An Interview With Writer/Director/Actor Shaun Rose: Toga

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview Writer/ Director/Actor Shaun Rose about their new drama film Toga, which follows a videographer, also played by Rose, as his work brings him back to his home town. In this interview we discuss, home towns, sequels and the hate received from shortening a town’s name.I hope you enjoy.

Q: What was your message with this film?

SR: Overall I feel that with this film and its predecessor, “Upstate Story”, I’ve tried to show that change or personal growth continues even after our transition from childhood to adulthood. Being an adult isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination and we often find ourselves in tough spots or holes and we have to find a way out of them.

  Q: Why is returning to a home town always such an emotional significant moment?

SR: It’s largely due to the memories you have in the sense of what you were, the things you did and what has happened since. All of the changes can really make for a highly emotional experience.

Q: How would you describe the lead character’s emotional journey during this film?

SR: In the beginning he’s largely in a better place than in “Upstate Story.” It’s a very large improvement for him by comparison. He still has problems though and he’s aware of them, but doesn’t have that drive to fix them. The journey to town changes all of that. 

Q: What emotions were you hoping to illicit from your audience here?

SR: I’ve always tried to tell my stories as realistically as possible for the sake of connecting with audiences. Being able to relate to a character on deeply personal levels I feel makes for a more impactful viewing experience.

Q: What made you want to make this film?

SR: Doing an “Upstate Story” sequel was always part of the plan. Both films act as a reflection of who I am as a person and what I’ve gone through the last few years of my life. It’s tough to make a film, but I think writing what I know best has made the process a little easier. 

Q:Do you have a favorite moment and or any funny stories from the production?

SR: Some of the local hate I’ve received over the title alone has been frustrating. At times, it has also been comical if you think about how pathetic it is. Shortening the town name from Saratoga Springs to “Toga” has brought me a lot of heat from others. All other things I’ve experienced will be covered in a “behind the scenes” documentary I’ve also been chipping away at. I don’t want to spoil too much of anything.

Q: What are your future plans, do you have another film in the works?

SR: I have a few in the early writing stages. Even another film in the Ellis Martin saga. If you want to call it that. In the near future and hopefully before the end of 2023 I’ll have the documentary “Not Saratoga” finished. I’m in no big hurry though. 

Q: Do you have any words of advice for young filmmakers who might be reading? 

SR: If you want to make a film, go ahead and do it. If you’re working on a no budget film be prepared to wear a lot of hats. Do your research on those roles too. Prepare yourself for many sleepless nights. 

If you would like to check out Toga  for yourself it is currently out now on Youtube

If you enjoyed this interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, the ability for you to pick what I review next and full access to my Patreon exclusive game reviews. Check it out!

Interview With Writer/Director Graham Jones: Silicon Docks

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview Writer/ Director Graham Jones about their new animated comedy, drama film Silicon Docks, which follows a group of recognisable tech figures meeting for a drink in an Irish pub. In this interview we discuss tech billionaires and who would win in a fight between them, modern internet culture and the ever forward march of progress.I hope you enjoy.

Q: What was your message with this film?

GJ: SILICON DOCKS is mainly to do with modern culture or the internet – and the way that tech is transforming our lives. Technological advances have changed human interaction, in some cases, for the better – but in many cases not. Ireland is a culture that is quite social, traditionally. We commune, we communicate, we gossip like you wouldn’t believe. It’s very interesting to see that culture transplanted into the 21st Century or the internet era. 

A lot of the web is interconnected, but paradoxically distant and removed. We’re closer to each other, yet also further apart. We have all this great tech and these zippy apps and social media platforms that purport to make communication easier, but which often just leave people staring at their phones like zombies instead of really connecting like they used to. 

So I wanted to riff on all of that stuff, from an Irish perspective.

  Q: Why focus on tech moguls?

GJ: Human beings are really the only things an audience can relate to – and so wanting to explore the kind of themes mentioned above, I needed to find the right characters for the story. Granted, I could have used a collection of Irish characters and shown how their lives have changed because of tech. But I found the whole Silicon Docks area of my native city – where these big US tech corporations have congregated due to low corporation tax passionately hawked by the Irish government – more and more intriguing and using the moguls gave me other narrative opportunities also. Many of these moguls are actually my own generation and it seemed like they would make good protagonists because, like me, they actually lived through this change or even brought it about. No, they are not completely responsible for the internet, but dramatically speaking they made great punching bags. It certainly seemed valid to subject them to same kind of distortion that is commonplace online nowadays, it felt almost karmic! 

Q: What sort of impact do you think tech and the digital space has had on our daily life?

GJ: I think it has a huge impact. I grew up without this ‘web’ and have seen the way it’s grown and mutated and really kind of taken over our lives at this point. I do wonder what it must be like for people who were born into it, who arrived when it was already operating. What really strikes me is that it used to be peripheral, whereas now it’s all-consuming. Just how far will this go, or where exactly are we going – I wonder? There is no doubt that it’s improved some aspects of our lives, but at what cost? That’s the big question. To me, it’s as if we are going forward and backwards at the same time. A good example is indie filmmaking. It’s easier to make an indie film nowadays, compared with back in the nineties when I used to shoot on celluloid and distribute expensive cans of film to cinemas. But on the other hand, it’s also much harder to get attention for your movie nowadays, after you have made it. Backwards and forwards, better and worse, that’s the internet. I suppose we’ll see what happens…

Q: Who do you think would win in a fight between Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey?

