Did you know there’s a bustling hub of women making waves in the Horror Realm? And I’m not talking about the kind you might encounter in the Lidl Pastry aisle on a Sunday morning, who take the last Pain au chocolat before you can get it. A man would never do this, but a woman would! My god, they would. But, maybe not these women who are the trailblazers of British independent horror, battling it out in what is arguably one of the toughest terrains for indie filmmakers. Their roles are as varied as they are impressive: actresses, writers, producers, you name it. Each one of them, a master of their craft, brings a unique brilliance to this genre, making me, their humble but magnificently rotund male ambassador, look rather ordinary in comparison.
So, who better to kick off my new series of interviews than the eldritch princess of the moon herself, Ayvianna Snow? With a charm that could turn Dracula himself into a fanboy, Ayvianna has carved a niche as a haunting model and a spine-tingling presence in films like Dark Rift Pictures’ How to Kill Monsters, Steve Lawson’s Wrath of Dracula, and not to forget, Andy Edwards’ Punch, which graced the screens of Frightfest, the crème de la crème of UK horror film festivals.
I’m thrilled to delve into the film industry’s secrets and successes with Ayvianna Snow through our sacred 10 questions. Her insights are as enlightening as they are entertaining. If you find yourself captivated by her charm and talent, don’t hesitate to follow this dazzling star on Instagram. And for those of you in the indie film sphere, consider this a golden opportunity — cast Ayvianna in your next project and watch the magic happen on screen!
So, can you share your journey into the world of indie filmmaking, specifically within the British horror genre? What inspired you to pursue this path?
I fell into horror by accident; I was the very last girl they auditioned for Paul Hyett’s The Convent back in 2016, and most of the roles had already been cast, apart from one possessed nun who came back from the dead with no eyes! I turned up to the audition in an entirely inappropriate red party dress; I think I was too young to know any better! But I had such a lot of fun running around a derelict castle in Wales that I fell in love with the genre and wanted to do more.
Lawrie — It should be added that my audition for Paul Hyett’s The Convent back in 2016, wearing an inappropriate red party dress, was far less successful than Ayvianna’s. That escapade ended with me running around in a derelict Premier Inn in Milton Keynes. But that, my friends, is another story.
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced in the indie film industry, particularly in the horror genre? How did you overcome these obstacles?
It’s a struggle to be taken seriously as a horror actress; people can be dismissive. Horror performances very rarely win awards.
In the realm of indie filmmaking, some individuals focus on a single discipline while others juggle multiple roles such as writing, directing, acting, or producing. Could you describe your approach in this regard? How do you balance your responsibilities, and what unique challenges does your chosen path present?
I have focussed solely on acting as I feel that is where my talent lies. I also work as a model, and I do campaigning work for the union Equity, where I chair a large London branch, which involves writing speeches, attending rallies, and doing a great deal of admin work. So I honestly don’t feel I have time to do any more jobs!
How has the landscape of the British horror genre evolved in recent years, and how has this impacted your work and approach?
I think horror is having a revival on the British stage; 2:22 A Ghost Story and The Enfield Haunting have both opened as successful West End shows attracting famous actors to star in them, and The Woman in Black is having a revival on a national tour. The same is true on the screen; the last few years have seen a resurgence in British onscreen horror; Last Night in Soho and Saint Maud are two of my favourites. My hope is that when investors see how successful these films and plays are and how much money they make, this will encourage more funding and investment in horror — horror is commercially viable and there is a genuine appetite from the British public to watch these films.
How do you navigate the financial constraints typical of independent filmmaking? What impact does this have on your creative process?
It forces you to think creatively and to make the most of the resources at hand; on Lockdown Hauntings, we did most of the effects there and then in camera to save on post-production costs; the sets of Wrath of Dracula were mostly recycled from the previous film I did with Steve Lawson, Ripper’s Revenge; I will often provide my own costumes and props. If you can’t afford a fancy crane shot and ten different locations, you have to figure out how to do it more simply — it comes down to the performances and the skill of the cinematographer.
Balancing creative freedom with commercial viability can be challenging. Have you faced any significant compromises in this regard?
I have to pay bills like everyone else, so occasionally, I have taken a role in a larger commercial film (I have appeared in small roles in several Bollywood films) or a commercial modelling campaign. I don’t feel guilty about it — I have to eat, and ultimately the money I make from modelling allows me to go away for three weeks and make a low-budget indie that will be artistically fulfilling.
What advice would you offer to aspiring filmmakers looking to break into indie filmmaking, especially in the horror genre?
Don’t be put off if you haven’t got a huge budget. Just start; make something. You don’t necessarily need loads of money, just a great premise. Lights Out is a short film made by David Sandberg in 2013; it is only three minutes long, and cost nothing to produce; he filmed it in his own flat using his wife as the actor; he had a camera and two lights. It’s about as low budget as you can get, but it is one of the most frightening films I have ever seen.
Lawrie – Clearly, Ayvianna hasn’t seen the one-minute film that my creepy cousin Michael made, which he keeps on his cell phone, also titled Lights Out. It’s precisely why he’s permanently banned from offering babysitting services on Craigslist ever again!
What personal or professional sacrifices have you made in your career, and how have they shaped your journey in the film industry?
I haven’t had a date in 10 years! Haha! But being serious, it can be a lonely profession with unsociable hours, and no regular income or security. You have to become very robust. But I think doing this work has given me resilience and a strong sense of self.
Lawrie — You’ve heard it here first, gentlemen. If you’re looking to make an impression on Ayvianna, start by emailing us your flexing selfies from the fresh fruit aisle at Sainsbury’s, clutching a copy of Wrath of Dracula on DVD!
What changes or developments do you hope to see in the British indie horror scene in the coming years?
I hope to see more respect and more funding for horror, and, hopefully, the return of Amicus! Amicus and Hammer had a big hand in building the British film industry in the first place!
Lawrie — Amicus stands a good chance of making a comeback, as long as my colleagues keep hiding my bourbon and revolver! But… if I happen to find them both at the same time — watch out!
Could you share a particularly rewarding experience or project in your career that reflects the unique challenges and triumphs of working in indie horror filmmaking?
I was cast in How To Kill Monsters with about two days’ notice after I randomly responded to an advert on Facebook and filmed a very quick self-tape in my kitchen. Two days later, I was on set in Leeds with no idea what I was getting into. It turned out to be one of the best films I have ever been involved with, featuring fantastic writing, a stellar cast, and high production values, and it is currently winning all sorts of awards on the festival circuit. It also led to my being cast in the fantastic horror-fantasy series Tales from Davidstown with RO Pictures. And it all stemmed from one random Facebook post!