Interview with Denise Gossett, Festival Founder/Director for the Shriekfest Film Festival

Heading into their 16th year, the Shriekfest Film Festival & Screenplay Competition is one of the top Horror Festivals in the world today. Founder Denise Gossett was voted number 5 out of 13 Most Influential Women In Horror History!

Go to the website and find out about the 2016 season.

I recently sat down with Denise Gossett to talk about her festival.

deniseMatthew Toffolo: Bottomline, what are you attempting to accomplish (and obviously succeeding at) with the Shriekfest Festival?

Denise Gossett: Well, my goal has always been to help get exposure for all of these talented filmmakers and writers that people may not know about. We are all about the indie filmmaker.

Matthew: Why do you think there is such large fan base for Horror Films? Why do so many people like being frightened and scared when watching something?

Denise: I think it’s the same reason people look at a car accident, we are curious, however, we like to experience it when it’s not a life or death situation..that’s where horror films come in. Being frightened is fun and exciting, it’s a visceral experience. Same reason people love roller coasters. The thrill of it all.

Matthew: What motivated you to start this festival?

Denise: I had starred in a horror film & realized that there weren’t any horror festivals in the U.S to help promote it, horror seems to be the ignored step child of the industry and I wanted to change that.

Matthew: What have you learned the most running a successful festival for over 16 years?

Denise: You have to be kind, you have to help people and you have to enjoy it and be passionate….these creatives are trusting me with their babies, whether it’s a script or a film, and I should treat that baby with the utmost care and love.

Matthew: How has the festival changed since its inception?

Denise: The main passion and caring has remained the same, of course, but, now we get submissions from every country out there, Shriekfest wins all kinds of awards, and we have regular fans that attend every year. Also, if you have a win at Shriekfest, it does seem to open doors for people.

Matthew: How many films do you anticipate showcasing at your 2016 Film Festival?

Denise: We will screen approximately 45 films!

Matthew: Can you give us a sneak peak of what to expect for the 2016 Festival?

Denise: Hmmm, we are discussing that right now….ways to make our “Sweet 16th” birthday extra special. New trophies, bigger, better parties, some new categories.

Matthew: Where do you see your festival in 5 years?

Denise: Oh goodness….well, I may not be running it by then. I am an actor as well and my career is really taking off and it’s making it very difficult for me to do both. We’ll see. đŸ™‚ As long as Shriekfest is around, I will be involved in some way. It’s my baby and like I said earlier, I want it treated well. So, in 5 years, it will be extremely hard to get tickets to any of the screenings. How’s that? LOL

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

Denise: Grease đŸ™‚ I was obsessed with it when I was younger.

Matthew: Is there a country that consistently makes great horror films that you show at your festival year after year?

Denise: Spain really produces some amazing films.

Matthew: Has there ever been a case where a film that you watch that gets submitted to your festival is just too violent or just too gory?

Denise: Well, there are some, but I have an audience that loves that stuff, so, it doesn’t affect decisions.

Matthew: In one sentence, what makes a great horror film?

Denise: A great horror film has a great story with some new or unique ideas, great acting, great filming, great sound, great editing, basically, a complete package.

Thank you so much for the interview. I’m honored.

* * * *

Interviewer Matthew Toffolo is currently the festival director for the WILDsound Film & Writing Festival.

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