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An interview with Conor Boru, Co-Writer and Director, and Ed Hartland, Co-Writer and Star of When the Screaming Starts

by Mike Haberfelner

September 2022

Conor Boru on (re)Search my Trash

Ed Hartland on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie When the Screaming Starts - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Ed: When the Screaming Starts is a horror-comedy mockumentary about an aspiring serial killer and the wannabe documentary filmmaker following his journey. It’s about ambition and the lengths people will go to pursue that – except the ambition here is murder, so it’s not your standard life goal!

 

Conor: You’d hope not!

 

What were your sources of inspiration when writing When the Screaming Starts?

 

Ed: The initial idea came when I was reviewing The Ted Bundy Tapes for the London Horror Society. I found myself equally disgusted and fascinated by this and I started to question what it said about me. What does it say about society that we’re this interested in serial killers and true crime?

 

Conor: Ed approached me with the concept, followed by a rough draft. I just loved the premise, and it immediately sparked my imagination. My personal inspirations have been varied, everything from the mockumentaries you might expect to the hard-hitting true crime documentaries plastered across every streaming platform. I think the film we get compared to most is What We Do in the Shadows, which is certainly a compliment!

 

Since you've co-written When the Screaming Starts, what was the writing process like?

 

Ed: It involved a lot of back and forth, Conor and Jared (who plays Norman—the documentary filmmaker—and is one of the producers) came to my work so we could work through scenes in between me answering phone calls!

 

Conor: I love collaborating, particularly in the writing phase. Especially with comedy, you get this immediate feedback, can I make Ed laugh? Can he make me laugh? Is Jared nodding his head politely or crying with laughter? It's the first test to see if something is working or not.

 

Do talk about When the Screaming Starts' approach to horror!

 

Ed: I love horror—an early draft of the script was crammed with these horror references, including a Texas Chainsaw Massacre style voice over introduction, but luckily Conor chipped away at the heart on the sleeve references!

 

We were really aware that if we were going to make a film about an aspiring serial killer then we couldn’t shy away from moments of darkness—the reality of it, but maintaining the right balance between the horror elements and the humour.

 

Conor: Yes we were always striking this balance between comedy and horror, absurdity and realism. We made a decision early on to tonally pivot at a certain point in the narrative. The film is lighter in tone when it’s all a fantasy in Aidan’s head, but when the blood starts flowing, the film gets somewhat darker to say the least!

 

You of course also have to talk about When the Screaming Starts' brand of humour for a bit!

 

Ed: This was the discussion Conor and I had from the scriptwriting stage all the way through shooting and into post-production; walking that tightrope between humour and horror. We had to really be strict on what worked because there were jokes and scenes that on paper felt like they worked but didn’t translate, and as much as we might have liked those moments, we needed to cut them.

 

Conor: I love a dark comedy and my favourite jokes in the film tend to be the darker ones! We tried to stay truthful to the characters as opposed to cramming in one-liners for the sake of it (which is always very tempting). I think we have created this weird blend of silliness and pitch black humour that hopefully keeps people guessing.

 

Conor, what can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

Conor: The mockumentary genre has an aesthetic we’re all familiar with, the rough and ready camera work, the quick zooms in to accentuate a joke, it can almost become another character in the film. I always wanted to honour this style whilst infusing it with something a bit more cinematic and stylised. We’re certainly not the first to do this, again What We Do in the Shadows is a great example of this. Using sound design, music, lighting, production design etc to move away from the intentional drabness of say The Office.

 

I collaborated with our DP Adrian Musto, who is very experienced in the documentary space, and we embodied this real run and gun style approach, which wasn't too dissimilar from shooting a real documentary.

 

Ed, you play one of the leads in When the Screaming Starts - so what can you tell us about your character, what did you draw upon to bring him to live, and have you written Norman with yourself in mind from the get-go?

 

Ed: Yes and no! I always knew I was going to play Aidan, but while writing, I had to sort of pretend that I was writing for someone else because it’s so odd writing a part for yourself!

 

Aidan is an aspiring serial killer, but I think he’s someone who’s a bit lost. He’s a fan of horror films and true crime, so while I don’t share his murderous ambitions, I have a connection to him in that regard.

 

What was the collaboration between the two of you actually like when shooting When the Screaming Starts?

 

Ed: One of the things all three of us discovered (Conor, myself and Jared) was that we he had to wear a load of different hats during the shoot. I was having to jump between actor, producer and writer—we’d be discussing something as producers then jump into a scene and then directly afterwards Conor and I would need to talk about something to do with the script—so it was great that we had each other as support.

