Soft spoken, polite, articulate and thoughtful rather than blunt and demanding, blending in seamlessly with the crowd at Fantastic Fest, Annick Mahnert does not fit the typical image of the angry, haranguing Hollywood producer. Then again, she’s NOT your typical producer. After studying production at NYFA, she cut her teeth at Roger Corman’s Concorde-New Horizons before going big-league, handling programming and distribution for such studios as 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., then went solo in 2013 to become an independent producer. And produce she has: the Swiss native has quietly become one of the most impressive purveyors of international indy horror, from 2014’s polarizing México Bárbaro to last year’s Dearest Sister, the latest feature from Mattie Do and the film that just might put Laos on the international horror map. Her position as a producer who can—and does—cross international and cultural boundaries puts her in a unique position to help give a more global view on the role of women in horror, and I was fortunate enough that she agreed to chat with me regarding what she’s witnessed and experienced on the global horror scene.
Preston Fassel: You've worked with filmmakers from a variety of countries in a number of different locations. Where have you found the reception to female filmmakers most positive? Most negative?
Annick Mahnert: I can't really say that I've seen a negative reception to female filmmakers anywhere. I live in Europe and I work around the globe. I keep hearing stories about how difficult it is for some female filmmakers to get jobs, but, I've never witnessed it personally. I know that Mattie has trouble in her own country, but it also has to do with the culture; and Asia, in general, is not an easy place for women. But in terms of reception, if we talk about Dearest Sister, it's been really great. Everywhere we went, people were happy to see the film and talked to us about it afterwards.
PF: How does the reception to horror films differ according to country?
AM: Well, this is a very deep subject and I don't think we can really cover this here, but every festival has its "audience". Some films will play in certain countries and some won't. Asia won't play a specific type of films, neither won't Latin America. This might depend on the origin of the film, the ethnicity, and many other factors. Some stories will resonate with some audiences and some won't. This is something that, unfortunately, you can't control. But as a filmmaker, you should never make a film a certain way to adapt to such and such country or audience. You need to stay true to yourself and the subject you want to handle.
PF: What do you consider your proudest achievement as a producer?
AM: Having produced Dearest Sister was already an achievement. I got to work with filmmakers in a country I knew nothing about and I gambled on someone who had absolutely no film education whatsoever. I'm very proud to have been able to help Dearest Sister getting made. This film has not only established Mattie, it has also established my company as a serious production company. Since then, I've coproduced a documentary called 78/52, about the shower scene in Psycho, and we just world premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
PF: What was your favorite horror film of 2016?
AM: Without hesitation, The Autopsy of Jane Doe. It's a fresh take on horror, it's original, and it's really scary. The first time I saw it, I thought "where the hell is the director taking me?” That's what I love about this film: I had no clue where the story was going. It surprised me.