Jovanka Vuckovic: Riot Girls And Women In Horror

Director Jovanka Vuckovic on her film Riot Girls and gender parity in the film industry.

DGC Ontario Director Jovanka Vuckovic worked both as an award-winning VFX artist and editor for horror publication Rue Morgue before she began directing.

Her first short The Captured Bird was executive produced by Guillermo del Toro and she was the executive producer for XX, the first ever all-female horror anthology. We caught up with Jovanka ahead of her film Riot Girls’ North American premiere at Fantasia Fest to discuss gender parity and her latest film.

You are outspoken about the systemic barriers women face in the film industry. Why are women the future of horror?

In the horror genre, women are historically misrepresented in front of the camera and underrepresented behind it. This is a systemic problem in the film business, but the horror genre in particular is in need of new perspectives. Bela Lugosi once famously said, “It is women who love horror. Gloat over it. Feed on it. Are nourished by it. Shudder and cling and cry out — and come back for more.” Women love horror. And yet in 2019 where more than half of all horror film ticket buyers are women, people still believe we aren’t interested in scary stories.

On her inspiration for the look and feel of Riot Girls

When I read Katherine Collins’ script, I envisioned it like the indie comic from the ’90s such as Tank Girl. I leaned into that aesthetic, set it in the ’90s and we even hired an illustrator to create panels as a framing device, all to make sure the audience knows they’re not supposed to take the film too seriously. While the film does have something to say, and despite the behind-the-scenes politics, the primary goal is to make sure everyone in the theatre has fun.

On her creative collaboration with Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo sent a fan letter while I was editing Rue Morgue and we met at Comic-Con and I privately expressed interest in Directing. He told me I didn’t need film school and when I was ready to make the leap that he would help. Guillermo’s a man of his word. He EP’d my short and provided creative guidance, introductions and favours. I would have never gotten the company who did the visual effects on Hellboy to work on my short film without his help. The film would never have accomplished what it did without the generosity and kindness of Guillermo del Toro.

On creating the XX anthology

XX was created in direct response to the lack of opportunities for women in film, particularly in the horror genre. In 2017, it became the first-ever all female horror anthology and went on to play Sundance, top iTunes charts and become Magnolia Pictures highest grossing film ever. I believe that women are the next great frontier of horror cinema. Karyn Kusama has been outspoken about the lack of women directors in horror and agreed to participate without hesitation, and a friend inside the project had a connection to Annie Clark, who immediately said yes. I think it’s because no one is holding the door open for women in the film business, people were actively wedging it shut for women in horror unless they were willing to take their clothes off. And, well….Time’s up.

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