Interview with Molly Deckart, Director of the Idaho Horror Film Festival (IHFF)

Hello again, dear reader. After lurking on the IHFF Facebook page for the last few years, I saw that this year that they were waiving the fee for submissions by women for the month of February using the code wihm2017 on the Film Freeway website. There’s more on that later. In light of the fact that they are supporting their local women in horror, I knew I immediately needed to get a hold of someone from the festival for more information. I met with Molly Deckart, Festival Director of the IHFF, to talk about the festival and the people behind it.

LW: I understand the first three years of IHFF were spearheaded by women. Who are these mystery women? How did you come together to develop IHFF?

MD: It’s kind of funny how this all started. It was actually two of us that started the festival. Susan Becker is my neighbor and we were at brunch one morning talking about the frustrations of being a creative person in Idaho. And we were like, “you know what’s really popular? Horror! We should try that.” After three Bloody Marys we were like “Yeah, let’s do this!” It was a semi-organic process. We really did just decide to go for it. Our backgrounds lend itself to that as well. I’ve done a lot of political fundraising for Democrats in Idaho and nonprofit work in general. Susan comes from Columbia Sportswear where she focused on sponsorships. She and I have a really good synergy so we thought we could work together and not kill each other, and it was great. The first year was definitely trial by fire. We didn’t really have a road map. There hasn’t been a successful film festival in Boise that’s made it past five years, and there really hasn’t been a genre festival, certainly never a horror festival. We didn’t know what to base it off of, so we just went for it.

LW: As horror loving women we get this question a lot: why the focus on horror?

MD: Why not? It’s a genre that provides a lower bar of entry, I think it’s safer, and it allows you to really hone your craft of filmmaking. I think that fear is a baseline for all of us, and it’s a good one. It’s a good jumping off point, and I think that for us that’s really why we chose horror is because emerging filmmakers in Idaho and everywhere else make it. So we really wanted to give it a platform.

LW: What purpose do you want the festival to hold for filmmakers and attendees?

MD: We want to see some really badass movies, and there are certainly tons out there. I think when you make a film the challenge now is what do you do with it after it’s made. We do ask for a fee when you submit, but that’s certainly not why we do it. I don’t care if we have 700 movies without any submission fees. It’s really about the exhibition process, which I think is important as a filmmaker. We love to have filmmakers attend, I think that the film/filmmaker-audience connection is really important, too. Something that we’ve seen within the festival is that these whole pods of horrorheads actually follow these filmmakers now. They’re so accessible. I think indy filmmakers, new filmmakers, are very welcoming to people who appreciate their work. It’s interesting to see the Facebook community grow around some of these filmmakers as well. Plus, Boise is a fun place, people love coming here. Filmmakers love it, and they’re very well received. It’s kind of a win-win.

LW: How many submissions do you usually receive?

MD: The first year we got about 300. Last year we got 700, and we screened 63 of those. We’ve gotten some great submissions. With this year’s festival not only would we like to build a women only block, but I would like to have some panels around these filmmakers and their challenges, because I think they’re unique to women in making films. They’re so underrepresented. I do think there is momentum for women in horror and I see women are supportive of each other in general and there’s less competition and more collaboration generally across the board, but I definitely see it in women filmmakers. They want to share their craft and their skills with each other. Roughly 1% of the submissions we have seen were from women, but it is certainly up this year with the WiHM code. I like seeing it.

LW: What qualities do you look for when going through your submissions?

MD: Certainly the basics: can you hear it? Does it look good? Is there a story? Oftentimes we’ll look at the film bios, too. If somebody writes a really fantastic history of how this film came about I generally want to watch it, because they’ve made it personal. I have taken myself out the screening process just because the festival is growing. That first year I watched every single submission. We watched everything, good, bad, or ugly. It was a learning curve, and now I know if it’s really bad I can shut it off after twenty minutes and not grind it out. Unique storylines stand out, and there is certainly a lot of those. It’s interesting to see each year, I don’t know if filmmakers get together, but it seems like the festival winds up having its own theme just based on what was made that year. We’ve had zombies. Last year I would say it was creepy clowns and children in peril. It’s kind of like seeing a piece of horror zeitgeist.

LW: What has community reception been like?

MD: It’s been great. I think it’s been overwhelmingly good. For a genre that can be off putting to sponsors it has been very well received by the community, and we are so happy about that. The community has been really wonderful. Our festival model is built for Idaho filmmakers first. There’s no submission fee for Idaho filmmakers and we are careful with any programming block that we have, we’ll highlight an Idaho film. If someone just goes to one block, they will see something from an Idaho filmmaker. We try to propagate and support native Idaho filmmakers. That’s been a wonderful process.

