Directors

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

Todd Strauss-Schulson on The Final Girls

05 Jul, 2016 Posted in: Directors, Film4 Summer Screen, Guest blog

Ahead of the Film4 Summer Screen presentation of The Final Girls, director Todd Strauss-Schulson reflects on the making of 2015′s heartfelt horror homage… 

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The Final Girls came into my life when I most needed it. I had just finished my first movie, turned 30, and my father died, all within four weeks of each other. To say the least, it was an intense year.

The Final Girls arrived in my inbox as I was editing that movie. Josh and Mark who wrote it were friends from college and sent it to me randomly to get some friendly notes. I read it in one sitting and could feel it in my bones. I knew I had to make this movie.

First up, I love movies. When I was a kid I’d watch 3 movies a day every single day. I lived and breathed movies. I remember being 13 and raiding the video store next to my apartment and just having my mind blown by films like Delicatessen, Army of Darkness, Hudsucker Proxy, All That Jazz, Lair Of The White Worm, Tommy, Kentucky Fried Movie, El Topo and Amazon Women On The Moon…

The thing I loved more than any other thing in my life… more than baked ziti or knishes or getting my allowance… was sitting in a theatre full of strangers and laughing and screaming and sometimes even crying. It felt so healthy. To be with my community feeling the same thing at the same time. That’s the magic of movies. Not all of them, but the ones I loved. The ones that made me want to make movies. The magic of movies is they can puncture the armour of daily life and cut right to the heart of what it feels like to be human. And it can happen in public.

I thought The Final Girls could be one of those movies. I loved Josh and Mark’s concept. I thought it was so smart. There was the big concept: a movie about being sucked into a movie, that the movie itself could become an antagonist, that the tropes and cinematic techniques of a movie could become the biosphere of the story. All that fun meta stuff was a delight to play with as a kid who grew up obsessed with movies.

But most importantly, I loved it because it was about my Dad. In the aftermath of my father dying I was dreaming about him almost every night. They weren’t nightmares or anything, they were just simple dreams… us walking around New York eating pizza together etc… it felt like my father was visiting me in my dreams.

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And to me, that’s what The Final Girls is about. It was deeply personal filmmaking cloaked in genre filmmaking. It was a story about a girl who gets a second chance to see her dead mom in a dream. And that’s all movies really are. Collective dreams.

It took almost four years to pull together the funding for the movie. And in that time Josh and Mark and I continued to work on the script, adding comedy, action and things like the 3D credits and the flashbacks and slow motion. All that fun meta stuff I felt I had never seen in a movie before.

Finally, some wonderful benefactors took a chance on this movie and gave us a tiny budget to go off and make it.

We shot it in 26 days at a summer camp in Baton Rouge. Our crew and cast were all 35 years old and under and we basically had no adult supervision. It felt like a bunch of kids let loose at camp getting away with something.

Because of that intoxicating vibe, we all broke our backs trying to pull off what was a crazy ambitious shoot. 50 set ups a day every day, explosions, car crashes, wire rigs, complicated camera rigs, for almost no money. It was not easy —  every day was a marathon. The final fight sequence in the field was shot with two lights in a single night. It was madness. And by the end of the shoot, when we shot the ‘Bette Davis Eyes’ goodbye scene in the field with Malin Akerman and Taissa Farmiga, we all cried together… the whole crew, the producers, the production designer, all of us.

It was a pure filmmaking experience.

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On our last night of shooting at camp we did the big stunt where Billy comes jumping out of the cabin on fire. It was a stressful night, lots to do, two units shooting at the same time, the time crunch of getting it all shot before the sun came up, and additionally, the emotional toll of it being our last night at this camp that became home.

Before the stunt happened, I looked behind my monitor and saw the entire cast and crew. Everyone came out to watch the stunt, they were wrapped in blankets, drinking beer and eating popcorn. It was almost like they were watching a movie.

When the stunt happened there was a roar of applause. It was the experience I was chasing, the experience I was trying to give to an audience, like I had when I was a kid.

That was my wish for this movie. And every step of the process, from writing, to designing, to shooting, through editing and music, was all done with a painstaking focus on whipping up and conducting an audience through a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Laughter, terror, beauty, and heart. The full range of human emotion in a fun badass package. It was a movie conceived and made to be experienced as a loud, rowdy, crowd-pleaser.

But in this age of streaming and bingeing superhero civil wars, the theatrical life of Final Girls came and went and made me sad. We were released as a Day-and-Date VOD release which meant many theatres wouldn’t show the movie. It didn’t even come out theatrically in Europe at all.

And so, our movie was released with a passionate whisper, not a roar of applause.

But, what’s so cool is that this movie seems to be having an afterlife at Midnight Screenings across the country, and with this amazing Film4 screening, the world. In the weeks and months after our release, fans and local movie theatres started to throw screenings of the movie. To experience it the way it was meant to be experienced.

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Cult status is in many ways so much more meaningful than a big box office weekend: it means people really love the movie, and they tell their friends, and it lives on for much longer. I feel so much gratitude for the fans who are adopting this movie, talking about it and passing it around – finding it in the same way I found something like El Mariachi when I was a kid and someone handed me a VHS promising it would blow my mind. In some circuitous and completely accidental way, we ended up making a movie that can hang with the movies that made me want to make movies in the beginning – the movies that I never even realized were “cult” movies – but were.

