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Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film FASHIONISTA at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow, Simon Rumley reveals why he’s a fan of drugs in film and his planned foray into London gangster and…
Q: FASHIONISTA finds you back in Austin after RED WHITE AND BLUE. What excites you about Austin so much? Could FASHIONISTA have been set anywhere else?
SIMON: I had such a great experience on RED WHITE AND BLUE for so many different reasons that it was only natural that, at some point, I’d return to Austin. With Tim League (exec producer), Paul Knauss (co-producer) and Karen Hallford (casting director) I’ve got a great bunch of friends who also happen to be great collaborators and they form the core of both films’ Austin based crew and most probably without them neither films would have happened. Beyond that, I love the unique style of Austin, the food, the music, the cinema, the clothes, the neon lights, the bars and of course the people. And although it’s a place which is constantly growing, it still feels it has an intimacy which places like LA or New York or London lack.
FASHIONISTA’s evolution was very much a response to when I went back there in 2014 for a few days after spending a time there in 2009 and 2010 and noticing how much it had changed. Like most interesting places in the Western World over the last 5 years, it’s become gentrified; there’s more sky rise flats, more traffic, more upmarket restaurants and less locals. And, like most places which have been gentrified, there’s an erosion of some of the things that made it exciting in the first place.
The whole vintage shop phenomena was such a massive part of the Austin that I knew in 2009 and although there are still a lot of these shops, there’s definitely less - even the one we shot in had to relocate literally two weeks after we shot there…So the lead character’s obsession with clothes in the film and her transition from vintage mash-up to designer clothes is probably not something that could believably happen in many places; I’m not sure Fashionista could have been set anywhere else in that case…
Q: It’s a film about addiction, from sex and body image to clothes and identity, but not anything drug-related. You didn’t want to throw that into the mix?
SIMON: I’m a big fan of drugs in films but, to be honest, I think all that needs to have been said has been said so I’m not sure what I would have been able to add to the genre. I’ve always been interested in a period drug film - Alastair Crowley’s Diary of a Drug Fiend for example would offer a different perspective on the subject and I’m currently reading Johny Barleycorn by Jack London which is about his relationship with alcohol - not memoirs of an alcoholic as he’s keen to point out but alcoholic memoirs, set in 1913; fascinating to consider the power of alcohol through the ages.
I watched Christiane F again as research for this film and films like Requiem For A Dream and Trainspotting offer definitive investigations into contemporary drug addiction so I’m not sure what the point would have been but more importantly, the film is about consumerism and clothes are something that everyone can relate to. It’s so easy to buy anything these days and clothes seem to be the epitome of the consumer’s purchasing power. Given that it’s a phenomenon that hasn’t been explored in cinema it felt ripe for investigation.
Q: All your movies are so unique, your subject matters, locales and atmospheres feel so new and virtually unexplored. Is that the only way you can personally approach film as an artistic medium?
SIMON: Ah, thanks! From an early age, I’ve always thought that to make a mark, you should try to do something different, individual and unique. I think this belief is ultimately mis-founded; it might have worked at the beginning of the ‘Midnight’ phenomena for people like Lynch and Jodorowsky and Waters in the early/mid 70s but we’re living in such a culturally anodyne time that increasingly, people really just seem to want things that are similar to things they already know and understand and are thus non-challenging.
In terms of my own creative evolution, I definitely have tried to make every film different from the previous one and much of this is done through structure, editing and the visual aesthetics of the film. The structure to THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, RED WHITE AND BLUE and FASHIONISTA are completely different from each other as is the editing and the visuals. It keeps it interesting for me as I continue to explore what cinema is and what can be done with it as a medium.
That said, I’ve been trying to do more straight forward, linear films for a while now but things just haven’t worked out that way…
Q: Once more you completely pull the rug out from the viewer’s feet with some major surprises. Do you think of them first and build your story around them, or do they evolve organically?
SIMON: Yes; interested to see how people react to these moments! They all evolve organically to be honest although there were a few deliberate decisions to make some reveals as late as possible in the film.
Q: This contains flashbacks, flash-forwards, in fact flashes everywhere! How did you cope continuity wise?
SIMON: Ha! Good question. The script was written exactly how it ended up on screen so I’m not really sure anyone really knew what was going on apart from me and so continuity was a big issue. Continuity is an incredibly tough job and I usually find continuity people incredibly annoying and often not very good at their jobs. The only great continuity person I worked with was a woman called Helene Oosthuizen who did CLUB LE MONDE and THE LIVING AND THE DEAD with me and I’d love to work with her again but generally I try not to have continuity people on my film since they slow the whole process down and often confuse it. On RED WHITE AND BLUE we didn’t have one, on CROWHURST we didn’t have one and perhaps somewhat recklessly we didn’t have one on FASHIONISTA.
This could have been a massive disaster since there are many scenes which chronologically flow on from each other but appear in the script in a non-linear fashion. The producer and I spent a lot of time making sure the shooting schedule accommodated this and we were also incredibly lucky to have an amazing Costume Designer, Olivia Mori, who not only sourced all these incredible and different clothes (I think Amanda Fuller’s character had over 100 changes) but also spent a lot of time working out the exact linear chronology of the piece. We met up two or three mornings and went through her interpretation of the script, just to make sure it was correct. By the time we finished this, it was watertight in her mind but even then things could have gone wrong but, thankfully they didn’t. But yep, this was an incredibly challenging film but everyone, Olivia, especially, came through with flying colours.
Q: How would you crystallise your own directing style?
