A Point of Pride: Interview with Thommy Hutson
Thommy Hutson is an award-winning screenwriter, producer, director, and best-selling author. A graduate of UCLA, he has written or produced critically acclaimed film and television projects—horror, thriller, holiday, animation, and documentary—that have aired on Netflix, Hulu, Shudder, Hallmark, Lifetime, Syfy, Bio Channel, and more. His award-winning debut novel is the teen thriller Jinxed. A member of the Producers Guild of America, Horror Writers Association, and a Saturn and Home Media Magazine award-winner, Thommy is an aficionado of horror and teen movies from the ‘80s and ‘90s, as well as a lover of Christmas films. He continues to develop unique and compelling projects across multiple genres for film, television, publishing, and home entertainment. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@thommyhutson) or visit him online at ThommyHutson.com.
What inspired you to start writing?
Birth? I have always loved telling stories, putting on “shows” for my family, writing ideas down, and talking. Lots of talking! I suppose what I consider my first “real” story was in elementary school. I wrote “Gremlins 2: Gizmo Returns.” It was quite an opus. I would go into our attic and type on my father’s gigantic work typewriter. I really felt it was my job to write that story, so I took it very seriously. (As seriously as any kid takes anything, at least.) After that, I realized I loved the process, the feeling, so I never really stopped. Sadly, my further adventures of Gizmo have been lost to time, but the kids who listened to me read it to them way back when seemed to like it, so I figured I did something right.
What was it about the horror genre that drew you to it?
I can say with certainty the film that drew me into the genre: Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. I wasn’t that big a horror fan as the very few films I saw (through squinty eyes covered by my hands!) scared me way too much. And while Elm Street terrified me (I actually begged to leave the movie theater), it also made me think, was so clever, and had characters I felt I knew. It was the moment I realized horror can be so much more than blood and guts. I then quickly discovered Stephen King and read Carrie in one sitting in the bookstore. That got me even more hooked. Then, there was Fangoria, which opened up a world of horror in movies, books, and more. I decided I wanted to try to craft the kind of horror that makes people think and lets them have fun, even as it gets under their skin. When done well, horror makes you feel so much more than afraid. It forces you to look at yourself and ask questions about who you are and how you fit into the world around you. It also lets you find the strength within. After all, I think we’re all a little Nancy Thompson and Carrie White.
Do you make a conscious effort to include LGBTQ material in your writing and if so, what do you want to portray?
When writing and coming up with something or someone, I let the character, their motivation, and their place in the story and its world guide me. I certainly don’t try hard NOT to include such material, but I never want it to feel forced. First, it would come across as such and I never want to be seen as disingenuous about those topics. But also, it’s important to me not to just decide, say, “This character can be gay.” No. For me, the character isn’t just anything that isn’t organic or real. I want to create characters not because they fit a plotline, or fill a hole in someone’s slate, or “Wouldn’t it be neat if…” Just like I don’t want to be a box someone can check off, I want my characters to be true to themselves, gay, straight, or otherwise.
What has writing horror taught you about the world and yourself?
That we are so much stronger than we give ourselves credit for. There are so many things we can do—things we never imagined we might have to—when the stakes are high enough. And in today’s world the stakes are incredibly high. So, horror has taught me to face my fears, speak up, and do whatever I can to help people. (Unless it’s spiders, then you might be on your own.)
How have you seen the horror genre change over the years? And how do you think it will continue to evolve?
What’s interesting about horror is it is very cyclical. The ‘60s felt political, the ‘70s gritty and raw, the ‘80s franchise slashers, the ‘90s teen horror and the ‘00s more real and terrifying. No matter the era, it was always a roller coaster ride, though I am partial to genre films that lean into the fun as opposed to the abject terror without relief. Now I think we’re seeing horror take on real world issues in a way that is scary, but smart and timely. Racism, sexism, homophobia, misogyny, family dynamics, and more. I hope the trend of smart, scary horror that shines a light on difficult issues in a way only horror can will continue. Horror has always been the one genre able to tackle a topic like none other. To show society a mirror and force it to confront itself on all its ills. In its quest to scare, horror is unafraid to be a voice for those who feel voiceless. I hope that continues in a way that is entertaining and fun—even if we’re screaming.
How do you feel the LGBTQ community has been represented thus far in the genre and what hopes do you have for representation in the genre going forward?
For a long, long time not very well. It’s hard to watch a lot of older, classic genre films or read some books where LGBTQ characters are mistreated and abused (physically and/or verbally) because of who they are. Further, those characters were looked at as an “other,” something to fear, to eradicate, to definitely not be like. Or, they were the creepy villain. And it’s sad. It casts a pall over things we grew up reading and watching. I know there is some truth to the “any representation is still representation,” but I think more and better must be done. And it is. What’s happening more and more now, and something I hope continues in the future, is that LGBTQ characters are more fairly and realistically represented. I’m not saying every character who is LGBTQ has to be the hero or heroine, but they and their sexuality and identity don’t have to be one dimensional, used as a scapegoat, a joke, or something to be afraid of. There’s no reason a fantastic, real, complex, has good days and bad days LGBTQ character can’t be a bigger part in taking on zombies, Freddy, Ghostface, evil spirits, you name them—and save the day!
Who are some LGBTQ horror authors you recommend our audience check out?
These might all be obvious, but… Clive Barker (I cannot stand how much I love his Galilee). The Boulet Brothers. (They are doing very cool work in more than one medium.) In terms of screenwriters, Kevin Williamson. (His genre scripts are insanely readable.) And while not being author specific, never, ever discount comic books and graphic novels. They consistently have some of the best, most interesting LGBTQ representation.
What is one piece of advice you would give horror authors today?
It’s the advice I always give: write the story in your heart, not the story in someone else’s head.
And to the LGBTQ writers out there who are just getting started, what advice would you give them?
Don’t let anyone say you can’t do it, you can’t do it your way, or what you are writing won’t sell. There is always a way. It’s been said before and I’ll say it again: nobody knows anything. But what is 100% true? Your voice, your point of view, your experiences are all unique and special and important. Use them! Push boundaries in ways only you can. But to do that, you have to start writing. (So… what are you waiting for?)