This is our third interview for the Horror and High Heels series of columns we’ve come up with. At one time, a handful of women set up February as a “Women in Horror Month,” but recently they’ve decided to not focus on the month itself. Instead they put out a press release in early February stating that celebrating women in the genre can be done year round. But tradition keeps us here at the Dark Discussions News Network again this February to have readers learn more about some fine ladies that have done and are doing some great things in the horror genre. So let’s get into the interview and learn some things about our latest guest.
Philip of the Dark Discussions News Network (DDNN): Splendid having someone from the other side of the pond so speak join us. Actually from the fine nation of Germany. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Mariam Michael Draeger: It’s good to be here! My name is Mariam Michael Draeger. I am a presenter and producer for the horror genre, and my latest passion project is an online horror entertainment news program called “The Grimm Exchange” on Youtube.
DDNN: I know a lot of folks aren’t able to do their passion as a full time job. Many have to work a day job to pay the bills. So to put this into two questions, how long have you been around doing The Grimm Exchange? And are you able to do it full time?
Mariam: Well, I’m a little bit of a stereotype to be honest, having quit law school to go into entertainment, where I made money as a ghost writer for other musical artists. Over the years I was increasingly involved in events, film and distribution until I realized I was only going to leave music if it was for Horror. I’ve been doing a mix of Horror and social projects for two to three years and it feels like I’m living in a dream.
DDNN: That’s great that you found something you are really interested in doing, especially in genre you love. Were you always into horror movies and thrillers? Or just into monsters in general?
Mariam: My parents weren’t horror fans. I didn’t actually get into horror films until I was 17, because I had such problems with nightmares and sleep paralysis. Looking back, however, despite the fear, I was always drawn to the macabre. So many of the books I read, cartoons and movies I watched and stories I wanted to hear were, in fact, horror, but they weren’t called Horror back then. Now I consume at least one piece of Horror every day in addition to my work.
DDNN: Oh, so true. Here in the states, even if I couldn’t get to see some of the most notorious horror films, I was still drawn to cartoons that featured ghost hunters like Scooby-Doo. So do you dabble in other genres too besides horror Maybe science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, mystery, or grand guignol?
Mariam: I honestly think that a beautiful aspect of horror is how it thrives on cross-overs with other genres. Horror fans, in my experience, also generally tend to be curious and clever people. So if you’re into horror, I’m sure you’ll always find time to dabble in other genres and educational formats. But chances are, you’re also like me; that is, in the fact that you’ll try to turn every subject and story into a dark version if it isn’t already.
DDNN: So true. Even thrillers or dramas I seem to gravitate to the so-called darker stories. Now have you worked with any major companies or semi-famous “artists” in any type of media?
Mariam: I have been very fortunate to have worked with a lot of clients who are considered leaders in their field. In terms of companies / organizations I am proudest to have filmed footage for a UN campaign. In terms of individuals, yeah, the Horror genre, whether they’re entertainers or academics, is full of incredible people, but I consider them friends these days, so it feels weird to drop names.
DDNN: That’s a fair point. Stand on your own two feet I say. Do-it-yourself! Makes sense. So was there any specific thing as a child or teenager (things like a movie, a horror author, a horror monster) that affected you and turned you into focusing on a specific subject?
Mariam: When I was about 7 I read a book called “In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories”, and there was a short story called “The Green Ribbon” that terrified me with a twist I did not see coming at that tender age. It took me a good year to process that, but it was the first time I experienced fear in a controlled and safe environment, and I began to obsess over the experience. I would say that was the beginning of life long search for creepy fictional thrills.
DDNN: What are some of your favorite horror movies and why?
Mariam: This is always such a tough question to answer, because it’s so dependent on my mood. Generally, as a more seasoned consumer, I really appreciate a strong narrative, something that plays with the audience’s expectations, and also some pretty impressive special fx. I like to see that filmmakers acknowledge their strengths and means and produce accordingly. So whether it’s an interesting found footage like “Butterfly Kisses”, an artistic piece like “Neon Demon” or a comedy with star power like “Little Monsters”, there’s a time and place for everything.
