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Interview with Chris Collier, director of FrightFest: Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema
By James Whittington, Saturday 25th August 2018
FrightFest is one of the most famous festivals in the world. The team of Alan Jones, Ian Rattray, Paul McEvoy and Greg Day ensure that everyone who attends, from guests to punters get the best experience they can from it.
But what do they really think of each other and what really goes on behind the scenes? A new documentary from Chris Collier has given the team the chance to talk candidly about the festival and each other. Here he tells us how FrightFest: Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema came together.
HC: Can you recall what it was like at your first FrightFest and what attracted you to attend in the first place?
CC: Back in 2009 I recorded a podcast with my friend Phil Newton - he's been coming to FrightFest since year one. He introduced me to Ian Rattray at a screening in London and it's through those two that I was drawn in to attending that first year.
HC: What inspired you to make a documentary about FrightFest?
CC: The initial inspiration was not mine. It's something that's been talked about as far back as 2012, though I was never involved in that. My only knowledge of that is through having produced their video content at the festival since 2011. In that time I've witnessed first hand what happens before the doors are opened to the public, and after they're closed. I'd discussed it with my production partner Craig Ennis over the years, but it was never more than that. Then, in 2016, we were working on a music doc that fell through part way through shooting. So, we went from one day making a film to the next day not making a film. With time on my hands I was drawn down the YouTube recommendations whirlpool, and ended up watching a punk documentary that featured Alan Jones. I'm sure that's the point I started to really think about it. Soon after that I met with Ian to discuss the festival moving to Shepard's Bush. Over the years I've got to know Ian well, and we end up talking about general life stuff. At some point during that conversation, without any plan to, I ended up pitching the idea of how I would make a documentary about FrightFest. He liked it and said, lets arranged to meet the others. I then had to pitch it to Craig, who fortunately didn't think it was a terrible idea.
HC: How long did it take to make from the first shot till the final edit?
CC: Our first actual shot for the documentary was shot on Thursday 25th August 2016, and we locked the film around 1st June 2018.
HC: Was it difficult getting the archive material together?
CC: Fortunately, FrightFest have been shooting at the festival since 2009. All we needed to do is look at it all. That's were Craig is invaluable. I edit other people work on a daily basis. However, on a film I always work with Craig. He's a great editor, very creative and the perfect person to work with. Especially, when you have hard drive after hard drive of footage. He's also not afraid to tell me when I'm wrong. We worked through all the many, many hours of archive footage together. We also got given footage and I tracked some down via the web.
HC: Were you surprised by the honesty from the FrightFest team as they talked themselves, each other and the event?
CC: Knowing the guys well before hand was helpful. The more honest material came from me witnessing some of those events. So, I knew what I wanted to ask and what I wanted them to talk about. I hoped they would be open with me, so I'm not sure I was surprised, but I was certainly pleased.
HC: The infamous Giallo and Tulpa movies are covered, can you recall these showing and what's the worst film, in your opinion that's been shown at FrightFest?
CC: Having worked at the festival for years now, I've not seen a full film there for a long time. I did see Giallo as part of the festival, surrounded by many other films of all different types, and without doubt it's one of my favourite screenings. I can't pick a worst film because in the context of the festival, films like Giallo and Tulpa are magic times.
HC: The piece conjures up many happy memories of past events, what's your favourite FrightFest moment?
CC: I've been very lucky, as we've interviewed a lot of great guests at the festival and met some amazing people. However, looking back to 2009 and meeting people I'd spoken to online in person and experiencing the festival for the first time can't be beaten.
HC: Are there any movies that have been shown at FrightFest that you liked that have yet to get a commercial release?
CC: Tulpa is available. However, I'd like to see the original cut released.
HC: It's clear that the FrightFest team had no input into this but did any of them ask for a preview before you'd locked the documentary?
CC: No, I let them know it was nearly done and that I'd like to show them it. We arranged a screening and I sat behind them, desperately trying to work out their reactions. That was it. They didn't ask me to change anything at all. That says something about them; it must be very difficult when the film is about you.
HC: Would you like to do a follow up doc in say ten years time?
CC: It would be interesting to see how the festival and film has progress over that time. It would be nice if someone new to FrightFest, who maybe walked in the door this year, makes that film from his or her perspective in ten years time. I'd like to see that.
HC: So, what are you working on next?
CC: We've just started planning for a new music documentary which we plan to start shooting just a soon as enough of the pieces fall into place. Not a narrative horror I'm afraid, but who knows - if the right idea comes along.
HC: Chris Collier, thank you very much.
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