From near and far

Independent filmmakers of all backgrounds showcase work at the Renegade


Justin Spencer

K/XI and Staff Writer Addie Ellison talk about K/XI’s experience in the independent film world during the Renegade Film Festival in Marietta on March 3-5. The Renegade helps show that independent filmmakers are any age, any race, and come from every walk of life.

When hearing the term “independent films” an average movie-goer would probably assume that indie films are a stepping stone to big-budget Hollywood films. Indie films are so much more than that, and the Renegade Film Festival helps showcase that. 

“I think this festival is a place where all filmmakers can feel loved and welcomed and celebrated and safe,” writer and director Adam Marcus said.

A monster could be another person, something invisible, or something natural.

— Staff Writer Addie Ellison

For some filmmakers, independent films are where they thrive the best, and they have no plans to move to anything else. 

Horror movies themselves have plenty of features that are appealing to independent filmmakers. There is no need for a fancy VFX set to make a monster. A monster could be another person, something invisible, or something natural. This makes horror accessible to all types of filmmakers. 

Who are the people that make indie horror films come to life? That question is not easily answered. People who make horror films come from all different walks of life and all different places. 

H.R. Fitzgerald is a screenplay writer in the indie horror community. Her short film screenplay “People in a Box” was nominated for “Best Short Screenplay” at the Renegade Film Festival last weekend in Marietta. She says her journey started as a child when she would play pretend and create her own stories. This is something a lot of writers and people in the movie communities do. 

I remember I looked at [my mother] and I was like ‘I wanna do that, whatever this is, I wanna do that’.

— Filmmaker Vanessa Ionta Wright

“I was really young, like five or six, when I started making up stories,” Fitzgerald said. “Then it started to grow and grow. By the time I got to high school I was like ‘Oh, I can write my own stories? I don’t have to just depend on movies or books or anything like that’.”

Fitzgerald said that she always knew she wanted to write horror but an experience with film in college changed the trajectory of her career. The horror film was written, shot, directed, and acted by her college peers. This changed the game for Fitzgerald and set the course for her entire career. 

“It came naturally, like I’ve never had something come naturally to me before,” Fitzgerald said.  “You know math didn’t, science didn’t, and art was the closest thing, and even that took a lot of work, whereas writing this first story, I just wrote it in three hours.”

Festival director Vanessa Wright has been a horror fan her entire life but was often frustrated by the treatment of women and minorities in the so-called “classic” films. She said the moment that changed her life’s trajectory was watching Quentin Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” in an arthouse theater with her mother. 

“There was something very raw and very different about that film,” Wright said. “I remember I looked at [my mother] and I was like ‘I wanna do that, whatever this is, I wanna do that’.”

That moment inspired Wright to create films and to eventually create the Women in Horror Festival, which has since been rebranded into the Renegade Film Festival. This is easily showcased in her beliefs. She believes if you have the spirit and the dedication, then anyone can make independent films. 

“I think you need a certain level of passion and drive. I think a lot of people have the misconceptions that this can be very glamorous and when we are talking about indie filmmaking it is grueling, back-breaking work,” Wright said. “We are talking 16 hour days. If you have not scheduled properly, it’s exhausting. So there has to be something in you that is driving you to want to create and tell that story.” 

Independent filmmakers do not just come from the United States but from all over the world. Director K/XI was born in Pakistan and grew up in London, and now works all over filming and even acting in some of her movies. K/XI grew up watching classic horror movies and was fascinated by their stories. 

K/XI’s independent horror film journey truly started after high school. She went to university to study literature and accidentally stumbled upon filmmaking in an optional module on the adaptations of films.

“At the time there was no practical filmmaking course at the university I went to, and I remember looking at adaptations, films that had been adapted from short stories like Edgar Allen Poe, and my class just decided to make something,” K/XI said. “My tutor was like, ‘Yeah let me hook you up with the media department,’ and we made something. I just got allocated as director and everything changed for me.”

Her journey has led her to now create two feature films and a few short films all in the horror genre. “Maya,” the feature film showcased at the Renegade this year, highlighted her roots from Pakistan and the beliefs held there. She used real experiences she encountered in Pakistan for the story and let her creative muse run from there. 

The fact that a movie can make me feel a certain way was really powerful, and that got me really interested in just the process of making films.

— alumnus Thomas Hindy

These makers come from far but also come from very near. Starr’s Mill alumnus and former staff writer from the Prowler Thomas Hindy showcased his short film at the Renegade this year. Hindy grew up loving horror and was interested in movies from a young age. He said the moment that first caught his attention with movies was seeing the first Transformers movie in the theatre with his grandfather.

“As a kid I experienced escapism, that was something I couldn’t find anywhere else,” Hindy said. “The fact that a movie can make me feel a certain way was really powerful, and that got me really interested in just the process of making films.” 

Even though he knew he wanted to do this, Hindy said he still felt apprehensive about taking the first steps into horror. Who helped him and encouraged him to take the steps? None other than the film festival director Vanessa Wright. Hindy went on to submit a short film to the Women in Horror Film Festival in 2020. That film would go on to win the Indie Spirit Award, while he was still in high school. He now attends Florida State University and is studying filmmaking.

“I’m definitely a different filmmaker since my college experience. I’m definitely a different filmmaker since then having learned so much just independently but also in film school,” Hindy said. “It’s always good to go back and look at that film and what went into that, the person I was growing into, and how I’ve changed since then.” 

The people at the Renegade Film Festival are a small part of the horror community and yet they show the vast types of people in this walk of life. All the different types of backgrounds show that scary can come from near or far.