LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS
Interview With Stewart Sparke Director Of The Creature Below
By James W, Saturday 27th August 2016
I'm a sucker for creature features and any that did into the genre are brave souls. The Creature Below is coming to FrightFest today so we chatted to its director, Stewart Sparke.
HC: How did you get started in the movie industry?
SS: Straight after studying directing at film school I got a few jobs in the UK TV industry, working as an intern with the BBC and then as a Camera Assistant on the 2012 Olympics in London. In my spare time I was also making a few short films with my collaborator Paul Butler and whilst the TV work was fantastic experience I found that my true passion was in making my own films. This lead to myself and Paul setting up a production company in the north of England called Dark Rift Films and through this we have made several short horror films that have been screened at film festivals around the world. We were lucky enough to have our last short film Containment included in the Horror Channel's 666 Shortcuts to Hell 2 anthology feature film a few years ago and it was actually the feedback we received back from the judges that influenced us to get started on a feature film. So really The Creature Below is our first step into the movie industry proper and we hope it is the first of many features to come!
HC: How did the project for The Creature Below come about?
SS: Whilst making short films for a number of years gave us the opportunity to develop new skills and gain valuable experience in the craft of filmmaking our ultimate goal was always to make a feature length film. Paul and myself had been developing a number of ideas over the course of a year and choosing the right one to tackle for our first feature was quite a challenge, as we had never made something of that duration before. Paul already had a great psychological horror script set in a house in the north of England about a young couple who become trapped in a cycle of jealousy and revenge. It was very gritty and disturbing but we needed something to make it unique and really stand out. At the same time we were developing a Lovecraft inspired script about a young scientist whose discovery of a strange creature drives her to madness and we realised that the two ideas were a perfect match for each other, eventually developing them as one film. In the end we were very happy that we had come up with quite a unique and disturbing film that we think horror fans will enjoy.
HC: Was it an easy movie to cast?
SS: The casting process was a wonderful process for us as we had a great deal of interest all of the main leads which was a great boost of confidence for us and showed that people were very interested in taking on our characters. We had some really talented actors read for the roles and paired up auditions so that we could see how our potential cast members would play off each other in some intense scenes from the film and make sure the chemistry was there. With any low budget independent film it was important that we not only found actors who could embody our characters but also have a passion for the type of film we were making and be fully prepared for some tough and emotional scenes. We were so lucky to find Anna Dawson, Michaela Longden and Daniel S. Thrace as our leads and we knew after getting them in a room together that they could bring the characters of Olive, Ellie and Matt to life in a believable way as well as bring out the raw emotions we needed. Complimented by supporting cast members Zach Lee, Johnny Vivash, Libby Wattis and Lyndsey Craine we had our dream cast and it gave us the upmost confidence that they could bring the film’s grim and disturbing universe to life.
HC: You shot the movie on an incredibly tight budget, what was that like and what pressures did it add to the shoot?
SS: Shooting to a limited budget was something we were very used to with our short film projects as much of it had always been self-financed by Paul Butler and myself. This challenge was increased ten fold when we started pre-production on The Creature Below and it was certainly one of the more challenging aspects of making our first feature. One thing we are very proud of and something I would urge all low budget filmmakers to do is ensure that the hospitality of the cast and crew is always at the top priority of your budget. We made sure we had good accommodation provided and hot meals on set every day and it's surprising how quickly this adds to the budget but the benefits outweighed the costs dramatically as everyone was happy and ready to work hard through the shoot. The tight budget also put pressure on the schedule, which had to be kept to just 14 full days and a few weekends in order to shoot the whole script and get everything we needed while the cast and crew were available. We were so lucky to have such a dedicated cast and crew who knew the stakes and they worked very hard to ensure we started and finished each day on time, ensuring we finished principal photography on schedule. Whilst the pressure was on during the whole shoot, it was an experience I wouldn’t change for the world and I value all of the skills and knowledge of making feature films I gained along the way!
HC: Did you have to leave anything out of the script due to the size of the budget?
