|Tiffany D. Jackson|
For those of us who stayed a ‘professional student’ for longer than we probably should have, that final project in the last stretch before graduation is all nerves wracked, harsh criticism, and intellectual nirvana. These passion projects we produce can sometimes bring us back to the core of how we’ve found to define parts of ourselves. I knew I loved horror movies before I stepped into my first elementary school classroom and to a five year old, a girl defeating Freddy Krueger was about the coolest thing I’d ever seen. Women in the horror genre was my only project topic option. Past the stage of writing and reading endless articles and books on these female characters, I wanted to shift to the more accessible woman behind the lens. I was encouraged to articulate on the virtual page what I knew in my mind to be in a sense, a 21st century renaissance in horror with all these lady directors emerging from the margins of a male-dominated industry and film genre. I was blown away by the generosity of the women I reached out to and the growing list of directors that utilize the genre to tell their stories.
I decided to focus on women horror film directors and why their films and networking efforts will arguably transform the film industry and our ideas of gender equality. Overall the project came out pretty well and is certainly well received when I share my ideas and findings with others. It’s an introductory piece to a much larger conversation anyone invested in film needs to be having across the board. There’s a pervasive gender gap on the independent film and Hollywood compound, and both the statistics and online antagonists prove it. As a Black woman who chooses to acknowledge the facet of race in all of my endeavors, I couldn’t help but notice a bit of a racial diversity gap in my research on women horror directors.
There are a few noted Asian female horror directors (Karen Lam and Jennifer Thym) and fewer that are of Latin descent. And on the surface, much less if we’re discussing Black women. Determined and curious, I began to think about digging deeper into the possibilities of how Black women horror directors grapple with race and representation in their visual texts. But first, the challenge was to find out who these women were and if they did exist. Unfortunately, my initial assumptions proved accurate. Google is perhaps the most frequently used search engine and one would imagine to find any and all combinations of what even the modest of curiosities peak. I even tried Bing and a several combinations (Black, African American, women, female, directors, filmmakers). Either the World Wide Web is trolling me or the state of Black women directing horror films is a lonely, desolate highway.
Only one came up in any of my results pages. Described as “one of the only black female horror film directors in the business,” Tiffany D. Jackson who, on her personal site has a tab you can click on titled, “A Nerd in Heels” has piqued the interest of those in the horror community for some time. Garnering recognition from online publications like Bitch Media and what is now the seemingly defunct XI magazine, her horror short Field Trip has been to the Hallowscreen Film Festival and the Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival. Currently, Tiffany is a Unit Production Manager for Fuse TV and resides in Brooklyn, New York.
Her follow up venture in horror is a web series, So I Married A Vampire… which looks promising, but nothing new has been produced for the public for a few years.
I will admit, even finding information on Tiffany was painstaking and I feel the word discouraged is lying dormant somewhere in this long-winded, covert cry for research help. Simultaneously, I am deeply optimistic about the eventual prominence of more women of color directing horror films and expressing their love for it. Just like James Spooner dispelled the question whether Black punk rockers existed, so will I seek to find and highlight these Black women horror directors who have yet to appear on my radar. Because I refuse to believe the future of genre film will not see horror films directed by Black women. Because it’s important that the tradition of ‘Black horror’ continues with female voices. Because horror itself needs these women to further enrich its evolution as a genre.
In the past, Black participation in the horror genre behind the lens has been an all-Black male affair. From Oscar Micheaux to Ernest Dickerson (Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight, Masters of Horror, The Walking Dead), Black women have received intriguing roles in horror but I’m astounded to find not one director that registers within the horror community from past eras. Now more than ever is it important to keep an eye out for these Black women as they come forward with their films. So I leave you with this question to ponder:
Who are the Black women producing horror cinema?
Ashlee is currently the Sponsorship Director for Women in Horror Month and the administrative badass behind the Viscera Organization. She’s also the “horror academic nerd” co-host for the Women in Horror Month podcast and runs an annual horror film screening event in her native land of Philadelphia. She also digs vegan desserts, using her DSLR, and the idea of teaching a class about horror movies. More of her musings can be found at www.quirksandsplatters.com