Posts tagged Sarah Crowther

Interview: Dom Brunt Before Dawn

Before Dawn is a zombie film with a heart. A heart and a brain. Instead of focusing solely on the genre staple of consuming hearts and brains, the husband and wife filmmaking team of Dominic Brunt and Joanne Mitchell entwine their end of the world scenario with that of the end of a relationship. The result is a film which blends human drama with the brutal and shocking violence of the undead, a rare and refreshing feat in an over-saturated genre. Sarah Crowther sat down with the film’s director, producer and actor, Dominic Brunt, to discuss zombie allegories, relationship dramas and the journey from Emmerdale to apocalypse. (Be prepared for a spoiler or two…)

 

Dominic Brunt - director of Before Dawn

Dominic Brunt – director of Before Dawn

Sarah Crowther: Before Dawn is unusual for a zombie film in that it is a cross between a relationship drama and a horror film. How did you come up with this concept & is it true that it was born of an argument between you and your wife, actress Joanne Mitchell (who plays your onscreen wife Meg)?

Dominic Brunt: Yes. Jo has developed other short films and stories and she’s a huge fan of European cinema, which I am too to some degree, but really I’m a big fan of horror. Because we run Leeds Zombie Film Festival I watch tonnes and tonnes of zombie films…more than any human being should, and I think out of every five zombie films you might catch a good one. You have to watch a lot of awful stuff. And Jo just kept walking past tutting, or she’d watch a little bit and walk away. She said ‘you’re watching the same film over and over again’. And in the end she just got on my nerves, so I said ‘well what would you do then?’ She said that in the zombie films you watch ‘why is there no character development?’ It’s all about the effect. You don’t feel anything for these people. So what if this happened to a real couple like we are, with our differences? What if you set that up? And I said I couldn’t see horror audiences sitting through that set-up. But when you look into it I think especially horror audiences are the most open, and I think they’re the most patient people in the world. I think the reason they like horror is not just about liking horror, but they like all films that push boundaries.

I think that’s very true.

So we decided that we had that 25 minutes grace that you get in any film where you sit and you will be given information, but we didn’t want to leave it too far after that to give the audience what they’re asking for and what they’re waiting for. Especially if you’re selling yourself as a zombie film. So we decided that in that 25 minutes we weren’t going to let it go too long without a reminder to people. So we’ve got screaming in the background, blood on the front of a car, we’ve got something flashing past the camera. Every five minutes there’s something that comes along to remind the horror person that it’s OK, it’s coming. But then we wanted the story and the twist within the story to be nothing to do with the zombies that come in the second act. We wanted that story to stand on its own, so if the zombies never arrived it would be a pretty decent (in our opinion) European-style relationship film. It was all to be an allegory of the disintegration of a relationship set against the disintegration of society. And also we wanted it to be as British as we possibly could be. You can have your British story and have the police or the army showing up halfway through, but the fact is I live in Hebden Bridge and I’ve never seen a gun here. We didn’t want guns and actors showing up halfway through in badly-fitting uniforms, we wanted whatever was to hand. We’ve got sheds full of farm stuff round here. We wanted to see what would happen if a relatively unfit person was to fight a zombie that was never going to stop until you destroyed the head. So hence the introduction to the second half where we’ve asked people to wait that long then we go there you are, there’s your zombies!

And you certainly give them intense zombies. When Meg’s out running and she meets the first zombie that’s a really intense scene, and then the fight in the garage is brutal.

Yeah, we wanted that five or ten minutes to be a set piece that wouldn’t stop. We spent two days doing that locked up in a garage. Such good fun I can’t tell you!

And you had a fight expert didn’t you?

Yeah, because we were so low budget we had a stuntman and rather than him tell the actors what they’re doing and how they fight, he knew how to fight, so we said you dress up as a zombie. And he did all the movement classes, so he was there throughout. He knew what he was doing.

The way he moves in that scene is frightening. It’s just relentless.