GJ: Ha, I haven’t a clue – but must confess that I would probably watch that fight, a guilty pleasure. I guess that’s kind of what our film is: Musk and Dorsey and Bezos and Zuckerberg’s idea of fighting. One-upmanship or pissing contests – basically like a tech mogul version of fighting. Again, tech bros don’t like a lot of touching or interaction!

Q: Why choose the medium of animation to tell your tale?

GJ: I thought animation was the right medium for SILCON DOCKS because it so resembles the world we live today – I mean so resembles the internet or the metaverse or pick your word. Instead of meeting in a pub, on the street or wherever – people basically now send data to each other through their little electronic devices. We are becoming increasingly virtual and so right away I suspected animation would be the right medium to portray that virtual vortex. But it’s not just animation we use, as the background in SILICON DOCKS is actually rotoscoped. It’s animation on top of a rotoscoped world, which again seemed natural given our new reality. On this planet, we’re humans who increasingly operate in a digital web and so we tried to reflect that visually. The medium is the message, as Marshall McLuhan once said.

Q: Any funny stories from production?

GJ: Well, I couldn’t find anybody to do Elon Musk’s voice authentically, because he’s got a kind of scattered, hard to place ‘new world’ accent – and so, in the end, José just did a Dublin accent for us! 

Q: What are your future plans for your next feature?

GJ: I can’t say anything about my next film at the moment, unfortunately.

Q: Do you have any words of advice for future filmmakers who  may be reading

GJ: The main error new filmmakers make is assuming they only have to make the film and that once they do so, everything else will kind of magically fall into place. In reality, there are 2 stages to the process. One is literally making the film and everything that involves, all the way through from script to final mix. The second stage is getting it to people via whatever route you choose to take. Typically what happens is that new filmmakers are so exhausted after the first stage, they have no energy or spirit or realisation the second stage even exists! So do watch out for that…

If you would like to check out Silicon Docks  for yourself it is currently out now on YouTube

If you enjoyed this interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, the ability for you to pick what I review next and full access to my Patreon exclusive game reviews. Check it out!

Interview With Writer/Director David Bryant: Splinter

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview Writer/ Director David Bryant  about their new horror thriller film Thriller, which follows a guy, played by Bill Fellows, who sinks into the abyss after the death of his wife and child, and whilst there he believes something is watching him with the question then becoming is it a benevolent or malevolent presence. In this interview we discuss processing depicting mental health on screen, the metaphorical significance of Christmas,  and the labour of love that is filmmaking.I hope you enjoy.

Q: What was your message with this film?

DB:  On Splinter, as with many of my screenplays, I try to bring in a social aspect, something relevant and contemporary. I knew I wanted to base the film inside a single location, a house; So, why is someone trapped inside their own home? This is where I wanted to make the film about a mental prison. A man dealing with multiple issues from anxiety and OCD to agoraphobia but place him in a horror/thriller. It’s more an examination and depiction of the failing of someone’s mental state than a message. I prefer to pose questions than give a complete answer with my work, so people can discuss how they read the film compared to other people.

  Q: How did you try to approach the topic of grief with this film?

DB:  My whole approach to the film was to play it as real as possible. To create a genre film but stage it like a kitchen sink drama. This extended to how John, played by Bill Fellows, deals with his grief and loss. I felt this approach would form a stronger link to the character, an empathy that would bond you to him. Hopefully you feel his grief in a deeper way because of the down to earth depiction.

Q: In what way does Christmas play a role within the film?

DB:  Christmas is a wonderful visual metaphor for family and joy. It instantly places you in a safe place. Then I wanted to twist that, a man trapped in a time capsule, literally it is “Christmas everyday”, but it’s not as fun as Wizzard told us! The tree and cards also give the film a sense of time and place and on a low budget, creates a more interesting environment.

Q: Would you call this film a Christmas film?

DB:  Ah, the age old question. I think it falls into the category, though most of it is not set at Christmas. I think Christmas horror/thriller is a big market so I say a big YES. I have co-written a very cool Christmas anthology horror that I would firmly put as a Christmas movie plus a family non horror Christmas movie. I sound like the new Shane Black… Which would be nice.

Q: What is your favourite moment from the film?

DB:  I’d call the film a slow burn that builds to a crescendo. I like when Bobby enters the story. It’s the most visceral and violent moment. The finale with Michael and Bill I really like too. Bill certainly enjoys playing off another actor whether Michael McKell or Jane Asher.

Q: Any funny stories from production?

DB: It was a small shoot, just a three man crew most of the time and shot over several weekends so not a lot of time for hi-jinks. Wish I did have a funny story, just tales of hard bloody work.

Q: What does the future hold for you, any other films in the works?

DB:  I hope I get to make more movies. I’m working on several feature screenplays including a sci-fi UFO horror, a pirate horror and a Western horror and have numerous completed scripts ready to send out that have placed in screenwriting competitions. I work mostly in genre and have two projects I am working with producers on to develop; Flesh & Blood, a vampire story and a female led revenge thriller, Scavenger. I want to move on to a higher level and both these films have a real cinematic feel. We just need funding! I’m also open to offers of writing or directing!