SIMON: Every script is different so I try to direct the script in order to get the maximum drama/tension etc. from it, using editing, music, camera angles etc. as a means to do this. This is probably why every film looks and feels slightly different.
Q: You give director Nicolas Roeg a name check in the end credits. And you gave Amanda Fuller and Ethan Embry BAD TIMING to watch before shooting. Is he your main inspiration here?
SIMON: Yes - I watched a few films such as Safe by Todd Haynes, Christiane F by Uli Edel, A Woman Under The Influence by John Cassavetes and Lost Highway/Mullholland Drive by David Lynch. But yep, Bad Timing was the main one and I gave it to Amanda and Ethan to try to offer a rough idea as to how the film would end up visually. As far as I remember, that jumps pretty much back, forward and everywhere else. I’ve always been a massive fan and was incredibly fortunate to get the opportunity to work with him on my previous film , which he exec’d produced. I’d always wanted to try to make a film which has the kind of structure he’s best known for and having spent some time with him, I thought it was a now or never kind of situation.
Q: You’re working with Amanda Fuller again, why do you rate her as an actress, because she fits into your own weird universe the best?
SIMON: Not specifically that per se, but most actresses wouldn’t have had the courage to do what she did in RED WHITE AND BLUE or even FASHIONISTA so now you come to mention it, that must be something to do with it! She’s absolutely fearless which helps and she’s a complete natural, able to turn the emotions on and off like a tap which also helps. Added to this, she’s a lovely person and completely reliable so it’s always a pleasure to work with her and the results are always fantastic. I’m sure we’ll work together again sometime!
Q: Do you prefer being a resolutely cult director? JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD was a departure for you. How do you plan balancing artistry with future commercial opportunities?
SIMON: After ‘The Living and The Dead’, RED WHITE AND BLUE, LITTLE DEATHS and my ABCS OF DEATH, I made a decision to go more commercial, something I’m still working on but hope to crack with my forthcoming films. JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD was supposed to be the first film in this direction but for various reasons, that didn’t work out exactly how I’d hoped. That said, I’ve been very lucky to make 8 feature films and 2 anthologies and generally had the freedom to do what I wanted with them. If you keep the budgets low enough, these films are still ‘commercial’ in as much as they make their investors’ money back. That said, I’d like to work on a larger canvas, get paid more and get the films seen by more people so that’s definitely my intention henceforth.
Q: And finally, what’s next?
SIMON: I’ve got three projects which are shaping up well. The first which we’re planning on shooting towards end of March is a period based London gangster film about two guys called Jack The Spot Comer and Billy Hill. They’re the missing link between Peaky Blinders and The Krays and there’s a fantastic story to be told about the ups and downs of their relationship and who, ultimately, was the King of The London Underworld. Given how this country maintains a fascination with gangsters, it’s incredible this story has never been told before because it’s ripe for dramatisation. Of the two projects after that, one is a revenge thriller set in post Brexit England and the other is a thriller set in the Mojave desert about a couple who are being shot upon by a sniper, based on an excellent novel called Eyeshot by a very talented young writer called Taylor Adams.
FASHIONISTA is showing at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Sat 25 Feb, 11.45am as part of Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow 2017.
Britflicks Podcast: Simon Rumley talks JOHNNY FRANK GARRETT’S LAST WORD
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ADULT BABIES gets an exclusive reveal at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow 2017. The film’s creator, actress / producer Joanne Mitchell, star of BEFORE DAWN & BAIT answers 10 scary questions.
When did your fascination for horror films begin?
I’ve been interested in horror since being a young kid. I liked to be frightened, whether it be reading a scary book, or watching one of the Hammer House of Horrors. But it wasn’t until my 30’s that I really became fascinated with the whole genre after making ‘Before Dawn’ and watching back to back movies at FrightFest!! The fans are so loyal and open minded and really know their stuff.
What was the first horror film you saw?
I’m pretty sure it was ‘The Thing’. If I remember rightly my brother and his mates had managed to get a copy and I snuck in! I was terrified, but fascinated at the same time.
What are your favourite horror films?
There are so many! ‘The Exorcist’ (which I recently revisited) is just brilliant and so well constructed. Love ‘‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ and ‘The Shining’ and one that has really stuck with me is ‘The Orphanage’, directed by Juan Antonio Bayona. It made me go on such an emotional roller coaster of a journey and I still think about it now. I also loved The Babadouk, again the sensitivity, especially of the mother and son relationship, something I could really relate to. And another Spanish film, ‘Sleep Tight’, probably more of a thriller I guess, but a very clever tense film full of ingenious twists and turns. Then there’s the Soska’s “American Mary” which I loved too - such a strong female protagonist. I have to mention a movie that I have only just watched too – ‘The Autopsy of Jane Doe’ with Brian Cox…
Your favourite genre director(s)?
Loads - Stanley Kubrick, Kathryn Bigelow, Alfred Hitchcock, Guillermo Del Toro, David Lynch…the list goes on and on! They all have their own unique gift in telling a timeless story. There is something to learn from all of them. I also must mention George A Romero. Having not previously been a Zombie Horror fan (until we made ‘Before Dawn’) he has to be one of the greatest in that department…with ‘Night of the Living Dead’ being one of the best and most terrifying.
Who are your genre inspirations?
I would say at the moment it’s the women who have pushed the boundaries within the genre. There are many men who inspire me too of course and will continue to do so. but within this genre it has always been very male dominated, so it is great that
so many women are coming to the fore and expressing themselves creatively now. For example, The Soska Twins with ‘American Mary’ and Jennifer Lynch for ‘Boxing Helena’, and ‘Chained’. I’m also a fan of Alice Lowe and really respect her work and dedication especially within the genre, crossing again the boundaries of actress, director, writer.
