LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Brand New - Exclusive Interview With Jon And Howard Ford Directors Of The Dead
By James Whittington, Thursday 2nd September 2010
Howard and Jon Ford brought their movie The Dead to FrightFest 2010 and it played to a very appreciative crowd. Its an intelligent and apocalyptic zombie movie, taking this well plundered genre to new heights. Horror Channel had the chance to speak to these rising stars about their movie and what inspired them to make it.
HC: Did you and your brother always want to work in the film industry?
Jon: Interesting question. The very term film industry implies a sausages factory mentality which I think is the problem with most movies. The Dead has been made from the heart rather than the pocket, a very rare thing these days. So in answer to your question...no not really. I didn't make The Dead because I wanted to make films I made films because I wanted to make The Dead! If that makes sense. This movie is the reason I started filmmaking! It's been my lifetime ambition! That sounds a bit dramatic but it is the truth!
Howard: I remember being completely obsessed when I was about 10 years old as to how what I was seeing on the TV or movie screen actually got there - I had no idea how films were made back then but for some reason I was hooked on being a part of that creation. I nagged our parents for a camera for my birthday & Christmas combined but at the time they couldn't afford it. When Jon got a part time Job after school I helped convince him the best use of his hard earned cash was to buy a Super 8mm camera and we went out and shot little movies with friends as actors etc. I remember wanting to make films so badly that I couldn't sleep just thinking about it! I also tried to convince some friends to cut up their clothes for a zombie short but thankfully no one wanted to be a part of it - at 13, with almost no experience it would have been shockingly bad!
HC: Do you have any favourite directors that have influenced your work?
Jon: If I had to credit one director as my main influence it would be Sergio Leone. A true master of composition and attention to detail within an epic context.
Howard: I agree with Jon, Sergio Leone was incredible but I also feel that even though some directors are not necessarily consistently good, I can still feel inspired by some of their creative choices on particular movies or even particular sequences even if the whole movie isn't good and I cant help making a mental note of lenses/camera moves, composition etc as I’m watching a film and hopefully those moments that resonate with me a director add additional inspiration to my own instincts when on set. For example, some of David Fincher’s work is beautiful and also M. Night’s The Sixth Sense contained fantastic choices, with subtlety and power.
HC: Are you a big fan of the zombie genre?
Jon: I'm a massive zombie fan especially the 70s and early 80s ones. Romero, Fulci, Grau etc I'm almost embarrassed to admit it but I can recite the dialogue off by heart for several of these movies.
Howard: I have always been a huge horror fan and The Evil Dead is probably the reason I got into film making! The original Dawn of the Dead blew me away too but my tastes in film run from the obscure to the mainstream depending what mood I’m in on any given day!
HC: Where did the idea for The Dead come from and why set it in Africa?
Jon: I started making notes on the script for this movie in the 1980s almost as a backlash to watching too many crap zombie movies, in a way I was writing the zombie film I always wanted to see. The Africa thing came about because we were looking for a stunning visual canvas in which to set our scenes, a place which could provide a threat as dangerous as the zombies themselves. We wanted beauty as well as horror on screen in the same frame! Yin and Yang.
Howard: Setting it in Africa was the hook. To be honest, I would never have wanted to make ‘The Dead’ had it not been for the setting that makes it so unique. It had to be different somehow and also give audiences something different even when there are no zombies on screen. Jon and I had shot many TV commercials in Africa and felt it was the ideal place to set it.
HC: The Dead is a very tense movie, sometimes edge of your seat stuff, was this important to you so it didn’t just become “another zombie movie”?
Jon: Thanks very much! There have been some very bad zombie movies made lately. We had to try and make this one something special. We wanted a moment by moment tension to give the audience a taste of what it might be like to be in this horrific situation
Howard: Very relieved the tension worked for you! Thanks. The film had to pay off in this respect. I hope that the film has a little bit of a rollercoaster ride about it and gives you a jolt when you least expect it, but also at times exactly WHEN you expect it to. I was very conscious of this when editing the film because its all very well being clever in the shock moments but sometimes you just want it to happen when it should happen and also I hope you think its going to happen but you’ve just been lead down the garden path..
HC: I can sense nods to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters, is this deliberate?
