SFI Spotlight: Q&A With Horror Filmmaker Jeff Ferrell

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October is here, which means it’s horror film season. This year, Seattle Film Institute is hosting a unique horror filmmaking extension class taught by SFI alumni Jeff Ferrell. Ferrell is a horror film creator, actor, and connoisseur known for his internationally distributed films Ghostlight and Dead West. This Horror in Film class, held Wednesday evenings starting October 25th, combines history, theory, and practical experience in filmmaking.  We asked Ferrell a few questions about this unique course. Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Why should students take this class? What makes it unique and different?

A: This class is unique in that it really is a hybrid of filmmaking, theory, and film history. I wanted to focus on the techniques that horror filmmakers have been using over the last century; what actually goes into the creation of a film. Why is this scene scary? What techniques did the filmmaker use to scare us? I want to really breakdown and analyze the techniques that go into making horror films, and explore how that has evolved through each decade since the advent of filmmaking up to now. I think this class will really be interesting for anyone who is interested in horror films, and especially filmmakers who are looking to learn more about their craft in this genre.

Q: What are some of your curriculum goals for this class?

A: Film is an art form, and horror films, while often thought of as trash, can also be amazing works of art. This genre deserves as much respect artistically as any other genre, and I really want to explore the techniques that great artists, both in front of and behind the camera, use to make effective horror films. I think often audiences don't realize how much effort and how many different people are working behind the scenes to make a horror film work, and I really want to explore the roles that all those people play including sound, music, acting, writing, editing, and more.

Q: When teaching horror film, how much do you think about the audience in the filmmaking process?

A: When making a film, the filmmaker should always be thinking of the audience, because ultimately, that's who they are making the film for. In horror film specifically, we are always trying to find the most effective ways to scare or get an extreme emotional reaction from our audience. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. Often trail and error plays a part, until we get it just right. It is the culmination of many different elements to make a horror film work. But audiences have evolved since the silent film days, and we must always take that into consideration. What scared people 100 years ago doesn't always scare them today. But sometimes it does. This is a big element I'll be exploring in the class.

Q: Why is horror your genre of choice? What's your favorite part about making films in this genre?

A: I have loved horror practically since birth. I don't really know where it comes from, but it has always been a natural part of me. I love dark and macabre art of all kinds; art that is not afraid to explore the dark side of life. Death is one thing that unites us all, and horror films are a way of safely and creatively exploring our fears of death and so many other things in this world. Often by talking about our fears, and exploring them through art, we can better deal with them in the real world. I like to think of it as exorcising the demons.

Q: Anything you'd like to add about the horror film class you'll be teaching at SFI?

A: I encourage anyone who wants to learn more about horror film, both on the filmmaking side and on the history side, to take the class. I think you'll learn a lot of things that you never knew before, and what you'll learn will enrich you both as a filmmaker, and a film lover.

To learn more about this Horror In Film class or to sign up, visit our website!