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Tell us about yourself:

Well, hi there! I suppose I’ll start with the basics: my name is Erin Mick, I’m a 24-year-old graduate student studying history at Memorial University of Newfoundland, but my first love is writing, my passion is acting, and my obsession is horror. I’m from Alberta originally.

I’ll be graduating from my M.A. soon, and I’m waiting to hear about a PhD application to the University of Toronto’s Cinema Studies Institute, where hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to study horror movies in an academic capacity.

I balance my school life with a career in film, and I do as many projects as I can, in all genres. In my spare time (the little there is), I write short horror stories and try my hand at writing screenplays, but as yet I’m still not professionally published – which is okay! I’ll get there! I have, however, published three stories on creepypasta.com, where I write under the name “Emerald Lee” — I mostly started writing for the site as a way to learn about writing horror and to see how a readership might respond to me. Basically, I have a lot of irons in the proverbial fire.

Other than that, I’m a voracious movie watcher. Again, I love all movies and all genres, but horror has a very special place in my heart. Some of my more recent favorites include “Los Ojos de Julia”, “Pan’s Labyrinth”, “It Follows”, “The Babadook”, “Get Out”, “The Witch”, “It Comes At Night”, and “Goodnight Mommy”. But of course, I’ll always love classics like “The Shining”, “Alien”, and basically anything by John Carpenter. I’ll read anything H.P. Lovecraft ever wrote and I have a weak spot for disaster movies. I’m also obsessed with movies about witches – but then again, who isn’t?

Hm, what else? Oh! This year I was asked to blog for the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival! You can find my two pieces on their website if you’re at all interested (I’ll link them below in the social media section). One is about being a young filmmaker in Newfoundland, and the other is a little editorial about why women are working with such low budgets, and therefore having a hard time breaking into genres like horror and action.

Also, I love dogs. A lot.

That’s about it for me! I drink a lot of coffee? I love vintage clothing? I once met actor Doug Jones and wet my pants on the same night? I’ve had a thrilling life, apparently.

Why do you dig horror?

Well, I think my love for all things creepy started at a really young age. My mother once joked that she blames Scooby-Doo for my love of spooky mystery and, while she was kidding, I don’t necessarily think she’s wrong, ha, ha! It’s true though, Scooby-Doo was always my favourite show because I loved the ghouls and the creeps and solving mysteries with the gang. As I got older, I started to fall in love with edgy/horror-esque movies more and more – I’ve always loved Tim Burton films, for example. Later, I discovered Del Toro – “Cronos”, “The Devil’s Backbone”, his early stuff like that. It’s my absolute dream as an actor to work with him.

When Pan’s Labyrinth came out, it was practically life-changing for me: it blends elements of magic-realism I’ve always loved with horror and history, it’s scary, it’s heartfelt, it looks beautiful. That film is, to this day, an absolute favorite of mine. Soon after that, I watched “The Orphanage” – another film Del Toro is partially responsible for. That’s another one I go back to pretty frequently.

But I didn’t get really heavily into horror until during my undergrad when I started struggling with severe, chronic nightmares, and some pretty crippling anxiety. Long story short, for some reason, I ended up turning to horror films more and more often as a kind of catharsis, an externalization and fictionalization of my nightmares and frightening thoughts. Horror was, strange as it sounds, very soothing to me during that time. It was also during this period of my life that I started trying to really write horror stories – I had always wanted to be a writer, but it had never occurred to me to try my hand at the genre until I began watching more horror in general.

Now, I still turn to horror movies for comfort occasionally, but mostly I just have a very deep love for the genre as a whole. On an analytical level, I can see themes of anxiety and mental illness in so many of the films in the genre, and it absolutely fascinates me. As an actor and aspiring filmmaker, I watch horror and always think, “NICE! How did they do that?That was so effective.”

I want more than anything to work with people in the genre – especially women – who are making waves and thinking outside the box, and blending genres together. I loved “Raw” for example, because it blended coming-of-age with body horror. I loved “It Follows” because it looks absolutely brilliant and special, but it plays on old, classic tropes and re-arranges them into a fresh storyline about growing up and learning about the horrors of adult life. I especially love horror that taps into fears we probably all have but rarely think about, like “Goodnight Mommy” and “The Babadook” that look at grief and loneliness. Don’t get me wrong, I adore a good slasher, and I love gore, but I also love horror that makes the audience question whether something supernatural is *really* going on, or if it’s all just the real-world fears of a very relatable character causing all the dramatic tension.

I love quiet, slow-burns, I love horror that happens in broad daylight, scares that stay with me for days after watching a film, and I’m a sucker for movies where the “monster” turns out to be a good guy while the danger was a regular person all along.

I guess I love horror because of its ability to tap into really visceral worries and anxieties that everyone has, and turn them into something tangibly creepy. In my opinion, movies tap into true emotions that people might not experience enough during their day to day grind. The fact that a person can experience utter fear and horror in the safety of a dim cinema is not only a great testament to the artwork of horror filmmakers everywhere, or a testament to film in general, but it’s also kind of beautiful. Horror is beautiful.

Anyway, I could go on forever if I don’t stop now so I’d better move onto the next section.