Jon: Yes there are some nods of honour to those movies that inspired us. I kind of had the music to Zombie Flesh Eaters going round in my head most of the time while shooting this film! Howard and I would also quote lines from various horror movies to relieve the tension while filming.
Howard: There are also nods to such an insane mix of movies it could geek people out if they spot them! We must have been 8 or 10 years when we saw a movie one night on TV called Lost in the Desert about a young boy who survives a plane crash and finds himself isolated in harsh elements without food or water. Some of the vibes of that movie never left us... Also films like Le salaire de la peur (The Wages of Fear). Some of our other inspirations are so random sometimes from such an obscure horror movie it’ll be fascinating to see if audiences pick up on them.
HC: The zombies are traditional; meaning they are slow moving but driven by their taste for flesh. Why did you go for this zombie style?
Jon: Howard and myself agreed right at the start that our Zombies would creep up on their victims rather than run like Olympic athletes, fly, disappear and re-appear or some other ridiculous movement that a reanimated corpse might make. In our film once you're with the concept that the dead are coming back to life and searching for human flesh everything else is gritty and real! Come on! They're dead! Rigor mortise is setting in! It's enough to ruin anyone’s chances of a sprinting career.
Howard: Yup, at very best they should only stand a chance at the burger eating contest! The other important thing is that when you show fast moving zombies running at you, the scene instantly has to become an action sequence whereas the tension you gain through creating suspense is much a much more powerful tool and ultimately a more satisfying experience.
HC: Was it a hard movie to cast, especially the two lead characters? (I would just like to say they give stunning performances)
Jon: Thanks I agree we were very lucky to get these guys! Rob Freeman was the only guy for the job! An incredible actor and in hindsight I seriously think he is probably the only actor on earth who could have survived the suffering that he did, to make this film! Prince is a fantastic guy and the most talented up and coming Ghanaian actor. David Dontoh we had worked with before on a Guinness commercial and from then always wanted to get him in this movie.
Howard: It was logistically hard as we cast from various different continents but we are extremely happy with our choices. Rob was destined for this role, such a fantastic actor but also he refused to quit - and when I say that, I quite literally mean it. After he got Malaria and almost died, I offered Rob a way out. Jon & I would re write the script but Rob absolutely refused to quit, and I’m grateful for that as he’s fantastic to watch and I can’t imagine the film without him. Also Prince was an incredible discovery. We scoured for his role in the UK, Nigeria even the US but in he walks to the Lintas ad agency in Ghana and just nails it! I found his original audition the other day and it gave me goose bumps!
HC: It’s a character driven movie rather than effects driven; did the script go through many drafts?
Jon: Even though I had been adding to the script since the 1980s, when Howard and myself actually sat down together to write this thing through, it was very quick and we knew that we wanted to keep the raw energy it had and that if we messed about too much it might lose some of that spontaneity. Also neither of us are fans of big effects movies! You can't get emotionally moved by CGI so we wanted characters you can believe in; once you're emotionally involved then you're hooked.
Howard: Absolutely agree. We were also very conscious of not overloading it with dialogue. We wanted it to be a visual piece and avoid chit chat or cheesy dialogue - we also wanted it to be sparse as it was also about loneliness and isolation and how death strips every comfort zone away from you. Often one of us would suggest a line of dialogue and the other would shoot it down unless it was ABSOLUTELY necessary. What was great about it was we had total creative control, apart from the production nightmares of course!!
HC: Talking of effects these are remarkable and very well realised, was most of these achieved on location?
Jon: We wanted to achieve as many effects on location as possible to keep it feeling real. This also gives the actors something to work with. The problem with CGI is that even after all this time it's still in its infancy.
Howard: also, the human eye is so sharp audiences notice when something is fake. Even though they might not be able to identify what is wrong with the image. It just doesn’t sit right and that’s the problem with CGI. It was so important we did as many things as we could organically, so the audience can feel they are really in this land and on a real journey… Once you get past the fact that the dead are returning to life, everything else has to feel real!
HC: The film is at times as bleak as the landscape even apocalyptic in theme; did you fear that it might become a bit too intense?
