By James Whittington, Monday 27th August 2012
Later this afternoon Paul Davis will be giving the World Premiere of his new horror short, Him Indoors. Paul as you might recall was the guy behind one of the finest ever horror documentaries, Beware The Moon which took a look at the creation of the incredible An American Werewolf In London movie.
Away, we decided to chat with Paul about this latest piece and his plans for the next part of his career.
HC: Hi Paul, we first met a couple of years back when your acclaimed documentary Beware The Moon was shown at FrightFest. What have you been up to since then?
PD: I was attached to two projects pretty much immediately following Beware The Moon, but after a family loss I took a back seat from career for a short while. Looking back, I wish I hadn't, because it's taken a long while to get back the momentum I had with Beware The Moon. I did a few acting jobs and wrote a book on horror movies in that time. I think the most liberating thing was actually walking away from the two projects I was attached to and just doing things on my own again. That's how the documentary got made, and I've now realised that you can’t rely on anyone else but yourself if you want to make things happen. I've since made this short, I'm in pre-production on my first feature and I couldn't be happier.
HC: Would you ever consider making such an in depth documentary again?
PD: No. That's the simple answer. I'm attached to another documentary project, but it's very different from Beware The Moon. That's all I can say on that one for now sadly. It's something I'm involved with, but considering everything that's going on at the moment, I'm not sure when I'll be able to work on it.
HC: Let's come up to date with your latest piece, the much talked about short Him Indoors; what's it all about?
PD: Him Indoors is about an agoraphobic serial killer, played by Reece Shearsmith on the verge of being evicted from his family home. We meet him just as he's half way through a plan that he believes will prevent him from having to face the one thing he's most terrified of, the outdoors. However, an impromptu visit from his rather boisterous new neighbour - Pollyanna McIntosh, puts him in a very awkward and nail-biting situation. It's a twisted little piece that, in my opinion, is as funny as it is shocking, but honestly, it doesn't matter what I think - I want the audience to laugh, to gasp, to bite their nails… the works. Reactions so far from the few that have seen it have been very exciting and encouraging, so now I'm just waiting to see how the rest of the world take to it - starting with my favourite audience in the world… FrightFest!
HC: Did it take long to write?
PD: Not at all. In fact, nothing has taken very long on the entire project - which has taken us approximately six weeks from start to finish. I wrote the script in one sitting, I think in about 4-hours, maybe less. When I sat down to start work on the initial treatment, I had the concept nailed, but I really didn't have sense of a story. I knew who my character was and I knew the pay off, so when I approached the script, I just really let the characters take me to where I needed to be. It was a lot of fun and I’m very proud with how it turned out. One of the advantages I had before I started writing the character was knowing that Reece Shearsmith would play the lead. I'd spoken to Reece several days before the script was written and he wanted to do it based on the concept. So having Reece's likeness and voice in my head as I wrote the character of Gregory Brewster (whom I named after seeing a Tweet from Reece that he was watching Fright Night) just made the whole process of creating the character much easier and frankly a lot of fun.
HC: How did you go about raising funds and casting the piece?
PD: The movie was entirely crowd-funded. I got in touch with James Pears, a producer friend of mine who I'd worked with last year (I played the towering villain in his short The Other Side) and we'd decided from the get-go that the only way to pull this off and make it look and sound as great as it deserved to be, was to go the crowd funding route. We set up a fund raiser on Sponsume.com and put up a bunch of cool rewards for people who generously donated, and we ended up making over a thousand pounds more than our target goal of £5,000. For shorts, I think that crowd-funding is wonderful. I can't begin to thank all 112 people who helped us make this by donating their hard earned money. I just hope they like the film.
With regard to casting, I was lucky enough to be introduced to Reece Shearsmith last year, by John Landis, and since then we've kept in touch and I actually recently cast Reece in my feature project Silent Night Of The Living Dead. When it came to this, I had him in mind from the first minute. I approached him with the concept and he really loved it. Reece really is a wonderful actor. He has amazing comedy timing, as we’ve all seen with his work with The League Of Gentlemen, but he's also a tremendous, serious actor. He can really bring on the drama and he plays this role dead straight. It's funny, but he's still totally serious in the portrayal - that for me is the only way the horror and comedy can really blend and not breach the realm of parody. He totally nails it. I was so lucky to have him play the part.
Selecting the actress to play his neighbour was interesting because when I'd decided that it was going to be 'the girl next door', I hadn't defined how I was going to play out her character. I had two actresses in mind, both representing very different ways in which I saw the character behaving. I had one actress in mind for a timid, more reserved version of Lizzie and then I had Pollyanna McIntosh for the boisterous, incredibly eager, in your face rendition of Lizzie. I really wasn't sure which version I was going to use until the point in the script where Gregory opens the door to her. Then I let HER decide. Thankfully, she wanted to be boisterous Lizzie, and so we got in touch with Pollyanna, she loved the script and wanted to work with Reece and the rest is history.
