ARTICLES

LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS


Interview With Stewart Sparke Director Of The Creature Below
By James W, Saturday 27th August 2016

The-Ceature-Below-300x135I'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
FrightFest and FAB Press launch the FrightFest Guide to Ghost Movies
Posted on Thursday 12th July 2018
FrightFest Guide to Ghost Movies-Cover

FrightFest and FAB Press once again join forces to launch The Frightfest Guide To Ghost Movies, which goes on sale during FrightFest 2018, August 23 - August 27.

Following the success of The FrightFest Guide to Exploitation Movies, and The FrightFest Guide to Monster Movies, this is the third in an on-going series of wide appeal books for both the curious spectator and the cult connoisseur.

This year's FrightFest Guide is written by horror genre writer and award-winning filmmaker Axelle Carolyn, who has helmed an atmospheric bone-chiller herself - Soulmate, Axelle is well-versed in all things weird, wicked and witchy and he...

SHARE: READ MORE
FrightFest renews New Blood talent search
Posted on Wednesday 4th July 2018
New Blood logo for FrightFest 2018

After the success of last year's inaugural New Blood search for new writers in the horror genre, the hunt is on for another batch of scribes to cook up a potent cauldron of original ideas and devilish tales. And the search starts today!

New Blood 2 finds FrightFest once again teamed with Giles Edwards of Queensbury Pictures, which aims to find new writers and nurture their project from script to screen.

One of last year's entries, thriller Broadcast Signal Intrusion, is now in pre-production, and is one of Queensbury Pictures' first titles out of the traps. Written by Phil Drinkwater and Tim Woodall, it will be directed by Jacob Gentry (The Signal, Syncronicit...

SHARE: READ MORE
FrightFest 2018 - Here's everything you need to know!
Posted on Thursday 28th June 2018
FrightFest 2018 Poster

Remaining in the heart of London's West End for its 19th edition, the world renowned horror and fantasy film festival FrightFest, turbo-charges into the Cineworld Leicester Square and The Prince Charles Cinema from August 23 - August 27 2018. Hosting a record-breaking seventy films, embracing eighteen countries and spanning six continents, this year's line-up is a true celebration of the genre's global popularity. The five-day fear-a-thon includes 20 World, 17 European and 22 UK Premieres.

The opening night attraction is the UK premiere of The Ranger. Jenn Wexler's impressive directorial debut feature is an explosive, post-modern slasher, with a kic...

SHARE: READ MORE
Graham Humphreys' beautiful artwork for FrightFest 2018 revealed
Posted on Thursday 14th June 2018
FrightFest Logo 2018

Team FrightFest has finally revealed Graham Humphreys' anticipated poster for this year's event.

The stunning artwork for this year's annual Bank Holiday event, the UK's largest celebration of genre cinema, taking place at Cineworld Leicester Square and The Prince Charles Cinema between Thursday August 23rd and Monday August 27th.

For Graham, celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' seemed too important to ignore: "In the same way that Frankenstein gave life to his monster, horror films stimulate our imagination and give form to ideas that otherwise dare not leave the shadows", he commented. "The painting shows our familiar host enjoying ...

SHARE: READ MORE
FrightFest and Horror Channel renew their sponsor partnership
Posted on Thursday 7th June 2018
Horror Channel logo

Horror Channel and FrightFest have agreed a one-year partnership deal, which sees the UK's No.1 TV destination for genre fans become the Broadcast Sponsor for the country's biggest and most popular horror and fantasy film festival.

The agreement means that the CBS Studios International and AMC Networks International - UK owned channel continues its long-standing relationship with the festival, which dates back to 2005, and includes a two-year tenure as headline sponsor from 2016-2017.

As part of the deal, the channel will devote thirteen nights in August to a FrightFest Season, broadcasting twenty-six films from past festivals, which will include five UK TV premiere...

SHARE: READ MORE
Prepare yourself for the Attack of the Adult Babies' stunning artwork!
Posted on Sunday 6th May 2018
Nucleus Films have released the stunning new artwork created exclusively by the legendary graphic artist Graham Humphreys for the slipcase 1-1000 numbered limited edition Blu-ray of Dominic Brunt's Attack of the Adult Babies, which is being released nationwide on June 11.

And, in further good news for genre fans, HMV will be racking the limited Edition Blu-ray in their "Special Edition range" in stores across the country.

Nucleus Films have released the stunning new artwork created exclusively by the legendary graphic artist Graham Humphreys for the slipcase 1-1000 numbered limited edition Blu-ray of Dominic Brunt's Attack of the Adult Babies, which is being rel...