DDNN: I love how you aren’t stuck on just one subgenre of horror. That’s great. That leads me to my next question on a different media format. Besides “In a Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories” as a little girl, what about books? Do you have a favorite horror book/author?
Mariam: There are so many good authors out there. There is no way to name one without betraying the others. When a book does something a film or series can’t, that’s when I’m hooked. Short stories in particular tickle my fancy, as it’s easy to sneak one in before bed. I am, however, a big fan of non-fiction. The more I know, the more fascinated I am by the things no one can explain.
DDNN: I know, right? Real ghost sightings, aliens encounters, and exorcisms are pretty interesting even if i have my doubts. So let me ask, even though you are distinct the way you do “The Grimm Exchange” with your own techniques and your own visions, were there any individuals in the genre that influenced your work and the path you took to be who you are today?
Mariam: Most definitely. I pride myself in listening to what people have to say about their experiences. You don’t always have to do the same, but at the very least you should listen. And I’m not only thinking of the greats, I’m thinking of my peers, too. I also try to keep a network that reaches beyond my field, because so many principles can be translated from one industry / genre into another.
DDNN: How about telling us a little about some of your other past projects that would be of interest to speculative fiction and horror fans?
Mariam: “The Grimm Exchange” is a format I created, because I, as a horror fan, was missing something. The show is on Youtube. It gives the viewers brief industry headlines, mini-documentaries on a particular sub-genre, interviews, and reviews. If you want to simply catch up on the horror genre in a little over 30 minutes every two weeks, because you haven’t had time to read up on various articles, this is the program for you.
DDNN: There are all sorts of YouTube channels with various types of style. Are you very much a chameleon in what you do or do you prefer to focus on a specific subject or specific talent you have.
Mariam: I specialize in featuring other professionals and being a dork. Coming from the music industry, it was often about putting on a smile that suited the room. These days I have neither the energy nor the time for hiding the fact that I’m not cool. So whether I’m a presenter or I’m helping a project turn from an idea into reality, I am my brand, and the working relationships that grow from these are sincere and fulfilling. The subject matter is secondary, as long as it’s horror.
DDNN: Nice, I always think that sharing other people’s projects with fellow horror fans is a great idea too. I laptop-to-laptop high five I send your way. Now that you have a pretty awesome show going on the internet, do you ever do conventions where folks can meet you in person. If so, any specific examples of how it was to meet fellow genre fans.
Mariam: Meeting people in person? Is that even a thing anymore? Kidding. Your best bet would be at a festival I’m affiliated with. Grimmfest in Manchester is a guarantee, because I work with them all year round. Also the Liverpool Horror Fest, because I’m on the board. But I’m also a big supporter of the UFF in California, and would like to head over when live events become the norm again.
Other than that, hit me up on Instagram. As long as you want a serious conversation and you’re patient enough to wait a bit for me to reply, I am always excited to connect with horror fans.
DDNN: Here’s a question just because. What is your favorite horror villain or monster?
Mariam: Honestly, if I had a fraction of the swag that Oogy Boogy has, I’d already be a successful cult leader.
DDNN: Hopefully horror fans know who that is, but if not, we’ll let them go do a web browser search to find out. Now that folks know you are on the pandemic hiatus with conventions like the rest of us, you did mention Instagram. What’s the handle you use so folks to get involved with horror discussions with you? Let’s have it.
Mariam: My Instagram handle is lady_mariam_michael
DDNN: Lastly, what about upcoming things you have planned?
Mariam: Make haste! And watch “The Grimm Exchange” on the Youtube channel ‘Grimmfest TV’. You can also watch my talk “Scaring Kids The Future of Spooky Tales for Children” for free on the Creativity Conference page or catch my guest appearance on “Luke Lore” episode 23 to talk about witch folklore.
DDNN: Awesome! Thanks for sharing some time with us here and folks most certainly should check out your show. It has some great topics each week. Take care and be safe.