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Godzilla Director Shares His Filmmaking Advice!

Gareth Edwards

Gareth Edwards (Godzilla) shares his thoughts for filmmakers.

If you are half as excited for Godzilla as we are then you are no doubt aware of the series of videos which are being posted with director Gareth Edwards.  Recently he sat down to share a little bit of filmmaking advice for us all which you can check out below. We shall follow that up with the rest of the videos in this series for you to catch up on if you have missed out so far!

Godzilla will come crashing into your cinemas on May 15th and stars amongst others Bryan Cranston, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Juliette Binoche and Sally Hawkins. We are very excited for it – how can you not be? The trailers are pretty epic in scope, the monster looks tremendous and the atmosphere of terror and colossal damage is building within each trailer to a fever pitch. There is of course the possibility of disappointment, but what we have seen so far is incredibly promising.

We will now pass you on over to Edwards to share his tips for you below:

If that has whet your appetite then we shall leave you for now with these other entries for you to devour – Enjoy!

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Video Interviews

Chords in Conversation: Tom Hardy and Stephen Knight Talk Locke

Tom Hardy in Locke

On Wednesday 16th April, Cineworld Birmingham played host to the premiere of the outstanding British drama Locke.

Those attending the screening were also joined by the film’s star Tom Hardy and its director Steven Knight.

Locke tells the story of Ivan Locke (played superbly by Hardy), a dedicated family man and successful construction manager. After receiving a phone call on the eve of the biggest challenge of his career, Locke climbs into his car and drives to London setting in motion a series of events that threaten his future.

Both Hardy and Knight took to the red carpet to meet their fans and take part in pre-screening interviews. Here is what they had to say about their recent movie.

Locke is now showing in cinemas across the UK. Meanwhile, you can read our review of the film here.

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Interviews

Chords in Conversation: Caught Up In the Eerie World of Still

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Move over Walking Dead, laters World War Z and Twin Peaks. Forget about it! There is a new master in town and its name is Still.

If you haven’t heard of it, fear not, because Still is an online web series that you simply need to take a big bite into. Revolving around a small town in the North West, Still tells the story of an unusual plague that sweeps the nation. As different characters battle against this phenomenon, an unstoppable virus is infecting everyone who comes in its path.

Still is a fantastic series with a whole host if accolades under its belt and will be hitting a plethora of American film festivals this year! Recently, they scooped up Editing, Directing, Visual FX, Best Web Series and Trailer of the Year at the LA WebFest.

Luckily, we were able to talk to the guys behind it; director Jonathon Holbrook and actresses Meredith Binder and Tabitha Bastien. Listen to the interview now and get caught up in the eerie world of Still.

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Box OfficeInterviews

The Quiet Ones – World Premiere

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“It really is a throwback to The Omen and The Exorcist.”

If you weren’t sure exactly how scary new film The Quiet Ones is then those are the words of President Simon Oakes of Hammer Film Studios speaking to us at last night’s World Premiere at Odeon Leicester Square in London. That can ultimately mean one thing, it is pretty wet your pants scary. So fans of Hammer and horror gathered in their drones to get a glimpse of the stars who are all set to bring terror back to life again in this movie starring Sam Claflin and Jared Harris.

Centred on a true story (aren’t they all?) The Quiet Ones tells the tale of a psychologist, Professor Coupland, who sets out to prove that all supernatural experiences are made by the mind and human negative energy. Intent on proving his theory, he grabs a couple of his students in order to create a poltergeist and he enlists a disturbed young woman who is less than willing to participate. While they set out to prove that events are all part of the mind, they find themselves tackling the terrifying consequences of their actions…

“What really entranced us to the movie was the story and director John Pogue,” Simon continues as the music blares tunes that scream less of a horror feel and more of a dance beat. Nevertheless, the President of Britain’s most lucrative horror film producers has high hopes for The Quiet Ones. “We really winded down in the seventies and it now feels as though we are catching up.”

Oakes has enthusiasm for the film that is set in seventies Oxfordshire and the era just adds to that fear factor. “There are no mobile ones and it is really isolated. The bane of horror is mobiles as you can just phone people up like ‘Help!’”

With that in mind, horror has evolved and adapted with technology, the climate has changed meaning that Hammer has to contend with a sleuth of new movies. How does Oakes feel about the change of the horror and how is The Quiet Ones going to contend?  “That’s a very interesting question. I think the trend is more gore pornography and body count. With this film and Hammer, we are more interested in the psychology scares and the jumps. Plus you really care about your characters!”

Those characters are played by an epic team of young actors including Hunger Games star Sam Claflin and newcomer Olivia Cooke. Cooke has recently become a series regular in thrilling television series Bates Motel so she is no stranger to the horror fare though The Quiet Ones takes a more supernatural spin on it all. Last night saw her walk the red carpet for the first time, and two hours in make up and getting ready sees her stealing the show. “It’s weird and crazy but exciting,” the 20 year old from Oldham states after scoring the part of Jane, the disturbed girl the experiment focuses on, she felt elated and nervous. “John Pogue is truly a great director but it was like him handing me his baby with the script and letting an 18 year old play with it.”

When the topic of conversation turned to horror, Olivia was quick to mention that she was petrified of Hammer’s previous outing The Woman In Black, “I am not just saying that because it’s Hammer but I was so scared watching that.”

With three more premieres coming out this year, Olivia’s star is soaring but tackling the red carpet for The Quiet Ones feels natural to the starlet. In fact, the whole team is bouncing up and down with screaming fans shouting their name. But the best thing you get from this cast is that they are close, embracing each other and the team behind it.

“It’s been a long time, nearly two years,” says Rory Fleck-Burns who plays Harry Abrams, another of Couplands students who, as Rory tells us, suffers quite a horrible death. “I think it was difficult to film because there was this massive splurt of blood coming from my neck but John makes it really enjoyable and easy. He’s the best part of filming.”

At that point, he called John Pogue over, the American director. The previous writer of the movie Ghost Ship who’s only other directorial feature film was Quarantine 2. Seemingly a master of the horror genre already (and perhaps the cheesy supernatural,) The Quiet Ones director is supporting and loving of his cast. “They are really great to work with. In fact, we’re all getting married.”

On the top of that cast list is Jared Harris. Most known for playing Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, he takes his turn here as another Professor fascinated with the paranormal. “It’s a great company of actors, there is a really good energy coming off each other and we enjoyed it immensely.”

Recently married, did Harris have any plans for the future? Any children? “Did she put you up to this?” he laughs.

Of course, a lot of the fans are there for Sam Claflin. Now making his way through cinema, he is notably now known for playing Finnick Odair in the recent Hunger Games outing Catching Fire. In The Quiet Ones, he plays a filmmaker and student “I had to learn how to edit seventies equipment and work on my knowledge of that,” he jokes about preparing for the role, “that is something I don’t want to do again.”

“It’s nice not to wear something I am zipped into or a wig” he continues, talking about the seventies clothing. And while on a scary set and some horrific goings on, was there anything difficult to film? “It was a blast but it is certainly hard to keep a straight face. You look up and everyone has their scared expression and you have to keep it together. Especially when John is shouting sound effects because you don’t have the soundtrack.

Scary faces and spooky moments, it definitely sounds like it was an experience. But with such an investigation into the unknown has Claflin had any dealings with it?

“I am probably the first person to ever say this but I am upset that I haven’t had an experience,” he says laughing.  “I am actually a non-believer but I am open to the idea of it. I’ve never had anything personally but it’s something I am intrigued by and I want to learn more. Maybe someday a ghost out there will decide to haunt me.”

With the success of The Quiet Ones, Hammer House are well and truly back. While Hammer has had a lucrative career in cinema with a long history spanning back to the early 1930s, that had a couple of year’s blip, winding down in the eighties. Simon Oakes is sure that they are catching up with this film and recently The Woman In Black but, looking to the future, there is a lot on its way including an Abominable Snowman movie and a film based on the novel The Daylight Gate with revolves around The Pendle Witches.

People emerging from the première commented on how truly scary it is so it’s safe to say that Hammer seems to have nailed it with The Quiet Ones, and it’s good to have the famous horror masters back.

