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An Interview with Thomas Perrett, Director of Commune

by Mike Haberfelner

January 2017

Films directed by Thomas Perrett on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Commune - in a few words, what is it about?


A man takes a job as the guardian of a rundown London house. Charged with keeping the property secure, he soon realises that itís not the building that needs protecting, but himself. A malevolent dark cult from the past, resides within the walls and they are hunting for new members. Over three terrifying nights theyíll stop at nothing to make you: Join them!


What were your inspirations when writing Commune, and is any of the movie based on personal experience?


Commune came about after I attended a halloween party held at a dilapidated 1930ís house in North London. The party was hosted by a friend, who was living at the property as a guardian for developers. The deserted, run down aesthetic of the building was a fantastic opportunity to make use of a real world location. It was a strange place, full of belongings and personal effects from a Jewish family that had long vacated. The general decor was of faded opulence, flock wallpaper and gold radiators. The more we sifted through the rooms, the stranger it felt to have our hands in someone elseís life and a creepy feeling of intruding was very strong, as if the owners could return at any point. I knew then that we had to make a film in the location.


With Commune being a horror movie, is that a genre all dear to you, and what can you tell us about your movie's approach to horror?


Horror and scary movies have always been very appealing to me, since seeing The Exorcist with my dad at the London Trocadero late night cinema, Iíve had an unhealthy love of horror movies and psychological thrillers. Unusual stories interest me, anything that mixes reality with unreality is interesting, situations become fascinating when a supernatural element is introduced. I also love stories that tie up, or repeat, stories with a cyclical theme. Commune draws on all of these themes, Tom is similar to Jack Torrance from Kubrickís The Shining, a custodian of a strange building with a dark past. (Eagle eye viewers may spot a Kubrick easter egg; Tom wears a scarf with the pattern of the carpet from Overlook Hotel featured in The Shining.) It also has elements of Raimiís Evil Dead films, and Hooper/Spielbergís Poltergeist.


Do talk about your film's overall look and feel!


We let the location do most of the talking, it was such a fantastic find. Every corner of the building had a story, layers of life, left to rot. I wanted to show this strange space and our hero moving through it. Robin Greenís sound design really heightened this creepy feeling of Ďsomethingí in the fabric of the building, creeping, stalking our hero. This coupled with Mike Payneís score gives the stillness of rundown location a very atmospheric feel.


What can you tell us about your lead Tom Weller, who pretty much carries the entiry film on his own shoulders, acting-wise, and what was your collaboration like?


The real world location was due to be gutted and redeveloped so we had a tight time limit and finding Tom was a very fortuitous part of producing Commune. I was connected to Tom by a mutual friend as Tom and I had coincidentally attended the same college, but we only met for the first time on the set of Commune.

Tom was a child actor and had featured in a long running TV drama, Commune marked his foray back into acting since he was young. Due to our tight turnaround, we had no time to rehearse so Tom and I just ran through the script on set with the rest of the crew. I would explain the bones of what I was looking for and weíd try the scene. Our director of photography would light and line up whilst we improvised and ironed out the beats of the take. Then weíd shoot it.

Collaboration is key, every key crew and cast member has a valid opinion on set and I seek their expertise to help create the best scene for the story.


You of course also have to talk about your location for a bit, and how did you find it and what was it like working there?


The location we shot Commune in, is a real house in North London and it was once used as a Jewish commune. The house has since been developed but can still be seen at 94 Lordship Park N16.

This is how it looked when we were filming:

And here it is now:

Due to insurance small print and because we couldnít sufficiently secure the building, I had a real taste of what I was putting my character through. We shot for two days and two nights and on the last night, when we had wrapped, I had to stay at the house on my own and guard the kit.

I slept in a sleeping bag in one of the many bedrooms, the house was cold and strange noises haunted my night. With the images of our days of shooting and the story of Commune swirling about my head, I donít think I slept for more than 20 minutes all night.


What can you tell us about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


Mobilising a cast and crew in a very short time frame was probably the hardest part of production. Commune is the first multi setup, narrative film I have made since I graduated from Bournemouth University in 2001 and I donít have a well seasoned crew at my disposal. I do fortunately have many friends and contacts in TV & film production, so after calling in all the favours I could, I managed to assemble a small but decent cast and crew. Working in the abandoned house was fairly straightforward, although it was at times a dirty and cold experience.

