Happy ‘Halloween’: Remembering screenwriter Debra Hill

John Carpenter’s Halloween will celebrate its 40th anniversary next October, co-written with his longtime producing partner Debra Hill, who died in 2005 at the age of 54. Recognized in 2003 by Women In Film for the trail she blazed for female producers in all genres, Hill said “I hope some day there won’t be a need for Women in Film – that it will be People in Film. That it will be equal pay, equal rights and equal job opportunities for everybody.”

According to the LA Times, the iconic 1978 slasher flick was shot on a budget of $300,000 over 20 days in southern California. Starring Jamie Lee Curtis in her first major role, Halloween takes place in the fictional Haddonfield, Illinois (named for Hill’s birthplace in New Jersey), where deranged sanatorium inmate Michael Myers (Nick Castle) goes on a babysitter killing spree in his hometown.

Hill claimed that she wrote the “babysitter” side of Halloween while director and composer Carpenter focused on Myers and his psychologist Dr. Loomis before merging their two stories together into the classic film we know today. Carpenter’s name is inextricably linked to Halloween – he’s even producing a 40th anniversary follow-up with Curtis to be released in 2018. But it’s important to recognize that a female screenwriter (noted by Wikipedia as “Carpenter’s then-girlfriend”) was responsible for shaping the characters of Laurie Strode and her ill-fated friends. Though the film has frequently been labeled as anti-feminist thanks to its “final girl” trope and supposed moral commentary on female promiscuity, Hill told Entertainment Weekly that she laughed off critics who saw the film as chauvinistic.

Producers of The Debra Hill Documentary began raising funds for a project on the filmmaker’s life in 2015, writing on Facebook that “Halloween was just the beginning.” Carpenter told the Associated Press after her death, “She had a passion for not just movies about women or women’s ideas, but films for everybody – horror films, action films, comedies.”

No disrespect to Mr. Carpenter, but I think Hill understood that movies “about women or women’s ideas” are films for everybody.

© Georgiana E. Presecky (10/27/17) FF2 Media

Top Photo: Hill featured in Life Magazine.

Bottom Photo: Carpenter and Hill.

Photos courtesy of Nerdist

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