Women in Horror Month Spotlight: Kailey Marsh
Dread Central has always been cool, but we just got cooler after sitting down with
Dread Central: Let’s jump right in. Why do you love horror?
Kailey Marsh: I’ve loved horror my whole life. I’m still someone who gets scared easily, and because of that it’s a genre that I feel really connected to.
As I started my professional career, it was one of those genres where I felt not a lot of people specialized in at the time. It’s a passion that has also turned out to be a great business.
So, I love it for a lot of reasons. The interesting mythology, and you the ability to create the types of monsters that are timeless.
DC: Have any recent movies really freaked you out?
KM: For work, I’m constantly looking back at older movies. I recently re-watched I Know What You Did Last Summer, and I got scared. It was the scene where Sarah Michelle Gellar’s character was in her sister’s store and trying to get out. I re-watched The Strangers. That’s still one of the scariest movies. Then, a movie I didn’t expect to get scared by was 47 Meters Down. It was tense. Then, there were three movies in the theater that scared me more than other movies: The Descent, Jeepers Creepers, and probably the most recent, The Conjuring (though it was a while ago now).
DC: Going back to 47 Meters Down, that movie freaked me out as well. Open water like that scares me. Seriously, what do you do in that kind of situation?
KM: You’re so far below the Earth’s surface that you will never be able to just swim up. If you try to, your eardrum could burst and not to mention there are sharks around you. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time watching that movie.
DC: I get it. And The Conjuring is crazy as well, supernatural horrors always stick in my brain.
KM: I don’t blame you. What’s interesting about The Conjuring is it’s a haunted house, haunted family story and familiar world. But clearly, it’s James Wan, and he is a real expert in the genre. It really gets under your skin, and you care about the characters. I like that it was a period piece and that it was rooted in real mythology with the Warren family. I felt the same way about Paranormal Activity the first time I ever saw it. I was sitting next to my first boss Steven Schneider at a screening. He was one of the producers on it and I remember asking him after I watched it for the first time, even though I knew it was fake, “So, none of that was real?”
DC: What was it like being part of the Paranormal Activity project?
KM: Well, no one was really a part of the movie besides Oren Peli and the few members of his crew. But in terms of the acquisition of it, I was an assistant, so I was seeing what Jason Blum, Steven Schneider, Brian Kavanaugh-Jones and a lot of people who are integral to the movie did to help it get to the big screen. I was super young, still in college for like half of it, and it was an interesting struggle. There were a group of people who believed in it. Oren Peli, the filmmaker behind it and still a close friend of mine, from what I remember through the entire process was saying, “Yeah. This movie is going to get released, I believe it’s going to be a huge success.” He was very positive, assertive, and smart, and never stopped believing in it.
DC: It’s inspiring that Mr. Peli remained positive throughout the process. We all have good and bad days, however in your industry, how do you remain positive?
KM: This business is really hard, and I do think of stuff like that when I can. I’ve been to have success both personally and with my clients, but it wasn’t easy. We’ve worked really hard for it. Success stems back from working hard.
DC: On that note, I’d like to ask: inside or outside of the horror industry, what woman or women do you look up to?
KM: Cynthia Pett, our co-president at Brillstein, is incredible and has had a really long career. Also, I know this is a very corny thing to say, but I’m obsessed with Oprah. Always have been.
I’m also inspired by my mom, who has gone through a lot. I think the best thing about her is that she always let me do what I wanted and knew that I wasn’t going to do anything stupid. She persisted that I move out to LA from Florida. Growing up, she would take me to a lot of movies and buy me a lot of VHS/DVDs because she knew I had a goal of watching as much as I could!
DC: That’s so awesome. Is your mom a horror fan?
KM: She is but she doesn’t get scared by anything—at all. I was trying to scare her by getting her to watch The Babadook, and It Follows. She watched both and said, “These aren’t scary, but they’re good. Next!”
DC: You mentioned The Babadook and It Follows, which rocked my life. Do you have a top three favorite horror movie list?
KM: Yes. The Shining is my favorite movie of all time. I feel like everyone says that because it is such an incredible movie. At this point, I have seen it like 30 or 40 times. I have so much Shining memorabilia in my house. I love The Stuff too. I would love to remake it. I even got a canister from it. I love a lot of movies about consumerism. I just love the thought of people becoming obsessed with something so much that it takes over them and then the world. Movies like Gremlins, The Blob, Soylent Green, They Live. All these movies have really similar themes.
I also love Scream, slashers, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Candyman,
DC: You’re speaking to my soul. You said some great ones, but you just said Dolls.
KM: I live for Dolls. I love it.
DC: Same here. You know, I adore Rosemary, even though she was just terrible, she was so fabulous. Everyone typically has a backstory why they checked out a particular movie, what’s yours?
KM: The reason I even found that movie is because I pretty much lived at video stores. I’m sure all of us horror fans did. I would walk by greats like Chopping Mall and Christine and all these interesting covers, and then Dolls. Seeing the doll with the missing eye, I thought, “Wow. That is such a cool cover.” And that’s the reason why I rented it. I probably watched that movie fifteen times during the five days I rented it from 20/20 Video. They used to have five movies for five dollars for five days. So, I would do that. I would always get The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies. I feel like I was renting the same movies over and over.
