Ten Questions with Kristian A. Söderström, director of VIDEOMAN
So Kristian A. Söderström, who are you, where do you come from and what’s your creative arts background?
I grew up in Gothenburg Sweden and was a film fanatic from the start. I got me an education in film directing from UCLA in Los Angeles, but I’ve studied film theory and psychology as well. For many years now, I’ve been making short films and commercials while trying to finance feature films. I write and direct.
What’s the Swedish horror movie scene like? Is it a vibrant culture? Or has it been very limiting and hard for you to break through?
I would say that the Swedish horror and genre scene is almost non existent. I’ve had a lot of problems financing films. Some years ago I was asked by a commissioner at the Swedish film institute if a script I submitted was supposed to be a horror film or a drama. I answered ”It’s supposed to be both.” That was something they could not tolerate. Anyhow, horror has never been a popular genre with the film financers in Sweden. Experimental stuff is also tough. At the moment it seems like you either must make a nordic noir, a comedy or an obviously ”important” film. There are always exceptions to this off course, but generally speaking, not.
Is the movie autobiographical, are you that central VHS collector, Ennio, and is that your house covered in fabulous Italian posters and wall-to-wall videos?
The main character, Ennio, is a combination of three people I know. One of them is me. So there are definitely autobiographical moments in there. It’s not my house depicted in the film, altough I own a lot of Italian movie posters. I collect them, as well as movies.
You are clearly a massive Italian horror/Giallo fan, so in keeping with the playful atmosphere of movie choose: Dario Argento or Lucio Fulci?
That is a really tough adoration match…I will go with Argento though. He was the one that got me into italian genre cinema and his filmmaking inspired my desire to make movies.
The ‘stolen’ video is ZOMBIE, any reason why you picked that title?
In Sweden in the early 80s, we had a similar thing to the UK to Video Nasties. A distributor called ”Video Invest” put out 26 horror titles. After a debate on national telly, these films were quickly banned from the video stores. Many years later these titles, from this particular distributor, became a VHS collectors wet dream. Therefore I wanted it to be one of these. Zombie, which for some reason carry the cover of ”City of the Living Dead”, was chosen because of the cover art, which I love. It’s also a Fulci film. The main character has a thing for Fulci, the same goes for me.
Of course Ennio’s VHS obsession is yet another of the many addictions you depict. Is that what VIDEOMAN is really all about?
On the surface it's a film about film fanaticism and 80s nostalgia. Thematically, it's a movie about loneliness, passion and addiction. The starting point of this film was me meeting a video store owner who had not taken a vacation for 14 years. He seemed to be imprisoned by his passion (films). The thought of how something you love can lead to loneliness and exclusion was something that really appealed to me.
Stefan Sauk from THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (Swedish version), Lena Nilsson and Martin Wallstrom (‘Mr. Robot’) are your main stars and they are all terrific. How did you go about casting them?
When deciding on which script to make as my low budget feature debute, my path crossed with Stefan Sauk, whom I kind of forgot as an actor. I liked him very much many years ago when he was making a very far out thing on television. I realised that he could bring the black humour and desperation that I needed for the main character Ennio. Stefan being long time absent from feature film work also fitted Ennio, who is trying to make a comeback, life-wise.
Lena Nilsson was an up-and-coming star in the 80s. She also had not worked in movies for many years. Stefan told me I should see her as he thought she was great. I did and was blown away by her naturalistic presence. Simone, who Lena is playing, like Ennio, has gotten stuck in the 80s. Both these characters were succesful back then, that’s why they’ve gotten obsessed with trying to evoke these times anew. Life seemed to be imitating art a bit with these two actors.
Regarding Martin Wallström, I had been a fan long before MR Robot. In Robot he was so amazing and he got so much hype that I thought it impossible to get him in my small movie. He loved the script though and the rest is history.
Your poster tag line is ‘A Movie Can Change Your Life’, do you truly believe that?
Well yes, I think that’s possible. In the case of Ennio in ”Videoman”, the Zombie film becomes a financial life savior, like the bicycle in ”Bicycle thieves”. In real life I think that a movie can have a very strong impact. It can hit you in many different ways. It can make you question yourself and others, it can make you obsessed and so on. Sometimes you will never be quite the same after watching a particular movie. In a small way, or a big way…
Great score by Waveshaper and Robert Parker, how did that come about?
It’s great, isn’t it! John Carpenter is the reason that I wanted to have analogue synths on the soundtrack of my first feature. I loved him and his scores since forever. I’ve been a fan of the neo analogue synth movement ”Synthwave” since Nicolas Winding
Refn’s ”Drive”. When I realised that Waveshaper, whom I adored, was actually Swedish, I had my producer track him down. Through Waveshaper I got to Robert Parker. These two side by side felt like a match in heaven, in order to reach the whole pallette of feelings in this genre bender of a movie.
You describe VIDEOMAN as “Dario Argento meets Mike Leigh”. Can you explain some more?
Dario Argento and Mike Leigh are two of my greatest influences. I’d like to combine realistic filmmaking (Leigh) with genre elements (Argento). I love complex characters that feels like real human beings and I also love the mood and storytelling of horror films. I feel like there often exists a segregation between commercial and ”important” movies, such that it must be either or. I want to change this. I think people like Ben Wheatly, Alice Lowe and Peter Strickland are breaking down barriers like these. They are very inspiring to me. ”Kill List”, ”Prevenge” and ”Berberian Sound studio” are masterful and innovative filmmaking.
VIDEOMAN plays at Arrow Video FrightFest on Sun 26th August, Cineworld Leicester SQ.
Monday, 20 August 2018
Friday, 17 August 2018
What was it about Gavin Williams’s script for AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS you liked so much, and what did you add to make it more personal to you?
