BOO! We’re back with more terrifying tips to trick & treat a horror film watcher


We’re not quite finished talking about the horror genre for today. Joining the conversation is Rona Mark, Directing and Screenwriting Instructor at IFI and avid horror movie watcher. “To my mind, horror is the most liberating, transgressive, and expressive film genre there is,” says Rona. “Many of the great directors have tried their hand at it and so should you!”

Check out Rona’s tips below for creating a truly terrifying movie-watching experience.

  1. On screen, the scares often come not so much from a good monster, but from a great, horrified REACTION to the monster! Get those terrified reaction shots on screen.
  1. The suggestion of violence is often more powerful than on-screen violence. I’m no prude about violent scenes, but sometimes, literal attempts to portray violence fall short of my imagination. Let the viewer imagine the horror.
  1. Creating the atmosphere is half the battle. A movie like The Exorcist (1973) scares partially because it feels like the impossible is happening in the real world. Whereas, a movie like Suspiria(1977) creates a world unattached to reality, one that relies on dream logic and expressionistic sets. Music, set design, lighting, and camera moves should all come together to create a nightmarish (and stylistically coherent) atmosphere.


— Rona Mark is an award-winning writer, director, and producer. She received her BA from Hebrew University of Jerusalem and MFA from Columbia University. A few of her festivals and awards include: Best of Fest—Edinburgh International Film Festival; Filmmaker Magazine—Audience Choice Award; Scenario Award—Canadian International Film and Video Festival; second place, Best Short—Galway Film Fleadh; Best Comedy/Best of Night—Polo Ralph Lauren New Works Festival; BBC’s Best Short Film About the Environment—Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival; Opening night selection—Three Rivers Film Festival; Hong Kong International Jewish Film Festival; Irish Reels Film Festival; Seattle True Independent Film Festival; NewFilmmakers Screening Series; Hoboken International Film Festival; Miami Jewish Film Festival; Munich International Student Film Festival; Palm Beach International Jewish Film Festival; Pittsburgh Israeli Jewish Film Festival; Toronto Jewish Film Festival; Vancouver Jewish Film Festival. Finalist in Pipedream Screenplay Competition; third prize—Acclaim TV Writer Competition; second place—TalentScout TV Writing Competition; finalist—People’s Pilot Television Writing Contest; Milos Forman Award; finalist—Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Student Film Awards. Current feature film projects include screenwriter/director/producer, Strange Girls—Mdux Pictures, LLC. Screenwriter/director, Shoelaces. SLC, 2007.

Oh, the HORROR! How to elicit fear from your viewing audience


Blood, guts, darkness, screams, an eery silence, and then … BOO! At IFI, we look forward to the Halloween holiday because it plays so well into a favorite filmmaking genre of horror films. We sat down with scary movie fan Andres Rosende, Screenwriting, Directing Instructor and Coordinator at IFI to learn what three key elements a filmmaker must include when creating a true horror film. “Horror, like every other genre, follows certain convictions,” says Andres. “Learn and play with them but don’t forget that is not what makes a horror film great.” Read on for more from our spooky chat with Andres.

1. Horror films are an ideal vehicle to talk about issues that were important to the filmmakers. Think about how the first Carrie (1976) was so good. It was the first time that an audience saw the interpersonal dynamics among high schoolers and the first time someone talked about “bullying”. The 2013 remake had better special effects and more spectacular sequences, but it has already been forgotten. Last year, It follows (2015) talked about STIs (HIV in particular) among young people connecting to a century tradition that started with Dracula. Did you guys know that Bram Stoker suffered from syphilis? What does Dracula feed on? That’s right, blood!

2. What scares you? Is it the night? Insects? Dead people? Or, is it something else? Director Guillermo del Toro has made many films using horror aesthetics that aren’t horror (scary) films. A couple of quick “don’ts” for you: don’t think because there is a monster in your film, it will be scary. Don’t copy other films scare tactics. Now, what you should “do” is find within you the images that scare you; the situations that freeze you; your worst fear. Then, try to recreate them for the screen.

3. Create interesting characters and pay attention to your actors. Think about Jack Nicholson in The Shining or Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby. Directors can often type cast actors (pretty, young, sexy, etc.) and forget about the performances. No matter how “cool” your atmosphere, location or cinematography looks, if we – the viewers – don’t care about the characters, we won’t fear for them.



— Andres Rosende was born and raised in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. He graduated summa cum laude from Universidad Complutense of Madrid with a B.A. in film studies and communication. In 2006 he received the prestigious Fundacion Barrie de la Maza scholarship and moved to New York City as an MFA candidate in Film Directing at Columbia University. He has written and directed six shorts films and he was awarded a directing fellowship and grant. His film “Snapshots” premiered in the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival and went around the globe to numerous film festivals. His non-thesis, “Escape”, was selected to be a part of the ASCAP Film Scoring Workshop and premiered at the 2010 Columbia Film Festival. “Escape” was given honors by the faculty and won the E.P. Producing Award at the festival. Andrés was also awarded the James Bridges Award for excellence working with actors.