Monday, 18 February 2013

Have You Ever - Lianne Spiderbaby: Delving into Exploitation Films and Her Journey To Becoming a Successful Author

Lianne Spiderbaby's life has turned into a kind of fairy tale life as of late. A city girl growing up in the GTA, she had lived a fairly normal life riding horses, teaching elementary school, and freelance writing on the side for the popular horror magazine, Fangoria (among many others). Spiderbaby went to the University of Toronto to study cinema and later went on to teacher's college to pursue a career as an elementary school teacher - a career she would have been happy pursuing still if she wasn't busy building a life for herself in Los Angeles, California.  To say things have changed this past year would be an understatement. Over the course of this last year she has become a newly published author of her first book called Grindhouse Girls: Cinema's Hardest Working Women (being released later this year by St. Martin's Press), has gone public with her relationship with Quentin Tarantino (you may have heard of him), has recently attended the Golden Globes, and is now moving to Los Angeles to further pursue her rapidly growing writing career. It has been a whirlwind of amazing events indeed! I had the pleasure of interviewing Lianne the other week to talk about how her writing journey started, her new book, and what her plans are for the future. Her dreams certainly have become a reality with so many awesome opportunities to come in the future.

LG: So Lianne…tell me what your dreams were growing up?

LS: Growing up I wanted to be four different things - a much music VJ, a historian (or history professor) and then an actress or a lawyer. It was just ridiculous. When I went to university my parents encouraged me to take whatever I wanted to take…whatever I liked, so I did that and took a cinema studies course. My professor in my first year course was phenomenal and so inspiring and it was just really fun! I finally felt like I found a place where I belonged.  

LG: What did you experience after you completed your Cinema Studies degree?

Dial M For Murder
LS: When I graduated I had a few experiences in the film industry and I didn’t like it, which was disappointing to me. I didn’t want to work 12-hour days, and even tried to make a little student movie but that didn’t work out. I wrote it and I tried to direct it and realized I didn’t enjoy that part of it. I sort of came to a crossroads and wondered what I was going to do.

LG: So what did you do in the meantime while figuring out what to do?

LS: I definitely knew that film sets and contract–to-contract work was not how I wanted to work with film. I always worked with children at summer camps and I enjoyed it and enjoyed the hours. I am a very structured person, so Monday to Friday 8-3 p.m. was ideal for me. I applied to teacher’s college and I got in. I taught elementary school for three years and still do really like that job. I substitute teach occasionally and work with children. When the writing became more prominent that has been where I have been focusing my attention.

LG: Were you into writing before university? Or did that develop while you were in university?

LS: Getting out of university writing is what I knew HOW to do. I wasn’t really a writer in high school. I have always had creative outlets, as I was kind of a strange kid but writing was never in the forefront. When you’re in university you HAVE to write, so I was doing a lot of that and it kind of branched out from there. However, it was something I couldn’t do [professionally] until I was confident that I could do it well to a certain degree. You have got to have the gumption to get up and go and make it for yourself. No one is getting freelancing jobs by sitting on their ass. Even sending an email to anyone and say "I’d like to freelance for you", you have to have some confidence in your ability and I definitely did not have that all throughout high school and university.
LG: What was the defining moment for you that you thought "I can do this"? Was it when you were working with Fangoria?

LS: No, it was before then.  I just wanted to write about things that I loved, so I started with that, and then I started submitting to Fangoria.  I didn’t really have confidence in my writing abilities until I wrote an article called I Spit On Your Movie: A Critique of the I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE remake and I received great praise for it.  I also received criticisms for it – mostly from trolls the wonderful people online.  But you have to expect that in horror genre writing.

LG:  How did you find out about Fangoria magazine and how long have you been with the magazine?  

Article in Fangoria
LS: My older brother read it as a kid so I knew about Fangoria through him. I started working for Fangoria almost 2 ½ years ago. I started with Fango because I was turned down by the magazine Rue Morgue, a lesser known magazine, and it pissed me off. In my early twenties I had done a lot of volunteering with Rue Morgue as it was a Toronto based horror magazine. Rue Morgue was probably the best horror publication out there so when I actually started writing, I submitted to them first to give me some feedback. The editor at the time said we don’t need freelance writers right now and to try back in a couple of months, and I was kind of bummed out about it.  I decided to go higher up and contacted the editor at Fangoria who I knew through Rue Morgue as he also wrote for them in the past. I wanted to have them read a couple of reviews to see if they could use me in the future. He read my stuff and then put me on assignment right away. My first interview was kind of weird – it went on for 5 hours on a Friday night with the late Sage Stallone (he passed away last July), who is Sylvester Stallone’s son. The article I wrote was so-so but my second article went really well and I have been freelancing with them ever since.

