I'm staring at my computer screen, trying to think of a smart way to lead into this interview that we did with Belinda Greensmith, the writer/director of the upcoming indie horror flick, "For One Night Only". However, I just listened to an interview that KCRW's "The Business" did with Jonathan Knee about his new book, "The Curse of the Mogul", which is all about how media moguls act like a bunch of spoiled brats and squander shareholders money, and now I've got guys like Michael Eisner, Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone on my mind... and they're a pretty far cry from the indie horror world, but I guess I can use that...
On one end of the scale, you've got these guys that are running multi-national media companies (and the book argues that they're running them poorly) and they're all about massive corporate moves, increasing shareholders value and, of course, making money. I get that, I do. It's just business... it's not about art. The business is really about market share and reaching as many people as possible and, therefore, niche, indie projects aren't really on their minds... far from it. That's why indie filmmakers are carving their own way. They're utilizing the tools that are available, most of which are online. They reach out through social networking sites, they create websites, they create blogs and they reach out to sites like ours, even when they're not even finished the film... and we'll always oblige an up-and-coming filmmaker and do what we can.
So, with that, please check out this interview that we did with Belinda Greensmith about her upcoming indie horror film, "For One Night Only". It's always interesting to hear from filmmakers as they're in the trenches... and they always offer up something that other filmmakers can take away. Lastly, if you're somewhere between concept and completion and want to talk to us, shoot us an email. We'd love to hear from you, too...
First off, tell us a bit about yourself. What got you into indie film and what are your influences?
I come from the North West of England and was brought up on a steady diet of horror films from an early age thanks to my older brother and growing up in the 80's. I loved all those 80's horror movies - Evil Dead, Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave, Driller Killer, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday 13th, Halloween... I could go on forever. They were all great in their own way, but I particularly loved those that had very little budget and managed to make the grade.
This is what I've been aspiring to. It's been really interesting watching all the remakes coming out over the last few years and seeing the difference a huge budget has made. Sometimes good, sometimes not... I'm hoping that they leave An American Werewolf in London for me! Very doubtful, but who knows?
Film school: yes or no?
Yes. I've been back to film school after spending a decade in the sfx makeup film industry. Mainly to retrain so that I can write and direct, but mostly to use their free equipment and make as many films as I could to build up my showreel. I came out with a great amount of decent short films for my showreel and had some success with them in festivals so it was worth it.
Tell us a bit about the idea behind "For One Night Only"
I love the supernatural and wanted to write something that mixed all aspects of horror - I wanted the gore, and the sex, as well as the scares in there - so I wrote something that would enable me to combine all of this in one place. I originally set it in an underground cave system based on the old Hellfire Caves here in England where they say a secret club was set up to participate in some seedy activities. The story centered on a group of students looking for the ultimate scary place to hold a halloween party. After I started looking for locations I changed it to an abandoned asylum when I found a real abandoned asylum that I just had to film in.
Talk a bit about how the project came about.
My DP and I were sitting there one day discussing plans for the film, and I had some cash available, and a good few months off, so we decided we should make the film. I started preproduction soon after that and that was it - we were off and running.
What's your budget for the film and how are you going about financing it?
I financed it all myself with earnings from my makeup days, with some cash from my DP Matt Cross. We had a very small budget compared to what they're throwing at horror films these days. Not a lot really but we did it. We had to compromise on the location, as the actual asylum I wanted to use were asking a ridiculous amount of money. We used a smaller asylum, but it still worked and I'm pleased with the results.
What stage are you at right now and what hurdles are you facing right now?
We're actually at post production right now and in the middle of completing the sound design. All our hurdles were during production so now we're over them it's more a case of when are we getting to the finish line. I have two more projects that I am working on at the moment and so the only issue is time and fitting everything in. The film itself looks gorgeous so there are no complaints there.
Speaking of hurdles, talk about some of the hurdles that you've faced getting to the point you're at now. What kinds of unexpected things have you faced that other indie filmmakers may be interested to learn about?
We had lots of hiccups during production. Before we had even started filming we went in to the location - which was an old abandoned asylum in Lancashire - and found that some bees had moved in so we had to push filming back in order to have them removed. They were honey bees so had to be removed safely and not harmed in any way. When we got to actually filming there were all sorts of creepy things going on that we had to contend with. Some of the cast and crew were camping out in the location in one of the wards, and with it being 'allegedly' haunted, minds were working overtime. Plus we were shooting at night so that just added fuel to the fire. Everyone was on edge, especially when we were shooting in the morgue. Plus we had a seance to shoot and so I was asked to try and find a psychic medium who could come and advise the actors that there was no psycho inmate spirit waiting to possess them or murder them in their beds. I couldn't even get a medium to come to the location at night time. In the end I gave them all 'protection' stones that I bought from a wicca shop. There were scratches appearing on peoples arms, things being thrown around, the usual knocks and bangs, lights being turned on in rooms that were locked, whispering in ears - all sorts of things scaring the bejesus out of people. We did spend a lot of time trying to relax the cast and crew and make sure they were feeling okay, and trying to ensure them that there were no ghosts etc. I'm on the fence when it comes to things like this and so I was more afraid of the spiders than the disembodied 'hello' I heard. And I kept all the scary pictures away from the cast and crew until we'd finished shooting. We got some great faces appearing in windows and stuff. Very spooky. So I would say don't shoot in an abandoned lunatic asylum on night shoots doing a seance scene in the morgue, because your cast and crew will shit their pants. Although I think this helped with the film because all the actors were genuinely afraid in their scenes.
What's the goal for the project and when do you think it'll be completed?
My goal is to get a final cut by December and then get it out there.
At the moment, as we're having the score composed, I'm working on a trailer to get out there to create some buzz.
Are you thinking about the festival scene or distribution at this point? If so, what kinds of things are you doing to prepare for it?
We already have a few distributors interested in the project so once we have a screener ready it will be going out to all of them and hopefully will be available to audiences Spring 2010. Although I have to admit that a premiere at Halloween would be my preference. Not to be a cliche, or anything...
Talk about the indie horror scene. Where do you think it is now and where do you think it's going?
I think the indie horror scene at the moment is massive, and just keeps growing. With new technology and filmmakers able to use various platforms for promoting their films it means that there are more out there and easier ways to watch them. There are obviously those that create a buzz, you know, being made for pennies and making millions.
Then there are those that are genuinely independent and actually interesting that you can find on dvd. It's unfortunate though that more independent horror is going straight to dvd without getting a theatrical release now. It seems that special effects are the key for cinema these days.
Where can people find out more about "For One Night Only"?
We have a website - www.foronenightonlymovie.com - which should be up and running soon with the official trailer, cast and crew bios, stills, and information about the real asylum. Until then people can email me with any questions they may have, email@example.com, if they wish.