Q: Any words of advice for future filmmakers?

DB:  My advice is always to not wait. Many filmmakers think they need a million dollars to produce this incredible film that will catapult them to legendary status. It can happen, but not often. So I suggest you practice your craft. Learn the art of screenwriting by reading and writing dozens of shorts or features. Get a camera, find a few actors and go make a short film. There is a lot of pressure filmmakers put on themselves that everything they make has to be outstanding- it won’t be, and if you see getting out and shooting your film a chore, maybe filmmaking is not the life for you?

If you would like to check out Splinter for yourself it is currently out now on iTunes and Amazon Prime in the US and Canada with it coming to the UK and other territories next year.  

If you enjoyed this interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, the ability for you to pick what I review next and full access to my Patreon exclusive game reviews. Check it out!

Interview With Writer/Co-Director Adam Leader And Co-Director/DOP Richard Oakes: Feed Me

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview Writer/ Co-Director Adam Leader and Co-Director/ DOP Richard Oakes about their new horror comedy film Feed Me, which follows a guy in his quest to kill himself by Cannibal. In this interview we discuss processing trauma, finding love whether in others and or yourself and cannibal horror films.I hope you enjoy.

Q:  What Was Your Message With This Film?

AD: We wanted to tell a relatable story of grief and trauma through the power of shock, gore and comedy; something we love. We wanted to make a movie that, first and foremost we were fans of so that no matter what, we could be proud when the world saw it.

RO: There are a few messages in this film, Learning to love yourself when you have low self-worth and guilt is one that resonates with me. It’s amazing what a difference to your life a little self-respect and understanding can have. 

Q:  What Was Your Favourite Moment From The Film?

AD: For me, it’s the final dream sequence in the woods where Jed and Olivia profess their love for each other. Liv is a figment of his imagination; and what Jed always perceived to be the devil on his shoulder fuelling his tumultuous journey, turned out to be his inner voice motivating him to fight for his life; she was his arc. That scene alone is like a massive breath of fresh air for Jed; his arc comes to this bittersweet conclusion that allows him to finally be at peace with himself before it’s too late. 

RO: I Think I like the scene when Jed Finally stands up to Lionel and Lionel shows his true colours to Jed. It’s when Lionel unveils his true nasty. From there to the end is really special to me as Lionel’s character falls apart. 

Q: How Inspired Were You By The Real Events?

AD: The fact that a man responded to an advert for being eaten alive and went ahead with it was inspiration enough. That in itself is so bizarre that we just had to use it as the premise for FEED ME. It’s ironic how the most unbelievable part of this movie has actually happened in real life.

Q: To What Extent Is This Film A Metaphor For Moving On And Dealing With Loss?

AD: If you lose the comedy, you’re left with an underlying subtext entirely focused on low self-worth & grief and how one overcomes it. The interesting part is how two traumatized people who are similar in so many ways can connect so well, yet go in completely different directions for better or worse, much like real life.

RO: Yes it’s about dealing with the internal demons that plague you through loss and overcoming the self-destructive nature that inevitably follows the loss of a loved one, again letting go of guilt and learning to love yourself again. 

Q: What Is Your Favourite Cannibal Film?

AD: Of more recent times, it would have to be the new Dahmer series. That’s the best thing I’ve seen in a long time, let alone this year. Evan Peters is God.

RO: I would have to say Alive, it’s a fascinating film that I watched as a Kid that shows the real triumph of the human spirit against unbelievable odds and circumstances

Q: How Did You Manage The Tone Between The Comedic Elements And The Darker Ones?

AD: By wearing our hearts on our sleeves with the direction and being fully open to giving the actors the floor to experiment. From the get-go, we wanted this movie to be sprinkled with our sense of humour. It’s who we are as people, and to abstain from implementing our own personalities into our art would have resulted in a mediocre movie that lacked integrity.

RO: Like Adam said, the Comedy is very much a part of who we are and we wanted to stay true to that. The balance just came as a natural result of the way we wanted to pace it. 

Q: Do You Have Any Funny Stories From Production?

AD: Neal Ward running naked through the set searching for a blood pump sticks out for me.

RO: One scene was so funny that I laughed so hard that a little wee came out.

Q: Future Plans, Sequels, Spin-Offs and Other Projects?

AD: A sequel is doubtful but there’s another project in the works that’ll hopefully see the light of day in 2023. Somebody did float the idea of doing a spin off about the two cops. I think that’d be amazing and I’d love to do a miniseries on those two bozos never solving anything.

RO: We have thrown a few sequel or prequel ideas around, but to be honest we are not really those people. I guess it also depends on demand. If FEED ME ever became cult status and there was a market for a sequel you never know. 

Q: Do you Have Any Words Of Wisdom For Filmmakers Who Are Just Starting Out?

AD: Make films for you, not for others and be prepared for an uphill struggle; filmmaking is all about problem solving. Anything worth doing is never easy, but the personal reward dominates any salary in a career you’re not truly passionate about. Money doesn’t buy happiness; being open, honest and true to yourself does.

