Tag Archives: Horror

I Love Lists! Girl Power!

8 Mar

Today is International Women’s Day!

In honour of this I wanted to share some of my very favourite films that are directed and/or written by women.

In the world of filmmaking women are massively under represented. In the past 10 years only ONE female has been nominated for an Oscar – Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2010. That is it! One!

A recent study from the ‘Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film’ looked into the top 250 films of 2015 and found that only 9% of directors and 11% of writers were female.

These statistics are really appalling. There needs to be more women working in the film industry.

Below is a list of 10 wonderful female filmmakers. I find these women and their work continually inspiring, if you haven’t watched these films I urge you to do so! Support women in film!

Ok.. Lets go..

Susanne Bier

One of my all time favourite directors. Her films include ‘After the Wedding’, ‘Brothers’ and very recently on TV ‘The Night Manager’.


Jennifer Kent 

Director of The Babadook which is genuinely the scariest film I’ve seen in a very long time. I actually hid under a cover while watching it!


Mary Harron

Director of ‘American Psycho’ – a seriously brilliant film. What else can I say – it’s a classic!


Miranda July

I love Miranda July, she is a writer, performer and filmmaker – so a real inspiration to me! She wrote, directed and starred in ‘Me and You and Everyone We Know’ and it is a awesome film!


Ana Lily Amirpour

Ana Lily Amirpour describes her directorial debut ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ as an “Iranian Vampire Spaghetti Western” Brilliant! It’s a beautifully shot film and it’s black and white which I completely love!


Lena Dunham

I adore her early work – her short films and her feature ‘Tiny Furniture’ which she wrote, directed and starred in alongside her mother and sister who played.. her mother and her sister. Also for composition geeks Lena Dunham does the ‘rule of thirds’ beautifully!


The Soska Sisters

They are a real inspiration to any female who wants to get into making horror films. As life long fans of the horror genre they started their career as actors but were disheartened by the type of roles they were offered as twins (I can only imagine..) So started making their own films. ‘American Mary’ is fantastic.


Amy Sherman-Palladino

Creator and writer of ‘Gilmore Girls’. I love Gilmore Girls and I have watched the whole series over and over and over. It is hilarious and really cleverly shot – the show LOVES a long take!


Jennifer leigh 

I saw ‘Chained’ at Fright Fest 2012 and was blown away. It was my film of the festival. I wrote about it here. Watch it, it is awesome.


Tamra Davis

‘Crossroads’ is a great, great film. I must have watched it 20 times the year it came out! What can I say I love Britney!!

So that’s my list! Thanks for reading : )

Go watch these films if you haven’t already!

Sheena x


The Ditch – World Premiere!!!

9 Dec

Sheena and Henry


Amazing news!! My short film The Ditch has got its world premiere screening! On 14th January at The Hackney Picturehouse as part of the wonderful London Short Film Festival!!

The Ditch will be screened at an event called ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ alongside other short films which I am very excited to watch!

Full details of the screening are here.

What a brilliant start to 2016 this is going to be!!



The Ditch… (take 2)

16 May

The Ditch poster

Next weekend I am making a film! It is the postponed and rescheduled shoot of my short horror film The Ditch.

We shot the first half of the film in a forest in Dorking in September 2012. Directing a horror film was literally a dream come true for me and I wrote about it here.

The Ditch

After our first lot of shooting we ran a crowdfunding campaign and thanks to lots of truly amazing people we reached our goal!

So we were all set for our second half of shooting which was scheduled for September 2013 – the film is set in a forest so we had to shoot at the same time each year so that the leaves looked the same… Unfortunately in the week before the shoot we had to cancel because of really bad weather… I wrote about how completely gutted I was about that here.

However! I am a firm believer that sometimes things really do happen for a reason. And our shoot getting cancelled in September gave me a lot of time to really think about the story, where it was going and what it was saying…

I had two choices :

1. Wait until the following September and shoot the rest of the film – but plan a contingency shoot weekend incase the weather was terrible again.

2. Rewrite the script and set it in a location not weather dependent.

I chose 2. I felt really frustrated that an entire year had gone by and we still hadn’t finished the film. I did not want to find myself in that position again and I really didn’t want to have to wait another year..

Me and The Ditch

We shot a lot of the really key moments of The Ditch in the first shoot, so I could really see how this footage could be worked into a new script as kind of ‘flashback’ sequences. For me The Ditch is about guilt, consequences and what if’s.. I discovered that the feelings and themes I wanted to evoke in an audience could happen within a story set in a forest or could happen equally well in a story set in a hotel room..

So thats what I did. I set the film in a hotel room. And I am insanely proud of the script and excited to direct it and see it coming to life in front of my eyes next weekend!

