FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS | BOOTH'S BLOG Interview With John Shackleton co-writer and Director of the Sleeping Room
By James Whittington, Wednesday 20th August 2014
From the producers of the FrightFest 2011 favourite Panic Button comes The Sleeping Room, a supernatural tale of ghostly Victorian revenge.
Here we chat to its director and co-writer John Shackleton about the movie ahead of its world premiere at FrightFest 2014.
HC: Where did the idea for The Sleeping Room come from?
JS: Brighton based writer Ross Jameson, lived in a Regency house by the seafront and learned that it used to be a brothel in Victorian times upon the discovery of a hidden room. With further research he found out that many of the brothels had secret rooms known as sleeping rooms built in, so that the girls could rest between assignations. This underbelly of Brighton’s past, combined with its faded grandeur and atmospheric seascape provided Ross with all the fantastic inspiration needed to launch into a screenplay.
HC: It has three credited writers, how does that work, for example, do you all sit down in one room at the same time?
JS: Ross’s original screenplay was heavy on atmosphere and mood, had its themes and villains clearly drawn and its teenage protagonist Blue, being drawn deeper into prostitution, whilst being manipulated by all around her. Alongside this, I was attracted to the project because of the original visual devices and metaphors at play, including an antique Mutoscope (What The Butler Saw machine), the mirror and of course, the hidden chamber and all its secrets.
After optioning the screenplay… in September 2013 (with my Producer cap on), I was courting for a Director for the project and sought the ear of Alex Chandon after meeting him through the Shortcuts To Hell competition and being super impressed with his entry. Alex passed on the project but gave me extensive script notes, mainly concerning story and supporting character development, streamlining the script and embellishing upon the horror element to make Blue’s journey much bigger, more twisted and disturbing than either Ross or I had previously envisaged!
Massively inspired by Alex’s input, the two of us gelled creatively and sparked upon dozens of ideas surrounding the core ghost story, racing through numerous screenplay drafts in a very short and intense period of time, following our gut… and inadvertently becoming writers in the process. Still lacking a Director to helm the project, I wasn’t considering myself for the role until Producer Gareth I Davies pointed out that it would make a perfect first feature opportunity for me, whilst lining up our bigger project We Are Monsters. That was literally a coin in the slot, penny drop moment, and from that point on I switched to Writer/Director mode, embraced the challenge and took ownership of the screenplay, choosing the tonal path through the story I felt most confident and comfortable with, that I felt I could deliver upon, even within the most restrictive of budgets.
HC: How did you go about casting the movie?
JS: Ross had worked with Brighton resident Julie Graham already on a couple of short films and she was very keen to play Cynthia, particularly on the basis of the films heavy Brighton credentials! We had been working with Jeremy and Irene at Jeremy Zimmermann’s in the casting of We Are Monsters, and they helped us find the wonderful Leila Mimmack whom I instantly recognised from her gutsy and earthly performances in things like Inside Men and Becoming Human. Chris Waller randomly made contact with me upon hearing about the project, who had worked with Alex on Inbred and whom I respected enormously. He’s a great actor, fitted the role like a glove and had long since dreamt of shooting a film in his hometown of Brighton… and so that decision was a very easy one to make. Jeremy and Irene cast Christopher Adamson as the most wonderful monster I could ever have imagined, alongside the seething menace of David Sibley, playing Blue’s pimp and protector – Freddie. We were struggling to cast our leading man Bill right up until the eleventh hour, when Zimmermann’s introduced me to Joseph Beattie. When you see the film you will understand why this role was such a tough one to cast, and the role needed to be tackled with clear focus and absolute confidence. Joseph came at it with his own character mythology and back-story, and we lucked out completely with him - just days before the camera began to roll!
HC: It’s a pretty bleak and dark movie, what was the atmosphere like on set?
JS: The atmosphere on set was amazing! Our 1st AD Alex Gibb was an absolute legend who kept reminding everybody that ‘this is a horror film – there will be screaming!’, and when the camera wasn’t rolling, there was a lot of fun and laughter had on set for sure. We’d lucked out again in so many ways; Gareth did an amazing job in finding an incredible production team, securing our perfect locations, and even getting all our set builds constructed against all the odds, without prep time or any real financial resources to make happen. By rights this film shouldn’t exist at all… it’s only the immense good will of our very talented cast and crew that made it so, alongside our wonderful post-production team over at Bang, back in Cardiff.
HC: How did you shoot the old Mutoscope sequences as they look incredibly realistic?
