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Interview With John Shackleton, Managing Director Of Movie Mogul And Judge On 666 Short Cuts To Hell Competition
By James W, Thursday 23rd May 2013

John ShackletonFrightFest and Movie Mogul, in association with Horror Channel, are challenging aspiring filmmakers to make a short horror film - the best six of which will be shown on Horror Channel and at the 2013 Film4 FrightFest event. Its called 666 Short Cuts To Hell Competition and the overall winner will receive a prize fund of £6,666 and the opportunity to develop a horror short or feature idea under mentorship from Movie Mogul, for a possible 2014 production.

Here one of the Judges and Managing Director of Movie Mogul John Shackleton talks about his career, what he looks for in a short movie and what features he has planned.

HC: When you were growing up was there one movie in particular that kick started your love of the horror genre?

JS: The first horror film I ever saw when I was a kid was The Amityville Horror, which frightened the bejesus out of me! I had mates who were mad about horror with vast VHS ‘video nasty’ collections, stuff like Cannibal Holocaust, Evil Dead, anything banned with an certificate X on it was a must have for them. It wasn't ever really my scene until films like Hellraiser, Nightbreed and Hardware started to capture my attention. I went to college to study design and media and then the first horror film that had me entirely hooked was Evil Dead 2.

HC: What was it about it that captured your attention?

JS: I think it was a combination of things, mainly timing. I was becoming more aware of what goes on behind the camera and starting to learn how to make films. ED2 unashamedly made you aware of the voice of the director, with crazy camera angles, cheap gore and inventive camera rigs. I just thought it was utterly brilliant. I can't watch it now because it’s the most watched film of all time for me, I've totally worn it out!

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in the film industry?

JS: I was always art based at school and quite creative, and went to work in an ad agency originally on a traineeship. At 19 I went to college to do my design and media HND. They had cameras (Super VHS), edit suites and TV studios. I made up my mind there and then that I was going to be a filmmaker, although I had no idea how I was going to do it.

HC: Could you tell us about your company, Movie Mogul?

JS: I was freelancing as a producer/director in Cardiff when I hit upon the idea of creating a 'community generated film fund'. This was before filmmaking had entered the crowd-sourcing arena in the early days of Sellaband. MM was set-up on the back of a Technium award to help pilot the idea. Movie Mogul Fund (MMF), garnered much press interest and support, but sadly failed to generate sufficient funds to take the winning film into production. This was a film called Retreat, which later went into production on a much higher budget with Cillian Murphy, Thandie Newton and Jamie Bell. MMF's commercial failure cost me personally and I was forced to review the direction of my company. Re-aligning my own personal filmmaking career with the objectives of MM, and with the help of some private equity, MM became a film production company. The business plan was simple – to make commercially oriented feature films for the lowest possible price point. Everything turned around with Panic Button.

HC: How did the 666 Shortcuts to Hell competition come about?

JS: The film industry is a tough nut to crack, and you’ve got to be quite savvy to get by nowadays. There’s a lot of untapped talent milling around, and so few opportunities to make a splash, get ideas financed, films shot, and then seen, it can seem like a really daunting prospect. Technology and access to equipment is no longer an obstacle, as it was even just 10 years ago, so the barriers are motivational ones. How do I start? Where do I start? What kind of thing shall I make, and then who can I take it to when it’s done? I just love filmmaking challenges, and it struck me that with the help of Frightfest and Horror Channel, we could offer a competition that removes almost all of the barriers to entry and levels the playing field a little, to see if we can unearth some genuine talent, with something fresh to bring to the horror genre.

HC: What do you look for in a horror movie script?

JS: First and foremost, if it's supposed to be scary, gory, tense, chilling or even funny, then it simply has to deliver on that level! A good concept, strong idea or original hook is also a great asset to any film. Perhaps something a little different, a scenario we’ve not seen before. Stories that subvert expectations, and deliver on their promises (without pandering to cliché) will always stand out for me.

HC: What advice would you give to anyone making a horror short?

JS: Let rip with your imagination. Avoid cliché. Take chances. Really go for it. You've absolutely nothing to lose, and this is a fantastic opportunity to get noticed.

HC: Now that the torture movie genre seems to be finally dying off, what do you think will be the next big thing in horror?

JS: Supernatural stories seem to be enjoying a resurgence, but I'm sure that the next BIG thing, will be something we don't see coming!

HC: So what projects are you working on at the moment?

JS: We're working on a Sci-Fi/Action movie called We Are Monsters. It nods to many of the horror sub genres, such as vampires, werewolves, alien invasion, mutants, survivalist, but it is also a hearty rites of passage of tale with a pertinent hook, surrounding the difficult financial times in which we now find ourselves.

HC: John Shackleton, thank you very much

For more information on 666 Short Cuts To Hell click here


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