 

On set, Conor took the lead—as director—but there was definitely a collaborative feel; figuring out solutions, experimenting with ideas.

 

I love working with Conor and we’ve worked together for such a long time on various projects that it all felt natural.

 

Conor: Yes there’s certainly a short-hand and a trust there between us which we relied upon heavily, especially in the intense shooting schedule! We always had to be open and honest and leave any ego at the door. The best ideas wins, whether that comes from me, Ed, Jared or one of the cast or crew. Thankfully we were all on the same page for the most part. When myself and Ed disagreed on a scene or a joke we’d normally fight it out before unearthing a third idea that was better than either of our previous ideas.

 

When the Screaming Starts isn't the first movie you've made together - so what can you tell us about your previous collaborations? And how did the two of you first meet even?

 

Ed: We met over a decade ago when we were both training at ArtsEd drama school—which is where we met a lot of the cast from When the Screaming Starts. We’ve worked together a lot since then, from short films to Shakespeare tours in Germany.

 

The first short we made after drama school was one Conor was directing, and he had me eating out of a bin and Jared running (multiple times) into the sea (in winter), so I knew what I was getting into when we decided to make a feature together!

 

Conor: I would add to the above that Ed was going through his Daniel Day-Lewis phase and felt it necessary to eat out of a bin to become fully invested in his character! I did make Jared run in the sea though (in winter), but hey, cold water swimming is all the rage now though, so it probably did him good!

 

As Ed said we’ve worked together for a long time, and hopefully that will continue for many more years to come. I promise food will be eaten from plates in future productions!

 

Back to When the Screaming Starts: Do talk about the rest of your movie's cast, and why exactly these people?

 

Ed: Most of the actors in When the Screaming Starts trained with Conor, Jared and me at ArtsEd. They’re actors we know really well and to a certain extent we could write with people in mind.

 

When we had our premiere at FrightFest, Ian (one of the organisers) said that a stumbling block for a lot of low budget indie films is the acting quality because people end up casting their friends, but we’re really lucky that our friends are extremely talented actors.

 

Conor: Yes, I think half of our year at drama school makes some sort of appearance in the film! Shout out to ArtsEd!

 

A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

Ed: It was exciting, getting to make our first film together and with people we’ve known and worked with for years was just brilliant. We had two blocks of filming, one just before COVID and one that fell between lockdowns—so that second block was different; fewer people on set, lots of masks, but again it was exciting because we were all getting to work again after months when work had been put on hold.

 

Conor: We were spinning a lot of plates, particularly Ed, Jared and I. In an ideal world we would have been acting or directing only on set. However, we were also the lead producers, in charge of logistics, costumes, props, the list goes on! Thankfully we had an amazing team around us who would jump in and support us in so many ways. Big shout out to Alan Rae who literally was the MVP on set, a Swiss Army man of sorts. Also Dom Lenoir, who joined a little later down the line and helped ease some of the strain. We also had a brilliant cast and crew who all believed in and supported the film from the ground up.

 

The $64-question of course, where can When the Screaming Starts be seen?

 

Ed: It’s currently streaming on Screambox before a wider digital release later this autumn—we’ve really enjoyed our experience working with the people at Screambox, they’ve understood and supported the film since we first started talking to them, so we feel like we’ve got a good home there.

 

Conor: Signature Entertainment are releasing in the UK. It is out now and available on Amazon, Sky Store, Apple, YouTube, Google Play, Rakuten and more!

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of When the Screaming Starts?

 

Ed: It’s been positive so far—which is a relief! For me, as a horror fan, having people like Phil Nobile jr from Fangoria and Mary Beth McAndrews from Dread Central being really positive about our films feels so surreal (in a really great way!).

 

Conor: The response has been great so far. The festival run was fantastic - to come through Covid and be back watching it in a packed out cinema was such a joy. The critics/reviews have been very positive so far but the real test begins now it is out in the world!

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Ed: We’ve got some scripts in the pipeline—some comedy, some horror—and I’m currently making the finishing touches to a collaborative horror novel which is going to be published next year.

 

Conor: Yes, Ed and I are chopping away at some exciting film and TV projects (we’ve somehow managed to avoid killing each other over the past three years despite speaking most days!). I’ve also just produced another film, Good Intentions, starring Micheal Ward and Charithra Chandran, directed by Yasen Atour.

 

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Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

Ed: We’re @WhenScreaming on Twitter and @whenthescreamingstarts on Instagram.

 

Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

Ed: Make sure you watch When the Screaming Starts!

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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from the post-apocalyptic
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tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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Out now from
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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
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

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

out now on DVD