Crowdfunding Pick: Best Friends Forever
“We wanted to see women as heroes, but also as villains.”
Do you remember playing Bloody Mary at childhood sleepovers and literally scaring the shit out of yourself and your pals? Imagine that but with wayyyyyyyyy better lighting and production design and you’ve got the vibe of Best Friends Forever.
Set in the 90s, this short film is an urban legends about the power of social exclusion. Even better: it features a girls-only ensemble from an authentic female perspective. Even even better: the majority of the crew are women and/or marginalized creators. Even even even better: the tag-line is a work of art:
Nancy’s back from the grave and she’s just DYING to make some new friends!
If that isn’t worthy of your hard-earned dollars, I don’t know what is. And it just so happens that BFF is crowdfunding for post-production and can use all the dollars and support it can get. We chatted with the the writer/directors and—full disclosure—our pals Emily Gagne and Josh Korngut of Spooky B Films about the project.
Emily Gagne is a filmmaker, critic and programmer. She founded Cinefilles, a blog for female critics only, co-hosts the We Really Like Her! podcast and programmed the discussion-based screening series Reel Girl Talk for The MUFF Society. Best Friends Forever is her co-directorial debut. Josh Korngut is a writer-producer who works professionally in television, film, and theatre. He created the horror anthology web-series Girl Up and Die and his written work has been staged at Factory Theatre, Tarragon Theatre, The Canadian Stage, and Hart House Theatre. Emily and Josh co-founded Spooky B Films together.
Tell us about BFF! Where did the idea come from?
Emily Gagne: Josh and I met in Grade 1 and spent a lot of elementary school bonding over scary movies and series, gravitating towards female-driven stories (I have the fondest memories of us rehashing Buffy at recess). And while we idolized — and still do — final girls, we often talked about how we wished we could see more horror movies that centred entirely on women. We wanted to see women as heroes, but also as villains.
One of my absolute favourite films (horror or otherwise) is Brian De Palma’s Carrie. While technically she could be labeled a villain, it’s really hard not to root for Carrie, especially after witnessing the ways that girls can treat each other in an attempt to maintain a power position in their given group. I always feel a little sad when I see her destroy everything (including herself!) out of sadness, anger and resentment, but at the same time, I get it. I spent a lot of my teen years feeling very uncomfortable in my own skin and alone in my feelings for a variety of reasons, and sometimes I still go back to that place when I feel left out or insecure.
We wanted to create a new horror villain that could directly address the consequences bullying can have, long-term, on the victims. We came up with Nancy, a former outcast who has become a literal monster after being rejected by her peers and spends her afterlife stalking new groups of girls in hopes of achieving the acceptance she was denied in high school.
Josh Korngut: I need to become obsessed with a script idea before I can really believe in it, and that’s what we had here with BFF. It was an idea that was always there for us, scratching and crawling and screeching for us get it onto paper for the longest time. It’s become like this demo reel of what we want to be creating on a larger level — it combines everything that inspires us, from the themes to the aesthetic. Politically, it’s definitely the type of story we want to be telling right now.
Emily and I came to the conclusion early on that we wanted to make the film that we wanted to see, the one that would have had us sketching out its logo on our duotang back in seventh grade math class. It’s inspired by the ’90s slashers that formed us (I Know What You Did Last Summer, Campfire Tales and the Urban Legend series), which combined a late ’90s pop culture aesthetic with a ‘round-the-campfire, middle-of-the-woods style of horror that spoke to us in a way that nothing else could.
BFF features an all-female cast (and the majority of the crew are women too)! Can you speak to why this was important for the film?
EG: As a woman who didn’t even consider filmmaking as a viable career option until my mid-twenties, I think it’s extremely important for women to see themselves represented both in front of and behind the camera. I know there are going to be more movies with mainly male crews and featuring mainly male casts made. Why not make something different, something that’s going to speak to people like me and, hopefully, make them feel like they can do this too?
JK: Emily and I have witnessed first hand the many ways that the female perspective is regularly suppressed and underrepresented on set and on screen. Our own projects have even suffered from this, and we needed to make sure that women and marginalized creators were not only heard, but always at the forefront of the creative process this time around.
BFF -looks- incredible, particularly the lighting design. Can you walk us through how you came up with the visuals, from brainstorm to execution?
JK: We were just sent the colour-corrected version of the film, and honestly, it made me emotional to watch. From Day 1, we had a spread of colours and visual inspirations that we wanted to accomplish, and I think we’ve really succeeded there visually.
We talk big game when it comes to ’90s inspiration, but a lot of our visual inspo also comes from the two-tone 1980s comic book style horror films like Creepshow, The Evil Dead and Demons. There’s that particular deep red and deep blue lighting combo (think retro 3D glasses) established in Creepshow that we’ve really succeeded in paying homage to. Our DOP, Jordan Oram (Drake’s videos for “God’s Plan”, “I’m Upset”) was able to bring our vision to life in a way that really blew our minds.
