Updated: Sep 12, 2020
We chat about her debut as a director, her plans to terrify small children, and the horror community.
I first met Mariam at Grimmfest where she was interviewing the directors and stars of the various films that were being showcased, including Twisted Twins, Jen & Sylvia Soska. Mariam directed a short film as part of their #massiveblooddrive campaign to increase blood donation. Her directorial debut 'Duck Season' was released this February as part of Women in Horror Month.
I was particularly keen to talk to Mariam as, like me, she had another career prior to film-making. So our chat one Sunday afternoon about life, love and everything was particularly inspiring.
On falling in love with Horror.
"I had always been the weird kid, with the weird interests. Funnily enough I did not watch horror until I was at least 17. I had suffered from terrible sleep paralysis and night terrors so feared that watching horror would make it worse. But then I saw my first horror film and realised that what was in my head was far worse and I really started to enjoy the horror genre."
On her directorial debut.
"When the Soska sisters approached me to create a short for #massiveblooddrive I couldn't exactly say no could I? *laughs* I knew I could meet their criteria and given I wanted to make a film I said yes and got to work. I spent about two solid weeks just reading resources about every aspect of directing a film. I learned about the 5 shots, created a story board and got really clear on my vision for the film. When it came to filming, despite using the same crew the quality of the sitting room scene had really dropped compared to the forest scenes. So we filmed it again. I am happy with the end result."
On the Horror Community.
"I don't think I have met anyone in the horror community who has not experienced some form of challenges in their lives. That can bring up a whole range of emotions, some of which are not deemed as acceptable by modern society."
Going to see a horror film gives you permission to experience the full range of emotions. Fear. Love. Disgust. Whatever. And that is okay.
On Duck Season
"I wanted to play with the classic serial killer chase scene and inject some humour. I also wanted the chase scene to be both engaging and disorientating. So no matter how fast Candy runs, Butterknife Jimmy is always just behind her. She falls over. Using the ducks was a humorous touch to prepare the audience for the PSA, and we filmed different scenes such as the bathroom scene from 'Psycho' as we played with the concept."
On working with the Soska sisters.
"I have always been impressed at how much time and energy Jen & Sylvia have for their fans. They remember every detail about where they have met before and what is going on in their lives. Its both humbling and inspirational. They are busy themselves so it wasn't like I could call them with every question. However, when they saw Duck Season and realised it was my first film they were really encouraging and gave me some great feedback. It was an honour to work with them on this."
On Imposter Syndrome
"What I would say to anyone who is feeling like an imposter is to own it. Maybe you are the outsider. So show up and do a good job. Keep doing that until you can be confident in your abilities."
Be honest with yourself about your capabilities and surround yourself with a team who can support you whilst you learn.
On her previous career.
"After initially studying law, I became involved in music production and worked my way up through the ranks. Those seeking to promote me were focused on building a brand for me. Whilst promoters loved the fact I like fashion, I was still the weird kid at heart and wanted to bring that into my brand. It led me to becoming involved in sound and music production for horror films. I will say it has given me a head for business, which is useful even within the creative industry.
On Dating & Finding the One.
"I was single and was enjoying my life. I owned my weird by that point. I wanted someone who shared my values. We first met when he approached me about working on a project which is probably typical for most entrepreneurs. After about three months we had started skyping each other every day. At the time, he was living in the UK and I was in Germany. So I gave him a really hard time with the questions before I even agreed to meet him. I am not talking about idle chit-chat like you are supposed to do. I got all the big questions on the table - 'do you want children? would you move to another country? do you believe in ghosts? He realised I was scoping him out but went with it. We finally met and the rest is history. I knew he was the one for me by that point."
On Setting Intentions
"I find if I want to do something then the opportunity usually presents itself. Maybe its the power of our subconscious. Maybe its more than that. I found it was really important to say 'yes' when the opportunities arose and not get in my own way.
I have written a series of horror stories for children together with long-term collaborator, Ilan of Uncle Frank productions. It was a project I really wanted to do. I set up some meetings with scouts from various publishers. It was exciting seeing them them become really engrossed in the stories and we were offered a publishing deal for the entire series, so I am looking forward to promoting the books."
What Horror Girly says
Duck Season is a quirky horror short for a good cause. The chase scene immediately captures the audience's interest and you find your heart rate quickly increasing. The sweeping shots of the tree canopy and the woods do lead you to feeling disorientated and dizzy. But then. Squeaky ducks! Its a WTF moment that is reflected by Ruth as we cut to the living room. Draeger's clever use of humour disarms the audience, making them more receptive to the all important message: Be change and give blood.
Give blood. Its not as scary as you think. See the article about WiHM Massive Blood Drive on DreadCentral.
You can follow Mariam M. Draeger on Instagram @lady_mariam_michael