LW: That’s the Spud and Guts category, right?

MD: Yes! And not everyone has to be living here. Anyone from the crew can be from Idaho. It’s very a very broad category.

LW: You’ve talked about the increase in submissions. How else has the festival evolved from year one?

MD: Certainly one thing that I’m passionate about is education. Each year we try to bring in something that you can’t get here. Year one we were just flying by the seat of our pants. We’ve done stuff with the No Budget Film School in year two. It was a No Budget Filmmaking workshop and Mark Stolaroff [from the No Budget Film School] came up from LA. It was free for pass holders, $25 for community members, it was really accessible. Last year we brought in the San Francisco School of Digital Filmmaking and they actually took some of the concepts from the No Budget Film School and applied them to technical skills, so they actually did a filmmaking boot camp, with writing, directing, editing, lighting, kind of the nuts and bolts of filmmaking. This year I’m not really sure where we’re going to go with it. Education is a component that I feel strongly for because the only way we get better is by learning. There’s not a lot of opportunities, but technology is making it easier to go out and make films. I would like to provide more of a sense of community and education around it.

LW: I did notice that in scrolling through your list of sponsors on your website that you’ve got University of Idaho and Boise State on your sponsors list. 

MD: Sometimes it’s hard to get the universities to play in the same sandbox, but they each have really strong suits and we’ve really tried to give them their due. College of Idaho has a fantastic music program, and we do classic films with original scores with the alumni. We’ve done Nosferatu and Faust. Each year we do try to plan something. Horror isn’t for everyone, but it’s such a broad spectrum. We really do try to consciously plan for that. We plan a family movie. Harry Potter was not horror, but it’s a fun time of year, we want people to know about the festival, it’s completely free, the kids dress up. It’s fun! And I have kids and want them to be involved, too. I think we’re the only horror film festival that has a family block.

LW: The way that I got into horror was my grandmother. She was a huge horror fan. My sister and I would go over to my grandparents’ house watch Vincent Price and Christopher Lee movies. The first time I saw The Entity was with my grandmother. I remember having a four hour film conversation with her about horror. So a woman in my family was responsible for my horror appreciation.

MD: Yeah, kind of the matriarch for the love of horror. That’s really cool, though. Everybody has this funny story of how they come around to horror. I admittedly am not a giant horror fan. Surprise! It’s kind of like an Alcoholics Anonymous member. I’m Molly Deckart, I’m the Festival Director of the Idaho Horror Film Festival, and my dirty little secret is that horror scares me. But, I certainly appreciate it. Now I do have films that I really like, there are some indy filmmakers that I love following who I think are super talented. I think the lens for me has changed.

LW: What has surprised you the most since the founding of the IHFF?

MD: I just think the energy around has surprised me the most. I didn’t realize how big the horror community was worldwide. When you get a film from Poland, or the Czech Republic, or Iceland, you go, “wow.” And then you go, “how did you find us?” It’s really interesting to see. I think there’s a lot of cultural themes around it, too. The energy around this whole genre has been surprising. I didn’t think it was going to be that large.

LW: How do you see the future of IHFF?

MD: We just want it to grow. We want more people in Idaho to make films. We want more women to make films. We want to provide a bigger platform for filmmakers, and I want us to sell out. For us, certainly from a nonprofit perspective we have received a grant from the city for the last two years fo! the festival, and I love to see the city is investing in its creative community. Whether they agree with what they’re making, they are supportive of the fact they are making something. I think that, for me, what is really going to be the key to the festival’s success is having the city and the state believe in creative people. We want everyone to come from all over the place, but truly Idaho, we’ve gotta do it. We’re 50th in everything.

LW: What are some challenges you’ve had to overcome?

MD: Funding for sure, that’s a big one. For me, the first year was a technical nightmare and figuring all of that out. Again, we started with two people, and three volunteers, and rented out a 750 person theatre. The genre itself is also something to overcome from a community sponsorship perspective. There’s no shortage of fans, it’s the shortage of funding for things like that. We’re doing it, thankfully. I would say getting people to invest in the idea that this is actually a viable platform.

LW: Where can people go for more information or to submit their films?

MD: We are on Film Freeway under Idaho Horror and Our website will also take you directly to our submission platform, Right now on Film Freeway, women filmmakers can use wihm2017 and submit their film for free.

See? I told you there would be more about the code. The wihm2017 code is now available until the deadline for submissions. So get out there and make some great horror to submit to the IHFF and help support women in horror.

The mystery ladies behind the Idaho Horror Film Festival: from left to right, Susan Becker (Director of Development), Lynn Hood (Volunteer Coordinator), Paige Richards (Director of Media), and Molly Deckar (Festival Director)

Until next time, dear reader, see you in the stacks…