An Interview with Kaila Hier [Women in Horror Month 2018]

 Kaila Hier works mostly behind the scenes once the films are ready to be seen.  She is a PR queen who mostly works with genre festivals such as Final Girls Berlin Film Festival and Fantasia International Film Festival.  She also works representing independent films, books, etc.  The woman knows her stuff and the industry inside and out.

Kaila, tell us a bit about what you do, what it entails?
Sure! So I’m a publicist, which means I’m in the position of helping my clients get their projects into the media eye-line so that they can be discovered by the public.

On most days that means spending 75% of my day at my computer sending emails and prowling blogs online, but I’m also lucky enough to have a number of festival clients I get to be involved with on location, which means coordinating with journalists and filmmakers in the real world. 

Some people would totally consider my job tedious- sending email after email after email all day long, but I really like it. It’s like a puzzle, ya know- having this film you’re promoting and racking your brain for the perfect journalist or outlet who may like it, and then BAM everything coming together.

What about horror has attracted and still does attract you to work within its field?  What inspires you to work in the genre?
I deeply enjoy how horror can be interpreted in so many ways- It’s like a chameleon genre. You can express so many varied emotions and anxieties and highs and lows and everything in between. It’s mind blowing to me that a genre still looked down on in some circles is so ripe with all forms of representation, and how so many compelling stories are being told with horror as a backdrop. 

I suppose what inspires me to keep working within this bubble is a constant excitement and anticipation to see what can be done next. An added bonus is that the people behind these films are some of the most creative and passionate folk I’ve met. We’re all a bit weird to have been drawn into this world and the resulting pop-up community that comes about from it all is a blast.

How do you think PR in horror differs from PR in other genres?
Hmm that’s a tricky question! I don’t really know if there’s a straight answer? PR for every kind of movie is different. I guess horror comes from a niche background (and present to an extent) so the community surrounding it all seems a lot tighter, but I like to think that every PR bubble has systems of support.  I guess horror journalists and the people they write for are all proud carriers of the ‘weirdo’ card but aside from horror sometimes getting sidelined when it comes to mainstream coverage, and thus having to fight a lil bit harder to get the attention we deserve, I don’t know if much else can be said!

How did you begin working in PR?  And in genre PR specifically?
So I kind of stumbled into this field, funnily enough, though I wonder if one should actually admit that in an interview ha! When I was younger growing up in Montreal I attended the Fantasia International Film Festival every year, and eventually started volunteering so I could see movies for free. Little did I know how much I’d come to absolutely love being part of the team. The festival lasts 3 weeks long plus some change if you’re helping behind the scenes, so it became a very real part of my life.  Eventually I wanted to take it to the next level and asked for a job, and I was invited to interview for a spot on the Communications team (spoiler alert: I got it!)

From then everything just kept moving ahead- after Fantasia I worked for Ithaca Fantastik, and then Boston, and then Fantastic Fest, and then a year later joined the teams for Brooklyn Horror and Stranger With My Face and well the list just goes on, but I mean to say- once you start in the genre world it kinda has a way of sucking you in! Everyone is connected and it’s just an amazing network of people and films and crazy dreams.

Seeing the horror genre from the inside, what differences do you see for women?
Hmmm well I don’t know if it’s really a difference, per sey, but navigating the genre scene as I have from festival to festival, I do notice that there’s a sort of unspoken openness amongst the women there to try and connect with eachother. Sadly I’m not involved much in production, so I can’t speak much on the level of where movies are getting greenlit and made, but from where I am there’s always an eagerness and readiness to offer support that I find super amazing. I imagine it comes from being the minority gender that we feel like we have to band together, ha.

Which women in horror do you think horror fans should keep an eye out for?
Oh hm! I mean when it comes to filmmakers I’m really excited for Jenn Wexler’s feature debut THE RANGER coming up at SXSW. She’s a longtime producer with Glass Eye Pix and this film is sure to be the bomb. Natasha Kermani’s IMMITATION GIRL was recently released via Dread Central Presents and I’m thrilled to see what she’s got coming out next, and same goes for her \leading lady (and no stranger to GEP) Lauren Ashley Carter.

Roxanne Benjamin’s feature debut BODY AT BRIGTON ROCK is on the calendar and is sure to be badass as hell. There’s a lot of cool projects I’ve got my eyes on but I don’t want to jinx anything before they’re done, ha!

Outside of films I urge everyone to keep an eye on what Kier-La Janisse is up to! She’s the author of House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female, which is the most mindblowing book of film criticism mixed with autobiography, and sort of like a course pack for horror filmmakers. Currently she’s got a lot of cool things planned with her publishing press Spectacular Optical, which releases limited print pop culture themed books, and which I should say I’m biased on since I’m the publicist ha. We just released Yuletide Terror: Christmas Horror on Film and Television, will be announcing the crowdfund campaign for a book on the film COCKFIGHTER, and put out a call for submissions for Truth and Soul: The Films of Robert Downey, Sr.

What film festivals do you think are the most women in horror friendly in their scheduling/booking?
I think most, if not all, of the festivals I work for and attend have consistently put forth an effort to support and showcase films from women. I don’t know if scheduling really comes into play. I know there’s still an unbalance in representation when we look at programming, but I don’t know a single festival programmer who’s in denial of that. Festivals like Final Girls Berlin, Stranger With My Face in Tasmania, and the UK’s The Final Girls collectives are great institutions that go even beyond that and only look at films with women directors, producers, or related content. Stranger With My Face also has the Attic Lab, which brings together a number of women directors with projects in development for an intensive filmmaking lab. All three of these have amazing teams supporting them, and every filmmaker I’ve met who’s attended has felt incredibly supported.

What are you working on that’s coming up soon and that you can tell us about?
Well we just announced the wave one for Boston Underground Film Festival, which is one of my favorite events and happens March 21st – 25th! Such great programming and such a great vibe there when the weirdoes invade Harvard Square haha. And I’m the publicist for Kier-La Janisse’s Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, which has branches in London and Brooklyn. This month in Brooklyn our class is all about Shirley Jackson! It’s going to be a ton of fun. There’s a few fun things on the horizon but I’m afraid I can’t announce them yet!