ARTICLES

LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS

Interview With John Shackleton co-writer and Director of the Sleeping Room
By James W, Wednesday 20th August 2014

John Shackleton

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 Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano, the creative forces behind Crystal Eyes
Posted on Saturday 15th September 2018
Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano

FrightFest 2018 exposed attendees to horror from all over the world and one that made an incredibly stylish and retro impact was the superb giallo inspired shocker, Crystal Eyes. Here the co-writers and co-directors Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano tell us all about this affectionate love letter to the classics of the 80s.

Where did the idea for Crystal Eyes come from?

Crystal Eyes was supposed to be the third episode of our web-series called No Podras Dormir Esta Noche (You Won't Sleep Tonight) which paid homage to different horror sub genres in each episode, and eventually it turned into a feature film. We love Giallo si...

SHARE: READ MORE
Exclusive interview with Adam Green, director of Hatchet.
Posted on Thursday 13th September 2018
Adam Green director of Hatchet

Ahead of Horror Channel's UK TV Premiere of Hatchet on Friday 14th Sept, director Adam Green gives an exclusive interview about his beloved franchise and what the future holds for Victor Crowley...

Hatchet is finally getting its first showing on UK TV, courtesy of Horror Channel. We're excited, are you?

I couldn't be more excited! I've always said that even though Hatchet may have world premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC, it was at FrightFest in London where "Victor Crowley" was truly born. FrightFest was "the screening heard around the world" and the UK audience was so enthusiastic over Hatchet that every genre festival on t...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Tom de Ville, director of Corvidae
Posted on Wednesday 5th September 2018
Tom de Ville director of Corvidae

HC: This is your first short as a director, what inspired you to write this script?

TdV: I read a really interesting article about how smart crows are, in particular how they can hold grudges. Apparently a group of scientists had gone out and harassed a murder of crows whilst wearing masks. If they went back wearing the masks, the crows would remember them and fight back. If they didn't wear the masks, the crows would leave them alone. This made me start thinking about what would happen if someone tried to save a crow from a bunch of kids who were trying to kill it. Would the other crows from its murder remember this? And what would they do to help her?...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Stewart Sparke, director of Book of Monsters
Posted on Wednesday 5th September 2018
Director Stewart Sparke watches a scene

HC: Your last movie, The Creature Below was two years ago, what's life been back since then?

SS: Since The Creature Below premiered at Frightfest in 2016 things haven't really stopped for myself and my collaborator Paul Butler. We were lucky enough to have the film released on DVD and VOD in over eight countries under various names. I think my favourite has to be Japan's Leviathan X: From the Deep! The film even had a theatrical release in Taiwan which was quite surreal as it was playing opposite Thor Ragnarok over there so overall, we've been completely blown away by everything that's happened. Paul and I are always coming up wit...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Ferdinando D'Urbano actor, writer, producer of The Laplace's Demon
Posted on Tuesday 28th August 2018
Ferdinando D'Urbano - Director of Photography Producer COL

A stand-out movie from FrightFest 2018 tested the brain power of those who saw it. The Laplace's Demon is an incredibly powerful piece so we chatted to one of the creatives behind it, Ferdinando D'Urbano.

HC: I'd never heard of Laplace's Demon theory before, can you give us a quick explanation of what it is?

FDU: The Laplace's Demon is a philosophical theory of the early 1800s. Pierre Simon Laplace was a French mathematician who in his work "Essai philosophique sur les probabilites" (A philosophical essay on probabilities), theorized that if there were an intellect capable of knowing al...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Andre Gower director of Wolfman's Got Nards
Posted on Monday 27th August 2018
Wolfman's Got Nards

HC: You had already starred in a lot of stuff before The Monster Squad came along, did you think that this was just "another" acting job?

AG: At the time, it was just that. The next audition, the next project. However, once on set and seeing what you were a part of, we realized quickly that this was something bigger and more unique than anything we had done before or may even get to do in the future.

