There are few things writer and director Marc Cartwright loves more than a good suspenseful horror film with a well-placed twist, and anyone who has seen one of his films knows he’s very good at creating them.
The co-owner of Glass Cabin Films has a handful of short films that have won major awards at festivals around the world including Best Director at last year’s iHorror Film Festival. Though he’s constantly working, he took some time out of his busy schedule to chat with me for Horror Pride Month, a celebration of LGBTQ creatives working in horror.
“I’ve always loved horror movies,” he explained as we began. “Horror movies tell another side of life. They’re the parts of life that we sometimes think about, but hope we don’t see playing out in front of us. I’ve always seen them as a way to explore the darker sides or the twists in life. I think my first inspiration for that would be more like the Alfred Hitchcock type. Things are going along seemingly fine and then there’s that sort of horrific twist.”
If suspense and tension are your cup of tea, there are few filmmakers who ever did that better than Hitchcock, and Cartwright said that Rope particularly stands out for him.
“For a film to occur in one room and to have you on the edge of your seat the entire time? That’s really hard to do,” he said, and anyone who has seen the film is sure to agree.
Still, loving horror films and making them are two different monsters. Cartwright was primarily a photographer, and until he met his business partner–actor and co-owner of Glass Cabin Films Baker Chase Powell–he had not entirely considered filmmaking as a creative outlet.
“Baker was doing a web series,” Cartwright said. “I saw what they did in their first go at it, and I thought I could make it look better. So I said, ‘Let me try the cinematography on this.’ We did that and I ended up directing it. And then Baker and I were talking and I said, ‘We should do more of this. Let’s make some short films.’ We both had a love of horror, and that sort of started that whole process.”
Cartwright is still a photographer but since the decision was made, he’s been developing his voice as a director, and you can see that progression watching his work.
The director said he loves looking at characters who are in some sort of downward spiral, pointing to his film We Die Alone as an example.
In that film, Powell plays Aidan, a young man with crippling insecurities who craves connection, but who compulsively ghosts every woman he meets on dating apps out of fear. When he meets Chelsea, a young woman who moves into the apartment across the hall from him, he finds himself dangerously obsessed with her which leads to an brutal, emotional ending you have to see to believe.
“I love watching that kind of character play out,” he explained. “Someone I like who does that a lot would be like Daron Aranofsky in his movies. Black Swan and The Wrestler or even like mother!, someone trying to get stability in this crazy situation.”
Cartwright says he’s also learned a great deal about collaboration and sharing control by working in film.
“It’s definitely been an adventure, and it’s been a learning process for me,” he said. “Learning to hand off something and trust that someone is going to do it with integrity. You learn how to get what you need while still empowering people. You want it to be a collaboration.”
Clarifying his voice as a director has also helped to focus his thoughts on LGBTQ representation within the horror genre and filmmaking in general, and looking back on his own coming out as a gay man, points him toward a future he hopes that every member of the LBGTQ community can experience.
“I was fortunate. It wasn’t a negative experience for me,” Cartwright said. “I know a lot of people go through so much whether it’s an unsupportive family or a bad environment. It’s scary when you realize who you are in that kind of situation, but I didn’t really have that pushback that I know a lot of people have.”
And where the film and television world is concerned, he hopes that we can leave behind some of the tired tropes that have plagues so many queer characters in the past.
“I think a lot of LGBT films and characters before now were always about the same thing,” he pointed out. “It was always either sexually driven or they were experiencing some personal crisis around coming out all the time. I think now, it’s time to create shows that show that LGBT people are just like everyone else. We aren’t all either dying or constantly clubbing. They say Hollywood is opening up and telling more diverse stories, but I find that they still act like they have to tell you if they’re doing a show about a Latin person or a black person or gay person. They feel like they have to underline that point heavily, but in my experience people don’t live their lives like that.”
That sort of normalized representation both inside and outside of the genre is something many of us in the community are striving toward and having a filmmaker like Cartwright on the front lines of that feels like the work is actually being done.
To see some of Marc Cartwright’s film work, check out the Glass Cabin Films YouTube Channel.