Name: Sam Wineman
Birth Place: Pennsylvania
Notable films: Wrote/directed The Quiet Room (2018), “Milk and Cookies” segment in Deathcember (2019), 2nd Unit Director on Satanic Panic (2019)
When did you know you were queer? When did you come out?
Sam Wineman: I got sober very young and on the other side of that was a bit of clarity; I came out a few weeks later. I was 17. But long before I was even aware, my queerness was expressing itself in my tastes and informing my choices. My friends wanted to be Han Solo, but I knew I was Sidney Prescott. I saw myself in the final girls.
It feels like you’ve only been making shorts for a hot minute, but you’re on the cusp of exploding with a few high profile projects. How did you get into filmmaking?
SW: A broken heart and a road trip.
After a long-term relationship dissolved, I decided to date my way through 12 cities in 12 days and turn the experience into a podcast. A friend of mine said, “If I get us a camera, can I come on the trip and film it?” I had been writing for quite some time, but that was my first experience directing. To say that I loved it is an understatement. Directing combined so many of my passions: storytelling, leading music – all in the name of creating queer art.
So I thought, what if I could do that with horror? And when I got to film school, that’s exactly what I did. I used each exercise to practice not only filmmaking, but the art of constructing a scare.
As a horror creator, what is it about horror that attracts you?
SW: I am drawn to the fight. I love stories about people who come face to face with the impossible. Often, a character’s survival depends on their ability to embrace the very aspects of themselves that others rejected. As a queer person, that theme speaks to me. Horror audiences are smart and horror is a space that makes activism fun. I can be inclusive of queer themes and characters without alienating folks who might not normally be exposed to that.
What films (queer or not) have made a significant impact on you and your work? In what way?
SW: Both holiday horror and the slasher film subgenres have influenced my work more than anything else. It’s probably no surprise that my favorite film, Black Christmas (1974), is a combination of both. The performances are legendary, the humor still has bite 40 years later, and the scares are SCARY. Black Christmas is a movie with strong social themes. We get a pregnant final girl and an eloquent argument for her choice to get an abortion – something I don’t think any studio would be brave enough to take on today.
Whenever I start preproduction on a film, I get together with the key crew to review film references and time and again, Black Christmas works its way into the lineup.
You recently joined the Attack of the Queerwolf! podcast team and Blumhouse seems like a really open-minded place to work (which might skew your response), but how progressive or welcoming is the filmmaking industry for queer creators right now?
SW: This is a tricky question to answer. There is a demand for explicitly queer content and studios are starting to respond to it. So in that way, it is an exciting time to be someone who has built his career on creating exactly that. The fight that we have ahead isn’t necessarily about the worthiness of our stories; it’s about proving that those stories offer financial gain.
Without a big hit to point to, though, it’s hard to get studios to overcome their own fears. The film industry as a whole is very progressive and they want us on the team; I’m just looking forward to getting off the bench and taking a swing at something big.
Do you think that your sexuality informs your films?
SW: Hell yeah. Being queer is the greatest gift I could have been given. My community encourages creativity, challenges me to be wittier, embraces authenticity, and provides unwavering support. What more could I ask for as an artist? When it comes to my work, whether it was a silly MySpace music video in 2007 or the segment for Deathcember that I just wrapped, my goal has always been to make the thing that I wish I had when I was growing up. My work is lovingly, unapologetically, intentionally queer.
Do you subscribe to queer readings of your films?
SW: I subscribe to queer readings of all films.
Have you interacted with many queer horror fans of your work? What has that experience been like?
SW:I have! It’s fucking awesome. When I was doing the festival run of The Quiet Room, I’d meet people who drove from all over to see it, which was a wild experience to have. There are some very personal themes in the movie (mental health and suicide), so sometimes people wanted to share their own experiences with me, which I was grateful to have the opportunity to hear.
And of course, [drag performers] Alaska and Katya have their own legions of fans – the drag community has been hugely supportive of the movie.
You’re a very busy man – in addition to Queerwolf, Fangoria’s Phil Nobile Jr has been hyping up The Quiet Room and you’ve mentioned your segment in Deathcember. What can you say about these (and any other) projects that you have in the pipeline?
SW: First off, I have to gush about Attack of the Queerwolf! You know when you’re listening to your favorite podcast and you imagine yourself in on the conversation? I was already a fan of the pod, so I was already friend-crushing over Nay and gobbling up their tea-time picks. Needless to say, being able to contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way is a dream.
Plus, I’m a Blumhouse baby, through and through. I interned for them when I was going to film school and it was where so much of my film fam began.
I’m sitting on a big announcement for The Quiet Room, so I’d say keep an eye out on social media for what’s next. Deathcember is next up: it’s out later this year and my segment, ‘Milk and Cookies’ stars Kue Lawrence (Beautiful Boy, Good Girls), AJ Bowen (Satanic Panic, You’re Next), Biqtch Puddin’ (winner of Dragula season 2), and Barkley Harper (The Quiet Room). It’s a nasty little stocking stuffer that I can’t wait for everyone to unwrap when the time comes.
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