EG: On the most base level, I’m attracted to fun colour palettes. I love dressing up and playing with extreme colour combos in my personal life, and I feel like I want to make movies that are as fun to look at as they are to watch.
Before we met with anyone for this film, we created a pretty curated Pinterest page featuring images and shots that inspired us and the recurring theme was high contrast, with an emphasis on these cool blues and hot pinks. From this, we created a lookbook, which we brought to all future meetings, both creative and technical. I think this really helped us communicate our vision to our crew, some of whom are not as into genre as we are.
Tell us about some/all of the other amazing women who are working on this film!
EG: First of all, we have to thank our powerhouse producers, Emily Andrews and Laura Nordin, for taking us under their wing. I met them through my day job at the Canadian Film Centre and we were thrilled to have them join our team in the pre-production stage, along with assistant director Gina Simone.
We were also excited to work with Melanie Garros and her production team, including art director Liz Otero. We shot the film in my parents’ house and they completely transformed it into a mid-‘90s, middle-class suburban home. I didn’t want them to tear down Eden’s bedroom because it was the embodiment of the room I dreamed of having when I was 8 years old and obsessed with teen movies.
Speaking of obsessions, I loved working with costume designer Ruth Albertyn. I could talk to her all day about ’90s girl fashion, and so admired her attention to detail. Same goes for hair and makeup artist Elyse Marion, who took not turned incredibly sweet producer/actor Jen Pogue into a truly terrifying monster, but also made our young actors (Addison Holley, Nicole Samantha Huff, Michelle Coburn and Katelyn Wells) look cute, yet age (and decade!) appropriate.
JK: Emily has been one of my creative partners for years now and I am so grateful for everything she brings to the table. She has such a keen eye for the visual aspect of storytelling that really excites me when I see it unfold — she has this really active way of getting a story onto its feet.
There were so many incredible, talented women on this project that I almost don’t want to start naming names in case I miss somebody. But, honestly, I couldn’t be more grateful to have Emily as a co-creator on BFF. Her vision really helped assure we made the best film possible.
Tell us about why you are a feminist and why it’s important to your filmmaking.
EG: I’m a feminist because I want to see women succeed. I want them to have the opportunity to live, or at least try for, their dreams. We have been denied that for far too long. Some women more than others.
On a personal level, I am not interested in working on films that are not about or made by women and/or marginalized creators. On a political level, I think it’s imperative that I work on films about and made by women and/or marginalized creators. I honestly do believe you have to be the change you want to see in the world sometimes.
JK: Creatively, I am only really interested in women’s stories as of right now. It’s less political than it is personal (and probably related to my own queerness). I’ve always been much more drawn to (if not exclusively drawn to) the female perspective in art. Since I was just a kid I’ve been obsessed with strong female voices, specifically in music, from Tori Amos to Aimee Mann to Kate Bush to Madonna.
I was quite literally raised by a coven of witches out in the woods, so I think that has had an impact on my passion for telling stories about women. Women who are interesting, complicated and real. Because the women who raised me are just that.
What three people, living or dead, would you invite to your fantasy dinner party?
JK: I’m super obsessed with the podcast You Must Remember This? right now, which recently did a series documenting the “Dead Blondes” of Old Hollywood. And I can’t stop thinking about it. So, I’m going with Jayne Mansfield, Veronica Lake and Marilyn Monroe. These women, all of whom met gruesome and untimely ends, probably had a much more interesting perspective of how old Hollywood worked then what we can surmise from what’s been left behind.
EG: God, the idea of hosting a dinner party for my idols is giving me anxiety. WHAT WOULD I WEAR EVEN?
But I guess if I had to choose, I’d probably want to have Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda over. Love of 9 to 5 aside, I think they are a fascinating group of women who would have interesting things to say and would also make me laugh. ALSO, they know each other so we there wouldn’t be any awkward small talk (except maybe on my part). I can see us eating apps and maybe indulging in some Maui Wowie.
Recommend one #MUFFApproved film for our blog readers!
EG: Jennifer’s Body. I am a ride-or-die Diablo Cody fan (watching her Oscars acceptance speech was the first time I really realized I could make movies and be taken seriously!) and I think this film was really misunderstood on release. I will always be here for a horror film about female friendship directed by a woman (hey, Karyn Kusama!), especially one named after a Hole song.
JK: Ginger Snaps. It’s the quintessential early 2000s Canadian body horror film about puberty, menstruation and how much high school sucks. Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins are two fantastic leads and it was also written by one of our idols, Karen Walton. Usually I’m not a werewolf queen, but this has to be the greatest of all exceptions. And lest we forget the sequel (Unleashed), a personal favourite.