I had the pleasure of sitting down with SCREAMFEST Co-Founder and Director RACHEL BELOFSKY a couple of days ago. Rachel is a wicked cool down to Earth individual with a true passion for championing talented up & coming horror/sci-fi filmmakers & writers.
For those not in the know:
Screamfest Horror Film Festival is the largest and longest running horror film festival in the United States. Paranormal Activity was discovered and premiered at the festival in 2007. Some of the largest horror online publications have called it the “Sundance of Horror”.
The 2018 Festival begins this week running October 9 – 18 at the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres on the 3rd floor of the Hollywood & Highland Center in eclectic Hollywood, California. Grab your tickets HERE or your Festival Pass HERE.
Rachel Belofsky – Screamfest
Rachel kind of got the jump on me as the interview started but it’s all good 😉
Rachel Belofsky | Screamfest: Hi DC how are you?
DC | screamfix: I’m absolutely wonderful, how are you?
Rachel: I’m well. Thanks for taking the time out of your day to chat with me.
DC: Wait, that’s my thing. I was supposed to thank you for taking your time out…
(both chuckling a bit)
DC: That said, I also want to congratulate you on the continued success of Screamfest. What, like 18 years now?
Rachel: Yeah, 18 years.
DC: That’s crazy!
Rachel: (laughing) Yes it is. Doesn’t seem like 18 but yeah.
DC: How about we go all the way back to the beginning when you and Ross (Martin) put this together. Did you enlist experienced festival organizers or just try to do it yourselves?
Rachel: We did it ourselves! I had done a documentary on women in auto racing called Fast Women that I had sold to TV but had done a few festivals before that. It even won some awards but the journey was not the most satisfying, I would say. Because it was like the unknown. You have your film and you kinda think you’re done but it’s like a whole other life of its own in the festival thing. So that journey made me want to start a festival.
And that’s actually where I met Ross – on that same festival journey. So when we wanted to do our own festival – well you know horror certainly is the bastard child of the industry. We wanted to do one that was about championing filmmakers and giving them a safe place and a platform to showcase their work. Also kind of actually help them make connections, get their work seen, and further their careers. And that’s how it all came together.
DC: So it was like – “Just from scratch, I’m gonna do this myself…” that’s pretty cool.
Rachel: Yeah, it was nuts. It was six weeks from creation to fruition. Starting from the beginning of August or whenever it was.
DC: Well, now that it’s a bigger, established festival how many films are submitted each year on average and who determines which ones are screened?
Rachel: It’s over 1000 films and we do it internally. We watch them all year long and narrow them down to the ones that get programmed.
DC: Do you have a big staff for that or is it just a couple of y’all watching 1000 films?
Rachel: It’s not too big of a staff. But that’s our day job, you know?
DC: I’ve noticed that the majority of films that have screened at Screamfest now have distribution. Is there a secret formula to that?
Rachel: No, I think it just probably speaks of the quality of the films and the filmmakers themselves. I mean last year we did help VampyrVidar. And that was good, he (Thomas Aske Berg) was very happy. Here you have an unknown filmmaker from overseas able to get his movie sold. That was very rewarding. I’m very happy for him, he’s such a sweet guy.
DC: Screamfest is well known for discovering Orin Peli of Paranormal Activities fame back in 2007. Are there any standout filmmakers or writers we should be watching this year?
Rachel: Yeah, I think the filmmakers behind The Unthinkable, a Swedish film, are pretty incredible. It’s a very solid film. Definitely one worth checking out. We have two Swedish films this year. The second one is called Draug and that one is a World Premiere and it’s really good as well.
DC: You mentioned earlier that you focus on championing talented upcoming filmmakers. As far as Screamfest attendance – what’s in it for the fans?
Rachel: They get to see films from all around the world. Some that they would never get the chance to see on the big screen. Like some of the foreign ones. Here they get to see them in a first-class setting with hundreds of other fans like themselves so it’s a great, fun collective experience.
DC: You also mentioned earlier that you chose horror because it was the bastard child of the industry. Other than that, what draws you to horror both personally and professionally?
Rachel: Personally – I think it’s the rollercoaster ride, you know it’s a very cathartic experience. Professionally – I think because so many talented filmmakers come from horror – Sam Raimi, Wes Craven, Peter Jackson, so many more. Having to cut your teeth on horror you have a lot of different iron in the fire. And with lower budgets, you have to be very creative and thinking on your feet. I think it’s a great way for filmmakers to get their start.
DC: One last question – can you share with us your all-time favorite movie.
Rachel: My ALL-time favorite? Hmmm, I have a couple. A Nightmare on Elm Street is one. Old school, I would say The Changeling with George C. Scott. Yeah, especially that wheelchair scene. And another fun one is Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat.
DC: Yeah, the little guy, Sam…
Rachel: Yeah, Sam! In fact, I have a Sam doll looking at me right now.
DC: Hmmm? I may have to go as Sam for Halloween now.
Rachel: That would be awesome!
DC: Well, that’s it. Thanks for sitting down with me, it’s been an honor. And thanks for doing what you do for the indie horror/sci-fi community.
Rachel: My pleasure, and thank you for supporting us.
Wicked lover of indie horror. Author, composer, screenwriter, and web designer. Indestructible Navy veteran with a cybernetic heart and a metal head.