Thanks Horror Fans and lovers of film for stopping in, and welcome to another ghastly episode of Horror Film Q&A with Thomas Otterman.
Today’s special guest is the talented and intriguing MIG WINDOWS Actress/Director. Mig is now currently holding a campaign on Indiegogo for the Horror film THE DIMINISHED.
THOMAS OTTERMAN: Hi Mig thank you for taking the time to join in this Q&A today.Would you like to take a few moments to introduce yourself to the horror film fanatics, and general film enthusiasts reading this?
MIG WINDOWS: Of course! My name is Mig Windows. I'm an independent filmmaker based in Ashland, Oregon. I'm part of ROW 211 FILMS, a production company based in Medford, and I serve on the board of directors for Southern Oregon Film & Media.
I'm also an actress and have appeared in a lot of films here in Oregon, including "Redwood Highway," "Necrotic," "The Truth About Daisies," and others. Most of my training in filmmaking was picked up from being on a lot of film sets over the years until I finally decided to try directing some films of my own. It's been quite the journey!
TO: When did you decide to become a film maker? and how long did it take to come up with your first workable script?
MW: The "a-ha" moment for me actually didn't happen until I'd already made my first short film. I was attending the memorial service for the actor who had starred in it, and walked in to find the film playing in the lobby as part of a tribute video.
The whole experience made me realize how short life is, and how you can't just sit around waiting for Hollywood to call you and say "alright, your movie's getting made." If you can make something on your own, then what's stopping you? Go out and do it, you know?
As for scripts, they come easy for me. I've been writing since I was 6 or 7 and type 90 wpm or some ridiculous number like that. I'm always typing. The scripts aren't always very good when I first write them, so I usually do some rewrites and get feedback... but sometimes I just roll with it and shoot the damn thing.
TO: Can you share with us some of the projects you have worked on previously, and about the campaign for The Diminished the new film you are working on without revealing any spoilers? Is there any type of social message in The Diminished being relayed? What location is the film being shot at.
MW: All of my solo projects up until this point have been short films, most of which are viewable for free, online. These include the "I Never" trilogy of short horror films, the web series "How to Marry a Vampire," and the short films "Not A Bench," "You Were So Good," "The List," and more.
A lot of projects I've acted in are viewable online too. Check out Wicked Pixie Productions, XRATS productions, and ROW 211 FILMS, all companies in Oregon that I've worked with multiple times.
“The Diminished” will be my first feature film as writer/director, and I'm really pulling out all of the stops for it. Without giving too much away, it's about an unlucky-in-love woman who falls for a prominent guitarist. While she's trying to help him with his career, she finds out that his creepy, disfigured roommate might be responsible for the disappearance of a missing local teen.
Her quest to uncover the truth sends her on a horrifying journey, featuring ghostly encounters, gore, and a possessed demonic TV screen. The whole thing is a kind of metaphor for abuse, and how having undergone something traumatic can alter your perception of reality. It also pertains to a lot of feminist and millennial issues that a lot of people will find themselves relating to.
I currently have an indiegogo that has until APRIL 26th to raise $10,000. Once I raise the money, I'm going to find an awesomely decaying house somewhere in Southern Oregon to shoot, as well as a bar and a few other locations. I tried to keep the script really simple with locations, as having too many on a low-budget flick can be kind of a drag.
TO: I am still intrigued about the April Fools update on The Shed the way you had written the description of it really drew me in. Did you have some continued education in writing? have you ever thought about writing a novel or a book of short stories?
MW: Haha, that was the silliest thing ever! The day before I'd been having coffee with my dad and he was calling it the "De-Mini-Shed" and we thought about how that sounded like "mini shed." Then we joked that we should get Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson from the Monty Python sketch to do the music.
One thing led to another and I started coming up with this silly little idea for a horror movie about a mini shed, and I thought I'd troll my indiegogo followers saying I'd re-thought the movie concept. Who knows? Maybe if I find the right shed I'll make it one day!
I have been writing for a very long time. I had some bizarre goal in elementary school to be the fastest typist in class when we played this "learn how to type" game. But it isn't all typing, I've also been telling stories forever. My parents joke that I popped out of the womb and instead of crying I said "Have you heard the one about the one-eyed-goat?"
I studied creative writing in school, and I write play scripts and in prose as well as writing screenplays. I prefer scripts to writing solo, though, because I really like the collaborative process and writing a novel or something just feels kind of lonely to me.
TO: Are there any other projects that you may have lined up after The Diminished is under wraps that you would like to bring to light?
MW: Yeah! I have so much going on. I'm going to be acting in a horror flick here in Oregon called "From the Dark" soon, and I'm producing and playing a lead character in a feature film called "Emma Was Here" which is shooting this summer.
I'm also in talks to write and direct a short horror film for a local anthology of shorts, and I'm also co-writing a cosmic horror series pilot called "Lake" which is the brainchild of the brilliant Carlos-Zenen Trujillo, and possibly playing a character in that as well. I also have a series of shorts about theatre, kind of like a "Twilight Zone for Theatre Kids" that I'm shooting occasionally at Southern Oregon University, my alma mater. The first two episodes of that, "You Were So Good" and "The List," are up online. And of course, I'm writing a gagillion screenplays - we'll see which ones get filmed!