Jon: Never! Too much tension is never enough! You're right the theme is a bit apocalyptic. To be honest if the dead do start to come back to life and attack the living it would be very apocalyptic! LOL
HC Would you like to return to the zombie genre?
Jon: There were so many things we had in the original script that had to be abandoned that these could easily fill another script. So if the fans like it then absolutely!
Howard: Yup, if the fans want it and this film proves successful then that will pave the way for more… The Dead 2 is already being talked about…. If we do do it, it will be with more money and with more armed guards!!
HC: Jon and Howard Ford, thank you very much.
MORE INTERVIEWS Interview with Julien Seri, director of Anderson Falls
Posted on Tuesday 18th February 2020
Ahead of the UK premiere of serial killer thriller Anderson Falls at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020, director Julien Seri reflects on this, his first 'American' experience, challenging fight scenes and the importance of personal vision.
It has been five years since we premiered Night Fare at FrightFest London, what have you been up to since then?
JS: I worked on two, very singular, projects as a producer and/or director. I signed for both with Wild Bunch, but we've failed to produce them yet. So I keep fighting. And I did a lot of commercials, TV series and music videos.
When did you first hear about the Anderson Falls script and why did you think it was perfect for yo...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Adam Stovall, director of A Ghost Waits
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2020
Ahead of the World premiere of A Ghost Waits at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020, director Adam Stovall reflects on getting through depression, creating paranormal romance and the influence of Tom Waits...
You have an interesting CV - from comedy theatre and film journalism to writing for The Hollywood Reporter and second assistant directing. Was all this a game plan to becoming a fully-fledged director?
AS: I've known since I was a little kid sitting in the basement watching the network TV premiere of Back To The Future while holding my Back To The Future storybook and waiting for them to premiere the first footage from Back To The Future 2 during a commercial br...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Simeon Halligan, director of Habit
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2020
Simeon Halligan is one of the busiest people working in the industry today. Writer, director, producer, director of celebrated film festival Grimmfest, in fact the list goes on.
His latest film is the neon tinged, blood-splattered masterpiece Habit which is showing on Horror February 14th so we thought we should get the story on how he brought this shocker to the big screen.
HC: When did you first become aware of the book by Stephen McGeagh to which Habit is based?
SH: I read the book a couple of years back and really liked it. A combination of gritty realism and dark fantasy; set within a very recognisable Manchester. There's a juxtaposition in the book; from a kind of soc...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Jackson Stewart, director of Beyond The Gates
Posted on Wednesday 22nd January 2020
Jack Stewart's sublime retro horror Beyond the Gates was recently shown on Horror. Jackson is one of the strongest creatives around at the moment but he took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about this contemporary classic and his future movie plans.
HC: Was there one film that you saw growing up which gave you the idea that you wanted to work in the film industry?
JS: There were definitely a number of them; I think the ones that stick out strongest in my memory were Temple Of Doom, Batman '89, Nightmare On Elm Street 4, Raising Arizona, Back To The Future, Marnie, Army Of Darkness, The Frighteners and Dirty Harry. All of them had a big emotional impact on me. Dirty Har...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with acclaimed author Shaun Hutson
Posted on Friday 20th December 2019
The British horror legend Shaun Hutson is back with Testament, a new novel featuring one of his fans most loved characters, Sean Doyle so we decided to catch up with this talented chap about his acclaimed work.
HC: Was there one author who inspired you to become a writer?
SH: My inspirations were always and still are cinematic if I'm honest. Even when I first started writing my influences and inspirations came from things like Hammer films, from TV series like The Avengers (with Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee) and from old Universal horror films. I read the Pan Books of Horror Stories when I was a kid and I think they were probably the first "literary" influences I ever had. I also read lo...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Tyler MacIntyre, director of Patchwork
Posted on Thursday 12th December 2019 On the eve of Horror Channel's UK TV premiere of Patchwork on December 14th, director Tyler MacIntyre reflects on body image issues. twisting audience expectations and his admiration for current female genre directors.
HC: Patchwork finally gets its UK TV premiere on Horror Channel. Excited or what?
TM: Relieved actually. It's been a long time coming. The third screening of the film ever happened at FrightFest in Glasgow and since then I've had people asking me when it was going to come out. The UK genre fans are among the most diehard in the world, so I'm very excited to finally have it available for them.
