Vengeance Is Her Name is an independent horror film about a woman who wakes up in Hell and must find out why. That logline is very intriguing, and I am sure that you want to know a lot more; well, we’ve got you covered. Check out the trailer and poster below for Vengeance Is Her Name and a Q&A with filmmaker Ryan Swantek on this film and others that he’s worked on.
A woman wakes up in a confined location with no memory of who she is or how she got there. Desperate for answers, she meets two people from her past who are also trapped in this location. As she learns more about her new reality, or lack thereof, she tries to come not grips with what is and isn’t happening. All she can do is listen and watch what is shown to her about her past and present. There is no fighting back, no amount of screaming matters, and nothing she can do to escape.
Vengeance Is Her Name – Poster
Trailer: Vengeance is Her Name
Q&A With Filmmaker Ryan Swantek
Filmmaker Ryan Swantek
iHorror: Where and how did filmmaking begin for you? (How’d you get into it)?
Ryan Swantek: Filmmaking began when I moved to beautiful Sarasota, Fl, from Toledo, Oh, at the end of 2015. I had always wanted to get into the industry, but there was no film scene in Toledo, no film schools, or any way to get on sets and start learning. Toledo is a very sports-based city; that’s what people care most about there. I’m not saying I don’t like sports, but I was no star athlete, and I was well aware of that. It’s crazy because everyone can name the athletes who have come from the city, but I bet a lot of people have no idea that Katie Holmes is from Toledo. You think that would be a huge deal for the city, considering she is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, but it’s just how it is. Sports are the dream that is sold to you to get you to bigger and better things, not movies. I had no idea what type of film scene was here in Southwest Florida when I got here, but I knew it had to be better than what was in Toledo. In 2016 I got on my first few film sets and started learning how everything works at multiple levels, from big-budget sets like TNT’s Claws to micro-budget passion projects. In 2017 I directed my first short film White Willow, and from there, I have been all in on trying to make a name for myself in the industry.
iH: Ryan, we last spoke about your horror short White Willow six years ago. Tell me, what have you been up to?
Short Film – White Willow
RS: There’s been a lot going on for me! I have done four other short films since White Willow, and I am extremely proud of each of them. They all taught me so much along the way leading up to my first feature. I never went to film school, so in a way, those short films were my film school. You can read articles and watch videos all day about filmmaking, but nothing compares to actually writing and directing something. It’s invaluable, and each short film taught me so much about every aspect of the industry. I have always prided myself on being a doer and not a talker. The entertainment industry is all about “show, don’t tell,” and I wanted to show what I was able to do with limited resources in my short films while building an audience. It already feels like a lifetime ago since White Willow; I was 24 when I directed that, and I’m 30 now. Every day I have tried to learn and take in as much as I can and get better at the craft of filmmaking, and ultimately get to the point where I can say I am a feature film director.
iH: You have a new trailer for a film you are working on, marking your first indie horror feature titled Vengeance Is Her Name. Where did the idea originate from? Why did you make this film?
RS: I am going to have to go back a few years to 2020 for this question. This is going to be a pretty long answer, but I hope this can give some insight into the brutal realities of the industry.
At the beginning of the year in January 2020, just before the pandemic, I directed a short film titled Rosary. This was a proof of concept type short that starred Alexis Knapp (Pitch Perfect franchise), who was also a producer on it with me. This project also had an original score by Joel J. Richard, who worked as a composer alongside Tyler Bates on this franchise called John Wick.
Short Film – Rosary
This was the biggest project I had done at that point in my filmmaking career. This was my first time working with a Hollywood actress, my first time working with a Hollywood composer, and my first time directing an action film; there was an immense amount of preparation that went into this project.
We wrapped before the world shut down and ended up finishing the project by the end of 2020. With this being a proof-of-concept film, the goal was always to get the feature made. This is where many realities of the industry punched me directly in the face and proceeded to stomp my head in while I was down. I never make anything to look good to people; I was making female-fronted films before it became a big issue in the industry. With that said, Rosary has everything that people started saying they wanted more of.
When we started taking it out to people, it was rejected across the board. I personally took it to a company run by one of the top actresses in Hollywood. From their inception, they have been talking about female-fronted action films and discovering emerging talent. They talked so much about it in the media that it seemed like a perfect fit for this film.
I genuinely thought it would be something they would like and want to take on. How could they not? It’s a badass film with Alexis Knapp and has music by Joel J. Richard; how could they say no? Also, to clarify, when I say I took it to them, it wasn’t an Instagram message; I spoke with the person in charge of content, went through the actress’s agency, filled out all the legal paperwork, and had it sent to them. It was rejected without any consideration. I’m not sure if the person I had been speaking with even watched it all the way through, which is ironic because they also mentioned in interviews that they all decided on a project together as a team. It was literally just a “this is cool, but not for us” type of answer. It was such a horrible feeling, probably comparable to when you think a date is going awesome, and then the person is like, “Didn’t feel a connection, bye!” It felt like we lost; this company that seemed like the right fit said no, everyone else said no, and nothing happened with it for the time being. It really hurt, but one big lesson I learned was that timing plays a big role in everything. I guess it wasn’t the right time, so I thought I would move forward with a new feature script.