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InterviewsKiller Chords

Chords in Conversation: Ti West Talks The Sacrament

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Famous for his slow-burn approach to trigger chills down the spine of every audience member, American filmmaker Ti West is best known for his work within the horror genre which has included such films as The House of the Devil, The Innkeepers and V/H/S. Like any filmmaker, West is no stranger to the festival circuit with his films screened around the world taking home a myriad of awards along the way.

After treating this year’s Glasgow Frightfest with his latest film The Sacrament we caught up with Ti to discuss the film, the benefits of hiring your best friends and what inspired him to try something up a slightly different street.

Hi Ti and welcome to Glasgow Frightfest. You’re no stranger to the festival after your films The Roost, The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers have been shown as part of the official line-up at the London event. You’re here with The Sacrament and it’s great to see you back. What is it about Frightfest that keeps you coming back for more?

In general the three people who programme it, Alan, Paul and Ian are so die hard about doing it and it shows with everything they do. Also, they don’t programme too many movies both at London and here (Glasgow). Instead they only play four or five films each day and it makes it easy to see everything because it’s not overwhelming and you know that the programming is going to be diverse.

And as a filmmaker?

As a filmmaker, when you come to this festival it is a very welcoming environment. Usually when you have a film showing at a festival you miss out on so much because you are working as you’re trying to promote or sell your movie. You’re exhausted. There are a lot of cool movies that you just miss out on and you’re like ‘I really like that guy and I want to see his movie’ but you rarely have time. With Frightfest, this is where I catch up on a lot of movies because everything is usually on one screen which is an important thing. What it does, when everything is on one screen, everyone sees the movie and talks about that movie and I can’t praise this community enough for that. When festivals get too big and there are big films at the same time on different screens there are multiple conversations that are going on and the sense of community gets lost. Here, people will see the one movie then talk about that one. They’ll see the next movie and talk about that. The sense of community is very smart and I like that with Frightfest.

SAC01So Ti, you’re here with your latest film The Sacrament. After watching the film I understand that the story was loosely based on real events. Could you tell us more about what inspired you to make the film?

Well I wanted to make a horror film that did not have any supernatural elements. For me as a filmmaker what was interesting was to try something different and challenging also. I think that real life stuff is much more scarier than made up stuff.

I was trying to think of what is really scary and I was always fascinated with what happened in Jonestown and I thought that was very terrifying because people see it as a mass murder thing but the reasons why it happened aren’t as bizarre as you’d think. Once you learn how this happened its that much more terrifying and tragic. This was a good jumping off point for my movie to do that and inject realism presenting it as an event.

I see. So how much of the story actually relates to what happened in the tragic events of Jonestown?

Its structure has many differences in Jonestown and it’s not about Peoples Temple but the last fourty eight hours of Jonestown is sort of the structure for what happens in this movie. Scenes are similar as things that brought joy to a lot of people in Peoples Temple in the ‘70s are still relevant to today. So as history repeats itself this is an updated version with the same themes. Essentially, what was scary then is just as scary now.

The Sacrament is very different to your previous work and many may refer to the film as found footage. What is your opinion of the stigma attached to this form of filmmaking?

It’s more of a fake documentary then found footage but this is of course semantics so no one should get stressed out. Found footage to me implies a tape that was found in editing that’s pretending to be real. I always thought that we were making a mockumentary but there is no fixed term for that but I thought we were making a documentary and I think that people who see it will be fine with that. The impression that it is kind of a found footage-ish movie its not annoying as far as the found footage aspect is. If you see the marketing for the movie you take away from it that there is a point-of-view element in the movie but its not like a ‘hey we stuck a camera in the corner of the room’ or ‘hey we’re on our phone everyone let’s say hi’ so it’s not that weird clumsy behind-the-scenes type stuff. In this movie the characters are making a documentary essentially. I make it very clear from the start of the movie firmly stating that this is a documentary and there’s something cinematic about this that a found footage movie couldn’t be. But at the end of the day it’s not that much of a big deal, the marketing of this movie will serve to help those that are put off by the found footage element. When people are having a debate as to whether it is a horror movie or not, whether it is a found footage movie or not, it’s still good because people are talking about the movie. I would prefer people to talk about the social relevance of the movie and things like that but at the end of the day the aim of this movie is to become something that people talk about.

SAC02I know that you used Vice which I understand is an actual real-life video journalism based company. Considering the bleakness of the subject matter how did you get them to let you use their brand for your film?

I just asked them really. It wasn’t hard. It seemed as though it may have been a harder job than it was but it really wasn’t. The movie is not about their company. Sure the guys work for Vice but the movie isn’t really about the company at all. It’s more about the video journalism aspect of it. Vice give the best video reports telling some very interesting stories from odd perspectives without political bias when compared to some of the bigger news companies in the States. Vice are just promoting their brand. They don’t have a political agenda so that is what was so interesting to me. Again, using a real life thing as the archetype for this story and a real life company was important to me. Yes it is a horror movie and all that but it is really about, and should make you think about, the social, economic, political and racial issues. This is an important part of it as this is where people get misled out of their desperation. Using a real company really transcends the movie and hopefully when you leave the theatre you’re thinking about the real company, the real Jonestown and the tragedy behind the myth.

You are well known for shocking audiences and The Sacrament is no exception to this. There are certain key scenes in the film that managed to stun me and that’s usually a hard task. What was running through your head when writing the more sensitive scenes of the film?

I knew when I filmed something with a little kid or an old person the weight of the material just felt heavier. That is what the story was about so it had to be that way. This isn’t a movie about a very attractive white blonde girl doing something stupid and getting killed in some creative fun way way. It’s a movie where the violence should be confrontational. It should make you feel uncomfortable because it is a serious movie at the end of the day. It’s not some kind of fun movie. That’s really not the tone. So in doing that it is trying to present the violence in an unpleasant way. There are a group of people who are accustomed to celebrating when someone is killed in a movie, there are a group of people who see it for what it is and it is those kind of people that make you feel uncomfortable and this is what we’re talking about with this movie.

It’s also a wierd movie too where it has been interesting to see that people think that it is a much more graphic movie than it actually is and when it’s over people will be like ‘Oh my God’. It’s really not that bloody and it’s not that gory, but in retrospect it feels like you’ve seen more than what is actually there. To me, one of the better scenes in the movie is the sister and brother scene. Again, it’s not a gory scene at all but it’s a tough scene to sit through as it’s stretched out. It was on purpose and what it does is stick with you.

Let’s talk about the casting of the film. I know you are close to actors AJ Bowen and Joe Swanson and I understand that you like to cast them in your films and vice versa. Did you write the roles of Jake and Sam for them especially?

I did write the script with those in mind as I knew I could get them. When writing the script I was able to write to their voices and I knew that if I was writing to their weaknesses and their strengths, if they would improv beyond that it would only elevate it like tenfold. It was great for me when we did a shot as they would say ‘This is what it’s going to be like.’ I imagined in my head what they would look like and what they were going to sound like when they said it so I could portray them accurately.

SAC03To me the true star of the film is Gene Jones. His performance as Father was very impressive and he really helped to anchor the film. How did you find him and what did you do to get him involved?

I tracked Gene down after seeing him perform in the CK Louis show. I saw him in the episode and he was so interesting and had an incredible screen presence. I remembered after that scene that he was the guy from No Country for Old Men in that coin toss scene at the counter. I was like ‘This guy is interesting, he has an interesting face and screen presence’ and so I tracked him down to read for the movie and he put himself on tape and it was great so I contacted him back and he said we were all good.

My hands down favourite thing of making a movie with him is that he is such a gentleman. In the big interview scene, which was a real doozy of a scene to shoot, he made it so easy by coming out and nailing it in the first take. We thought we’d have to wing it as we didn’t know what was going to happen. He came out and all the extras were already there, they cheered and sat down. We did a 17 minute unbroken take of him not dropping a line and they all responded in the way that his crowd naturally would. He got up, they cheered and he walked out, we looked at each other and it was like ‘whoa.’ Technically, he made that night so easy as we thought it would’ve been the most difficult night ever but it all worked. The extras and the rest of the acting just fell into place. His acting made their acting great which in turn made his acting even better. There was electricity in the air.

