[GUEST] The Inspiring Power of the Ax Wound Film Festival

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Photo: Stephanie Iscovitz

[GUEST CONTRIBUTOR: Alanah Rafferty is a New York-based filmmaker. She’s directed and produced short-form content for The New Agenda Foundation and Biorev. Mutiny is her narrative film debut, and has been making the festival rounds for 2019. For more on Alanah’s work, check out alanah-rafferty.com. Mutiny is currently in negotiations for distribution.]

Horror movies aren’t just a viewing experience, they’re a visceral, physical experience. A good scare gets deep into your bones and every cell of your body, and doesn’t let go. I can’t think of a better genre for conveying the female experience. Which is why I was so excited that Mutiny was accepted into the Ax Wound Film Festival, the all-female filmmaker horror festival in Brattleboro, Vermont. In its 5th year, the festival screens shorts films from around the country, and also offers workshops on topics like distribution as well as Q&As for filmmakers and local film lovers to attend.

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Photo: Stephanie Iscovitz

When my co-producer Stephanie and I arrived in Brattleboro, the first thing we noticed was how much fun the town of Brattleboro is. It’s got trendy cafes, vintage shops, cool restaurants and bars—they could’ve named it Hipster-boro. After spending some time exploring the town and all it has to offer, we headed over to the festival, where we met the amazing team behind it all: Hannah Forman, the founder of the festival, and her amazing team of women—and her lovely husband—who all made us feel incredibly welcome.

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Photo: Ashlee Blackwell

After attending the very insightful workshop on distribution from Seed&Spark’s Christina Raia, we went to our screening block. We saw every kind of horror film you could imagine: funny ones, dark ones, campy ones, fast-paced roller coasters, and slow burns, all with something great to offer the genre. During the Q&A with my fellow filmmakers, we couldn’t help but feel like we’ve known each other for much longer than that day when we met in the Hooker-Dunham Theater. Perhaps fighting the same creative and professional battles initiates female filmmakers—especially female horror filmmakers—into a sisterhood that is slowly but surely growing stronger with each film made and each opportunity they’re able to be screened. By the time we left, Stephanie and I felt inspired by the films we had seen—and even more so by the filmmakers we met. Women from all walks of life had come to this festival to share their stories and their fears. It’s events like this that keep us going, that encourage us to make better and, dare I say it, even scarier films.

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Photo: Stephanie Iscovitz

When I first started writing Mutiny, I felt it was an incredibly personal story. Its main character has gone through a lot of the same internal struggles I’ve had with anxiety and insecurity. I thought there was so much of me on the page that it could never be seen and related to by other people. Thankfully, I found I was very wrong about that. Not just while making the film (when I had multiple crew members tell me how they related to various scenes) but by the amount of feedback I’ve received from both filmmakers and audience members about how not so far removed from their reality this film is. It’s a humbling experience, to find out how not alone you are in your struggles.

For the filmmakers reading this, I strongly encourage you to keep writing screenplays, keep making the best content you can make, and don’t be afraid to share it to the world. You may find that there’s a whole bunch of people just like you waiting to find you and your film.

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