LG: Horror movies are certainly an acquired taste and an interesting field to want to get into. I personally am petrified of these films so where did your interest in horror films come from? What inspired you to get into this field?  

LS: I have three half brothers and whenever they came to my house on the weekends they always wanted to watch horror films. They would pick the movie, and I would stay up and watch it with them. I don’t remember if I loved them when I was younger, but I think it was probably more about being cool to my brothers. By the time I got to university I just wanted to do something different that not everyone else was doing and wanted to write about the movies that other people were not writing about. And I wanted to explore the fact that I really did like horror films a lot. They get a bad wrap for being sexist and stereotyping women so I wanted to explore that as well.  You slowly find your way into exploitation films as you dig deeper into the horror genre (once you've seen all the mainstream films). My final essay in university was about Grindhouse theatres and about exploitation films that were shown in them, so that is where my interest started and that is what lead me to underground horror niches and then eventually to my new book Grindhouse Girls.

LG: Yes! You have your first book coming out later this year called “Grindhouse Girls: Cinema's Hardest Working Women which is very exciting - congratulations! Tell me what the the premise is for this book.

LS: The book profiles and celebrates 17 different actresses (Tura Satana, Dyanne Thorne, Pam Grier, and Camille Keaton to name a few) that were involved in exploitation films in the 1970’s, and looks at the films and theorizes them as feminist subjects in some degree.  Yes these films are exploitive – sexy, and racy with a lot of nudity - but I think these films today can be looked at with a different lens than when they were looked at in the 1970’s.  I think all of them are political commentaries in some shape or form. The book is a social commentary and it parallels throughout history.  It talks about exploitation films in an academic and feminist light, which has not really been done yet.

LG: Do you think this book will allow people to understand the world of exploitation films a bit better - in a more accurate light? Perhaps drop any of the stigmas attached to them?

LS: Absolutely.  In the 70s-80s-90s, there was a resurge in popularity of film noir movies – and in part, that was because of feminist film theory being written on about the femme fatale in noir films. I think modern women took a great interest in these femme fatale characters – characters that were once looked upon as evil women out for their own interests.  Women started to conceptualize these femme fatales as empowering, and I think that now that several years have gone by since the 1970s, women can view these strong women in exploitation films the same way.  I make a case for it throughout the book, and each actress featured is a perfect example – in their own and very diverse way.

LG: What inspired you to even write this book?

LS: Well I was watching all the exploitation films for my final essay I had to write in university, so I already had a scope of what the movies were all about. I really liked them and found them hilarious and very self-aware.  These films were all coming out in a period of time where movies were really pushing the envelope in the 1970’s, so I found it fascinating that these really shocking movies were coming out with all the political issues happening in the U.S at that time. The book sort of came to be when I interviewed actress Lynn Lowry (George Romero's Shivers, Radley Metzger's Score) for my second interview with Fangoria.  Score was being re-released on Blu-Ray and DVD, and she had done a lot of horror and exploitation films in the 1970’s. Her whole story was really fascinating – she is a cult status figure now and is getting back into acting because people are rediscovering her work. We were at ease talking to each other because it was woman to woman and she normally gets interviewed by men. I went back into the movies and saw things that were almost feminist and how woman were portrayed and started contacting people who could connect me with the actresses.

LG: How much research was involved in writing Grindhouse Girls

LS: A lot – especially because I watched so many films in preparation and then re-watched the films to discuss them in the book. Plus I was conducting interviews with the actresses when I could get them, and doing the research online and in fan magazines and books on the actresses (of which there are very few).  I found commentaries on DVDs really helpful – there’s a lot of information in the director and/or actor commentaries.  It was a lot of work, but again – it was about something I loved and was very interested in – so it didn’t feel like work at all.

LG:  With all this research involved, how long did it take for you to actually write your book? And are you proud of the outcome? 

