Why were you interested in picturing a teenage girl at her first period?
It’s a time of incredible tension. There can be fear, dread, and shame, but also pride and growth. Often, it’s all mixed up together. It’s an undeniable physical change heaped in centuries of mythology and propaganda. A girl becomes a woman, bound to the cycle of nature and forced to recognize the potential to create life, but she’s also bound to persistent puritanical and religious social laws. Her culture, shaped by its particular dogma and social norms, tells her what she can and cannot do with her own body. They tell her what is unclean, what is shameful, and what she will become if she breaks these written and sometimes unwritten rules. Her first period announces a lifelong battle between desire and reputation.
Does blood carry some sort of magic in The boogeywoman?
Blood is magic! Blood is life. Menstrual blood is a sign of health and fertility, yet we are taught to hide it. Most people are strangely more comfortable at the cinema watching gory battle scenes, executions, and slasher horror than they are a pair of bloody panties. The “reasons” for this fill volumes. In essence, blood that comes from the dark, invisible part of a woman carries mystery. Mystery and uncertainty breed fear. Fear enables atrocities like the witch trials, female genital mutilation, and unsafe ostracism of women during menstruation. If female sexuality and biology can inspire that kind of retaliation, it surely must be magic. The Boogeywoman takes this absurdity and runs with it, using blood as a driving force toward the threshold of womanhood and sexual autonomy. Blood becomes a source of power rather than shame.
Why did you want the main action to take place during the night?
Symbolically and literally, night is the earth’s shadow side. Things are hidden and obscured. The girl’s meeting with the Boogeywoman is her meeting with what we have been taught is the shadow of womanhood: a strong, sexual woman with no regard for arbitrary rules written by those who have never experienced what she now endures. Night is also key to the horror tropes at play in the film.
How did you work on the movie’s intense wandering after the roller rink sequence?
Conceptually, the sequence represents the girl’s exile from innocence and traditional society into the battleground of womanhood, where she’s vulnerable but also free. I wanted there to be an ambiguity about why the young man is following the girl… he wants to apologize, he’s under the spell of the aforementioned magic blood, or he has more sinister intentions. For our heroine, a sense of dread and disorientation leads her directly to her destiny. Instead of the usual girl as victim, the stalker becomes the prey. Perhaps willing prey. This sequence was our final night of shooting. We wandered the streets of a very sleepy small town in Tennessee called Dayton (a block from the courthouse where it was decided evolution would be taught in American schools). We wrapped at about 4am and heard the train coming, so we hustled to the tracks and barely caught it. Our DP had the most triumphant smile on his face. We were freezing cold, but damn happy.
Did you write The Boogeywoman as a whole or could it be part of a larger project?
The Boogeywoman is a loose proof of concept for a feature film. I had a rough draft of a larger piece, but decided to make a short to figure out what was important in the full story. I plucked the characters and themes out to create The Boogeywoman. I have since revamped the feature, titled Godmother, and am currently exploring production options. Godmother is a pyscho-sexual Southern Gothic mystery-thriller about a teenage girl, her mother, and the woman who bridges the vast distance between them. In Godmother, the heroine, Sam, is a senior in high school navigating the complexities of a first love tainted by violence and control. When her unhinged boyfriend takes her to spy on a rumored murderess in their small town, Sam finds her strangely familiar. As she investigates the woman and struggles to cut ties with her abusive lover, reality gives way to dissociative episodes–ancestral memories that implicate her mother and the mysterious woman. Sam moves dangerously toward a truth that will redefine her. Godmother is about the danger of leaving dangerous men and the fierce capacity for violence in the “gentler” sex.
Would you say that the short film format has given you any particular freedom?
The short film format can be so many things–an exercise, a poem, a glimpse of a larger vision, or simply film unbound by convention and marketability. For me it has been all of these things. The Sacred Disease, which screened in the lab competition last year, and The Boogeywoman hail from a cinematic world that is constantly in development for me. The rawness and altered perception of The Sacred Disease and the provocative symbolism of The Boogeywoman together represent the essence of my next project, Godmother. Each short project has spurred my growth as a filmmaker and led me to the opportunity to make a longer work, but it has also allowed me to provide opportunities for others. I spotted the main actress of The Boogeywoman, Amélie Hoeferle, in a cafe in my hometown of Cleveland, TN. I had been working on the script all morning and looked up to find this enchanting girl on the verge of womanhood. She had never acted before but accepted the challenge head on. I auditioned her and did a callback and could tell she had put in some real work between. I was ecstatic to offer her the role. I was then able to fill in the rest of the cast with incredibly talented young actors from across the South and Midwest, some of whom had never worked in film before. We created this strong little family and continue to communicate daily. With a short film, I was able to go with my intuition and take a chance on these actors. It worked out well for all involved.