HC: Were you a fan of the Universal monsters at that time?

AG: I always had an appreciation for the classics even as a kid. As you mature, you keep that appreciation and learn more about it and how it affects the present and realize these were very important...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with John Rocco and Abiel Bruhn the writers and directors of The Night Sitter
Posted on Sunday 26th August 2018

HC: Where did the idea for The Night Sitter come from?

JR: From the beginning of this story, I had my childhood home in Nashville in mind as the perfect location. After several months of convincing, my parents allowed us to film in their house. It's a pretty amazing feeling to have grown up in the same location that we'd eventually film our first feature in! We were able to incorporate all the parts of my house that used to scare me as a child and weave them into a story about witches, which was extremely fun and nostalgic at times. While developing the story, I tried to recall the scary thoughts I had when I was Kevin's age.

AB: Finding an inspiring location (the house has this stran...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Joanne Mitchell, director of Sybil
Posted on Sunday 26th August 2018
Joanne Mitchel Image 4

One of the best things about FrightFest is the Showcases of Shorts which is the way to catch undiscovered talent and unique ideas. Joanne Mitchell has been in the entertainment industry for a few years but has just directed her first piece, Sybil which is showing at FrightFest today.

We decided to chat to her about this amazing and disturbing piece as well as he plans for feature films.

HC: Have you wanted to direct for a while?

JM: To be honest I hadn't really thought of directing until Tracey (Sheals) sent me an email with her idea for Sybil. And I really liked the story and thought this would make a great short film and possibly a feature in the fut...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Michael Mort creator and director of Chuck Steel Night of the Trampires
Posted on Saturday 25th August 2018
mike Mort Director of Chuck Steel

HC: Where did the character of Chuck Steel come from?

MM: I came up with the character of Chuck Steel in 1985 when still at school. I used to doodle this square jawed action hero in my English book when I should have been concentrating on the lesson. Over the years he developed a bit as I drew him in various adventure scenarios, usually involving monsters of some kind. I made a Super8 short film with the character when I was experimenting with animation and I also made a college film featuring Chuck a few years later. These were basically just Chuck fighting monsters for 10 minutes or so but I was learning about how to construct scenes and action as I went. Later in my animati...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Sam Ashurst director of Frankenstein's Creature
Posted on Saturday 25th August 2018

HC: Why did you choose to film James Swanton's acclaimed play, Frankenstein's Creature?

SA: I made a music video for Channel 4, and they gave me a small budget to shoot it in a day. The budget was small enough to raise independently, and I looked around me and realised I had all the crew I needed to shoot an actual feature film, not just a music video - if only I could shoot a film in a day! Then my friend Dan Martin, who did the effects for films like Human Centipede II and Freefire, said that he'd been given advice that if you want to shoot a film in a short space of time, you should option a play. I'd worked with James on another, much smaller thing, and was blown away by his talent....

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Chris Collier, director of FrightFest: Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema
Posted on Saturday 25th August 2018
Chris Collier director of FrightFest doc

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...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Jon Knautz director of The Cleaning Lady
Posted on Friday 24th August 2018
Jon Knautz director of The Cleaning Lady

HC: What made you decide that your short film The Cleaning Lady would work as a feature?

JK: Actually we had already written the feature before we made the short. We wanted to make a proof of concept to see how people reacted and to try and raise some awareness of our feature script. It was also a great way to experiment with the tone of the film, so we would be ready to tackle the feature.

HC: How did you and co-writer Alexis Kendra work on the script?

JK: Alexis and I had written several scripts together already so we had our system down pretty good at that point. We start by smoking cigars and just brainstorming for a while... then even...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interviews Archive: 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
PICK OF THE WEEK
Bed Of The Dead
BED OF THE DEAD
Tuesday 25th September
9.00 PM
Under The Dome
UNDER THE DOME
Friday 5th October
8.00 PM
Demonic
DEMONIC
Saturday 29th September
9.00 PM