Vanessa Ionta Wright and Samantha Kolesnik are friends who met and bonded over their mutual love of all things horror. Now they come together with another friend, Stephanie Wyatt, to bring us a new short film bound to send shivers down our spine and yearn for more from this talented team.
Many thanks to Vanessa for taking the time to answer some questions about their highly anticipated project!
Let's dig in!
FWF: Tell us a little more about your project. Obviously when I hear those two little words: Stephen King....I, and others I'm sure, listen a little closer. How did you and Samantha meet and can you tell us about your backgrounds in the horror industry?
Vanessa Ionta Wright: Samantha and I met at the 2015 Shriekfest Film Festival in Los Angeles, her script 'The Price of Bones' and my script 'The Time Changer - Close at Hand' were both finalists in short screenplay competition. I was actually sitting at a table outside of the theater enjoying some street style tacos when Samantha approached me. I invited her and her husband to sit down and then proceeded to ask her if I had anything in my teeth. I did, lots of cilantro. She kindly helped me remove all the green from my teeth, I knew she needed to be in my life personally and professionally.
FWF: Can you give us a little synopsis of the storyline, for those who haven't read the SK short story?
VIW: Rainy Season is a story about a young couple who travel to the town of Willow, ME. After repeated warnings from town locals to leave, they stay and learn the horrific price the town must pay for prosperity. Every seven years, the rainy season descends upon Willow in a downpour of vicious, man eating toads: The newest inhabitants of town are then sacrificed and suffer the deadly consequences of their choice to not head the warnings.
FWF: Where are you filming and what made you choose that location?
VIW: We are filming in the old town of Sharpsburg, GA for the Willow scenes and we are also shooting in a house in Senoia, GA that was built for the film 'Lawless' starring Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Gary Oldman. We chose these locations for aesthetic purposes. The home was built for a film so it is set up for equipment and hanging lights and still leaving enough room for the actors to perform. Both locations will help to bring the town of Willow to life.
FWF: Who else is involved in the film, and what do they bring to the table?
VIW: The film is being directed by Grant McGowen, the Artistic Director of Pinch 'n Ouch Theatre in Atlanta. Our DP is Mark Simon, who got his start working on Sixteen Candles, Ferris Beuller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club, to name a few. I am the Executive Producer and Writer of the film and I have two phenomenal producers, Stephanie Wyatt and Samantha Kolesnik making it all happen. The film is starring Tyner Rushing (Salem - tv series), Brian Ashton Smith (Nashville - tv series, Joyful Noise - film) Amber Germain and Alpha Trivette (Drop Dead Diva - tv series.) This a great group of artists and I am thrilled to be working with them.
FWF: Have you always been a horror fan? What makes you want to write and produce horror?
VIW: Yes, I have always been a fan of horror, since about the age of 7. I was sitting on the stairs in my house while my parents watched The Amityville Horror on tv. I gingerly peeked around the corner catching glimpses of the film, kickstarting a lifetime of nightmares and fears. The adrenaline rush that comes along with being scared was addicting and I found myself chasing that high. Thank god it was scary movies, could you imagine if I would have witnessed my parents doing heroin and jumped on that band wagon! I, of course, had to sneak around to get my 'horror fix', as I was not old enough to watch these films. I watched Poltergeist at a friend's house when I was 8, her parents had a 'hands off' approach to parenting.
When we moved to Ohio and got cable television, I used to sit down in front of the TV and watch Commander USA's Groovie Movies. I started with Friday the 13th part III, My Bloody Valentine, The Curse of the Cat People, C.H.U.D., An American Werewolf in London, etc. My mother was a huge Stephen King fan and had read all of his books. I was always curious and wanted to read them but she always told me they would be too scary and give me nightmares...too late. When I was 14, I picked up a copy of Four Past Midnight and was hooked. I went back and read from the beginning.
I have always wanted to create these fictional worlds and bring them to life with the intent of scaring the viewer/reader or making them laugh. I like to have that balance between humor and the macabre. I have always been interested in writing and filmmaking, beginning with penning my first book, The Witch's Castle when I was 7.
FWF: Did you originally want to be a writer, or a film maker? How did you accomplish your goals?
VIW: Up until I was about 16 writing and making little "movies" had been a hobby. Then I went to see a film. This film was not a Hollywood blockbuster. We saw it at the local art house theatre and it was independent movie. I didn't know there was such a thing. I thought all movies had big stars and huge budgets. I had no idea that you could make movies like this. The film was Reservoir Dogs and I realized at that moment that I wanted to do this for a living.