What’s the worst thing you’ve done in a horror film?
Oh I think that has to be in ‘Before Dawn’. I was covered in cold sticky blood, I had prosthetic teeth in, contact lenses (which I could barely see through) and spent hours in a cold dark basement in my pyjamas, totally freezing. However, the shot looked great, so it was most definitely worth it
Horror on TV – are you a fan?
Yes, definitely. It’s gaining a massive following with the likes of ‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘Penny Dreadful and ‘American Horror Story’, which is definitely paving the way forward. I think there should be more UK-based horror on TV though…
You and Dominic Brunt, must be the only husband / wife team working in horror films in the UK at the moment. Scary or what?
Most of my friends think it must be a nightmare living and working so closely together but it’s the opposite. Each time we start on a project it’s the start of another exciting journey. We bounce a lot of ideas off each other (not always agreeing on them needless to say!) particularly with stories and characters. We watch a lot of movies together and try to go to as many film festivals as we can together. Dom really knows his horror, he’s like a walking encyclopedia on the genre and I have to say a lot of the more ‘gory’ ideas come from him. It’s a fun, sometimes crazy, scary journey!
Vampires or Zombies?
Zombies!!! However, ‘What We Do In The Shadows’ gave them a run for their money!
Finally, what really scares you…?
Apart from some of the saddening atrocities happening in the world, in a genre sense it has to be my imagination. It’s night and dark…I’m on my own…in my house...I live in a very old house!
Thank you Joanne Mitchell
An exclusive clip from Adult Babies, introduced by director Dominic Brunt, will be screened on Sat 25 Feb at 18.55, before the screening of Patient Zero.
FrightFest Passes are £70 and available from noon on Mon Jan 16, 2016. Passes cover all films on Fri 24 & Sat 25 Feb ONLY.
Tickets for ‘A Cure for Wellness’ and ‘Phantasm: Remastered’ ’ plus individual tickets for the Fri/Sat films are on sale Mon Jan 23 from 10am. Price: £10.00. £8 concession.
To book tickets: +44 (0)141 332 6535 - email@example.com / www.glasgowfilm.org/festival
Joanne Mitchell and Victoria Smurfit in Dominic Brunt's BAIT.
BFi London Film Festival
Opening Gala film - A UNITED KINGDOM - press conference
About the project?
David Oyelowo: It wasn’t an easy project to get off the ground. The images in Susan Williams’ book Colour Bar arrested me and it became an obsession.
Amma Asante: I believe I’ve created a balance between the personal and the political. The love story allows intimacy and the background should be political in some way, like Belle.
Rosamund Pike: I loved the sheer personality of Ruth, her spirit is so gorgeous. The faces in the photographs [Colour Bar] – I was moved to tears by them. I saw the love and underneath what it had cost them. She has tremendous pluck – it feels dated but it’s a word of the time for the quality she had. She went for it heartfelt with her commitment to her love and her marriage.
Jack Davenport: Playing Sir Alastair Canning – play people who embody images of empire who are like pantomime villains. Because the story is true, I had no qualms having a go at this character. What he did was not approximate, it was appalling.
Both our characters [his and the character played by Tom Felton] are a little unsure, they are working from a manual [on the status quo] that is increasingly out of date. If it was fictional this would look unbelievable. No one made this up, this actually happened.
Jessica Oyelowo: They fully believed in what they were doing but their world is crumbling. It’s a story close to David and my heart.
Tom Fenton: I don’t see them as villains. They are a by-product of the system of the times, working out of fear for the status quo.
Amma Asante: The shift in attitudes happened almost overnight. Seretse is one of the greatest events.
Laura Carmichael: Ruth reminds me of my grandmother – they were women who lived through the war and found a bravery that surprised their parents.
Reaction in Botswana?
Amma Asante: It was comforting for them that it was being told through a woman of colour, they knew that it was a great untold story. The DNA of Botswana runs through the film. We tried to earn the respect of the people throughout all the steps of making the film. We found a generational divide in knowledge of the story. It is a residue of colonial history that gets lost, which makes it doubly important to get it right.
Diversity a theme of this year’s London Film Festival?
David Oyelowo: All we see here on this film is a reflection of the country we live in. It should not be special that Amma is directing this film – though it is to me, of course. Women are 50% of the population and that is not a minority. I hope people can see themselves in Ruth and Seretse, see their country’s history, see us as people of African descent and how that intersects with British history. We are proud to call ourselves British and African. With time, black women directors will become less special.
Amma Asante: Pathe are promoting diversity with Selma and Mandela. There are those that do and those that talk about it. That goes for producers, financiers bringing their weight to this story, their profile, box office and importance.. It’s a multi-pronged solution that includes audiences, us….
Rosamund Pike: Also distributors. It’s not put in the love story bracket but in the same one as 12 Years a Slave, which bears no resemblance. The goal is for this to be seen in the cannon of love stories in terms of genre, it should be given parity with films more like it in subject matter.
Amma Asante: There are more women directors than previously but still not a lot. The proportion of black female directors has doubled, but only to 1.4% and black directors as a whole as around 7%. Women are not a minority, we play a part in getting men into cinemas. We won’t always direct female stories but seeing things through the female gaze should not be an odd thing.
The majority of stories are about men, white, of a certain age, and diversity is challenging that. There are other realities. My default experience is female. Diversity is not removing people but allowing space for others to join and have the same privileges.