RO: START! I have lost count of the people who have told me they are working on a film but are waiting for the perfect conditions etc. These people never make a film. Myself & Adam are very much doers and we will break down barriers preventing that from happening rather than using every little hiccup as an excuse not to start.

If you would like to check out Feed Me for yourself keep an eye out for it on all good VOD platforms

If you enjoyed this interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, the ability for you to pick what I review next and full access to my Patreon exclusive game reviews. Check it out!

Interview With Writer/Director George Veck: Clogwyn

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview writer/director George Veck about his new film Clogwyn which focuses on the destructive nature of gambling addiction and how it can destroy families. In this interview we discuss addiction, mental health and the need for further legislation regarding gambling, and its marketing. I hope you enjoy.

Q: What was your motivation for making this film?

A: To shed light on the sheer amount of people who despite having no background in sport or watching sport, end up gambling and how it can be those lesser fans who suffer most as they need a bet to enjoy the event.

Q: What was your message?

A: That anyone vulnerable who hates what they do with their life can be sucked into drink, drugs or gambling in the UK.

 Q: Do you think the government should do more to tackle gambling beyond what it is currently doing?

 Absolutely, the current level of restrictions on adverts during sporting events is appalling despite overwhelming evidence of the amount of sports fans who watch not for the love of the sport, but only due of the thrill of betting.

Q: What are the warning signs of gambling addiction and when should people seek help?

 It’s hard to detect initially but the secrecy of the person suffering will become apparent and the niggling feeling of being lied to. The deeper the person gets, the harsher the depression will be after they lose a bet, this is one sign to get help.

Q: Do you have any funny or interesting stories from the making of this short?

 This was a very international cast, with talent from Canada, US, Ireland, Wales, England, Denmark, Australia and New Zealand forming the cast and crew.

Q: Future Plans do you want to do a follow up or tackle any other issues in future films?

 I have just finished editing a short about domestic violence called disquietude which will be out soon as well as a short called Scarlett about cocaine addiction. Issues around mental health and poverty are what I want to portray in my films. I would love to explore gambling addiction as a theme again, hopefully next time as a feature film.

Q: After making this film do you have any advice for aspiring film-makers?

 To those from rural areas who worry about accessibility and finances, that with a carefully selected cast of willing actors and imagination you can make fulfilling films from the comfort of your home.

To check out Clogwyn for yourself then head over to Vecks Gems Productions or click on the link provided

If you have been effected by the topics discussed in this interview then please consider getting help or if someone you know is suffering people get them some help. Addictions are awful things and often people try and hide them and suffer in silence and we all need to do our best to recognise the symptoms and help to the best of our abilities.

If you enjoyed this interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, the ability for you to pick what I review next and full access to my Patreon exclusive game reviews. Check it out!

Interview With Narrator/Director George Popov: Sideworld Terrors Of The Sea

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview director George Popov to talk about his new film Sideworld Terrors Of The Sea, which focuses on creepy nautical urban legends and tales of sea monsters. In this interview we discuss coastal folk songs, exploration and tricky tides.  I hope you enjoy.

Q: Why Focus On The Sea This Time Around

GP: We were discussing a vast array of potential topics for future sideworld films even before “Forests” was finished and always one of the main examples for a topic that we were all excited about was the sea legends. It gave you a scope in which you can show potential directions for where the series can go and retain its particular style while enrich the palette with every single one. And also out of all other options we had, it felt like the right continuation from the previous one. They have a thematic relation when you’re talking about these biomes, these vast areas of the world that we have been so closely connected to throughout history.

Q: What Inspired This Sequel?

GP: I really wanted to give a good idea of how varied and diverse our relationship with the sea is, and there are stories and sea legends and horror myths that really capture the vast difference between how gigantic and operatic they can be in some examples and then how emotional and personal they can get in others. So the inspirations for me came from all different angles including reading old sea stories when I was a kid all the way up to, of course, watching many films and frankly a lot of marine art. Some fine examples of which made it into the film in a very beautiful way, which I’m very happy about. Also for a few months my playlist was nothing but coastal folk songs and old sea shanties.

Q: What Is The Strange And Unsettling Allure To People And How Would You Describe The Relationship Between Humanity And The Sea?

 GP:In lots of ways that’s the main question we try to tackle in the film. No matter which section we’ll be working on or which story we’ll be telling, the question of our relationship with the sea in its complexity and its duality, would just keep coming up. Throughout history, the ocean has been one of the main frontiers for humanity to explore and the ocean floor today is the final frontier for us, maybe alongside Antarctica, that we have left on this planet. The mystery, the adventure and the danger add to this strange allure we have for it, and until we completely tame and explore all of it, I don’t think that sensation is going away. And I kind of hope we never get to that stage, because I think it will be really sad if the ocean loses all mystery and just turns into another park or backyard for us.

Q: What Do You Think Is Waiting For Us At The Bottom Of The Sea?

GP: I think it is an abundance of new knowledge. There is a lot on the ocean floor that we still know nothing about. Almost every month it feels like, there is a discovery of a new funny looking invertebrate or something else thriving in conditions previously thought very difficult to sustain life. Also in recent times we’ve discovered a lot more about creatures growing to sizes, previously thought to be exclusively reserved for tall tales, like in the case with the Colossal Squid. And if you watch “Terrors of the Sea” we do bring up the question of what else might be there that’s not just pure fantasy.