Well, when I first read the script I thought: “How the hell am I going to make this!” It was like nothing I had ever seen before. I knew it was going to be a massive challenge in every way possible. Overall, this was a very unusual script and that also appealed to me. My main addition to the script was to push it in a much darker and serious tone overall, which is more my style of filmmaking. I’m pleased that I managed to retain the dark humour at the start but then move into a different and much more serious realm as things start getting nastier for the family.
GOD’S OWN COUNTRY producer Jack Tarling thought of you as director because the script is a solid character study in the same vein as your previous film THE DISAPPEARED. Can you see the similarities?
Yes, in some instances (apart from the VFX) there are lots of similarities to THE DISAPPEARED. For instance we are seeing our characters break down in front of us and observing how they subtly start to transform into someone else. Ultimately it’s all about characters for me when I make a film, if I don’t have a script which doesn’t have interesting or dynamic characters then its not something I’m interested in doing.
It’s extraordinary how the film’s subject matter has chimed with the current hot issues of misplaced authority and fake news?
The timing is pretty unbelievable, considering the script was written a few years ago! It’s really hit a raw nerve with the American audiences when screening it at Chicago. They are pretty much seeing what’s going on in the world played out in front of them. The family in my film are people who simply don’t know what’s real and what’s not in the news anymore!
Was it always a Christmas setting and what did that add to the horrific atmosphere?
Yes. Families tend to always argue when they get together over Christmas, it seems to generally bring out the worst in people. Now imagine locking those families together in one house and then dousing them with fear and paranoia. You’re left with the most extreme and horrible scenario imaginable, which is what AFI shows us.
There’s a definite David Cronenberg/John Carpenter vibe going on, how did you ensure to strike the right balance between homage and innovation?
Yes there are influences by such films as ‘The Thing’ and in particular ‘The Fly’ by Cronenberg, with the whole body horror elements. I was also very influenced by Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’ as well as ‘The Twilight Zone’ episodes and 50’s paranoid sci fi films.
Seven people in one enclosed place like CUBE and the ensemble cast is amazing. Did the rehearsal period you insisted on before shooting engender that family-style cohesion?
Yes that was definitely a challenge for sure. Again, you want to be able to manage seven characters speaking at the same time but still keeping it as exciting and dynamic as possible. I was fortunate enough to be able to rehearse with the actors on the actual built sets, which really help with blocking and being able to play around with different ways to shoot it and for the actors to feel comfortable.
Dan Martin’s special prosthetic effects are wonderful. How important was it for you to do as much in camera as possible?
I had never met Dan before the film but I knew his wife Jen Handorf who introduced me to him and that’s how he became involved. The film uses old school SPFX techniques, prosthetics, animatronics, wires, puppeteers, shooting in reverse etc. and finding someone these days who specialises in these is hard. Fortunately, Dan is one of them. I presented Dan with a bunch of concept art, which I had worked on with my Creature Designer Steve Trumble and Dan immediately got the concept. It was then a matter of making them work, which he did!
How difficult is filming on interconnecting sets in one locked location?
We had the main stage as the living room and kitchen and dining area. I insisted on having that as one entire space so it would feel authentic and if the camera moved around that space then it could do so continuously. That’s where we pretty much shot most of the film, which made it easier. But we did have to shoot the bedrooms, bathroom and upstairs landing on the two other stages which did require careful planning,
Can you say something about Annika Summerson’s terrific lighting, how would you define the look?
Again I wanted it to look cinematic, rich and by her lighting style she achieves that excellently. By the second or third act in particular we played with colour a lot. Annika used a colour chart to map out the lighting colour changes throughout the film, For example, as we start to push the claustrophobia element then the house starts to darken and the dominant light source is the TV.
At the movie’s centre is an amusing concept regarding television’s last power push in this age of multi-visual platforms. But you play it completely straight. Was keeping the humour in check hard?
I think the humour is there at the start but then it dies away as things start to get more serious. Yes, there is a challenge making this insane scenario as serious and feeling as real as possible. There was always a danger it could go the wrong way regarding tone. So by really going for a dark tone and by the serious way the actors play their parts does definitely help that!
AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS plays at Arrow Video FrightFest, Prince Charles Cinema on Sun 26 August.
Wednesday, 15 August 2018
THE DARK is based on your Columbia University thesis short film. Was it a difficult process expanding it into a full-length feature?
I never really saw this as a traditional short-to-feature type of deal, to be honest. My thesis film was my first real foray into genre filmmaking, so it was very much a trial-and-error process for me, almost like a sketch, in which I wanted to see what my version of a horror film would look like. Luckily, the short had some success on the festival circuit, which gave me the confidence I needed to launch into writing the feature. Some of the ideas from the short definitely carried over, but ultimately it feels like a totally different film to me.
You shot the film in North Ontario, Canada, but what’s the Austrian connection?
The film’s connection: the Austrian production company DOR Film were the primary producers, and the film was majority-financed by Austria, which makes it an Austrian film. While we initially intended to shoot in Austria, later in the process I was talking with my acquaintance Robert Eggers about his experience making THE WITCH, and he made me aware of a production incentive in Northern Ontario they had accessed, called the NOHFC. I brought it to DOR’s attention, and they ended up exploring the incentive, and eventually linked up with the Canadian production company First Love Films and decided to move the production to Canada.
As for my personal connection: I met Executive Producer Florian Krügel while we were both studying at Columbia University’s Graduate Film Program. There we became friends and collaborators, and even though Florian ended up leaving Columbia early to return to Vienna and continue his studies at the Vienna Film Academy, we wanted to continue working together, so he went on to produce all of my student films as well as develop the script for the feature version of THE DARK. It was through Florian that I met Klemens Hufnagl, as well as several of my other Austrian collaborators, who I consider to be like family. So it was important to me that we all make THE DARK together, and I was ecstatic when Florian was hired by DOR Film and they optioned THE DARK as the first feature film he would oversee at the company.
