Ashlea Wessel is a photographer and filmmaker hailing from the raccoon-infested streets of Toronto, Canada. Wessel’s films use elements of horror, sci-fi and fantasy as a framework to explore themes of social, political and personal upheaval. She tells her stories using an arresting visual style (visible in her still work) that couples stark realism with a phantasmagoric flair. Her award-winning films have screened at numerous festivals across the globe.
Q & A
Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Horror spirit animal?
Ellen Ripley would probably be the character that I like to think that I relate to (maybe aspirationally). She’s frustrated, stuck in a shitty situation and surrounded by people who aren’t listening to her, but she steps up and kicks ass. I’d like to think that I could be as badass under that kind of pressure.
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
I’m not sure if I really believe in bad IDEAS in the sense of brainstorming/ the early stages of creating something. If I worry about ideas being bad or good then the creative process would be stifled. I do believe in projects just not working or the work just not being good enough. Everything I write/ create starts with a vomit draft or very rough idea. I get excited and flesh it out as far as I can and then sleep on it. There are always story problems or logistical problems, and when I give myself time to figure it out, some of those ideas just aren’t feasible, and lots of them really do just stink. It also helps to bounce ideas off other filmmakers or friends. If they’re honest, they’ll let you know when something sucks. It’s just about following through on the projects that don’t suck. It helps if you feel that spark yourself while you’re creating them.
Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
Yes! Not everything I make can be classified as horror, but I love horror and genre arts in general. It doesn’t hurt that where I live, there’s a pretty big horror community made up of creators and fans of all types and there’s always something going on where you can find people who like life on the spookier side.
When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
I’m a very visual person so many of my ideas come from visual art forms like film, photography or painting. Sometimes it’s just something that someone on the street says or does, a joke that a friend makes or a line in a book. I have a vivid imagination so sometimes images or concepts it just pop into my head. I guess the lesson is that inspiration can come from any little thing, so I always have a notebook on hand to make sure I don’t miss it.
What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
Probably exactly what the lead character does when she wakes up inside it. No spoilers here!
Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
Pennywise - It Jennifer Check (+demon) – Jennifer’s Body Hannibal Lecter - Silence of the Lambs Lola Stone – The Loved ones Candyman – Canydman
Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Freddy Stephen King Practical Post Apocalypse
How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
So far I haven’t really done that. Though I do tend to like stylized environments, I think I tend to stick to more recognizable sets/props and just drop the supernatural/ monstrous into that framework. The thing that’s scary to me is the unfamiliar appearing within the familiar.
And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
Today, my favorite scary movie is probably Alien, but ask me tomorrow and I bet you’ll get a different answer!