We didn’t want to get mates in to be zombies because you can see the smirks, you can see the eyes flitting, there’s no concentration. And we didn’t want arms stretched out, you know. We had the whole thing that it was a virus that had got into the body pushed from the middle out. So there’s blood coming from the ears, mouth, down below and everything, so when you see the bed and it’s just covered, the virus has pushed everything out leaving a husk for it for it to grow its own innards and that’s what flies at everybody.

So everything that was that person is out. There’s nothing left of them.

Absolutely. There’s no brain at all. It’s just a furious husk that needs to keep going and replicate by filling in blood and carrying on. Which is what we do as a species, we’re either parasites or we reproduce. So everybody that was a zombie had to spend a day at the gym going through the background of the pathogens that they were being filled with and get the movement classes. There’s a little bit of Parkinson’s Disease, and a little bit of the disease from the film Awakenings so they could stand there for five days in a coma-like state. Some of them would stand there for 100 days until they collapse and rot into the ground, but as soon as there’s an impetus or some sort of stimulus that walks past, then that’s it and they won’t stop until they’ve passed their gene on and it’s spread.

So you had a zombie school. That’s very popular on zombie films.

Well we had to because we just didn’t want crap zombies. It only takes one bad zombie to walk past the camera and it ruins it. It was supposed to be very po-faced and serious and we took ourselves very seriously, even though there’s a couple of funny lines in between to do with the relationship. In the cellar when she’s turned we had a bit where he cleans her and gives her a kiss but once we’d got the make-up on we just thought there’s no way. We’d get the biggest laugh in the world. If you tried to kiss that…you just wouldn’t. So things changed when we saw the harshness of the make-up as well.

I thought your zombies worked well. Very harsh. Again it’s goes back to it being very drama-driven.

Well whether the zombies were there or not, (it didn’t matter whether it was going to be werewolves, or vampires, or zombies), it’s what effects that relationship and what launches him forward to redeem himself within that relationship. He thinks he’s lost her and then there’s a chink of hope with the arrival of the zombies that he could actually get her back. It was nice to explore that little scenario. But it couldn’t have not been zombies as I’m a zombie fan!

Absolutely! you’ve run Leeds Zombie Film Festival since 2007, but I know that Jo is significantly less of a fan. You must have come at the story from very different angles?

It just drove me mad that she looked down on zombie films for whatever reason and I think zombie films are chase films. This was what I’m happy with them being. Initially it was all hypothetical and it was never going to happen, so Jo had the first half of the film and I had the second half. And we said what if this was the set-up? So I said ‘alright but it’s got to follow this formula at the end’. You’ve got to fulfill this criteria if it’s a zombie film. Because it was hypothetical we happily kept messing with it and playing with it over the months. Then we started writing it down and we got the outline of 36 scenes done in order. We’d never written a screenplay before so that’s why we got our friend Mark Illis to write a screenplay to our structure. We knew exactly what we wanted but we just didn’t know how to put one together.

You know him from Emmerdale [popular UK television soap opera]? He’s a scriptwriter.

He’s a scriptwriter but he’s never done a screenplay before. He’s done plays and novels and all sorts.

And he’d never done horror before. So that’s another interesting challenge.

It was two people out of the three that had never done horror before!

That’s what made it the film that it is. It’s rare to see anyone trying to match up the horror and relationship drama genres as you have.

Hopefully yeah.

Although as we’ve talked about before there was Colin and Harold’s Going Stiff. I think they’ve got a symmetry with your film.

They’re fantastic.

How have the festival audiences responded and how have they engaged with that juxtaposition?

We’ve really enjoyed the festivals. We wanted to get it into a festival or a festival or two. Frightfest took it on, and then I think because Frightfest screened us a lot of other places took us seriously. So we kind of got a choice of festivals and we just chose the ones we wanted really, which was brilliant. The audiences have been great. We’ve got people that have really got it. And some people have read into it things that aren’t even there. People have said the fact that she’s an exercise fanatic and that you’re an alcoholic you’re obviously loosing yourselves, you’re becoming zombies in your own terms. And you’re already dead and you’re already addicted to this or that…and you think right I’m having that for the next interview…So people have seen it as a far more intelligent piece than it actually is you know. We always intended it to have many layers but not as many as people have seen.

