In Shooting the Shit, NATIVE talks to Nashvillians who are doing things a little differently—think of it as grabbing a quick cup of coffee with that screenprinter or tattoo artist you keep seeing on your Explore Page. This month, we talked to Stephanie Adams, Jennifer Bonior, and Dycee Wildman, the badass female filmmaking trio behind Daisy Dukes Films. Founded in 2016, Daisy Dukes makes short horror films, music videos, and video installations, with one unifying philosophy always in mind: “Be bold, be weird, have fun, make art.” Can’t argue with a mission statement like that.
We caught up with Adams, Bonior, and Wildman over email to ask them about horror, Nashville film, and the enduring presence of absurdly short shorts.
Tell us how the three of you met and how the idea for Daisy Dukes came about.
The three of us met on the set of a 48 Hour Film Project film. We had such great chemistry that almost immediately we started hiring each other to work on projects, music videos, and more. From there, it was an inevitable jump to writing and producing together. Finding people you can collaborate with is a difficult and magical thing. Once we realized we’d hit gold, we couldn’t stop. At any given moment we have approximately five projects—film, photo, and installation—that we’re working on. We keep each other busy for sure!
What initially drew you all to horror?
We are drawn to horror because it can, at its best, be used to talk about deeper, darker, universal parts of the human condition. Horror offers the covert opportunity to use the language and tropes inherent to the genre to talk about the real horrors around us. Films like The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Witch, among many others, are perfect examples of creating a much-needed dialogue with the viewer. Horror does this more effectively than many other genres because, like Jack Torrance busting into the bathroom in The Shining, it breaks through the walls the audience can put up. Horror is our tool for social change, and we believe that is very important in today’s world.
Though there are some recent examples of the contrary—namely A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, The Love Witch, or even The Babadook—horror is a genre of cinema infamously aligned with misogyny. Would you agree, and if so, do you all aim to change that aspect of the genre?
Obviously there are examples of misogyny in every possible aspect of American culture, and the horror genre is no exception with the infamous scantily clad teens getting their “comeuppance” for getting it on. However, it is also true that the “Final Girl” has always been a trope of the genre. When I think of strong female characters, a lot of them come from horror: Ripley, Clarice, Rosemary, Laurie from Halloween. They are fighting from within a patriarchal world, but they are also showing that what makes you feminine is what makes you strong and capable of surviving. Through these nuanced characters, there is an opportunity for the tropes to operate on complimentary levels and create stronger positive messages.
Is the name Daisy Dukes a sort of tongue-in-cheek joke about how women are typically portrayed in horror films?
Absolutely. Our name alludes to the very short films we make (our newest film Inside the House is four minutes long) and the classic horror films where the female characters, before being hunted and killed, are all wandering around the woods in very short shorts. It felt appropriate to reclaim that idea with a feminist perspective.
Are you happy with where the film community in Nashville is right now? And how would you encourage local people interested in film to get involved?
It would be fantastic for the film community here to grow and offer more opportunities. We are trying in our own ways to build the film community that we want to see. For example, Jennifer took over the role of the Nashville City Producer this year for the 48 Hour Film Project, a competition that was obviously instrumental in us coming together. But it’s also a great way to bring the community together as a whole. Similarly, we want the local film scene to be connected to the global film scene. Defy Film Festival, started by Dycee, is designed to do just that, by bringing films and filmmakers from around the world to Nashville. We think it’s an exciting way for people to get involved and build community.
Your shorts tend to hinge on unexpected twists and turns. Do you think there’s a parallel between that part of your work and Daisy Dukes as a company, which could be seen as unexpected to people in the film industry?
It’s true that the industry probably doesn’t expect three gals in the South to be playing with blood and guts so much, but what’s the point of doing something that’s expected? The last thing we would ever want to make is something that’s already been done.
Defy Film Festival, a local film festival founded by Wildman that aims to “celebrate defiant filmmaking,” is happening August 24 and 25 in East Nashville. For more info and tickets, visit defyfilmfestival.com.