A couple of days ago we chatted to James Moran about his work and how he felt by having two movies at FrightFest. Here he's back to chat about the closing movie to this year's event, Tower Block.
HC: Hello again, let’s chat about Tower Bock. This is in total contrast to Cockney’s Vs Zombies; how do you approach a more serious piece?
JM: Same way I approach any piece - what's the core idea, who are the characters, how do I throw obstacles in their path and have them react believably? Every story has to stand on its own two feet, whether it's deadly serious, or very silly! I just have to resist the urge to puncture the tension with a well timed joke - I love it when characters comment on the extremes of the situation, but you have to be more careful when it's a serious piece.
HC: How long did it take for the script to come together?
JM: A few months, I had the setup and just needed to work out who I wanted to be in it. Once I had the characters, it flowed fairly quickly. I tend to write thrillers much faster, because I stay in the moment a lot more.
HC: What inspired you to write this? Is this a social comment piece?
JM: I was watching another horror movie, and suddenly thought "Oh, the killer is going to be outside with a rifle and won't let them leave" - that didn't happen, but it stuck in my mind as a scary setup for a movie. I usually try to avoid messages, but there's definitely something in there about how we behave towards each other in big cities - people tend to not get involved when they see trouble, because you never know what danger you might be in. I also wanted to make sure that the people in the tower block were a good mixture - they're not all drug dealers and murderers, these are just normal people trying to get by.
HC: Did it change much from first to final draft?
JM: Not very much, it came out fairly lean, and stayed that way. The biggest change was trimming out a few side characters just before filming - they got killed early on, the opening carnage went on for a bit longer.
HC: Did you write it with any actors in minds?
JM: I always write with actors in mind, but only so I can keep their voices consistent - usually they're not actually right for the part. But on this one I only did that with one character, even though he looked different in my head. But the actors we got were strangely very similar to how I pictured the characters! It was quite bizarre.
HC: Are you the kind of writer who likes to be on set all the time?
JM: As much as possible, partly because I love the filming process, partly in case there's a big dialogue scene so I can be there to make any changes if necessary. I think it's helpful for me to be there, as someone who knows the script inside and out. Writers are the heads of the Story Department, so it makes sense that we make ourselves available. But once I'd been on set a few times on Tower Block (and Cockneys) I could see that things were running smoothly, so I felt safe not being there for the whole thing.
HC: Which film was the hardest to write Cockneys Vs Zombies or Tower Block?
JM: Everything is hard to write! They were both lots of fun to write, though, and had different challenges.
HC: Do you prefer writing for TV or cinema?
JM: Another vague answer, but it's true: I love them both. Both have good points and bad points, so I'd never choose one over the other.
HC: I think you're the first person to have two movies screening at FrightFest; you must be rightly proud?
JM: Very proud! Severance was here exactly 6 years ago, and now I have two movies there at the same time, it's really exciting. I can't wait to see the movies with the FrightFest audience, even when writing certain sequences in both of them, in the back of my mind I wondered what it would be like to watch them with that audience.
HC: James Moran, thank you very much.