Q: What Was The First Nautical Ghost Story, Legend Or Tall Tale That You Heard?

GP: I have to think about it. Most likely the literal first one I do not remember but I do remember being very young when I read a lot of the Sinbad tales and remember them being amazing. They captured my imagination with all these adventures on the ocean with mythical creatures and being epic fairy tales. Yeah, so that will have to be it but I do recall being aware of the Odyssey at a very young age so that also could be it.

Q: Do You Have Any Funny Stories From Production?

 GP: When you travel around the country to film all these amazing places on our schedule, it’s almost difficult not to have a single day go by without something kind of wacky happening. So yeah, I guess there was, it was funny but also a little bit worrisome, there was this time when we were filming this colony of clams on a cliff side. We did know that the tide was coming in because it was in our schedule, you had to know where the where the tide is at that time of day and how much time we have and everything. But they don’t tell you how amazingly quick that happens, so it can be a problem if you get lost in your shots. And at some point as we were standing on these rocks, thinking that we’re quite a way from the sea with our backs turned towards it. At some point I just fell this water washing my ankles and I turned around. What used to be rocks and a vast beach now was nothing but the ocean and so we had to very quickly evacuate the equipment and ourselves. Trying to navigate what has now become islands that were shrinking very quickly and the whole carpet of sharp clam shells as well in our way. So yeah, that was that was pretty exciting.

Q: What Location Will You Focus On Next If There Is A Third Sideworld Film?

GP: I can’t say much at this point but what I can say is that there will be a third Sideworld, the whole team is very excited about it and we’re working on it as we speak.

Q: Any Words Of Wisdom For Aspiring Filmmaker, Gleamed Whilst Making This Film?

GP:This is the first sequel I’ve ever done and first for Rubicon Films as well as whole, so don’t know yet so I don’t know how much wisdom any of this carries, but I did find the whole experience a lot more liberating than I thought. I think it’s normal for filmmakers to feel a bit constrained when you make something that has to fit as part of a series. If you don’t feel that constraint, you probably don’t worry about your creativity in the first place. Which is a problem. But at the same time the balance of trying to push the boundaries a bit while giving that familiarity is really intriguing. And that every new film gets the opportunity to shine in its own unique way. Are they all going to be all equally successful? Of course not, but by changing the recipe ever so slightly every time you learn a lot more about our audience and about yourself as a filmmaker.

If you would like to check out Sideworld: Terrors of The Sea for yourself then it is available to rent and buy right now on Amazon Prime Video

If you enjoyed this interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, the ability for you to pick what I review next and full access to my Patreon exclusive game reviews. Check it out!

Interview With Director George Popov: Sideworld, Haunted Forests Of England

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview director George Popov about his new film Sideworld: Haunted Forests Of England which serves as a tour around some of the most haunted forests in England, wherein you learn about the forests’ past and supposed supernatural visitors. In this interview we discuss spooks, spectres, and English forests.  I hope you enjoy.  

Q: What made you want to make this film?

GP: Folkloric tales and legends have always been an inspiration for me and a lot of the narrative projects I’ve been wanting to make and we’ve developed so far, go hand in hand with an overall interest in any kind of dark mythology. At the same time, I’ve always been interested in paranormal or unusual cases and that, alongside opening your imagination for storytelling, are also just really curious from a factual perspective. And not necessarily from the point of view of putting a cap on what’s actually true or not, because that can be very difficult to identify and it can be very procedural. (And there is plenty of documentaries that already do that.) For me, the main interest is combining those perspectives and conveying a strong atmosphere to experience horror myths and legends that the viewer might not be necessarily familiar with. And I think that applies not just for “Haunted forests of England”, but for our intention for the SIDEWORLD series in general.

Q: What was your message?

GP: When it comes to the stories in the documentary, I wouldn’t say we had a desire to necessarily convey a strong subjective point of view. In fact, Jonathan and me were very careful to be both a Mulder and a Scully (or a believer and a sceptic for the non-X-Files-fans out there). The thematic relevance of forests as a setting for all these cases is where we try to make a stronger unifying point. Particularly the human predisposition to use the forest as a veil for any activity that is supposed to remain hidden.

Q: Why did you decide on documentary for your next project?

GP: A lot of the stories that we tackle in these documentary films are ones that I’d love to explore as a narrative feature. However that would also mean that I’d need to book off the next 250 years and not make anything else. And also stretching them into a longer more demanding narrative might not be the best thing for them. The SIDEWORLD format seemed best. In the way that it’s a documentary series of feature films that explore different horror legends under a unifying theme

Q: Have you had any creepy experiences in forests before?

GP: Not anything that would make it in a documentary like this, and nothing that I’d dare to confirm as extraordinary. Although I’ll be lying if I say we didn’t experience a particular feeling especially in some sites in Epping Forest in relation to the Suicide Pond story. But I’d attribute that to preconceived notions and auto-suggestion. I prefer it that way.

Q: There is something quite primordial about forests, is there something about returning to nature that has people questioning their humanity?

