We are on our third interview for "talent to watch" and are astonished by the amount of rising talent that we are finding. So far, all of our interviews have been strong women screenwriters and filmmakers. We're ecstatic and honored to have the opportunity to highlight the amazing talented women that we have.
This week, we jump into a great conversation with screenwriter and producer Tracee Beebe. She goes in-depth about how she got started, her obsession with some little shark movie called Jaws and offers valuable filmmaking tips and advice.
What was your first introduction to horror?
Jaws (sorry, most of my answers are likely to reference this movie to some degree). I was five years old, sitting in a dark theater for the first time and that iconic music came on. I was terrified but also enthralled.
That is a great movie to watch even at five years old. Did your parents take you? Were you allowed to watch other horror films as a kid?
My parents were really young and they didn't know any better. I don't think anyone back then knew just how scary Jaws was until they saw it. I definitely was not allowed to watch horror movies after that! But I did start reading Stephen King as a really young kid and that kept my appetite for terror fed for a good long while.
How did you get started in the industry?
The short version is that I left my life as a horse trainer due to Chronic Lyme Disease and I gave up on life. But that’s not really the kind of person I am and so one day I realized it was time to either get busy living or get busy dying. I wrote a short story about a horse trainer who was dying and losing everything she cared about and then someone said, “Hey, you should write it as a script.” So I did. It was terrible but I was hooked. I taught myself to actually write. I read a lot of screenplays, made that first script a little better over time and then wrote another and another. When I relocated to the Austin, TX area where the indie film community is so open and supportive, I teamed up with some filmmakers to make our short film Date From Hell (now streaming on ALTER). That was my first adventure into horror and I fell in love. And also, of course, Jaws.
I love hearing inspiring stories. I’m glad you didn’t give up. Austin definitely has a great entrepreneurial and filmmaking community. Can you tell us how you got ALTER interested in Date From Hell?
Yes but it's not very interesting. A producer I had worked with on another project watched Date From Hell and recommended it to the folks at ALTER whom he had worked with before.
What keeps you interested in the genre?
Hope. A lot of people will tell you that horror is about scaring people and yeah, that’s a lot of fun but it really comes down to giving people hope. Which we can sure use more of right about now and that is exactly my point. Horror shows us characters going through the darkest, most horrible experiences and coming out the other side a little (or a lot) bloody, a little worse for wear, but stronger and better for it. Horror gives us hope that we can survive even the worse situations imaginable. Like battling a giant shark from a sinking boat.
That is a great way to look at horror. The normal answer we hear a lot is scaring people. Your answer is deep and I love it. Are there any other shark films that you really enjoyed?
OK, so, as long as the sharks is in the water (as opposed to, I don't know... a tornado?)I will watch it and probably love it to a degree. The Shallows is fantastic and manages to be a really good example of contained horror. Deep Blue Sea is a guilty pleasure that I watch at least once a year.
What is it about screenwriting and producing that you enjoy?
I love the combination! They each let me use a different side of the brain. Screenwriting is all about creating, feelings, emotions, and relationships. Producing is problem solving, planning, and putting out fires before they start. I am a writer at heart but it is very solitary (which I love). The producing side is all about putting together a great team and facilitating the team into being able to do their jobs to the best of their ability.
As a screenwriter what does your writing process look like?
A lot of caffeine and a lot of tears. I am a firm believer in writing (at least a little bit) every single day. I will either start with a character that I love and then think of the worst possible situation I could put them in or I start with a challenging situation. Then I think of the person that would be the most affected by going through it. It’s cruel really, but it’s all for good in the end.
What is your main source for your caffeine intake?
Lol. Daily writing is a great exercise. Definitely takes dedication. Sadly I can no longer drink coffee but I have found this awesome drink called Mud\Wtr. They really should give me an endorsement deal because I talk about them all the time! It's very cozy and yummy while somehow managing to be actually really good for you.
Can you tell us about some of the festivals you've been a part of? What was your most exciting moment at a fest?
I love the smaller, well run festivals such as the Austin Revolution Film Festival or Women Texas Film Festival. These fests really make the indie filmmaker feel valued, supported and offer some great networking opportunities. I think my favorite festival experience so far was getting to walk the red carpet press junket at WTFF with my mom. That was a really special moment for sure.
We are still a small festival and going into our second year but we are really appreciate hearing the love for the smaller fests. I can imagine it was a proud moment for your mom. What does she think about your career path?
My mom has been my biggest supporter and my biggest fan. She is my first audience for everything I write and she manages to point out the holes and flaws while still making me feel like the best writer on the planet. She will always be my plus-one to any and all awards shows.
That is amazing. There is nothing like love from amazing parents. Kudos on your mom for being awesome. Can you tell us more about Indignant Dog Films?
Remember those filmmakers I teamed up with for Date From Hell? Well, we worked so well together and had so much respect for each other, we decided to make it an official thing. We have two more short horror films in post now that will be dropping soon (watch our Indignant Dog Films Facebook page!) and are in development on a couple of features. We write and produce our own stuff but also love collaborating with other filmmakers and writers to help them get their projects made. It’s all about story. If the story is good, then it is something we want to get behind.
That is great. I think collaboration is key in the indie world. I think a lot of filmmakers should open up more to collaborating with other people. More opportunities arise. So I think the mindset your team has is only going to make even more great things happen for your team. As a producer what are some of your everyday roles in filmmaking?
