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Interview with Justin Edgar director of Stalked
By James Whittington, Monday 26th August 2019
The themes of fear of the unknown and being hunted collide in Justin Edgar's Stalked. Here he talks about the creation of this smart chiller.
HC: Where did the idea for Stalked come from and did it take you long to write?
JE: I believe we're living in a golden age of suspense thrillers and horror and I wanted to be part of that. I knew I had to come up with a cool suspense concept that could form the basis of the film. I've always been very interested in how we all love watching - reality TV, social media, CCTV, surveillance and phone cameras and how that relates to the nature of cinema -voyeurism and scopophilia - the fetish of watching. When I found all this conspiracy stuff on the internet about quantum stealth suits, I realised it had great potential as a truly cinematic conceit. Once I'd done the research and had the story outline written, I wrote the first draft of the script in two weeks, writing a strict five pages a day, that's how I always write. For me its the only way - power on through no matter what.
HC: Did you have a cast in mind whilst writing?
JE: No, I didn't have a clue who would play any of the roles and also had an incredibly short casting period. I knew that for the lead character of Sam I'd need someone who was athletic and could handle the physical nature of the role. I offered Rebecca the part on the spot as I had this gut instinct she was right. We did a lot of work mining the script and the character but also the themes which really helped when we got onto set. In very primal terms when you get down to it, this is a battle between the worst instinct of men (power) and best instinct of women (compassion) and that was fun to explore. Rebecca has done a lot of physical theatre and motion capture for Lara Croft video games and that helped a great deal, for example, in the scenes where she's interacting with an invisible foe. We rehearsed those scenes with an actor or stuntman and then took them out when going for a take, and she repeated the movements with great precision. Even if you're low budget, rehearsal is cheap, and I think it paid off as Rebecca is nominated for the Screen Rising Genre Star award at FrightFest.
HC: It's a smart and very original take on the serial killer theme, are you a fan of such movies?
JE: Thanks! Silence of the Lambs is one of my favourite films and the music and sound are awesome. In my mind Hannibal's escape from Memphis Town Hall is the best piece of suspense cinema ever shot. However, what really makes that film are the actors and I think it's interesting that Jonathan Demme was known more as a drama director and that's what he brought to that film. The trick is always to build up the characters so we know how much is at stake, and we the audience will root for them.
HC: Was it all shot on location?
JE: Yes. The film was entirely shot at a virtually deserted factory which used to have hundreds of employees and now has about five. The guys still working there are really friendly chaps, but it's a spooky and vast empty space. I found the factory and then wrote the script around the location. The spot where we filmed the scene where Sam grabs the oxyacetylene cannister is a paint spraying area and we all got high on paint fumes that day. Happy Friday.
HC: The effects are subtle and very well done, did you have much of a budget to play with?
JE: This was a very low budget film and I wanted it to have a very British horror feel. It was always meant to look quite grungy and real and virtually the entire film is handheld. All the effects had to have that feel in order to make it work. The first concept designs for the drone were a bit too "Battle of the Planets" glamour sci-fi with lasers etc. so we had to make it look more battered, as though it was produced as a prototype.
HC: Are you nervous about the film getting its world premiere at FrightFest and will you watch it with an audience?
JE: Definitely nervous but definitely watching it! I've been to Frightfest as a punter lots of times and never thought I'd be here as a filmmaker. I remember seeing Gareth Edwards premiering Monsters at Frightfest a few years back and it was clearly such a big moment for him. This is a mecca for us genre fans and I think I'll be so chuffed to see it up there in front of an audience of people like me. It takes me back to be that 11-year-old reading Starburst magazine under the covers in 1982 and getting excited about cinema.
HC: You're a writer, director and producer, is there one role you enjoy the most?
JE: Definitely directing. I am gregarious and like to be around people and directing actors and creating characters is the best. I don't know if I'm an actor's director (whatever that is!), but I think I get on well with actors.
HC: So, what are you up to at the moment?
JE: I like robots and have long wanted do a robot movie so I'm planning an action suspense thriller involving a robot. Not sure I want to say any more in case someone pinches my idea!
HC: Justin Edgar, thank you very much.
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