Your new movie Backslasher
- in a few words, what is it about?
A fun-loving party planner tries to stop a supernatural stalker killing
everyone on her friends list.
uses social networking as a major plot device - to what extent does the
movie mirror your very personal views on the subject, and your thoughts
on the whole phenomenon in general? And how much research was there involved prior to
writing your movie?
I think that social networking is a
great form of communication for most people. Personally, I wish it had
been around when I was at university, but nowadays it's hard to find the
time to join in. I read an article a few years back about a website that
collected your social networking data and published the best times to
burgle your house, highlighting the risks of sharing too much information
with strangers. I just took that to an extreme and arrived at Backslasher.
I did some research, mainly to make sure I didn't step too close to the
real life instances where social networks have been used for murder.
(Other) sources of inspiration when
terms of locations, much of Backslasher was based on the resources I had
available to me. Half the film is shot in a studio where I was directing
live TV chat shows at the time. Next door to that they were broadcasting
adult phone-ins, so that crept into the plot too. Other than that, the
characters and storyline came from my generally twisted imagination!
the title already (sort of) suggests, Backslasher
can be considered a slasher movie - a genre at all dear to you, and some
of your genre favourites?
Horror is my favourite genre, I
think it's got something for everyone. My favourites include Scream,
The Shining, Hostel and a lot of other stuff that probably looks dated now.
Slashers are fun, there's normally an ensemble cast and a high body count!
I'll watch parody too - Scary Movie came out at about the right time for
How would you describe your
directorial approach to your story at hand?
Mostly I like
to get the technical side of things out of the way first, choosing shots
and marking up the script for coverage, and then I'll go back through and
pick scenes and shots I want to highlight. At some point during the shoot
you start running out of time, either for technical or performance
reasons. It's at that stage you're really happy you chose most of the
shots beforehand because you know what you can throw away. In terms of
performance, there were no rehearsals and we just steamed through stuff as
we were rolling. I'd like to have spent more time with the actors
experimenting with stuff, but the time just wasn't there.
contains quite a healthy dose of sex and violence. Was there ever a line you
consciously refused to cross?
I didn't want the sex to be
explicit and I didn't want the violence to be unrealistic. The sex scenes
were well scripted all the way back to auditions, so actors knew what
would be required, which made my job easier on those scenes. There's
actually quite a lot more nudity on the cutting room floor as I didn't
want the film to be defined by that (although some reviewers can't see
beyond the few seconds of topless footage).
In terms of violence, it's
difficult to do well on a budget, so Backslasher
is pretty Hitchcock in
its approach. Even if I had a mega budget I'm not sure I'd be too graphic.
People's imaginations can be far scarier than my FX department!
A few words about your
leading lady Eleanor James, and how did you find her and what made her
perfect for the role?
Eleanor was great, giving a sustained
performance throughout. She auditioned face to face in London with lots of
others, but she had quite a few things going for her. Good enthusiasm,
energy, and a superb scream! Plus she looked a bit like Shelley Duvall in
The Shining - and who wouldn't want to try and emulate the mighty Kubrick?
What can you tell us about the
rest of your cast and crew?
Crew was mainly family and
friends. Cast were almost all found through casting calls and auditioned
Would you like to talk about
the actual shoot and the on-set atmosphere for a bit?
was filmed in 15 days, spread over a 4 month period. I think most of those
days were 8-12 hours long so there were no stamina heroics involved. Shoot
days were generally rushed no matter how well prepared you tried to be,
and each day there was usually a significant problem that needed resolving
("Where's the boiler room in this building? We need it for the last
scene. What do you mean there isn't one?"). Initially I had a producer
onboard whose expectations differed from everyone else's, so that caused
some communication breakdowns and ultimately lost us our original
distribution deal. Everybody has their own reasons to get involved in
indie film projects, but it helps if those reasons at least overlap!
can you tell us about audience and critical reception of Backslasher
has split opinions which is a good
thing! You can't make a film that everybody loves, and the worst thing
would be for people to feel nothing at all after watching it. Critics have
been positive on the whole, and those that haven't generally dismiss it
without breaking the surface. People that watch Backslasher
at the very least be entertained, that's what I'm hoping for, that I can
make you forget about your everyday troubles for a little while.
