This Feminist Horror Director Puts People Of Color In The Spotlight: BUST Interview

by Brianna Kirkham

The viral and creepy phenomena of Two Sentence Horror Stories is transcending to the big (short film) screen. Director Vera Miao says she was inspired by the popular Reddit thread to create a series of short films, the first of which is MA, featuring a strained mother-daughter relationship that complicates a blossoming romance with another woman. 

The Internet trend dubbed “Two Sentence Horror Stories” is exactly what it sounds like, two sentences that tell a spooky story. Miao’s series follows the same format with one sentence appearing on the screen at the start of the movie, and then after the story is told, the second sentence appears.

The director says she draws inspiration from different kinds of horror genres, including ghost stories and psychological thrillers.

“I guess maybe because I’m Asian-American, one could argue I have Asian and Western influences. It’s all blended together,” Miao said. “While I consume all types of horror what I don’t really respond to is the torture porn kind of horror, it’s not my cup of tea.”

And while she grew up watching Western horror, Miao says she’s mostly inspired by films from other countries. She hopes this series will be emblematic of what she wants to do and accomplish as a filmmaker. “Which is to really make an elevated genre that is grappling with contemporary social issues and is centralizing people of color,” she explains.

Unlike token black characters who are usually the first to be killed off in scary movies, Miao’s series primarily features actors of color. And while more women are finding their way into the horror industry than before, they still only make up about 11 percent of those working in horror according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film

However, Miao says the obstacle isn’t finding or projecting her agency, instead, it’s learning to accept help.

Veran“I don’t understand why there’s any stigma attached to the word feminist, I think it’s a bunch of bullshit quite honestly,” Miao said in our BUST interview.

“I’ve had really stupid situations happen with people underestimating me and thinking I’m incapable because I’m a small, young-looking Asian woman… but misogyny and white supremacy are baked into the fabric everything,” she says. “There’s some gravity there that you’re grappling with at all times. It’s just like one of the Law of Physics, we accept it and we work with it. You are forced to develop resiliency around it your whole life and it becomes something that doesn’t feel as big.”

Luckily, Miao says she’s starting to realize she has a support system within her industry.

“There actually are people who want to support filmmakers like me and voices like me who are really committed to representation in front of and behind the camera,” she says. “And they’re genuinely excited, not because of some diversity mandate — but because they believe that’s what’s necessary.”

You can catch a premiere screening of MA at the Cinépolis Chelsea Theater as part of Tribeca Film Festival’s N.O.W. (New Online Work) Showcase. Hopefully, Miao will have more opportunities to show off her important and intersectional work.

Top photo and trailer from MA, Studio 13

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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