It was one of those things where I would sit there and pan the camera to follow him sitting down and it was there that I caught myself watching him. It was one of the very few times that… when you genuinely write a movie it’s great to hear your words back but that was one of the times where I was totally blown away and it didn’t even feel like I wrote it. He was totally taking it on in a very transcended sort of way. I knew he was going to be good, I just didn’t know it was going to be such a performance. All the extras were like ‘My God.’

I bet. Watching the film I thought Gene’s performance was brilliant. His character was interesting to watch and at times had me agreeing with his beliefs as they appeared to come from reason.

Yeah. The interesting thing about it is that I wrote everything from his perspective to be reasonable as it would not have worked otherwise. If he was sat there as a crazy cult person it would not have worked. When I wrote for anything he said I tried to come up with an argument against it and then figure out what he would say for that so I wanted everything for him to be foolproof as far as his motives were concerned. What was reassuring for me was that when he did that performance, those extras were listening to every word he was saying and acting accordingly. There were times when it felt like we weren’t making a movie. He knew there were going to be over 200 people sat there watching him but their reaction was totally enthralled by it. That is kind of amazing as they agreed enough with what he was actually saying to go along with it and they didn’t know it was a cult movie. In fact, they didn’t even know a thing about it. To have them clap when it was over it was so good to have these extras that were impressed by that. It was almost four in the morning and they wanted to go home but they were still into it and that was a real once in a lifetime evening on a film set.

The compound is such a massive set to have built. Where did you film it and did you live in the cabins during filming?

We filmed in Savannah Georgia and the compound was built on someone’s backyard. We built everything. We didn’t stay there as we were all staying in hotels a few minutes away but to get there you have to drive down a long dirt road and then there would be our trailers in this person’s backyard. It was very weird. I’ve never had a film set that was an entire community before. I’ve built sets before but they were rooms or whatever. We built this community where these 200 extras were just walking around so you could see them all the time. When we were done shooting and we were wrapping out they were tearing it all down. It’s not like tearing down a wall of a dorm room set. It was us living and shooting in these buildings for over a month in this thing and shooting the same people walking around hanging laundry in this community and then all of a sudden it’s scrap lumber. It was a very weird kind of odd melancholy feeling to have and it was a first for me as it had never happened before.

So what’s next for you?

I’m doing a western and I start filming this summer. I can’t go into detail just yet but soon we hope. We’re casting it just now and hopefully by the end of March we will have a big announcement. But i’m excited about it. It’s a very traditional Clint Eastwood type.

We’d like to thank Ti for taking time out to speak to us. The Sacrament has no confirmed date for general UK release yet but those in the US will get a chance to see The Sacrament on VOD from 1st May and in select cinemas from June 6th.


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Interviews

Chords in Conversation: Jeremy Lovering Talks In Fear

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jeremy_lovering_0768_copy.jpegEveryone has their own primal fears which they carry with them from a tender young age. This is something director Jeremy Lovering decided to explore for his feature debut, In Fear. Whilst taking quite the leap of faith by employing a unique approach, refusing to give actors a script per se and dropping the cast in situations to see how they reacted, Lovering has created an astonishingly authentic sense of fear with the film described as the best British chiller since The Descent. The film met outstanding reviews when released in UK cinemas and has just entered the US iTunes top ten horror films chart this very week. Hot off the set of the ‘Sherlock’ episode, The Empty Hearse, which he helmed, it sounds like Lovering is preparing a fair few scares for us in the not too distant future. As In Fear gets ready to invade homes next week on DVD we took a few moments to speak to the director all about it.

So, rather than gaining inspiration from other films of the genre, I understand the whole In Fear story sprang from an ordeal you suffered in Ireland whilst filming a documentary.

That’s right. It wasn’t so much an ordeal but more of a very benign experience. I was going out to visit an Irish family to document a story and when I arrived I first headed off to the pub. Afterwards, as I ventured off the place was huge and the locals had turned all the road signs around so I just went round and round in circles. Basically, at that time night was falling, I was lost and I still have these primal fears that you have when you were a kid. The area was also steeped in hundreds of years of violence and that is what I was looking at for this documentary so I was well aware of it. Plus a ghost story was attached to the whole thing. Eventually I circled back to the pub and spoke to the locals and they explained that it was just a joke: 300 years of violence distilled into a practical joke. In Fear came from that really.

And apart from the setting itself, what about the lead characters? Why did you decide to focus on a two week old relationship between a couple for the film?

in-fear-1024-7Well the whole film is basically asking the question “Does fear lead to violence?” Then, if you are put in a situation of betrayal or potential violence and you are being pushed to violence, how do you avert that? If it is with someone you are in a relationship with, at what point do you decide to sacrifice yourself?

It was easy really because if you’ve been with someone for a long time or you’ve got kids, which is often a horror story theme, then I think you are always going to put yourself second so I basically wanted to avoid that. Also, if it’s just a bunch of mates, unless you are soldiers, then that’s a no-brainer too. So, what was left was that I wanted a very fragile relationship which I wanted to watch grow and then fall in upon itself.

The actors only knew each other for two weeks, as did the actual characters so, for this ninety minute film, it was like watching a very ordinary relationship unfold in extraordinary circumstances. It reveals all the normal things like trust and flirting, trying to impress and then betrayal and dishonesty and all those kinds of things. I basically wanted to compress all of that into a relationship being destroyed.

And the most intriguing part about the whole film is the fact that, although based on a script of sorts, it was all very much improvised and the actors didn’t really have a clue what was really going to happen. Were you not worried that the whole think could just completely derail on you?

Well yes I was. The truth is, I had a script for myself and it evolved with the actors so that in the rehearsals, albeit very short, what I did was propose a given scenario which in some way reflected the scenario I was then going to do in the film. For example, I’d have the boy and girl and would tell them we are going shopping. I’d tell the boy that he is skinny boy, that he’s got a hang up about not being an alpha-male and that he is trying to impress the girl. Then to the girl I’d say that the boyfriend is confused about his male identity and for her to have fun with this, tease him. Then, whatever happened as a result helped me see what I could work into the script because I could work out more or less how they would behave together when under threat. So when I went into it I had a rough script and then the actors brought the characters to life.

At its worst, if all went wrong I did have something I could give them and say “Look, let’s do this and just stick with it.” What happened in the end was that we improvised on the day, we had first reactions to events, I let them go off down the path they wanted to and then I could give the cast different pages or different lines of dialogue. Then we’d just try and construct it from there.

I never had a safety net and I actually found that really exciting rather than worrying.

And what about the casting process. From what I have read about it it sounds like a cross between some sort of Big Brother casting call and a psychoanalysis experiment.

I guess it was to a certain extent. Basically, I interviewed them in character several times and I got them to talk to each other in character without talking about the story or anything. It was just to test what they and their instincts were about as actors and how the issued resonated with them.

So you mention telling Iain de Caestecker to play “skinny boy.” I know you treated him that way off camera also. Are you still on talking terms? What was all that about?

In-FearYeah, that was funny. We shot the film chronologically so everything kind of evolved naturally and halfway through Allen Leech comes on and he’s much more physical, or much more physically present. All the crew were in on it too so like all the make up team would gather around Allen asking him anecdotes and things like that whilst Iain was completely left out of the picture.

We just kept that going whenever we could. I often talked with my back to Iain but he got it completely. It was that weird thing where he kind of hated me but understood what kind of game I was playing. Basically they had to learn to trust not to trust me.

As the film was so heavily improvised I was quite surprised you didn’t opt for a found footage or hidden camera type production. Did the use of more traditional movie cameras not cause a bit of a hindrance in terms of creating that feeling of realism and dread?

Oh yes, totally. I mean that’s a very good question. I just didn’t wan’t to do a found footage film though for a million different reasons. I would say films like Cannibal Holocaust or Deliverance or Punishment Park all manage to create the feeling of veracity, making you feel you are actually there. Obviously, a great actor can also act it out authentically but to go that extra bit I think all credit goes to David Katznelson (Downton Abbey/Game of Thrones), the Director of Photography of the film, as he is just so so good at making himself small and invisible. We did also send a few people off using Canon 5Ds on their own just to keep cameras rolling but most of that footage didn’t make it into the final film.

