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Exclusive Interview With FrightFest Man Paul McEvoy
By James Whittington, Tuesday 20th July 2010
Paul McEvoy is a man of many talents. Not only is he part of the crew who deliver FrightFest every year, was part of the team behind The Cinema Store chain and is one of the newest additions to the team here at the Horror Channel. With FrightFest 2010 only a matter of weeks away, we decided to chat to this enigmatic chap.
HC: Can you recall when your interest in cinema and particularly horror cinema began?
PM: It would have been very early on. The key turning point film, following years of watching and loving TV fare such as Doctor Who, The Tomorrow People and Children Of The Stones, was watching Don’t Look Now. The film and especially its shock to the system ending scared me so much I had to sleep in my parent’s bed that night. The ending kept replaying in my very young and fragile mind.
HC: How did you get The Cinema Store going?
PM: It started with my friend Neil Palmer and I travelling the length and breadth of the country selling magazines and posters at every single film fair and comic convention. This grew to incorporate a small mail order business. This in turn prompted us to open a small shop on Monmouth Street in Covent Garden, London. This became too busy so we opened the two multi-level stores on Upper Saint Martins Lane. We have always sold a very wide range of exclusive merchandise form all areas of film and TV that you just can’t buy anywhere else. Having been around the world seeking out such stores I can honestly say that it is the very best place to get film memorabilia under one roof. Although now because of my other commitments I no longer have any involvement with the stores.
HC: How did you, Ian, Paul and Greg (the other members of the FrightFest Gang of Four) create FrightFest?
PM: It was spawned from a one off beach holiday that I took with my then girlfriend. By the swimming pool I had a sudden flash of strange inspiration which I wrote down in full and detailed form there and then - from the people I wanted/needed to get involved, to the format and what I would personally want from a festival. This was born from my frustrations that no one was doing a genre event in the UK at that time, or at least that I was aware of. My favourite festival before that was Alan Jones and Stefan Jaworzyn’s seminal Shock Around The Clock events which lead to the NFT based Fantasm events – but for various reasons they were no longer in existence.
HC: FrightFest is much larger now than it was when it started, there’s no way any of you could have expected it to grow into such a huge and respected event?
PM: A very good question. I think me, Alan and Ian Rattray always hoped that it would be a must attend staple of the genre fans annual calendar. All I can remember from the get go way back in 1999 when we were putting the first event together is that we wanted to create something that we as fans would want to attend. I am the audience – and the audience is THE most important consideration at all times. The best films, guests, atmosphere, surprises, freebies etc. So it all came together.
HC: How do you start to put a FrightFest programme together?
PM: It almost feels like we have been putting FF together since 1999 non-stop! As each year’s event ends we are already seeking out and planning the next years. In fact this years main event announcement came just as I had locked two of the key movies for our expanded Empire Screen 2 based Halloween event…so it really is never ending.
HC: Was this year’s selection of movies hard to choose?
PM: There was the usual tears and tantrums over certain selections as always, we all get so passionate about the films. Also some films just weren’t ready in time and we had a couple fall out for political and release pattern reasons at the 11th hour – but these are now scheduled for future London and Glasgow based FrightFest events.
HC: You have gone back to your Independent roots, why is this?
PM: A combination of the lack of truly exciting product from Hollywood at the moment and the fact that our core audience seem to respond more to our choices that at the time many have never even heard of …recent examples like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Let The Right One In, The Human Centipede and many, many more that have thrilled the FF audience in the past spring to mind.
HC: What jewels should ticket holders look out for this year?
PM: So many… Monsters – a low budget UK SF film is sensational on all levels, The Loved Ones … Australia is the new France in terms of exciting genre product.
HC: Do you have a personal favourite in this years line up?
PM: A very tough choice – I love so many of the films – I think the World Premiere of Johannes Robert’s, F will be amazing a cross between Ils and Assault On Precinct 13 in a school. The most fun afternoon will be the FrightFest International Short Film Showcase with 14 shorts from around the world along with Andy Nyman’s audience interactive extravaganza Andy Nyman’s Quiz From Hell.
HC: What are your five favourite FrightFest films?
PM: For various reasons… Audition, Battle Royale, Land Of The Dead, Old Boy, Switchblade Romance, Let The Right One In, Donnie Darko, Martyrs, Pan’s Labyrinth, Hatchet, Giallo, ooops that’s more than five but I could go on!
HC: Do you have a single stand out moment from the first 10 years of FrightFest?
PM: The double header of Guillermo del Toro introducing Pan’s Labyrinth to the first audience outside of Cannes – and saying that this was the films premiere. Edgar Wright screening an especially cut FrightFest exclusive trailer for the then in production Shaun Of The Dead and Danny Boyle and his team world premiering the first 20 ungraded and unmixed minutes from 28 Days Later to a shocked spellbound audience.
HC: FrightFest is a world renowned brand now, what next do you have for it?
PM: We take each year as it comes – so who knows? The latest development has been the free E-zine which is very exciting and seems to have been received brilliantly by the fans, industry and film-makers.
HC: Can you tell us a bit about your position here at the Horror Channel?
PM: I’m really excited by this new role and it is a match made in heaven or perhaps hell. Through my film company and industry talent contacts I can hopefully bring to the channel some exciting and innovative ideas. Some exciting things to watch out for is Director’s Night where we film introductions to three films by horror directors. So far we have done Jake West, the Zombie Diaries chaps Kevin Gates and Michael Bartlett, Joe Dante which is coming soon and Tim Sullivan. Other outstanding Horror Channel highlights include a Dario Argento season with special filmed intros by Alan Jones, the UK premiere of Joe Dante’s audience interactive series Splatter and a brilliant David Lynch series of special events including screenings of Eraserhead, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and Lost Highway. Along with both seasons of Twin Peaks which is now in its 20th anniversary year and hasn’t been shown in the UK for ages. So the next few months are going to be sensational for the channel! Watch this space… literally!
HC: Paul McEvoy, thank you very much.
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