Your upcoming Stranger - in a few words, what is it going to
It's about a stubborn hired gun
whose grasp of life is thrown into crisis after a run-in with a
You describe Stranger as an "acid
western" - care to elaborate, and some of your key influences on your
The ''acid western'' was coined by a critic named
John Rosenbaum whilst reviewing Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man, which
I'm not actually fond of at all. He said the film possessed an
hallucinogenic quality and an anarchic political tone such as those of the
original weird westerns produced during an uprising of the 1960's
counter-culture. El Topo is
a prime example, and a big influence on me, as is all of Jodorowsky's
films. El Topo was the
first ''midnight movie'' and it's a mind-blowing head trip of a film. Then
came Robert Downey's Greaser's Palace, which
came out a couple of years after. Both films are brimming with religious
imagery, surrealism, comedy, character transformations, graphic
violence... I'd like to think our film shares similar traits and would make
a respectable tribute.
It was because of the 'weird westerns' and spaghetti westerns that I took
any interest in westerns at all. My old man would watch many a John Wayne
through-out my childhood [John
Wayne in the 1930s - click here] which were just so dull and boring for me. It's
funny now that I'm making one myself, so I guess it's a little homage to
him but with my added love for bizarre films we are meeting half way!
Stranger is actually based on a novella by
Mark Twain, The Mysterious Stranger - so what made you choose
exactly this source material, and how close do you remain to the story?
Twain is an incredible writer and I didn't really get the chance to
realise his genius when reading him at school. The Mysterious Stranger is
such a deep and existentially nihilistic novella about an angel's
influence over those who live more sheltered, one-sided lives. I saw a
brief adaptation in Will Vinton's The Adventures of Mark Twain and
was done to actually very disturbing effect and tracked down the novella
to read. All the time I was envisioning it to be a western, where
characters are perfectly set for a doomed fate – and because of the
inclusion of Satan, there was even room for the magical, hallucinogenic
qualities. In terms of remaining faithful, I have built an entirely new
story around the core of Twain's story. There is a build up to the meeting
of the character's minds but a lot of Satan's amazing monologues remain.
I'm exorcising a few demons of my own in the context of Twain's story, but
hopefully haven't detracted from the power of his writing.
can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?
being completely independent and free from any studios and even budget I
have taken to shooting in a much guerilla fashion. I am a pick-up and
shoot kind of guy who wouldn't wait for anybody to give me the means to
shoot a film. I would just do so anyway. This film is serving as a
transitional project for me as it is out with the old, raw, lo-fi films I
used to make on a camcorder and in with the new; something more polished.
This doesn't mean my shooting methods have changed much. Whilst having a
good idea of what I want, the lack of money means this is a meeting of
minds that are all in it together in making a film. We all have fun but we
know we're still there to get a result. I have a great team. I want the
film to convey all emotions and tones from downright silly to downright
moving and to ensure we get the right results everybody needs to be
trusting and relaxed. I'd even allow beer and marijuana on set to stress
that relaxed environment.
Stranger being a western shot in Worcestershire, UK - what are some
of the main challenges to bring that "wild west" feel to life at
your British locations at hand? And while we're at it, what can you tell
us about your locations as such?
I'm resigned to the fact that where we're shooting isn't always going to
look like the USA, but we give it a damn good try. I live in a town called
Kidderminster, which is situated in Worcestershire. There is a lot of
beautiful country-side and sandstone surrounding our area and therefore a
lot of towering climbable rocks that look stunning. The one location is a
public common that sort of kick-started the whole ''let's do it'' affair,
as there is a LOT of sand, and a brilliant skyline horizon that isn't
flawed by electrical wires for once. So we shot a day there in April and
the sun was scorching! We were very lucky and thought ''you know, this is
actually possible!'' We have also been shooting on Shell Island, which is
in the North of Wales and it is nothing but colossal sand dunes which made
a perfect desert for us!
