Behind The Scenes

Fright Bites: Tickle Monster Q&A

We sat down with director Remi Weekes to hear about terrifying Fright Bites short Tickle Monster, coming soon to All4 on October 22nd, just in time for Halloween.

Remi Weekes' Tickle Monster

Remi Weekes’ Tickle Monster

So tell us about where the idea for this short came from? Are you ticklish yourself?

When I was asked to write something for Fright Bites, I really wanted to see if I could take something we normally associate with horror films and make it frightening. Recently, a friend was describing an awful experience whereby they were tortured by their lover after learning they were ticklish. It brought me flashbacks of the dread when someone discovers you are ticklish and takes it upon themselves to torment you. How frustrating it is to be forced to laugh when all you want to do is escape. I thought the idea instantly absurd and playful, and was excited about the possibility of making it into something terrifying.

What other influences went into the mix on this piece?

This was also a chance to put together the different elements that intrigue me as a filmmaker. I enjoy stories that involve the many diverse neighbourhoods I’ve grown up around in London. My love of tension and suspense comes from the masters of film like Hitchcock. I also wanted to explore my cynicism about the gender, power and class structures we live our day-to-day lives around.

The cast have a really nice rapport – did you have them read together and cast them as a pair, or just trust the chemistry would work?

Percelle and Rhianne were two names suggested by our casting director Aisha Walters. We saw a lot of great actors, and we auditioned many pairs, but both Percelle and Rhianne really captured my attention. They were actually the only actors we didn’t get to pair together in the auditions, but we felt it was a gamble worth taking to match them. Both funny, intelligent, and talented they were a pleasure to work with. Collaborating with actors is one my favourite parts of the film making process, these are actors who like to be challenged, and more importantly, actors who challenge me and the material.

The six Fright Bites shorts will be available on All4 from 22nd October

Fright Bites: Squeal Q&A

We sat down with director Lucy Campbell to hear about terrifying Fright Bites short Squeal, coming soon to All4 on October 22nd, just in time for Halloween.

Squeal, by Lucy Campbell

Squeal, by Lucy Campbell

So tell us about where the idea for this short came from? Are you scared of clowns and/or circus folk?

I love the suggestion of evil that you get from a clown, under the veneer of vulnerability, you wonder if there is pure malevolence and spite. I also wanted to see a bully get her comeuppance. This short is my ideal revenge on all bullies.

Without giving away too much, the conclusion is really dark, kind of in the vein of classic revenge tragedies – what were your influences there?

I love a bit of body horror and the idea of change and transformation. There is no going back for this bully. Her life is changed forever… She should have learned to keep her mouth shut.

Lotte Spencer is a real find – did you know she was the one as soon as you saw her audition?

She looked exactly as I imagined the Carney Girl, and I love the defiance and sullenness she brings to the role. Zachary Street did the most incredible self tape I have ever seen, the role was his after seeing that. And he totally climbed inside the clown character. And Rafaella Hutchinson’s Bully brings the destructive energy and playing to the crowd which was so accurate from my experience of school. I love her performance, and I love her patchy orange foundation. Just right.  Also, Patrick Jack Whelan’s costume designs completely transformed the film into something really special. Those clown shoes are just beautiful.

Director Lucy Campbell

Director Lucy Campbell

 

Fright Bites: Shortcut Q&A

We sat down with Prano Bailey-Bond to hear about her terrifying Fright Bites short Shortcut, coming soon to All4 on October 22nd,  just in time for Halloween…

Shortcut, starring Danny Devall

Shortcut, starring Danny Devall

So tell us about where the idea for this short came from? It’s about a nightmarish comeuppance for a cheating boyfriend…

Ok – I’m going to attempt to answer this without giving away the film’s ending… Conrad Ford, who wrote the script, told me that he had always wanted to write a film in which someone has this ‘end’, which I thought was a pretty exciting starting point. Also the road sign – a powerful red-rimmed warning sign, which could pose a question in the audience’s mind… What really drew me to the script was its twisted sense of humour and the way it plays with our expectations. I interpreted it as being a kind of dreamlike revenge fantasy, which felt like a refreshing, modern take on the horror genre.

Almost the entire short is set in a car – did that present any shooting challenges?

It certainly did! It was a one-day shoot and a tight budget, which made shooting in a moving vehicle an enormous challenge. Shooting on a low-loader was out of the question as it would have cost us too much time and budget. The main character, Kurt, is driving quite dangerously; texting, not looking at the road etc, so we really had to consider safety when shooting as well. I made the decision quite early on to shoot the interior car scenes static – I guess you could call this the old-fashioned way! It’s actually a really cool way of shooting, and means you don’t have the whole crew working on the back of a moving lorry, having to re-set vehicle positions etc every time you go for a take, which can really eat into your schedule. Shooting static presents other challenges though, such as creating a sense of movement and travel. So we used moving lights, revolving trees, composited VFX and sound design to sell this idea. This fused quite well with the overall look of the film, which has a slightly stylised feel; surreal and dreamlike, perhaps hinting towards what Sunshine is dreaming about, and how that ties in with the narrative.

