Since we've last talked
less than two years ago, you've written quite a number of movies - so
first of all, what keeps you going at that rate?
a little bit of insanity. If I recall we probably last talked just before
the pandemic, or right in the beginnings of it. For productions getting to
shooting stage, it ground a lot to a halt, but for writing and development
itís proved productive for people. A few opportunities arose in that
time and Iíve barely had a day off writing since. I did say to myself
Iíd slow down in 2022, but before midday on the first of January I was
taking on another new project. I often bemoan being so busy, but then if I
get a couple of days in a row free, Iím itching to do something else.
Iím either a write-a-holic or a workaholic. Maybe both.
start with Renegades - what's that one about?
a star powered, old school action film. An old soldier played by Lee
Majors is murdered by gangsters whilst trying to sort out a situation for
his daughter (Patsy Kensit). His old war buddies, and the son of an old
colleague (played by Nick Moran) team up to get revenge and take down the
criminal enterprise (who are headed up by Louis Mandylor).
did you first get involved with the project?
been speaking to Jonathan Sothcott [Jonathan
Sothcott interview - click here], the producer. Iíd kind of taken the
opportunity of lockdown hoping to catch one or two producers who might be
less adverse to speculative emails than under normal circumstances.
Everyone was at home and probably bored enough to engage more via email,
and we then started discussing a couple of projects, including Renegades.
Our sensibilities, particularly toward action films were very similar.
Weíre from the same era and grew up on Cannon and
is based on a story by the film's producer Jonathan Sothcott - so how detailed was that story
before you took over, and how close did you stay to it, how much artistic
license did you take?
had the basic outline, which was along the lines of one of Jonathanís
old classics, We Still Kill The Old Way. The idea was to do something in
that vein but give it more of an international flavour, and make more of a
broad action film than a gangster revenge flick. I had plenty of freedom
in filling the gaps, and once Daniel was on board, and began connecting
huge names like Danny Trejo, Tiny Lister and Michael Parť [Michael
Parť interview - click here], I was given the
opportunity to write with these great stars in mind. As a fan of pretty
much the whole cast, going back to my formative years, it was a great
honour to be able to write for them. Iíve grown up watching everyone in
the film. Itís a little bittersweet with Tiny Lister, as it ended up
being one of his final films before his untimely passing, but weíve
definitely played to his strengths. I think because Iím so well-versed
in the work of all of them, I know what works for them, and what
wouldnít. Plus we didnít just want the faces on the poster, we wanted
to make good use of the talent of Danny, Lee et al. Iím particularly
excited to see Nick Moran in action. Heís the leading man in the film
and heís perennially underrated. Nickís a great actor.
What can you tell us about Renegades'
director Daniel Zirilli, and what was your collaboration like?
knows the genre like the back of his hand. It was great for me, only a few
years into my feature career. Renegades was a big step up in scale,
compared to most of my films. Iíd co-written a War of the Worlds
adaptation starring Vincent Regan (which should be out later
this year), but otherwise most of my commissions had been low budget
horror. Iíve learned a lot from Jonathan. Heís well-versed in the
business. Danielís notes through several screenplays have been extremely
useful in honing my craft. He knows his stuff and come the time you get to
draft three or four you realise the process is working. Conversely as far
as the uber low budget horror gigs, Iím on one draft deals, and whilst
they come out pretty organically (I have them down to a fine art), I
donít get the benefit of redrafting, honing and perfecting. So I kind of
have to hope their subsequent production changes prove effective.
Occasionally yes, but not always.
idea when Renegades might be out yet?
going to debut in America and hopefully that will be in the summer. I
think Iím looking forward to it as much as anyone. Iím a fan first and
foremost, and even if I hadnít written it Iíd be ordering the film on
upcoming film of yours is When Darkness Falls - so what's that one
American girls go hiking across the Scottish Highlands. When one of them
disappears unexpectedly, the other goes in search of her friend and finds
herself in a life-and-death situation.
What can you tell us about When Darkness Falls' approach to
the thriller genre?
and my friend Nathan Shepka have been looking to work together for a
while. We have a long standing horror project in the pipeline, called The
Clan. Heís based in Scotland and the idea was to make a film utilising
those amazing locations. Itís foolproof cinematography in Scotlandís
rural areas. They look sensational on film. You could shoot on a DSLR and
make something that looks great. The Clan is more elaborate (Mandy meets
Hills Have Eyes) and needed a big budget so we just decided to do a
simpler idea first. We love old school thrillers, so that was our starting
point, to do a throwback to sparse 70s/80s thrillers. Nathan liked
the concept of And Soon The Dark, a kind of cult, but not too well known
thriller from the 70s, and I love stuff like Breakdown and The
Vanishing (basically any film with someone who disappears unexpectedly).
We kicked off from there and added our own flavour to it.
