There are few survivors in the horrifying and challenging environment of independent film. Those who remain, with sinewy bodies, drag their skeletal frames across a desert landscape from one forgettable horror film festival to another, from Milton Keynes to Loughborough, in the hopes of fleeting moments of relevance on Facebook. Only to be liked by the same horror filmmaking peers time and time again, each of them reaching out to the like button, like a starving man stretching out towards the last morsel of bread.
Keeping a cheerful demeanour despite those hideous realities takes a special type of person (not a drug addict), but a uniquely cheerful and irreverent sort of hard-working person who keeps on plugging. In my experience, these people are called actresses. While they must maintain their smiles, and determined pursuit of new projects and gigs, they often do so in the face of obstacles that male directors, producers, and the like could never, ever fathom.
I say that with no disrespect to us men, with our beards and hen-pecking mothers. It’s no easy route to success for us either. Independent film is tough for everyone. But, for the cheerfulness and positive determination borne without cracking a cheerful expression, few can do that like some of the ladies I know working in film today.
In this respect, Lyndsey Craine, actress and filmmaking collaborator with Stewart Sparke of Dark Rift Horror, has carved a path as a very unique and charismatic personality on the indie British horror scene. With a winning and knowing smile, and a beautiful girl-next-door vibe, she has a disarming presence that has invited horror nerds from across the country to admire her talents in popular indie films such as Book of Monsters, How to Kill Monsters, and Pier Pasolini’s classic Salo, in which she played the violent psychopath who tore out the screaming child’s eyeballs.
Scratch that last film! That didn’t star Lyndsey Craine, that starred my cousin Michael instead, and it’s the last time he’ll be babysitting my friends’ kids — I can promise you that! Lyndsey also earned glowing reviews for her charming performance as Beth in Liam Regan’s subversive Troma-inspired epic Eating Miss Campbell.
With a particular charisma suited to British meta-horror and pop culture, this eyebrow-raising star can clutch a chainsaw like no other, with a sense of effortless enchantment that has won her fans from Kirkcaldy to Wigan!
Horror fans can follow the wonderful work of Lyndsey Craine on Instagram and Twitter for news and to get in touch with this talented lady — especially for filmmakers, so you too can cast the wonderful Lyndsey Craine in your next horror opus!
So, join me as I ask Lyndsey 10 sacred questions about her experiences working in indie film!
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 had always wanted to work in the film industry but it wasn’t until studying for a BA in Film and Television Production at university that I realised I’d rather be in front of the camera than behind it. By the end of the three-year degree, I had already starred in a dozen student shorts. So the moment I graduated, I sought out any film work I could find, acting in a number of short films ranging from kitchen-sink dramas to post-apocalyptic sci-fi.
In 2017, I landed my first lead role in the horror comedy feature film Book of Monsters. It’s quite ironic that I ended up working in horror movies, as they always terrified me growing up. My earliest memory of seeing a horror movie at the cinema was The Grudge, and I spent the entire runtime staring at my feet! Since starring in Book of Monsters, I have come to love the genre, and now I like nothing more than watching horror movies from the comfort of my sofa (but maybe still with the lights on!)
I was very lucky that Book of Monsters had a great run at film festivals which I was able to attend and meet some incredible filmmakers whom I have since ended up working with. I never intended to become a horror actress specifically, but I’ve now starred in over four horror features, and I had a fantastic time working on every single one!
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?
I have only been acting in horror features for the last few years, so I think the biggest challenge for me is overcoming self-doubt. I did not attend drama school, so had to learn whilst being on set and by being surrounded by incredibly knowledgeable casts and crews who have been so generous with sharing their experiences. I think this is always something that will stay with me and feel it isn’t just something actors will experience. Everyone on set will always strive to give their all, and when you sense that on set, it really creates a bond between everyone, and you can really feel when the scenes are coming together.
I have been so lucky to have become very close friends with the cast and crew that I have worked with and they have been the most supportive people who are always so encouraging. I think one thing that is so evident on indie film sets is the way the whole team comes together and supports each other. You want to see others succeed, and I feel very fortunate to be a part of that.