The Final Girls screens at Somerset House on Saturday 13th August 2016, as part of a double bill with Galaxy Quest. For more information about The Final Girls, visit http://ulteriorproductions.com/.

Five questions for Jim Gillespie

22 Jun, 2016 Posted in: Directors, Edinburgh, Festivals, Interview

We grabbed five minutes with Jim Gillespie after his Edinburgh International Film Festival directing masterclass to put five burning questions to the man behind I Know What You Did Last Summer, whose Channel 4/BFI short Joyride helped launch his career.

Joyride

Joyride

1. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the film industry since you made your Channel 4/BFI short, Joyride?

The rise of the “tent pole” movie to the exclusion of all those (often great) mid budget thrillers and dramas that used to make for a variety of choice for the audience.

2. What would you change about the film industry if you could?

The lack of risk taking and the current bias towards only financing projects based on existing IP. Original stories need to encouraged, irrespective of genre.

3. Which of your own films would you place in a time capsule for future generations and why?

Unquestionably I Know What You Did Last Summer. It hit one of those zeitgeist moments where the intended audience “got it” irrespective of any critical reaction. The title became part of the cultural ether of the time (still is), and being spoofed by The Simpsons (I Know What You Iddly-Diddly Did) was the ultimate compliment. That said, I hope my next film, Deep State (no, can’t tell you what it’s about yet) will replace it in the capsule.

4. Which other director’s body of work would you preserve for posterity and why?

The almost impossible question to answer! So many great filmmakers to preserve: Hitchcock, Wyler, Lean, Sturges, Hawks, and that’s just one small slice of one generation. But I think I’ll plump for Kurosawa. A master (in every sense) of humor, action and (most importantly) humanity. Ikiru is just a timeless classic – one of many in his body of work.

5. What’s the biggest creative risk you’ve ever taken?

Moving to Los Angeles with little more than my 10min short Joyride tucked into my bag, searching for an opportunity to tell stories on film. Changed my life.

Jim’s latest film Take Down is in cinemas 22nd August

 

Clio Barnard’s Dark River starts shooting

20 Jun, 2016 Productions Posted in: Directors

Principal photography has commenced on Dark River, the third feature film from writer/director Clio Barnard (The Arbor, The Selfish Giant), starring Ruth Wilson (The Affair, Saving Mr Banks), Mark Stanley (Game of Thrones, Kajaki) and Sean Bean (The Martian, The Lord of The Rings).

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Clio Barnard

Dark River is produced by Clio Barnard’s long-term producer Tracy O’Riordan (The Arbor, The Selfish Giant) of Moonspun Films with Left Bank Pictures’ Lila Rawlings, Andy Harries and Suzanne Mackie executive producing.  The film is backed by Film4, the BFI Film Fund, Screen Yorkshire and the Wellcome Trust and was developed by Film4, the BFI and the Wellcome Trust. Protagonist Pictures is handling world sales. Shooting will take place on location in Yorkshire for five weeks.

Following the death of her father, Alice (Ruth Wilson) returns to her home village for the first time in 15 years, to claim the tenancy to the family farm she believes is rightfully hers. Once there she is confronted by a brother (Mark Stanley) she barely recognises, worn down by years of trying to keep the farm going, who is naturally hostile to her arrival and her claim over the tenancy. Their dispute unearths traumatic memories for Alice, memories which have remained dormant for years but which now threaten both of their futures.

Writer/director Clio Barnard has established herself as one of the UK’s most distinctive cinematic voices following rave reviews and awards for her feature-length debut The Arbor, a documentary about the late Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar, as well as her sophomore feature The Selfish Giant. The latter film followed two scrappy 13-year-old working-class friends in Bradford seeking their fortune by getting involved with a local scrap dealer and criminal. The film was a huge critical success on its release, launching at Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes and winning the British Film of the Year at the London Critics Circle Film Awards along with a host of other festival awards.

Clio Barnard was the first recipient of the Wellcome Trust Screenwriting Fellowship, in partnership with BFI and Film4, in 2013. Dark River was developed during her year in residence at Wellcome when she had unparalleled access to experts in traumatic memory.

Dark River reunites many of Clio Barnard’s long-term collaborators including production designer Helen Scott (Fish Tank, Red Road, The Selfish Giant); casting director Amy Hubbard (The Lord of The Rings trilogy, Homeland, The Arbor) winner of a BIFA for her casting of The Selfish Giant; costume designer Matthew Price (Wild Bill, The Arbor, The Selfish Giant); Tim Barker (The Deep Blue Sea, Bronson) responsible for sound on both The Arbor and The Selfish Giant; and Nick Fenton (Submarine, The Double) responsible for editing both The Arbor and The Selfish Giant.

‘Dark River is a visceral, haunting and lyrical story and we’re delighted to have assembled our regular collaborators to help bring Clio’s beautifully crafted script to life and welcome DOP, Adriano Goldman to the team. Ruth Wilson and Mark Stanley’s fearless commitment to the roles of siblings Alice and Joe leading up to the shoot is exciting to behold’ says producer Tracy O’Riordan.