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Scary Stories: Shriekfest Film Festival

Denise Gossett started  out as an actor in a horror film. She asked the producers why they do not enter the film into a horror film festival. Their answer of “there are no horror film festivals” sent Denise’s creative juices flowing. “Why not start my own festival?” she thought. That was then, and Shriekfest Film Festival is now. The festival will celebrate its 14th year this October. SlashMachine’s Ted Ellis had the opportunity to sit down with Denise recently to discuss scary movies, film festivals, her awards, and other Scary Stories.

 

 

Blog-BugSLASHMACHINE:

Tell us about you and Shriekfest Film Festival

 

DENISE:

I came up with the ideas 15 years ago. I starred in horror movie. I asked the film producers if they were going to put the movie in any film festivals. They told me there are no film festivals that cater to horror films. I found that hard to believe so I did some research and the only one I could find was in Europe. So that’s how I came up with the idea.

 

SLASHMACHINE:

Where is Shriekfest held?

 

DENISE:

In Hollywood, CA.

 

SLASHMACHINE: 

So you began this as actor, correct?

 

DENISE:

Yes

 

SLASHMACHINE:

So do you have a particular passion for haunts and horror films.

 

DENISE:

Oh yes definitely. It’s funny because growing up, my parents wouldn’t let me and my brother watch anything R-rated, but they would let us watch horror films. Go figure. So the love started back then and continues to this day.

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SLASHMACHINE:

Does the film festival change each year, or is the same year in and year out? How does it run?

 

DENISE:

People write movies, submit a script, and movie. We have a panel of over 40 judges. We all watch and read. We have an electronic scoring systems that each judge enters their scores into, and all that gets processed and the top point recipients make it into the festival. And those films are screened at the festival, and then from those films, we choose winners. We give out trophies that are tombstones. We have lots of parties and all kinds of fun.

 

SLASHMACHINE:

Is this a mulit day festival?

 

DENISE:

Yes, this year it’s Oct 2nd through the 5th. So that’s a Thursday and we will open with an opening night party. We have about 500 attend it’s a crazy party! Lots of dancing, eating, drinking, we have a red carpet, and the press is there. Then the 2nd night we open with screenings and movies that night. Then the next two days is all screenings that concludes on the last night when we do an awards show and have another party!

 

SLASHMACHINE:

So, you’re saying you need to be able to party if you’re going to be a part of this film festival.

 

DENISE:

Well, there are SOME people that opt out of the partying, but many people do go to the parties.

 

SLASHMACHINE:

I understand. So, are these films all independent films? Or do you do studio films as well?

 

DENISE:

We try to stay away from studio films because we fell they get enough publicity on their own. We want to help the guy that’s just getting into film or maybe some that’s been doing it for a while, but just had that big success yet. Since we’ve been around for a while, we will have places like Lionsgate at our festival looking to buy anything they like. Mike Flanagan is a past shriekfest winner and he now has a film in theaters.

 

SLASHMACHINE:

Where do you see yourself in 5 year

 

DENISE:

That’s a tough one. The festival is very very time consuming. Each year, I say “I’m done, I can’t do it anymore”, so to look down the road is hard to say. If I am still doing the festival though in 5 years, I think what I would like to do is add an additional festival in a different state. Maybe do like “best of fest”. Maybe just a one night thing.

 

SLASHMACHINE:

So you do indeed have your moments where you consider hanging it up?

 

DENISE:

Yes, my first love is acting. It’s just time consuming to try to do the festival. We have slow portions of our year, but for example right now, we just had our deadline pass. So, now we are just drowning in submissions. It’s insane! So we have to go through them all, get them out to the judges, and start picking because the festival is going to be here before we know it. And so it does get frustrating. Also, it’s very hard for me to reject people. Not every film can make the cut, so it’s kind of heartbreaking.

 

SLASHMACHINE:

So do you put a cap on the number of films you will accept each year?

 

DENISE:

It just depends because we have a certain amount of time to fill, but we take short films as well, so it’s not a cap on the number of films. Just a cap on time.

 

SLASHMACHINE:

Is there any accomplishments, other than founding the festival that you’re particularly proud of?

 

DENISE:

Yes, 2 years ago I was voted #5 out of 13 of most influential women in horror history. Not sure how it happened, but it did. It’s kind of cool.

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SLASHMACHINE:

Who gave you this title?

 

DENISE:

Horror now, and Horror.com all go together and came up with the list.

 

SLASHMACHINE:

That’s great.

 

DENISE:

LA Weekly voted us most successful horror film festival. And we’ve won several awards from Movie Maker magazine for Best Festival to Submit, or Festivals worth your entry.

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SLASHMACHINE:

Awesome. I see how you keep coming back. When you’re feeling down about it, you get an award and that just reignites you.

 

DENISE:

That’s right!

 

SLASHMACHINE:

Well, thanks so much Denise!

 

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