GP: I think nature’s role in our development has always been a catalyst for debates and existential crisis. And I think that’s only getting more relevant the more we progress. The tug of war between nature and technology is at the core of many questions of what it means to be human. I don’t know but I personally don’t think there is much future for us if we continue to see them as two things at odds with each other.

Q: Who were your influences on this project?

GP: I don’t know. I think it would have been a much easier question if I was taking about my narrative projects. Probably because I feel still very new to this. A lot of people would say Ken Burns or something when it comes to the format. But honestly I think it’s closer to trying to recreate the feeling I had as a kid going through storybooks full of horror fairytales and factual ones trying to solve the mysteries of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. It must be a combination of all that.

 Q: What is your favourite horror film set in the woods/forest?

GP: Off the top of my head: The Blair Witch Project, Antichrist and Evil Dead 2. I know, probably weird given how different from each other they are. I guess that’s why they came to mind. They all capture what makes forests so intriguing and terrifying in extremely unique ways.

Q: Future plans?

GP: We’re in post-production of our second Sideworld documentary, which I’m very excited to share with everyone very soon. This time the theme is sea-related horror myths and legends. The depth and variety of stories and visuals is even greater I think. We’re also working on a couple of our next bigger narrative projects. We’ve been working with some great producers recently and I’m really excited to update everyone on my next narrative feature in the next few months. In the meantime we have more Sideworld filming to do, and while dealing with the elements can be challenging on those shoots, nothing beats experiencing those places first hand, so I always look forward to it.

Q: Any words for aspiring filmmaker?

GP: Probably I’d encourage aspiring filmmakers to ask themselves how they and everyone around them consume films these days and be up to date with the changes that are occurring in the industry, because there is a lot of opportunity in that. The filmmaking community has become a lot more social recently and there’s plenty of chances for filmmakers to share useful knowledge with each other. Read articles, listen to podcasts, go to festivals. And listen, I might not be able to answer every email, but if you buy me or another director a beer, we’d usually answer your questions. We do love to talk…a lot.

If you would like to check out Sideworld: Haunted Forests Of England the film can be found on Amazon Prime, Google Play, and if you’re from the US on TubiTV.

If you enjoyed this interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, the ability for you to pick what I review next and full access to my Patreon exclusive game reviews. Check it out!

Interview With Writer/Director/ Editor Hunter ‘Bueller’ Farris: Found Footage Dracula.

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview writer/director Hunter ‘Buller’ Farris, about his new film Found Footage Dracula which serves as a reimagining of the classic tale of Dracula. In this interview we discuss Bram Stoker, The League Of Extradentary Gentlemen and the benefits to shooting films in the found footage style. I hope you enjoy.  

Q: What made you want to make this film?

HF: Bram Stoker’s novel was written in a series of letters, journal entries, newspaper clippings, scientific writings, and half-a-dozen other formats, so I felt like found footage was the only way to capture the experience of what it feels like to read the original novel.

Q: What was the message you wanted to get across?

HF: I wanted to help audiences understand what it feels like to be an audience member in 1897, so this film could be an empathy machine and so this film could help us understand that our modern perspective is not the only perspective.

Q: What is your favourite vampire film?

HF: I’m going to be honest, I love the aesthetic of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003). The whole film is this wonderfully rule-of-cool dieselpunk dream.

 Q: Why re-do Dracula?

HF: A lot of versions I’ve seen of Dracula take out some of my favourite parts of the novel, like Jonathan being manipulated by Castle Dracula, the voyage of the Demeter, and the character of Quincey P. Morris. So I wanted to put those parts back in. Also, no one has ever done Found Footage Dracula, and I feel like it’s the best way to capture the experience of what it’s like to read the original novel.

 Q: What benefits do you find to shooting in the found footage style?

HF: Found footage is incredibly cheap, so we could pay all the cast and crew fairly for less than $2000 because you only need 1 or 2 people on set at a time. When your set doesn’t need fancy lighting, or a separate sound source, or PAs, or grips, or a DIT, you can film from anywhere in the world. So I was able to work with people I would never get to work with.

 Q: What do you think your film contributes to the wider found footage genre?

HF: Most epistolary novels are exclusively letters. Bram Stoker’s novel expands that format to everything from invoices to journal entries, to a suicide note! To capture that feeling, I wanted to expand past the traditional form of found footage and use a dozen different sources of videos, like TikTok, Snapchat, podcasts, and even a doorcam!

 Q: Any funny on set stories?

HF: Honestly, I can’t think of much that was funny. Weird? Yes. Comfortable? Yes. But not much funny.

Q: Future plans?

HF: We’re expanding to a cinematic universe, including Jekyll & Hyde as a social media screen movie, Dorian Grey as a juxtaposition of social media and private video, and The Phantom of the Opera as a fictional Making-Of documentary. And eventually, all of those will crossover, inspired by The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

If you enjoyed this interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, the ability for you to pick what I review next and full access to my Patreon exclusive game reviews. Check it out!

Interview With Director/Editor Jacob Melling and Actor/Writer Amy Cotter: Fish Out Of Water

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview editor/director Jacob Melling and actor/writer Amy Cotter about their new film Fish Out Of Water, which tells the tale of an anxious person, played by Cotter, trying to navigate the hellishly social world of the adult.           In this interview we discuss issues of anxiety, poetry and early morning bathing  . I hope you enjoy.  