David Oyelowo: With Rosamund’s reaction to the photos I knew we were both on the same page with a desire TO see the story well and truthfully told, a celebration of two people we admired. Being in love is an exhilarating feeling so it’s exhilarating to see love on screen, to celebrate unashamedly how powerful love is. There is laughter, chemistry, joy.
Rosamund Pike: In the scene in the hotel, which is whites only, Seretse makes a joke about his dispensation to be there, they hear music from the bar where they can’t go together and they dance – we just did that spontaneously – it converts it into something to laugh about.
Jack Davenport: We’re used to representations of lust on screen and we get tired of the trope that love conquers all, but, yeah, it does and they did, and this incredible against-all-the-odds, deep love helped topple an entire empire. Emotional things say a lot more.
Amma Asante: The script – I felt that nothing should come without it passing through the prism of the couple’s love. For example, the scene in the House of Commons wth Prime Minister Attlee ,where his objections are expressed by saying Seretse and Ruth should not be allowed to be in bed together. I tried to hold onto that, I tried to ensure that they were seen against a strong backdrop of politics.
It’s a balanced story and it stays true to the book and the belief that it is not just about romantic love, it’s also about paternal love, love of country, a woman falling in love with his country. Everything is seen through the prism of one of these types of love.
A UNITED KINGDOM is the Opening Gala of the BFI London Film Festival and screens on 5, 6 and 11 October.
It is released on 25 November 2016 in the UK to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Botswana’s independence.
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Britflicks' Stuart Wright hosted a recent screening of ID2: Shadwell Army down in Brighton with writer Vincent O'Connell and producer Sally Hibbin. Here they talk about the film, the state of modern football, and of course Gumbo.
ID2: SHADWELL ARMY is out on DVD 3 October 2016.
Synopsis: Young British Asian Mo is a fast-rising police officer who goes undercover infiltrating Shadwell's resurgent hooligan element, which is fired up by the club’s takeover by a Russian oligarch and their unlikely adventure into European competition. Mo quickly becomes embroiled in the local schism between the British National Party (BNP) and English Defence League (EDL), and plans to build a new mosque in the shadow of the Shadwell ground creates a toxic atmosphere in which football and political violence form a perfect storm of social unrest. In the midst of this, Mo is faced with the essential existential question of who he is and where he really belongs. It's 21 years on and clever Trevor is now chief super, but what happens to the rest of the gang?
I.D., released in 1995 and largely based on James Bannon’s real-life experience undercover infiltrating the ‘Millwall Bushwackers’, was widely acknowledged as one of the finest examples of its genre, spawning a series of follow up films hoping to emulate its success and becoming a cult classic. The film, which starred Reece Dinsdale, Philip Glenister, Warren Clarke, Sean Pertwee and Claire Skinner, scooped the Audience Award at the Valenciennes Film Festival and was shortlisted for Best Screenplay by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.
ID2: Shadwell Army is as brutal and hard-hitting as the original and charts the tension in the local community as far right organisations look to exploit the testosterone-fuelled Shadwell Army to prevent a new mosque being built in East London. Set amidst the backdrop of the lavish fortunes of the modern English game, ID2: Shadwell Army is a must-see thriller that looks at what happens when violent allegiances spill over into brute violence and enflamed racial tension.
Britflicks recently had the pleasure of visiting the set of MY NAME IS LENNY, the biopic about boxer, hard-man and east end legend Lenny McLean.
Before the 2017 release of MY NAME IS LENNY come’s THE GUV'NOR, an insightful documentary about Lenny, his bouts with Roy ‘Pretty Boy’ Shaw and what made Lenny McLean the man he became.
Here we speak with Lenny's son Jamie McLean who is also one of the film's producers and director Paul Van Carter about the documentary and Lenny McLean the man.
Pre-order The Guv'nor [DVD] £9.99
Synopsis: The life of famed East End luminary Lenny McLean gets a touching, personal treatment in The Guv’nor. Famous (and infamous) as a bareknuckle boxer, bouncer, enforcer, and doorman from the late ‘60s, McLean’s journey from unlicensed fighter to best-selling author and star of Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels is also the story of a working class man from Hoxton weathering the changing decades before his untimely death in 1998. Director Paul Van Carter follows Lenny's son Jamie as he explores his father’s story from his troubled upbringing, including the physical abuse he suffered via his stepfather, to his local fame and later stardom. On the way we meet a variety of characters from East London legends through to Hollywood figures like director Guy Ritchie and actor Jason Flemyng. What emerges is a picture of a complex, driven and principled family man. Lionsgate UK Releases
The Guv'nor in select Cinemas 7th October and on DVD, Blu-ray & Digital Download 10th October, 2016
Tom Kinninmont has a list of writing credits for TV and film as long as your arm. And he’s produced at least as many stage plays as movies, as well as occupying the director’s chair as well. Most recently, he co-wrote the screenplay for THE CARER (released in cinemas on Friday, 5 August, certificate 15), a project that was tinged with some personal sadness.
Long term friend and collaborator, Gilbert Adair, had been hired by the film’s Hungarian director, Janos Edeleny, to work alongside him on the screenplay. “He got Gilbert to do the first draft of the script, but unfortunately Gilbert had a stroke and was quite incapacitated. He then had a second stroke and died. At that point, Janos tried to complete the script himself but, although he’s an extraordinary speaker of English, he’s not a native speaker, so he felt he wasn’t quite able to write the script he wanted. He decided he needed another writer to finish the script and, realising that I’d worked with Gilbert quite extensively, he contacted me and we had a very long Skype call. He kept quoting Shakespeare at me and, fortunately, I’d done two degrees in English literature and know my Shakespeare quite well, so I think he felt he’d found a kindred spirit.”