Klemens Hufnagl is credited as your cinematographer and co-director, how did that union work exactly?
Klemens and I have been working together as DP and Director respectively for years, so at this point we’re not only collaborators, we’re really good friends. As I mentioned, for most of the development and pre-production process, we planned to shoot the film in Austria, as a German-language film. I’m far from fluent in German, and even though I directed a student short film in Austria a while back that was German-language, I realized a feature film is a different animal altogether. Luckily, Klemens and I have a pretty seamless working relationship, so I really relied on him to help me through the Austrian prep - whether it be the painstaking process of going through the script line-by-line in order to translate it to German in a way that didn’t lose any of my specific intentions, helping me translate my vision for the film to a more authentically Austrian setting, or participating in the German-language casting process. All of which changed once we moved the production to Canada, at which point we were able to return to our normal routine of focusing our collaboration on achieving the desired look of the film. But regardless, it was important that Klemens be credited for the work that he did.
What was the look you wanted to achieve?
So much of the film is from Mina’s perspective. My priority with my storyboards was to design a visual language that created a strong subjectivity for Mina, so the audience would more easily align with her. I was also interested in reflecting Mina’s slowly expanding world, so in the beginning things feel slightly claustrophobic, and then as the kids break out of the woods the world starts to open up. Lastly, the fact that Mina and Alex are on screen so often, and they look the way they do…it was important to me to find ways to balance things out so that this story still felt like it was of our world. It was like walking a tight rope. Both the minimalistic sound design and the camera, during the present day sections of the film, reflect a sort of realism while still maintaining the ability to depart with some subtle flourishes. But then, during the flashback moments where we’re totally in Mina’s subconscious, we were able to let loose and play a bit more, both with sound and look.
You’ve said LET THE RIGHT ONE IN was a big influence. Anything else?
I grew up in a pretty strict household that didn’t allow me to watch a lot of things, horror films included. Whenever I did get the chance to see a horror film at a friend’s house, it would torment my dreams endlessly, so when I started writing and making my own films, I never felt like there was a place in horror for me. But then I went to film school, and was introduced to movies like LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, PAN’S LABYRINTH, DEVIL’S BACKBONE, PSYCHO…they were like a gateway into this whole new storytelling world for me. They sort of invited me in to play, and I haven’t looked back since.
Horror is all around rather than the monster simply residing in the main character, Mina, so THE DARK is primarily a genre reversal? As much as I loved LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, after watching it I was left with this nagging question: what would the film look like from the perspective of Eli? It was like an itch I couldn’t scratch, and even though THE DARK wasn’t even on my radar at the time, I think that was the earliest seed of the film. I was interested in seeing a horror film from the monster’s perspective - and not only that, but also having an emotional journey with her. Part of that was finding the monster whose anger I could fully share and become consumed by, and that was Mina. The other part was seeing the world the way she sees it - this unfeeling, dangerous place, where everything is sort of a mirror for the source of her anger. Everything except Alex.
Aside from the zombie horror trope, THE DARK is really about two victims of abuse finding a common empathy and bonding together?
Very much so. At this early stage in my career, abuse and the cyclical nature that seems to go along with it, have been common threads that run through much of my work.
You call THE DARK a twisted fairy-tale?
There’s always been a certain fairy-tale quality to it for me, albeit probably more in line with the darker Grimm tales…so I guess at some point that’s why the term ‘twisted fairy-tale’ came to my mind. It’s about dark and twisted subject matter, but underneath it all there’s this layer of hopefulness to it. Subtle, yes…but it’s there…
Nadia Alexander and Toby Nichols are amazing as the ‘Babes in the Wood’, how did you come to cast them?
I worked with the wonderful casting director Lois Drabkin. I saw over 100 girls in total for Mina - all very talented performers, but for this particular role, I felt I needed someone very specific: I needed to cast the monster, and that wasn’t something that was easy to find. In fact, the only actor I saw who was able to disappear into the monster convincingly was Nadia. I knew it the minute she sauntered (yes, sauntered) into the room. She’s such a talented and emotional performer, but also incredibly versatile. She approaches her work and the characters she is interested in playing with a fearlessness I think we’re more used to seeing from actors who are much later on in their careers, which for me makes her all the more impressive.
Once I’d cast Nadia, I asked her to read with the actors we had in mind for Alex and help me with the decision based on her chemistry with them - and luckily we both loved Toby for the role. Similar to Nadia, I knew very early on Toby would be great as Alex; what I didn’t realize was just how great. Toby was only 14-years-old when we cast him, and he initially came off as quiet and reserved, but once I started to work with him I realized just how intelligent beyond his years he was. His instincts are uncanny, and his dedication is remarkable. He brought equal parts fragility and fierceness to Alex that I could have only expected in my wildest dreams.
The emotional release at the climax is quite something, a hard element to pull off?
To be perfectly honest, there weren’t very many easy elements to pull off in this film…I’m not totally sure I quite knew what I was getting myself into production-wise when I wrote the script. But by the time we were in pre-production, I had grown to care so much for these two kids, and so badly wanted to protect them, that I just used that as my guiding light through the entire journey. As long as I felt like I was doing right by Mina and Alex, and being true to them and their stories, I felt comfortable that I was making the right choices for the right reasons, and the rest would fall into place.
THE DARK plays at Arrow Video FrightFest on Mon 27th August, Cineworld Leicester SQ. It will receive a Home Entertainment release Oct 2018, courtesy of FrightFest Presents.
Monday, 13 August 2018
Are you really named Christopher after horror icon Christopher Lee?
Sure am, my mum loved him as an actor and I guess I scored his name.
Your past horrors – DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL, COME AND GET ME, CHARLIE’S FARM – were all R rated and came with some controversy. Is that why BOAR is just gory creature feature fun?