I went to Ohio University and studied video production and film. After graduation, I moved to LA with a rag tag bunch of friends to pursue a career in music videos. I was drawn to the experimental, short format film. Music has always been a huge inspiration. When I sit down and start a new script I generally formulate a song playlist and keep it going until I 'fade to black'.
I wrote my first feature in college, a thriller called 'Melting Point'. I was just learning the craft and the process and was completely hooked. I decided to focus on writing and directing.
As I gained more wisdom and life experiences, my writing improved and I went on to do pretty well in some competitions. Okay, bargain moment: 'Bayou Gold' 2003 Semi-Finalist in the American Zoetrope Screenwriting competition and 2015 Official Selection in the Oaxaca Global Scrip Challenge, 'The Time Changer - Into the past' 2014 Finalist in the Shriekfest Horror Film Festival and 2015 Official Selection in Chicago's Indie Horror Fest, 'The Time Changer - Close at Hand' 2015 Finalist in the Shriekfest Horror Film Festival. 'Rainy Season' - 2015 Official Selection in the Northeast Horror Fest Film Festival and 2016 Official Selection in the Milledgeville Film Festival.
FWF: What made you want to adapt this particular story?
VIW: A Facebook friend had posted a link about Stephen King's dollar babies in a group that I help form called Above The Line Artistry. I went to Stephen King's website and read all about it. Basically, King will release his short stories that have not been previously produced commercially and allow students and aspiring filmmakers take a stab at adapting his work. The catch is that these films are for promotional/festival use only, no distribution or profits at all. I think most people might ask, 'why in the world I would put so much time and energy into a film that can't make any money and that cannot be distributed. Well...I'm not doing it for the money. I looked at this as an opportunity to have my name attached, in some capacity, to Mr. King and to showcase myself and a talented team of up and coming artists and actors.
I read through the list of available stories and many of them I knew, so I wanted to find one I wasn't familiar with. I read Rainy Season from his collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes. It reminded me a bit of Shirley Jackson's 'The Lottery', and sure enough, King makes a reference to that tale a few pages in. Personally, the thing I found scariest about this story wasn't what was on the page, but all the subtext and things that weren't being said. I thought, "this could be a really dark tale and translate really well to the big screen." Stephen King will be seeing our completed film and that is extremely nerve racking and extremely exciting.
The expectations are high on this and we are not going to cut corners. For a short film with a modest budget of $30,000 we have some really talented people lending their skills and expertise.
I also really focused on the subtext of Rainy Season in the film adaptation, we wanted more of 'What are the actors not saying', let's focus on that. We decided to focus on the tension and suspense of the story. Alfred Hitchcock said "There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it." This was my mantra while writing the script.
FWF: Who are some of your biggest influences in the genre?
VIW: Alfred Hitchcock and John Carpenter for sure! Stephen King goes without saying...I like to think WWSKD?
FWF: Do you consider being a woman more challenging in this particular genre and if so, what will you do to not just be another face in the crowd?
VIW: I think it can be quite challenging for a woman in this genre. Filmmaking tends to still be a boys club, but there are some amazing and talented female groundbreakers. Jennifer Kent (The Babadook 2014), Mary Lambert (Pet Sematary 1989) Ida Lupino (The Hitch-Hiker 1953)
I live my life in such a way so as not be just another face in the crowd, and my career is the same way. I can't even put into words what I do, but I make sure to leave a lasting impression. I don't believe in gimmicks so I think I will set myself apart simply by making great films. I only want to work with creative, talented people who are smarter than me. And while we are working I want to laugh a lot and sometimes get scared.
FWF: Please tell us about your crowdfunding to get this film made.
VIW: We are crowd funding through indiegogo. our campaign can be found at:
We have set up a Facebook page at www.facebook.com/rainyseasonmovie
Website at www.kreepygrrl2000.wix.com/rainyseason
YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCG8UEk7O5FLoCU-ZnClLe2g
(I have been posting daily videos "Fun With King" to keep people entertained. I have also put out a challenge to people to play Fund My Film Truth or Dare. starting at $50 people can dare me to do something and I have 24 hours to do it.)
FWF: And finally, because everyone always gets a kick out of this: what three horror movies would you want with you on that proverbial desert island?
VIW: Just 3!!! ok...Halloween (1978), Psycho (1960), The Exorcist (1973) I know those might seem cliché, but those are the 3...I think...JUST 3!!!! too hard ;)