Any future projects beyond Backslasher
you'd like to share?
I'm working on a couple of things
right now including a noir horror and a romantic comedy. I've also
received a couple of scripts from some experienced writers and I'm looking
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?
I got into
filmmaking about 7 years ago when I had some free time on my hands. I
loved watching films and TV shows and in essence wanted to create worlds
for other people to enjoy. I bought lots of books, watched DVDs about
filmmaking and listened to director commentaries. At the same time I
started writing screenplays. Shorts, features, TV pilots - anything and
everything. My first foray into film was a two minute short called Venture
Decapitalist, about the Devil trying to raise money for his business (of
killing people). I had an ex-BBC cameraman come down and auditioned actors
on the phone. It was a disaster, with the ex-BBC guy having a total power
trip, not even calling the actors by their names. When we wrapped he asked
me what I'd learned and I replied "never to invite you on set
again." He'd taken four hours to light one setup, and there lies the
difference between indie and any other budget film making. But I wasn't
put off. If anything, it's the challenge that keeps me going.
As far as I
know, you have made quite a few short murder mysteries over the years -
care to talk about those for a bit?
We made a deal with a
big publisher of boxed murder mystery party games to produce content for
them including a DVD. There were four short scenes that could be watched
during each party. All in all we shot 14 DVDs that were all BBFC rated so
they could be distributed retail in stores like WHSmith and John
Producing, writing and directing all those shorts ultimately gave me the
confidence to try a full feature. I also worked with some very talented
and amazing people over those five years so it was great for networking.
Some of them worked on Backslasher
responsible for a handful of documentaries about supernatural subjects,
right? What can you tell us about those, and how does directing
documentaries of this sort differ from directing fiction?
produced a tarot DVD a few years ago called Tarot Stripped
Bare which was a bare-bones guide to tarot without all the
surrounding mysticism. My wife wanted to do it and scripted it. We filmed
it all in half a day - it would have been a full day but the place we'd
hired didn't get us the key until lunchtime! Luckily my brother had just
moved out of a rental place so we piled around there and did some
voiceovers while we were waiting.
The Legend of the Serpent
was a DVD that someone else encouraged me to produce with him - a guy I'd
met whilst TV directing some of his pre-recorded chat shows. It was pretty
quick and easy to do and sold fairly well abroad. I find directing
documentaries far easier than fiction. People are more than happy to talk
endlessly about their chosen subject (much like me and this interview!),
which gives you lots of options in the edit. You're also not checking to
see if they're giving a believable performance.
other past films of yours you'd like to talk about?
give a shout out to a TV pilot I made just before Backslasher
'Sellavision'. If you like seeing shopping channels mercilessly parodied
and have 15 minutes spare it's worth a visit to YouTube.
would you describe yourself as a director?
Being a producer
and director seriously hampers my directing style. As a director I'd like
to do takes over and over again until I'm happy with everything. As a
producer, I'm thinking that as soon as it's 'passable' we should move on.
So in a word, conflicted!
who inspire you?
Stanley Kubrick is probably my favourite
filmmaker. He wasn't prolific but produced some amazing films like The
Shining, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, Lolita,
2001. Joss Whedon
had me hooked on TV too, and his foray into film has been pretty
Your favourite movies?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Scream, The Shining, Blade Runner, Hostel,
Star Wars, Highlander, Empire Records, Memento, Alien. The list goes on and on...
and of course, films you really deplore?
I can't say I
really hate any film, not after having an understanding of how much work
goes into them. That said, I think some sequels and reboots are cash-ins,
and please stop with all the dodgy National
they're diluting something that was actually quite good!
Facebook, whatever else?
website is www.backslasher.com,
Twitter is http://twitter.com/BackslasherFilm
and Facebook is http://www.facebook.com/backslasherguy.
Anything else you are dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
you for the interview!