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An Interview with James Wrench, Writer and Producer of The Evil Fairy Queen

by Mike Haberfelner

April 2024

James Wrench on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie The Evil Fairy Queen - in a few words, what is it about?

 

While this is a fantasy about evil fairies, the film is really about a mother who finds herself in an awful situation and who must risk everything to keep her family safe.

 

With The Evil Fairy Queen being firmly rooted in the fantasy genre, is that a genre at all dear to you, and some of your genre favourites?

 

I love fantasy, science fiction and horror. I don't tend to watch much else when it comes to films. It grew from watching the old Ray Harryhausen movies as a child. I've seen all of his films. I saw The Neverending Story at the cinema as a teenager, and that is also a firm favourite.

 

(Other) sources of inspiration when writing The Evil Fairy Queen?

 

The original inspiration for the movie came a few years ago. I was a member of one of those postal book clubs. This one was about fantasy and science fiction. They would send you a magazine each month, you would choose any titles that took your fancy, and they would then send you the book. One month I chose a book of fantasy artworks about fairies. It turned out that these were rather naughty fairies and it made me think that there aren't many films about actual fairies where the fairies are the baddies. European mythology, in fact, abounds in stories of mischevious or downright nasty fairies, and so an idea began to form. What if some fairies needed human sacrifice to keep their magic intact? And so the Richards family began their journey...

 

What can you tell us about The Evil Fairy Queen's director Simon Wells [Simon Wells interview - click here], and what was your collaboration like?

 

He's amazing. He's a natural storyteller and really knows what he's doing. We got on really well. I don't think we ever had a real disagreement. There was only one scene over which we had a slight difference of opinion on (he knows which one before I say it!). It's the river scene, the discussion between Kate the mother and Dillon the troubled local who was once taken by the fairies. Originally, there was much more dialogue there and this explained the full story of how Kate's family were involved with the fairies and the sacrifices. Simon thought the audience could work a lot out for themselves from clues elsewhere in the movie and so it was edited down. I went along with Simon's reasoning and I'm happy with the scene. You can see the original in the DVD extras anyway.

 

What were the challenges of The Evil Fairy Queen from a producer's point of view?

 

We were clearly on a low budget, which isn't ideal for a fantasy that needs special effects and fantastical locations. But we were able to make changes to the script in pre-production which allowed for the reality of what was achievable. I ended up being responsible for finding the locations, the props, catering (along with my wife Georgina), and continuity. The toadstools that are used in the fairy ring were all made by me. They took ages to make as they are far more detailed than you actually appreciate in the film. But I'm a bit of a perfectionist so it was my own fault!

 

The largest single expense was the chalk quarry we used for the sacrificial altar scenes. We had just one day there, and it was really hot. This was summer 2022. The shoot itself was something like half a mile from the quarry buildings (and toilets) and was really craggy and uneven, a nightmare for getting valuable equipment (not to mention people!) about safely. 

 

We also had to be thoughtful when it came to props, as it was part of the film's mythology that fairies cannot touch iron, so the sacrificial knife and the chains all had to be painted to look like bronze or gold, and we had to make sure than none of the fairies ever touched something iron.

 

Logistics was another issue, especially when all of the fairies (thirteen in all) were needed at one place. I spent a lot of time running about in my car picking people up and taking them places (as did my youngest son). Incidentally, one day this running about led indirectly to a real pain of a continuity problem. There is a scene when Julia/Kate is about to go down to the fairy kingdom and is equipped with a shotgun, a cartridge belt, a bag and a small axe, the axe being tucked into the belt. Or at least, it should have been. I was picking up Natasha from the railway station at the time and in my absence the axe got forgotten about. It was needed for the story, and later scenes with Julia having it had already been shot. It was noticeably absent from that scene's footage though, and Simon had to do a lot of jiggery pockery with the editing to set it right. You can't tell though, now. In fact we had two hand axes. The first was an old, real one of mine, the other was a rubber one that we got off ebay and painted up to match the real one. You can't tell which is which in the film, though one would hope the fake one was used in the fight scenes!

 

Another consideration when making the film was that two of the main characters were children, so making sure that they were happy and safe was the priority. Kitty's mother acted as her chaperone throughout, and of course, helpfully, Aniela already had her mother there. Both young actors were brilliant and to look at them on set you would think that they were sisters in real life.

 

You also make an appearance in front of the camera in The Evil Fairy Queen - so what can you tell us about your character, what did you draw upon to bring him to life, and did you write him with yourself in mind from the get-go?

 

I needed a way for Kate to discover about protecting herself from fairies, once she realised what was going on with Violet, Radella and Melisandria. A YouTube-type video was an obvious way. I have long been interested in cryptozoology and folklore, and it seemed to make sense that the video presenter was such a person, albeit one who is a bit more extreme in his views than myself. I wrote up the scripts for two videos, one about general fairy mythology and one about protecting yourself from fairies. Only a small part of one was ever going to be in the film but Simon had the idea right from the very start to expand on the whole Jack Coleman thing. The Coleman bits were the first filmed, on a cold wet day in February 2022. It was also the first time I had ever actually met Simon. The full versions of the videos are on our Jack Coleman YouTube channel and on the DVD extras. I had no plans to play the part of Jack Coleman when I wrote the script, but it was just easier for me to do it. His name, incidentally, came from a mixture of my eldest grandson's name (Jack) and my great-great grandmother's maiden name (Coleman).