Q: What made you want to make this film?

JM: Post pandemic I was looking to do a low budget Independent film that really pushed myself creatively whilst having fun and working some creative like minded people. I had been wanting to work with my good Amy since previously working on a short film with her. She is a very talented poet and had sent me this poem called ‘Fish out of Water’ and reading it for the first time I found it so relatable, funny and truthful and I immediately knew it would be fantastic as a short film.

Q: Why choose to feature poetry so heavily?

AC: I wanted to make a film using a process and form I’d not tried before, with a written poem as stimulus and developing the film from there. We wanted to experiment with comedy and rhythm usually reserved for performance poetry and see if it would work. I was especially keen to work with a musician to mainly improvise in the studio, discovering Fish’s thoughts in music and culminating in a thoughtful and beautiful sound track. It was important to us to collaborate with a brilliant team of creatives to bring the characters and aspects of Fish’s world and worries to life. To the voice of her Friend to the credit song- each aspect as important as each other.

Q: The ocean serves as an apt metaphor, however, what inspired that visual element?

AC: We wanted to portray a calming dreamlike alternative world that contrasted to the dreary domestic anxiety of Fish’s reality. The ocean serves as Fish’s go-to ‘happy place’, where she can keep her head above water.

Q: What was the message of this film?

AC: I think there are any number of  messages in the film, hopefully it speaks to whichever part of the viewer that needs soothing. I think it’s an intimate insight into social anxiety and shines a light on the domestic demons we face, sometimes on a daily basis. I also hope it’s an entertaining comfort to a generation unsettled by our growing strains and stresses.

Q: Do you have any funny on-set stories?

JM & AC: During the bath scenes there was a local festival going on so we had to keep restarting the dunking in and out of the bath. A lot of water was swallowed. It was a very joyful summer soundtrack to our luke warm morning of 4 hours in the bath- and VERY hard not to sing along to Sister Sledge.

Q: What was your favourite moment from production?

AC: My favourite part of production was probably getting into the studio to do the ADR and music. Playing the full film to our composer and seeing him improvise to it was magical! A culmination of everyones hard work right there, a very special moment seeing that happen. Also sighing and scoffing into a microphone for 10 minutes for the foley sounds is always fun!

Q: Future projects?

AC: We might develop the next part of Fish’s story, using everything we have learnt about merging poetry and filmmaking. I’d like to make more poetry shorts, different poets, different stories, and experimenting with this style of storytelling, so we are always on the look out for creatives and collaborators to work with!

Q: Do you have any advice for upcoming filmmakers?

JM & AC: If you have even a half formed idea that you want to develop, approach some like-minded dreamers, get a little team together and make it happen. We all need support and I’m so grateful that our tiny team got behind the poem and made it happen.

Keep making films! Keep creating. Keep pushing yourself. I’m nowhere near where I want to be as a filmmaker, but each film I make I learn from and improve. Each experience I also go on to make so many amazing connections and creative relationships just like I have with Amy and the rest of the team working on ‘Fish’.

If you enjoyed this interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, the ability for you to pick what I review next and full access to my Patreon exclusive game reviews. Check it out!

Interview With Editor/Director Oliver Simonsen: The Absurd, Surreal, Metaphyiscal and Fractured Destiny Of Cerebus The Aardvark

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview editor/director Oliver Simonsen about his new film The Absurd, Surreal Metaphysical and Fractured Destiny of Cerebus The Aardvark, which features a self-reflective Aardvark going on a journey of self-discovery whilst also conducting a heist. We discuss issues of CGI animation and deep humanist philosophy

I hope you enjoy.  

Q: Why did you want to make this film? 

A: I’ve been reading Cerebus from the start when i was young:). Having said that, I would probably have done a film of my own lesser known comic book character Captain Zap if I thought it would gain traction…with a nobudget CGI feature animated film the hardest thing is getting people interested in working on it. Cerebus had laid the foundation and proven its appeal. If the Cerebus film hadn’t generated enthusiasm with CGI artists from the start it wouldn’t have happened. It couldn’t have. Another thing is that CGI is a field that has so many specialized skillsets so you can’t plan when you have people with those certain skillsets when needed…when they have a window you have to work with it. The pipeline is one of nimbleness you could say:)

Q: Did you have a message you wanted get across? 

A: Wikipedia says the absurdist philosopher Albert Camus stated that individuals should embrace the absurd condition of human existence. 

Britannica says Surrealism was a means of reuniting conscious and unconscious realms of experience so completely that the world of dream and fantasy would be joined to the everyday rational world in “an absolute reality, a surreality.”

Anyway, if anything it is maybe that even the smallest choices could have a huge impact. Especially if you are a talking aardvark?:)

OK, yes there is more:). I know some might be upset that it’s a liberal movie, but that’s what Cerebus was back then.

Q: How did you find the process of adapting this from the comic book source material?