TO: At what age did you decide you wanted to become a film maker? and when did you start beginning to work off your ideas.Was your first project a success?
MW: I sort of mentioned this in a previous post, but my first real movie was shot when I was in college. Before that I was pretty much only interested in theatre. I met this actor at the college, and we had written and performed this short play together.
There's a whole story, but the nutshell version is I found out that he was dying, and he'd wanted to turn that play into a movie, so I made it happen. It's called "Not A Bench" and it's a total MESS of a film. I mean, there's wind noise, and so many continuity errors that I just made them a plot point. It's a silly rom-com, about 15 minutes long. But you know what? It did surprisingly well. It won the Audience Choice Award at the Southern Oregon University Student Film Festival, and the Grand Jury Prize at the Klamath Independent Film Festival.
It occasionally airs on public TV here in Oregon, and people come up to me sometimes in coffee shops to tell me how much they liked it. And, most importantly, it played in Jimmy's memorial tribute, and people loved getting a chance to see him shine one last time.
TO: Have you ever done any of the film festivals? and what was the experience like? Is it hard to get a film submitted?
MW: Yeah, I've done my share of festival stuff. It's ranged from bizarre to really awesome. Submitting is only hard because there is usually a cost, so I always advise people to do their research on film festivals before submitting. I prefer using FilmFreeway over Withoutabox (which is a bit less user-friendly.) Withoutabox does have a connection to IMDb though which makes setting up pages easier, and some festivals only use WAB and not FilmFreeway. Also, there are some scamfests out there, for sure. So definitely do that research!
TO: What has your experience been as being a woman film maker? do you think that now there is a more level playing field? or is there still a lot of work to be done?
MW: Haha, yeah, I've been mistaken for the makeup artist, and had people walk up to the First AD rather than me quite often. I've also had people ignore what I say, or talk over me, or say that I'm being "bitchy" when I'm actually being an asshole. There's a difference, people! But in all seriousness, yeah, it's hard being a woman filmmaker.
There are really not a whole lot of us, and it's easy to get discouraged. I do think we as a society are heading in a good direction though. Women filmmakers are starting to get more and more notoriety and jobs. And thanks to the #MeToo movement, the jobs are getting safer as the grabby-hand-dudes are getting called out. Definitely a good thing.
TO: Is this your first time using a crowdfunding platform like Indiegogo? and what has your experience with crowdfunding been like?
MW: Heck naw. I crowdfunded "Not A Bench," and "The I Never Trilogy" on indiegogo. I also helped crowdfund "Emma Was Here" through a platform called Seed&Spark. It's hard work. A lot of people don't realize how insane it is. Like, just this morning I was emailing old teachers, old classmates, old coworkers, digging up email addresses from a million years ago, because sometimes that's what you gotta do.
TO: What are some of the obstacles and dilemmas you have encountered in film making? and what advice would you like to give to future film makers?
MW: Oh gosh, anything can happen on a movie set, and you just have to be prepared and be willing to let things go. Especially when you're working on a movie set with little to no budget. I've seen lights catch on fire, lights fall over and smash into a million pieces, lenses get dropped...
I've seen it hail when the weather report promised clear skies, I've seen the cops get called because people were screaming too loud during a scene, I've seen actors get replaced at the last minute by somebody's dad with no acting experience...
I could go on and on! It's so important to have a contingency plan. Because I'll tell you what - all of those things I just mentioned ended up totally fine. You could seriously never tell (watching the finished product) that the world was ending while that clip was being filmed! So yeah. I'd say just keep trucking.
TO: Who are some of your influences in film making? and how did they influence you in your creative process?
MW: I’m inspired by a lot of weird stuff... I think it's normal for people to say they were inspired by like, Kubrick and Hitchcock. And sure, I like those guys, and they were talented, and they inspire me to a degree, too. But for me, my inspiration can come from everywhere.
I actually love watching commercials, because I'm just really curious about what goes into them, and how the people behind them are using lights and angles and various tactics to get me to buy their crap, you know? I just think that's so interesting. Especially really low budget ads. It's like, you KNOW these people had nothing to work with to throw this car dealership ad together or whatever, but here it is....
I remember I actually used to be TERRIFIED of Billy Mays when I was a kid. Whenever those oxyclean infomercials came on I'd get freaked out. I thought he was the devil - that was actually one of the big inspirations for "The Diminished," and a little bit of that made it into the script believe it or not...
But for a more conventional answer, I'd say I'm pretty inspired by David Lynch, Werner Herzog, and Terry Gilliam because they're just so unapologetically weird and utilize visuals so well, the Duplass Brothers, for their really do-it-yourself approach to filmmaking, Greta Gerwig for being so genuine, and my (probably most boring answer) Kurosawa, who was a master of making these incredible visual moments that just stick with you.
