An Interview With Filmmaker Maya Korn

” Glass Cabin’s world premiere at Screamfest was such a blast! The fab horror audience responded in just the right places to exactly the right things.  Power to the programmers for placing it by the perfect psychological thriller companion film in Abnor Pastoll’s ‘A Good Woman is Hard to Find’ and thank you to Screamfest!  The lead actress Revell (Carpenter) and I were treated like gold on the black carpet.”-Maya Korn

Known as the “Sundance of Horror,” the annual Screamfest Horror Film Festival is America’s largest and longest running horror film festival, and completed its Oct. 8th-17th run this year in Hollywood, to rave reviews from both critics and the audience alike.  As an Arts organization committed to the support and development of independent filmmakers and screenwriters of the Horror genre, it is arguably second to none.  The Festival is renowned for its premiere of ‘Paranormal Activity’ in 2007.  Other notable past premieres have included ’30 Days of Night’, ‘Let the Right One In’, ‘The Grudge’, ‘The Fourth Kind’, ‘Trick ‘r’ Treat’ and ‘The Human Centipede.’

A plethora of iconic  filmmakers (Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Sam Raimi, William Friedkin, etc.) have supported the ten day festival year after year, as it continues to provide a stunning platform for emerging writers and directors to showcase their work to the industry and the horror-loving public.  This year, it welcomed an exciting new filmmaker: LA-based film producer Maya Korn.  Korn is the executive producer of ‘Glass Cabin’, which had its premiere at the festival on Monday, October 14th, to glowing reviews.

A UK/German native, Maya Korn’s US company (MHK Productions) is dedicated to uncovering stories that highlight political issues, while giving a voice to minority cultures. To date, she has produced films in Beijing, New York, Mexico City, Los Angeles and London.  Her most recent credits include “Deathcember’s: A Christmas Miracle” (2019) by Vivienne Vaughn and Tribeca Untold Stories Grant winner “Lucky Grandma.”

Before turning her attention to producing, Maya worked in marketing and distribution at The Weinstein Company on ‘The Master’ (2012), at BBC America on the release of ‘Orphan Black’ Season 2 (2014) and at the Film Society of Lincoln Center on the 52nd New York Film Festival.  More recently, she has moonlighted in companies dedicated to female-driven content/ film makers, Refinery 29 & Maven Pictures.  She is a Columbia University Creative Producing MFA Graduate ’19, a finalist of the Marcie Bloom/Sony Fellowship ’17, The Sarah Jones Film Foundation Grant ’18 and a proud member of NYWIFT, WIFT, BAFTA and PGA. She will produce her first feature, Can Turedi’s ‘The Archer,’ in December 2019.

Maya Korn poses at the 2019 Screamfest Film Festival with the star of the film ‘Glass Cabin’, actress Revell Carpenter.

Maya Korn had “a blast” attending this year’s Screamfest Film Festival in Hollywood.  She sat down with The LA Beat to share her thoughts on the festival, her film ‘Glass Cabin’ (in which she served as its executive producer), and the challenges and rewards of being a visionary female film producer in a business that continues to be male dominated:

Your latest film ‘Glass Cabin’ received its debut here in Hollywood (October 14th) at the annual Screamfest Film Festival.  What made you decide to choose this particular event for the film’s debut screening?

Screamfest is one of America’s oldest horror festivals, and friends who have played it have had a wonderful time.  So when we got in, it was a no-brainer to accept!

As the film’s executive producer, what do you feel made ‘Glass Cabin’ stand apart as unique from the many other films shown at this year’s Screamfest?

This is a film about female anxiety and paranoia, and as a woman this is very potent and close to my heart. Horror is historically quite a male genre, so exploring these themes in such a public forum I hope makes it stand apart!

This is your first time attending Screamfest, and ‘Glass Cabin’ is the first executive production of yours to be screened at this annual festival.  Are you enjoying attending this event, and what was your most memorable experience at this event?