I think it has. I was interested in the ending where both characters have turned and you look at each other and just scream. I read it as a comment on the futility of relationships where couples are just at each other constantly. They’ve turned into zombies and they’re still arguing…

There is that and there’s also another side. During the film we tried to keep it so that when they were talking they never looked at each other, they never actually made contact at all. They’d make fleeting eye contact and that was it and they couldn’t meet in the middle. They did love each other, and he’s not such a wanker… The fact that he takes her there isn’t to score points. The fact is that he only knows this one house. We tried to make it work that you were quite for him and that she was this quite efficacious  driven person, Then you realise he’s done something that he shouldn’t have, so then you’re on her side. We wanted your allegiances to swap. You have to remember that human beings are bad some times. You can’t have the angel and the baddie, life just doesn’t work like that. So that was the thing, that in the end they actually have eye contact and they’re glaring at each other.

So that ending was the first real contact that they’d had and they were zombies.

And they had to scream at each other because they’d been bickering the whole way through. It’s like Jo said if they hadn’t have turned into zombies you’d have had to end the film with this massive sex session – just to get it over with.

That would be a whole different film – and you’d be showing it at some very different festivals I think.

Yeah! So there was that release of tension for both of them to just flash up like that. And the fact that it came from a kiss as well, which wasn’t reciprocated. She comes back from the run and he’s looking after her and he gives her a hug but then he steals a kiss, which we flash back to. That’s how he catches it.

So, did making the film resolve your initial argument?

I saw her point and I think she saw mine. She watches a lot more horror now but I have to recommend certain ones. She wouldn’t have gone to Frightfest before, so she watched loads of films that she wouldn’t normally see and she really got into them. I think she’s much more comfortable now. But I’m glad she wasn’t then as she wrote the story of the film from the point of view of a non-horror fan which you wouldn’t normally see, which was great.

If you’d both been coming at it from the same angle you wouldn’t have achieved the same balance.

And also there’s the kind of cottage in the woods angle and all the stereotypes that come with it. She didn’t write any of that. I’d have ended up sticking them in!

How long did the development process take?

From our initial conversation to having the script written was about six months. Mark wrote the script and then six months after that we managed to get backing. I knew Marc Price and he had an idea about a short film which we’ve since done. And he said ‘don’t do a short film, make your film a feature’. And we said ‘we can’t because we don’t have backing’. And he asked how much backing we’d got, and so from Left Films and somewhere else they said we can get you this much. And I said ‘that’s enough to make a short film’. But he said ‘no, from a short film that’ll take you five or six days you need people for seven days more. Just a few days more and you’ve got feature.’ His view is that a short film is a waste of a feature. When you’ve got all your cameras and people there just get everybody to stay a bit longer.

How long did you shoot for?

Fifteen days. I finished Emmerdale on the Friday and then we started on the Saturday morning. We finished shooting on the Sunday night at 10’clock and I was back at work on Emmerdale on the Monday morning, so I was exhausted. But a change is as good as a rest.

When did you shoot?

It was Summer last year– the end of May, beginning of June [2011].

You filmed here in Hebden Bridge (West Yorkshire) where we both live.

We were down in the town, but we were mainly up on the tops, in Midgley and the Craggs. The cottage is up in the Craggs on its own off the road to Burnley. We were looking around for a place that was right for ages and I just said ‘what about that house on the way to Burnley?’

And did you go and knock on?!BeforeDawn04

I did yeah. I knocked on the door one Sunday. I drove up and this guy flew out of the door saying ‘what do you want?’ So I went ‘Oh, hiya, we spotted your house a while ago…’ and I was trying to explain to him and he’s a big chap. Adrian he’s called. And he went ‘Paddy from Emmerdale!’ So I kind of relaxed then – I knew I wasn’t going to get battered or shot or anything. They were absolutely brilliant. They couldn’t have been better. We used their house as dressing rooms and hung around there. There were cranes around left right and centre. The cellar is somewhere else and for the barn we filmed the inside of a garage in Halifax. We just matched it all together.