When I first wrote BOAR I wanted it to be R Rated as well, really violent kills and gore like my past films, people seemed to really love the kills in Charlie’s Farm and the Torture in Daddy’s Little Girl. I wanted the fans to get that same feeling and enjoyment from the bloodshed in BOAR. I wrote BOAR to be funny when it had to be funny and serious when it had to be serious. I wanted to give the fans a journey they could go on for 96 minutes, one minute they are laughing, the next minute watching a head get torn off then back to laughing again. BOAR doesn’t take itself serious at all; it’s a fun film that has a giant pig that eats people, so yeah BOAR is just “Gory Creature Feature Fun”!
A giant pig in the outback! Obviously RAZORBACK must have been an influence?
You know you can’t make a giant pig movie in Australia without people thinking about one of the greats, RAZORBACK. Now that’s a great monster movie and I guess in a small way there was a little RB Influence there but to be honest, my inspiration for BOAR came from American Werewolf in London and Jaws. However I do have an awesome cameo from Chris Haywood (Razorback) in BOAR where he sits at the bar and talks about a giant pig terrorising the outback.
You are very loyal to your repertory company, including Bill Moseley, Nathan Jones. And BOAR also stars iconic actors from WOLF CREEK and MAD MAX. How important is it to continue that Australian genre tradition?
I have so much love for all the actors I have worked with over the years, both named stars and up and coming actors; I definitely have a special bond with some of them and hope to work with them again down the track. Like most directors I have my go too talent for my films in Australia. This may change if I was shooting a film in USA or other countries; also it depends on the film/script to what talent would be needed of course. If it was an Australian film I would most definitely continue to hire Aussie acting legends for the roles, especially talent I have worked with and now have solid relationships with.
This is your first time at FrightFest. Excited?
I am super excited and honoured to have BOAR playing at FrightFest, what an amazing festival to have the UK premiere. I really hope the FrightFest Creature Feature fans really enjoy BOAR and have a great time watching BOAR and all the great films the festival is playing.
What are your own personal favourite past Australian horrors?
You can’t go past John Jarratt and Wolf Creek, Razorback, Rogue, The Loved Ones and I really enjoyed Wyrmwood. To be honest I’m a big supporter of Aussie Horror movies in general, I think Aussie’s have a knack for making good fun horror films and I think the world loves to see what we are going to bring out next. Aussie’s are known for F@%king Sh%t up and I don’t think this will ever change. The boar itself is a 3-man operated 14ft. fibreglass model and over 85% of the film utilises practical effects.
Was that the major challenge here?
One of the main challenges was moving the big beast around on set, sometimes just to move him a few meters up the road could take 20+ minutes then we would have to re set him up and get the team back inside for the next takes. As for challenges I don’t think we had too many with the practical beast apart from small things like tusks breaking, there was the one time Nathan Jones punched out one of the eyes and we had to change heads but overall I think he went pretty well on set.
How hard is it to balance comedy with the horror?
The script has to have some great dialogue in there for the talent to use but I think it’s all in the casting, delivery and edit. So far all my films have had a mixture of comedy and horror, as I said a few times in the past I don’t think I’ve actually made a “Scary” movie yet. I seem to be able to have that healthy balance of both comedy and horror and the fans seem to enjoy that balance as well. It’s also important to know when enough is enough so you don’t turn the whole film into a comedy, you still need those moments where the audience hides behind their hands, gasps or reacts to the horror on screen. You have to remember it’s a horror film that has a few laughs along the way, take the audience on the emotional roller coaster ride so they walk out of that screening not only talking about the funny scenes but they are raving about the kills, blood and guts as well.
What’s your favourite scene in BOAR?
There is a scene with Chris Haywood, Ernie Dingo and Melissa Tkautz that I just love in the bar where Chris delivers a cameo, I had so much fun shooting it and editing it all together. I also really enjoyed Nathan Jones’s rap scene, I wont spoil for the fans but Nathan Jones is normally cast in films to play the big bad guy, In BOAR we have cast him as “Uncle Bernie” and he is just a lovable character and has a few memorable scenes through out the film, he has definitely become a BOAR fan favourite.
BOAR is just so over-the-top, is that the overall atmosphere you were going for?
Most definitely, I always knew it was going to be a fun over the top film. It has serious moments in there but for the most part it’s an entertaining F@%ked up film. FrightFest supporters should go to watch BOAR knowing it’s a fun film with plenty of laughs, blood and guts, they won’t be disappointed. I mean how can you be disappointed - it’s a giant pig roaming around eating random people, who doesn’t want to see that?
BOAR plays at Arrow Video FrightFest on Fri 24th August, Cineworld Leicester SQ.
It will receive a Home Entertainment release in 2019, courtesy of FrightFest Presents.
Tuesday, 7 August 2018
You played a Street Demon in director Jason Lei Howden’s FrightFest favourite DEATHGASM. Is the New Zealand film community that small?
I didn’t play a street demon; I am a street demon. The film community in NZ is small enough for most active people to know most other active people – but the genre scene is small enough for us all to know each other by at least one degree of separation. Many of my friends worked on or acted in Deathgasm and they needed a night shoot of ‘street demons’ so I donned my tie-dye and offered to help out. It was a lot of fun and I think Jason and the team did an incredible job.
Have you met Peter Jackson and do you see him as the ultimate Kiwi role model?
I have met some of his major long-time collaborators like Richard Taylor (production designer) who put me in touch with Jamie Selkirk (editor/post supervisor) who mentored me through the postproduction of Romeo and Juliet, so I spent a lot of time at Park Road Post but I have never met Peter Jackson. He is certainly one of the great Kiwi legends and for filmmakers he would be the ultimate role model. His work has inspired me since I was five years old and living in a caravan when I saw a news piece about Bad Taste being selected for Cannes. I remember my dad laughing his arse off about the sheep being hit by the rocket launcher and ever since then I wanted to be a filmmaker. Then when Braindead came out I realised that filmmaking was something I might be able to do – I just needed to find a fresh approach. I still remember gagging as Tim Balme pulls the dog tail from his mother’s throat… Braindead is so good.
