TEXARKANA — Texarkana native Catt Dahman, writer and director for Ren Says Films, makes her hometown the headquarters of her cinematic operations.
Using resources available in the community and region, Dahman has sourced a network of actors, cinematographers, locations and businesses, artists and more to bring his films to life. .
“We’re hoping for the same support and popularity that Dallas, Georgia and California have with the film industry, but on a smaller scale,” Dahman said, referring to Texarkana.
Inspired by ’80s grindhouse genre films and directors like David Lynch and Rob Zombie, Dahman has worked to hone her craft through similar storytelling styles.
She is set to debut her fourth film, “Z is for Zombie,” this month. Dahman can already claim three horror films as his work: “Pinup Zombies”, https://www.texarkanagazette.com/news/2022/sep/28/local-film-artist-builds-up-movie-inudsty- in/ “Sundown” and “Clann”.
“‘Pinup Zombies’ will be finished by next summer and took a year to make. ‘Sundown’ is in progress and should also be finished by summer 2023. ‘Clann’ should go to my manager at early 2023,” Dahman said.
Through his film “Pinup Zombies,” Dahman uses dark humor to explore revenge and how it’s not always the desired outcome. “Sundown” is based on Texarkana’s infamous Phantom Killer tale, but told with a disturbing twist. “Clann” is about how the ordinary person’s morality can be bent and molded to fit their nature and surroundings, while their new venture titled “Z is for Zombies” is pretty self-explanatory.
“All of my movies have duality, power struggles, beauty in horror, and I try to break the rules and cross the lines to make people feel uncomfortable, that’s what is the horror: living vicariously,” she said.
Each movie can take about a year, from shooting to editing to selling the distribution rights.
“It’s a slow and delicate process,” she said.
This process goes more smoothly thanks to Dahman’s core team, which she uses regularly during filming, including actors, videographers, makeup artists and musicians from the area and nearby cities such as Dallas. This network has allowed her to create a close-knit community of film industry professionals that she can rely on to help her hone her craft and get her job done.
“I think of our youngest actress, Alvae Easterling, who is 9 years old; she periodically calls out to me about a scene that she thinks doesn’t make sense or that she thinks should be shot in another location. Sometimes it takes a fresh look,” she said. .
Dahman also praised “camera king” Alex Jones, who brings each scene to life with his creative eye, and his assistant director, Tish Hicks, who helps read scripts and make edits.
“Tish often comes up with ideas that I never thought of,” Dahman said. “She helps me fly and keeps me from tunnel vision. She’s also an actress who keeps me busy challenging her.”
Recently, Dahman reached out to local band Phed, musicians Phoebe Warren and Ted Stone, and plans to feature their song “Devil At Your Side” on “Clann.”
“It’s a song I wrote that comments on the downfalls of the human experience, likening our weaknesses and insecurities to a demon clinging to your shoulder that you just can’t get rid of,” said said Warren.
Most filming is done on location at the Dancing Ranch Farm on the outskirts of Texarkana and Fouke, Arkansas. Owners Ronnie Dancer and Susan Dancer do all kinds of accommodations for the film crew, including building sets and props for movie scenes.
“The ranch is all things spooky and haunted. Together we added a donated RV and had movie sets built so people could see the sets in the movie and also in real life,” said Dahman. “The dancers generously give us the freedom to film while maintaining and securing our privacy.”
Other filming locations include private residences, the downtown Hideout bar, Oaklawn Mall and Spring Lake Park.
Before making films, Dahman developed an extensive skill in writing novels, with over 60 books and 12 short stories to his name.
“All of my books are with various publishers, and I’m a writer more than anything,” Dahman said. “I went into traditional publishing and got picked up through thick and thin. I needed that validation from a big press.”
When Dahman was previously a teacher, every summer she wrote a novel or two. Once the internet became widely available, Dahman was able to use technology to his advantage and produced a series of nine zombie books. An Australian-based publishing house later purchased the series and commissioned Dahman to produce seven more horror novels.
“I write true crime, science fiction and have an upcoming non-fiction book about prison reform,” she said.
Whether it’s writing a screenplay or a new novel, one thing is certain.
“I write for smart viewers and I never make a scene or a movie look stupid,” Dahman said.