The prosthetics work is quite brutal and wince-inducing – who did you work with to get that effect?

Ha! Good. I worked with Dan Martin – a special effects wizard – on the prosthetics. He crafted it and our amazing SFX Make Up artist Ruth Pease was on set to operate it. I worked with Dan on my last short film NASTY. He’s worked on some amazing titles like Sightseers, Human Centipede 2, Nina Forever, High Rise – it’s always an honour to work with Dan. Again, I don’t want to give away the ending of the film, but I’ve never had so many, um, ‘unique’ conversations about that part of the body as I have working on this film. Dan and I had some very interesting chats, and I ended up on some pretty intriguing blogs too. Another first for me on Shortcut was one of the crew members accidentally being urinated on in the mouth during one of the takes – fake urine luckily. It was a fun shoot, intense, but this aspect was brilliantly fun.

Prano Bailey-Bond

Prano Bailey-Bond

Follow @pranobaileybond  / www.pranobaileybond.com

Fright Bites: producer Q&A

We sat down with series producer Fiona Lamptey from Film4 to hear about terrifying new short-form series Fright Bites, coming soon to All4 on October 22nd, just in time for Halloween.

Fiona Lamptey from Film4 / Fruit Tree Media

Fiona Lamptey from Film4 / Fruit Tree Media

Tell us about this new strand – what can we expect?

Fright Bites are six short horror films that make the perfect online Halloween snack, perfect for your commute to work or other down-time, but perhaps not when walking alone down a dark alley by yourself… ha! What I love about this year’s selection is how different they all are and how some play on our most basic fears. When I think about the films that scare me the most it’s when the ‘monster’ is recognizable – that person you pass on the street, the intruder…

Some of the films explore this type of fear and others border on the more traditional ‘monster in the dark’ but with a truly unique twist. I promise they will get your heartbeat going – but don’t worry you’ll be able to function for the rest of the day.

How did you go about sourcing the scripts and directors – was it people you’d always wanted to work with, or a case of trying to find exciting new voices?

Initially Film4 development execs Eva Yates, Celine Coulson and I looked for filmmakers we had come across over the years or had watched their films and knew they would be brilliant for the strand. We cast the net as wide as we could with the majority of talent being new talent to Film4. Film4 are always on the look out for new exciting voices and people that Film4 / Channel 4 could go on to build a relationship with. And personally, I’m always on the lookout for a way to put my production management and producing skills to good use.

My production company Fruit Tree Media (as the name might suggest) was set up with the intention to nurture emerging filmmaking talent, so when I was brought on to produce it was a great opportunity to invest in a great bunch of talented individuals.

Tell us a bit about the production process.

It was crazy. Mostly enjoyable but intense. We had a month to pull all the films together and although from my very first meeting with the talent I could tell they were brilliant I didn’t know much about their quirks – for example, were they fast shooters, or directors who were more considered and liked more time to think things through? – so that was the most difficult task I think I had to overcome in the beginning. It sounds obvious now but I had to treat them as individuals, as they all wanted or needed different things from me at any given point. However once we got a momentum going and locations confirmed I felt like we were on our way.

Crewing was another stumbling block as I was keen to ensure the shorts were a new talent vehicle not just for the core creative team but the crew working behind the camera too. I am glad to say we had a crew from all walks of life, with different levels of experience in front and behind the camera, on these shorts – and every single one of them made it all possible. It was pure magic. I also couldn’t have done this without the help of Francesca Chen and Tristan Cope – who went beyond the call of duty. We have some great memories! Of course I’ve made it sound like the most smooth-sailing production ever, I just don’t want to bore you about the long days, broken lifts, dysfunctional urine pumps, fire alarms and lighting worries. I’ll save that for another time.

Fright Bites will be available to view on All4 from 22nd October.

Toby Amies on The Man Whose Mind Exploded

13 Jul, 2015 Posted in: Behind The Scenes, Film4 Channel

Ahead of the TV premiere of The Man Whose Mind Exploded, Film4.com editor Michael Leader speaks with director Toby Amies about his fascinating documentary about the friendship he forged with the colourful but fragile Brighton-based eccentric Drako Zarhazar…

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

How did you first meet Drako?

When I first saw Drako he cycled past me – heavily made up, with facial piercings and tattoos, in a cape! A case of WHAT? WHO? WHY? As I’m sure the rest of the country is wearily aware, Brighton is an aggregator for wannabe eccentrics and needy show-offs, but Drako was the real thing, an original, unmatched and Kemptown’s King of the Queens. My first thought was “I have to know what the story is there”. As Drako put it “My career was on stage and now the world is my stage”. Fairly soon after I saw of him, a friend of mine David Bramwell was given some money by the Arts Council to make a film for his band to perform the soundtrack to and asked me to direct it. He took me to meet Drako as he was to be the star of the film, the Ballad of Oddfellow, which can be seen online still. When I met Drako he was most charming and wonderfully strange, and when I caught glimpses of his flat over his shoulder I was determined to know more.

