Alan Jones is one of the most respected journalists working today. He has reported from some of the most legendary movie sets ever and written for such magazines as Radio Times, GQ, FHM, Fangoria, in fact the list goes on and on. More importantly he is one of the four members of the FrightFest gang. Alan took time out to tell us about the last 11 years of FrightFest and the plans he and the team have for its future. (Photo by Steven Hurst)
HC: So Alan, here we are once again with FrightFest. Does it feel like 11 years since it all started?
AJ: Yes, and no... It's all been such a blur. I didn't expect FrightFest to take over my life in the way it has really. Back in 2000, when Paul McEvoy and Ian Rattray came to me with the idea to recreate my old Shock Around The Clock events, I thought, yeah, let's get a group of like-minded horror enthusiasts to stay in the sweaty Prince Charles cinema for a weekend. Anything was better than the enforced jollity of the Notting Hill Gate Carnival (I live close by). It was fun, we saw a few good movies, made new friends (who still come every year), had some laughs... Now we're at the Empire with thousands of people visiting daily, a DVD label, an E-zine...unbelievable really. Clearly the UK was crying out for something akin to the Euro-fests I've been attending for decades, and now we have a world class event to match them all.
HC: The event this year has a more independent feel to it, was this deliberate as there seems to be few “major studio” movies included?
AJ: We never go into any FrightFest with an overall theme in mind, it just happens organically. This year we were seeing a lot of independent movies and getting personal submissions and that's just the way it worked out. Obviously the fact that the big studios are catering to a far broader spectrum than ever before means they didn't have any suitable movies this year for us. We did think about asking for Resident Evil 3D, but everyone will see that soon anyway. Far better to give our audience those under-the-radar movies everyone will be talking about in twelve months time, like last year's selections The Human Centipede and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Who knew about the latter phenomenon then? Well, we had an inkling and we got it right. There are still some movies we've shown that have never been released in the UK and I'm pleased about that because it makes us even more unique.
HC: Does it get harder each year to choose which movies are shown or is it easier knowing that the FrightFest crowd expect diversity?
AJ: I've never thought about it like that. Paul and I see the movies, if we are passionate about them - as we were with Monsters - they are in the line-up, no question. Sometimes we have arguments about certain films the other wants to include, but we've always managed to get the mix and match it right. We all knew F was an important film to show the moment we saw it, likewise The Dead. Our pool to choose from gets wider each year because filmmakers and distributors get what we are trying to do and that's such a blessing. So I would say it's easier to get the cream of the crop to choose from.
HC: Even though bigger than ever, FrightFest still retains its friendly family atmosphere, it must be hard for you Ian, Paul and Greg to maintain this?
AJ: We make a point of being approachable and available to our audience. We are fans as much as they are and we don't forget that. There's nothing more I love than cruising the audience and engaging with regular FrightFesters, even though some look absolutely terrified when I approach them. Just as well I have no problem striking up conversations with anybody. FrightFesters themselves pass on this community spirit on quite well too. So many in our audience have made firm friends for life over the years. Anyone new is welcomed, we are an inclusive bunch, we want everyone to feel comfortable no matter where you are from, who you are, or even if you prefer Jason to Freddy. Actually, strike that, if you prefer Freddy you are dead to me! Only joking. I love hearing the fans opinions of the movies we choose. We know they aren't all going to like what we like and, you know something, that's great, what FrightFest is all about, sharing views and arguing the merits of giallo, Adam Green, remakes, whatever.
HC: FrightFest is such a recognised brand now, do you have any other plans for it such as resurrecting the DVD label?
AJ: Watch this space. The DVD label is being revived in 2011, our first release is a film I love that we showed last year, and we are currently in negotiations for other must-see titles too. All very exciting.
HC: I know it’s a tough question but do you have one favourite memory from the last 11 years of FrightFest?
AJ: So many to choose from - my speech in front of Pan's Labyrinth that moved many to tears, trying to protect Selma Blair from rabid Hellboy fans, the Hideo Nakata live on stage interview that went disastrously and hilariously wrong, The Descent premiere party, Jim Sturgess singing live the theme from Heartless. Actually I think my absolute favourite is when two old ladies walked into FrightFest and I was convinced they were in the wrong auditorium. So I went over to the OAPs and said something like, Are you sure you are in the right place love? I got this withering glance and one retorted, We've just watched Last House On The Left to get in the mood for this sonny, so f**k off! Just goes to show the diversity of our fan base.
HC: Do you take time off to relax after FrightFest or do you start planning the next event straight away?
AJ: What do you mean, we've been planning our Halloween event for weeks now. We've been watching movies, already have some fantastic titles, and it's going to be really special this year because we're doing something that has never been done before ever and that's......... my lips are sealed. For now. The Horror Channel will get an exclusive, promise.
HC: What other projects are you working on at the moment?
AJ: Well aside from my horror career (and yes, my Guillermo del Toro book is still happening despite The Hobbit setback), I have two parallel others. Disco and Punk. I wrote the definitive history of Disco music, Saturday Night Forever and once FrightFest is finished I start advising and writing the next 4 CD set of the Disco: Discharge collection. Eight have already been released to great acclaim and I'm looking forward to working on compiling those. On the Punk front (I worked with the Sex Pistols during the height of their career) I may consult on a new untitled movie set during the band's Anarchy in the UK tour that will start shooting in November.
HC: Alan Jones, thank you very much