 

Do talk about the rest of The Evil Fairy Queen's cast, and as writer and producer, how much of a say did you have or demand when it came to casting?

 

The cast were brilliant, so talented and committed. Simon and I made all the casting decisions together. It was really important to us that the actors playing the family were believable as a real family because, although this is a fantasy, it is really about a family going through something terrible together, and they had to be convincing. The first one chosen was the youngest daughter Violet (Kitty Sudbery) who just jumped out to us both when we saw her audition tape. We had some great choices for the others, though in the end went for real life mother and daughter Julia Czartoryski and Aniela Leyland, who play the mother Kate and older daughter Adelaide. In fact Julia commented early on that Kitty looked very much like Aniela when she was younger, and so both were very believable as her children. Then we needed someone to play the father, Tom. Martyn Spendlove gave a fantastic audition and so we had our family. Funnily enough, something I didn't realise at the time of choosing, but Martyn used to live on the next street from us and knew my wife! Small world!

 

The fairies were of course equally important, and we were really happy with all of our choices. Hannah Harris is perfect in the title role. She looks so sweet but brought such menace and evil to the character. As soon as I saw her audition tape I thought “That's Melisandria.” She also did a great job with The Song of Melisandria, which you hear in part in the film and in full in the end credits. Megan McElduff was wonderful as Radella, the little fairy who is befriended by Violet. She has a butter-wouldn't-melt look but, like Hannah, was so convincing in her icy, unsympathetic attitude towards humans. 

 

Natasha Killip was great as Mandy, the barmaid who is taken by the fairies at the start of the film. In fact she had worked with two of the actors who played a couple of the fairies before, Joe Hallett and Georgina Vowles; they had all been in Paintball Massacre together, so it was a bit of a reunion for them! Luke Hunter was perfect as Dillon, the young villager who helps Kate. Good looking and rugged, he was ideal, and such a good actor. Elspeth was played by Judy Tcherniak. The character is supposed to be in her nineties but has been kept magically younger and healthy by the fairies. Judy was so believable; she emanated warmth and love with the family but steely determination when it comes to leading them to the slaughter. I never did find out her actual age, but one does not ask a lady!

 

Making Judy's/Elspeth's skeleton was a lot of fun, but very messy. It was basically a full size plastic skeleton, but we wanted some flesh and gore on it, so I used clear silicone to cover the bones to make some flesh. That stuff got everywhere! I then painted it to look like her body had rotted away as she sat in her chair. It's a great moment when Fiorella Castagna (Laura the care assistant) comes in and screams as she sees the body. In the script it was a lot more horrific, but we were playing down the horror for younger audiences. It's still very effective though.

 

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

 

The shoot was hectic, and hot! It was shot in the stifling heat of Summer 2022 over a total of about 15 days. The heat was a real pain, partly because everyone was so hot and thirsty but also because of the effect it had on the locations. The grass was just brown, or gone altogether, and the vines which we used to tie Julia/Kate to the sacrificial altar wilted very quickly. We had to cover these up in post production with a bit of special effects magic because they looked so pathetic (we should have just used rope!). But heat aside, the cast got on really well. We set up a WhatsApp group for coordination purposes before filming started, and it's still used weekly as people catch up with one another and tell everyone about their latest roles etc. You couldn't ask for a nicer bunch of people, and they were all really supportive of each other. In true nepotism I got my oldest grandson's mother, Charlene Willson, in as one of the fairies. She'd done some modelling work before but no actual acting. A couple of the female fairies took her under their wings (sic) and were really supportive and helpful.

 

The $64-question of course, where can The Evil Fairy Queen be seen?

 

At the time of writing, we have iTunes/Apple TV, Vimeo, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, and Google Play. There will also be various cable and satellite providers carrying the movie in their TVOD offerings, and then other streaming options. A DVD will also be available soon.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of The Evil Fairy Queen?

 

So far it has all been pretty positive, which is encouraging. I am writing this before the full release so it is hard to say at the moment, but I haven't come across anyone who hated it yet!

 

What got you into the filmworld to begin with, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?

 

I was a member of the now defunct International Society of Cryptozoology and had always been interested in dinosaurs, strange creatures and mythology. One day I watched Extinction: Jurassic Predators, a Ben Loyd Holmes film about dinosaurs. I got chatting to him on social media and said I had an idea for a horror film about the Loch Ness Monster. He encouraged me to write the script, so I did. The pandemic stopped any real progress on bringing that film to life but in the meantime I wrote The Evil Fairy Queen. I had no formal training in scriptwriting, just some advice and a useful book, Screenplay by Syd Field. I then got talking to Simon about The Evil Fairy Queen and here we are, four years later!