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 only focused on acting. This is my biggest passion and truly the only thing I want to be doing and focusing on at the moment. I find all aspects of the filmmaking process really interesting, though, so maybe one day I will venture into other roles.
How has the landscape of the British horror genre evolved in recent years, and how has this impacted your work and approach?
I think it is an exciting time for horror as more independent productions are gaining theatrical releases, giving further opportunities for lower-budget films to be seen. The horror genre is unique in that it has so many sub-genres, allowing filmmakers to go crazy with their ideas. It gives me hope that more independent filmmakers will get an opportunity to have their work showcased to a wider audience. There are some fantastic horror film festivals out there that are really championing independent film and I was fortunate to attend some of these festivals with my most recent film, How to Kill Monsters, and we were blown away by the incredible talent that is out there. I cannot wait to see the work that is going to be produced over the next few years.
How do you navigate the financial constraints typical of independent filmmaking? What impact does this have on your creative process?
I think you all have to work together with an understanding that when it is a lower-budget production, everyone has to get stuck in roles they maybe didn’t think they would be doing at the outset. It’s all about thinking outside the box when you come up against an idea you want for your production that you think is not possible due to money. When you get a group of creative and passionate filmmakers together, anything is possible; you don’t always need that huge budget or the best camera in the industry. When planning for a role, it is exciting when reading the script and think of how a scene will play out when it is a lower-budget film. My most recent film, How to Kill Monsters, features monsters created entirely with practical effects, and working out how our fight scenes with them will work to look the most effective on screen is really fun. When it comes to budget, you just have to be really smart with what is and isn’t possible on screen, and the clever use of lighting and editing can really elevate your production value.
Balancing creative freedom with commercial viability can be challenging. Have you faced any significant compromises in this regard?
As an actor, I haven’t had to face this challenge personally but I’ve worked closely with filmmakers that have made conscious choices to ensure their film will be commercially viable. Feature films are products in an industry with so much competition, so you need to ensure that your product is the one that people pick up off the shelf (or streaming platform!) Artwork, trailers, and titles play a huge part in my decision of which films I watch on streaming, so filmmakers just need to focus on making theirs stand out as much as possible, particularly when it comes to horror, where there is an abundance of films out there. None of these elements hinder a filmmaker’s creative freedom but they are things they should always be thinking about during production. As an actor, you might have a big role in a film, but it might be best for the film’s marketing if another cast member (or even a monster) takes centre stage on the poster or in the trailer.
What advice would you offer to aspiring filmmakers looking to break into indie filmmaking, especially in the horror genre?
I think one of the best ways to break into the horror indie scene is by networking and attending film festivals. You get an opportunity to meet some incredibly talented people, and you never know who is working on their next project and looking for people to work with. There is also the option of making your own film and attending festivals and events; you get the chance to meet like-minded people who are keen to collaborate and bring your film to life. From the films I have worked on and festivals I have attended, I have found that the horror community and the indie scene are incredibly supportive and always keen to see everyone succeed. This attitude always creates such an inspiring atmosphere.
What personal or professional sacrifices have you made in your career, and how have they shaped your journey in the film industry?
I have been fortunate enough that I haven’t had to make many sacrifices at this stage of my career. I have had a really fun journey so far, and a particularly messy journey as I seem to get involved in films that involve being covered in very large volumes of blood! I am extremely grateful for all the productions I have been involved in and the casts and crews I have been fortunate to work with.
What changes or developments do you hope to see in the British indie horror scene in the coming years?
I really hope to see more independent horror getting mainstream coverage! There are so many incredible filmmakers out there who truly deserve the chance to have their work seen by a wider audience. I hope that the more coverage independent horror gets will allow greater access to funding for creatives within the genre.
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 have worked with Dark Rift Horror on two of their movies, Book of Monsters and their most recent film, How to Kill Monsters. Both of these productions had help with being funded or partially funded by Kickstarter. We had the most incredible backers who believed in Dark Rift Horror and their work, and they allowed our films to be made. We literally could not have done it without them, and it was an amazing experience to be involved in bringing those productions to life, knowing that it had the support of the independent horror community.