That mutual love of Shakespeare found its way into the film, which sees retired actor Sir Michael (Brian Cox) surrounded by three women – his daughter (Emilia Fox), his housekeeper and former lover (Anna Chancellor) and his young carer (Coco Konig) – and frequently reminiscing about his most famous role, that of King Lear. It’s a theme that runs throughout the film, although it developed while the script was being written. “In the original version of the script, the young Hungarian carer, Dorottya, was much older and because of that her personality was very different. But the Lear theme was always there.
“Actors who are deeply involved in a play find that they end up quoting lines from it years later and I think that’s where part of the Lear theme came from, that this actor has been performing Shakespeare all his life and tends to fall back on it. And the idea of Lear is made explicit in that final speech, when he realises he’s misjudged his daughter.”
The film culminates with Sir Michael receiving a lifetime achievement award and giving a speech. And Kinninmont was given some additional, and rather unexpected help, in writing it. From Brian Cox himself. “He and a writer friend of his did a version of the speech, which was about three pages long, and clearly he didn’t expect us to use of all of it. But some of it found its way into the final version because it toughened up what I’d written: there’s an element of attacking the audience in the speech and that came across. It’s a better speech because of Brian’s contribution.”
There are also lines in the film that were inspired by some of the actors Kinninmont has worked with over the years – and the occasional direct quote, including one from no less than Stewart Granger. All of which makes THE CARER an actor’s film in its widest sense, and one that will appeal to anybody with a love of the theatre or acting – or both.
THE CARER is released in cinemas on Friday, 5 August. Read the Britflicks review here.
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Jon Ford, who alongside his brother Howard, took the zombie genre to new global heights with The Dead & The Dead 2, talks about his first solo feature, OFFENSIVE. OFFENSIVE is a dark, violent tale of rage and revenge set in rural France and wil have its World Premiere at Horror Channel FrightFest 2016.
Q: Firstly, congratulations Jon, on completing your first solo feature film. Has this been a long time in the making?
JON: Thank you, it has indeed been a long time in the making, in fact a lifetime nearly! This is a very personal film as it's based on true events that I've experienced. It's almost a compilation of scenarios that have made a lasting impression on me. The gang of kids are a mixture of who I once was or people I knew, though I coupled that with modern electronic devices. There have been studies that have shown these devices are retarding the development of empathy in young minds. I took that concept to the next level.
Q: How would you describe the film?
JON: Essentially as I did with The Dead, I just made a film that I wanted to see. I love revenge movies (or the concept of them) but pretty much all of them try to be clever and have it that revenge is not really completed or it's the wrong person, or it all ends so badly because revenge is wrong blah blah blah. Essentially by trying to be different...they end up the same.
The film is a violent clash of two generations. It's about morality and perspective. There are no good or bad people in this world, we all have different perspectives on right and wrong. Most films follow a morality dictated by religion, I wanted to explore other perspectives. For instance killing is not always wrong is it? A soldier is sent to war to kill people, that's considered right and lawful by most people. However if you kill someone who attacks you or just generally annoys you, that's considered wrong in the eyes of the law and most people. I wanted to explore what happens when ordinary people are driven to murder and are ok with it. They don't suffer any post trauma, they carry on with their lives. In real life people commit murder and get away with it some of the time. Go to any police station in any town in any part of the world, the walls are covered in missing persons pictures...most of who will never be found. I'll stop there as I could go on all day about this subject Lol.
Q: Lisa Eichhorn plays a lead role. How did you get her on board?
JON: Lisa is an incredible talent! She did a cameo on my brother's film Never Let Go, so he introduced us and I thought she would be perfect for the role of Helen Martin. She loved the script and (like a lot of people who read it) she felt it touched on an important subject about how young people are increasingly involved in violent or even sexual attacks and the erosion of empathy. She had been reading up on that very subject at the time so she was very much into it, much to my delight! I couldn't believe I was going to have a genuine Hollywood legend in my movie. She really elevates the intensity of the scenes as does Russell Floyd who plays Bernard Martin. They were both fantastic and I'm so greatful for bestowing the film with their talents.
Q: The locations are stunning. How did you choose them?
JON: Thanks, I now live in the south of France, not far from the Black mountains so I was able to find some incredible locations which were perfect for the film. Like The Dead films I wanted to set the horror in a beautiful place. It's the French idyll gone rotten. For once in my life I enjoyed the process of making a film. A lot of the cast are local theatre actors and they did an amazing job ! I wanted the film to have an authentic feel so we shot entirely on location. The thunder storms, the chirping of the cicadas at night, the lonely winding roads, all crank up the tension.
Q: The story will hit a lot of nerves, given current European topics and the underlying xenophobia at the heart of your film. What can you say about that?
JON: The signs of a crumbling global union are evident in the film. It's a very touchy subject and I can get myself into all sorts of trouble. I'm not making a political statement, I'm just a filmmaker who is making a piece of entertainment. At the end of the day I love France, I've lived there for 5 years now, but I did want to explore a dark undercurrent that exists... What do you expect from a film called Offensive? ha! It looks like there is a love hate relationship between the French and the Americans. There is this strange paradox, on one hand they are very greatful for the liberation in WW2 but to quote a line from Offensive, "we're getting a little sick and tired of the American liberator story...why don't you find somewhere else to go play hero". After all, xenophobia probably exists in every country in the world. Like all great horror movies it's all based on fear of the unknown.