In the end we managed to create this sense that the cast were on their own. We were only very low key. It would only ever be me and David or just David jumping in the car. I think the actors convinced themseves they were on their own. It’s all credit to the cast and David that I was able to make it feel like found footage.

Talking of footage, I believe you racked up a total of 50 hours of film. How on earth did ou manage to cut it down and how often did you find yourself backtracking to go a different way with the film? Would you say you have enough to ever release a second version of the film?

Yes, it was a bit like doing a jigsaw without the picture on the box. Sure I went back sometimes but I don’t think I’d release an alternate version because I don’t think it was so different. I don’t think there’s anything we’ve lost that I’ve missed during the editing, There is stuff that would have made a different film and that is true but that got closed and is long forgotten. It was more sort of trippy and didn’t really hit the genre moments at all. In the end, the film that is there is probably the right one for how we filmed it at that moment, in that time frame.

So looking back at the whole process, would you commit yourself to something in the same style again?

Well, what I’m really interested in is trying to deliver those sacrifices which we’ve just talked about. For me it’s where you have a great script where the writer isn’t pressured for things to change but most importantly, you don’t give the whole script to the actors. I think all that mattered to me ultimately was that they didn’t know the story so yeah, I’d love to repeat the process. I would also love to try a period drama as well.

So where are all the roadsigns pointing for you now? I believe you have a few thrillers on the table including one along the lines of Jacob’s Ladder.

Yeah, there are a couple of scripts I’m talking about right now. One is a comic novel which is kind of a Hindu mythology slash Jacob’s Ladderish kind of weird one which I’m just beginning conversations about. Then there’s another one which is a much more straight sort of ventriloquist slash Hider in the House horror. There’s also one which is more of a physchological thirller/love story which also shares a lot in common with Jacob’s Ladder. I mean loads of people think a lot of similar things at the same time so I think probably based on what I’ve just done these have all arrived on my desk at the same time…

We’d like to thank Jeremy for taking time out to speak to us. In Fear is available on Monday, 10 March on DVD and Bluray and we can’t recommend it enough. In the meantime we’ll leave you with a trailer for the film.

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InterviewsKiller Chords

Chords in Conversation: Christian James talks STALLED

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After hearing the writer and star’s thoughts about making Stalled, a new fresh take on zombie horror, we thought we would take a few moments to get even further insight by chatting with the film’s director – Christian James.

Blood, zombies, comedy and toilets…here is what Christian had to say about his experience directing Stalled but not before he made sure the door was firmly locked and checked to see if it was a Zombie free zone!

Dan Palmer and Christian James
Dan Palmer and Christian James

So Christian, could you tell us a bit about how you got into film?

I’m not sure, I just wanted to.  I would dick around filmmaking and such as a kid.  I remember I REAAAALLLY wanted the Ewok Village playset from Jedi, but wasn’t allowed one (yeah, tough, gritty upbringing – I know) so I built one instead.  I was always doing that kinda stuff.  Add that to a burning obsession with movies and there’s a recipe for choosing this rocky career path.

As I asked the writer and star of the film, Dan Palmer, I am going to have to ask you – What would be the first thing you would do in a Zombie apocalypse?

Climb a tree?

Despite the majority of the film being shot in a toilet cubicle can you give us a bit of insight into certain techniques / set design you used to achieve such a set up?

Well, I was adamant that, despite our paltry budget, we would have to be able to pull out walls and shoot in all corners.  It’s already a limited location, lets not limit ourselves any more than necessary. Our production designer purchased the entire set on ebay, the toilet was owned and dismantled by the army, then shipped to us. It would have been easier and cheaper to build as is but we had to modify it to behave as a movie set would, create space for the camera etc. I had a rule that the camera couldn’t go anywhere WC can’t see from wherever he is. There’s a payoff to this that I can’t go into without hitting spoilers but it was very important that the camera can’t go outside the cubicle, we’re in there with him at all times.

We shot chronologically so the set would decay as we shot.  The first shot you see of WC entering the restroom is the first thing we shot.  I think we stayed in sequence for the 1st 20 minutes or so of the movie.

Just out of curiosity how much of the film’s small budget went on fake blood? (After all there is quite a bit in on screen!)

The-best-part-of-waking-up-is-True-Blood-in-your-cup-true-blood-14778064-430-433Oh, I’m glad you think that.  In fact, quite a few reviews have pointed out the gore level. In all honesty, I would’ve like twice as much.  Whilst shooting, I had this nagging feeling that the movie wasn’t bloody enough. The budget was tight and we were very strict with ourselves, but the one area I went all Michael Cimino was blood.  In the first week we used up our supply for the entire movie.  You forget the amount you get through, just by applying and removing from the actors on a daily basis – for some reason they don’t like going home caked in sticky red shit. I hate zombies with clean mouths, so would insist everyone rinse/gargle a cup of blood before a take.  I think there are a still a couple of takes where you can see a styrofoam cup full of blood that an actor assumed was off camera.  Once again, with everyone doing that, you get through the red stuff at a rate of knotts.

Also I have to ask – How many takes did you have to do for the ladder sequence?

Oh, that was quite an efficient sequence to shoot.  We did the entire bit in an afternoon.  We shot Jeff from IT’s section in the morning.  We had an issue with the blood gags registering on camera.  After our elaborate pump rig failed for the 5th time, we opted to go old school and get as many bodies off camera, squeezing jets of fake blood out of Pepsi bottles (other soft drinks bottles also work).  Issue is, all those failed takes and ad hoc solutions ate up hours of valuable time.  I’d cut the time I had to shoot the ladder sequence in half so had to get very efficient and strip it down a tad. Brilliantly, Dan is up on that ladder, it doesn’t look high in the movie but it’s a fair ol’ drop in reality.

We didn’t have zombies munching on t (…er…better watch the movie). Underneath, we had a load of crew hovering underneath with a crash matt -as it’s known in the biz, or a dirty old mattress not fit for a junkie to you and I. So we digitally removed the crew and added in the zombies, quite a long VFX sequence that one, hard to tell, though.  Our team did a great job.

stalled_ver3_xlgSo Stalled has got quite a lot of good press when it comes to film festivals, exactly how many awards/ nominations has it picked up so far?

Not as many as you’d think.  Most of the festivals we’ve been at we’ve opted to be out of competition.  One of the few we were up for, we won!  The Melies D’argent at LIFF in Sweden.  As a result of that, we ushered into official competition at the prestigious Sitges festival in Spain.

What’s your next project? Dare to team up with the writer again after this Zombie fuelled tale?

I’ve just created a little short/sketch with Holiday Grainger and David Oaks – all for a good cause too.  Having been a year in post with Stalled, I hadn’t shot anything for fun in a while and a producer pal got a bunch of talented people together for a day.

Yes, I will 100% be back with Dan. We’re cooking up quite a few fun projects at the moment, just trying to park them with the right people.  Fingers crossed the gap between film 2 and 3 won’t be as long as our first. Of course, if all else fails we can always Kickstart ‘Stalled: Number Two’!

Climb a tree? – I think I’m with on that one! Thanks again Christian for your answers and some great tips for any film maker out their also. Stalled is released on Monday 24th on DVD and BluRay. Get your copy at:  http://tinyurl.com/StallOrder

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Chords in Conversation: Writer/Director Blair Erickson Talks Banshee Chapter

banshee chapter interview featured

maxresdefaultJust as it gets harder to surprise audiences with new plot twists in thrillers, making sure we all jump out of our seats in a horror film also becomes more of a challenge with time. A film that certainly managed to overcome this problem was Banshee Chapter, rightfully earning the coveted Total Film ‘Scariest Movie Award’ at last year’s Film4 FrightFest. Produced by Zachary Quinto under Before the Door Pictures and loosely based on the H.P. Lovecraft short story ‘From Beyond’, Banshee Chapter is the feature debut of director Blair Erickson.

To celebrate the release of a film we said created an “overpowering sense of dread that never gives up momentum” we spoke to Blair all about his first foray as a feature film director, effective scare tactics and where he expects to take things from here.

This is your debut as both director and writer. Prior to this film you were creative Director for Omnicom’s high-tech interactive agency Millions of Us. When did the jump into the film business come? Was it something you’d always inspired to do or did you get a friendly push from people around you? I also understand you wrote and directed an online alternate reality live-action thriller based on the Terminator films and created a 3-D virtual world for the new Sony Playstation Home. Is this line of work where you see yourself in 10 years time or, given the success of Banshee Chapter, are you more inclined to jumping over to focus solely on film projects?

I think Millions of Us was a very cutting edge interactive agency and it let us play in a lot of new breakthrough spaces that most people never get to touch. We were making unusual and wild projects under the auspice of “brand engagement” but really it ended up being “how do we create something that nobody has ever seen using this technology.”

So we had stuff like building out an entire WWE storyline in the online community Gaia where we made it seem like the wrestlers were getting in a huge fight on the forum and forcing the users to take sides. We built out a lot of virtual world spaces in places like Playstation Home and Second Life. And then from there it wasn’t long before we were writing and filming live action web episodes for Fox‘s “Terminator” series and Dreamworks‘ film Monsters vs. Aliens.

At some point it kind of struck me, “why not try building your own story from scratch and see what you can do with that.” And as I’m writing it out I think I was still heavily influenced by the transmedia work which meant building a story full of secrets and questions. The best alternate reality works always blurred the line between “is this real or fiction” linking between real websites and completely fictional ones. It seemed intriguing to try that with a real film, where the audience would be provoked to ask questions and try to determine just how far down the rabbit hole the real conspiracy and real evidence lead.

So Banshee Chapter is said to be based on real documents, actual test subject testimony, and uncovered secrets about covert programmes run by the CIA. Firstly, how did you find out about MKULTRA and secondly, how on earth do you go about finding out what went on. I imagine you added a lot of detail to create this story and add all the elements of terror but how much of it is actually rooted in truth?

Most of my research came from just reading and watching documentaries about the project. It struck me how much incredible evidence there was supporting the truth but nobody in America was willing to bring down the hammer on the perpetrators of this horrible project.

Banshee Chapter in its pure form is a classic haunted house film, where the “house” is American society and the things going boo are our own cultural and conspiracy boogeymen we’ve tried to keep secret. It’s like this unstoppable entity that just kind of lurks inside our government, growing stronger and more dangerous till one day you hear that the NSA is spying on the entire population and nobody is in the position to stop them. Our story is of course fictional, but a whole lot of it was based on real stories I read and trying to weave them all together.

What’s fictional?

There is no HorizonJournal and there’s no Anne Roland journalist in real life.

What’s real?

There really was a program injecting unsuspecting Americans with experimental chemicals to try and hollow out their insides and create a puppet person to use as a weapon. There were many government research projects into the nature of hallucinogens where the scientists involved began to wonder if the chemical wasn’t connecting subjects to alternate dimensions. There was a patient in the MKULTRA program who was given many of these chemicals and went on to become a famous counter culture writer and unleash one of the program’s chemicals (LSD) on America, which triggered the counter culture movement. There really are unidentified numbers stations broadcasting on short wave bands. All of that stuff is real.

Oh and one other really obscure influence on the story was Philip Kramer, the bass guitarist for the acid rock band Iron Butterfly. After his stint as a musician he got a degree in aerospace engineering and claimed he had come up with some kind of faster-than-light communications formula. He vanished after driving into LAX and was not found for years till they discovered his skeletonized corpse in a van at the bottom of a canyon 4 years later.

Zachary Quinto_Banshee Chapter_BannerHow did Zachary Quinto and his production company, Before The Door Pictures, get involved as producers for the film? I know you went to the same University, Carnegie Mellon. After Margin Call and All is Lost they recently produced a found-footage romantic comedy called Breakup at a Wedding. Did their recent venture in the found-footage genre lead them to your film?

They just dug the script pretty much. We all knew each other from college and I think Carnegie Mellon folks have a certain geeky trust about the strange things we get interested in. Corey Moosa at Before the Door is kind of their main horror guy and he shared it with Neal and Zach and they dug it. I think they liked what we were trying to do, use horror as an intellectual vehicle to explore some of the weirder creepier aspects of our society and culture.

The found footage part was less interesting to us. It was a tool in the toolbox for playing with the archival parts of the story, basically anything that wasn’t happening in the main timeline, and pushing the audience into an immersion that you don’t usually get with flashbacks.

I understand that Zachary was away shooting most of the time but how much input did he and his colleagues, Neal Dodson and Corey Moosa bring to the table in terms of the script, shoot and finished product? Zachary has commented that you were very open to ideas in the post-production and editing process.

Yeah filmmaking is very much a collaborative process and for a lot of the post production we’d all discuss which parts of the movie we wanted to emphasize, what story lines we had to punch up, and when in the film we needed to ratchet up the intensity.

There were some plot lines that I think were interesting earlier on that we had to edit out for time and that comes from having a team like that, and my other two producers, Stephanie Riggs and Christian Arnold-Beutel to bounce edits and ideas off of. When you’re making a movie this weird and crazy, it certainly helps to have other smart brains to tell you when you’re getting it right and when you’ve gone too far.

I must say that the film certainly has some of the tensest, scariest moments I have seen in recent years. This is certainly a difficult challenge to pull off, particularly as this is your debut feature? How did you get your head around creating such a tense atmosphere and these jump-out-of-your-skin moments? Are there any particular films that you took ideas from to make them as effective as possible?

For me it’s just about imaging a scene in a movie that would make me feel as absolutely scared to watch as I could ever conceive and then trying to write it so the audience feels that same deep primal dread. My influences were everything from Adrian Lyne, Hideo Nakata, to David Lynch. I like the stuff that’s so deeply weird and creepy it makes you feel like it shouldn’t exist.

As we are well into the digital era what made you go for the more dated VHS look to the film? Would you say it plays a vital role in setting an eerier atmosphere?

BC10I knew that if the flashback and archival footage had a crisp clean modern look it would take the eeriness away and make it feel like just another film. Part of what hits us when we watch a film is realism or lack of. In the case of horror, when you really want to immerse people in fear, you have to pull away that psychological wall that lets them tell themselves “It’s only a movie.”

With this film, having all those sequences in Chamber 5 come through in black and white u-matic video tape helps remind audiences “this is not really just fiction, there really was something terrible that was done to people just like me in secret rooms by our own government.”

There is a clear trend for many directors to jump on the found footage horror bandwagon. It tends to be the case that these either come out perfectly such as VHS2 or REC or terribly bad with nothing in between. Obviously choosing to tackle a found footage film meant you were really going to need to pull out all the stops. Were you not concerned about this fact when you decided to take on this project, especially as it was your debut?

For me, it just felt like the appropriate tone for the story. For instance, there was actually originally a 12 minute test that my cinematographer Jeremy Obertone and I did where we shot an opening scene for the film with gorgeous lighting and a really beautiful film look. Guess what?

It was nowhere near as scary as just watching the same story play out on raw, grimy video. I think we could’ve made the same movie and it wouldn’t have terrified people nearly as much as the kind of mixed media, old film/found footage video/cinema verite style it employed.

Found footage technique is like country music and rap. Most people only remember the stuff that annoys them, but when it works in the hands of someone like Jay Z or Johnny Cash, it’s like no other style.

You provide some great comic relief with Ted Levine’s character, Blackburn. Was it always your intention to include some comedy between the scares and what made Levine the perfect man for this job?

BC08He was perfect because he could bring everything we needed for the character without having to be walked through it. There was almost a perfect Blackburn performance from the moment the cameras started rolling. He instantly got the fine line he had to walk between creepy and comedy to make that character bring such a wonderful strange energy to the story. Too far in either direction and it probably would’ve faltered. Levine is exactly the actor you want when you need to really push the limits of possible with a strange story like this.

And where are you hoping to go from here? Are you going to stick to horror films or are you looking to venture out and try something totally different in the near future?

The next film I’m directing, In Memory, which we’re currently in the process of putting together, is very, very, very different from this one in many ways.

It opens in Pittsburgh in the fall of 1996, when Jessica King, a passionate, creative college student, and her introspective companion, Daniel became more than close friends. As their lifelong friendship began blossoming into something deeper, Jess was brutally murdered. Daniel’s life was shattered. Almost two decades past, late one snowbound winter night, when he’s in his late thirties, Jess shows up again at Daniel’s home, appearing the same as she did the night she died. Together they will confront the hard truths of tragedy, unfinished lives, and how their journey together will end: as a love story or a horror story.