SS: One thing Paul and I were very conscious of during the writing stage was keeping the script realistic, this was our first feature after all and we needed to make sure it was achievable. At the same time however, we had a great deal of success on previous projects getting access to some amazing locations and knew some very talented people who could bring our ambitious ideas to life so we didn't want to shy away from some incredibly ambitious sequences making it into the script. Whilst Paul was writing the screenplay I made sure that I was speaking to the relevant people to make sure we could accomplish what the script demanded. By talking to fantastic special effects artists like Neil Stevens, Paul Wilkins and Simon Brodie this early in the process we were confident that we could bring the creature to life whilst at the same time I was able to get permission to film on an old fishing trawler and shoot with the stunning Humber Bridge in Hull as a backdrop in a number of scenes. Likewise, visual effects supervisor Jeff Blyth assured us that we could accomplish an ambitious deep-sea dive sequence and we worked with him during the scripting stage to ensure it would be achievable when it came to shooting the film. Securing these key elements early on during the script writing process meant that we did not have to scale back our vision and I'm happy to say that the finished film stays true to our original ambitions.
HC: The SFX is key to many scenes, how did you design the look and feel of the creature?
SS: The design of creature in the film and each stage of its life-cycle was a collaborative process between myself and a number of talented artists whom we had worked with in the past. It was important that the smaller version of the creature you see was almost cute and that audience felt an emotional bond with it much like Olive in the film. Big bulbous eyes and some great sound design from Dave S. Walker were key in making that happen and it's a contrast to the huge hulking creature it eventually becomes which has smaller eyes and a more menacing form. Graphic novel artist Lee Lightfoot did a fantastic job at realising my initial ideas into concept artwork, which we then passed onto our creature FX team, who were able to draw up blueprints to build practical versions of the creature. With each one being some form of puppet we had to make sure that the creature could withstand the wear and tear of shooting and be fully interactive with the actors and the creature FX team were great at making sure the practical effects met the demands of the script. At the same time SFX makeup artist Simon Brodie was on set to manage the fake blood and guts and how that would interact with the puppet. VFX artist Jeff Blyth also had to make a CG version of the larger creature for a few scenes where a practical creation was not possible and used the same concept artwork to ensure the creature maintained the same look at style as had previously been seen.
HC: This is your first full length feature, what did you learn whilst making The Creature Below?
SS: I've probably touched on a few of the things I've learned earlier in the interview but overall it's that collaboration is key. I always remember a quote from indie filmmaker Pat Higgins where he said that the key to successfully making your first feature is finding people who have all of the qualities you don't have and listening to what they have to say. That was so important on this film and I was lucky enough to be surrounded by so many talented people who all had their own amazing input that made the film even better and overcame so many hurdles. From our costume designer Natalie Roe suggesting different colours for characters based on their emotional states during the course of the film to our Director of Photography suggesting a new camera move that made the scene even more impactful, all of this collaboration made the film even better.
HC: Are you nervous that the movie is getting its world premiere at FrightFest?
SS: I would be lying if I said I wasn't! The Creature Below is our first feature so we really hope people respond well to it. FrightFest was always in mind as the first festival we would submit our film to and we even built our schedule around getting the film finished in time so it's a huge deal to us that we were accepted. It's also the first time all of the cast and crew will see the film so what better place to watch it than on the big screen at one of the best horror festivals on in the world!
HC: Will you watch with the audience?
SS: I will be there on the front row biting my nails hoping that the audience jump/laugh/scream at the right moments. Most of the cast and crew will be there too and we are very excited to see it with fellow horror fans!
HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?
SS: Paul and myself are busy developing a few ideas for our next feature but everything is at an early stage right now so I couldn't mention anything specific but it's safe to say that another horror film is on the cards. As for other projects we have been having a great time working on a web series called Slice of Horror on our YouTube channel. In the series we travel around the country to interview other indie horror filmmakers and attend film festivals and conventions covering everything horror related. This has been fantastic for us to meet other people doing the same thing we are and learn more about their approach to making films and share it with the world. We also review independent British horror films, many of which have screened at FrightFest in the past and try and get the word out about some undiscovered gems.
HC: Stewart Sparke, thank you very much.
MORE FRIGHTFEST Slay bells ring in Secret Santa!
Posted on Sunday 21st October 2018
Christmas dinner turns bloody in Secret Santa, the ferocious, gore-soaked horror comedy from the creators of Jason Goes To Hell and Texas Chainsaw 3D.
A Christmas Eve gathering takes an unexpected turn after a family guest spikes the punch with a military grade version of truth serum sodium pentothal. The already dysfunctional group comes unstuck in a blizzard of drug-induced, painfully candid outbursts, and upset soon turns to carnage after the head of the family runs amok with a fork, triggering festering loathings and savage reprisals.