Q: The theme of cultural alienation between generations is very strong. The young French gang in the film have been described as ‘a new breed of technological sociopaths’. An accurate observation?
JON: I guess there will always be a generation gap issue for young and old and "what one doesn't understand one fears"...I just take that to the extreme. There's nothing worse than moving to a place where you're not welcome.
Accurate?.There are "no go" zones in the outskirts of some of the main cities in France, which the media are "encouraged" not to report on. Even the police won't enter. They're basically gang controlled.
Also I particularly wanted my gang to be very young, as the level of cruelty at that age can be staggering sometimes! The Bulger case comes to mind... I wanted the threat to come from society's protection of the young rather than the more obvious physical threat of the gang themselves. Also having witnessed and been the victim of young kids who essentially, in the eyes of the law are almost untouchable, as minors. It can be an impossible situation if kids decide to target you. It's a frightening prospect as there's almost nothing you can do. I used to live in a rough area where a neighbour of mine was targeted by kids, they smashed his windows regularly, spray painted pedo on his walls just because he was old and alone. He finally had to sell what was left of his house and move away. You watch, afraid that if you help, they could target you too. Like the gang in the film..."they're just having fun..."
Q: What films were an influence? Straw Dogs comes to mind.
JON: I love Straw Dogs and you're not the first to make a link with Offensive but apart from it being a sort of revenge film in a rural setting and the main protagonists are foreigners, there are not too many similarities.
To be honest, for this film, as I mentioned, I drew on real life personal experience more than other films, (apart from the killing which is based on a real case that I can't mention for legal reasons) which I hope will give it something very different to all other movies.
I'm also breaking a few rules by having a retired couple as the main protagonists instead of some good looking overly muscular teenagers who happen to be martial arts and weapons trained and look more at home on a catwalk. I'll be interested to see how that goes down.
Q: What do you hope the FrightFest crowd, who are, of course, familiar with your work, get most from the film?
JON: Firstly it's not about muscly super heroes, standing in a manga pose, spouting gravely voiced one liners, before blowing someone's head off, one handed with a shot gun then winking into camera. I wanted to give it an old school film style with a modern intensity to the violence and reality. I wanted it to cut deeper. Most of us will have experienced some of the situations that happen in Offensive, from bullying to harassment. That's why I hope it will touch us all on a personal level. There seems to be an epidemic in modern filmmaking in that they desperately want to be "cool", maybe it's the desire of a nerdy film director who is anything but?
I hope that they are prepared for a very different film that seems simplistic on the surface but is layered with a serious subtext. I hope they feel the torment and anger that the characters do. I hope it makes them consider morality, technology and humanity. I hope it gives them a different perspective on how society is "progressing".
Q: You haven’t completely stopped working with your brother, he plays a cameo role in the film, doesn’t he? And Angela Dixon, star of Howard’s Never Let Go, also has a role. Seems you’re never too far away from each other!
JON: Howard plays Charles Martin who liberates the village during WW2. It's a cameo but it is still quite a pivotal character, he gets to brutally murder some Nazis which I think he enjoyed. As I played one of the kidnappers in Never Let Go who gets his arm snapped, nose broken then run over by a truck...again! Now you mention it... something's not right here! I'll have to have a word! Ha!
Yes we're always there for each other, essentially we share a lot of the same ideas and philosophy on life. I hope we'll always help each other out as brothers should.
For Angela Dixon...I had written this incredibly difficult emotionally charged role of Sarah, a tormented language tutor who has to deal with some of the psychological aftermath of the gang. I thought...who the hell could pull off a role of that intensity...Angela Dixon was the first person that sprang to mind. She was great and it's such a different character to the one in Never Let go, it really shows what a top class talent she is!
Q: As a fan of horror films, what are your personal Top 3?
JON: That's a tough one! I know it's a slightly cop out answer but it really does depend on what mood you're in. 1) I still have to stick with the original Dawn of the Dead, it just blew my socks off. 2) The Exorcist is a master class in filmmaking. 3) The original Evil Dead is hard to beat. But on another day I may feel differently. As you can see, I'm generally into older movies.
Q: Finally, are there any plans for you and Howard to join forces for The Dead 3?
JON: This one keeps coming up... After part 2, we always talked of it as a trilogy and I have to say we can't stop ourselves from firing off ideas for it. It would be one hell of a 3rd and final chapter! If anyone out there has the means then we're open to it.
OFFENSIVE Official Film Trailer
Offensive screens at Horror Channel FrightFest on Saturday 27th August, 6.05pm in Discovery Screen 3, Vue Cinema, Shepherd’s Bush, W12
Horror Channel Frightfest 25 - 29 AUGUST 2016 -VUE Cinema, London, W12 8PP
Britflicks is delighted to bring you the teaser trailer from werewolf horror CARNIVORE, along with @presenterbuffy speaking with director Simon Wells about the making of his debut feature. CARNIVORE stars Atlanta Johnson, Ben Loyd-Holmes & Greg Cox.
CARNIVORE TEASER TRAILER
Synopsis: Dave and Abi's relationship is ending, in an effort to save it Dave takes Abi to a remote cottage in a bid to reignite their passion. It doesn't go well and they get torn apart by a massive argument. At the same time a fearsome beast is weighing up its prey, lurking in the shadows of the forest gaining confidence to attack. Does the grumpy owner of the cottage have anything to do with it and will anyone survive?
Buffy talks with Simon Wells about his horror CARNIVORE
CARNIVORE will be doing the horror film festival circuit later in 2016.
