My whole life I’ve second guessed myself, never thinking I was good, smart, funny or profound enough. I’ve only recently discovered that these insecurities came from not being authentic and true to myself. Through filmmaking, I’ve developed the confidence to be 100% me, and have liberated myself from that narrative that I am not enough.
I created Foxy Films as a means of self discovery and to explore a genre I can’t really pinpoint. I’ve always felt that I didn’t fit in, and therefore I found it difficult to define myself. But if I need to be categorized to be understood, I’d say I make absurd horror comedies like if Twilight Zone and Monty Python had a 1970s Giallo baby. Weird, colorful, and completely ridiculous.
I started as a painter, the only artist in my immediate family and friend group. I was fortunate, because my high school art teacher championed me. Her passion was painting Sedona landscapes, and as I would veer off course from her assignments with surrealist paintings of strange bodiless heads sticking out of colorful mountains, Mrs. Rizzardi would always tell me my art was weird and that she didn’t understand it, but that I had talent and imagination and that she supported me.
I committed to my decision to build a career as an artist but I trudged forward with extreme caution. I wanted to be liked and to be good, even great. But of course I kept falling short. I knew I wanted to make films, but didn’t know how to ask for help. So I began making shorts on my phone, as a one-woman cast and crew. Occasionally I needed a co-star and would bribe my dog with a jerky stick. She wouldn’t judge me so she got the part.
Cinematographer Daniel Waghorne and director Sam Fox on the “Fck’n Nuts” set.
Somehow I started to find an audience for my silly one-minute movies: cha-ching, validation! With a slight boost in confidence, I thought, OK: Maybe I’ll get like five people to work with me on my next piece. But I felt so insecure: Was I really ready to waste other people’s time on one of my silly ideas?
I got some friends together to make “Unagi,” a Kafkaesque short film about a woman who eats irradiated sushi, turns into a giant electric sea eel, and electrocutes her clueless boyfriend. I played the main character/eel. I could ask my friend Chase Levy to play my boyfriend, but there was no way I’d ask another person to dress up as an eel. That burden was mine to carry.
To my shock, “Unagi” was well received and played some pretty great festivals,i ncluding Another Hole in the Head, Nightmares, and Dances with Films. But I still had imposter syndrome, and decided to not submit any more: The idea was too stupid, I told myself. No one else needs to be subjected to this.
Still, a year later, the directing itch returned. But this time around, I couldn’t write, produce, direct, and act… it’s too much. I needed actors.
“Bad Acid” was my follow-up short: a colorful ode to the fitness craze of the ’80s and psychedelic horror cinema. I still wasn’t confident in my writing, so the script was sparse, and the film relied on music, sound and imagery. I was shocked when a programmer by the name of Celia Pouzet saw something in my work and programmed me at Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival in 2022.
Maybe there was an audience for me? Because “Unagi” had made the festival rounds during Covid, I didn’t attend in person. But “Bad Acid” took me on the genre festival circuit and OH MY GOD, I found my people! They understood me, or at least didn’t judge me. After the success of “Bad Acid,” the pressure was on. I kept hearing feedback from friends and mentors saying they loved my work visually, but could I direct dialogue, a story, an arc?
Sam Fox on Going ‘Fck’n Nuts’
At FilmQuest in Provo, Utah, again in 2022, everything changed. I was in the Hyatt lobby with a bunch of filmmakers, around 5 a.m. When I told a fellow director I was too afraid to write an actual story with actual dialogue, he challenged me: “What are you afraid is going to happen?”
I thought about the first script I’d ever written, “Fck’n Nuts.” It was ridiculous, but I knew there was something there. I rewrote the ending, inspired by all of the insanely over-the-top genre films I’d been watching.
Waghorne and actors Vincent Stalba and Maddie Nichols on the “Fck’n Nuts” set.
Soon after, at a Starbucks at the American Film Market in Santa Monica, my bestie and producing partner extraordinaire, Desiree Staples, met up with filmmakers Joe Badon, Vincent Stalba and Katie Weiss Porter. Joe and I had been aware of each other’s work for years. Over a couple of dirty chais, our Foxy Films and Cosmic Family Films co-production was born. “Fck’nNuts” would be filmed in New Orleans, and this crew of crazy independent filmmakers would help me do it.
“Fck’n Nuts” is a surreal horror-comedy based on my personal experience growing up with my insane family and centers around the aforementioned feeling of being an outsider. If my other shorts were abstract paintings, this one is a self-portrait. I don’t want to get into any spoilers, but let’s just say the film is deadly serious, but also the silliest thing in the world. Which is basically me, in a nutshell. Embrace your inner weirdo, and your fear will slowly diminish.
Main image: director Sam Fox