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WRITES.CAMERA.AX-TION!: Chloe Spencer

By Mo Moshaty  June 6, 2024

Minnesota native Chloe Spencer is an award winning writer, gamedev, and filmmaker. She is the author of multiple sapphic novellas and novels, three of which were #1 New Releases on Amazon (Monstersona, Vicarious, and An Affinity for Formaldehyde.) As a screenwriter, she's won over 10 accolades, and her thesis film Serotonin screened at the Atlanta Horror Film Festival in 2022. In her spare time she enjoys playing video games, trying her best at Pilates, and cuddling with her cats. She holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Oregon and an MFA in Film and Television from SCAD Atlanta.

1.  Give us the best elevator pitch on your work.

Whether it's with sinister sapphics committing vile crimes, girls who carve up their bodies with scalpels, or misunderstood monsters, I want to tell engaging, vivid stories that grip you by the heart and don't let go.  

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2. Tell us about your first brush with the horror genre. 

I've always been a lover of horror films and stories; I grew up watching movies on Syfy with my older brother, Tim Burton animated movies, and creepy stop-motion animation hits like Coraline. Post 2017, I started writing horror shorts, and once I got to grad school, I fell in love with writing horror films. I've written and directed a handful of horror shorts such as Teddy Bear, The Other Side, and Serotonin, which was my MFA thesis film. But I've written far more than I've had the time to direct (and fundraise!) actual films, and I hope to write more in the future; specifically, I would like to adapt my novels and novellas into feature film screenplays. 

3. What about the genre pulls you to work within it? 

Horror is great at making the uncomfortable feel comfortable, and by that, I mean that it's easier to explore difficult, dark subject matter. Anything to grief to body image issues to toxic relationships are represented in horror, and in my opinion, the best kind of horror has sociopolitical commentary that reflects our current time, in some ways, serving as a time capsule. But it's also just fun, and lends itself to all kinds of artistry. I love analyzing the cinematography from different horror films and the special and practical effects that go into making them. 

4. On this horror journey have there been bumps or disappointments?

Oh, for sure! Horror can be a contentious genre, and not everything that I've written is going to appeal to everyone. But I've learned to enjoy the ride, and honestly, I think that the negativity can be stimulating in some ways. One of my novellas has an ending that's gotten a variety of different emotional reactions from readers, and I find that fascinating that something can be so polarizing. In terms of actual filmmaking, yes! Making my short film Serotonin was difficult for a variety of reasons, namely because it was the first script I ever produced with a major budget. 

5. What was the first horror screenplay you’ve written? Any production, publishing?

The first horror screenplay I've ever written was Meg and May. It hasn't been produced, but it's won a handful of awards, including a Semi-Finalist award and two Quarterfinalist awards. 

6. What’s your process when beginning a screenplay?

I always sit down to write a beat sheet first. When it comes to writing novels and novellas, I don't always do that, but screenplays are highly structured projects, so I try to do as much prewriting as I can before diving into the first draft. 

7. World-building in horror can be as extensive or as contained as we wish. What comes first for you in the idea department, the plot, the character, or the atmosphere?

Characters. Plots can be built in hundreds of different ways and go on different trajectories, and none of them are necessarily right or wrong; it's all about what makes a good story. But characters are what keep us grounded and connected as audience members. You have to know who your characters are. I'm not just talking about what they look like or their personality archetypes; I'm talking about their speaking styles, how they express themselves, the little wordless mannerisms they engage in when they're a part of a conversation that's going sideways. They don't need to be likable--I've loved so many shows with unlikable characters--but they have to be engaging. We have to know their fatal flaws and weaknesses, what makes them tick, what their aspirations are. 

8. Who and/or what are your horror influences?

Karyn Kusama is probably my biggest influence, as well as Julia Ducournau. Both have directed films about women-going-feral (Jennifer's Body and Raw respectively), and in The Invitation, Kusama masterfully builds tension between the characters. Stylistically and thematically, the original Suspiria is also a huge influence for me. The Shining is something I revisit a lot. And of course, I can't forget about Mike Flanagan and The Haunting of HIll House and Gerald's Game. 

9. Is there a story inside that you have seeds of but can't seem to connect that's dying to get out?

Right now I'm working on a novel about a tradwife in a failing marriage who befriends the ghost of a 1950s housewife, and how things get weird fast. With this piece I really want to explore traditional gender roles and sexuality. 

10. How do you handle extensive notes or a rejected screenplay?

Here's the thing: you can't be a part of any creative world if you're sensitive to rejection. You are going to hear far more "Nos" than "Yeses," even in the best of times. Sometimes people don't understand your work, or more often, they're not willing to understand it. That doesn't mean that it's invaluable or bad; that means that you have to focus more on reaching your audience. It takes time to craft the skills you need to market yourself appropriately. 

 

As for notes? Love 'em. Can't get enough of them. When I'm working with someone who knows what they're doing and I know they want to make sure the screenplay is at its best, I'm willing to incorporate as many notes as possible. I pride myself on being flexible to feedback, and knowing my boundaries when something strays too far from my original idea. Being a screenwriter means that you have to reinvent yourself over and over again, or imagine countless different ways a story can be told. I find it challenging and invigorating. 

11. What has been the most difficult part of your screenwriting journey?

Breaking in! I wouldn't say I've "made it" as a screenwriter by any means. I don't live in LA or major production cities anymore, which means that a lot of my work is only visible online. But I'm okay with taking my time and enjoying the journey as it goes. I'm hoping that I'll find a literary agent sometime in the next year and that things will grow from there. 

12. What has been the best/most rewarding?

Nothing I think has mattered more than connecting with people in the horror genre, readers, other filmmakers, and authors. I love it when someone says that my work has helped them feel seen. 

13.  Which horror element or creature from film/lit terrifies you and why?

I recognize that this is probably a basic answer, but Pennywise. I did not know much about the film It when I went to see the 2017 film; I legitimately thought it was about a clown that just hung out in the sewers and kidnapped kids. Let's just say I was more than a little surprised when I saw the big chomp. 

 

I'm personally more terrified of things that I can't fight back against, like ghosts or ethereal creatures. Whereas I think it's easier to outrun or fight back against a living person, ghosts or other monsters are unpredictable, and you have to have a sharp mind to fight back and understand their weaknesses.

14.  What project are you looking forward to next?

I'm looking forward to adapting one of my novellas into a screenplay, and I'm hoping to start that project sometime this year. Would also love to make an animatic episode for Meg and May. 

15.  Where can folks find your work?

You can find me and my work at the following places: 

My website: www.chloespenceronline.com 

My Director/Visual reel: https://vimeo.com/472687686?share=copy

ISA: https://www.networkisa.org/profile/chloe-spencer

Coverfly: https://writers.coverfly.com/profile/chloespencer9066869

Twitter: https://twitter.com/chloespencerdev

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/heyitschloespencer/

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@heyitschloespencer

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Mo Moshaty is a horror writer, lecturer and producer. As a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist and life long horror fan, Mo has lectured with Prairie View A&M Film & TV Program as a Keynote, BAFSS Horror Studies Sig  and The University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom. Mo has partnered with horror giant, Shudder Channel, to co-produce the 13 Minutes of Horror Film Festival 2021 and 2022 with Nyx Horror Collective and her literary work "Love the Sinner" was published with Brigid's Gate Press in July of 2023 and her two volume collection, "Clairviolence: Tales of Tarot and Torment Vol. One and Two" will be published in 2024-2025

Mo is the creator and Editor-in-Chief of NightTide Magazine

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