INTERVIEW: Shudder’s Robin Jones Talks Horror, Being a Woman in the Film Industry, and More
Robin Jones is a producer and content developer for AMC’s streaming services SHUDDER and Sundance Now. She just celebrated her one year work anniversary and sat down for a chat about all things horror, feminism, and film.
Nerds and Beyond: Tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Robin Jones: I’m a 33-year-old single-working mother/producer/extraordinaire for AMC’s streaming services Shudder and Sundance Now. I’m pretty sure that is my bio verbatim on THE LEAGUE. Please send husbands.
Nerds and Beyond: How did you come to work for Shudder?
Robin: The short story is, I’ve been friends with our curator Sam Zimmerman for many years. We bonded one night in a karaoke bar in East L.A. to “Call Your Girlfriend” by Robyn who spells her name the way I chose to in high school because I thought using a “Y” instead of an “I” would make me look fashionably quirky.
Nerds and Beyond: What makes you passionate about film, and when did you know you wanted to pursue a career in the film industry?
Robin: I grew up in a house where my parents were extremely codependent, and we were sort of treated as an accessory and only acknowledged when it was convenient for them, so TV was my babysitter. Luckily, my folks were also eccentric writers, so we had an incredible collection of books on just about everything, as well as a satellite dish in the backyard that was the size of a large jacuzzi. Basically, I am The Cable Guy. I even had a lisp. There wasn’t a defining moment of realization where I knew for sure I wanted to be in film and TV; I just always knew that’s what I would do and didn’t feel like I had much of a choice in the matter. Still don’t.
Nerds and Beyond: What do you love about horror as a genre?
Robin: I love that horror lets me live my perversions out loud without shame.
Nerds and Beyond: What are you favorite horror films/shows?
Robin: This is the hardest question, and happens to also be the one I get most frequently and the answer is constantly evolving. Today, a few of my favorite horror films are The Innocents, Don’t Look Now, Poltergeist (1982), The Thing, Jaws, The Other, Alien, The Brood, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, the list goes on forever. As for horror television: The Real Housewives of Orange County and Intervention.
Nerds and Beyond: Why do you think horror resonates so strongly in our current social climate?
Robin: I think horror resonates right now, specifically because it provides us a certain amount of emotionally safe catharsis. We are living in a terrifying time politically and for people like me, wallowing in that horror makes it a little less scary. I imagine it works similarly to exposure therapy.
Nerds and Beyond: Producing/film making is still a pretty male-dominated industry. What is it like being a woman working in film production/development?
Robin: What is it like being a woman in film development? Well it can suck. I have the luxury of working in an office of men who tend to be woke AF and are highly supportive of me and my feminist agenda, thank God (if I believed in her). And I have not always been so lucky. That being said, more often than not, I’m the only woman in the room in meetings and I often find myself fighting for a perspective that should already exist. Over 50% of our audience is female. We are making strides in catering to that audience but we, as in horror fans and creators, still have a long way to go. Do I still get sexually harassed in a post-Weinstein world? Yes. Do people make assumptions about me based on my gender? Yes. Is my point of view taken less seriously because I don’t have a dick? YES. Do I have to fight harder to be heard? Oh yeah. But not in my office. I work closely with three other men on the Shudder/Sundance Now Originals team, and they all treat me with respect, because they are good people and not because they are afraid of losing their jobs. I’m grateful for that.
Nerds and Beyond: What is it like being a woman working specifically in horror?
Robin: It’s super weird. Most of my friends didn’t know about my love affair with horror until I started working at Shudder. I only occasionally wear horror themed t-shirts, I’m not a fan of push-up bras, my hair isn’t dyed, and I don’t talk film unless provoked. From the outside, I’m entirely boring. I do not wear my genre on my sleeve. Literally. I have no tattoos. Not that there is anything wrong with any of that. Some of my closest friends are covered in tattoos. (Cough cough, Ryan Turek, cough cough.) I envy people who can express their identity in that way. I imagine that it’s easier to meet like-minded folks if you can spot a fellow fanatic in a crowd. I’ll also say that this is a male-dominated genre that has probably been the hardest on women. My unpopular opinion is that the “Final Girl” trope didn’t do us any favors. But times, they are a changin’, and our creators are continuing to get smarter, which means female roles are getting more meaty. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m all for tits and gore, but I would also like my female characters to have some complexity, and I don’t believe they need to be brutalized in order to have depth.
Nerds and Beyond: Who are your favorite female horror directors, and what are your favorite female driven horror films?
Robin: Oh, this is a fun one. Favorite female driven horror films. I’ve already mentioned Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, which is one of my favorite films of all time. I could write an essay on it but I’ll just let everyone reading actually watch it. I thought Stoker was fantastic and wet-dreamy in all the right psycho-sexual ways. I was born in the 80s, so I definitely have a fondness for 90s driven horror films like Scream, Practical Magic (romantic horror is an underrated sub-genre), Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Craft, and Silence of the Lambs. Female horror directors – Roxanne Benjamin who did XX, VHS and Southbound and who we just announced is doing an episode of CREEPSHOW for us. I’m looking forward to seeing Chelsea Stardust’s new film Satanic Panic. Axelle Carolyn is killing it writing The Chilling Tales of Sabrina. Rockstars like Karyn Kusama, Julia Ducournau, Anna Biller, Coralie Fargeat, Chloe Okuna, Arkasha Stevenson, Jennifer Kent — these are all ladies I hope to work with.
Nerds and Beyond: Are there any upcoming films and shows from Shudder that you can talk about?
Robin: As a matter of fact, we made a couple of announcements this last week. I just got back from Atlanta where we are currently shooting a TV series reboot of the 1982 classic CREEPSHOW with [The Walking Dead‘s] Greg Nicotero at the helm. We’ve got more Joe Bob Briggs coming your way. Horror Noire recently premiered on our service, which is our first original documentary on the history of Black Horror, and we have another fantastic project called Cursed Films, which is a high-end docuseries deep-dive into — you guessed it — cursed film productions. We have some super badass podcasts coming up too, but I can’t quite talk about those yet.
Nerds and Beyond: We have a few nerdy quick questions. Favorite movie?
Robin: The Innocents or The Last Picture Show
Nerds and Beyond: Favorite book?
Robin: Anything Augusten Burrows, David Sedaris or Miranda July
Nerds and Beyond: Favorite band?
Robin: Don’t have one but I love Etta James and Patsy Cline. Big fan of torch songs.
Nerds and Beyond: Favorite word?
Robin: One!? I’ll give you a few: “colloquial,” “verisimilitude,” “climactic,” “acquiesce,” and I’ve always liked “flabbergasted,” because it sounds like what a child might name a particularly aggressive fart.
Nerds and Beyond: Finally, if you could be any famous movie monster, who would you be and why?
Robin: The Invisible Man — my favorite of the Universal monster movies and also because, like I said earlier, I’m a total perv.
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