Rachel Talalay has worked as a director, producer, and writer in film and television over 25 years – in the UK, the US and Canada.
In 2014 she became the 7th woman to direct Doctor Who in its 51-year history, shooting the two-part finale of Series 8.
Her eclectic resume includes directing Tank Girl, Freddy’s Dead (Nightmare on Elm Street 6), Wind in the Willows, award-winning mini-series (Terminal City, Durham County and Dice) and more than 70 hours of television in the US, UK and Canada from Ally McBeal to Without a Trace, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) to Touching Evil.
Her producing history is equally varied – from Hairspray (the original) and Cry Baby to the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise (parts 3 and 4) to The Borrowers.
Recent genre directing credits include The Dorm, a horror film for MTV, the Western Hannah’s Law for Hallmark/Sony, Sci-Fi/Action series Continuum and XIII.
She has been nominated for (and, on very rare occasions, won) numerous awards including the BAFTA’s, Royal Television Society, Independent Spirit Awards, Sitges, the Gemini’s and Leo’s.
All this work in male-dominated television has turned her skin Teflon – a noted special skill.
Women in Film and Television’s founding president Peggy Thompson spoke with Rachel Talalay
What is genre?
A French word
Why is genre important?
It’s used for categorization. The human mind generally likes that form of organization.
What’s in this for women?
Creativity. Not being pigeon-holed.
What makes an exciting horror?
Don’t go into the basement … or you might find out.
Tension over violence. The imagination stretches when you tease it. It can be the ultimate adrenaline rush and safe thrill.
What makes exciting sci-fi?
Big concepts. Ideas about humanity placed in space or time.
Adventures in Space and Time.
How did you get started in genre?
Lower budget movies tend to be genre because the concept is the star. Trying to attract a ‘movie star’ who will open a movie without lots of money or studio helping — that’s often a fool’s errand. But audiences will see movies where the monster or the big idea can be advertised. So, when I was getting started, these were the movies that were made for less money and would hire younger people anxious to learn. And who wouldn’t want to work on movies like Return to Horror High, Space Rangers and Polyester?
Why do you stay with genre?
There is no end of things that scare a person. I know. I am scared of all of them. And a few more.
Who are some of the filmmakers or artists who inspire you?
The list is so long and varied — from Lina Wertmuller to Hitchcock to Sam Raimi to Tracey Emin to Kate Tempest to Elvis Costello to Judi Dench.
Interview by Peggy Thompson
Peggy Thompson, screenwriter, author of two books on genre and associate professor in UBC’s Creative Writing Program. Peggy is also on WIFTV’s Advocacy Committee and was the founding president of WIFTV.
Follow Rachel Talalay on Twitter @rtalalay
As the firestorm that is fan reaction to the Dr. Who Season 8 finale reaches a fever pitch this week, we had hoped to bring you some additional insight from the director of this pivotal two-parter. However, unsurprisingly, she’s a bit busy. To contextualize this, check out this hilarious fan reaction on Tumblr: