Your new movie Coven of Evil
- in a few words, what is it about?
Coven of Evil
tells the story of a young journalist called Joe who is trying to make a name
for himself writing articles on witchcraft. He gets invited to a ritual by
Evie, the leader of the Coven he has just written about. Once there he finds
his own desires take on a darker nature after he is persuaded to join in with
one of the rituals. He also meets a young woman called Alice, who he suspects
is being held there against her will. Joe gets drawn into the bizarre and
deadly world of modern-day witchcraft There is an element of folk horror about
it. We’ve drawn some influence from the likes of The Wicker Man and
Satan's Claw, but it’s more of a modern setting.
What were your sources of inspiration when writing Coven
The inspiration came from executive producer Warren Croyle [Warren
Croyle interview - click here], who gave me the title “Coven of Evil” and asked me
to pitch a logline for it. I decided to reverse-engineer the film, building a
story around the actors, locations and resources that I had access to. I was
fortunate enough to grow up in the glorious Yorkshire moors so this became the
Coven of Evil.
With Coven of Evil
revolving around witchcraft, Wiccan rituals and the like, did you do any
kind of research on the subject?
Yes, the research informed my decision to write the evil Coven as Satanists
who are merely pretending to be a Wiccan Coven to disguise their true
practices. This is explained briefly in the film but it does seem to have
caused some misconceptions from people who either missed the explanation or
didn’t see the film and thought I was trying to portray Wiccans as evil
devil worshipers, which of course isn’t true.
To what extent could
you identify with Coven of
Evil's lead Joe - and with Alice, and with the witches, for that
Joe is an everyman and the character I’d identify with the
most. He’s the audience’s way into the story and acts as an anchor. He
watches, along with the rest of us, as the madness unfolds. I find Alice’s
character the most inspiring. She has the biggest arc and slowly transitions
from passive victim to someone who actively takes control of her own destiny.
Although I don’t really identify with the members of the Coven, I did want
to make them seem like real people. They are a bunch of misfits that have come
together to form the Coven. Rather than being an unstoppable force, they are
quite fallible. Some of the more humorous moments of the film come from the
fact that they don’t always know what they are doing!
Do talk about your movie's approach to horror!
The film has some paranormal elements to it such
as devil worship, demons and even vampires, but there is also a strong
psychological component. A lot of the real horror comes from the human
characters and what they do to each other.
few words about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?
I like to do a lot of preparation
so I spent as much time as I could drawing up shot lists and talking to the
cast and crew ahead of the shoot. That said, it’s still important to allow
for some spontaneity on the day if it will improve on the original vision or
if circumstances dictate a slight course correction. I like to give the actors
a certain amount of freedom and at times I remember being pleasantly surprised
by how powerful the performances were. Sometimes we’d rehearse a scene and
I’d sense the actors were holding back to save it for the take. Then we’d
start shooting and there would be a rawness and honesty to the performances
that blew me away.
can you tell us about Coven
of Evil's cast, and why exactly these people?
Ok, I’ll discuss the cast in the order that I cast
them: First off, for one of the main villains, Zander, I pretty much wrote the
character with an actor in mind. There was an actor called Craig R Mellor who
I’d worked with on a previous short film. He makes a great bad guy and we
get on well. So I pretty much wrote Zander for him, although I didn’t tell
him that and he had to audition.
The most difficult part to cast was Evie, the
High Priestess, who is a bit like a femme fatale. She contrasts with Zander, who
is all brute force, she’s more scheming. I also wanted Evie to contrast with
her sister Alice who is a lot younger and more innocent. It was quite hard to
find someone who could play that role, and the actress I ended up casting,
Samantha Moorhouse, was actually quite a bit younger than I’d initially
intended for Evie. In fact she’s almost the same age as her sister Alice. We
did have people audition who were of the right age, but I went with Sammy as I
felt she was the better actress.
I’d written Kissi as this kind of hippy,
dizzy character that provides some comic relief. This was the take that Tracy
Gabbitas gave me in the auditions. She was really funny and I cast her pretty
much straight away. Then, as Tracy started working on her character, it became
obvious that there was a better way to play it. This dizzy persona is just a
facade and underneath it she’s a lot more serious and committed to what the
Coven are doing. I liked that, it made her character more layered and more
The shoot ended up being pushed back because the actress who was
initially down to play Alice dropped out. This meant various other actors also
had to pull out due to scheduling conflicts. Craig, Sammy and Tracy were the
only actors from the initial cast who remained in place. In the re-casting, I
chose John Thacker as Joe. He plays the role in a naturalistic, understated
way and makes a great everyman that most people can relate to. John has been
in a number of shorts films, TV programmes, theatre productions and online
videos for brands like The Lad Bible. He is also a musician and the lead
singer and songwriter in the band China Moon.