The second film to be released under the FrightFest Presents label, the new venture from leading independent distributor Signature Enter...SHARE: READ MORE FrightFest announces line-up for Halloween 2018 event
Posted on Thursday 4th October 2018
FrightFest unleashes an intoxicating six-pack of horror, sci-fi and fantasy for their popular Halloween all-day event, now at the Cineworld Leicester Square on Saturday 3rd November. The 12-hour monstrous marathon embraces four continents and includes two world premieres and four UK premieres.
The day kicks off with Julian Richards' latest chiller Reborn, a Carrie for the Z Generation, starring the First Lady of FrightFest, Barbara Crampton, and featuring a stunning performance from rising newcomer Kayleigh Gilbert. Richards, famous for The Last Horror Movie, will be at this World Premiere screening.
Next up is the UK premiere of Parallel, direct...SHARE: READ MORE First film to be released under the FrightFest Presents label - The Dark.
Posted on Tuesday 18th September 2018
The first film to be released under the FrightFest Presents label, the new venture from leading independent distributor Signature Entertainment and leading genre festival FrightFest, The Dark received its UK premiere at this year's prestigious FrightFest in London, and is perfect for genre fans who love nothing more than a backwoods shocker featuring ghouls, gore and flesh eating, but one done with panache and poignancy.
An undead young woman, Mina, stalks the 'Devil's Den' woods where she was killed. If anyone enters the woods, she kills them and feasts on the body. But when she stumbles upon a young blind boy named Alex in the back of a car, who shows signs of horrifying abuse, she can't bring herself to kill...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano, the creative forces behind Crystal Eyes
Posted on Saturday 15th September 2018
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 Interview with Tom de Ville, director of Corvidae
Posted on Wednesday 5th September 2018
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
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 Less dialogue, more sound. Sennheiser presents 3D audio thriller, Final Stop
Posted on Friday 31st August 2018
The rustle of a newspaper, the sound of the bus engine far away, the steps of the stalker in the pitch-black night: The hairs on the back of every neck will stand up, thanks to the incredibly realistic 3D sound in Sennheiser's short film Final Stop. Writer and director Roxanne Benjamin uses the soundscape to create a thrilling atmosphere, with stunning audio recorded using Sennheiser's Ambeo Smart Headset. The result is a gripping 3D audio thriller which was shown at FrightFest 2018 to a very appreciative crowd and which you can view here.
In Final Stop, the protagonist played by Australian actress Phoebe Tonkin is on her way home from the city on a night bus. She soon notices a m...SHARE: READ MORE Fancy a western themed slasher? Lasso will be for you!
Posted on Friday 31st August 2018
Epic Pictures' horror label Dread Central has unleashed the trailer for their latest picture, Lasso, Evan Cecil's Western-themed slasher which premiered at FrightFest last week.
From Dragonfly Films, Lasso, produced by Elaine Gibson, Todd Myers and Evan Cecil, stars Sean Patrick Flanery (The Boondock Saints), Lindsey Morgan (The 100), Karen Grassle (Little House on the Prairie) and Andrew Jacobs (Paranormal Activity).
The horror flick centers around Kit (Morgan) and Simon (Jacobs), two young leaders of an Active Senior Tour group, out on an adventure to a small-town Rodeo festival located deep in the woods. It's a great experience for the group... until they try to leave. Simon and Kit must save themselves...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Ferdinando D'Urbano actor, writer, producer of The Laplace's Demon
Posted on Tuesday 28th August 2018
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
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 FrightFest Day 5 - FrightFest comes to a Climax
Posted on Monday 27th August 2018
All good things come to an end and FrightFest 2018 is entering its final day. But there should be no tears, no sadness, as the event has been one of the very best of its 19 years.
But let's not dwell on it too much as there's another action-packed day of film fear for all attendees to enjoy starting with the world premiere of the brutal movie, Open 24 Hours from Padraig Reynolds.
Then its time to view a genre favourite of mine, the multi-story kind as The Field guide to Evil delivers a delicious amount of tales ranging from Greek goblins to possession in the German mountains. A love story with a ghastly and unique twist is next on the schedule as an undead flesh-eating ghoul form an unlike...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 Frightfest Archive: 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 PICK OF THE WEEK
Saturday 27th October
Monday 22nd October
Tuesday 30th October