My incredibly talented friend and co-writer Shawn Depasquale helped immensely with the story and during the course of it we really pushed ourselves into some deep emotional places to reach a kind of truth that would resonate past the usual movie narrative bullshit. It’s a very emotional character driven story about tragedy and what it means to truly love another person. But there are still some terrifying moments in the tale and I think there are still scenes where the audience will be gripping their seat anxiously. But how the story ends though, I think will shock people, in a really good way.

Ultimately though, when it works, and I am supremely confident that this story will, the film will have reached a place that I’ve never seen a film reach before.

I can’t wait to share it with audiences.

We’d like to thank Blair for taking time to answer our questions and, having seen the film various times myself, we can’t recommend enough that you grab your copy of Banshee Chapter which is now available to order on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1fjtp2G and iTunes: http://bit.ly/KgxSVh.

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Chords in Conversation: Sadie Katz Talks House of Bad

Sadie Katz HoB

Recently actress Sadie Katz (Meaning of Violence & Chavez Cage of Glory) sat down with us to talk about horror film House of Bad. This film caused quite a stir last year in the horror community with its tale of three sisters and a suitcase full of stolen heroin hiding out in an old, and potentially haunted, family home impressed viewers both because of the tense atmosphere it created, and due to the impressive central three characters.

Here’s what Sadie had to say:

Jim Towns (Director) talked to us about how it was a really tight shoot on the set of House of Bad, did that timeframe pose any particular challenges for you, or was it quite easy to manage?

You know it’s really crazy, with big films you get to do sixty takes and when you do something like this you get three takes tops. And it’s very stressful, but in some ways it’s also cool because you’re riding this emotional momentum; you’re doing one scene where you’re playing a game and then Jim goes ‘OK Sadie can you give me tears? We’ve got like a minute’. It’s OK for the first few days and then one day we shot like a 17 hour day… Emotionally you just get really fucked up by it though, you do. You’re giving everything so it’s crazy, and you become this kind of raw, emotional basket case – which is really great to work from when you have a tight shoot.

How has your theatre work helped here? Does that demand for concentrated acting and for getting a take right on the first try on stage help you through this kind of situation?

Not every choice I made was perfect in the film but that’s kind of what it becomes when you have one try. There just isn’t time to do multiple takes of every scene when you have ten to twelve pages to do a day. So it’s just really intense like theatre.

I think of performing to the crew, if you can get the crew to like what you’re doing then it’s a really good feeling – if the crew are like ‘damn that was good’. When you’re shooting ten pages a day you only really have time to deal with the crew. Actors don’t get extra takes, they don’t get to forget their words, they just have to go.

Did you have to try and memorise all your lines before the shoot then, or were you always trying to memorise them the day before? How did you prepare for a day’s shoot?

I did try to have everything off book like a play. I mean we didn’t know the order, Jim Towns is super prepared but it’s weird when you shoot out of order. I’m sure that in editing they would probably tell you that I had to replace words and things.

When you can’t memorise something it’s either because it’s Shakespeare or because it’s a poorly written script. And you know House of Bad makes sense – the characters don’t do weird transitions or leaps. I get nervous about the tiny little scenes, with the one or two lines. Sometimes those are harder to remember than those you are carrying… I think it’s more pressure. I think that if I screw up this scene people are going to say ‘what an idiot she is’, but if I have a ton of dialogue then I think people are on my side. I get freaked out when I’m shooting because I want it to be so perfect. I think about it when I get home etc. I think it’s easier to memorise scenes like love scenes, they are easy; it’s very back and forth.

Yeah I suppose it helps having someone else to go off. You can work with them rather than handling a long stretch of dialogue on your own.

Yeah we didn’t really rehearse, you don’t end up rehearsing low budget movies because everybody is just busy you know? But what you do is carry your pages of the script and hide them underneath cushions and things, so the second they say cut you’re looking at your lines again whilst they’re setting up the lights etc. But the trick is knowing your lines well enough that when you say them they just flow out of your mouth and don’t feel like lines anymore. I’m lucky because all three of us are theatre trained. I had to be the stripper with a heart of gold, which is a lot more fun to play, Cheryl had to play coming off heroin so the whole shoot she had to be down and Heather was doing all of this crazy stuff, so I got to have a lot more fun I think.

Sadie Katz Shower

Did you find it difficult to act as sisters with the other two when you’re an only child? One of the strongest things about the film is that you all really do feel like sisters.

Yeah, well I’m glad that it felt like that. I felt like that. I read a book on birth order as Sirah is the middle child, which is really important as I think that motivates everything she does in this script. You know, when we had the table read I was really nervous, and I mean you’re nervous as a girl in LA anyway because the others are so beautiful and sometimes very competitive. But right away when we did our table reading I felt exactly how I was supposed to feel. I think what we did without telling one another was we immediately started relating to each other as the characters and it stayed like that throughout. It was a really fun experience, I don’t have sisters but my Mum comes from a family of twelve so I know what that looked like, and reading that book really helped a lot.

Do you think that Jim’s ability to write three dimensional women is something which particularly drew you to the role?

Yeah, you know I just got off another film called Meaning of Violence which was eighteen hour days for six days in a row. I love Greg (Director of Meaning of Violence) but I was just so tired and didn’t think I could do another indie film, and then I got this script from Jim Towns. You definitely work harder with indie films than you do on a film with a bigger budget but I wanted this so bad. And you know in low budget indie filmmaking you don’t get scripts that are like that, you just don’t. I actually auditioned for Teig, but in retrospect the way I would have played it wouldn’t have sustained it…

Were there any elements of Heather’s role that you would like to explore in the future?

I would love to play crazy, I think that it’s fun to play that when it’s contained and settled. I don’t normally get to play crazy that’s totally contained, but I have a lot of energy and I think that that would be fun to explore.
I just did a pilot for a cop show Streets of LA with Jaime Gomez and I got to play a cop, a detective, and that’s really cool because you’re given all this power and authority. As an actress when you’re crying all the time and vulnerable it really does filter into your life, so it’s cool to play a character that is fucking in charge and confident! So I think that’s something I would like to explore.

Aren’t you also playing a detective in Jim Town’s 13 girls?

Yeah we are still working on the funding but it’s such a brilliant script. It’s different from House of Bad in that it’s more demonic. It’s about a woman who just comes back to the police force after her partner, who’s also her lover, dies, and the first case she gets is these thirteen girls who commit suicide. That’s my wish for 2014 – that we get the funding. We did a couple of readings of it and I felt like my whole persona changed because of that.

Well when I talked about it with Jim he seemed really enthusiastic about it as well so fingers crossed it will actually get off the ground. You’ve written Scorned haven’t you? Could you tell us a little bit about it?

I’m really excited for it; I think it’s got to be one of the sexiest movies coming out. It stars AnnaLynne McCord, Billy Zane and Viva Bianca. Anchor Bay is distributing it and it comes out on Valentine’s Day. It’s about a girl actually called Sadie who’s boyfriend cheats on her with her best friend and she ends up luring them to a beach house and tortures them. Does very naughty things with them…
The whole thing is actually… I had a boyfriend cheat on me and it was the weirdest feeling for me, I was so enraged. When my writing partner and I started talking about it I said… ‘I feel that I could kill them’. That feeling I could understand it, you know? I mean I’ve never even hit anyone but I knew that feeling and then we just started talking about it. We thought we could do a Misery of sorts for young people. Misery meets Saw. I wanted women to see it and secretly understand, she’s crazy but you know…

Well best of luck with it, I hope it goes well!

Me too!

Do you find that acting informs your writing? Does your experience help shape it, or are they very separate?

You know what, I think my acting informs my life so I sometimes make choices that are interesting to me in real life and I think that informs the writing. In Scorned in particular most of the great stuff we wrote was written whilst just smoking, drinking and saying mean things to each other! Saying things like what if she decides to sizzle out his eyeballs?! We just sort of danced around the living room with ideas, constantly trying to one up each other.

I have one final question which I asked Jim as well, do you have any advice for our readers who are interested in jobs in the industry?