Do talk about
When Darkness Falls' director Nathan Shepka, and what was your
known each otherfor years, meeting in Dolph Lundgren, Jean-Claude Van Damme
and Steven Seagal fan forums. We have similar tastes in films, and similar
aversions to a lot of modern cinema traits. As mentioned, The Clan has
been in mind for a few years. Nathan released his first feature Holiday
Monday last year. Thatís out in a number of territories including the US
and well worth checking out. Itís due out in the UK this year too. So
heís adept at putting together productions and has a reliable crew of
regulars. The scripting was easy because weíd both fleshed out the story
to what we wanted it to be. I was fairly busy at the time, otherwise I
might have helped more from a producing point of view, but one aspect of
the film I really enjoyed was being involved in casting. Iíve done it
before in my own short productions and an international feature, and itís
a process I love because, particularly if Iíve written the film, I can
gravitate casting back to my mindset whilst I was writing. On a straight
up writing gig, I generally donít know who is being cast (unless itís
a star driven action film, which allows me to write for Danny Trejo etc
etc), and whilst generally in the low budget horrors Iíve been satisfied
with who was cast, occasionally something
doesnít work like Iíd envisioned from a writer's perspective, or you
get the right person in the wrong role. For When Darkness Falls I worked
with Nathan to cast Michaela Longden, Emma OíHara and Ben Brinicombe.
Theyíre great. Michaela in particular has to lead long stretches of the
film by herself, but she holds the screen very well. Sheís on the verge
of breaking out right now, so the timing of our film has been fortunate.
She has great chemistry on and off screen with Emma too. As for the shoot
itself, I wasnít there but Nathan caught a window between lockdowns and
shot the film. He and the team really nailed what we envisioned. It looks
great and I really hope people appreciate it. Itís a bit daring because
itís not the most fancied genre in the minds of distributors, but of
late these old school thrillers have been coming back into fashion on
streaming. For the budget, I think itís come out very well. Itís a
slow burn and builds to a great finale, and hopefully weíve got a few
surprises for people.
Again, any idea when this one might
being well this is looking set for June in the US.
Two recent films of yours are
Island and Reign of Chaos - want to talk about these two
for a bit?
is the way with film, some films have a very quick turnaround, others
donít. Reign of Chaos shot at the beginning of 2019, and Jurassic
Island was in the summer of that year. In the mean time Iíve had several
features which shot after those and which have long since been released (Jack and Jill for example shot May last year and came out in September,
hitting three million views on V Horror). Reign of Chaos is kind of
Resident Evil meets Buffy and
Angels. In retrospect we
probably should have treated it with a bit more humour and a little camp,
but distributors detest that approach (though the aversion is fading just
a little this last year). Iíve not seen it but it probably needed a
bigger budget to work. The reviews for Jurassic
Island so far have been
pretty good and I think you can get away with it on a dino film, as people
donít mind a cheapy dino film. They have a certain charm. Iím very
curious to see how that one turned out, as from what I understand, most of
the opening has been rewritten, and a couple more plot points thrown in. I
think all based around a ship being made available to shoot on, which
sadly for me, wasnít deemed feasible whilst writing. This is the way
sometimes, but the added production value certainly canít hurt. Iíve
worked with producer Scott Jeffrey through four different companies and
loads of films. Theyíre always great fun and have been getting
progressively better, so these two in some ways may feel outdated. In
terms of whatís coming out with Scott, Area 51 looks very promising,
probably our best collaboration by a long way. Sky Monster may also prove
so too (and again, we had license to have some fun with the concept).
Thereís a couple of disaster films coming, Firenado and Mega Lightning
that have scratched an itch Iíve long had, to do that particular genre.
Any other recent or future projects you'd
like to share?
got several exciting projects coming up with Shogun Films, including
Crackdown (a buddy cop action film) with Daniel once again, and then
thereís a sci-fi action film, Nexus (directed by Ben Mole), and Eyewitness, which will be a great female lead action thriller (directed by
Reg Traviss). All three will hopefully shoot in the next year or so, and I
canít wait to see the cast line-ups for these. Likewise, working with
Ben and Reg, both hugely experienced, is a great honour. Iíve also got a
few ghostwriting roles coming up, and Iím working on a film with another
legend, Mark L Lester (Commando,
Class of 1984). Heís producing a horror
take on Cinderella which Iíll be writing.
Cinderellaís Revenge will
shoot this winter in the UK, with hopefully a big name as the Fairy
Godmother. Itíll have license for a little humour too, which suits me as
a writer. A sequel to Amityville Witches is also on the cards (Salem
Witches). Iíve written that, and producer/star, Kira Reed Lorsch is
putting that into pre-production soon and it should be a fun mix of
Practical Magic and The Craft. Additionally, Iím producing a feature
myself, which my brother will direct. The Juror (Cul-De-Sac meets
Cape Fear) will shoot November all being well. Then Iíve got a few more
things lined up to shoot with Nathan going into 2023. Going forward,
Iíve now probably covered every possible low budget creature horror from
a writer's perspective, so Iíll take a break from those to focus on the
bigger projects, as well as moving into producing my own.
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Thanks for the interview!