Not many people get to write with William Shakespeare as you did with your 2013 feature debut ROMEO AND JULIET: A LOVE SONG. That must have been a great experience?
Haha, yeah, I think that credit was a legal thing. Shakespeare really didn’t deserve it, after all he only wrote the verse. I’ll give you a moment to recover after that hilarious joke… It was fun trying to Kiwify Romeo and Juliet but the difficult part was filming it as an opera. Coming from music videos I was used to shooting to music but to shoot the full play in its entire original text, all set to a series of songs, and to try to make it emotionally moving was a major challenge. It taught me that I had a lot to learn in terms of storytelling.
You directed over 180 music video for some top Kiwi and International acts. Can you name some we would have seen?
It’s hard to tell which videos you may know because the music scene varies so vastly from country to country. My band, Collapsing Cities, was signed in the UK around 2008/9 and we toured and did the big festivals so maybe you saw something then. I used to make at least a video a week so it’s hard to remember them all. My most popular videos were ‘Just a little bit’ - Kids of 88, ‘Standing in the rain’– Sola Rosa, ‘Autumn’ – Artisan Guns, some The Naked and Famous stuff… but these were more popular in Aus, NZ, Germany and the US… the UK is pretty unique in its music scene; when my band supported the Artic Monkeys I was surprised to see that they had platinum records hanging on the wall at XFM…so antipodean.
Where did you get the idea for the MEGA TIME SQUAD script?
I wanted to do a time travel movie and I thought it would be cool if it were about a guy who went back in time to hang out with himself. But then I wondered if it would funny if he jacked himself off... Then he would feel weird about it and go back in time again to stop himself from jacking himself off and there would be this weird love triangle between a series of copies of the same guy. Then I came to my senses and realised that there was a better way to approach this idea. What if he helped himself commit a crime or escape the punishment for committing a crime? What if he time travelled to help himself steal a bunch of cash but once he got it he didn’t want to share the cash with himself? What if he time travelled so much that the various versions couldn’t remember which version was which? Then what if they started killing each other? This seemed like a better angle than a wankfest.
Time travel stories can often be so convoluted, how did you avoid that?
I drew a kind of map of the time travel and decided that the only “rule” was that when John time travels he moves in time but not in space. I was more focused on how to make time travel new again or at least address it from a less familiar perspective. I felt like we’d seen enough time travel movies where we follow the same character going back over and over again so I wanted to show the story from more of a third person point of view. We travel with John the first couple of times but after that we follow whichever version of John is driving the story. It’s not really about time travel, it’s about a lovable idiot with a time travel device who thinks time travel is cool because he gets to hang out with earlier iterations of himself.
Any favourite time travel movies you looked at for inspiration?
I watched as many as I could find and I loved most of them but the one that influenced the way this film worked was Time Crimes. Mega Time Squad is a very different film in both tone and premise but it’s similar in that there are multiples of the same guy in the same timeline and that’s what Time Crimes achieved very well. You’ll notice a dozen or so nods to various movies in the Mega Time Squad but they are not so much influences on the film; instead they are films that I imagine that John (the main character) thinks he’s in.
Did your script have to be so vulgar, or is that the NZ way?
I didn’t notice it was so vulgar until the sound designer played it to his kids. While I was writing it I was spending a lot of time with my dad and that’s how we talk. A big chunk of the dialogue is made up of direct quotes from my dad and his mates. I wouldn’t say ‘it’s the Kiwi way’ but I do think New Zealanders and Australians have a more relaxed and cheerful attitude towards vulgarity than many other parts of the world. Etymology section of answer: I was recently in Rome where I saw an original ‘vulgar’ fresco on the wall of a church from 150AD depicting the Emperor instructing slaves who were dragging St Clemente out of the ocean and the text in the fresco read “Hurry up you sons of bitches!” That’s where the term ‘vulgar’ comes from.
MEGA TIME SQUAD features some amazing special effects considering, one assumes, the low budget. How did you manage it?
I’ve been deep into VFX software since I started my career as a video artist showing in art galleries until my band was signed and I moved into making music videos and then into making films. After spending years making VFX-heavy content and then doing the VFX on Romeo and Juliet and some more on Deathgasm I have a pretty good command of the discipline. I understood that there were going to be a lot of constraints around the formal aspects of the film because, as you mention, we had no money. So I needed to work around that with regard to camera movement, for example, while still being able to pace the film and give it a cinematic feel. It was a challenge, and if my past endeavours hadn’t taught me the limits of what I could pull off competently at this budget level, I probably would’ve felt that I’d bitten off more than I could chew. As far as conceptualisation, my only rule on Mega Time Squad was that I wanted the VFX to be inherently silly while remaining cool and being something that I hadn’t seen before. Hopefully that’s what James and I achieved.
How would you best describe MEGA TIME SQUAD?
Its an absurd time travel crime comedy with a big heart about a loveable rural idiot with modest aspirations who uses a time travel bracelet to steal the money needed to fulfil his dream of moving to the neighbouring town… but he fucks up the time travelling bit.
MEGA TIME SQUAD plays at Arrow Video FrightFest on Thurs 23 August, Cineworld Leicester SQ.
Monday, 6 August 2018
What first attracted you to actor Gregory Blair’s script?
When Templeheart gave me the script of HERETIKS (although it was a different title at the time), the one thing that really grabbed my interest was the opportunity to do a creepy period horror, set in 17th Century England. I’d already shot a war-set film, a contemporary werewolf film and here was an opportunity to do a film set in the 17th century where young girls were put on trial for witchcraft, of which some were drowned, hanged and so much worse. It was a truly dark and fearful time in the history of England, one that I was keen to portray on screen, and adding to that a supernatural element, was hard to resist.