So it was a tight shoot?

A really tight shoot. We had one day off which was the Saturday. But then the day we were meant to do the crane shot it was 45 mile an hour winds on the moors so we couldn’t do it, so we ended up shooting on the Saturday instead. We had no days off in the end. They were harsh days. It was very late at night some nights and then we were starting again at eight in the morning. We just thought, we’ll get going and keep going. As long as everybody was fed and watered and everybody got the credit then that was it. It’s having that socialist model of the workers owning the means of production. I can direct and I can edit, the cameraman can do the cameras and he can clean really well, the stuntman knows how to cook… So we all did different things and we were all doing two or three different things.

How many of you were there?

Ten altogether. Maybe less some days.

Do you think it’s important with a low budget film to keep a really tight cast and crew?

I do yeah. I think the more people there are the more organising there is. But we scheduled it really well. We got the scheduler from Emmerdale to schedule it, so we knew that if we didn’t go too far from the schedule we would be OK.

Do you think that your background on Emmerdale opened a lot of doors for you on the production?

Yes, and also because I’m on the set of Emmerdale every day and it’s quite quick, there’s no indulgence. It’s very much ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’, so getting the shot is crucial. It worked out knowing that we’ve got an hour for that and maybe three hours for a complicated bit. I see it every day.

So you’ve absorbed a lot and taken it in, and then been able to use it in your film.

Yeah. You see people getting behind schedule and then trying to shoot emotional scenes at the end of the day when actors are exhausted, and I just thought I’m not going to do it.

Is it true that you asked two other people to direct before you decided to do it yourself as they were charging too much money?

Yeah. I won’t tell you who they are. But Marc Price would have done it for free because he just wants to join in and make films. But he said ‘you can do it yourself’. We’d sit and watch films and talk about shots and camera angles and things like that. He said ‘I’ve spoken to you so I know you know how to do it’.

To have the faith of someone that’s made a film that’s done well must have given you a good boost.

I wanted to watch him direct it and then learn from him for the next film which maybe then I could direct. But he said ‘no, no, do it’. It was great.

Did you have any ambitions to direct before?

I did. But I didn’t really have the…I knew ideas. I knew what I wanted for certain scenes, I knew how I wanted to use the crane and some of the handheld shots. But even now watching it I’d shoot everything differently. It’d be a stiller, more considered film, but then it wouldn’t be what it is. But I like Romero’s editing where he uses twice as many chops as everybody else. I think it keeps still scenes busy and action scenes choppy and I liked it, so I kind of copied from his editing style. I like the technical side because I like to learn from it as an actor. Usually when the director’s telling you something it’s because they’ve got something specific in mind.

Would you do it again?

I wouldn’t do acting and directing at the same time. I want to carry on with Emmerdale for now. I still love it after 15 years and I still feel challenged by it.

But you can do your side projects as well?

I’d really like to carry on doing that. Maybe one every two or three years because it takes three years I think, from conception to finishing it off. And also I was editing it myself. I wouldn’t produce, act and direct again. It’s too much for one person. It’s left me exhausted. Even in post production it’s your responsibility. Even now I’m still getting the sound right. You kind of feel I really want people to see it and I’m really proud of it, but you kind of feel like handing it over…there you are…

Just to go back to Hebden Bridge, a lot of the cast and crew are Hebden Bridge based and I imagine that that was budget-driven, but were there other benefits in working locally?

Yes, because you could walk into the local shop and ask to film, and because they knew you they’d say if you can come in at 7 o’clock on Sunday and come in when we’re closed then they’d open up early for you to do it. We were using people’s side roads and farms, and you could just ask. People seemed really behind it. We do get quite a lot of film crews round here.

We do, but we’ve never had a zombie film as far as I know.

That’s right. There are angles everywhere round Hebden Bridge. It’s all built on top of each other in the town. And once you get above that you can point the camera anywhere and it just looks amazing. We were struggling to use up all our cutaway shots. Because it’s a piece mainly between two people, you can’t cut from people to the same two people and show the passage of time, so we had to have cutaways and be clever about them. You couldn’t repeat drama scene, countryside, drama scene, countryside. So we had to vary how we did it.