Sheena Holliday, Director



G u t t e d

13 Sep


I was supposed to be shooting my horror film The Ditch this weekend…

But we have had to postpone the shoot because of bad weather…

The Ditch is set in a forest and therefore very dependant on the weather. We were so lucky last year, but unfortunately this year it was not to be.

We had a really tough decision to make  this week. Postponing the shoot was the most sensible thing to do to. I know weather forecasts can be wrong, but as it stands the weather looks terrible in Dorking this weekend. Not just wet and miserable but also unsafe to be in a forest because of the winds.

We are indie filmmakers making a low-budget film. We have enough money for two days of shooting at the location. We can’t afford another trip back there. If we did go this weekend that would be it – our only chance. If we went and it rained and we couldn’t shoot then we would have spent all of our money  that would be it – no film. Well, half a film.  So it is sensible to postpone and replan the shoot. Plus it means that I get some much needed days off this weekend. That is a bonus.

Charlie Brown


I am SO disappointed that im not making a film this weekend!! Making films is my favourite thing ever and so much of filmmaking is pre-production and post-production and logistics and planning… but actually being on set; actual production is AWESOME!! And it makes all the other stuff worth it! Team ‘On The Train Productions’ have been working SO HARD for so long – all with the goal of shooting The Ditch this weekend… And now were not shooting! Waaaaahhh! And I don’t know what to do with myself!

What makes it worse is that we have had such an overwhleming amount of support for Th Ditch – Stephen gave away his summer and ran an amazing crowdfunding campaign to fund this shoot. We reached our target because of all you lovely people who donated and it’s a massive kick in the teeth to not be able to thank you all with a pretty much finished film at the end of this weekend…

But anyway, it’s not the end of the world. We WILL finish this film. It’s just a case of more scheduling, more planning and more logistics now to work out when we can move this postponed shoot to…

I will leave you with my favourite pic of me from the 2012 shoot…

Mucho love xxx

Sheena Holliday, Director

I love horror films…

31 Jul


My name is Sheena and I LOVE horror films.

For as long as I can remember I have loved reading and writing stories. I think it was my mum who introduced me to the work of Stephen King and that was it – I was hooked! I read all the books of his that I could get my hands on. And then I re-read them.

When I was at school I used to have Friday night sleepovers with my friend Michelle and we would watch horror film after horror film and totally scare ourselves silly (and then camp out in the front garden of course!) Pennywise the clown and the man in the hat from Poltergeist still haunt me to this day.

It’s hard to say exactly why I love the horror genre so much. I just know that I do. I really like the way that horror can speak about a vast range of subjects and especially things that are difficult or ‘taboo’. (‘American Mary’, ’Chained’, ‘Sleep Tight’) I like that they tend to focus on ‘outsiders’ and people who aren’t ‘the norm’. (‘Berberian Sound Studio’, ‘Ginger Snaps’, ‘Wilderness’) I have always been an outsider, I have never been ‘the norm’ so I suppose I identify with these films a lot more than a mainstream summer release blockbuster. I love how horror films take on a dreamlike quality and can be literally be your worst nightmare visualised. (‘Black Water’, ‘Audition’, ‘The Loved Ones’) I love the way that the visuals of a horror film can be very Expressionist in their mise-en-scène and use of light, dark and shadows.

The other thing that I love about horror films (which is probably rooted in my adolescence) is the fact that for me they are an ‘event’. A horror film is something that you watch with other people, you turn all the lights out, you eat great movie snacks, you can make it a double or triple-bill, it’s basically the best way to spend an evening.

At university I studied Theatre, Film and TV and I wrote my dissertation to disprove the idea that the horror genre is a low worth genre. To prove that it isn’t just exploitation, sexploitation and as much blood, guts and gore as is possible – all for no reason other than to shock.

Yes, some horror films are like that – and they do serve a market. However not all horror films are that generic. Some tell a really amazing story, they have really brilliant characters, they deal with difficult subjects very sensitively, and at the same time manage to create a ‘world’ which viciously drags it’s audience in and then scares them half to death. (‘Cold Prey’, ‘The Signal’, ‘Dark Water’, ‘Pontypool’)

I love a big range of horror films – I love spooky horror films, I love terrifying horror films, I love gruesome horror films – but I cannot bear horror films with weak storylines, stock characters and girls getting naked for no reason. I think films like these are an insult to their audience and basically just lazy filmmaking.

My love of horror has zealously continued into my adult life. I am now a filmmaker, I work with the arts and I make performance work. My favourite aspect of all of my different projects is when I can work on something that is a little bit darker or a little bit scarier… One of my favourite freelance jobs is helping young people make their own short horror films complete with zombie face painting, edible fake blood and DIY severed finger tutorials.

