I feel like some of that even comes from a place of anxiety: the real world is so scary all the time, and if you can submerge yourself in this scary zone within a safe place, it’s a really exhilarating experience.
Do you have any upcoming projects you’re excited about?
The producer [of GUTS] Kris Phipps is working on a feature horror anthology – he’s directing and writing some of the segments alongside a few other collaborators. I went down to Alabama for a week to help out on set with one of the segments for that. They’re working on finishing up the wraparound story for that and it should be released later this year. Outside of film, I’ve started writing some articles on indie horror filmmakers who I’ve met through the festivals. They’re always working on something cool and I’m always really happy to amplify their stories and help them get their names out there. Those can be found online on the Garth Manor website.
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