I’m having a great time, absolutely.  I’ve enjoyed the shorts blocks I saw October 13th the most. I also loved the zombie that followed us on the black carpet, opening night.

Your films are renowned for their unique ability to explore-even celebrate-the dual nature of humanity and the world around us; its beauty and menacing underbelly.  What artistic techniques do you employ in order to achieve that mean feat?

For me, probably quite a boring answer, story is the most important. So getting the script in the best shape possible at the first stage is paramount for the film’s art/visual. I’m a big fan of more naturalistic-looking films, verite, where the acting stands out with not too many bells and whistles. For horror, I avoid VFX and work with puppets and practical as much as possible. With ‘Glass Cabin’ I know Can Türedi the director would 100% say composition, sound mix and design are crucial, both to this film and his process in general.

For me, one of the most compelling aspects of the films you produce is that they explore the female experience and perspective, recognizing its unique qualities from that of the masculine perspective/attitudes.  On almost every level of their production (screenplay, direction, etc.) you usually employ women.  That makes you almost stand alone in today’s cinema, and is a radical departure from female producers from the past, such as Lucille Ball. Why do you think this is rarely seen in the films produced by most of today’s female producers?

That’s hard for me to answer, as I know my contemporaries are all extremely passionate about giving women opportunities, female stories and crews. I know there is discussion of some women being protective of what they’ve carved out in a world that doesn’t favor us, and kicking the ladder down behind them once they’ve reached a certain level, but it’s not been my experience. The women in horror that I know, rally round each other, lift each other up and mentor. They’re badass!

Unlike many other current film producers, you encourage your directors to fully explore their own ideas and artistic vision, free from constraints.  In which of your films do you feel this approach worked the best to enhance the film’s artistic merit?

The film I think this process is working best in is the film I’m working on with the ‘Glass Cabin’ director Can Türedi. We’re slated to shoot ’The Archer’ in December. It’s our first feature, and I feel what we’re building is the culmination of everything I’ve learnt.

Of all your films to date, which one/ones do you feel explore the most daring themes?

My Columbia thesis film, ‘Ex Voto’ was a female revenge horror involving castration that was supposed to explore and raise awareness about gender based killing in Mexico. It’s heavy, it’s beautiful and although we can’t announce it, will hopefully be premiering end of this month.

Up to this point, your films have all been independent productions. In the future, do you  foresee yourself branching out from the ‘Indie’ market into the mainstream?

I think if the right project came along, I would go mainstream. For now, I enjoy the freedom, creativity and flexibility the independent horror space gives me and my directors. If we went commercial/ studio there would have to be a lot of creative assurances so our work is protected. One also has to eat and survive, so the pay grade of a commercial picture is definitely tempting.

All photos courtesy of Chic Art, all rights reserved.

Shirley Pena

About Shirley Pena

A native of Southern California, Shirley Peña began her career as a music journalist almost twenty years ago, writing for her websites "Stars In My Eyes: the Girlhowdy Website" and "La Raza Rock!" and progressed to creating various fan sites on Yahoo, including the first for New Zealand singer/songwriter Tim Finn. From there, she became a free agent, arranging online interviews for Yahoo fan clubs with various music artists (Andy White, John Crawford, Debora Iyall, John Easdale, etc.). She also lent her support in creating and moderating a number of Yahoo fan clubs for various music artists from the 1990s-today. As a music journalist, Shirley Peña has contributed to a number of magazines (both hard copy and online), among them: Goldmine, American Songwriter, Classic Drummer Magazine and UK-based Keyboard Player (where she was a principal journalist). A self-confessed "fanatic" of 1960s "British Invasion" bands, Classic Rock and nostalgic "Old Hollywood ", she also keeps her finger on the pulse of current trends in music, with a keen eye for up and coming artists of special merit. Shirley Peña loves Los Angeles, and is thrilled to join the writing staff of The Los Angeles Beat!
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