Tell us about some of your projects. Say as much as you want!

Well, a lot of my projects as an actor aren’t horror-related! Much to my chagrin! Like I said I work in any genre that I can get my hands on. Much of my work has been done on short films, and up to now I’ve had lead roles in two indie feature films. One was filmed in Nelson, British Columbia, a heartfelt but goofy time-travel rom-com called “The Annual” – hopefully coming up on a release soon. The other was filmed right in St. John’s last summer, it’s a horror film called “Incredible Violence” that was funded through Telefilm’s micro-budget program. I think it’s also coming up on a release.

Now, in terms of writing and content creation, I’ve been dabbling in things for a while. As I said in an earlier section, I’ve written for creepypasta.com under the pen name Emerald Lee. I have three stories on the site, “The Space Above the Closet”, “The Walk Home”, and “Camper Van”. At the moment I’m waiting to hear about a story (written under my real name) called “The Price” that I’ve submitted to a couple of magazines for consideration. I compete in 48-hour horror film competitions whenever I have the time and they’re running, usually around Halloween, which are always a lot of fun. In 2016, a short I co-wrote and starred in actually won a prize at one of those competitions and we were gifted a pretty awesome grip and lighting rental package! The director still hasn’t used the package for another project, but as far as I know it’s still available to us when we want it.

So, with that rental package in mind, I’m meeting up with a friend next month after I finish more of my thesis to discuss funding options for a couple of short horror film scripts I’ve been sitting on. One is based on “Space Above the Closet” and another, “Anne” is a horror-comedy about an English professor who murders people for using poor grammar – but is that her *real* motive? The script has Girl Guides, Mounties, gore, pink rubber gloves, and a twist. That’s all I’ll say.

At one point, I was approached by a filmmaker in Calgary, a producer with BloodMania, who was looking for young writers to contribute episode scripts for a new horror anthology. “Anne” was my proposed episode. He liked it, but I never heard from him about progressing with it, and I suspect the project fell through or is postponed. I maintain rights to the script, so I just figured I’ll start looking for other outlets.

A while ago I spearheaded a project I called “Snap Horror.” It was a series of weekly installments of short films shot and shown in real-time. I filmed them on my phone and posted them on my Snapchat story. I basically did it with the help of a couple of friends and without any budget at all. Some of the finished videos are posted up on YouTube, but because of technical difficulties and updates to the app, I had to stop after doing only about ten Snap Horrors. Still, it was a very fun project!

I actually learned a lot about what scares people doing Snap Horror – I think the “real time” element was very effective. I had about 120 people were watching my stories regularly, which isn’t much, but is more than I was ever expecting. A number of followers would watch the shorts clip-by-clip as I uploaded to my Snapchat story, and I would get messages from them while I was filming, “Oh gosh, can’t wait to see what happens next!” and stuff like that. There’s something about watching a story unfold gradually in 10-second clips that actually really got people interested. I guess it built suspense, I’m not sure, but I got some attention for the project.

At one point, I even used the app to make a short stop-motion cartoon (horror of course). I did it by setting up my phone in a dollhouse and uploading hundreds of photos to my Snapchat story. Once I was finished uploading, followers could watch the animation by opening my story and tapping their phone screen very quickly (tapping through the photos and creating the animation illusion). Again, updates to the app eventually made Snapchat as a medium far too impractical, but I’ve been thinking lately that I could resume it if I used my Instagram story instead.

After Snap Horror gained some traction, a St. John’s man named Mike Hickey contacted me about being a co-host on his podcast. He runs a webseries through CryptTV called Fright Hype, and he supplements episodes with longer podcasts, in which he and I and another co-host, Mark, discuss upcoming horror films, trailers, and just general genre nerd-ness. Mike has been quite busy for the last few months doing press junkets as an interviewer, and with some film projects (he’s also a producer), so we haven’t podcasted in a while. Old episodes of the podcast are on PodBean, Google Play, iTunes etc. It’s called “Fright Hype” after his webseries.

Mike and I are now friends, and we’ve worked together on a few film projects in town. In April, I’ll sit on a panel with him at Newfoundland’s upcoming comic-con, Sci-Fi on the Rock. Our panel is called “TERROR NOVA: Creating Horror Content in Newfoundland.” On the panel with us will be Shane Mills, a creator from a local horror production company called “GRIND MIND.” And I definitely foresee collaborations in some capacity with GRIND MIND in the future.

Basically, I feel like in many ways I’m just starting out in the genre, and the industry as a whole, but I’m making progress, and my foot is definitely in the door (at least on the indie market in Newfoundland and Alberta). I guess it’s just a matter of continuing to scratch at the surface until I make more and more headway.

How has being a woman in the industry helped / hurt you?

In a lot of ways, I think being a woman in the film industry has been an amazing experience. Quite frankly, female filmmakers are actually great at supporting each other, and I have found almost nothing but solace and support in the horror community, even online.
 
Audiences and readerships are interested in female perspectives, and women have important roles to play in the horror genre. We’ve always been vital to horror storylines, even if it has sometimes been as the damsel or the hysterical idiot. But the Final Girl is eternal, Ellen Ripley is one of the best characters ever put on film, Carrie still gives people nightmares, and we wouldn’t, in my opinion, care so much about Freddy or Michael Myers if it weren’t for Nancy and Laurie.
 
