Welcome to SYFY WIRE's Crowdfunding Creators, a series that highlights original work by artists looking to make their way in the world on sheer talent and the kindness of strangers. The creators you read about here are in the midst of running campaigns via Kickstarter, GoFundMe, Indiegogo, and other crowdfunding sites to finance their original work — whether that be a comic, a TV series, a movie, or whatever else they can dream up.
Miss Psychorama 1986 is a narrative horror satire film that mines the tropes of classic 1980s horror films, the real-life terrors of reality television, and buckets of fake blood. Jenny Plante, a feminist filmmaker, long-time horror fan, and the writer/director of Miss Psychorama launched a Kickstarter campaign for her latest film on February 7. She has until March 9 to raise $18,000, enough to pay her crew during production and work through post-production costs.
"This month is focused solely on fundraising because if I don't get my Kickstarter, I won't be able to make the movie the way I want to make the movie," Plante tells SYFY WIRE. Miss Psychorama is a satirical take on Hollywood's obsession with both shameless reality television and the exploitation of women and minorities in the horror genre. To showcase the importance of diversity, Plante has worked hard to reach out and fill her cast and crew with as many diverse voices as possible.
Plante attended RuPaul's DragCon in New York City during the fall of 2017 and recruited former RuPaul's Drag Race contestants Mrs. Kasha Davis and Joslyn Fox. Every major role is filled, including the titular role of Miss Psychorama 1986, who will be portrayed by "punk rocker and all-around badass" Shema Rubdi. They're just waiting on the funding.
In Miss Psychorama, Rubdi's character will spend her time running from a collection of four famous directors who are vying to put her in their next film. Terrified and unaware that she's been chosen as a reality show contestant, Miss Psychorama ends up killing the directors — people she views as nothing more than strange men trying to break into her house.
"This film is gonna be shot like a live TV special, including commercial breaks," Plante says. "It will include vintage film montages to show the work of each director — what the canon of each director was. It will show play-by-plays and such. I want people to feel like they put in a VHS tape of this thing called Miss Psychorama 1986, and they got it complete with commercials and everything because that's kind of the thing I grew up with. You'd tape something off TV, a movie or something, and you'd have to watch commercial breaks, too.
"There's a feeling of nostalgia I'm trying to go for."
Where did you come up with the idea for Miss Psychorama 1986?
I have been a filmmaker for a little over a decade. My projects are largely based off of pop culture, film history, and feminism. I can't remember how exactly I came up with the idea. I'm fascinated by trashy TV and cult cinema. And I just had this image of a woman running from a reporter in the night, and she was trying to defend herself. And that kind of turned into a woman trying to get away from a bunch of horror movie directors.
She doesn't realize she's in a contest. And most people, when they find out they could win money, they freak out — this woman had the opposite feeling. Hers was like a fight or flight, and she had to defend herself. It turned into this thing where a woman has been selected off the street to go up against these four different Hollywood directors for a chance to win a role in their film, to win some money and a lifetime supply of fake blood. Who wouldn't want that? But since she doesn't realize what's going on, she feels threatened by these men that keep trying to barge into her home. So she defends herself, and kills them one by one. And the TV crew that's following them decides it's good TV, and they don't try and correct her and stop her from what she's doing.
What do you think horror fans would like about Miss Psychorama? What horror elements have you brought in?
Well, I think it's very self-referential. I'm referencing directors who really built the genre from the beginning. So there will be a lot of references to Hitchcock and De Palma. I'm not going after everybody. Like, I'm not really going after John Carpenter, or other traditional slasher flicks. It's kind of like a personal vendetta I have of these directors who I really admire for their artistic integrity, but really have a terrible concept of how women are, and how women should be treated. To me, it really started with Hitchcock. I guess, it's like a feminist horror satire.
There are people who tend to view anything that's socially relevant or more multifaceted than a straight-up slasher flick as not being within the horror genre. Do you think your film fits into the genre despite being, as you said, a feminist horror satire?
I know that the horror films that I am interested in usually have several other elements to them. They usually involve some level of comedy, they have some level of straight drama, or thriller. And then they also do have that, like, shock effect or some sort of gore to them. And so, they can't really just be considered tucked into one little box, which is called "horror," which I know is how Jordan Peele had described Get Out. And I agree with him that you can't just classify his film in one box of "horror."
I think those are the ones that are the most successful, when they're able to kind of cross genres. I didn't really set out to just call this a horror film. To me, it's also a satire of Hollywood and the TV industry, of live TV, how we cover everything. For me, I'm referencing so many different things. I think about how the OJ Simpson trial was covered, how there was a media circus. I'm thinking about how a football game is covered with the play by plays, and then also pulling in classic cinema tropes, too.
What other directors are you referencing? Is it just Hitchcock and De Palma?
So, the three major horror directors are Hitchcock, Brian De Palma, and Dario Argento. And then I threw in Abel Ferrara, who isn't really known for horror, but he made Ms. 45 and The Driller Killer, which, to me, had plenty of unnecessary, over-the-top violence toward underprivileged people, and also women. I guess what really upset me with him was that he felt that he could play one of the rapists in Ms. 45. So, he personally takes it upon himself to [play at raping] his actress.
In my film, nobody is named outright; everybody has alternate names, but I play off of who they are. It's not going to be a complete copycat of everything that they've done, but I just think I like the idea of holding a mirror up to what they're doing and seeing what it looks with the shoe on the other foot.
Holding a mirror up to society has been a big topic lately with horror films, especially after Get Out. For you, what's the importance of a feminist tale and diversity in genre?
Well, I have to say, I've always made films about women, but I've always been mainly surrounded by white women, and white straight women. And once I went back to school to get my Master's I was in Boston, which is somewhat culturally diverse. I made a lot more friends that were outside of my regular circle from New Hampshire. And I realized that I was part of the problem, I was just perpetuating the same thing over and over again. So I made a conscious effort with this film to not just be casting Caucasians, but also to not just be casting straight people. It's very important to me that if I'm trying to get a leg up, I should be trying to bring everybody up with me, which is part of the reason why I'm doing Kickstarter, so that everybody on my crew gets paid and all my actors get paid
[There are people] I would like to bring up with me if I'm able to become successful at all. I want to be able to help other people. I've been working on this for a few months after the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and I realized in my tiny way what I was doing was just more important than ever, even though I'm not in Hollywood. I'm still trying to voice my outrage and to try and make a difference in the film and art world as best I can, and as best as I know how.
What's important for your backers to know about Miss Psychorama?
I just really want to make this project be as inclusive as possible. I've had several people asking me if they could help me work on it, and I am really touched by that. And I'm trying to just say yes to everybody. I used to make projects on my own. I would do everything, and it was a very isolating experience. I felt like I have a lot of control that way. But I've realized as my projects have gotten more elaborate, you really do need a whole community to help you. And I've been trying to embrace that and make this a community experience that we are all part of the project and we're going to get it made if we all work together.
Some people might not agree with who I picked to represent the horror genre, but what I've done is make them personal to me. These are people that I've watched and studied for a very long time, and it's almost, to me, like this is an essay I'm writing, this explanation of why I feel this way, and I'm presenting my argument. You don't have to agree with who I picked to critique, but you can enjoy what I've made.