LS: I’m so proud of it.  It took me a year to finish, but after sitting down with Quentin (Tarantino), he told me which chapter he liked the best and why and then I went back into the book and added a lot more, reworked some things, etc.  It’s currently in the editing phase, in the hands of my wonderful editor, and we’re toning down the academic language a bit to make it more accessible.  I’m so proud of the outcome.  Start to finish, including signing the papers for publishing, it’s been a two year process.

LG: Oh yes! Quentin Tarantino. He is penning the foreword in your book! How did this come about? That's pretty exciting - especially for your first book!

Lianne & Quentin at the 2012Golden Globes
LS: Tarantino and I were kind of running in the same circles – Eli Roth is a mutual friend of ours, and Quentin subscribes to three different magazines that I write for.  He’s my favorite film director, and he had heard about me from my writing and mutual friends.  We started talking online on Facebook, actually.  He deleted his account while leading up to filming Django Unchained but we kept in touch, and I was in LA often, so we decided to meet up.  I told him all about my book and told him that it would be really meaningful if he could be a part of it somehow – since Grindhouse and Death Proof in particular influenced my interest in exploitation films when I was in university.  He agreed, which I was so excited about.  Our relationship now is pretty public since the Golden Globes.  Write a book – you could find love, too  [laughs]!

LG: Well that is an amazing story in itself Lianne! Congratulations :) 

LG: Now, writing can be a challenging thing sometimes to keep motivated with if you aren't in the right frame of mind at the time. You may be tired, or frustrated, or lacking inspiration certain days which makes it hard to keep going. What kept you motivated to write each day? Did you ever want to give up? 

LS: No, it’s really just as simple as I love writing about things that I love, so it’s quite easy to stay motivated.  I’m lucky to not have the kind of writing job where I HAVE to go online and write about relationship advice or something like that.  I’m lucky that I don’t have to do that to make ends meet – that mundane, forced to write about shit I don’t care about is never a factor in my writing.  I only write about what I want to write about, and I’m fortunate enough – especially in the case of my book – to get paid well to do it.

LG: Getting paid to do what you love is a huge bonus! Something we all strive for most definitely in life! And being an aspiring writer myself and seeing you get paid to live your dream, how does a writer become successful in your opinion?

LS: Commit to writing everyday, even if it’s just for 20 minutes.  That’s why I think it’s important for every writer to have a blog.  Even if you have five minutes and only something small you want to say, there is an outlet for it.  As far as writing books, I would give myself personal deadlines.  I gave myself two weeks per chapter, and when I’m writing full-time, I give myself four days per chapter.

LG: Will you be doing many book launches and traveling to promote Grindhouse Girls? 

LS: I’m not sure what my publisher has in store for me yet, but I’m hoping to have a launch party in LA and a launch party in Toronto!

LG: Well I definitely will be attending your book launch in Toronto! What do you strive for next, after Grindhouse Girls is released to the public? What are your future aspirations? More movies/acting? Modeling?

LS: Writing, writing, and more writing.  I’m already working on another book called Hipsteria: A Film History Of Hipster Culture and I’m working on a fiction book of stories, as well.  The fiction writing is just a bit of fun, I’m not sure I will ever do anything with it.  It’s very Girls – Lena Dunham-ish.

LG: Sounds awesome! Oh hipsters. Trying to not conform but ending up conforming within the little culture they have built! Look forward to reading it! Have you prepared yourself for any media scrutiny regarding your book? Being in the public eye can sometimes require a backbone

LS: I try to have a sense of humor about it.  There were pictures of me in The Daily Mail [a UK online magazine] in a bikini on a yacht with Quentin, and I felt like shit for a week. I was bloated anyway – sporting a frozen-margarita-three-enchilada-filled tummy (I’m on vacation!) and to be shot in a crazy zoom lens, on a WIDE angle lens is quite awful.  I don’t look bad or anything – but it was embarrassing for me. Oh, and I’m wearing a snorkel mask as well.  It’s pretty much the hottest thing, ever. I have a sense of humor about it now, though. I wrote about it on my blog, Daydream Nation.

LG: Well you are beautiful girl so I’m happy you are trying to make light of things! The media can certainly be evil.  

On a side note...

Lianne Spiderbaby with Jack Hill, director of Spider Baby
LG: Where in the heck did you get the name Spiderbaby from? Would you ever consider changing your name permanently?? Are you going to use your real surname for your book?

