An Interview with Screamfest Festival Director Rachel Belofsky

 

Screamfest, America’s largest and one of the longest running horror film festivals, in its 16 years has served as an amazing platform by launching careers and helping garner distribution for filmmakers. The festival is best known for discovering Paranormal Activity in 2007. Other past premieres include 30 Days of Night; Let the Right One In; The Grudge; The Fourth Kind; The Human Centipede and Diary of the Dead. John Carpenter, Sam Raimi, Clive Barker, Eli Roth, James Wan, Zack Snyder, William Friedkin, John Landis and James Gunn are just a few filmmakers who have supported the festival year after year, even though Wes Craven is no longer his spirit and influence lives on at the event. This year of 2016, 69 films grace the screens, in the following groupings Shorts, Student Shorts, and Features. Actress Lydia Hearst (Condemned {see review here}, #Horror) will serve as ambassador for this year’s festival.

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I had the opportunity to interview the founder, creator and still guiding the festival, Rachel Belofsky, who is a filmmaker and documentarian of the horror industry.
Baron Craze: You are the founder of Screamfest – is that correct?
Rachel Belofsky: Yes that’s correct.

 

BC: What has been the biggest thrill at Screamfest whether it’s this year or past years?
RB: Last year we had James Franco so that was pretty amazing and also Sean Penn showed up so I have to say that was pretty mind blowing. James Franco came out to do a Q & A so it was pretty awesome that day, for his film [anthology] The Labyrinth, [he was one of the Executive Producers, along with Vince Jolivette]. (Penn came to support his daughter Dylan Penn for her film Condemned).

BC: What are some of the films at this year’s fest that people should be most concerned about watching?
RB: One is called “Therapy” it’s a French film and the director [Nathan Ambrosioni] was 15 years old when he began filming it and also “The Master Cleanse” with Johnny Galecki.

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BC: If no one has been to your fest before what should one expect/experience?
RB: They should definitely check out the films. They’ll also see that it’s pretty laid back everyone is like a family so the attendees will feel welcomed and there are also lots of networking opportunities for the filmmakers.

BC: How did you start this fest? It’s been 16 years?
RB: Yes 16 years. How it started, I had produced a documentary and had taken it to festivals and going through the process and muddling through the waters was a little daunting. I really wanted to form a festival that would help others and have a platform for others to showcase their work and make connections. I chose horror because it’s one of my favorites and the industry doesn’t really like horror too much but there are so many talented films that come from the genre

BC: I agree – horror seems to get passed on a lot and gets a lot of criticism.
RB: Yea, I know – it’s very maddening actually you have Peter Jackson, Wes Craven, so much talent.

BC: Yes and after all, horror is 49% draw at the box office, DVD, VOD, however you want to look at it. Since you mentioned that horror is one of your favorite genres here’s a question I ask everybody – What film hooked you on the horror genre?
RB: The Omen, it scared me more and resonated with me more and Damien is very creepy.

BC: How many more years will the Screamfest carry on?
RB: Many more years – we have no intention of stopping.

BC: Believe it or not there are a lot of fests out that that after a few years they get tired of doing it and then they just stop
RB: Oh we have no plans on doing that.

BC: That’s good to hear – one day I really hope to go and will one day.
DG: You should go.

BC: What are the trends you’ve noticed in the horror genre this year? In the past we’ve had the paranormal films, the found footage onslaught – what are you noticing from the filmmakers now?
RB: We’re still getting found footage, supernatural films, all of it comes in new packages.

BC: Lately in horror and the news the clown horror fetish thing going on – I don’t know how many clown movies have come out in the past 3 months – Curious – what is your opinion on the whole damn subject? Clowns, the explosion of clown stories

RB: Me personally I’m not afraid of clowns – I know there are people afraid of clowns but for me I love clowns, creepy clowns.

BC: You’ve stated you’re a filmmaker – what films have you done?

RB: Two documentaries for television one was Fast Women: The Ladies of Auto Racing that I produced and then I produced for the Starz network “Going to Pieces the Rise & Fall of the Slasher Film”.

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BC: Oh yes – I’ve seen that one – I quite enjoyed that documentary I thought it was well executed.

RB: I’m glad you enjoyed it – it was a labor of love.

BC: That film probably took a lot of editing and had a lot of footage you had to pare down.

RB: Oh it did – it was extremely tedious.

BC: I think it was a wonderful documentary and if I’m not mistaken, I even did a review of it at one time (I did review the film, on Rogue Cinema, here).

RB: Cool – I’m really glad you enjoyed it.

BC: What are the 3 most important keys of doing your fest and to maintain it?

RB: I think you have to have patience and perseverance is what I’ve learned the most, but also the passion.

BC: What do you do to help with your patience – I know some look for coffee or something like that.

RB: Well, there is a bar in the lobby.

BC: I know for a lot of fests out there they use a lot of volunteers. What’s it like to have the volunteers?

RB: Yes, we have a lot of volunteers and also a lot of return volunteers, we’ve become like family, and we even hang out during the year we can’t do it without them.

BC: We’re just about out of time – how can everybody reach you – is screamfestla.com the best way to reach you? Is there a twitter or Facebook also?

RB: Yes that’s right on Twitter it’s @screamfest Facebook is facebook.com/screamfest

BC: Alright that’s all the time we’ve got – Rachel I wanted to thank you for the chance to interview you – I always like interviewing fest directors – it’s an interesting to get an insight into the word of filmmaking.

RB: Thank you Baron, thank you for taking the time to talk about it.

BC: I always tell filmmakers that after you’re done you’re movie you still have to promote it and the fest circuit may be tough be you have to do that route.

RB: Yes, exactly.

BC: We have a moment for one more question – why should someone enter their film into your festival as opposed to others:

RB: We get behind the filmmakers and each film, assisting them how to handle the fest.

BC: We are now really out of time.

RB: Thank you so much

Screamfest, truly has a very cool award, a statue and this win for any filmmaker becomes a cherished moment, this event runs from the 18th through the 27th of October with the award night on the 27th, if you miss the event check their site out for the films and find them on the festival circuit to support the independent horror craft. By the way, the festival does include a spot for the screenwriter; after all without their lines, stories and dialogue nothing becomes possible to film correctly.

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About Baron Craze 24 Articles
Consider by many as a Horror Historian, writing detail reviews on many sites, with the first horror I ever saw was Grizzly (1976), from there I discovered Vincent Price and Christopher Lee movies, and of course Universal Monsters. I never watch the films just once, no rather multiple times, as I got older become both a completeist (the goal to watch all the horror films possible) and started to research many films to new depths of interest. Many of my reviews contain vast amounts of details about each film, in a fair review. In addition, a screenwriter and actor and producer of Blind Documentary, called A World Without Boundaries, and podcast DJ of 4 weekly shows 2 metal and 2 horror theme. Enjoy all things Horror, Gothic, and Macabre. Favorite Quote of Mine: "The Extreme Makes a Lasting Impression!"