Interview with Festival Director Jason C. Hignite (HorrorHound Festival)

HorrorHound Weekend Film Festival (as part of HorrorHound Weekend Convention) has been a fan favorite for several years. As the number 2 genre magazine (globally) their fan base draws people from around the world. They host two events per year, one in March (Indianapolis, IN) and one in September (Cincinnati, OH). Their events draw large crowds, with over 12,000 people at our Indianapolis show and over 25,000 people at our Cincinnati show.

Website: www.horrorhound.comwww.horrorhoundweekend.com

Interview with Jason C. Hignite:

Matthew Toffolo: What is your Film Festival succeeding at doing for filmmakers?

Jason C. Hignite: Our best offering to an indie filmmaker is exposure. Being that we (HorrorHound) are among the top genre magazines (globally) and that our events are the largest horror-specific in the United States, we are able to do several things. First, with our two events per year, we are able to put indie horror, thriller, sci-fi, dark comedy, etc. films in front of a genre-centric audience. Our events draw 25,000+ at the spring show and 12,000 – 15,000 at the fall show. Granted, our screening rooms may not accommodate all of those people; however, everyone in attendance is exposed to every film we screen (write-ups in the convention exclusive magazine, indie filmmaker panels, filmmaker booths, etc.). Furthermore, our fans are “noisy” … in the best way possible. People who attend our events and sit through the screenings will blast about the films on social media for weeks after each event.

Second, we are also able to promote indie horror films in the magazine and online. Filmmakers who screen at our events receive attention not only from our event promotion, but also on our company website and in our globally distributed magazine (HorrorHound).

Third, we give the filmmakers who attend with their films a chance to speak to the viewers. We offer filmmakers a chance to introduce their film, to do a Q&A after the film, to sit on the indie filmmaker panel, etc. We also offer networking events allowing the filmmakers to meet one another, share ideas, and build relationships.

MT: What would you expect to experience if you attend the festival this year (2016)?

JCH: Our March 2016 event in Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A. was a huge success. We had films from around the world. Furthermore, several filmmakers from the U.K. made the trip to the U.S. to premiere their film at HorrorHound. We are always humbled by such an honor. Our fans were treated to some amazing horror films from across the U.S., the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, India, and Iraq. Our event coming in September 2016 (Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A.) is shaping up to be another amazing and exciting show. We will have filmmakers (both independent and studio), SFX artists, celebrities, and vendors peddling all things horror and macabre. Check out http://www.horrorhoundweekend.com for more info.

MT: What are the qualifications for the selected films?

JCH: The only “qualification” is genre. The HorrorHound Film Fest screens films within the greater horror genre; including creature features, slashers, thrillers, dark sci-fi, dark fantasy, dark comedy, horror comedy, etc. Beyond that, the films are screened and evaluated by our festival screening committee, who collectively has decades of horror film festival experience.

MT: Do you think that some films really don’t get a fair shake from film festivals?

JCH: I believe some films can have a difficult time finding their niche. Many film festivals are thematic and/or genre specific. And, there seems to be a festival for any type of film imaginable. Yet, every so often a filmmaker produces a piece of cinematic brilliance that does not necessarily fit into any particular genre. Or, perhaps their film is too “low-brow” for some of the more elite festivals … and at the same time, too avant garde for the B-movie festivals.

MT: What motivates you and your team to do this festival?

JCH: We are motivated by an absolute and almost-obsessive love of film. We are true cinephiles. Though our festivals focus on horror (which we have all loved from our childhoods), we love all genre of film. And, we collectively feel that the most daring, most entertaining, most original, and most FUN horror films today are coming from independent filmmakers.

MT: How has the festival changed since its inception?

JCH: When HorrorHound Weekend began, we screened films; but, for the first few years it was not an official film festival. The HorrorHound Film Festival began big. The convention was already well established. In our first few years we worked with brilliant people like Clive Barker, Dario Argento, Cassandra Peterson (Elvira), etc. to bring new horror to a dedicated audience. We have added staff, upgraded equipment, learned from mistakes, and cultivated our festivals. And, we continue to work with some of the top names in horror as well as many of the exciting up-and-comers.

MT: Where do you see the festival by 2020?

JCH: The horror genre continues to grow. It has gone far beyond cinema and is now dominating television, cable, and VOD entities. If our festival’s trend continues to grow as the market trend grows, I believe we will need to find are larger space for our event that will include more screening rooms. We are already at capacity for our fall event. The convention center that we use for our spring event is adding 50% more space. Hopefully, that can accommodate a few years-worth of growth.

MT: What film have you seen the most times in your life?

JCH: That is a difficult question to answer. My taste in film is as varied as my taste in music, and I treat them both the same way … it depends on my mood. I will list the films I have watched the most times in my life and maybe someone can help piece together my cinematic-schizophrenia: An American Werewolf in London, Squirm, It’s a Wonderful Life, Animal House, Jaws, Cannonball Run, Alien, Psycho, Poltergeist, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail.

MT: In one sentence, what makes a great film?

JCH: A good story in the hands of an adept storyteller, surrounded by gifted artists and technicians, portrayed by a great relationship between director and actors, shot in the perfect location, and scored with the perfect music.

MT: How is the film scene in your city?

JCH: Are events take place in Cincinnati, Ohio (spring) and Indianapolis, Indiana (fall). The film scene in these cities is different. Cincinnati tends to draw and support indie horror better than just about any city in the U.S. Indianapolis is a bit more conservative in regards to horror; however, it is becoming well known for the more dramatic and artistic indie film scene.

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Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the CEO of the WILDsound FEEDBACK Film & Writing Festival. The festival that showcases 10-20 screenplay and story readings performed by professional actors every month. And the FEEDBACK Monthly Festival held in downtown Toronto on the last Thursday of every single month. Go to www.wildsound.ca for more information and to submit your work to the festival.

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