Do talk about your key
cast, and why exactly these people?
protagonist is played by one of my best friends, Dale Sheppard, who is new
to film-making and acting in general, but I trust he'll make a good
gunslinger with a tough exterior who'll gradually convey an out-pouring
of his rawest emotions. "The Stranger" of the title is played by Gypsy Lee
Pistolero who's had a life career in several successful bands, and acting
is his new rock and roll! I had made a music video for him so will
continue to bear him in mind for future acting roles. He has been great,
and very helpful on the project. It was he who got us Gary Shail on board,
who hasn't acted for quite some time now. I'd obviously seen him in Quadrophenia,
and a great role he played alongside Michael Caine in Jack
the Ripper, so we were very
psyched to have him on board. He has put in a great performance too! Also
in the cast is Richard Rowbotham, who used to be a television actor who
would go on to appear in some of my earlier films, and Maryam Forouhandeh
is the pious wife of the protagonist. She has put in a fine, and very
striking performance. The casting of friends has usually been the case for
me for obvious budgetary reasons, but this time around the friends I have
cast seem to be able to act, which is great!
As far as I know, Stranger
is as we speak still very much in production - so what's the schedule, and
what can you tell us about the shoot so far? And even if it might be
waaayyy too early to ask, any idea yet when and where the film might be
released onto the general public?
We're looking at mid 2015
for a release. We're way over halfway through shooting, but an adventure
in ADR and foley work awaits us upon finishing filming.
Any future projects
beyond Stranger you'd like to share?
Far too many
but won't jinx any by mentioning them prematurely! A side project is
preparing my horrible early films for VHS releases. Their ultra lo-fi
qualities would perform much better to a VHS audience.
What got you
into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal training on
I've been completely self-taught and have been
making my own films since the age of 10 or 11 when my brother and I would
make films with our cuddly toys! Naturally the projects and our ambitions
grew with time and experience. I enrolled on a University course but
didn't graduate. I made the mistake of taking a film production course
along with film studies. While the film studies I found motivating, the
film production was a colossal waste of time for somebody already set in
their own ways of making films. Not finishing did get me down a little but
I quickly overcame it with the beginning of Stranger; a
new feature film and a big step towards fulfilment of my sole purpose in
life. I'm not sure how many students who did graduate could say the same
What can you tell us about your filmwork
prior to Stranger, and your evolution as a filmmaker?
is actually my fifth feature film,
but the first I want to actually get out there on the market. My previous
features have either been exercises in gore and camera angles with not
much thought put into story or structure. A film I did called Feast
for the Beast in 2008 was the last
of these, but that didn't turn out too bad. After that came a string of
experimental shorts which were all much more fun to make as I was
exploring my own visionary path in terms of what I wanted to show on
screen, and of course different ways of telling stories. A lot of
psychedelic montages, dramas without dialogue, even animation. I had to
explore the complete spectrum of film-making and decide where I would sit.
Some of the shorts I was most proud of ended up in a bizarro anthology
which I shot a framing story for and called it The Forbidden Four. Whilst attaining the lo-fi
qualities of my early horror films, it presented a ton of new and exciting
ideas within my body of work.
would you describe yourself as a director?
schizophrenic! Being a film buff I love the works of high art to the exercises in pure trash, so I'd like to think I'm gelling together works of
art AND trash that feature traits from both gene pools.
I can also be very frantic in a way that I work much better without too
much pre-meditated planning. Spontaneity brings so much magic!
who inspire you?
I've already mentioned Jodorowsky. Also
Jan Svankmajer, Herzog, Lynch, Lloyd Kaufman, John Waters, Ken Russell,
Kenneth Anger, Greenaway, Larry Cohen [Larry
Cohen interview - click here], the list goes on!
Your favourite movies?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
too many! Santa Sangre, Possession (1981), Svankmajer's Faust,
Hourglass Sanitorium, Harold and Maude, Eraserhead, Stroszek,
The Devils, Performance,
Bad Boy Bubby, Daughters of Darkness, Inauguration of the
Pleasuredome, I could go on and on...
and of course, films you really deplore?
People who insist
on delivering the same old shit with no spark of inspiration to be found
anywhere. Also those Hollywood blockbusters that pretend to be really
smart and clever and just end up being dumber and more pretentious than
most cheese-ball flicks (The Dark
Knight, Godzilla, etc)
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
You can find out
more about Stranger on the Facebook
or on the official blogsite
you are dying to mention and I have just forgotten to ask?
just keep a look out for the release of Stranger and please let me
know what you think!
for the interview!
It's an absolute pleasure, thank YOU!