At what point did you think about making a film about him? And what was it in particular that you were interested in – his eccentric personality, the specifics of his life with brain damage, or something else?

The filmmaking process was sort of organic, we started with the silent film and then I took some photographic portraits of Drako which led to pitching a documentary about his extraordinary biography to Radio 4. That became a programme for their It’s My Story strand which was nominated for the Prix Europa and produced by Sarah Jane Hall. When it came out several people approached me to talk about the possibility of turning it into a film, I think it’s because the radio documentary created such a vivid picture in people’s minds. Maybe people wanted to see just how many hundreds of cut-out and collaged willies Drako had in one small space… and now the Film4 audience has a chance to count the cocks! We are pretty sure it is a record-breaking number and had some interesting conversations with the BBFC, apparently the angle at which the member presents itself is crucial. When I started really getting into the nitty-gritty of the filmmaking process I had both Ross McElwee’s brilliant Sherman’s March and Richard Fleischer’s Fantastic Voyage as I wanted to make a movie that was acutely personal but also one that was a voyage of discovery, an exploration of what’s inside the mind.

One of my favourite show business maxims says that filmmaking is all in the casting, and even though at the time I’d never made a feature film before, it was clear that in Drako I had a superstar to work with. Initially the attraction had to do with his exotic, fascinating biography that included work with Salvador Dali, Gerard Malanga from Warhol’s Factory, and Derek Jarman, but that was rather dry onscreen and attention tended, as it does, to be drawn onto the celebrities. Drako had to be the star and my guide as to how to make the film. Once I’d done some filming, I took the trailer to various commissioners and rapidly realised that for the film to be made under the TV umbrella it would have to have been formulaic and possibly exploitative. Even though I was disappointed by the experience, I came out even more determined to make something that came out of a more gentle and sensitive process.

Drako's flat 2-poster

As you became closer to Drako, and started caring for him more directly, did your sense of the film you were making change at all?

Very soon my relationship with Drako was more than professional, it was a friendship, and I began to feel a responsibility to him that was greater then any need to place him in some preconceived narrative. I once heard someone being berated at a film festival by an old master: “You’ve broken the first rule of documentary making and fallen in love with your subject!” and I remember thinking “Fuuuck! that’s EXACTLY what I’ve done”, let’s see if it works… But also that is what the film is about for me, love and the pain of loving someone who doesn’t seem to care for themselves as much as you care for them and not being able to walk away and having to adapt your perception of the universe to accommodate theirs and being changed (hopefully for the better), as a consequence.

My beautiful sister Catherine, to whom the film is dedicated, was dying from Diabetes as I was making it, and  there was a shared dynamic between many of the conversations I had with her and those I had with Drako. The film explores the morality of giving people agency to make their own decisions about their welfare and destiny whilst examining the repercussions of doing so.

There is a point in The Man Whose Mind Exploded where the image quality becomes especially bad, and that to me identifies the point where the making of the film becomes less important than the very human friendship it records. The sweet spot, where life and art fuse in some very shaky camerawork. I suppose it seeks to document something invisible, the difficult bond between two people, carer and the cared-for and what that relationship means.

There came a point where I had to accept Drako’s philosophy and trust: absolutely and unconditionally that there was going to be a way of divining some kind of narrative meaning and story out of what was happening because what was happening took precedence, a lot of the filming was reactive as I was just trying to keep up!

DraksBack

Throughout the film, it’s clear that Drako doesn’t immediately remember you across your many visits. As he puts it, ‘you’re new every time’. What challenges did that present?

More than anything else it was just difficult to maintain a relationship with someone who’d forgotten about you. Even though I knew roughly how his mind worked it was hard not to be hurt that I was new to him every time, and it was extremely frustrating that the lengthy conversations we had about his care would go nowhere. I adored Drako but he was extremely stubborn. That all said when I started making the film I watched a superb documentary about Clive Wearing, who had a similar type of amnesia to Drako. Because of the repeated nature of his experience, Clive Wearing had a very short memory span of under 30 seconds, the documentary concentrates more on the experience of his wife Deborah who is an extraordinary human being and has gone on to write a memoir Forever Today on the subject. With her patient, forgiving and selfless example in the face of enormous difficulties in mind, I felt lucky the Drako I knew could communicate with me as much as he did over time. With regard to how it affected the film, it gave me the challenge and opportunity of having to present how it was entering Drako’s never-ending now. There was something hypnotic about visiting that place, and the artwork he created in it seemed to be designed both to remind everyone including himself who Drako was, but also it had a mesmerising effect, a sense that time stopped when the door shut.

What’s the story behind the nickname ‘Toby Jug’? 

It’s just another example of the mnemonics Drako would use to try and make something stay in his brain. Toby jugs are squat pottery vessels used to caricature people. There was sometimes a sense from that that Drako’s memory loss was not as consistent as you might expect, or even that he might have been regaining it a little. But he lived in a giant aide memoire, designed to do what his mind couldn’t, that’s the origin of the film’s title, as an invitation into his home was an invitation into his mind.

The Man Whose Mind Exploded premieres on Film4 on Thursday 16th July at 12.30am.