Oh yeah, don’t do it! If you really enjoy your life and wanted to be a normal person – run. But if that’s literally the only thing you care about… you don’t mind being broke and having your heart broken over and over, and if it’s your first love then I think you should just audition. Go to a junior college for cheap acting classes and take a class. I say to people if you’re coming to LA to act then you should self submit, forget getting an agent etc and just get out there and audition. But it takes like a good, they say 5-10 years… just do something else!

Thank you! That’s all the questions we have, thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

Thank you so much!

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Chords in Conversation: Iain De Caestecker Talks Not Another Happy Ending & In Fear

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Not-Another-Happy-Ending-723x1024With the release of Not Another Happy Ending on DVD coming February 10, we had a little chat with star of the film, Iain De Caestecker who portrays Roddy: a morally-sound sidekick to an up-and-coming publisher, Tom Duval (Stanley Weber). With a performance in the Ryan-Gosling-directed How To Catch a Monster and a role in the popular ‘Marvel: Agents of SHIELD,’ Iain is the living definition of an ‘up-and-coming actor’.

We had a little chat to him about Not Another Happy ending, his Marvel adventures and more….

(NOTE: The interview was conducted a couple of months ago so some of the Agents of SHIELD responses relate to episodes now aired)

What were your first impressions of Not Another Happy Ending?

I’m not sure whether I read it with my character in mind but I knew it was going to be set in Glasgow, so that was something which I found interesting. And then reading it in terms of Roddy, there were lots of moments were I laughed and I thought it would be a really fun thing to do. The feedback in Scotland was something that excited me too.

It is heavily rooted in Scotland, from the soundtrack to the settings. Was that a big pull for you?

That was the main reason I wanted to do it: Glasgow and Scotland was a character within itself. They have tried to make it into something more like a metropolitan city, in terms of New York and the like and we wanted to give it a cool vibe. Obviously, I grew up in Glasgow and I love the city, so I am always excited to have it portrayed in different ways

Were there any particular aspects of the film you enjoyed?

I always really enjoyed the relationship between Tom and Jane: it was an unconventional relationship. Also, the relationship between her and Willy, that was something I found quite funny. And Jane’s relationship with her father as well was really nice.

I had a great time on set; a lot of my scenes were with Tom and that was something that I really enjoyed and became quite close to him.

Are there any similarities between you and Roddy?

There must be with every character you do but no, we are quite different. He has a blasé attitude to most things, but he has a good moral compass, and I suppose I’m not quite like that, but I would like to be.

FitzWe know you have a key part in Marvel: Agents of SHIELD. What’s it like being involved with such a big franchise?

We have the best time on set, and everyone gets on well, it’s very much a family atmosphere. And I’m aware that Marvel is a very big franchise and the scale of it but you try not to take that stuff in on set or carry it with you too much.

What’s coming up for Agents of SHIELD then?

Episode ten will be on Friday 13th. We sign so many confidentiality agreements, so I’m not sure what I can say but these episodes coming up are going to be very, very big. You find out a lot of new things.

Did you enjoy Comic-Con this year?

That was really good fun and it was kind of a crazy experience. We showed the pilot episode, so you never really get many experiences like that, especially with a TV show. To put it on a big screen and hear the reactions of four thousand people watching. Some of the people there are the reason we make this show, the real fans of the Marvel universe, so they are the people you get a good indication from. It was great to be there and I really enjoyed it.

How to Catch a Monster is coming out some time next year, what was it like working with such big names as Gosling, Hendricks and Mendelsohn?

We filmed it in Detroit this summer and we had the most amazing time, something that I will never forget. I haven’t actually seen a cut of the movie yet and I’m not sure exactly when it will be coming out but it’s definitely something I am really excited about.

In-FearIn Fear has drummed up a lot of attention. What can we look forward to?

I’m really, really proud of this movie and to be a part of it and to work with people like Jim Lovering and Allen Leech. Loads of my friends and family went to see it in the UK and they are always really genuine and they all made a point of saying they enjoyed it and stuff. I hope people get to see it and enjoy it as much as we did making it.

And you sent a curious tweet recently: care to explain?

I don’t use Twitter and everyone else on the show does so we had a big episode for number ten [of Marvel: Agents of SHEILD] and Clark spent all day trying to get me to send a tweet, it became his mission and he made something of a reference to a leotard. He said something like: “Getting Iain on Twitter is like getting the Hulk to wear a leotard.” He also said he would give me a monkey if I did it but I think I’m going to delete my account now!

We thank Iain for his time and would like to remind you that Not Another Happy Ending is out on DVD 10th February swiftly followed up by In Fear on DVD and BluRay 10th March. To get you in the mood for a De Caestecker double bill we’ll leave you with both trailers.



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Chords in Conversation: Dan Palmer talks STALLED

dan photo stalled
Stuck in a toilet cubicle whilst tying to stay alive during a zombie invasion? Yep – you got it. This is the latest horror comedy from team Dan Palmer and Christian James entitled STALLED.

After being flushed with praise from the critics and wiping the floor clean at last year’s FrightFest, STALLED is another indie Brit success story. Following a maintenance technician called out to fix something in the ladies bathroom, people suddenly take to eating each other with the best way to keep safe being locked behind the toilet door.

The Chords had the pleasure of talking to the writer and star of STALLED, Dan Palmer and here is what he shouted to us from behind the cubicle door.

So firstly tell us a bit about yourself Dan and how you got into acting/scriptwriting?

I went to a,sort of, film school in Bournemouth in southern England. It was one of the most respected in the country so I felt pretty lucky to get in. That honour slowly dissipated over the months as the course revealed itself to be a bit all over the place. One guy turned up for the first month and came in for the last and recieved the same qualifications as the hardest working student there! Due to my frustations with the curriculum I started making my own stuff. I was one of the few people there that didn’t want to direct so, as a writer/performer, I was like a kid in a candy store when it came to finding folks to shoot my terrible scripts. I soon migrated towards Christian James, who ultimately directed STALLED. We were the two youngest students there by quite a margin ..we also had similar tastes in film and a similiar disinterest in hard work.

So you not only star in STALLED but wrote the script as well. How did you initially come up with the whole idea?

There are a number of different things that led me to the idea but one of them, and I recently told this story for the first time at The Prince Charles Cinema Q&A, was back when I was a kid doing work experience for the local newspaper. I simply couldn’t find the toilets and left it so long it seemed silly to ask anyone. So, I opted to run down to the local Wimpy (ask your grandad, kids). One afternoon I was sat on the loo, doing what comes naturally ..or doesn’t if you had been eating at Wimpy, when the door started rattling. Someone wanted in! Being English I politely coughed, but the rattling persisted. Eventually it stopped so I thought I was safe, then after a moment the door was wrenched open and the lock flew from it’s fixing!

A fifteen year old me was standing there with my pants down with an old man just staring at me! I made a hasty exit. Needless to say that has always stayed with me and an element of that is in the script. My thinking was, aside from the zombie threat, if we tap into the universal awkwardness and fear of using a public restroom it might just work.

Well it certainly worked for FrightFest didn’t it? That must have been quite a boost for your team considering the response the film got.

Ryan-Reynolds-confusedYeah, that was pretty crazy. Just being accepted and having our UK Premiere at Leicester Square would have been good enough, but the fact that we were given a third screening due to high demand and that we were hailed as one of the best films of the festival was nuts. Our film had one of the lowest budgets too. I mean, RIPD screened the same day and absolutely tanked – STALLED‘s entire budget wouldn’t have paid for Ryan Reynolds’ hairspray expenses.

Off the bat – what would be the first thing you would do in a Zombie Apocalypse?

Look for Emma Stone.

The world seemed to go vampire mad over the last year and now it’s flesh-eating zombies that are taking over. Was it your intention to play on the viewer’s new found fascination with these creatures?

Never. Trying to get a low-budget movie off the ground takes so long it makes no sense to chase trends as by the time the public see it that fad is normally long gone. I have always wanted to make a zombie film since seeing Day of the Dead as a twelve year old so the current popularity was neither a driving factor nor a deterrent.

PS: I have a vampire script.

Even though this is about zombies it is at the end of the day a horror comedy. Care to share with us what the funniest scene was that you filmed?

It was a fifteen day shoot with no budget in a toilet cubicle built inside a freezing cold barn in the middle of November …in which I am in every scene. Nothing funny to report!

