You have only recently made your live show Werewolves,
Cheerleaders & Chainsaws (or rather a filmed version of it)
available on the internet. So do tell us a little bit about the show, and
where to watch it!
We've been doing live shows and talks for the last couple of years,
usually at film festivals or whatever. This year was the first
horror-on-sea festival in my home town on Southend in Essex, and we
thought it'd be fun to film the talk and put it up as a freebie. It's
really a thankyou for all the folks who've supported our stuff over the
years. It's one hour of advice and anecdotes about filming horror with no
bloody money. It's not really safe for work (bit of blood, nudity and
swearing) and it's up at http://jinx.co.uk.
What inspired you to do the show in
the first place?
I was asked by a festival to run a
workshop about screenwriting about three years ago. The format for doing
live things has kind of grown out of that. I enjoyed doing it, so we keep
doing them wherever we're asked (so if you want us to do one at your
festival feel free to get in touch via Twitter - @zcarstheme).
Werewolves, Cheerleaders &
Chainsaws is chock-full of anecdotes - which are your some of
favourite ones, and any anecdotes you'd care to share that didn't make it
into the show?
Ah, man. Ten years of making tiny budget
horror movies and getting them sold around the world leaves you with a
*lot* of stories. As you say, there are quite a few in the show; the one
at the end about my loft is one of my favourites and is absolutely true.
If the show was twice the length I'd probably include the story about why
not to use real meat in your blood and guts mix. I can still remember the
stench even now.
Let's do the impossible and sum up your
show - so in no more than three phrases, what would be your advice to
budding low budget horror filmmakers?
1) Treat everyone really, really nicely.
2) The script is the area where you've got more freedom than the big
guys have. Use it.
3) Don't record an important scene onto a head-cleaner tape.
As even the title
of your show suggests, you are deeply rooted in the horror genre. So what
makes horror so appealing to you?
It's so amazingly versatile. I think of it as being the trump genre,
because if you add elements of horror to a film that would otherwise be
considered a completely different genre it suddenly becomes a horror
film. Take our movie Hellbride; it's basically a romantic comedy. It's
boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl. Thing is, once you throw
in a few eye-gougings and people getting their mouths stitched close,
it suddenly becomes a horror movie! This means that writing
"within" the genre is actually no such thing, since you can
write in any damn genre you choose provided you throw in a few horror
elements as applicable...
Let's turn the last
question on its head: In general, how would you describe your approach to
Ultimately, it varies from film to film. Some of my flicks are really
just goofs; they aren't trying to scare people. Others have something
pretty sinister beating in their dark hearts. I approach each movie as a
completely clean slate, and the way that the scares or gory elements are
dealt with will vary depending on the rest of the movie. I've only ever
shot a couple of sequences that were actually trying to directly unnerve
or freak the audience out, and that's something I'm moving towards
rather than away from! I've got a script called House on the
(which I've been touting for years), which has got more pure scares in
it than anything else I've ever written.
As far as I know, your next project is called Evil
Apps - could you tell us a bit about that one, and when and where it
might be filmed/released?
Odds are that we'll be shooting
around November this year, although that's subject to change depending on
the usual financial stuff. Provided we stick to that schedule, it should
hit festivals around summer 2014 and DVD later that year. I've glibly
called it a smartphone splatter film in a few places, which is actually
selling the character side of things rather short. It's dark, sick, funny
with a couple of big horror pay-offs. I love the script, and can't wait to
bring it to life.
Any future projects beyond Evil
I suspect that Jim Eaves, Al Ronald and myself
might reconvene at some point to do a third Death Tales movie (following
on from Bordello Death Tales and Nazi Zombie Death Tales). They're just
too much fun, and we work too well together, to leave it at two. Beyond
that, I've got House on the Witchpit and Chainsaws Fairytale waiting in
the wings for when we can put a production package that makes sense
Let's go back to the beginnings of your career
- what got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any
formal training on the subject?
Film has always been a huge
part of my life, ever since I was lucky enough to get taken to the cinema
regularly as a child. I ended up experimenting with Super 8 throughout my
childhood and then persuading my parents to rent a camcorder from Radio
Rentals ever so often throughout the 80s! I took Media and English at
University, and cut my teeth as a runner on various shoots whilst working
a succession of unfulfilling day jobs. We ended up deciding to shoot
TrashHouse rather than buying a car when we had a few grand in the bank.
Your first movie as a
director was, I believe, TrashHouse - do talk about that one for a
bit, and lessons learned from it?
I've got a lot of happy
memories from that movie, but God, I'd love to remake it now. We made
quite a few mistakes in terms of getting the most from our budget, plus
the way that technology has changed between then and now would allow that
movie to look much, much slicker if shot today. As you say, it was my
first film and I was eager to cram everything I thought was funny or
interesting into it in case I never got the chance to shoot another one!
So in went chainsaws, zombies, heavy artillery, retro outfits, a black
& white sequence, fart jokes...
There are a million criticisms you
could make of that flick, but nobody could say it wasn't ambitious enough!
