This week I got to chat with Penny Dreadful, the host of a horror show called Shilling Shockers that airs on television channels throughout the country. If you haven’t checked out her show, do so immediately, it’s loads of fun!
Penny, aka, Danielle Gelehrter is an actress, writer, and comedian from Massachusetts. In the persona of witch horror hostess Penny Dreadful, she introduces horror, sci-fi, and fantasy movies on the local TV horror movie show ‘Shilling Shockers.’ The series ran from 2006-2016, and continues on in the form of annual Halloween specials and DVD releases.
In addition, Gelehrter along with Eric Marshall, have been the co-writers of the official Masters of the Universe Classics toy bios from 2016-present. Gelehrter has also been a writer on several He-Man books from Dark Horse publishing. She is currently working on a book about the werewolf folklore and legends of New England.
JL Metcalf: What is your number one tip to creators (new and old) on how to best market themselves in today’s world?
Penny Dreadful: Thanks to the internet, it’s easier than ever to get the word out via social media platforms and websites. Things like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are great tools for getting the word out. However, because it’s such a great place to showcase your work and advertise, there are a lot of people using the internet to promote what they do. Because of this, it’s easy to get drowned out in the overwhelming ocean of posts and websites.
It’s important to present material in such a way that’ll help you stand out. It’s a balancing act too, because you want to keep putting updates out there, but you also don’t want to “overload” your audience with constant posts about your work either.
The internet isn’t all though. At least as far as being a horror host, doing appearances at horror conventions and local events is key. That way, you get to go out there and meet folks in person, which is great. It’s more fun to connect that way, both with existing fans and with potential new fans. A lot of people got turned onto ‘Shilling Shockers’ after they randomly stopped at our table during a convention.
JLM: Why is marketing yourself, aka the business of creating, so important for creators to learn and embrace?
PD: Putting in the work to market yourself is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of and, in fact, is usually pretty essential to your success as a creator.
It can be challenging to “embrace” it because of the stigma which is sometimes associated with this kind of self-marketing. For example, you may get the occasional person who will throw out the disparaging “shameless self promotion” comment. I even sometimes say it about myself in a joking manner. However, unless you have some paid representative to do it for you, you need to promote your own work to get the word out about it, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Otherwise, how are people going to find out about what you do? Nobody else will magically do it for you, and your audience isn’t going to materialize out of thin air. Creator + Audience – it’s a two part equation, and that’s the truth.
That said, it takes time and effort, and some level of nuance to do it. You don’t want to shove it down people’s throats, but you don’t want to quietly sit back and hope that people will automatically find you. It takes some practice to get it just right, I think, and there’s a something of an art to advertising your creativity without turning people off by bombarding them.
Photo Credit: Rebecca Paiva
JLM: What do you like best about being a creator?
PD: The joy of making something that didn’t exist before, bringing it into the world, and watching the reaction. I think that’s why I love improv comedy so much. The spontaneity and energy of improv is creation in its purest form – “creating without a net,” if you will. That’s a pretty great feeling.
JLM: What do you like least about being a creator?
PD: Trolls. Not fantasy, fairy tale, and folklore trolls – those are totally awesome and I love them. I’m talking about trolls of the “keyboard warrior” internet variety. I haven’t had a ton of run ins with them, fortunately, but it happens on occasion.
JLM: Who (or what type of art) inspires you most and why?
PD: Inspirations include many classic actors, writers, and comedians. To name just a few: Mary Shelley, Boris Karloff, Lucille Ball, Shirley Jackson, Agnes Moorehead, Weird Al, Vincent Price, Vampira, Joan Jett, Basil Gogos, Mozart, the Marx Brothers, Jonathan Frid, the Ramones, Zacherley, Carol Burnett, the Sex Pistols, Margaret Hamilton, Charles Addams, the Monkees, Caspar Friedrich, and Bugs Bunny.
All art and creativity inspires me if it comes from the heart. That’s kind of a cop-out answer, but it’s true. Acting, writing, visual art, and music are all forms of art that inspire me.
Photo Credit: Eric Parks