SHARE: READ MORE
Friendly Beast - FrightFest review
Posted on Sunday 18th March 2018

Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow was a true showcase for world cinema. One of the stand out pieces came from Gabriela Amaral Almeida who wrote and directed Friendly Beast, a film so visceral yet beautiful at the same time, it left an indelible mark on this reviewer's mind.

It's nearly closing time at a struggling restaurant. Staff want to go home while the boss struggles with money troubles and a desire for more power in his life. Enter two robbers, the catalyst for a violent situation, which the boss is initially able to contain and gain the upper hand. Suddenly, the already dangerous and explosive situation turns deadly; sides are taken, and people turn to the most abhorrent behaviour in an instant.

Thi...

SHARE: READ MORE
Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil - FrightFest review
Posted on Tuesday 6th March 2018

Ever wished that Terry Gilliam made more movies? The man who gave us Jabberwocky, The Fisher King and Brazil gave the world a new perspective and encouraged budding movie makers around the world to make their own visions and to stick by what they wanted to create.

Step forward Paul Urkijo whose demonic movie Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil just had its UK premiere at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow. This film is the closest thing to anything Gilliam has made in the past but at the same time feels so original and fresh that it deserves multiple views just to appreciate the detail and love in every single frame.

Ten years after Civil War in Spain 1833, orphan Usue (Uma Bracaglia) seeks es...

SHARE: READ MORE
Book of Monsters - Exclusive look at new poster
Posted on Monday 5th March 2018

Those of you lucky enough to make it through the snow to Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow at the weekend were treated to a quick look at Book of Monsters.

From the team that brought us The Creature Below a couple of years back, this female lead, action-packed monster movie draws inspiration from the cult horror cinema of the 80s and 90s including such classics as Scream, Gremlins and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. With sick, gory practical creature effects and a dark comedic edge, the film promises to be a fun, bloody and sexy trip back to a time when making it through high school was truly life or death.

The film was successfully funded through Kickstarter in August 2017, raising £45,000 and became one...

SHARE: READ MORE
Pyewacket - Frightfest Review
Posted on Monday 5th March 2018

You know the feeling you get when you see a film that you know nothing about, not even the title gives anything away and you view with an open mind and then it blows your proverbial socks off? Well this is exactly what happened to me with Pyewacket.

Confused and infuriated for being forced to move away from friends after the death of her father, Leah (Nicole Munoz) performs a blood incantation calling on an evil entity to punish her grieving mother (Laurie Holden). Immediately regretful, she realises she can't reverse the ritual curse and an unholy presence now stalks them both in their rural home.

 

Where do I start with such a movie? Well, let's begin with the sc...

SHARE: READ MORE
Attack of the Bat Monsters - FrightFest Review
Posted on Saturday 3rd March 2018

For a movie that's had a longer gestation period than any project I've known of, Attack of the Bat Monsters looks as if it could have been made yesterday, or the 1950s where its set! More on this later, here's what the film is about:

The movie follows schlock impresario Francis Gordon as he and his intrepid crew attempt to shoot an impromptu monster movie in the three days left over from the film they've just wrapped. This is the 1950s Z-Grade movie industry as its never been seen before.

From the Saul Bass opening title homage (which is worth seeing by itself) the movie perfectly encapsulates the era of post-World War II guerrilla film-making. Attack of the Bat Monsters ha...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Paul Urkijo, director of Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil
Posted on Thursday 1st March 2018

One thing that Horror Channel FrightFest prides itself in is by championing new talent. This year's Glasgow event is no different with a whole host of newbies bringing their first features. A real highlight is Paul Urkijo's Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil which is a sumptuous piece that Terry Gilliam would be proud of. Here he chats to us about this stunning movie.

HC: Where did the idea for Errementari: The Blacksmith and the Devil come from?

PU: I was inspired by the Basque story "Patxi Errementaria". He was registered by JM Barandiaran, an anthropologist priest who dedicated his life to recording stories and legends of the Basque Country. It is a legend about a blacksmith who was so ev...

SHARE: READ MORE
Frightfest Archive: 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
PICK OF THE WEEK
Raze
RAZE
Monday 23rd July
10.45 PM
Black Death (2010)
BLACK DEATH (2010)
Thursday 19th July
9.00 PM
Tucker and Dale vs Evil
TUCKER AND DALE VS EVIL
Monday 23rd July
9.00 PM