The cast and crew were lovely, the warehouse was freezing cold and the
sets were really well built and then awfully decorated (because I didn't
give the crew enough time or budget to dress them properly). It looks dead
cheap, but I can't watch it without smiling.
Please do talk about
your subsequent films Hellbride, KillerKiller and The
Devil's Music, and about your evolution as a director?
and KillerKiller were shot back-to-back over the summer of 2006. Hellbride
was incredibly good fun, and KillerKiller felt like a huge leap forward in
terms of the way the movie looked and the things we were able to achieve.
In Werewolves, Cheerleaders & Chainsaws I talk a little bit about how
the finances of the double-shoot made more sense than shooting them a few
months apart. It was an insanely busy time, and I loved it.
Devil's Music the following year with the few quid we had left in the
kitty after the double-shoot, and it somehow ended up being probably our
best movie. It was the one where we really made our limitations work for
us rather than against us, plus it was the first one where I fully stepped
away from the producer role and my wife Pippa took over. She's a much
better producer than I am, and it meant that we got a hell of a lot more
bang for our buck.
can you tell us about the Death Tales-series, about your
partners-in-crime on this one, and how did this ongoing project as such
come together in the first place?
James Eaves [James Eaves
interview - click here] and his wife Laura
were expecting their first child. He wanted to shoot another project
before the baby arrived, but knew that a feature would be too ambitious
and that a short would likely be a commercial dead-end. He approached me
about doing an old-school anthology instead. I brought Al Ronald on board
and the whole thing came together insanely easily. That first one,
Bordello Death Tales, was a really tight shoot in terms of budget and
schedule yet I think it turned out really well; we picked up great
reviews, and it ended up getting a lovely UK release courtesy of the fine
folks at Safecracker Pictures. They were instrumental in suggesting the
scheduling and content of the sequel, which was shot as Battlefield Death
Tales but ended up being released as Nazi Zombie Death Tales (partly
because supermarkets seemed to prefer that title!). If I thought the
schedule on the first one was crazy, Nazi Zombie Death Tales was even more so. It was
suggested in October 2011, written in November, shot December/January and
was out on DVD summer 2012. Madness! Brilliant, brilliant fun though.
A few words about Strippers
It's all over, and I'm very glad that I
never have to think about it again.
You've been an indie horror director
for about 10 years now - what keeps you going, and how did the business
change over this time?
It's changing so much and so rapidly
it's hard to keep up. Companies who seemed like permanent fixtures are
folding weekly. Entire distribution methods pop up and disappear seemingly
overnight. It's incredibly hard to anticipate what's around the corner,
and to stay in the game you have to work incredibly hard. I keep going
because I genuinely love it. Writing, shooting, post-production... Even
talking about it in front of groups of people like in the live show. I
love it. I think if I didn't, I'd have bailed out long ago. There's just
so much product out there now, so many tiny budget movies crying out for
attention. Loads of them are really damn good, too, so the marketplace is
horribly crowded. I was so lucky to get a couple of movies out worldwide
before digital technology enabled pretty much anyone to go shoot a movie;
I've often thought that if I'd made TrashHouse in 2009 rather than 2004
I'd never have got it noticed or released, and my career would have
stalled before it even started.
How would you describe yourself
as a director?
I firmly believe in knowing and
acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses. As a director, I'd very much
say that I'm still learning. Hopefully I get better each time. I pick up
new tricks, I gain confidence, but I'm still a guy who can make mistakes
behind the camera and then spend months in post-production trying to cover
them up. Screenwriting, on the other hand, I'm pretty confident in my
abilities. Sit me in front of a blank piece of paper, and I'm generally a
safe pair of hands.
Filmmakers who inspire you?
All the guys who just decided to go and do it themselves, from Sam
Raimi to Peter Jackson to Kevin Smith, are the ones who made me realise
that I could have a crack at doing this myself. Without them having blazed
the trail, there's no way that guys like me would be doing anything other
than sending off millions of CVs and then being broken-hearted that we
never made it in the industry.
Your favourite movies?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
My favourite horror is The
Shining, followed closely by Carpenter's
Halloween and Robert Wise's The
Haunting. In broader terms, the film I've
watched most times is Gremlins. It's just the perfect blend of horror and
comedy, and anyone who has seen my chapter of Nazi Zombie Death Tales will
notice the influence seeping in.
... and of course, films you really deplore?
I try to keep things positive. The world's got too much hate in it, and
I like to keep things upbeat. No matter how flawed a film is, it still
means something important to someone somewhere. I try and remember that
and - Oh, sod it. The Nightmare on Elm Street-remake is an appalling piece
Your website, Facebook, whatever else?
Point your browsers towards http://jinx.co.uk
for all sorts of stuff about our movies. Our Facebook is at
and my Twitter handle is @zcarstheme.
Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten
I'd like to repeat that #1 piece of advice about treating everyone
really nicely. The world is a better and finer place if you treat cast and
crew like gold dust, and what goes around comes around. You look out for
people, they'll look out for you. Be excellent to each other, and go make
some cool movies.
Thanks for the interview!