LS: I would never change my name permanently, no.  It was just a name I took because I had the foresight of knowing that I did not want my professional career to conflict with the fact that I wrote for horror magazines. SPIDER BABY is a 1968 film directed by Jack Hill that I absolutely love.  It’s such a great film, and is one of those timeless and strange horror films that you know you will love forever.  I’m a big fan of Jack Hill, and I actually had the pleasure of meeting him in person at a recent Academy screening of SPIDER BABY in Los Angeles! I liked the name, and I loved the film, so I adopted it for my own use!  Jack knows about it of course, and I have his approval.

On another side note...

LG: I see you also have a YouTube channel called Fright Bytes which is pretty successful, that you do with your brother. How and why did you decide to start that channel?

LS: Everyone when they are reading something, likes to know where it comes from. If they feel that they have an attachment to the writer they will then make a point of going out and getting the magazines that the author has written in. It gives the author a persona. I think it’s important and I think that’s what makes good writers so I just figured I would do something on YouTube. Initially a friend of mine who has a successful video game channel on YouTube (where he actually makes money off of YouTube) had me on as a guest host during one of his own episodes to review The Walking Dead Season One. He said a lot of people were commenting that I should do something like this after they saw the episode so we ended up doing two other episodes together.  We decided to part ways soon after due to scheduling conflicts, and since I lived with my brother at the time, we decided to join forces and set up a show together. There are indie filmmakers that we know through friends that do little introductions for us as it's publicity for them and they like doing them. As well, because it's some of the people I have interviewed for the magazine I actually will personally send them the episodes and they will make an introduction for us. It's been really fun!

Zombies, exploitation films, dead genesis episode 5

LG: That's amazing! How awesome to be able to do something like that with your brother! Looking forward to future episodes.

LG: So we are down to our last question! The theme of my blog is “Have You Ever” so I have to ask you - HAVE YOU EVER looked back at your life thus far and have gone WTF?? How did this happen? How did I get here??? 

LS: Everyday.  Literally, this time last year (early February), I was unhappy in a relationship, my childhood horse had just passed away which devastated me, I felt like I had hit a wall with my writing because my book had been turned down by three publishers (I was rejected four times before nailing the publisher that I actually wanted – St. Martin’s Press), and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.  A year later, I have the publisher I wanted, I got a great advance for the book, I can write for any horror outlet I want (editors are always willing to read my stuff and give me a shot since I have some credibility), I live with Quentin and we’re happy as hell, and I’m going to the Oscars at the end of the month!  I think when things are meant to be, and you get on the right track, and you work hard to overcome the hurdles, you will end up where you should be and you will be happy.  Everything just fell into place this year like a puzzle – so while hard work is EXTREMELY important and networking is my number one piece of advice for writers and anyone working in entertainment in any capacity – I would also say that if it’s meant to be, you will feel it.  Opportunities will present themselves if you’re on the right track, and you will be rewarded for your hard work.

Some great advice indeed. If you want to learn more about Lianne Spiderbaby and check out some of her work please visit: - Fangoria Magazine - Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine - Cineplex Magazine - Video Watchdog Magazine

If you're interested in watching some of Lianne's top exploitation film picks here they are:

1) The Big Doll House
2) Coffy
3) Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!
4) Amuck (Italian film)
5) Bonnie's Kids
6) Thriller aka They Call Her One Eye


  1. Love Lianne so much!! Great interview. <3

  2. Happy you enjoyed it :) She's great! Pass the article along if you'd like!

  3. Radly Metzger's film is called Score, not The Score.

  4. Miss Spiderbaby's website, Twitter, blog and Youtube channels all seem to have simultaneously disappeared for some odd reason.

  5. Busted... for plagiarism

  6. Lianne has been outed as a serial plagiarist of numerous other writers' work on the Internet. She partially plagiarized my IMDb review of "I Dismember Mama" for her "review" of the same movie for the website FEARnet. That book should never be published and she deserves to be deported back to Canada.

  7. How can you be a successful author if all you did plagiarize?

  8. Thank you for all your comments. It's clear this was done before I knew about the plagiarism scandal.

  9. Funny how that she was MY elementary school teacher and she spent a well amount of time telling us NOT to plagerize...