I am currently the writer/director on a short horror film called ‘The Ditch’ (we complete shooting in September) and I am very excited to be yet again spending the bank holiday weekend in the depths of the Empire Cinema, Leicester Square at this year’s Fright Fest.

In Conclusion; I am a BIG horror fan.

Oh yeah, and I’m female.

To me this is not an issue. Throughout my life I have never really thought anything of it. I am a fan of horror, I am a filmmaker and I am aspiring to make a horror feature film. The fact that I am female doesn’t mean a thing.

Except, it turns out that it is ‘A Big Thing’ whether I want it to be or not.

Recently I was looking through the upcoming Fright Fest line up to plan my weekend and I realised that out of the 27 films being shown on the main screen there is only 1 by a female director. 1!!!!!

I also checked out the line-up of last year’s Abertoir festival (this year’s line-up hasn’t been announced yet) and out of the 25 films they showed, again only 1 was by a female director!!

I started doing more research and came across list after list of the best horror films/directors –

20 greatest horror films,

10 best horror directors,

Top 13 MASTERS OF HORROR: Writer/Directors,

10 New Masters of Horror

All of these lists contain films made by male directors. There are no female directors on these lists.

And then I found this article – Time Out compiled a list of the 100 best ever horror films, in their words…

“as chosen by those who write in, direct, star in and celebrate the genre”

So a list compiled by a collection of people who are really passionate about the genre. Out of one hundred films listed guess how many were directed by a woman??



However, strangely I am not that surprised.

Women are massively under-represented across the board in the film industry. The results of a recent study prove this as a fact…

“In 2012, women comprised 18% of all directors, executive producers, producers, writers, cinematographers, and editors working on the top 250 domestic grossing films”

Celluloid Ceiling Report 2012

“Women accounted for 9% of directors working on the top 250 films in 2012”

Celluloid Ceiling Report 2012

Apparently this under representation of females does not stop behind the scenes of a film either; we face the exact same thing on the screen.

“Only 11% of all clearly identifiable protagonists are female, 78% are male”

It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World

And as a special kick in the teeth for me as an aspiring female horror director…

“Women were most likely to work in the documentary, drama, and animated film genres.

They were least likely to work in the action, horror and sci-fi genres”

Celluloid Ceiling Report 2012

In 2012 Cannes film festival had 22 films up for the Palme d’Or award and not one of them had a female director.

In 2013 they did slightly better by including 1 film with a female director.

I posted the above article on Facebook during the 2012 Cannes Film Festival and one of my Facebook ‘friends’ commented below it asking me why I had to make a fuss about there being no female directors nominated, and why I couldn’t just be happy that 22 great films were nominated?…

Well… On a personal level there are two main reasons actually.

1. I am female and I am a film director. These statistics do not inspire me about the future of my career, and the opportunities I might have.

2. I spend a lot of my time working with young people helping them be creative and make films. I work with boys and girls. When we make our films the boys and girls are equal. I would like to be able to make reference to amazing films made by women and prestigious awards given to women in my sessions. I do not want to make the girls feel like they can’t achieve as much as the boys in the group in terms of filmmaking simply because of their gender. But unfortunately I do not have the statistics to back that up.

So why aren’t more women making films? And specifically why aren’t more women making horror films? I am a filmmaker, I love horror films – I can’t be the only one can I?!!

Something I want to make very clear is that I do not want to take any credit away from any of the amazing male directors out there.  Also I don’t believe it is the fault of Fright Fest or Abertoir that there aren’t more female directed films being screened – if films directed by women aren’t submitted to the festivals then they can’t be screened.

I really want to try and understand why the film industry is in this position. There is nothing synonymous about filmmaking and the male gender, or horror and the male gender.

So I’m going to talk to people and try and get some insight. I’m going to interview as many people as I can on this subject to try and understand why things are the way they are.

So if you are a female horror director I would like to hear from you, if you are a female who works in filmmaking in any sense I would like to hear from you. If you are a female who loves horror I would like to hear from you! But the conversation does not stop there – I would also like to hear from you if you are male. Are you a filmmaker? Do you love horror? Both? Neither? Talk to me. I want to get to the bottom of this…

I truly believe that filmmaking and specifically horror filmmaking shouldn’t have to be about gender. But it is and unfortunately it will be until the statistics show that women and men are represented equally in the film industry, and that is a fact that cannot be argued with.


Drink! Shoot! Collaborate!

