A winding road led Suki-Rose Simakis to the place she is meant to be and it is literally a world of horror — cinematic horror, that is. She says she has always been a film person, spending lots of time at The Loft Cinema and Catalina Theatre growing up in Tucson. “It was a huge part of my life,” she says. So huge that she left Catalina Foothills to finish high school at Idyllwild Arts Academy in California to study in a film program.
There she produced and co-produced short films with peers. Graduating early, she returned to Tucson and produced her own short film before attending Pacific Northwest College of Art to focus on video. Coming from the desert, she did not take well to the rain, so she headed to Los Angeles.
“Getting your footing in L.A. takes two years at least,” says Simakis. At that point, she took a quick pivot back to Tucson and realized she really did belong in L.A. A theater she frequented gave her space to do a repertory exhibition of old movies and craft events around them. Although it was a mixed experience, she says met everyone she knows in L.A. there. “It allowed me to make connections.”
Those connections led to her first feature film experience as an on-set director’s assistant. That led to a couple of years of working in wardrobe departments that, disappointingly, involved a lot of time at shopping malls. Then came an opportunity from actor Elijah Wood’s horror and thriller film production company SpectreVision.
As a development executive at SpectreVision, she read scripts and source material to turn into motion picture content. “This helped me build a great slate of features,” she says. During this time, she co-wrote a text-based mobile app adventure game. Not surprisingly, a chill of horror runs through the JoinDispatch! Game.
The game puts the player in a simulated emergency dispatcher’s seat to save lives and risk their own while responding interactively to on-screen scenarios. The scenes are dramatic, serious, mysterious and often gory. “This was exciting for me,” says Simakis. SpectreVision released the game and it did well enough for a second chapter, which she is now writing with her collaborator, Kyle McCullough.
Simakis also is independently developing material focusing on women writers “who weren’t getting as much development attention,” she says. This includes feature films, virtual reality, scripted and non-scripted television, with one project currently moving forward with a pilot. “It’s a transition and I bet on myself. We’ll see if it pays off,” she adds.
She recently joined the board of the Austin, Texas, Fantastic Fest, the largest genre film festival in the country. The festival specializes in horror, fantasy, sci-fi, action and just plain fantastic movies from all around the world. “They had a challenging year and I jumped at the opportunity to help them do better.”
The daughter of Stuart and Nancy Mellan, Simakis, now 30, feels there are core tenets of Judaism that never leave her. “They are always present in my general consciousness and in how I conduct myself. They were shaped in my upbringing and never shift. As much as my Jewish identity may have evolved personally, I’m still struck by the rich tradition of storytelling in Jewish culture. It all starts with a story and makes the jump to movie and film culture for me.”