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Interview With Oliver Frampton Director Of The Forgotten
By James Whittington, Friday 22nd August 2014
Starring Shaun Dingwall and Clem Tibber, The Forgotten is showing today on Discovery Screen 1 at FrightFest.
This superb and eerie film contains a slow burning narrative that builds into a gripping pay off. We've been lucky enough to chat to the film's co-writer and director Oliver Frampton about this cracking film and his plans for the future.
HC: What inspired you to write The Forgotten?
OF: I co-wrote The Forgotten with James Hall. In a nutshell it’s like Fish Tank meets The Shining. Gritty, character-based social realism meets supernatural horror. So influences were on one hand Ken Loach and Andrea Arnold and on the other hand Hideo Nakata and Stanley Kubrick. James and I are both huge horror fans and have both been to FrightFest a number of times. We really wanted to make a slow build, classically structured, terrifying ghost story which foregrounded character (rather than just situation and event). Those are the kinds of stories we love. We had worked together on TV projects and one of those was The Bill (the old ITV show). We used to film in these abandoned estates in central London. Only we’d populate them with extras and cars and so on, so they felt alive. But these estates were acres of yawning grey, big blocks, long walkways, all empty. And then you’d see this one little light on in one of the blocks and you thought – what kind of family hangs on like that? Why are they here? So that’s what got us thinking.
HC: It’s your first movie as a director, what did you learn from the making of it?
OF: Dangerously, that I love it! And that I plan to do it all over again as soon as possible! I think the whole process from conceiving, to writing, to prepping to production and into post is a learning process. And you learn every time you repeat it. My professional background is editorial and in scripts, so that was perhaps the area where I was most comfortable. But The Forgotten is really a performance piece, it’s so character based, so what I enjoyed most (and what was the biggest challenge) was learning how to really craft an arc on-screen. I also learned it’s always colder outside that it looks. And to wear comfy trainers. I might be stealing that last answer from Spielberg. But if you’re gonna steal…
HC: How did you choose the young cast?
OF: We managed to entice a great casting director Daniel Edwards to work with us. Casting Tommy was the hardest. Daniel brought in groups of young lads – ten at a time - and he kind of work-shopped them in front of us to see if anyone had the touch of ‘Tommy’ about them. We did this three or four times. And we just couldn’t find the right lad. Then Daniel went further afield and managed to bring me a tape of Clem Tibber just talking. We knew it was him right away. As for the character Carmen, we saw loads of very exciting possible actors. But I remember Elarica Gallacher came in and said she’d rather read a different scene than we’d selected, one that she’d enjoyed more. And she just blew us away – her reading was just so truthful. You had goosebumps. When we put her and Clem together the chemistry was just what we were after.
HC: Shaun Dingwall and Clem Tibber as father and son, bring a real honesty to their roles, was this something they had to work on or did they “bond” quickly?
OF: Thank you. Shaun was brilliant with Clem. We all got on so well during the shoot, there was a very trusting atmosphere, which really helps. But Shaun would definitely help ‘direct’ Clem with his own performance. Give him things to react to. Throw him the energy to do something with. I think Clem’s such a great ‘reactor’ to the things that happen to him on-screen; never overblown, always grounded and emotionally truthful. But Shaun, aside from being outstanding himself, really helped bring out the best for the film as a whole.
HC: What sort of a budget did you have?
OF: Funny story, the film was actually kick started by money from mine and my (very understanding) wife’s wedding! We said on our invites – we’re making a film, please donate. So I won’t have anyone say this wasn’t a film made with love! That gave us the incentive to continue and when the script came together, we were able to budget properly and get other investors onboard. Obviously I can’t give specifics but we’re in the micro-budget bracket. And it was tight. You use the urban landscape and all its bleakness to great effect, how did you choose the locations? Again, ask an expert. We spoke to a locations manager I’d worked with in television called Jim Chambers. He gave us a list of potential estates. We looked around. What I loved about the flats in Durand Close, where we filmed, is that you enter them at first floor level and then go DOWN to the bedrooms. Story wise that was perfect for us because the bedrooms were the scary place. So this meant everytime you go down those stairs by lamplight, you’re thinking “oh god, what’s going to happen now”, like going down into hell.
HC: What was the shoot like?
OF: Wonderful, challenging, emotional, incredibly fast but overwhelmingly positive. We all genuinely bonded and seemed intent on achieving something special. Our shoot was a swift fifteen days – so we had to work at quite a pace. I had to have a very clear vision of the film in my head so I could communicate quickly and clearly with the whole team. And we could move fast because of the amazing crew Jennifer Handorf (Producer) assembled, and because our brilliant Director of Photography Eben Bolter shot almost entirely handheld, lighting predominantly with practical lights (i.e. lamps and props that you see on screen). Quite daring but it looks really great.
HC: The score is subtle and at times quite beautiful; did you have much say in the style?
OF: Yes, it’s beautiful isn’t it. I’m really pleased with what Paul Frith did with the score. The truth is that unless you’re John Carpenter and write your own synth tracks, like so many facets of making a film someone else pours their soul into it. So while Paul and I talked a lot, discussed the direction, agreed the cues, and knew the kind of sounds and timbre we were after – the music is his, it’s from his heart. I’m lucky enough to be a musical person, so we could communicate effectively about material he presented me. But Paul just brought it such warmth and mystery. When we were editing the film, the temp music I used was a bit all over the place. The emotional music was stuff like Max Richter (used in Perfect Sense) – sugary string pieces – while the scary stuff was much more abstract like Krzysztof Penderecki (The Shining). I think Paul found the beating heart in the middle.
HC: The film has a lot to say about the lost youth culture of today, was this intentional?
OF: In a word. Yes. The Forgotten – when you stand back – works as a big metaphor for the eternal question; is it possible to escape the fate that you’re born into? We really wanted to say something about London and about the ‘forgotten’ elements of society. And to do something that felt truthful yet redemptive. I’m really proud of the light-touch way we invite the audience to think about these issues, while obviously weaving it through something tense and entertaining. I think more than anything we wanted to make something emotional (moving) as well as scary.
HC: Are you nervous that the film is showing at FrightFest?
OF: I suppose in some ways I am. This was always designed to be a supernatural horror film; a touch of J-horror, a touch of urban nightmare but in The Forgotten that’s balanced with gritty urban drama. So it might feel a bit different. Having said that, the people we’ve tested the film with (including lots of horror fans) have responded incredibly positively. The way the FrightFest team programme the festival is fantastic as it always provides variety.
HC: So, what projects are you working on at the moment?
OF: James Hall (my co-writer) and I never stopped writing after The Forgotten, so we’ve got a number of follow-up feature scripts in development, and a fair amount of interest in getting the next project off the ground, including one that I’m particularly passionate about; which is supernatural horror film but about a homosexual relationship in a high category prison. An exploration of identity amidst terrifying ghostly happenings. And the idea of people literally being locked into a space that’s haunted is really appealing. And of course more television drama. I’ve been working on some big, really exciting projects, which will be hitting screens later in the year. The Great Fire will air on ITV in October. Keep your eyes peeled.
HC: Oliver Frampton, thank you very much.
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