I decided to cold email every producer/production company that dealt with action films; I probably sent upwards of 300+ emails. My response rate was really good; pretty much everyone asked for the script since I had some successful short films under my belt.
Behind The Scenes. Short Film – Rosary
To try and bring this lengthy answer to an end, no one cared. I think two people got back to me and said it wasn’t for them. It was the end of December 2021, and I had nothing moving forward at that point. Nothing, no short films, no feature films; it seemed like this was all pretty much over. I started researching micro-budget films, something I would never have considered previously, and saw that Christopher Nolan did a micro-budget film and even talked about his process with it. If Christopher Nolan did it, then what makes me too good for it?
I eventually decided I was just going to make a feature film myself through any means necessary. I am not going to talk about making a feature for the rest of my life like so many do, I am going to make one, and I am going to make something awesome. I literally just started with the idea of “A woman wakes up in Hell” and just started writing. I started writing Vengeance is Her Name in January 2022 and started shooting a year later, in January 2023.
iH: What makes Vengeance Is Her Name different from anything else you’ve worked on or perhaps seen?
RS: There’s a lot that differentiates this from my previous projects and from other films out there. This is the first time I’ve really been able to show my writing abilities. In my short films, I always try to tell a story in under ten minutes and keep it entertaining, which is very difficult. There are a lot of dramatic moments in this film that I’ve never been able to show in my short films. I enjoy getting into the characters’ psyche and showing a more realistic side of human nature.
Many films out there these days follow a formula that starts at the top of the production with the producers. I understand that good business decisions need to be made, but when a movie becomes entirely formula based, the end result is usually very bad because movies aren’t a math equation.
With Vengeance is Her Name, I didn’t have to follow any equation; I was able to make the movie as I saw it. I didn’t have any producer telling me, “Zombies are hot right now! Add a zombie in there!” I tried to give the film a healthy balance of horror and drama with an art house-type flare. I didn’t want to make the film so obscure that it would just confuse and upset people, but I did my best to contribute something new to the genre.
Vengeance is Her Name
iH: What was the most challenging part of this shoot, and how did you overcome it?
RS: I could literally answer this question with “everything.” I was a one-man crew on this film. I didn’t intend on being a one-man crew in the beginning, but that was where it ended up and what needed to be done to get this made. I already had experience with post-production and knew I could do most of that myself, but I have never had to work as a cinematographer on any of my previous shorts or as the grip, the gaffer, or the sound person.
It was a huge undertaking to do all of these things myself. It’s hard enough just directing when you have a full crew, but now having to do everything else is pretty brutal, to say the least. There was no downtime; I had to keep the show moving at all times. I had no one to ask for professional input on anything, so I had to know everything I wanted each day and how it needed to get done. I really didn’t know much about cameras or lighting before this, and once I realized I wasn’t going to be able to have a cinematographer, I had to learn everything myself.
I started watching videos, reading articles, literally anything I could to learn about lighting and how to do it with very little money. I had to learn everything about the camera I used, which was the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4k. I also had to do all of this two months before shooting. It all came down to how badly I wanted it and if I was going to quit in the face of an adversary or keep going.
Vengeance is Her Name
A lot of people would have quit because their ego needs to have a crew, and they need to feel like a big shot, but that’s not what this film was about. It was about making something and showing what can be done when you give your all. Every obstacle came down to just pushing through it and not letting anything bring the film down.
iH: What are you working on next?
RS: To be completely honest, I have nothing I’m working on at the moment aside from this film. I always have ideas that I would love to pursue, but my main goal right now is to finish Vengeance is Her Name and make sure it is the best it can be. Once this is all finished and it goes out to the world, everything goes out of my control.
I am going to do everything in my power to get this film seen and on the radar of horror fans. I want to give it the best chance of success possible, and I really do hope I can get it in front of people who will like it. I have been wondering if the career I had envisioned for myself is even a reality anymore with how much things are changing in the industry. I don’t want to make another film the way I made this one, and as much as I learned and as happy as I am that I did it this way, it isn’t a healthy way to live.
I want to do bigger projects and continue to move up the ladder, but if the people at the top of the ladder aren’t going to allow that, then I’m still determining what will be next. Film is very much a team sport, even at the independent level. The film and television world has only been around for a little over a century, which is nothing in the grand scheme of time. We are seeing massive movies with A-list stars tank on levels we haven’t seen before. Fans have been rejecting what has been put out with their wallets and their subscriptions. I’m not sure what the future holds for me or the industry, but I am still going to give this film everything I can to show people that good films are still being made.