What did you and your SEASONING HOUSE co-writer Conal Palmer bring to the final screenplay?
Conal and I did an extensive rewrite, as I remember, at the time it had vampiric nuns. I was keen to ground it and get rid of that story element but I loved this tale of these younger girls brought to this priory, so worked more on the relationships between the younger girls and hierarchy of the older nuns. And then we brought in the mythology of the supernatural element of the film, creating the flashbacks and why the priory was haunted. We then a did a lot of work of Persephone’s journey and the background she left behind and then really worked on all the characters one by one, we really wanted to give everyone their own unique character and background. We also brought the themes of religion more strongly forward and both Conal and I especially worked on the dialogue to give it a more olden style. And after working on the slow burn build up, I felt the film needed to go full tilt in the last act, thankfully Templeheart liked the direction we were taking it.
What a coup casting Clare Higgins, the HELLRAISER icon herself, as the Reverend Mother. What was it like working with her?
It was wonderful to have Clare. I grew up with the Hellraiser films, so to have her on a film of mine was great. She was a consummate professional, and she really anchors the film. It’s hard for an actor when they’re portraying a character that you don’t want to give away their true intentions too early, and I think Clare got it pitch perfect.
And Michael Ironside is another genre icon too, it must have been fun directing him?
It was wonderful, a childhood dream. He was so lovely to everyone, really chatty, and just was so approachable to everyone on the cast and crew. It was great talking to him about Scanners, Total Recall and so many other films of my youth. He was so full of stories and anecdotes. I’d love to work with him again in the future.
Your actress muse Rosie Day turns up again, as she also does again in your next movie PERIPHERAL. Is she your lucky charm?
Haha, yes, Rosie and I love collaborating at work together and we’re great friends, so yes, we’ll keep working together.
Hannah Arterton is your lead in both HERETIKS and PERIPHERAL, so Rosie might be replaced? Say it isn’t so?
No, of course not, there are lots of reasons why you use certain people for certain roles, sometimes due to availability, schedules and also the right fit for the role. For example I saw Rosie as the perfect person to play Shelley in PERIPHERAL and she nailed it perfectly, and Hannah I saw as the character of Bobbi, and she in turn nailed that role. I look forward to working with both Hannah and Rosie in the future. They’re truly talented actresses and lovely to work with.
The Priory is a wonderfully evocative location, where is it?
We split the shoot into two places in Wales, the upper floors were shot at Margam Castle and the lower floors were shot in Tretower, a medieval court. They were beautiful locations, we just had to be very careful, bringing in specialists just to supervise a lit candle, so you can imagine the bigger FX sequences were challenging. But the locations were beautiful, the grounds around them outside, were so vast and breath taking, I feel it gives the film a more realistic feel then if you’d just built sets.
We’re seeing a lot of nuns in horror at the moment, why has it become a trend?
I don’t know why, although I’ve noticed a trend of religious horror getting more popular over the last few years, horror seems to have these trends, whether it’s post- modern social commentary, or home invasion, torture porn etc., it’s always trying to work out what is going to be the trend in a year or two? With HERETIKS we felt you couldn’t go wrong with a retro-style religious period horror featuring nuns.
What was your biggest HERETIKS challenge?
I think mostly shooting in real locations, like Margam Castle and Tretower court, there could be no drilling in walls to attach anything like stunt cables, you couldn’t throw blood about in case it stained the medieval stone work, we also had to build sets within these locations but couldn’t attach or drill them into the actual location, we just couldn’t risk anything, but I think the biggest challenge was the endangered bats that were a protected species. We couldn’t harass them, distress them, and certainly not harm them. We risked a large fine and a prison sentence. So whenever one flew out, we had to call cut and let it fly about and do its thing until it was happy for us to continue. I remember one scene that we needed a fireplace roaring in the background for continuity, and a bat had got itself settled in the chimney, I did seriously consider going in with a stick if no-one was watching.
Pleased to be back at Frightfest? Tell us some of your favourite memories from past appearances.
I love Frightfest, it’s been so important in my formative years in the last decade or so and I feel so wonderfully supported by Alan, Paul, Ian and Greg, from my time as a prosthetics artists, to my first movie, and their continued support to Heretiks. If I had to choose a memory, it was the phone call telling us that we’d been selected as opening film for THE SEASONING HOUSE, and then the actual screening at the large Empire screen, was the best night of my life.
HERETIKS plays at Arrow Video FrightFest on Sat 25 August, Cineworld Leicester SQ.
Thursday, 2 August 2018
Arrow Video FrightFest 2018 showcases the best in short film from the UK and around the world, with ten countries representing five continents. From otherworldly ghosts to terrifying monsters, from the creepy to the baffling, from this dimension to those still unknown, this year’s selection unleashes the latest from upcoming and established filmmakers.
Some of the best homegrown talent stretches their acting muscles, including Maisie Williams in Tom de Ville’s soaring Corvidae, Gemma Whelan in Paul Taylor’s hair-bristling The Blue Door, Alice Lowe in demonic thriller Salt, plus Adam Buxton and Asa Butterfield in surreal dark comedy Right Place, Wrong Tim.
Girl Power takes on different meanings: from the empowerment of American shorts Pie and BFF Girls, and Ireland’s Catcalls, to the downright deadly of Spain’s Marta, New Zealand’s Devil Woman, and UK shorts The Good Samaritans and Envy, these ladies will keep you guessing and possibly running for your life.
Monsters loom large: in the post-apocalyptic wilderness of TiCK, an abandoned warehouse in We Summoned a Demon, on the way home in Who’s That at the Back of the Bus, in the home in My Monster, The Cost of Living and Milk and even at a wedding, as in NeckFace.