DC: Seems like it brought you a lot of joy, which is always good. But I have to go back to Candyman. Maybe I’m just immature, but I couldn’t stop laughing at the one part when Helen was at the hospital and Candyman killed the doctor. He could’ve just left silently, but he broke the windows. Talk about dramatic. Not only do you make her seem like a psychopathic killer, but now she is destroying company property. Who’s going to pay for these damages? Maybe I just laughed at it a little too much.
KM: That’s hilarious. I haven’t thought about that. The part I always thought was funny was how they kept returning to the bathroom where the murders happened. She got beat up in that bathroom. I was like, “Why is all this stuff happening in the bathroom?”
DC: So what advice would you give women striving to do what you are doing?
KM: I feel like your taste must be very authentic, because that is all you have, your point of view until you’re more established. And being the “horror person” was a good way to open doors for me and be a person that people were coming to for something specific. And once I wanted to broaden out to thriller, sci-fi and dark drama, I could. If someone calls me for one thing, I could say, “And don’t you guys also like comedies, I have this comedy writer.” I was able to use my love of horror as a way in. You want people to know what kind of client to send you, material to send you, and stuff you will respond to.
At the end of the day, everything is collaborative. When I was on my own, it was very much my name on the door. It was Kailey Marsh Media. I was kind of relying on myself for everything. I had an assistant and great client, but I really was betting on myself. I did that for almost six years, and I feel that the only way I was able to sustain such a good business by the end of it was because people knew what to come to me for. And if you don’t have that, I don’t know. There’re so many scripts out there and there’s so many managers, so many writers, and so many projects, and no one really has time to do all the stuff that they’re currently doing. Everyone is yearning to only spend time on the things that they love. When you’re specific with people, and you get a reputation for sending material to people that is good, they’ll start calling you for material. But until then, you’re not going to be an incoming call business if you don’t start as an outgoing call business.
DC: Did you always know that you wanted to be a literary manager?
KM: Well, no because I didn’t know what a manager was until I started in the industry. And the job of a manager is so complex. Every day my job changes, and that’s what I love about it. It keeps you on your toes. And with management does come producing. They come hand-in-hand. I started working at Circle of Confusion as an assistant before I worked with Steven Schneider. I worked for two managers, and they were both very different people. I got a good landscape for what it’s like to be a manager, at least two different kinds of managers. I think that I am somewhere in between the two managers that I worked with in terms of style and taste. But when I was there, they had a lot of interesting clients, and I was able to be a sponge.
DC: Thank you for offering that insight into your world. While I have you, I also wanted to talk about Light as a Feather, which rocked my life. First, what attracted you to that project?
KM: I love teens in peril show, soap operas, and horror. Those three things intersect in a really great way with Light as a Feather. I can’t tell you too much, but you will be seeing more of it. The author of the book had queried me through BloodList. I’ve been involved with the show since 2013, but we’re happy with the way it turned out. The first season is available on Hulu, and we just got a 16-episode order for season 2!
DC: (gasps) Are you serious? Season two?
KM: Yes! Without giving away too much, but the story will continue. And then the book got rereleased through Simon and Schuster, so we’re excited about that. Awesomeness TV and Hulu have been incredible to work with. I really love that we get to explore a lot of things. We have a diverse cast in a lot of different ways. I love the actors. We got to work with a lot of great directors. We had a female director for the pilot Stiff as a Board, a talented woman named Alexis Ostrander. It’s fun to work with clients on the series as well. I represent the showrunner R. Lee Fleming Jr., and my client Seth Sherwood is the co-executive producer while I am an executive producer on the series.
DC: I finished season one in a day and hated myself for not stretching it out. It was like a “what am I going to do now” type of thing. It really creeped me out, especially the graveyard scene. As a teenager, have you ever played light as a feather?
KM: I played light as a feather when I was young. I played Bloody Mary in the mirror a couple of times. Even when I saw Candyman the first time, I did the same thing there. Other than that, I’m superstitious. People have tried to get me to play with a Ouija board. I just refuse. I can’t. It’s not even that I believe in ghost or anything, but I believe in positivity versus negativity. I feel like Ouija boards tend to lean more negative.
DC: I hear that. Another thing about Light as a Feather was the wardrobe. I was getting a little obsessed over what they were going to wear next.
KM: I really love the wardrobe for it, too. Our costume designer Courtney Paige Stern was specific and went over each character. Also, we didn’t have that big of a budget, but I feel like they really wanted these girls to feel authentic. The style was attainable and accessible.
DC: If I was on the show, I would definitely ask to take some stuff home. What new projects can we keep a lookout for from you and your clients?
KM: I love being over at Brillstein Entertainment Partners as a manager / producer! There’s more Light as a Feather, which is exciting. I’m mostly focused on client projects right now. I’m producing a show at Legendary that’s a comedy. I’m an executive producer for a movie for Netflix, and some other awesome projects. I’m proud of my clients who have been kicking ass! I’m thrilled to be expanding BloodList, with Brillstein Entertainment Partners as it’s becoming a production entity. We have financing for one BloodList film already, which I can’t say too much about except it’s being pitched as CATFISH meets SIXTEEN CANDLES. It’s a fun, poppy, pulpy slasher.
DC: You’re awesome! Thank you so much for taking the time out and allowing us to pick your brain. I look forward to the projects you spoke about.
KM: Thank you so much, Zena!