A: Ideally I would have done the script adaptation and storyboard and then tried to get the project off the ground. Considering it was a longshot that this could even happen, that just wouldn’t make sense. Besides I’ve also seen so many projects with beautiful concept art and pitches that never go anywhere.  A CGI no budget feature has never been done – more people have been on the moon you could say:). Guinness here we come!:) We were like a handful of people at first and had animators and character modellers, but no riggers or environment modelers if I remember correctly…anyway, luckily Dave Sim, the creator of the comic, had done a lot of heavy lifting just by virtue of doing the comic. The idea was to have the movie be the first issue and so we started on the main scenes of that issue while I started expanding on it…whereas i soon got stumped trying to stretch what is almost a Looney Tunes cartoon in length into a full feature. I was a thinking it could have kind of a groundhog day theme of Cerebus just always failing in getting the gold in one adventure after another…like in the comic. And then I remembered issue 196 that explained if Cerebus hadn’t traded his Northern Barbarian Warrior helmet for a Merchant vest way back in issue 4 he wouldn’t have fractured his destiny – a seemingly small event that catapulted and informed the rest of the series run. So it kinda fell into place – as so much did. So in the end the film is the early issues 1,4, 5 and 13 seen through the revelation in issue 196.

Q: What went into the animation process for this film, how did you achieve it?

A: We voted on which software to use. My vote lost and we went with Maya which i didn’t know how to use at the time. It is the most popular software so that probably helped with artists joining the team. Though even so we were all using different year models/editions of the same software which still caused a lot of issues. Those who didn’t have Maya we also still tried to find ways to work with. In some cases those softwares would get discontinued. Luckily Maya stuck around:). We rendered mostly with Mental Ray which came with Maya at the time, but that actually did get discontinued and we could then not upgrade our software or we’d lose it – was really hard, nearly impossible, to work with those who had newer editions of Maya at that point. Mental Ray is beautiful but slow – especially compared with some of the amazing renderers they have now. Now you have things render in realtime, meaning no render time at all, as before you would take hours if not days to render 24 images that make up a second of screentime. So much time, years, could have been saved if we had what they have now. A thought was to transfer everything, but almost every scene is separate. And you know all kinds of problems would arise because nothing is ever glitch free. We figured it would probably be years’ worth of additional work to do so.

Q: What is your favourite moment from the film?

A: I still go around quoting Necross exclaiming  “…and then!” lol. Eh, ironically of course:).

Q: Any funny stories from production?

A: The production was a true joy – so much fun. Such an enjoyable experience and feel blessed i got to have it. I think that sentiment was shared by most – it kinda had to be for people to want to be there. Made some good friends, too. (Didn’t know any of them beforehand, I might add). I know some people might think that with the film taking so long, and yes sometimes I’d joke it’s like watching paint dry, but there are so many little victories along the way and such a great vibe that I really loved every minute of it. 

Q: How do you feel your films differs from other animated offerings?

A: While needless to say it is rough around the edges I do think it works on its own terms and has something to offer that others don’t. I come from the indie self-publishing comix scene and that “things are rough around the edges” is not only a given it’s embraced. No one would point out how the drawings aren’t John Buscema level. Polish is almost a dirty word:). You seek out those comics for different qualities then you would something by the big corporations. So far there is no CGI equivalent of the indie comics scenes or even of say John Cassavetes whose debut “Shadows” started indie film making. Or Henry Jaglom, one of the most independent of independent filmmakers. Or Peter Jackson’s debut “Bad Taste” – so different from “LOTR”:). And yet even these had higher budgets than our film. The CGI movie Hoodwinked, from like 20 years ago, is often referred to as having a shoestring budget, but still cost $8 million. (Even when not adjusted for inflation that is likely more money than any of us will ever see in our lifetimes).

Our film really did have zero budget – way less than self-publishing my 90s indie comic Captain Zap:). No art supplies, printing or major shipping needed. 

And of course with today’s tech/web we have more comics and film than ever. And I imagine indie CGI feature length films are going to become much more frequent too. Hopefully we have a little place in history as pioneers in that regard:).

Ultimately, we tried not to be a watered down version of what others already do so brilliantly – it’s mind blowingly epic what is done these days. And there’s so much of it. We figure anybody taking the time seeking out no budget/microbudget/low budget animation would be doing so looking for something a bit different. Something that hits a different tone, has a different feel than what others do. Hopefully there is enough likeminded peeps out there to sustain that though i don’t think any of us are holding our breath that we are going to see any money to speak of. Just overjoyed we got this far. I’d like to say I’m super grateful to Dave Sim, our Distributor and the channels who took a chance on us for making our dream come true. 

Q: Future plans?

A: I hope someone will give me an actual budget to make a movie:). If not keep drawing comics – maybe make a movie with my phone or something? 

Q: What advice would you give to any future filmmakers reading this? 

A: I’m so envious of future filmmakers who have all this technology at their fingertips from a young age. You can be practical and follow your dreams at the same time – you don’t have to break the bank. 

Q: What will people get out of your film?

A: It is from top to bottom in character, story and execution about being an outsider and not trying to fit in. There’s room for something unusual once in a while. To not try to belong and be part of a group at all costs. Or maybe we should? lol. It does want you to think about it and have some fun with it, too:). So while we hoped to make a movie that is breezy and quirky – it’s meant to have substance, mind games and levels.

If you would like to check this film out for yourself it is on Plex and Tubi now

If you enjoyed this interview, then please head over to my Patreon to support me, I offer personalized shoutouts, the ability for you to pick what I review next and full access to my Patreon exclusive game reviews. Check it out!