Also in there, in a very small role at the end of the film is the brilliant David "You made me miss!" Schofield. I met David back on Beware The Moon and he's such a wonderful guy and an amazing actor. He has a very distinctive voice (which was perfect for the part) and I kind of felt I needed to have someone from An American Werewolf In London in there somewhere. So when it came to this small role in the movie, I asked David and he was more than up for it. It’s funny because Reece, Pollyanna, David and myself were all in John Landis' Burke & Hare - yet I didn’' see any of them while on set!
HC: How long did it take to shoot?
PD: We shot the entire film over two days in two locations. The first day we were a little pressed because we only had the Steadicam operator on day one and also had one of our big special effects gags too -which malfunctioned and we ended up not getting the shot. On day two, which was all of the stuff between Reece and Pollyanna, we powered through it so quickly that we were not only able to re-shoot the FX rig that didn’t work on the previous day, but we also wrapped two hours ahead of schedule. Which always makes for a happy, smiling crew at the end of the day.
HC: With such an esteemed cast was it fun on set?
PD: I had an absolute ball on the set. Not just because of the cast, but the crew too were just wonderful! I admit that going on to the set as a first time director, working with a lot of people that have already worked with a ton of experienced directors, was very nerve racking. I didn’t quite know what to expect, if I'm honest. Saying that, there was not one point during that shoot that I felt like a first time director. Nobody treated me like one; therefore I had no reason to feel as such. It was a collaborative effort from the word go and I think the results are there on screen.
With Reece and Pollyanna, I thought there would be more improv between the two, but whenever they came up with something that wasn't in the script, they both came to me first, which I found incredibly respectful and just really hammered home that these guys trusted me as much as I trusted them. My love for them as both artists and human beings tripled over those two days. Most of what you see and hear on screen is exactly how it was written, but there are few gems in there that came out on the day that just made it so much better.
HC: Where do you get your inspiration from for your work?
PD: I watch a lot of movies. And I mean, A LOT of movies. I can’t specifically pinpoint a particular influence, as I'm pretty sure that it will change depending on what it is I'm making. On this for example, this is very unapologetically my love letter to Hitchcock and De Palma. It's very tense and very drawn out, but at the same time it has a pitch-black sense of humour that runs throughout. In fact, I purposely put a few things in the script that make a whole lot more sense when you go back and watch it a second time. It’s funnier the second time, I think… but the horror never stops being… horrible!
Of course, another influence is John Landis. He's one of the most inspirational people to be around and his movies just ooze fun! I want to scare the crap out of people and make them react, but at the same time I love making people laugh. Not a lot of people know but the likes of Laurel & Hardy, Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd and Marx Brothers mean as much to me as Frankenstein's monster, Dracula and the Wolf Man.
HC: You're multi-talented being a writer, actor and director; do you have a favourite job?
PD: You can add Editor to that list too. I figured editing my first short would be a good exercise and help me become a better director in terms of pacing and composition. I loved it. Was very liberating. Also meant that I didn’t have to rely on an editor to get it done in the short time were working in. This way my working hours were from when my eyes opened to when they closed and I didn’t have to worry about killing some poor guy by having him sat at Final Cut Pro all day… I could just do it to myself instead. When I work I do get tunnel vision. I become completely absorbed by what I’m doing and will happily work every hour under the sun to get the results I want. It doesn’t bother me at all. I do what I do because I enjoy it. Otherwise why do it?
I think I feel most at home directing. I had fun writing the script and can see myself writing my own stuff in the future, but nothing beats the feeling of being on set and collaborating with every department to create something wonderful. I really have a deep interest and respect for every job that gets done in every department on a movie set, so for me to be able to work with all these brilliant people is exciting to me. I adore working with actors too, and would never ask a performer to do something that I wouldn’t be willing to do myself - unless it was a stunt guy… f**k that!
HC: What advice would you give to someone wanting to make their own horror short?
PD: Just do it! This answer was sponsored by the good folk at Nike. Honestly, that's the best advice I can give. Nobody gives you anything in this business, so you have to make your own things happen.
HC: What do you think will be the next big thing on horror?
PD: Whoever really knows? We can sit through three-years of torture porn and then suddenly there's a ghost movie hit and then we get one of those every year. As a genre, horror is consistently a top box office performer, but in terms of which sub-genre will dictate the trends and knock offs that subsequently follow a big hit? That changes all the time. We’re still in Paranormal Activity mode at the moment. Who knows what the audience will swarm to next.
HC: So what’s next for you?
PD: Well I hope that Silent Night Of The Living Dead, my first feature, will be my next movie. We’re still funding the project, which is going very well, and hope to be rolling by early next year. I'll be directing from a James Moran screenplay, with Reece Shearsmith, AJ Bowen and Tom Savini already attached to star in it. There are a few other things that I’m currently in talks for, but they're too early in development to discuss at this time - both very exciting though, one's another feature and the other is for television.
HC: Paul Davis, thank you very much.
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