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Photo by Rafy Photography.

Writer/Director Zoe Lister-Jones on her Bewitching Horror Film “The Craft: Legacy”

Many fans of 1996’s The Craft still watch it with great regularity. Now writer/director Zoe Lister-Jones brings a new story, The Craft: Legacy, told very much through the female lens. Though inspired by the original, Legacy speaks to a new generation of young women wishing to stand in their power, be they Wiccan or not. Starring young actors Cailee Spaeny, Gideon Adlon, Lovie Simone, and Zoey Luna, all of whom are poised to become huge stars, and featuring David Duchovny and Michelle Monaghan, The Craft: Legacy is very much of this moment. It examines, among other things, the spectrum of gender expression, individuality as power, and the value of a supportive sisterhood. It is also witchy in the best possible ways. So much so that Lister-Jones made sure, through consultants, that traditions of witchcraft from across the world were accurately represented. The Credits spoke to Lister-Jones about creating an entertaining genre film that is also infused with powerful messages. The Craft: Legacy premieres On Demand on October 28.

(l-r) Executive producer Natalia Anderson director/writer Zoe Lister-Jones and executive producer Bea Sequeira observe the monitors on set of Columbia Pictures’ THE CRAFT: LEGACY.

The four characters in the coven are each connected to an element, and that is woven through the production design and costuming. How did you collaborate on that and other aspects of witchcraft for the film?

I worked with Pam Grossman in the writing of the script, who is a practicing witch, and also a historian of witchcraft. She helped me come up with the elements that each girl would embody, and then I collaborated with my costume designer Avery Plewes, who is really brilliant, to put those elements into each witch’s wardrobe. Lilly is water, and you’ll see her dressed in a lot of blues and tie-dyed prints. She also wears a lot of pearls as a motif throughout the film. Tabby, whose element is fire, is wearing a lot of reds and oranges. You can sometimes even see flame insignias on her wardrobe. Actually, Avery and my production designer Hillary Gurtler worked really beautifully together inter-departmentally. They each chose crystals that our coven members would have, and Avery even hand-sewed those onto costumes. In the “Two Truths and a Lie” scene, you’ll see malachite, which is the crystal associated with Lourdes’s character, sewn onto the bottom of her jeans. There was just so much care and thought put into the production elements, and I’m so grateful to have worked with such incredible visionaries, who, yes, just happen to be women.

 

You’ve been committed to having female crewmembers and department heads. How has having a gender-balanced crew made a difference in the finished product of the film? 

Yes. On my debut feature Band Aid, my crew was made up entirely of women, and so I brought a number of those women onto Craft: The Legacy: my cinematographer Hillary Spera, my production designer Hillary Gurtler, my producing partner Natalia Anderson, and my editor Libby Cuenin. Hillary Spera and I just have the most wonderful working relationship, and I think that, for me, it’s very important in telling women’s stories, to have a woman behind the lens. It’s something that’s all too rare in our industry. The intuition that Hillary brings to her craft is so singular, and we have such an incredible symbiosis as creators together. Our collaboration is always something that is both exciting and really nourishing for me.

(l-r) Lourdes (Zoey Luna) Frankie (Gideon Adlon) Tabby (Lovie Simone) and Lily (Cailee Spaeny) sit at the back of the classroom during sex ed class in Columbia Pictures’ THE CRAFT: LEGACY. Photo by Rafy Photography.

Your introduction of menstruation as something both demeaning in a patriarchal culture and powerful for women, sets the tone, in a way, for the coven. Can you talk about that and other elements you included in the story relating to the divine feminine? 

I think menstruation is part of a larger conversation around how often women are shamed for their sexuality, and how damaging that is, to not just a young woman’s life. The reverberations of that shame live on in women forever. I wanted for that to be the catalyzing event in the film, where we were brought into Lilly’s shame so that that shame could be ameliorated by the young women who are there to support her in her moment of need.  They have all been in the same situation. They’ve all been bullied, and all been othered. Throughout the film, we see the ways in which these women have taken their pain and have turned it into their power.

(l-r) Lourdes (Zoey Luna) Frankie (Gideon Adlon) Tabby (Lovie Simone) and Lily (Cailee Spaeny) perform rituals and talk about being cautious with their gifts in Columbia Pictures' THE CRAFT: LEGACY. Photo by Rafy Photography.
(l-r) Lourdes (Zoey Luna) Frankie (Gideon Adlon) Tabby (Lovie Simone) and Lily (Cailee Spaeny) perform rituals and talk about being cautious with their gifts in Columbia Pictures’ THE CRAFT: LEGACY. Photo by Rafy Photography.

The way women accept their own power is a very important aspect of The Craft: Legacy.

A big theme throughout the film is the phrase ‘your difference is your power.’ As a young woman, I was a so-called weirdo. I shaved my head when I was in 7th grade. I wore polyester leisure suits that I would buy at thrift stores, so I was really bullied. I was often misgendered, and I was isolated and in a lot of pain, so I tapped into a lot of my inner wounded child in developing this story. There is a duality for a woman, where during adolescence, she is immediately hyper-visible to men in a way that can feel quite terrifying. She wants to turn invisible in some ways, and yet is still grappling with her own sexuality. I think this genre was a really exciting opportunity for me to look at that moment in a young woman’s life, and of course, I’m including trans women in that, to look at what that moment feels like, and to crystallize that moment, and give these women an opportunity to embody their difference and alchemize it into power.

 

You have said “any brand of feminism that excludes trans voices is not feminism.” What was the experience of developing the character of Lourdes, who is trans, and how did Zoey Luna add to it?

It was intentional that her trans identity was important, but also didn’t have to define her narrative, and Zoey was incredibly generous in talking to me about her own life and any parallels she might find with the character. Zoey herself is an activist and is so gracious in the way that she talks about trans inclusivity and identity politics in that realm. She just brought so much effervescence and spunk to this character. She is so inherently charismatic and has such an amazing screen presence, and her humor is so singular. I’m so grateful that we found her, and that she deepened Lourdes and brought her off the page in such an incredible way.

You had a trans inclusivity seminar onset. What was that like?

Scott Turner Schofield was our trans inclusivity consultant. On most productions, you have a sexual harassment seminar, so following ours, Scott gave a trans inclusivity seminar, which was so transformative. I believe it should be mandated on every set, even if there isn’t a trans character or actor involved. Because Scott is a trans man himself, he spoke to all of us about the power of language, and that even if one’s intention is not to harm, certain micro-aggressions are deeply harmful. He told us his own stories, and it just enlightened so many of our crewmembers, myself included. Scott continues to be an incredible resource because we all still have so much to learn when it comes to inclusivity.

Featured image: (l-r) Lourdes (Zoey Luna) Frankie (Gideon Adlon) Tabby (Lovie Simone) and Lily (Cailee Spaeny) practice their rituals in the woods in Columbia Pictures’ THE CRAFT: LEGACY. Photo by Rafy Photography. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Leslie Combemale

Leslie Combemale writes as Cinema Siren for websites including LikeABossGirls.com, where she promotes women in film with her own column, and AnimationScoop.com, where she writes about the animation industry. She has owned ArtInsights, an art gallery dedicated to film art for over 20 years, which has resulted in an expertise in the history of animation and film concept art.  She is in her third year as producer and moderator of the "Women Rocking Hollywood" panel at San Diego Comic-Con. Find all her interviews and reviews at cinemasiren.com.

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