Follow CARNIVORE on Facebook and Twitter.
Britflicks set visit - Behind the scenes of werewolf horror CARNIVORE.
Alfie Stewart, Jennie Eggleton and Frazer Alexander, discuss their roles in Post-apocalyptic cannibal horror romance TEAR ME APART ahead of its June release.
Q: For all of you this is your first lead role in a feature film. Describe your feelings when you were told you’d won the role.
Alfie: I was quite surprised because my audition was one of those ones where you can’t really gauge how well you’ve done. I wasn’t expecting to get the part, which made it even sweeter! I was ecstatic when I got the news. I couldn’t wait to bring the story to life.
Jennie: Overwhelming joy and excitement - and shock! At the final recall everyone was so good that I was certain I hadn’t got the role so when I got the call from my agent I was speechless! As well as being my first lead it was also one of my first professional jobs so I was thrilled to be given the chance to be part of such an amazing project.
Frazer: This was not just my first lead role, it was my first professional audition, and saying I was surprised would be a complete understatement. Completely over the moon and mildly/embarrassingly emotional would probably be the best way to describe it.
Q: The film deals with some pretty (forgive the pun) ‘meaty’ issues. How did you process the challenges presented?
Alfie: With a vivid imagination. I really tried to immerse myself in the character and the world, exploring the depths of his psyche and his place within the story. I think that once I understood the character, the ‘meaty issues’ were processed easily because they are necessary to the story. I think challenges are fun - they keep you on your toes!
Jennie: Whilst the film deals with issues that I hope we will never have to deal with, at its core there are issues that are pretty universal and relevant to us now - love, sex, growing up, the need to survive. I found that there was a lot of myself in Molly so when dealing with the difficult issues there were already routes that I could use to approach the character and what she has to deal with. She can change between being innocent and manipulative very quickly, and will do almost anything to survive. I find that complexity in such a young character fascinating.
Frazer: I highly doubt that I will ever get to play a character I like everything about, but it’s important as an actor to never judge the character’s flaws and their behaviour, it is part of who they are and therefore part of me whilst I am in front of the camera. Dealing with the ‘meaty’ issue was really as simple as that, plus my character is not as open to the cannibalism side of things anyway so I’m sure this was probably slightly more of a challenge for Alfie than myself.
Q: The film really depends on the chemistry between the three of you, which is pretty electric. Tell us what it was like to work with each other.
Alife: I feel very lucky to have worked with such talented and easy-going co-stars. We had an amazing time, on and off set. There were points where it felt like Frazer was actually my brother, we bonded brilliantly. The crew were equally as amazing, and the experience of making this film was very special.
Jennie: Well, it is very rare that you are on set with the same people day in day out for a month, living together in tiny rooms, without getting on each other’s nerves, but the boys were so supportive, kind and funny that the whole process was a dream. They both have a wicked sense of humour so I never stopped laughing. I’m glad that a fraction of our relationship has been captured on screen and that we get to share it with audiences, as it’s pretty special.
Frazer: It was a complete dream. The chemistry was exactly the same off set as well. I learned a massive amount about the industry from Alfie, as he has worked on a vast array of projects. Jennie is elegant by nature and the most beautiful actress. She sees things others don’t and has a wonderful grasp of the language, two traits that I would happily have worn off on me.
Q: Alfie, your character, although only 16 years-old, carries a highly complex mix of instincts and emotions. How much of an acting challenge was this, particularly the cannibalism scenes?
Alfie: It was a challenge upon which I thrived. The character fascinates me, his animalistic and boyish nature allowed for a lot of freedom and expression. Delving into the complexity of his mind was intriguing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn't actually like the meat they used in place of human flesh though. I remember spitting it out quite repulsed after each take. I think it was Parma ham from M&S. The art department were slightly annoyed that I didn't like it because it was relatively expensive!
Q: Jennie, you play a young woman who could be the last female on the planet. Daunting or what? Did you bring any personal feelings about such an extreme situation to the role?
Jennie: HA - yeah, no pressure there! That was one of the themes that attracted me about the script early on. She is dealing with the weight of that, what she has seen done to other women in her past, how men treat her, and also how her sexuality can be powerful. It’s an incredibly complex situation to be in. I’m a feminist and I definitely brought my own feelings on equality and the treatment of women to Molly.
Q. Frazer, as the older brother you carry the darkest, most violent threat in the film. Yet you are also perhaps the most vulnerable of the three. Was this a difficult balance to achieve?
Frazer: Yeah, it was difficult during the initial stages of the rehearsal process. It was important to remember that the character had not actually been brought up in a normal family, he survived solely on his own intuition and a naïve one at that. The character does have some awful flaws, but that being said, I hope the audience manage to relate to him and realise that he is not all bad. He does have his brother’s best interests at heart.
Q: What do you hope audiences will take from the film?
Alfie: First and foremost I hope that the audience is entertained. I also hope that the story captures their imaginations and makes them think about some of the themes. My character has been brought up in a world extremely different from the one we currently live in and has therefore grown into a more primitive, instinctive and animalistic being. Constantly inundated with comforts, we often forget that we are animals, we are PART OF nature and not separate from it. It is an interesting thing to ponder. I hope the film inspires creativity and impresses people.
Jennie: I hope as well as enjoying the amazing landscapes and Ern’s beautiful shots, they take away a story of three young people growing up. I think the undercurrent of this film is a touching coming-of-age story, exploring how they negotiate their way through growing up under pretty dire circumstances!