But we shot so much we kept saying we’ve got to get that in. We had a shot of the valley and as the crane came up a big shadow went across the valley and somebody said ‘how did you CGI that’ because it looked like a big hand came in and pulled them in. And then we had another looking at the clouds and the hillside and the clouds suddenly shifted and that’s the shot we used from day to night because it just cut out the green and went to black. It was all low resolution anyway, but it looked like we treated it, but we didn’t. We could point the camera anywhere and it made it look big and expansive. It was just beautiful.

One cast member who’s not as local, is Nicky Evans from Shameless and Emmerdale. He’s fantastic as Stephen.

Oh yeah. Well three quarters of the way through the film the characters have to get the information of what’s gone on. There has to be an explanation for them move to on for the last act where Alex redeems himself. But he doesn’t know how to redeem himself because he doesn’t know what’s been going on. The tellies and radios are down (which meant that we didn’t have to have that awful thing of TV reporters saying ‘in the background you can see people having their faces eaten off’). We just thought right – radios, phones, telly, off. You have to get rid of them. Nowadays people would just go on their phones and they’d hear everything from there. You’ve got to deal with it and it’s got to be part of the drama, so that’s how we worked out that he’d taken her phone. Rather than ignore it you have to embrace it. He took the phone because he’s annoyed with her being in touch with people from work all the time.

So Nicky’s character is the device to move the plot forward?

Yes, he was the device. There were pages of plot, not about what’s happening, but what’s happening to him. But you couldn’t have just somebody coming in going ‘now I’ve just come in from here and what’s happened is this an this and this…’ So we had to work it out cleverly. At the same time because Nicky is such a great actor and knows what he’s doing, instead of it dipping for that information, it just really lifted it. It’s just at the point where most films have a little dip to get the information across as it comes up to the end. It came up and then it came up again for the finale. So we were really lucky with the casting of Nicky.

I imagine one of the hardest parts was getting gaps in all of your schedules?

That was the hardest thing. It delayed it twice until we could get it all done. Nicky was still doing Shameless when he came to this but we got him for the Saturday and Sunday and that was it.

And he’s got FX/makeup scenes. That must have been difficult.

It was. We did the scene where he gets stabbed and dragged into the cellar in one day, and the rest the next day. It was in a really cold cellar and we covered him in goo and he was lying there shaking. But it was good for the character – keep him cold! We were really lucky with the cast.

Director Marc Price is Executive Producer of Before Dawn. Certainly Colin had a massive impact on British horror filmmaking – was the film a big influence on Before Dawn?

Very much so.

How did you meet Marc?

I met him through Leeds Zombie Film Festival. I really liked Colin and when I met Marc for the first time I said there just seemed to be more imagination in the first 10 minutes than there was in anything like John Carter which cost millions and millions of pounds. And this cost very little, but it was the heart and the idea. If you haven’t got that then you might as well not bother.

That seems to be very common with a lot of the low budget British genre films like Harold’s Going Stiff and Colin.

Colin wasn’t even on a HD camera it was on a normal standard definition camera. It was brilliant. You’ve got to get across the conviction of the actors and of the director. That’s Marc Price – if you talk to him about a subject or a film that he likes that’s what you get, you get this battering ram of enthusiasm and passion.

It’s amazing what he did with Colin. It really did become a phenomena.

That’s it. Even Martin Scorcese quoted something about it last year which was just amazing. So we’re all really proud of him. And we became good friends just because we’re two nerds as well. We recognised each other for what we were and that was it. So I told him about this project and that we had an idea for a film and he said that he’d executive produce it and he’d get his gang involved, his crew and his knowledge of how he did Colin, and apply it to what we were doing as well.

Was he a driving force for you?

Yes he was. He was great. He was in London and in Wales so I had to do pre and post production, but while he was here he brought all these people up, cameras, sound. He got a sales agent involved very very early on. The same sales agent as Colin. Helen Grace from Left Films backed it from very early on. So we couldn’t have done it without them. It would have been a short, and I know so many people that make a short and don’t then go on to make a feature and just talk about it for 10 years. You get dragged on with Marc’s wave of enthusiasm to make what you want to do.