It’s the putting out the fires before they happen. In pre-production, I love the prep work and spreadsheets. I know, it sounds weird to me, too but I love having everything super organized so that the creatives can have the freedom to play with shots, lighting, storyboards, etc. On set I love being the head of the support team for the director. If I am doing my job right, the director, actors and crew won’t even know there is a world outside of what’s happening on camera.
Do you have any advice/suggestions for up and coming or hopeful screenwriters? How about for producers?
Tattoo this on your arm:
'Simple plots + complex characters = a great story and a highly marketable film'
For screenwriters you should read more than you write. Read every modern produced screenplay you can get your hands on. Get in the habit of writing every day. Even on the days that you don’t feel like it. Especially on those days because writing is hard. Anyone who tells you it isn’t hard is full of crap. As a professional screenwriter, I have to show up and get the pages written whether I’m having a bad day, my dog just died, and there is a pandemic happening all at once. You might as well get in the habit of it now, when you don’t have your reps and producers breathing down your neck.
For producers please put your ego aside. This isn’t about you and how awesome you are. It’s about the story. It’s about the project. Learn to recognize what makes a great story, not just what looks cool on screen. Your success as a producer/filmmaker hinges on your ability to pick the right project and you won’t be able to do that with your ego in the way.
For both writers and producers you need to look for the smallest possible way to tell the most impactful story. My film Dog Years is 4 mins long with two characters and two lines of dialogue but it blows people away because of how invested they become in those 4 minutes. And a 4 minute film is extremely easy for a festival to program!
Can you share your Dog Years link? Even if it’s not horror, we still love to support indie filmmakers.
Can you tell us more about your projects?
My screenplay Deep Water was on the 2019 BloodList and is with a producer out in L.A. and has sent it out to talent right now. I really love this script (my homage to JAWS in which really bad men get eaten by sharks) and I really look forward to seeing it get made.
Indignant Dog Films is in development on a contained creature feature that will be a lot of fun on a very low budget and we are developing the feature for Date From Hell. We are continuing to make great short films and are very close to having our Youtube channel up and running. We will not only screen our films but also provide a lot of great “how to” content, some fun “behind the curtain” interviews and such to help demystify the world of filmmaking.
That is great! Congrats on all of that! How exciting! What other projects are you working on?
My big focus right now is on writing. Getting several feature scripts in solid shape so that when the industry gets back to work, I have some marketable stories to send out.
What has been your favorite project to work on and why?
As a screenwriter it is Deep Water because it is a story that really needed to be told and it felt very visceral for me during the writing. I was working on the rewrite of it while living on the beach in Mexico and scared myself so badly that I couldn’t swim.
AS a producer, I think it would have to be our last short film, Made of These. It is currently in the last stages of post production. It’s such a powerful yet simple story and there were many moments during filming where even the sound guys got chills. Watching my partner learn to work with an actress who happened to be deaf and seeing how the whole team got behind the story was really special.
What is your favorite classic horror movie?
Troll. Just kidding. It’s Jaws but I feel like you already knew that.
Haha. You got me. I wasn’t expecting it to be Jaws. What movies (other than the obvious, lol) & filmmakers give you the most inspiration?
Right now, I have a major work-crush on John Krasinski. His respect for story as both an actor, writer and director make me want to be a better writer. Character driven horror such as A Quiet Place that makes people too afraid to even eat popcorn while they’re watching and makes them feel fear, love, and hope all at once. This is the kind of movies I want to make!
LOL. My only complaint with A Quiet Place was it was so silent in the theater all I heard was chomping on their popcorn. That was horror within itself.
I saw it opening night and everyone was too afraid to even eat their popcorn, that's how quiet it was in the theater!
What is something in everyday life that scares you?
If I say sharks is that just too obvious? I am not afraid of the usual spiders, snakes, or flying. I am afraid of stairwells and parking garages. Like legit just typing the words makes me hold my breath.
Really? Why is that? Do you have any stories in the works with these as locations?
Believe it or not, statistically speaking, more women are abducted and/or assaulted in parking garages than anywhere else. Stairwells are just frigging death traps! Very easy for a bad guy with nefarious intent to trap you in there and no one would find your body until the next morning. But hey, at least there's no sharks, right? I will eventually have to write about these kinds of places because I will need to exorcise those demons. They do make really good contained horror locations but I haven't been able to find the right way into the story yet.
What is your dream project?
I would very much love the opportunity to write the remake of Firestarter or write the adaptation for The Institute by Stephen King. Both really wonderful works by Stephen King that I would love to sink my teeth into. So, if anyone wants to pass that on to his people, that would be great!
Oh nice! I loved Firestarter. Would you write it in a way to keep Drew Barrymore in the story or would it be a remake?
A remake that honors the father and daughter relationship that King so masterfully represents in the book but was not present in the original film. Drew can come back as the mother, though!
I would love to see you get the opportunity to put those together! It has been a huge pleasure to be able to interview you. Thank you so much for your time and I will be keeping an eye on your career. Do you have links you would like to share or your social media pages where our followers can follow you?
Thank you so much, I really enjoyed the questions!
Indignant Dog Films
Tracee Beebe Official Website
Indignant Dog Films Instagram page
The Rise and Shine Show
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