JS: The authenticity of the Mutoscope sequences I always knew were absolutely key to this film. The filmmaker of the time was a Victorian pimp and serial killer, and these sequences had to feel as though his hand had made them. Our pre-production time for The Sleeping Room was practically non existent, and I knew that there was no way I could tackle these and do them justice, alongside everything else we had going on. I’d been talking to Jake West over the past couple of years at FrightFest and knew that he was really interested in creepy Victoriana, as we’d discussed collaboration on a couple of other projects in the past. Jake has a very visual approach to his work and the eye for detail that I knew was a perfect fit. I was thrilled and somewhat relieved when he offered to come onboard and take ownership of this essential element of the film! We provided Jake with a closed set for the day, access to hair, make-up and costume, and two actors and he did the rest including the casting of Lucy Clements… again delivering something far more chilling and twisted than I could ever have dreamt up!
HC: The Sleeping Room crosses many horror genres, which category would you place it in?
JS: In many ways The Sleeping Room pays homage to the Victorian horror melodrama. I know that the appropriation of that word has negative connotations as being somewhat naff and over the top, but we’re operating within an unashamedly heightened reality and timeless space here, with a grotesquely exaggerated plot and characters, all designed to enhance the films dramatic and emotional intent. It’s not hammy, but tonally it’s not a million miles away from films like The Woman In Black and other Hammer titles, but we’d always hoped that the present day Brighton underbelly would provide a nice bit of indie Brit flavour, and started out with early references London To Brighton and Brighton Rock. We were also aiming for some creepy and atmospheric chills, more psychological than out-and-out gore, as the film very much takes place within the central characters headspace.
HC: Are you nervous that the film is showing at FrightFest?
JS: Yes that’s the scariest part of all! I’m very proud of the film and all we’ve achieved with it, and can only hope that it finds its audience from FrightFest onwards.
HC: So what are you working on at the moment?
JS: I’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign (click here for more information) for the P&A and marketing spend on The Sleeping Room, so that we can really do it justice and give the film the best start in life. I’m also reunited with my main project, We Are Monsters after a year apart. I’m deep into rewrites of the screenplay and super excited by where it’s all heading. With a bit of luck, we’ll be making this big one next.
HC: John Shackleton, thank you very much.
MORE INTERVIEWS Interview with Ruth Platt, director of The Lesson
Posted on Wednesday 6th December 2017
On the eve of Horror Channel's network premiere screening of The Lesson, director Ruth Platt talks about the decision to quit RADA, why her film isn't 'torture porn' and what the future holds.
The Lesson received its World Premiere at FrightFest. How did you react when it was chosen? And what was the experience like?
RP: I was really excited when I found out we'd been picked - we got a call from the team, and they were passionate about the film, and they are such a knowledgable and experienced small team, Greg, Paul, Alan and Ian, and it meant so much. Especially when the making of it had been such an arduous and difficult process! I had no idea how people would react to the film - it was su...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with John Shackleton director of Panic Button
Posted on Wednesday 15th November 2017
As social media horror feature Panic Button gets a remastered DVD and Download release, writer and producer John Shackleton reflects on the film's inspirational journey.
To start at the beginning, what was the genesis or the seed of the idea for Panic Button?
JS: The model of how to make a film actually came before the concept. I'd made a short film with a group of trainees using a bunch of self-imposed restrictions for practicalities sake, to make sure we completed and delivered within the three-week timeframe of the training scheme, who were my employers. The rules were quite simple - no more than five minutes' walk from the office (we couldn't afford a van), no dialogue (we did...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Damien Leone director of Terrifier
Posted on Saturday 28th October 2017
Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film Terrifier at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event today, director Damien Leone talks about the 'Art' of extreme clowning, his debt to Tom Savini and a terrifying Halloween experience...
Art, The Clown initially appeared in your 2008 short The 9th Circle, then the 2011 award-winning short Terrifier and in your first feature All Hallow's Eve. What made you decide to give him a fourth outing?
DL: Up until this point I never felt like I fully showcased Art's potential. I believe between the short films and All Hallows' Eve, there only exists about 20 minutes of Art the Clown screen time. For a character who's done so little, he seems to really resonate with horr...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Mathieu Turi director of Hostile
Posted on Wednesday 25th October 2017
Ahead of the UK premiere of his debut feature Hostile at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Mathieu Turi shares his admiration for Tarantino, describes the challenges of filming in three continents and reveals his 'magic hour'.
You were born in Cannes so you grew up with film all around? When did you know for sure you wanted to direct?
MT: I think it's always been there. As a child, I used to steal my dad's VHS camera to make mini-movies. They were basically all about my Jurassic Park toys eating my dog or invading the garden. Later, I did more elaborate short films with friends, instead of studying. Then, I remember watching Braveheart and the making of the ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Marko Makilaakso director of It Came From The Desert
Posted on Tuesday 17th October 2017
Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film It Came From The Desert at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Marko Makilaakso shares his admiration for Roger Corman, love of B-Movies, spoofing and overcoming homeland obstacles.
It Came From The Desert is inspired by Cinemaware's cult 1980s video game, which in turn was motivated by the giant creature feature craze infesting 1950s Hollywood. What was the main inspiration for you?