19 Mar

Photo by Adam Greenwood

'The Ditch' cast and crew

Sheena Holliday, Director

Last September my film company Crestfallen Productions teamed up with On The Train Productions to shoot a short horror film ‘The Ditch’ which I directed. Shooting this film was a MASSIVE deal for me as I talked about here. The shoot itself was a gruelling but brilliant experience. We were in a forest for the weekend, luckily the weather behaved itself but I’m not going to lie to you; there were some really difficult moments during that weekend. One in particular was when we realised we had been overly ambitious with our shot list and there was NO WAY we were  going to shoot everything we had planned to…

Directing the fight scene

Sheena Holliday

However there were some truly amazing moments that weekend too. And one of them was having the absolute pleasure of working with the beautiful (in both senses) and talented cast –  Katie Pattinson (Donna) and Lucy Wilkins (Nina) and a wonderful and supportive core team of crew members. I am uber excited about the footage we have shot – I just can’t wait to finish shooting it and get the film out there!!

Last week we had a small meet up to chat about how things have been going and what is happening next. Unfortunately not everyone could make it (a lot live outside of London – Lucy is a Yorkshire lass and lovely Ashley (sound) lives on the south coast..) But it was great to catch up with those who could make it.

Stephen Coltrane

Katie and Henry

Katie and Henry

During the evening the subject of ‘collaboration’ came up. Of course it did. Bottom line: doing creative work such as making a film has to be a collaboration with equally passionate people because none of you are doing it for the money (Ha! What money?) So it is essential to find people who you can work well with but who most importantly you can trust. I am lucky enough to have found some of these wonderful people to collaborate with and believe me I will be clinging on to them for dear life.

Sheena Holliday

Stephen Coltrane

Henry Coleman

Anna Haffers

The plan is to shoot the rest of ‘The Ditch’ next summer (basically when the trees match!) We have a lot of planning and organising to do before then, but that is fine, I am looking forward to working closely with all these people again. Believe me, it takes a lot of passion for a project to keep it going this long! But luckily everyone involved in ‘The Ditch’ believes in the film and is being very patient and understanding. Watch this space for more updates… : )

Anna and Katie


Much love xxx

As one dream shatters… Another one comes true…

14 Sep

So 2012 has been a really sucky year for me!! 2012 has well and truly battered me emotionally. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse… it did! It’s been that kind of a year. I’ve spent most of the summer feeling very disillusioned (among other things…)

I’m writing this because I just want to comment on how ironic life is… So, things are not great in my life right now – things are hard; I’m generally feeling very sad. And yet things in my working life are going really well! I am seriously lucky right now because I have so many amazing opportunities in front of me and I’ve met some wonderful people who I have the chance to work with and learn from. This, right now, is the reason that I moved to London 2 years ago. To be involved in these kinds of projects. But I can’t get over the fact that it is all happening right now! When one section of my life is a wasteland and I’m feeling like I have to claw my way through each day. But then maybe this is the perfect time for all of this to happen. Maybe it’s because I need it the most.

I have three big projects that I am really excited about at the moment. I’m just going to talk about one of them because this particular one is very current.

So, this weekend I am directing a horror film. Wow. This is literally A DREAM COME TRUE for me! Anyone who knows me in real life will know this – I go on, and on, and on about horror films whenever I am given the opportunity (and a lot of the time when I’m not…). I am very vocal about what I do and don’t like in horror. If I was ever asked what my life’s dream was – it was to direct a horror film. And I am doing it this weekend!!!

Making an independent film is hard work. The budget is tight/non-existent and it is certainly not something you work on to pay the bills – it is something that you do because you love filmmaking. On The Train Productions and Crestfallen Productions have been planning this film for about a year and everyone on the team has put endless hours of work into all of the pre-production. We have visited and revisited the location, we have drafted and redrafted the script, we have planned the shot list, adjusted the shot list, re-planned the shot list, then adjusted the shot list again. We have talked and talked about make-up, head wounds and car crashes. We have debated cigarettes vs alcohol and coat vs dress. I wake up every morning at 5.40am – wide awake and stressed about something that I can’t put my finger on. I don’t think Stephen has slept properly at all this summer. On the shoot this weekend we are going to be working 12+ hour days. In a forest. With very basic amenities. There will be no phone signal, internet or contact with the outside world. Things will get stressful on set as we start to fall behind our meticulously planned schedule, or we start to lose the light, and of course the weather is a massive factor – if it rains we are quite screwed… BUT I AM LOVING EVERY SINGLE SECOND OF IT!! I GET TO DIRECT A HORROR FILM!!

I don’t honestly know what I am going to do with myself once we’ve shot this film… Oh wait! I do – we start on ‘post-production’…

Seriously though, I feel so very lucky to have all of the opportunities that I currently do, and I feel seriously blessed to have such amazing friends and colleagues surrounding me who have all helped me through this summer in different ways. I am so grateful to you all.

I suppose the point of this post is just what the title says, remember that ‘As one dream shatters another one comes true…’. I am living proof of that right now. And I just wanted to share that…

Mucho love x