As a female actor, there are the obvious hurdles of representation. It’s difficult enough to get in a room with a casting team, but as actresses we are constantly faced with choosing between auditioning for a role that we don’t agree is the best representation of a female character, or not auditioning at all.
Feminist horror filmmakers are making headway in writing roles for women that are juicy and complex and vividly realistic, but the chances of an indie actor in the small-time encountering an audition for a role like that, and further, actually getting cast in a role like that, are so slim that it can get very discouraging. Too often, especially, unfortunately, in horror, female roles are relegated still to the crying damsel, the panties-clad blonde, or maybe if we’re lucky, the Final Girl. But too often, she’s still just a shadow of a real person, someone we know almost nothing about and are rooting for just because by the final twenty minutes there’s no one else alive.
 
And even if we do get cast in a role that we’re excited about, there are the challenges of how a female actor is expected to act.
 
(Without going into too much detail or dwelling too much on specifics, I don’t really want this next part to be public because of the bullying backlash I have already received from the person it concerns.) I have recently had some negative experiences with one particular director. Those negative experiences stem almost surely from the fact that I am a woman, and from the fact that I did not stay within the invisible boundaries of how female actors are expected to be.
 
Female actors are not supposed to be outspoken. We are not supposed to negotiate or discuss ideas with authority figures like directors, we are not supposed to make strong choices in creative terms for our characters, we are not supposed to push for roles or seem too desperate, we are not supposed to be too enthusiastic or ask too many questions. Basically, we are not supposed to in any way presume that we have the right to engage in the actual creative process on a production. We are to show up, probably look hot, take direction without regard for our personal creative process, and then walk away and never expect to benefit or progress from previous work. End of story. In other words, we are discouraged from doing any of the things than men constitute as “networking” and “collaborating” when it’s done amongst other men.
 
To make a long story short, because I’m already rambling way, way too much, I told this director that my name was incorrect on some of the promotional material and that I would like to have it corrected. I was met with a belligerent string of Facebook messages in which he called me “difficult” and “unprofessional”, and one downright abusive email (to which I did not respond) wherein he told me I was “toxic” and implied that I had infected the entire production with that toxicity. Since then, he has removed my name entirely from all promotional material, tampered with clips of my work so that they are un-usable for casting, and failed to send me a portion of my paycheque that is still owed to me for ADR work.
 
Again, I have no doubt that he only felt he could treat me this way because I am a woman. His apparent opinion of me was so bizarre and hurtful compared to the feedback I’ve received from other colleagues in the industry that, while it took me aback at first, I had to eventually come to terms with the fact that I had done nothing wrong, and move on with my life and career. But unfortunately, that project is a bust for me – I have nothing to show for it, and no way of acquiring the clips of my work that I need to get more casting opportunities. I was relying on it to be my first big step into the horror film world, and the belligerence and abuse of one man has now almost nullified that stepping stone.
 
Sexism is in so many ways a confusing and ephemeral experience, so it can often be difficult to explain or pin down or define, and it can genuinely lead to a lot of self-doubt and anxiety in an industry that is supposed to be about collaboration and creativity. This is precisely why grassroots movements like Women in Horror Month are so important – they bring people into the spotlight for a while who might otherwise face hurdles and abuse getting there on their own.
 
All in all, I am happy to say that I have been very lucky. My colleagues and friends who are supportive and happy to collaborate far, far outnumber those who are unpleasant and/or sexist in a damaging way. And I love working in the industry, and in horror, far too much to let some hurdles deter me. Every other woman who has had a negative experience should feel the same, and should feel that she is not at the mercy of social mechanisms that are beyond her control. This is why it’s so important that women support one another in the industry. Within that supportive structure of women helping women, we can all do amazing work.

Tell a woman who wants to get into horror something you wish someone had told you.

You can do it! There are women here! Ladies love horror! You deserve a place at the creative table! You do not have to be a panties-clad damsel because people, often women, are writing other roles all the time!
 

I think if just a few years earlier, someone had told me that there are women who work in horror all the time, I might be a little bit further ahead. I wish someone had encouraged me to start submitting my stories to magazines right off the get-go instead of going to a non-paying online platform like Creepypasta. I loved writing for Creepypasta, but it’s not the ideal way to make headway in a career in writing or to make a name in horror. I wish someone had said, “No! There are tons of horror magazines that accept new writers and will pay you for your work! Just try!”

On that note, I wish someone had said – I wish people say more often in general – “Artists deserve to be paid for their work. You are not being difficult if you ask to be paid and ask to be recognized as a professional in your craft.”

In a similar vein, I wish people would tell women more often – in horror but also in any field – “You are allowed to self-acknowledge as an artist and a professional. It is not cocky or arrogant or crass to declare unambiguously that you are a professional at what you do.”

I accept professional inquiries via my email: erinmamick@gmail.com

 

 

The Women in Horror Month Q&A feature is brought to you by Strangeful Things, The Hilarious Podcast about Horrible Things!