A film-maker who set her first feature in the traditionally male-dominated horror genre has won a £50,000 prize.
Rose Glass, 30, was named the winner of the IWC Schaffhausen Filmmaker Bursary Award at a ceremony held on the eve of this year’s London Film Festival.
Her film, Saint Maud, tells of a devout young nurse who becomes the full-time carer of a chronically ill dancer.
Danny Boyle, chair of the jury, called the film “a thrilling cinematic journey through madness, faith and death”.
The Oscar-winning director called Essex-born Glass “an extraordinary talent and powerful storyteller” with a “singular vision”.
Glass’s debut feature, which stars Jennifer Ehle and Welsh actress Morfydd Clark, is one of 10 titles in contention for the festival’s best film award.
The bursary, one of the largest arts prizes in the UK, allows film-makers at the start of their careers time to grow and develop.
Now in its fourth year, the award has previously been presented to Richard Billingham, Daniel Kokotajlo and Hope Dickson-Leach.
Though women often play the lead roles in horror films, the men calling the shots have tended to be just that – men.
“There are not a lot of female directors period, and even less who are inclined to do horror,” producer Jason Blum said last year.
All of the 10 highest-grossing horror films of all time – a list topped by 2017 Stephen King remake It – were directed by men.
According to one female horror fan, however, the truth is “not that women are disinclined to direct horror, but that they aren’t hired to do it”.
Soraya Roberts’ essay on the Longreads website is borne out by the recent success of The Babadook, Raw and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night – well-regarded horror films that all had women behind the camera.
(Blum himself later backtracked on his comments when it was pointed out how many eligible women there were who could direct features for his Blumhouse production company.)
“I guess film-making in general has been more male-dominated, and I don’t know how specifically it’s more the case with the horror genre,” Glass told the BBC on Wednesday.
“Gender inequality within the industry has been a high-profile topic for a while. It can feel like things are never going to change, but change is happening.”
She continued: “I didn’t set out to solely make horror films, but I’ve always liked dark, messed-up films that are shocking and scary but make you feel something connects you to it.
“There’s enough messed-up stuff in Saint Maud to keep die-hard horror fans satisfied, but it’s as much a dark, complicated character study as it is a horror film.”
Hugh Grant, Gemma Arterton and Dev Patel were among the celebrities in attendance at Tuesday’s BFI Luminous fundraising gala.
Patel plays the title role in The Personal History of David Copperfield, a new adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel which officially launches the film festival later.
Timothee Chalamet, Robert De Niro and Keira Knightley are among the other stars expected during the festival, which runs until 13 October.