Vanessa Wright and Samantha Kolesnik are the Executive Producer and Producer, respectively, of Rainy Season, a short independent film based on the Stephen King short story of the same name. Both have several writing and production credits, and both are huge fans of the horror genre, everything from the gore-filled campy movies of the 1980s to intense, psychological thrillers like Reservoir Dogs, Misery, and The Babadook. Here Vanessa discusses why she stepped into the horror pool and tells a little about getting Rainy Season produced.
Vanessa Wright: Women in Horror
I think it can be quite challenging for a woman in this genre. Filmmaking tends to still be a boys’ club, but there are some amazing and talented female groundbreakers. Jennifer Kent (The Babadook 2014), Mary Lambert (Pet Semetery 1989) Ida Lupino (The Hitch-Hiker 1953) just to name a few.
I live my life in such a way so as not be just another face in the crowd, and my career is the same way. I can't even put into words what I do, but I make sure to leave a lasting impression. I don't believe in gimmicks so I think I will set myself apart simply by making great films. I only want to work with creative, talented people who are smarter than me. And while we are working I want to laugh a lot and sometimes get scared.
A Facebook friend had posted a link about Stephen King's dollar babies in a group that I helped create called Above The Line Artistry. I went to Stephen King's website and read all about it. Basically, King will release his short stories that have not been previously produced commercially and allow students and aspiring filmmakers take a stab at adapting his work. The catch is that these films are for promotional/festival use only, no distribution or profits at all. I think most people might ask, 'why in the world I would put so much time and energy into a film that can't make any money and that cannot be distributed. Well...I'm not doing it for the money. I looked at this as an opportunity to have my name attached, in some capacity, to Mr. King and to showcase myself and a talented team of up and coming artists and actors.
I read through the list of available stories and many of them I knew, so I wanted to find one I wasn't familiar with. I read “Rainy Season” from his collection Nightmares & Dreamscapes. It reminded me a bit of Shirley Jackson's “The Lottery”, and sure enough, King makes a reference to that tale a few pages in. Personally, the thing I found scariest about this story wasn't what was on the page, but all the subtext and things that weren't being said. I thought, "this could be a really dark tale and translate really well to the big screen." Stephen King will be seeing our completed film and that is extremely nerve racking and extremely exciting.
The expectations are high on this and we are not going to cut corners. For a short film with a modest budget of $30,000 we have some really talented people lending their skills and expertise.
I focused on the subtext of Rainy Season in the film adaptation, we wanted more of 'What are the actors not saying', let's explore that. We decided to focus on the tension and suspense of the story. Alfred Hitchcock said "There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it." This was my mantra while writing the script.
Rainy Season is a story about a young couple who travel to the town of Willow, ME. After repeated warnings from town locals to leave, they stay and learn the horrific price the town must pay for prosperity. Every seven years, the rainy season descends upon Willow in a downpour of vicious, man eating toads: The newest inhabitants of town are then sacrificed and suffer the deadly consequences of their choice to not head the warnings.
We are filming in the old town of Sharpsburg, GA for the Willow scenes and we are also shooting in a house in Senoia, GA that was built for the film Lawless starring Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, and Gary Oldman. We chose these locations for aesthetic purposes. The home was built for a film so it is set up for equipment and hanging lights and still leaving enough room for the actors to perform. Both locations will help to bring the town of Willow to life.
The film is being directed by Grant McGowen, the Artistic Director of Pinch 'n Ouch Theatre in Atlanta. Our DP is Mark Simon, who got his start working on Sixteen Candles, Ferris Beuller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club, to name a few. I am the Executive Producer and Writer of the film and I have two phenomenal producers, Stephanie Wyatt & Samantha Kolesnik making it all happen. The film is starring Tyner Rushing (Salem - TV series), Brian Ashton Smith (Nashville - TV series, Joyful Noise - film) Amber Germain and Alpha Trivette (Drop Dead Diva - TV series)
This a great group of artists and I am thrilled to be working with them.
Samantha Kolesnik grew up as a Navy child and has lived all over the U.S. She likes her horror dark, gritty, and psychological, but holds a special place in her heart for slasher films as well. She is the Editor in Chief of Five on the Fifth, an online literary magazine. She recently wrote and co-produced with Hollow Tree Films, LLC the short psychological horror film, The Price of Bones. Her short story, "Christmas Morning" was recently published in Rose Red Review, and her short story, "I Baked Him a Cake" is forthcoming in Hypnos Magazine. Her most recent screenplay, “Turning the Girl,” is a story entirely about women and delves into the rarely discussed issue of female-female sexual abuse, and for the movie she’s once again partnering with Vanessa Wright to produce.
Vanessa Wright penned her first book, The Witch’s Castle, at the age of 7, and cut her horror viewing teeth on movies like Friday the 13th, My Bloody Valentine, C.H.U.D., An American Werewolf in London, and Curse of the Cat People. Her mother introduced her to Stephen King when she was only 14, and she was hooked. But it wasn’t until she saw Reservoir Dogs for the first time (at the age of 16) that she knew she wanted to produce movies for a living. After studying video production and film at Ohio University, she began writing scripts and producing films, several of which went on to become official selections at regional horror film festivals.