I then cast Laura Peterson as
Alice. She was very well prepared and a joy to work with. It was a tough shoot
with bad weather, long hours and some physically demanding scenes. Laura was
very good about it. She was a real trooper.
Laura Ellen Wilson plays Talia,
one of the newest members of the Coven. Unlike the more established members
who each have a special gift/power, Talia hasn’t found her gift yet. Laura
is a horror regular. She’s been in some great indie horror films: Monster,
Surprise, Next Door.
of Evil was shot in some quite breathtaking locations - so where
are they, how did you find them, and what were the advantages and maybe
also challenges filming there?
Like so many micro-budget
productions, I wrote the film around resources and locations that I already
had access to. There’s some fantastic rural locations in Yorkshire, near
where I grew up. These locations are breath-takingly beautiful but also
desolate and eerie, so they are perfect for the kind of atmosphere we were
trying to create. It is hard to shoot in remote locations. The weather and
conditions are often quite hostile. Most of the places you can only get to on
foot, so you park as near as you can and then you have to haul all the gear
and props to the location. There’s also the problem for sound. We’d do a
recce and the location would be deadly silent, because it is so remote. Then
we’d come to shoot and they’d always be something going on that made it
awkward to record the sound. Quite often it’s because people got wind we
were shooting and came to check it out. But our sound mixer, Stephen Cummings,
was fantastic and got us some great audio. One thing about shooting in places
like that is that, if you can put up with the hardships, you get a great
looking location for free!
A few words about the
shoot as such and the on-set atmosphere?
For a significant proportion of the shoot we were based in a
beautiful holiday cottage which served as a location, production office and
accommodation for some of the cast and crew who lived further afield. We had
everything there we needed and there was a great camaraderie amongst the cast
and crew. The atmosphere on set was a lot of fun. Once we moved on to shooting
the exterior scenes, the atmosphere became a lot more tense. Those scenes were
tough to shoot as the locations were very isolated and it was extremely cold
and windy. The weather kept changing and we had to shoot around it. Our first
AD, Robert Mellody, did a fantastic job of holding everything together. I
don’t know what we would have done without him. Those scenes were tough but
I think we all came through it stronger. The music plays a big role in helping
to create the atmosphere.
What were the sources of inspiration for the
film’s score and how did you work with the composer?
This original score by
Steve Kilpatrick includes nods to well-known orchestral horror soundtracks,
while, at the same time, incorporating doom metal and EDM. The composer, Steve
Kilpatrick, has scored a few films for me and we have a great working
relationship. Steve came onboard at the start of production, also working as a
production sound mixer on set. Although we spent plenty of time discussing
ideas, Steve still managed to surprise and delight me. I remember the first
time I watched the film with Steve’s accompanying score as one of the highs
of post-production. After all those months of shooting and editing, for the
first time I was able to sit back and watch the film without knowing exactly
what was coming next.
can tell us about audience and critical reception of Coven
We’ve had some very positive reviews and
feedback on the film. There has also been a fair bit of criticism, some of
it constructive, some of it not so much. I guess that’s the way it goes,
films are subjective so we’re never going to please everyone. That said,
the feedback is extremely helpful for future projects. I plan to build on
the things we’ve done well and learn from any mistakes we made this
What made you want to focus on making horror films as opposed to
As well as being a huge fan of the genre, horror appeals to
me as a filmmaker as it is fun, challenging and relatively inexpensive to
make. You don’t need big stars or fancy equipment to pull off a good
scare! I enjoy the process of coming up with new and creative ways to work
around our limitations.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
development on a short horror film called Look Deeper. It’s about
a man who is spending the night with a married woman, and then her husband
comes home. It’s going to be a dark and twisted film and it doesn’t
resolve in the way that you’d expect. We’re intending to give the film
a very stylised look and we are drawing influence from some of the giallo
films, particularly some of Mario Bava’s work (like Blood and Black
Lace) [Mario Bava bio -
click here]. It should be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it. After
Look Deeper, I plan on doing another feature, although I haven’t
settled on an idea for this yet.
Your/your movie's website,
Facebook, whatever else?
Thanks for the interview!