How would you say your film stands above the countless other horror comedy films out there? Say Sean of the Dead or Severance for example?

I think STALLED is its own beast. People understandably think that the film will be all poo jokes when they hear the concept or watch the trailer, but once they see it they seem to be quite surprised by what the team have come up with. This may sound insane but the film probably has more in common with Her than Shaun of the Dead.

Anything already on the cards for your next project?

Well, I have a number of projects ready to go but frustratingly nothing is moving at the moment. With the great response we have had with STALLED I would have hoped we would already be in the midst of a juicy new adventure. Alas, not. But fingers crossed and all that.

1615097_10153749311555398_1614317957_nAnd finally, can you let everyone know where they can grab a copy of STALLED?

Gladly! STALLED will be available in the UK on both BluRay and DVD from February 17th. You’ll be able to grab a copy from ASDA or you can pre-order at Amazon etcetera.

In the States it is already available on iTunes and VOD and the DVD hits there March 4th. There are lots of special features so it’s well worth checking out if you are into the movie-making process, zombies ..or toilets.

Firstly we would like to thank Dan for taking the time to talking to us and what great answers he gave too. I’ll be sure to warn Emma Stone he may be coming for her should a zombie outbreak unfold! Grab your copy of this zombie infested flick from here and sit back and enjoy. For now though we’ll leave you with a trailer you can watch on your phone when you go for a quick toilet break. Just don’t drop it down the pan…


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Interviews

Chords in Conversation: Mike Mendez Talks BIG ASS SPIDER!

Big-Ass-Spider-Greg-Grunberg-Lombardo-Boyar

mike mendezThe long, long line of direct-to-TV movies of late featuring all manner of poorly rendered CGI mutant or prehistoric creatures with a penchant for harrassing scantily clad women has left the genre stale, to say the least. Since late greats ranging from Ghostbusters and Gremlins to Tremors and Arachnophobia we’ve been deprived of anything on a par with said examples. That is until now as Mike Mendez decided it was the right time to bring back the classic z-grade creature feature setting Greg Grunberg on the trail of a BIG ASS SPIDER!

To celebrate the release of BIG ASS SPIDER! here in the UK we spoke with Mike all about the film, the long, long list of title changes and to find out exactly what prompted him to take this project on given the sorry state of the creature feature in recent years.

So to be totally honest, I loved the film but I must admit that I went into it with mixed expectations. This was absolutely nothing to do with your past work – I’m a massive fan of The Gravedancers for example – but basically because I’m still seeing a specialist for my recurring nightmares caused by Sharknado and The Hoff battling against a giant Anaconda. What was it that made you want to dabble in B-movie creature feature territory given its current status?

I had all the same reservations you did before making the movie. This is a genre that has been dragged through the mud. There’s a lot of bad films of this type out there. I didn’t want to be one of them and as I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that any time someone gives you money to make a movie it’s an opportunity and the end result is really up to you…providing you have the right support. Thankfully, Shaked Berenson and Patrick Ewald from Epic Pictures Group were very supportive.

If I’m not mistaken, your first name for this was Dinospider but there were a load of ideas thrown on the table such as Massive Attack and Alex & Jose vs. The Giant Spider. To be honest Big Ass Spider really sums up the whole concept of this movie and is also obviously a major selling point. What was it about the other names that made you stick to this one?

From the first meeting I had with Epic Pictures I told them that the correct title for this movie was Big Ass Spider! It just had the right attitude. I hoped it would make it stand out from other movies in the same genre. Patrick and Shaked didn’t quite agree with me at first, and so began a two-year debate on what the title should be. Thankfully, they finally came around to my way of thinking. Blackmail is a powerful tool!

[Shaked was kind enough to add some insight at this point regarding the title:

Actually we always liked BIG ASS SPIDER! but that title presented us a couple of challenges. First, the phrase “Big-Ass” does not translate to non-English territories. Since the movie was financed from foreign sales, we couldn’t ignore these markets. Second, the retailers had reservations against putting ASS on the cover which is understandable when you’re trying to run a family friendly business like Walmart.

Eventually we went with BIG ASS SPIDER! but allowed some variation to the title. Walmart ended up covering the ASS and calling it “BigGEST SPIDER!” A handful of fans were upset at this but the movie is the same and because this cover is available only at Walmart in limited run, maybe there will be a collector value there. Time will tell…]

There are so many different creatures you could have played with. Why did you go for a Big Ass Spider?

The concept wasn’t mine. It came to me as a finished script. With that being said, I do like the idea of giant spiders. They are some of the most fascinating and alien creatures we have on Earth. They are certainly one of the most feared creatures on this planet, as well as being one of the most vicious killers. So designing a bad-ass alien spider sounded like it could be fun to me.

Another choice I first was unsure about was Greg Grunberg as Alex. Not because I don’t appreciate him as an actor. Quite the opposite. He played it to a tee in the end but I just had a hard time imagining him pulling off a John Goodman style bug catcher. Why did you go with Greg and were you a bit concerned people would be quick to compare him to the likes of Goodman?

I would be lucky if people made comparisons to John Goodman in Arachnophobia. I also felt I would be lucky to have Greg Grunberg. After all, this is a very low budget movie. Usually films of this nature have a former teen heartthrob that was relevant 25 years ago. So, to have Greg who was just on a successful sci-fi show felt like a huge score for us and we would be very lucky to have him. He also brought a certain blue-collar humanity to the character that made him even more likable. I feel, especially after working with him, that’s it’s impossible not to like Greg Grunberg.

Talking of Arachnophobia, did you find yourself watching a load of cult creature features or did you try not to get too bogged down with revisiting classics for influence? Apart from creature features were there any other films that you’d say were a big (conscious or unconscious) influence?

I felt it was important to revisit a few of the classic giant monster films, so I took the time to re-watch “Them,” and at least do all my homework by watching as many giant spider movies as I could. While the film is an homage to atomic age creature features, the stuff I took more influence from was more modern day fare, like Tremors, Aliens, Big Trouble in Little China and Ghostbusters.

Did you always have the idea of Alex and Jose teaming up when you first read the script or were any two specific actors in mind from the word go as I believe it was Greg who eventually brought Lombardo into the cast?

I didn’t write the script. Gregory Geiras has the honor of being the creator of Alex and Jose. I didn’t have anyone immediately in mind. I wanted a character that would be like Kurt Russell in Big Trouble in Little China. A heroic idiot. When someone suggested Greg Grunberg, it wasn’t exactly what I pictured at first, but I thought he would make a great, lovable oaf and hero.

Lombardo I just feel so lucky to have gotten. He was Greg’s suggestion, and Greg felt adamant that this was our Jose. So it was a total leap of faith…and the best decision I ever made.

For the very tongue in cheek approach I was pretty blown away by how good some of the CGI effects were. So many of the cheapo sci-fi affairs of late were marred by these dodgy effects. How important a part did getting the effects just right play? I believe that Greg Grunberg wasn’t totally convinced about taking the part until he saw a sample effect on your phone.

big-ass-spider-hiresThe effects were hugely important. When we were in pre-production, we believed the spider was the star of the film. Then Lombardo showed up and blew it off the screen. But I digress… The spider in the very least was the title character and Epic Pictures wouldn’t green light the film until we were sure that we could pull off the visual effect. So we were very blessed to have a company like Ice Animation really step up to the plate and push it further than what we were imagining.

They did a sample for us. It blew everyone away. It’s one of the things that convinced Greg to do the movie. The effects house was located in Pakistan. My knee-jerk reaction was that it would be a disaster. Thankfully I was mistaken.

I’ve read that you would love to keep going with the Big Ass series. So does this mean we’ll be seeing Collosal Cockroach et al in the near future?

I hope so. Let’s see how the movie does.

And can you spill a bit of info about any other upcoming projects such as Don’t Kill It?

That’s something that I hope to do this year. We’ll see if it comes together. It’s a dark action movie with a lot of gory kills. I think it will be fun.

We’d like to thank Mike and producer, Shaked for taking a moment to answer a few questions and urge you to watch BIG ASS SPIDER! which is now available here in the UK. To get you itching all over and even more in the mood for the creature feature you were all yearning for we’ll leave you with a trailer for the film:


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