HC: You were in attendance when Patchwork, your directorial feature debut, rece...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with James Moran, writer of Tower Block
Posted on Monday 25th November 2019
Writer James Moran is about to do what few other writers have done in the past, the Horror Channel Triple! He is one of the few creatives who has had three of his movies play on the channel; Cockneys Vs Zombies, Severance and now Tower Block which is playing on November 29th. So, we decided to chat to this talented chap about this superior thriller and the rest of his career.
HC: Your first movie, Severance is a huge favourite with Horror Channel viewers, were you ever tempted to pen a sequel?
JM: Thank you, I'm really glad that people can still discover it with every new screening. Everybody wanted to do a sequel, we actually had several meetings about it. Nothing came of it, they carried on with...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Gary Dauberman, writer and director of Annabelle Comes Home
Posted on Saturday 23rd November 2019
Gary Dauberman has been the scriptwriter for some of the most successful horror movies of the last few years including IT: Parts 1 and 2, Annabelle and The Nun. His latest movie, Annabelle Comes Home which is also his directorial debut, has just been released onto DVD and Blu-ray. We caught up with this talented chap about his career to date.
HC: What was it about the horror genre that grabbed your imagination and made you want to become a writer?
GD: The earliest movie going experience I can remember was my parents taking me to Raiders of the Lost Ark and I was 4 or 5 or something and I had to sleep with them for a week, you know the opening up of The Ark and the face melting, a rea...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Cameron Macgowan, director of Red Letter Day
Posted on Friday 1st November 2019
FrightFest 2019 exposed a lot of new talent in the movie industry and one of the stand-out pieces was Red Letter Day from Cameron Macgowan.
HC: Where did the idea for Red Letter Day come from and did it take long to write?
CM: I have long been a fan of the 'Humans Hunting Humans' subgenre of film (Battle Royale, The Running Man, Hard Target, etc.) and was inspired to set one of these films in what many people consider the 'safe' location of the suburbs. Suburban communities feel like the perfect setting for a horror film as you can walk for miles without seeing a single soul all while knowing that you are surrounded by many people. This mixed with a desire to satirise the current socio-political climate ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Carlo Mirabella-Davis, director of Swallow
Posted on Wednesday 30th October 2019
Ahead of the UK premiere of Swallow at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween, director Carlo Mirabella-Davis reflects on the personal inspiration behind his feature debut, healing psychological wounds and his empathy for the genre.
HC: Swallow is your directorial debut. How difficult was it to get the project off the ground?
CMD: Getting a film made is a fascinating process. My late, great teacher at NYU, Bill Reilly, would always say "script is coin of the realm". The early stages involved perfecting the screenplay as much as I could, writing and rewriting until I felt confident sending it out. The sacred bond between the producer and the director is the catalyst that brings a film into being. I ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Paul Davis, director of Uncanny Annie
Posted on Wednesday 16th October 2019
Ahead of the International premiere of Uncanny Annie at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween 2019, director Paul Davis reflects on working for Blumhouse, bemoans attitudes to British genre film funding and reveals the movies that inspire him the most...
HC: Tell us how Uncanny Annie came about?
PD: Uncanny Annie is my second movie for Blumhouse as part of Hulu's Into The Dark movie series. I had the opportunity to actually kick off last October with a feature adaptation of my short film The Body (which had its world premiere at FF in 2013). The concept was to release a movie a month, for twelve months, with each revolving around a holiday or particular day for the month of its released. With The Bod...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Lars Klevberg, director of Child's Play (2019)
Posted on Thursday 10th October 2019 It was the remake everyone was against! The interweb was ablaze with negativity but director Lars Klevberg and his team managed to pull off one of the best horror movies of 2019. Here he chats about the smart shocker, Child's Play.
HC: How nervous were you taking on a re-imagining of such a beloved concept and franchise?
LK: I was in fact very nervous the minute I signed on to do the movie. Before that, I worked relentlessly for weeks to get the job, but immediately after getting it my body had a very stressful reaction. I was fully aware of the legacy I was about to re-open so, I didn't sleep one minute that night.
HC: W...SHARE: READ MORE Interviews Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Sunday 1st March
Monday 2nd March
Sunday 1st March