Creepiness pervades throughout the programme, from unsettling discoveries in 42 Counts, to unwanted birthday surprises in Special Day. Strange sights and smells disrupt home life in The Front Door, Secretion and The Lady from 406 from South Korea, while some secrets are best left alone in Reprisal from Lebanon, and Wrong Number.
Perhaps the scariest thing of all is love, and what better way to explore its mysteries than through genre shorts. The devil makes an appearance in Payment, while true intentions are hidden under paper and cloth in Baghead and someone wants to use love to control in Puppet Master, from Finland’s Hanna Bergholm.
Time takes strange turns in new UK science fiction, from trying to make amends in Be Uncertain, to cunning entrepreneurship in There Are No Dividends. New animation shines in UK folk horror Madder Isle, and New Zealand homegrown DIY style Fire in Cardboard City.
This year, the FIRST BLOOD strand includes three shorts by up-and-coming UK directors:. Beware of insects in your hotel room in Fran & The Moth; the countryside might not be the best place to be on your own in The Lonely and some teenagers never learn in Mannequins.
There is also a world premiere screening of Joanne Mitchell’s Sybil. Fresh from producing and starring in ATTACK OF THE ADULT BABIES, this ‘deathly love-story’ marks Mitchell’s directorial debut.
Programmer Shelagh Rowan-Legg said today: "The short films at Arrow Video FrightFest have incredible sights to show you, from haunted houses to frightening forests, to monsters from beyond the grave and ones a little too close to home. With shorts from the as close to home as your local night bus to as far away as the wilds of Tasmania, with stars stretching their talent to new actors and directors making their break-out hit, these short films offer the best from new and established filmmakers, shaking the foundations of fantastic genre film.”
Arrow Video FrightFest runs from 23rd -27th August 2018 at Cineworld Leicester Square and The Prince Charles Cinema.
Tickets & passes are now available to buy online: http://www.frightfest.co.uk/tickets.html
For full programme details: http://www.frightfest.co.uk
Wednesday, 1 August 2018
Horror filmmaker Lou Simon (HazMat, All Girl’s Weekend) gives us the 411 on her new film 3 : An Eye for an Eye, releasing this August on VOD, as well as a horror anthology she’s working on next month.
Having spent so much time in this genre in recent years, I imagine you must be a fan?
Yes, I’m a huge fan of genre films in general and horror in particular.
How did your love of horror begin?
I don’t know if it’s just horror as suspenseful films – anything with mystery to solve or some sort of twist. As a kid, I never watched cartoons. Instead, I would watch old films with my mom. Films like Alfred Hitchcock films or “Whatever happened to Baby Jane.” My mom says that sometimes I used to figure the twists even before she did. So I guess you can blame my mom for dark taste in entertainment.
Have you intentionally made films that you, as a teenager, might’ve wanted to see?
I have tried to make films with mass appeal, not for any one age in specific. The truth is that international sales make or break a film nowadays, and you have to take into account the censorship policies in different territories. You make something that is too violent or gory, and you’ll never be able to sell it abroad. If you can’t make money off the film, you won’t make another one.
3 : An Eye for an Eye isn’t as much of a ‘horror’ film as you previous films were. Is that fair to say?
Yes, it’s definitely a psychological thriller, although there is some amount of violence that might be construed as horror. Someone called it “psychological horror” the other day, and that seems to fit. This is my homage to Hitchcock, my favorite director.
Your ‘villain’ is quite complex. Did you want the audience to ‘feel’ something for him? Was that intentional?
There is very little that was not intentional in the story. The entire film is about “who is the villain?” Is it the man who might have raped this woman, or is it the man who’s torturing him? It’s the moral question about right and wrong, which is always a complex one.
Do you have anything else in the works?
I’m filming my segment of an all-female horror anthology in September. Then, start pre-production on a sci-fi, horror film about a man who wakes up after world war III to find that he’s the only man alive in a colony of women.
Monday, 30 July 2018
To celebrate FrightFest 2018, taking place in London during the August Bank Holiday, Horror Channel is dedicating thirteen nights to past festival hits.
Amongst the twenty-six fear-filled favourites, the channel will air four UK TV premieres: Simeon Halligan’s ‘terror-torial’ home invasion shocker WHITE SETTLERS; Jeff Maher’s crowd-pleasingly ghoulish orgy of sex and gore BED OF THE DEAD; Chad Archibald’s breath-choking supernatural thriller THE DROWNSMAN; and the hauntingly sinister NIGHTWORLD, directed by Patricio Valladares and starring horror icon Robert Englund.
Plus, the channel is broadcasting three network premieres; Alberto Marini’s sly and witty scaremonger SUMMER CAMP; Bernard Rose’s FRANKENSTEIN, a stylishly smart update of the classic myth, starring Xavier Samuel, Danny Huston, Carrie-Anne Moss and Tony Todd, plus RUPTURE, a surreally spooky sci-fi horror from Steven Shainberg (Secretary), starring Noomi Rapace.
The double bills airing every night from 9pm from August 17th – 29th also feature FrightFest crowd-pleasing classics such as the pulsating, blood-soaked ‘80s homage TURBO KID; Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s stunning contemporary occult tale of Hollywood ambition, STARRY EYES; the terrifying anthology V/H/S, which pushes the genre in a fresh direction; Lowell Dean’s rage-fuelled WOLFCOP; Franck Khalfoun’s superior psychological horror MANIAC starring Elijah Wood; and Paul Hyett’s hairy horror and bloody action adventure HOWL, starring Ed Speleers, Shauna Macdonald and Sean Pertwee.