There are more influences, of course. So many more. I really like watching movies with striking visuals because that's always been the harder part for me. I'm more of a words person, so I'm always trying to challenge myself in that way. I've also been reading a lot of gothic horror, and listening to horror podcasts lately. The scariest one is definitely Knifepoint Horror by Soren Narnia. Don't listen to it while hiking at night, whatever you do!
TO: Do you have a website or contact information that you would like to share in order for fans to follow you and check up on your latest work?
MW: I’m currently revamping my own website, migwindows.com, so that might not be live by the time your blog is published (hopefully - crossing my fingers!) You can also see most of my stuff at www.row211films.com, where you can also check out what my collaborators, Daniel Rester and Rory and Angelica Owens, have been working on.
TO: Where do you see the future of Indie Horror films in 10 years? and are you a Horror fan and why?
MW: Horror isn't going anywhere any time soon. I'm a firm believer in that. The thing about scares is that they're universal, right? I actually have not always been a horror fan. I actually used to hate scary movies. I closed my eyes during them and got really upset when someone suggested we watch a slasher flick or something. Probably because I have a really active imagination. I eventually worked things out with the genre and decided I liked it. Being cast in horror movies and going behind the scenes really helped with that.
TO: What was the first horror film to scare you? what about the film or particular scene is still memorable from it?
MW: The Shining! I couldn't watch it all the way through for years. I was so scared of it I used to "Wolf Pirate" it. Which is a term that means "pretending to have seen something" So yeah, I wolf pirated The Shining for years because I was too scared to actually watch it. Everything about that movie - the atmosphere, Jack Nicholson, the girls in the hallway... yeah, I just couldn't do it until I finally had been on a couple of film sets and knew what was what. It still kind of scares me. Especially on days when I have writer's block...
TO: What is your favorite decade for horror films? and what would be your top 3 recommendations from that decade?
MW: Ooh, that's tough. Probably the 60s. I'd say "Psycho," "The Masque of the Red Death," and "Kwaidan," which are all awesome for totally different reasons. "Kwaidan," which is this movie that a lot of people in the U.S. don't know much about, is one of my favorite movies ever. It's an anthology of Japanese ghost stories, directed by Masaki Kobayashi. I liked that movie so much that I read the source material years later and it inspired me to make the "I Never" trilogy.
TO: How has your experience been with interacting with the horror fans on Twitter?
MW: Great! If one thing is convincing me that Horror will never die, it's the folks on Twitter!
TO: Do you get into Italian or Euro Horror? and if so whose work do you enjoy the most as far as a particular Director?
MW: Yeah a bit! I've really dug what I've seen of Italian horror, especially the older stuff. I definitely need to watch more.
TO: Are you into movies being remade? Or do you think the original should be left alone?
MW: I have a controversial opinion on this... which is GO FOR IT! I seriously don't mind movies getting remade. No one is destroying the original, you know? If you have a strong enough desire to remake or reboot a movie, and you're going to go to the lengths of buying the rights and everything, then who am I to stop you? Maybe I'll think that the dude they cast in the lead isn't as menacing as the original, but I'm not gonna go smash the DVD over it.
Part of this comes from my background in theatre. Down the street at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, they do all kinds of concept productions of Shakespeare shows, setting it in modern day, or in the 50s or something, and I really don't mind. There's something about the story-ness of something getting re-told over and over again that I really like and respect. So yeah. Remake whatever you want. I might not like it, but I won't be stopping you.
TO: Any notable one that worked or didn’t come to mind.
MW: I mean, I sure am glad that the Jeff Goldblum "The Fly" movie exists!
TO: If you were given the chance/opportunity to work with or collaborate with anyone throughout SAG who would it be? and why?
MW: Ha… yeah, probably Bruce Campbell. I've actually randomly been in the same room as Bruce Campbell on three separate occasions, but didn't feel like bothering him. (Because getting bothered by fans can be super annoying!) I know some people who've worked with him, though, so who knows, maybe some day I'll get to meet him and we'll get to work on some kick-ass horror projects together!
I also knew Stephanie Beatriz from Brooklyn-99 back in the day, and I've really enjoyed watching where her career has taken her. She's so awesome and talented, and just an awesome person in general. If she ever wants to do an indie horror flick, she knows where to find me...
TO: Do you plan on seeing the new Halloween film from Danny McBride being released later this year? Do you think the new film will be a good one? And why?
MW: Wow, I'm not as in the loop as I thought - I didn't even know that movie was happening! But yeah, I'll check it out. I think if people are nay-saying it because Danny McBride's background is mostly comedy, I will gently point those individuals in the direction of one of my favorite horror films last year, "Get Out."
The future of Horror is in good hands thanks to Indie film makers like Mig Windows. Who have a great story to tell and will do what it takes to bring the vision to life.
At this point I would like to Thank You Mig for taking part in this Horror Film Q&A, and for all of you that took the time to join us.
So make sure to check out The Diminished on Indiegogo and Mig’s other earlier projects.