Frazer: I hope the audiences enjoy the film as much as we all enjoyed making it. I hope people argue over which characters they preferred and who was right and wrong in their actions, I really hope some of them side with the older brother as well!
Q: Although not strictly a horror film, genre fans will embrace its dark themes and execution. Are you horror film fans? Do you have a favourite horror film?
Alfie: I think that horror films can sometimes be overwrought with clichés, and quite predictable. However, when an original idea is executed well and the film isn't tainted by cheese they can be thoroughly entertaining and unsettling. I appreciate the darkness. ‘The Babadook’ is an excellent horror film, definitely one of my favourites.
Jennie: I have to say I generally don’t watch many horror films. Whenever I do I end up lying in bed replaying the whole film in my head and imagining shadows are people! ‘The Shining’ is my sort of scary movie - the one that plays with your mind.
Frazer: I love ‘The Silence of the Lambs’, Anthony Hopkins’ performance is nothing short of impeccable and the relationship between Hannibal Lector and Clarice Stirling was encapsulating to watch.
Q: Finally, what are all you up to next?
Alfie: Playing my guitar religiously, waiting for the phone to ring. Aside from that I’ve filmed an episode of Channel 5’s ‘Suspects’, which will air later this year.
Jennie: I’m currently auditioning - so watch this space!
Frazer: I’ve recently signed with Cole Kitchenn and I’m excited about the future and what it holds in store.
TEAR ME APART is released online on June 17, 2016, following its UK theatrical premiere at The Genesis, Whitechapel, on June 16.
Britflicks' Stuart Wright spoke with Tom Kerevan and Alex Lightmanthe about TEAR ME APART on the Britflicks Podcast.
He might be a new name to British acting at the moment, but Scott Chambers’ performance in CHICKEN (released 20 May, certificate 15) means he’s unlikely to stay that way for long. He doesn’t fit the mould of the much-publicised “posh” actors, having gone to his local college to study his craft, but any lack of formal theatre training hasn’t held him back, as he landed the lead in Freddie Machin’s original stage version of CHICKEN at the Southwark Playhouse.
Not does he recall ever having the proverbial lightbulb moment when he realised he wanted to act. Although he does remember that when he was younger, his older brother showed him the classic horror Scream, “He told me, it’s not real, it’s not real, it’s just a job. And I thought to myself, ‘that’s a job I want to do.’” That interest became stronger when he was shown Monster, on the proviso that he didn’t look at any interviews or pictures of Charlize Theron beforehand. “I loved the film, but when I saw afterwards what she looked like, I thought ‘wow’! I was blown away.”
Like Theron and his other acting idol, Sean Penn, he likes to immerse himself in a role and for his role of Richard in CHICKEN, the walk and the voice were all-important in playing a teenager with learning difficulties. “He really is a different Richard in the film compared to the play. He was a lot more introverted then. But for the film we discussed him walking like a chicken. And for the voice, at the time my niece, who was six, had a lisp because she was losing her teeth. And I really liked it and wanted to use it. So I recorded her talking to me: she’s a waffler, just like me and my character in the film, and she was inventing all kinds of stories, like meeting Jesse J on the moon. That meant I was re-enacting her making up stories, just like Richard does, with the same child-like simplicity.”
The film’s director, Joe Stephenson, was determined that Richard shouldn’t come across as a stereotypically disabled person. “It’s not just the fact that he has a particular disability, it’s that he spends a lot of time with animals and just isn’t socially aware. If you don’t put a child into school and allow them to socialise with other children, they’re not going to develop in the way that they should.
Stephenson encouraged Scott and co-star Morgan Watkins, who plays his elder brother, Polly, to dig deep into their character’s back story. “Before we even got on set, me and Morgan had done this 20 page bio,” said Scott. “It was every year of our character’s lives, our own interpretation of what happened that year. So, like, when our dad left, his interpretation of it was totally different to mine. Mine was all positive, his is not.”
One major difference between the original stage play and the film was the eponymous chicken. It didn’t appear in the play, but on screen it’s a character in its own right, Fiona, played by two different chickens. Named Shy and Confident on the set – Scott claims the credit – they very much lived up to their names. “I was nervous about meeting them,” he remembers, “I was told we’d got chickens that liked being picked up and they did and it was fine, but one was way more confident than the other. So, for instance, I had Confident in the cooking scene because I was talking to her and wanted a reaction.” Stephenson says it definitely wasn’t a case of the old “not working with animals” rule. The two hens now live on the farm in Dorking where the film was shot.
The film’s four week shoot demanded a disciplined approach from Stephenson, his crew and his cast, but it also allowed the actors to be spontaneous and think on their feet. For Scott, this has been his favourite film making experience so far. “Sometimes, it can feel as if you’re not always part of the film making process, but with this it was. There weren’t loads of takes, you didn’t feel over-rehearsed and it felt real. That’s why I act – because I want to do it that way.”
It’s a director/actor partnership that obviously works and it’s set to continue. Currently working on a documentary, Stephenson’s next project looks at the early life of Noel Coward, although he wouldn’t say much about it other than Scott has a part. And the young actor doesn’t even know what it is yet!
But watch out for the name. Scott Chambers. You read it here!
CHICKEN is in avaiable on VOD from Friday 12 August 2016.
Watch CHICKEN at www.wearecolony.com/chicken
Read Britflicks CHICKEN review here.
There are three special screenings of the film in London on opening day, hosted by Sir Ian McKellan, and a further one on Sunday, 22 May, presented by Noel Clarke. Picturehouse Cinemas are also showing the film on Tuesday, 21 June. www.chickenthefilm.com
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