A Short Interview with Miguel Rodriguez, founder of Horrible Imaginings Film Festival San Diego

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Q. First things first: What is Horrible Imaginings and why did you start it?
I started Horrible Imaginings Film Festival after moving to San Diego in 2009 to discover there was not a regular film festival in the city—or any film event really—that examined or celebrated the horror genre. I had to drive to Los Angeles for an opportunity to meet other people who loved horror or see new genre films.

So partially, I started Horrible Imaginings simply to give a life to horror in San Diego. More importantly to our mission statement, though, I wanted to expand what I have been seeing as a narrow definition people have for horror, and even to legitimize horror as a means for artistic expression.

Q. What are some of your favorite films you have brought to San Diego with the festival and as part of the “presented by Horrible Imaginings” screenings?
Oh wow, there are so many that it’s difficult to choose favorites. The festival itself always has repertory screenings as part of the mission statement to explore the horror genre, so we’ve shown films as diverse as Peeping Tom, Le Yeux Sans Visage, Gojira, The Beyond, The Howling, Dellamorte Dellamore, and Bluebeard—just to name a few. I think you might be talking about some of the films we bring to San Diego throughout the year, though, which again is a long list (I am proud to say).

Just in the last few months, we’ve presented Turbo Kid, Deathgasm, Tales of Halloween, and Southbound—all of which are exemplars for the state of, if not directly horror, then films of interest to genre fans. Next month, we are presenting Nina Forever, which we are also thrilled with.

Horrible Imaginings is also a part of the Film Geeks of San Diego, and under that name we have helped bring and even more diverse number of films to San Diego, including American Mary, Maniac, Berberian Sound Studio, and next week we are showing San Diego’s only theatrical presentation of Bone Tomahawk. The Film Geeks are also in the midst of presenting our second year-long monthly themed film celebration.

Last year we had The Universal Suspects series, in which we showed 31 different classic Universal Monster movies every month over the course of 2015. Starting on February 28th with Horror of Dracula, we will kick off our new Get Hammered series, which will celebrate the films of Hammer Studios from the 50s to the 70s. Hammer Horror every month for a year! We missed January because the theater was being renovated, so there will be two in October.

People can keep up with the calendar on www.hifilmfest.com/events/

Q. What are some of your favorite moments from these?
My favorite moments are always when we can have filmmakers present for Q&A’s, particularly if we can record them for posterity for the Horrible Imaginings Official Podcast! I am kinda bummed we did not get to record the Q&A from Southbound last week, but the Q&A with John Skipp and Andrew Kasch from Tales of Halloween was a lot of fun and getting mega downloads!

Q. What is the best part of running a festival? What is the hardest aspect of running a festival?
The best part of running a festival is audience reaction—100%. This can be gasps of breath, laughter, or screams, or it can be particularly insightful questions during conversations of Q&A sessions with filmmakers. Any time I get those kinds of reactions and responses from audience members it solidifies my mission statement, my philosophy, why I do this. It’s not about the films by themselves; it’s about the conversation between the films and their audience where the magic really happens.

The worst part is probably a tie between having to raise money for the festival and technical problems at the festival itself. Raising money is a soul-sucking necessary task that takes up the entire freaking year before the festival. The common consensus should be that is the worst part, but I also take it pretty hard if the projector is failing or if there are other problems that prevent an absolutely stellar presentation of films. It has been the reason for leaving previous venues.

Q. A lot of people seem to think that watching all these screeners while putting together a film festival must be great. What is the best and the worst part of doing this?
The best part is finding an absolute gem in a pile of films that don’t quite make the grade. Sometimes the process can be very draining, but then a film will be like a shot of adrenaline that fills me with excitement. That’s the best.
The worst—absolute WORST—is having to say no to great work simply because of lack of time or perhaps slight thematic inappropriateness. It hurts me as much, I promise!

Q. As a transplant to San Diego, what do you wish we had more of culturally?
I wish we had more support for arts and culture in general. There is an arts community here, but it is not like it is in any other place I have lived. Getting support for Arts and Culture is difficult in the USA, but that difficulty is amplified in San Diego. It was a bit of a culture shock to me how difficult it was to find people to talk to about this here in San Diego. Happily, the tide may be beginning to shift a little bit. We are sure trying to make that happen!

Q. As a San Diegan, what do you wish people would know about the city and its culture, besides the ever popular San Diego Comic Con?
San Diego is definitely a place to visit if you are looking to relax, enjoy good food and excellent beer, and get to know chatty locals. The neighborhood places can be full of friendly faces if you are willing to go outside your comfort level. The San Diego Symphony and San Diego Opera are arts organizations to be very proud of, as are the other film festivals I am proud to say I have worked closely with: FilmOut San Diego, the San Diego Latino Film Festival, and Pac-Arts Movement’s San Diego Asian Film Festival. My favorite place in San Diego is probably the Prado area of Balboa Park, where we have our Horrible Imaginings Film Festival at The Museum of Photographic Arts!

Q. As a film fan, what are some of the films you are looking forward to the most this year?
The genius Andrzej Żuławski just passed away, so I am even more looking forward to Cosmos now than I was—his first film in 15 years! I’m also looking forward to Mickey Keating’s Darling, Before I Wake, I would say The Witch, but I already saw it and it completely lived up to my expectations. My brain is a bit fried trying to come up with others because we have started 2016 submissions and I am mostly just looking forward to what we get with those!
For blockbusters, I am interested in Captain America: Civil War and the next Planet of the Apes movies.

GHAP

Q. AS a film programmer, what are your upcoming events?
This Saturday is our double feature celebrating Black History Month and Women in Horror Month! We are showing the brilliantly subversive and highly underrated completer version of 1973’s Ganja and Hess by Bill Gunn. Then we are showing Mary Harron’s 2000 film American Psycho. I am proud of this event, and hope people will show up to MOPA to join us!

As mentioned before, we have Bone Tomahawk on the 21st and Horror of Dracula on the 28th of this month, then Nina Forever starting on March 5th. These will happen at the Digital Gym Cinema at 2921 El Cajon Blvd.

Thank you for your time Miguel and for bringing all these great movies to San Diego!
Thank you for talking to me about them!