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How ‘What Metal Girls are Into,’ IndieWire Project of the Month, Found Its Feminist Horror Center Under Chilling Conditions

After braving inclement weather to stage some on-screen frights, some of the project's biggest challenges still lie ahead.

To state the obvious, 2017 feels like the ideal time for a feminist horror film set firmly against the concept of male entitlement. If the elevator pitch for her film “What Metal Girls are Into” is any indication, director/writer/producer Laurel Vail agrees.

The short follows a trio of women attending a music festival who find a little more than they bargain for in their rental house. In addition to the promise of the premise, Vail wanted to deliver a quality horror film while saluting some underrepresented corners of music fandom. With strong women in front of and behind the camera, “What Metal Girls are Into” began its path to the screen last summer.

After a successful crowdfunding campaign exceeded Vail’s goal (just take a look at those magnificently named rewards tiers), the team had the go-ahead for a Southern California desert December shoot. In the meantime, IndieWire readers selected the film as Project of the Week and then Project of the Month for October 2016. From there, she and her crew ventured out for a production that held a few unexpected twists of its own.

We spoke to Vail via email about the logistics of shooting in unexpected weather, what she hopes comes next for the film and some surprising responses she got from old acquaintances.

What’s next for the project?

We just went to Joshua Tree and shot for five days and nights. We had a wind storm the first day and below freezing temperatures almost every night, but my crew was amazing and stayed really positive despite the harsh conditions. We got a lot of great stuff I’m really excited about, especially the practical effects during the climax scene. Now it’s on to all the post work. I’m hoping to complete it by the spring and hit some early festival deadlines.

What are the biggest challenges for the project?

The hardest part was not shutting down with anxiety. Just kidding, mostly. But I will say that doing all the planning across the board was very stressful. I handled it by making a lot of lists and hiring a couple people to carry some of the load. (Pro tip: hire a line producer ASAP. It was the best decision.)

Another challenge is staying within budget (which I did not do, but I knew that would happen). I would love to pay people more, but I had to be realistic in my fundraising goals/debt balance. Hopefully, next time around I’ll have a team working on it and raise more money. Thankfully, the crew I gathered are really excited about the project, even though they won’t be getting rich off it. I did have one person quit two days before the shoot, but we were able to fill the void in time. It was a very stressful day, but it worked out.

What are your goals?

I want to make people laugh and cheer for my characters. I want to make something thrilling and fun for the audience. I want to make the kind of movie I like watching.

The plan is to complete the film and submit to festivals. I also hope to apply to the AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women next year.

After the festival run, I’m hoping the film can become part of an anthology or screen in something like El Rey’s The People’s Network Showcase. There are so many more avenues for short-form content now than ever before. Short films no longer just sit on a shelf to show your friends that come over. They can be broadcast across the world. It’s a great time to be a filmmaker.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

The most effective thing I found in crowdfunding was writing direct messages, which I hated doing, but I bit the bullet. I wrote personal email or Facebook messages to at least 400 people. However, while no one lectured me on why what I was doing was rude/selfish/crass/etc. as I expected, I did get two long responses from old friends (?) that were just an airing of grievances they’d been secretly harboring. Two out of 400 isn’t that bad. Everyone probably pisses someone off in life and are unaware (due to politics, the company you keep, etc.). It just wasn’t the sort of thing I was expecting right then. So that’s something I would warn others about. The rejections you will receive may not be at all related to your crowdfund. Prepare for that if you are reaching out to your whole network.

For the most part though, the responses were very supportive and kind. I caught up with a lot of old friends and that was the best part.

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