We all had to muck in and make it work, everyone would share tasks such as boom operator and cable bashing. We had a good time, discussing ideas and angles, I think the cast and crew found the house quite a fascinating place although we were all happy to leave at the end of the shoot.


The $64-question of course, when and where will Commune be released onto the general public?


We have a couple of offers from Video On Demand services who would like to include Commune on their menu. Iíll release details on social media as soon as we know.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Commune?


Commune has had a fantastic reception on the festival circuit! I was very ready for my first film festival experience to be a difficult, cutthroat arena, and although competitive, everyone weíve been involved with has been very positive and complimentary towards us. We have a few festivals left to attend.

Commune has also had some great reviews! As an editor I seek criticism everyday, to make sure the choices Iím making are right for a overall project, so having such positive feedback from film bloggers and critics is fantastic! It really spurs me on to try and tackle a more ambitious project.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


There was talk of taking the story further and writing it into a feature, but weíll see. I definitely intend to continue making films, to build on this experience and produce more work. I have a myriad of ideas that Iíd like to explore, I like the format of short films and I have a better understanding of the festival circuit now, so Iíll probably go again with a new more ambitious short. Iíve been researching Korean Fan Death for an idea. Also looking into hallucinations, our perception of reality and lucid dreaming for another script. I also have a collection of feature scripts that I have written with a friend and ultimately Iíd like to make them the way we envisaged them.


What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


As an only child Iíve always had a Ďhealthyí relationship with the TV, and I remember being fascinated and drawn into the fantasy of film from a young age.

I attended BRIT school, a performing arts college, where I studied art and film. I then secured a place at Bournemouth University and completed a degree in film and television production before joining a post production facility in Soho as a runner.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Commune?


I made a short film called Hindsight for my final year of university that was nominated for a Royal Television Award and was screened on TV -

I have dabbled with short film projects since college, helping friends out with shoots and edits etc. But this is the first time Iíve produced a film that is worthy of a festival run. I sometimes feel that it has taken me longer than I envisioned to get to this point, but I guess the length of the path we take is irrelevant if you accomplish what you set out to to.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


I love real life situations that are turned on their head, the familiar but with an unearthly or supernatural twist, the unexplained. The goal is to move people, to draw them in, evolve them in a fascinating world, take them on a journey and leave them with a feeling of satisfaction inside, satisfaction that they were entertained and beguiled. Itís this feeling that I seek, in art music and film. The feeling that anything is possible and anything is viewable.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Directors and Filmmakers that inspire me are the ones who embrace this: Spielberg, Kubrick, Mann, Hooper, Coppola, Raimi, Zemeckis, Carpenter, Scott (Ridley and Tony), Verhoeven, Hooper, Argento, the list is endless.


Your favourite movies?


This is a very difficult question to answer, I have so many favourite films. Films that stayed with me, that I would have loved to have been a part of are the ones I tend to hold closest to my heart. Coppolaís Apocalypse Now is a fantastic anti-war film, how they made that film still makes my mind boggle. I love George Lucas's THX1138 - the original tech-noir, distopian future film. From that Terminator, Alien, Blade Runner, RoboCop. Iím a big fan of comedy too, I love Ghostbusters, National Lampoon's Vacation and Saturday Night Live films of the 80ís. Also contemporary films inspire me too, Birdman, Children of Men, Under the Skin. Iíll read this back sometime and realise Iíve missed off so much. Metropolis, Playtime, Die Hard, , Citizen Kane. As for horror, there are just so many. I think breaking it down into categories would help me give a more concise answer. It Follows was amazing, The Thing, The Evil Dead, An American Werewolf in London, The Witch, Drag Me to Hell, The Fly... I could go on forever.


... and of course, films you really deplore?


I suppose there are films I donít really like or care for. Iíve never walked out of a movie. I donít think itís fair to judge someone's vision without at least seeing it all the way through. Some films that Iíve perhaps not fully enjoyed, might still have one small idea or angle that Iíve never seen before, and in some way that makes the viewing worth it.

I think what upsets me is that a director or producer would throw away the opportunity to make a film the best they possibly can. The privilege of directing a feature film, with someone else's money, is a rare occurrence, so to make something thatís substandard or lacking really irks me.


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Thank you for watching!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Tršume ...


Und an diesem Tag geht natŁrlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!


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