MM: There's so many movies and makers which inspired ICFTD, but the main inspiration was exactly that; creature feature infested 1950s Hollywood films, and the legendary Cinemaware Desert games and creature features and action comedies I grew up with in the 19...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Can Evrenol director of Housewife
Posted on Thursday 12th October 2017
Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film Housewife at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Can Evrenol tells us why film is a 'pervert's art' shares his feelings for Fulci and reveals his contribution to Horror anthology, The Field Guide To Evil.
Was it important to make your follow-up film to Baskin in the English language?
CE: I wanted to make the film available for a wider audience and to test myself with a different language movie. I thought it was a fun thing to do.
How do you describe Housewife? What would be your perfect pitch line?
CE: Man, I had this crazy f****d-up dream last night! Do you want to see it?
Like Baskin, Housewife shares man...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Dominic Bridges, director of Freehold
Posted on Wednesday 4th October 2017
One of the stand out movies from Horror Channel FrightFest 2017 was the psychological chiller, Freehold. Dark and at times truly unnerving, the film caused quite a stir and will be released onto DVD on October 9th. Here the film's director Dominic Bridges talking about this superb debut.
HC: Where did the idea for Freehold come from?
DB: Based on personal experience my wife and I suffered a miscarriage whilst trying to buy a house in London whilst the Estate Agents had us bidding against ourselves... I reacted badly which was embarrassing to my wife and myself it all felt like too much fighting for a roof over our heads just tainted the whole of London for us and we moved also the realisation...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Damien Power, director of Killing Ground
Posted on Monday 25th September 2017
One of the best from Horror Channel FrightFest 2017 was a superior thriller, Killing Ground. This tension packed movie looked incredible on the big screen so we decided to chat to its director, Damien Power.
HC: Did Killing Ground take a long time to write and did it change as you progressed?
DP: It took eleven years from the germ of the idea to stepping onto location to start shooting. Luckily I wasn't working on it full time! Once we had a draft we were happy with, it took five years to put the financing jigsaw together. It's a long journey! The biggest change was that for a number of years it didn't really have a third act. It ended very abruptly at the moment of maximum jeopardy. Fort...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Michael Boucherie writer and director of Where the Skin Lies
Posted on Monday 28th August 2017
More new talent seemed to be around at Horror Channel FrightFest this year and one of the stand out movies for me was Where The Skin Lies from Michael Boucherie. Here he chats about this emotional movie.
HC: Did you know from a young age you wanted to be in the film-making business?
MB: Going to the movies with my family is a favourite childhood memory. There was no cinema in our home town, so it always involved a bit of a car trip. Afterwards we'd recount and quote our favourite scenes, for some movies up to this day. My mother also filmed and edited our home movies on Super 8, and she involved me in that. So, on some level I grew up with it. It didn't dawn on me that this was a v...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with legendary actress Barbara Crampton
Posted on Tuesday 15th August 2017
Ahead of her eagerly awaited presence at Horror Channel FrightFest 2017, genre icon, actress and producer Barbara Crampton talks exclusively about her latest film Replace, battling chronic fatigue syndrome and her passion for supporting new talent.
Q: Replace raises questions about beauty, body image and growing older, issues that many feel plague the Hollywood movie industry. What is your view on this subject?
BC: The best movies reflect our inner world, our hopes, our good intentions, trials and our demons. Growing old and the fear of death is endemic to all, not just the movie industry. Just when you begin to figure it out your back aches, your skin starts to wrinkle and you gain weight...SHARE: READ MORE Exclusive interview with Jen and Sylvia Soska, directors of See No Evil 2
Posted on Tuesday 4th April 2017
Jen and Sylvia Soska are two of the most exciting creatives around at the moment. Their work is visceral, dynamic, exciting and above all bloody entertaining. We've chatted to these multi-talented Canadians about their work to date in the build up to the UK TV premiere of See No Evil 2 this Friday on Horror.
HC: It's been while since we last chatted and apart from See No Evil 2 what have you both been up to?
SS: It has been a while, but it's really cool that we get to chat again. We hosted a reality horror gameshow from Matador, GSN, and Blumhouse called Hellevator that was like Saw: The Gameshow!. We had a blast making it. I really can't even believe that was a job a person could have. We're st...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with 'Life' star Rebecca Ferguson
Posted on Wednesday 22nd March 2017
Previously starring opposite Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and Emily Blunt in Girl on the Train, Ferguson steps out as the lead, standing firmly in front of her co-stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Ryan Reynolds in the Horror/Sci-Fi spectacle Life, which opens in cinemas across the UK this Friday.
Starring as Dr. Miranda North, Ferguson plays the last astronaut on-board an International Space Station which has recently caught a space probe containing the first sign of extra-terrestrial life. Studying the life form quickly turns from fascinating to a complete catastrophe, as the organism rapidly grows strength and intelligence - with the desperation to prey upon those within its reach.
We spoke with Fergus...SHARE: READ MORE Interviews Archive: 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Sunday 4th March
Monday 5th March
Sunday 4th March