Earlier this fall, I attended the New York City Horror Film Festival in Chelsea. The festival finished its 16th successful campaign and featured 50-60 full length and short films. I found myself gravitating towards the short films, of which usually two or three played before the features. Between 5 and 20 minutes, the shorts got their point across quickly, and brought the scares fast and furious. One film was Cotton, the story of the titular man and his girlfriend and the coming to terms with the fact that he is a serial killer in waiting. The writer/director is Casey Rose Daniel, and she took a few minutes to speak with Geeks of Doom.
Check out the interview below.
Geeks of Doom: Hi Casey, thanks for taking some time to speak with us.
Casey Rose Daniel: Oh yeah, no problem.
Geeks of Doom: I was a huge fan of Cotton at the film festival. Was that the first festival youâ€™ve been to with Cotton?
Casey Rose Daniel: No, I went to the NOLA Horror Film Festival and the Cape Fear Independent Film Festival.
Geeks of Doom: So whatâ€™s it like traveling around and seeing people react to your film, something you put your heart and soul into?
Casey Rose Daniel: Itâ€™s great. At the first festival I went to, the Cape Fear Independent, they were surprised it was me, a young girl who made Cotton. But itâ€™s been really great and everyone has been awesome. The people in the horror community are really supportive, I feel like everyone just wants to help each other.
Geeks of Doom: Yeah, I feel horror is nurturing of each other more than any other genre because weâ€™re kind of like the black sheep.
Casey Rose Daniel: Yeah.
Geeks of Doom: I have other questions, but since you brought up the genre, have you always been a lifelong horror fan, and is that what inspired you to do Cotton?
Casey Rose Daniel: Yep. I love horror, thatâ€™s my genre and what I love to watch. What inspired me to write Cotton was actually an interview that I watched because Iâ€™m really into serial killer documentaries; and I was watching one of the last interviews that Jeffrey Dahmer did and he said, â€œI knew what I was doing was wrong, but I couldnâ€™t control my urges.â€ That really intrigued me that someone could know what they were doing was wrong but not have the self-control to not do it.
Geeks of Doom: Iâ€™m assuming you watched Making a Murderer on Netflix?
Casey Rose Daniel: Oh my gosh, I actually havenâ€™t. I need to, itâ€™s on my list.
Geeks of Doom: You know itâ€™s interesting hearing you say that about Jeffrey Dahmer, because the vibe I got watching Cotton, was Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.
Casey Rose Daniel: That was one of my movie references. That and the Snowtown Murders.
Geeks of Doom: I love that movie too – great film. I can definitely see that now that you mentioned that. I ask this next question to pretty much everyone in the horror industry I get to speak with; what is your first horror memory? That moment you first remember seeing a horror movie you watched, or scary thing that got you into horror when you were a kid?
Casey Rose Daniel: Wow, I donâ€™t even know, let me think. Okay, this is going to sound weird but when I was really little, for some reason I have a memory of being like 3-years old and watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and when the queen turned into a witch, that really freaked me out. And I think thatâ€™s when I knew that I liked being scared. Another thing I remember is one night, I woke up in the middle of the night and my mom was up watching one of the Freddy movies, and I just sat up watching it with her. Those little things I remember. And I just started always watching horror movies after that.
Geeks of Doom: Yeah, for me it was also Freddy, Nightmare 3 that got me into horror, watching it alone on my parentsâ€™ TV, while they were in the living room. What I noticed at the film festival was, as someone who watches and reviews horror movies, I was loving the short films almost more than the features. Not a slam against the features, but the short films took my breath away. So I know Cotton was your first film as a writer/director, but whatâ€™s your opinion on making short films versus full length features?
Casey Rose Daniel: Whatâ€™s the difference between short films and features, is that your question?
Geeks of Doom: Well Cotton is 15-minutes. How do you go about getting your point across in such a short period of time?
Casey Rose Daniel: I think some of the challenges are that you donâ€™t want to make it too long, and you donâ€™t want to get to all the beats too fast. You have to make sure your beats are perfect because if you do things too fast you feel thereâ€™s no payoff. And vice versa, where you could be waiting forever. And in feature films also itâ€™s the pacing. You donâ€™t want to drag things out too long or make them too short.
Geeks of Doom: What are you working on now?
Casey Rose Daniel: Iâ€™m in post production for another short film that I wrote and directed, but Iâ€™m also currently writing Cotton into a feature film.
Geeks of Doom: That seems like a good trajectory for a lot of short films. You see that this year with Lights Out. You brought this up earlier. I got to speak with the women who did A Knock at the Door, another of the short films at NYCHFF. You mentioned everyone was surprised when they saw you because you were a young female, so whatâ€™s it like being a young female director in a genre that for so long has presented women in a not-so flattering light?
Casey Rose Daniel: I think itâ€™s cool to be a woman in horror films, and I think others think itâ€™s interesting and cool as well. Itâ€™s definitely different and it gives us a voice in the horror genre that we can be more than the stereotypes. I think everyone has a different perspective on how to make a horror film so this adds more to it and to the genre.
Geeks of Doom: Yeah, I agree. What were some of your favorite horror movies growing up?
Casey Rose Daniel: I loved Halloween, still do, the original. I love A Nightmare on Elm Street. I love the movie Bug. A lot of people havenâ€™t seen it and donâ€™t know what it is…
Geeks of Doom: Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon right? Yeah that movie made me itch.
Casey Rose Daniel: Yeah, I love that movie. And also Hard Candy.
Geeks of Doom: So is there a place online where we can see Cotton? Because I have friends that approach me after these festivals wanting to see some cool movies, so I want to help get the word out about Cotton.
Casey Rose Daniel: Right now I donâ€™t have it up online because it was in the festival circuit. I do have the trailer up on Vimeo and I have a page, Casey Rose Daniel on Facebook, I donâ€™t post enough but the trailer is on there and a directorâ€™s reel also. I have a Cotton Facebook page as well.
Geeks of Doom: Great thanks. I have to ask, the actor who played Cotton (Vasil Fenik), did he need much direction? Because he was creepy as hell.
Casey Rose Daniel: I was very lucky with my actors. When I casted them and we sat down and talked, my actress (Nadine Kubler) sent me a two page letter of what she thinks the character is thinking. And Vasil, I told him about the Jeffrey Dahmer inspiration and sent them videos and they did their research and got really into it. I remember one time on set, I turned and Vasil was all up in the deerâ€™s face looking at it, and I thought â€˜heâ€™s so in it right now!â€™ They were so great and they really got into the characters.
Geeks of Doom: He totally had that Henry vibe, you know. Normal guy one minute, girlfriend, has a job and then the next minute…
Casey Rose Daniel: Yeah, he just switched.
Geeks of Doom: I imagine if you get the feature done, he will be a great horror villain. Well, thank you so much for your time, and good luck with everything in the future.
Casey Rose Daniel: Anytime, thank you.
That concluded my interview with Casey Rose Daniel. Itâ€™s great to meet and speak with these young filmmakers and see how bright the future of my favorite genre is. Check out the links below to see the trailer for Cotton and follow Casey and her progress on Facebook. I look forward to seeing more from her in the future.
Remember to support independent filmmakers and check Geeks of Doom for updates on the availability of Cotton.