 

From what I know, The Evil Fairy Queen is your first film as a writer and producer - so what made you choose a fantasy story for your debut, and do talk about your journey to kick the project off!

 

Fantasy has always been my go-to genre, especially if there is a horror element to it. My daughter Laura bought the DVD of Simon's film Carnivore: Werewolf of London, which we enjoyed. As a result I got chatting to Simon on social media and ran the first act of The Evil Fairy Queen by him. He liked the idea, suggested a few tweaks, and so I finished it off, and he was keen to bring it to life. In late 2021 we started pre-production, beginning by Simon creating a logistical bible of scenes, characters and props etc, then looking at locations and advertising for the cast and crew. It gradually came together and the first scene was shot on August 1st 2022. Incidentally, that first day began with a bit of drama. We had arranged to use a farmhouse for some exterior scenes, but the person who had sorted it forgot to actually tell the owners we were coming that day. It was all fine, but made for an awkward few minutes!

 

Based on your experiences with The Evil Fairy Queen, could you ever be persuaded to write and produce another movie?

 

I would love to produce another movie. I'm available! It was an amazing experience. I have already written several other scripts, one of which is the sequel to The Evil Fairy Queen. My first script (The Evil Fairy Queen was the second) was a horror based on the Loch Ness Monster, in which a sinister cult keep the monster's existence a secret and worship him as a god, sacrificing various unwary travellers to him. The story centres on a group of scientists who find out too much. You can guess how that works out for them. The third was about werewolves, based on a real incident from the nineteenth century, the fourth about water nymphs and other ancient Greek deities, and the fifth was about a demon who is accidentally released into the world by a group of paranormal researchers. All of them are based in genuine mythology or historical events. I'm writing one now about the Pandora's box myth.

 

How would you describe yourself as a writer?

 

I'm really quite logical, and try to be realistic, even in a fantasy. I try to think what a real person would actually do in a given situation. There needs to be a good reason for everything that happens, and a very clear backstory. I am very particular about the wording of the dialogue. That doesn't mean the cast can't make it their own and adapt it accordingly, as indeed some of them did with the film, but some parts are worded specifically as they are for a reason. I actually noticed a difference in attitude towards the script between those who have done a lot of theatre and those who haven't. The theatre ones seemed to regard to script as sacrosanct and memorised it verbatim, while the non-theatre ones had a more relaxed attitude to the precise wording. I also try to base the story on either a true event or at least a genuine piece of mythology. As for the horror element, I want my characters to do sensible things (as you or I no doubt would) and not stupid things (like separating or going down into the basement alone) but still fall foul of the baddies, despite that. I also like to give my characters some free will in the things they do. So I might want a character to do such and such a thing, but they will disagree and do something else instead. I know it's all me really, and I'm simply changing my mind, but for the characters to be fully rounded they need to behave how they would in reality and not be the mere robots of their creator's orginal plan.

 

Writers, filmmakers, whoever else who inspire you?

 

I love the old Ray Harryhausen films. There's a magic to to his special effects that no amounts of CGI can ever replace.

 

Your favourite movies?

 

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My absolute favourite has to be Harryhausen's Jason and the Argonauts. I think my love of fantasy and mythology comes from that film. His Sinbad films too. And Jack the Giant Killer, which isn't Harryhausen but is in his style. I really enjoy the Star Wars and Alien universes, though the first ones made in those franchises are the best to my mind. Zombie movies are great too, like 28 Day Later. I love An American Werewolf in London and the old Hammer vampire films, especially Vampire Circus.

 

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

 

I'm not sure that there are any specific films I deplore, but I certainly steer clear of rom-coms and anything that is overly sentimental.

 

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

 

We have a YouTube channel (Jack Coleman Cryptozoologist) which not only talks about the film but has videos on other subjects, such as the Loch Ness Monster, werewolves, vampires and the Yeti - https://www.youtube.com/@JackColemanCryptozoologist

 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theevilfairyqueen/

Tiktok: https://www.tiktok.com/@the.evil.fairy.queen

Threads: https://www.threads.net/@theevilfairyqueen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theevilfairyqueen

 

There is also a book of the film, which will be available as an ebook on amazon once the film is released. I had great fun writing this, as it gave me an opportunity to expand on the world I had created. You see a lot more of many of the characters, like Dillon and Mandy, and understand their own stories, of which you only get a glimpse in the film.

 

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

 

I would like to draw attention to the music. Luis Lopez Pinto did a fantastic job. It's a really beautiful score. The soundtrack's available too, on Amazon. I'd like to mention the crew as well. They were so talented. The main ones that were with us most days were the cinematographer Ed Cotton, sound recordist Doug Maybury-Swallow, camera assistant Richard Mukuze. And makeup artist Magdalena Rosa.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

You are welcome!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.

 

There's No Such Thing as Zombies
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special appearances by
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directed by
Eddie Bammeke

written by
Michael Haberfelner

produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke

 

now streaming at

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