FrightFest Previews – Interview with ‘Egomaniac’ Writer/Director Kate Shenton

If you attended FrightFest last year, and were in the audience for the World Premiere of Liam Regan’s Banjo, you might remember festival co-organiser Ian Rattray saying some impassioned words about how he feels FrightFest should always try to support emerging British talent, as well as independent cinema as a whole. One year on, and they’re as good as their word: following her documentary On Tender Hooks and its success at the festival in 2013, Kate Shenton returns to “the Woodstock of gore” with her new film Egomaniac. Ahead of the film’s World Premiere on August 28th, she took the time to chat to us…

Shock Street Horror: Hello! How about we kick off with you telling us who you are, and how you’ve got to this point as a filmmaker?

Kate Shenton: Well, I’m a London-based filmmaker who works mostly in the horror genre. Egomaniac will be my second feature film: my first was a documentary called On Tender Hooks. I’ve also made a number of short films. I guess I really came up through the grassroots approach. All my films have been made on a very tight budget and have usually been self-financed wit the occasional generous donation from a very supportive friend or family member. I have an addiction to making films so always have a project in the works. Outside of filmmaking, I also play the ukelele and have a 5ft pet snake called Priscilla.

SSH: You wrote what I found to be a courageous and incredibly eye-opening article last year for Gadgette about your experiences with sexism in the film industry. To what extent is Egomaniac informed by what you wrote about in that piece, and generally by your experience as a filmmaker so far?

KS: There are definitely things in Egomaniac that are the same as in the article – it’s a very personal story. It’s not really autobiographical as a lot of it is fictionalised, but it is heavily based on my own personal experience. I’m never going to tell people what is fact and what is fiction, but what I will say is the more surreal it gets, the closer to the bone it is. Oh, and I did once get asked to write a talking dog film!

SSH: What has the response been to that article in the year since you wrote it?

KS: The response has been very positive. A number of women have come up to me saying that they have had similar experiences and other people have said to me that they’ve now begun to notice things that they hadn’t before.I think these things are very important to talk about – most people are very scared of talking about it openly in case it potentially holds them back in their career. To be honest I wouldn’t have written the article a couple of years ago for those very reasons, but I believe it’s incredibly important to discuss and highlight these issues. It’s only when we do this that things can begin to change.

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SSH: A few familiar faces make appearances in Egomaniac, such as Dan Palmer (Stalled, Banjo) and Laurence Harvey (The Human Centipede 2 & 3, Call Girl, Frankenstein Created Bikers). Did you write any of the roles in the film with any individual person in mind?

KS:  Most of the roles I wrote with individuals in mind. The film was made on a very small budget, and when you’re working under those conditions you have to use the people and resources that you’ve got available to you. I’m very fortunate in the fact that I know a lot of fantastic actors, so it only seems natural to write roles for them and hope they say yes. Fortunately for me, they did, and I really could not imagine anyone else playing the characters.

SSH: As you said, you’ve made a number of shorts, as well as the feature documentary on Tender Hooks. How did you find shooting Egomaniac differed from these?

KS: I think every project that you make is a completely different process to the last. If you made a film the same way every time, your film will ultimately end up being the same, which is bound to get boring after a while. For me, each film has a life of its own, and all you can do is just go along with the ride and hope for the best. However, there’s definitely a big difference between making shorts and making features. I actually prefer making features, as you have more scope and freedom. However, it’s also ten times the amount of film, and therefore ten times the amount of work!

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SSH: The film premieres in Discovery Screen 1 at FrightFest this year, and On Tender Hooks was well-received there in 2013. What is your relationship with the festival, both as a genre fan and a filmmaker?

KS: FrightFest screened my first ever short film! The festival has a special place in my heart. They’ve been incredibly supportive of my career and are always the first festival I’ll submit a new film to. I was over the moon when they told me they wanted to screen Egomaniac.

SSH: For those unfamiliar, On Tender Hooks was a documentary on the subject of extreme body modification. What was it that attracted you to that topic?

KS:  I fell into it very accidentally. One of my best friends decided to do a human suspension, and I decided to film it as a short. After that, I became completely fascinated by the community. It was less the act itself that I found fascinating and more the people. The people involved in human suspension have such a wonderful outlook on the world. Every time you go to a suspension event there is such a warm, loving feeling there. It was this that really attracted me to the subject matter. Making the film was an incredible journey, and it definitely changed me as a person.

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SSH: We ask everyone this question, and we’re not letting you off the hook either, so before you go, how would you pitch Egomaniac to a festival-goer making up their FrightFest timetable?

KS: Egomaniac is a satirical dark comedy with a horror twist. It’s about a female film director named Catherine Sweeney, who is determined to make a zombie horror rom-com, but everyone keeps telling her to put a talking dog in the film. She’s put under increasing pressure to compromise, until she realises that compromises can kill.

Egomaniac screens in Discovery Screen 1 on Sunday August 28th at 3.55pm. Get your tickets here, or watch the trailer.

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