 

BeforeDawn01

I suppose when it’s you and your wife writing it, you need an external influence to push it forward or it can become too self-contained.

Definitely. You just get institutionalised in your own settings. It would have been something we’d have talked about forever and not actually done. And there was a tipping point with the funding, and then we had Marc saying that whatever we thought was a problem ‘just ignore it, deal with that later’. I’m used to Emmerdale where you’ve got banks of people and the funding to move everything forward. If there’s a problem there’s a department to sort it. Well we had no departments and nothing like that to back us up. If we were going to fail we were going to fail hugely but not enough to lose our shirts, so we were OK.

A lot of filmamkers are talking about affordable technology-you don’t have to loose your shirt anymore.

That’s it. I was looking at the way punk came about in the 70s and you had these musicians that had been to music school and you had prog rock. Now I like some of it, but it was like music had become bigger and bigger and more bloated. But then underneath it all people were scrabbling around going what have you got left in the scraps and they were pulling guitars and amps from everywhere. Like the Canon camera has kind of worked like that. We haven’t been to film school, we’re just massive film nerds. We wanted the chance to make the sort of films these people are making and all of a sudden we’ve got the chance to go, sod it, I’ll make it, because I’ve got this camera and I can make it look exactly like a film if I want.

Did you take inspiration from any other films–whether zombie horrors or relationship dramas?

Just masses and masses of zombie films and comics. But not really. I’ve got my favourite films but they’re nothing like that. I really like Withnail & I and Whistle Down the Wind. That’s my favourite film.

Really?

That’s my number one. My top films chop and change, but that stays at the top. I think it’s the innocence, the story, the fact that it’s in Burnley. I’m from Accrington so I know those hills. Just the themes of being innocent and believing in anything. It’s just an amazing film.

Well, it’s certainly quite different to some of the horrors that I know you like to watch.

Yeah. We got European drama and put it with the zombie genre. Maybe you should get Whistle Down the Wind and put it with something like Martyrs.

From Emmerdale to apocalypse – has this film been a labour of love?

I was knackered, but I always said that I wanted to do it right. I’m a professional actor and I work with professionals. I could have made it as a sort of ‘mates’ film but I wanted to make it absolutely right, so we didn’t want any deadlines that were too tight. So I had nine months to edit it and get the dub right, and I was at it most nights, so we ended up throwing maybe 25 minutes of raw material out to keep it tight and to make the story flow better.

Was it heartbreaking to make those choices?

Yes, because there were bits where there magical little moments, but in the end you had to say ‘no this is the story’. You’ve got three acts to get it all out. It’s got to be entertaining’ it’s got to be gory, it’s got to be tight. So we learned a lot in the edit. When we had the full script we thought we’ll film everything and then we’ll try and get it to what we want, so it was quite malleable as a story as well. I couldn’t have given it to another editor anyway because we knew exactly what we wanted and were exactly in control. So I suppose it was a labour of love but I was very well supported as well. It was good as well that as a couple Jo and I weren’t arguing about things, so even if we disagreed it didn’t end up in a huge row. It was quite comfortable. And also I didn’t feel silly trying things out with the acting. You could push it and be supportive of each other.

Is it good advice to budding filmmakers to ensure that they have a good group of people around them – people who know what they’re doing?

You have to use people who are very capable in what they doing. On Emmerdale we get 10 million viewers so you can’t skim your work because they’d just walk away. You’ve got to remember that there will be an audience watching this so you’ve got to make some tough decisions. You’ve got to be confident. Keep your best bits. Chuck your chaff out.

Your first screening was at Frightfest in August and you’ve since screened at numerous festival across the world.

We’ve just sold it to Japan, New Zealand, Canada, it’s getting out all over. And we were really pleased about the Bram Stoker Festival Best Screenplay award. Fantastic.

Are you pleased with the response that it’s had so far?