Full film details in transmission order:
Fri 17 Aug @ 21:00 - SUMMER CAMP (2015) *Network Premiere
Sat 18 Aug @ 21:00 - FRANKENSTEIN (2015) *Network Premiere
Sat 18 Aug @ 22.50 - RADIUS (2017)
Sun 19 Aug @ 21:00 - WHITE SETTLERS (2014) *UK TV Premiere
Sun 19 Aug @ 22:40 - THE LESSON (2015)
Mon 20 Aug @ 21:00 - CHERRY TREE (2015)
Mon 20 Aug @ 22:45 - MANIAC (2012)
Tues 21 Aug @ 21:00 - THE POSSESSION (2012)
Tues 21 Aug @ 22:55 - SOME KIND OF HATE (2015)
Wed 22 Aug @ 21:00 - CURSE OF CHUCKY (2013)
Wed 22 Aug @ 22:55 - TURBO KID (2015)
Thurs 23 Aug @ 21:00 - THE STRANGERS (2008)
Thurs 23 Aug @ 22:40 - HONEYMOON (2014)
Fri 24 Aug @ 21:00 - BED OF THE DEAD (2016) *UK TV Premiere
Fri 24 Aug @ 22:40 - THE DIVIDE (2011)
Sat 25 Aug @ 21:00 - RUPTURE (2016) * Network Premiere
Sat 25 Aug @ 23:00 - I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE 2 (2013)
Sun 26 Aug @ 21:00 - THE DROWNSMAN (2014) *UK TV Premiere
Sun 26 Aug @ 22:45 - LATE PHASES (2014)
Mon 27 Aug @ 21:00 - NIGHTWORLD (2017) *UK TV Premiere
Mon 27 Aug @ 22:55 - STARRY EYES (2014)
Tues 28 Aug @ 21:00 - THE EVIL IN US (2016)
Tues 28 Aug @ 22:50 - WOLF COP (2014)
Wed 29 Aug @ 21:00 - KNUCKLEBONES (2016)
Wed 29 Aug @ 22:40 - V/H/S (2012)
Horror Channel: Be Afraid
TV: Sky 317 / Virgin 149 / Freeview 70 / Freesat 138
Friday, 27 July 2018
OPEN 24 HOURS is your third time being represented at Frightfest. Why is it important you show your movies at the UK’s premier festival?
FrightFest is the best horror festival in the world. It has the best fans and the best organisers a genre director could hope for. There is so much love and care that goes into the festival and I’m honored every time I get to be a part of it. I’m just happy that they let me keep coming back and showing my films. Everyone involved has become like a family to me and I really can’t thank them enough for helping me with my career and showing my films.
Where did you get the story concept for OPEN 24 HOURS?
The idea of ‘Open 24 Hours’ came to me while I was shooting my first feature “Rites Of Spring” in Mississippi. We were scouting locations for the movie and came across this time worn Gas Station on a lonely rural road. This gas station was a character of itself and I knew that it would make a great self-contained horror movie. I went back to my hotel room and began writing the script. I knew I wanted a strong female protagonist to be as lonely as our main location. Mary is a damaged woman in a thrift store dress. She is desperately trying to put her life back together after years of abuse from her Serial Killer boyfriend who made her watch while killing people. She gets a job and feels that her haunted past is finally behind her. But on a cold rainy night the past returns with a vengeance.
How much did the story change from first treatment to finished screenplay?
I wrote the overall script nine years ago and most of it never changed. I added some gags and tweaked some dialogue. We were going to change the ending but we left it alone.
Is the Rain Ripper based on any particular serial killer from criminal history?
This is a funny story. An ex-girlfriend asked me one night if I was a serial killer who would I be? I said the Rain Ripper and I would only kill when it rained. She thought that was really scary and I kept that element for years and plugged it into Open 24 Hours. The killing with the hammer part came from The Yorkshire Ripper who use to kill off his victims with a variety of blunt objects.
You play with reality, illusion and delusion within the movie, was that the biggest challenge?
Actually, it was a blessing because you can get away with so much more playing with reality and illusions. I really wanted to push the illusions into territories we haven’t seen before but try to keep them grounded.
We love Vanessa Grasse because of LEATHERFACE and IT CAME FROM THE DESERT. Why did you choose her to play Mary?
She gave a killer audition and her look was exactly what I had always envisioned for Mary. Mary is a great female character. A well rounded protagonist that you feel for and you want her to conquer her demons. I think Vanessa really knocked it out of the park. I was blown away by how well she could switch her accent from English to American as well.
Did you build the garage/gas station from scratch? And where did you shoot the movie?
I had a full Gas Station that I could use in Mississippi but the producers wanted to shoot in Serbia. So my production designer, Jelena Sopik, and her team built me the exact Gas Station that was in Mississippi in Serbia. It was crazy but really cool. It gave me the freedom to put more rooms in the Gas Station for more cat and mouse play. I really can’t thank them enough. They really made the movie special since the Gas Station is basically a character in the film.
When directing a Psychological Horror film like OPEN 24 HOURS, what do you have to bear in mind?
You want to keep the audience guessing as to what is real and what is not. You also want to deliver the thrills that they expect when they come into a horror movie.
Were you influenced by any past horrors in either the look or tone of OPEN 24 HOURS?
John Carpenter’s Body Bags episode ‘The Gas Station’ and ‘High Tension’ for sure. Since we shot in Serbia in the winter I really wanted to capture the cold and the rain. I really think that added a nice element to the film.
What are your opinions on the state of the current horror genre?
I think horror is so great now. You have all these different avenues where your film can be watched. Netflix, Amazon, Shudder, Theatrical, Hulu, You Tube. It’s just crazy how many places where your movie can be played. And this year has had some killer horror movies already. ‘A Quiet Place’, ‘Sequence Break’, ‘Mohawk’, ‘Downrange’, ‘The Ritual’.
OPEN 24 HOURS plays at Arrow Video FrightFest on Mon 27 August, Cineworld Leicester SQ.