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Director Vera Miao Talks Bringing Representation To Horror Film

May 2, 2017

Aspiring filmmakers and directors hop off flights at JFK and LAX every single day, all hoping to get their big break in large cities like New York or Los Angeles. The film industry is competitive and in no way an easy field to enter, regardless of what side of production a Hollywood hopeful is aiming for. But for Guam-born director and writer Vera Miao, that big break is coming with the Tribeca Film Festival at Tribeca N.O.W. (new online work)—a program that features and celebrates short films and shows streaming on the internet, arguably the direction in which all media and media consumption is heading.

Miao’s new show Two Sentence Horror Stories derives from the popular Reddit thread where online horror heads, a term for fans of scary movies used by Miao herself, attempt to tell a spooky tale in only two sentences. An often dismissed genre, whether it be from utter fear or the belief that no good horror exists, Miao breaks down her love for [horror] by finding a way to humanize what she says most ghost stories are about; grief. “[Horror films] are about loneliness, they’re about abandonment and longing. I love the whole strain of horror that explores those feelings,” Miao begins. “Horror can scare you on a whole bunch of different levels. It can be immediate fear, like by making you jump…it can also really poke at our deepest fears of being alone, or about being left. Or about dying. Or about being helpless.”

An actress-turned-director, the 41-year-old Asian American filmmaker is now back in her home state of New York from LA to premiere her new online show. As a woman of color, however, getting to the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival wasn’t exactly something that was handed to her the moment she arrived in LA from her Long Island hometown. Working as an actress in the City of Angels for a number of years, Miao, a self-described impatient person, wasn’t going to settle for the typecast roles typically offered to Asian women in Hollywood. “There’s just no roles for Asian women that aren’t basically background or just moving the plot along,” Miao says, adding, “I started writing and producing my own stuff relatively early on, and directing kind of evolved out of that.”

And now Miao is the creator, writer, producer, and primary director of her own Two Sentence Horror Stories, an anthology series heavily influenced by shows like The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror, and horror directors such as Roman Polanski, Alfred Hitchcock, and Tomas Alfredson, the director of the Swedish film Let the Right Ones In, which Miao hands down cites as her favorite film.

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