Yes we are, because we were worried that we could fall between two stalls where we would loose the drama audience because it’s a horror film and we would loose the horror audience because we set it up as a drama. It could have just fallen between the two and never happened and just been an experiment to see what could happen creatively between me and Jo. And that would have been a disaster. But it didn’t. We’ve had great responses.

Metrodome have picked up distribution of the film. Will Before Dawn have a theatrical release and what’s the release date for the DVD?

Metrodome have been great. We have limited theatrical release from 22nd February. That’ll go over the DVD release which is 25th February. It was made for cinema – it’s in cinemascope, but we’ve seen it on our TV and we’re perfectly happy with it as a small drama in itself, but it was filmed for the big screen.

Your production company with Jo, Mitchell-Brunt Films executive produced Christmas Slay which comes out next year. Can you tell us more about it?

We’ve got very little say in Christmas Slay at the moment. That’s Steve Davis who’s a mate who’s getting that up and running, but we’ve said that we’ll help him. But since then we’ve done Magpie which is Marc Price’s second film. That’s Nowhere Fast and Mitchell-Brunt Films. It was great to be involved in. And then we’ve done Whoops which is a York film about an accidental serial killer. She just keeps killing people by accident. And then we’ve done Gracie’s Story which is a short film for Mind. And then we went the other way from Before Dawn, as an answer to Before Dawn, and threw all the guns and uniforms we could at a short film which is called After Three. It’s a Second World War zombie drama set down a mineshaft. It’s about two Germans and an English chap and they’re stuck down there. There’s a stand-off. It’s guns and uniforms which is exactly what we said we wouldn’t do with Before Dawn, so we’re covered with zombies now! We’ve done the whole thing. We did the answer to Jo’s question, and then I could make my zombie film!

Jo also associate produced Alex Chandon’s Inbred – are you both keen to focus on production?

She was Executive Producer and I was Associate Producer. We helped with the backing of it and there was some pick-up that needed sorting.

Is this for you both now? Will you keep up with production?

I’d love to yes. The next film is a bit more ambitious. It’s about a debt collector set in either Halifax or Hedben Bridge. We want to bring drama into horror and bring horror into drama. No supernatural elements, no zombies. It’s just about a human being and how far he will take human beings into horror and how far he will go with people and what he can make them do if they owe him money. It’ll be naturalistic and the horror will come from the violence. It’ll be more of a thriller. I’m going to direct it and Jo’s acting. We’ve got a writer who’s doing it now. We want to chase proper backing for this one. We don’t want to keep chasing favours, we want to do it properly. We love Before Dawn but we know how we could have made it better so the next project will look better. We’d like to have a bit better special effects.

I thought your FX and make-up on Before Dawn were very good. This is often one of the major pitfalls on low budget films where bad FX and make-up can give the budget away.

I love the special effects and that’s what gave me the confidence to go forward with Before Dawn. But that’s where the budget went. On the eyes and the teeth and the rest was just a case of chucking a load of blood everywhere! If the eyes and the teeth are alright then you’ve done alright.

Just going back to Magpie. What’s the plan for the film?

Marc’s only just finished it. He’s just doing pre-screenings and he’ll try to get it into the festivals next year. I think it’ll do well. He’s already had a good review, but it’s really early days.

It’s not a horror is it? But a coffin plays a big part.

No, it’s like a road movie. It’s about a father who gatecrashes his son’s funeral to reclaim his son and steal him. It’s great. It’s really funny.

What’s next for you and can you give us any sneak previews for the zombie festival this year?

I’m going to stay at Emmerdale as long as they’ll have me and I’m going to do this film about the debt collector. That’s priority number one. We just really want to see what we can do with that. And I’m really looking forward to the Zombie Festival. We’ll have Before Dawn, Harold’s Going Stiff, Night of the Chicken Dead, Cockneys vs Zombies. We’ve shown Dawn of the Dead before but we want to show the Dario Argento cut. It’s going to be great.

 

Sarah Crowther

 

Before Dawn is available on DVD from Metrodome Distribution now. Click here to order.