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Hot Docs 2023: Qs à la mode with… Sean Horlor & Steve J. Adams (Satan Wants You)

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In Satan Wants You, co-directors Sean Horlor and Steve J. Adams examine the “satanic panic” hysteria caused by the memoir Michelle Remembers and its co-authors. We posed our Qs à la mode to Sean and Steve, and here’s what they shared!

If we had to describe our film using only three adjectives, they would be:
Dangerous, scary, shocking.

We decided to make this film because:
Sean: I grew up in Victoria, British Columbia, which is where the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and ’90s is alleged to have begun. Michelle Smith and Dr. Lawwrence Pazder lived 10 minutes down the road from my family, in a big house overlooking the ocean. I had always heard [their] book was blamed for a lot of the insanity that followed its publication but had forgotten about this story until it crossed paths with Steve and me again in 2018. When we realized no one had ever told this story in a documentary, we knew we had to make it.

The thing that surprised us most about our film’s subject/topic was:
Steve: The fact that there’s a whole generation of people who had no idea this happened in the 1980s, and how this story has touched the lives of millions and millions of people around the world. 

Our favorite moment/scene/sequence in our film is:
Steve: The final shot of the film. It’s surprising and intense and horrifying — and that’s all I can say because I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. It was the very last shot on the very last day of production, and we knew immediately that it would be the perfect ending.   

The most challenging part of making our film was:
Sean: We had the entire film cut when an anonymous source mailed us one of the original tapes from the therapy sessions between Michelle Smith and Dr. Lawrence Pazder in the 1970s. As the saying goes: when you change one thing, you change ten things — and we tend to feel this most in the edit suite. 

Our most invaluable piece of doc-making gear was/is:
Steve: Our crew, the participants, and all the other talented folks on- and off-screen. As directors, we are conduits for their creativity and these are the people who make it worthwhile. 

One piece of documentary-filmmaking advice we’d like to share with aspiring documentarians is:
Sean: Choose your creative collaborators carefully and hold on to the ones who listen, ask questions, and are good communicators. If your gut feeling says not to work with someone, listen to your gut. 
Steve: Always work with people who have more talent and more experience than you. You’ll make better films and learn a lot in the process.


Want to check out their film or just learn more about it?
Get the scoop, and your tickets, here!

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