ARTICLES

LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS

Exclusive Interview With Alan Jones
By James Whittington, Thursday 23rd July 2009
Alan Jones is one of the four people behind the country’s biggest horror movie festival, FrightFest. The event is now entering its tenth year so Zone Horror decided to catch up with Alan to learn about the festival’s origins as well as what the future holds.  
ZH: So, here we are ten years of FrightFest. Does it feel that long?   AJ: Not at all. Ten years? Where did that go? It all feels like a blur of cinemas, guests, hassles and high points. But in a good way. Who'd have thought it would get to be this massive? OK, we've worked hard to make sure it's become the UK's biggest horror fantasy event, but it's also a validation of the genre in general. The change in perception from when we started out to what it is now is extraordinary. So I do feel FrightFest has ridden the wave as much as helped create it.    ZH: How did you, Ian and Paul first get together and when did Greg join the crew?   AJ: Paul I'd known from The Cinema Store. I used to go in a steal books and posters. True! He'd always loved my 'Shock Around The Clock' events that I'd co-organized in the 80s, where we just showed movies continuously from midday one Saturday afternoon to midday the next day. 24 hours of terror, at the much-missed old Scala Cinema and then at the Electric Cinema in Portobello Road, now also transformed into an up-market club. So he thought we should try and emulate that. So with one of his friends, booker/distributor Ian Rattray, who'd I'd never met (and still wish I hadn't, only joking) we decided to mount FrightFest. I wanted to call it 'Shock Around The Clock' again actually but I'm so glad we talked ourselves out of that because FrightFest was something new and totally different. Something along the lines of the big genre festivals I'd been attending in Europe, like Sitges. Greg was an old friend of mine who used to work in the press office at Columbia Pictures. I'd go into his office to steal the T-shirts and freebies. (Hmm, people are now going to think I'm a kleptomaniac!). Then he went to Channel 4 and Five as their main press officer and did FrightFest, first as a favour in 2001. Now, of course, he's an indispensable part of the team.  The four of us are completely different personalities which is why FrightFest works. Sometimes that can cause friction but the outcome from that is always for the best.   ZH: What are you main memories of the first ever FrightFest which was held at the Prince Charles Cinema?   AJ: When I look at our first line-up, well, it wasn't the best really. What were we doing showing Christina's House? But hey we also had Pitch Black, Scary Movie, Anatomie, Audition and Dario Argento's The Phantom Of The Opera. Plus Lighthouse from Simon Hunter, who went on to become a good friend while directing Mutant Chronicles. The overriding memory I have from 2000 is the movie Cut, starring Kylie Minogue in a small cameo. The number of people who called me to ask for a Kylie interview! That's when I knew we'd need someone to properly handle the press side of things. I could only do so much in this area. Which is why Greg was employed from 2001 onwards.   ZH: Did it all go smoothly?   AJ: I think so but of course back then we had no expectations or guidelines to follow. We were literally making it up as we went along. The audience was appreciative I do remember that. Already the bar in the Prince Charles was packed to overflowing and the lack of foyer space meant the overspill into the street. But that gathering outside the cinema to talk and swap views has become a tradition now. I can see a lot of what we still do now as having the groundwork laid down back then. Like making sure the fans are happy and comfortable, that we were always approachable and actively wanted their feedback   ZH: The event has grown considerably since then, how do you stop it from becoming too mainstream?   AJ: By adhering to those early concepts. When our weekend pass tickets went on sale this year at the Empire a couple in the queue came up to Ian and I and said that although FrightFest was now in a completely different league, what they liked was that we had never forgotten our roots or the fans. It's this community spirit that really makes us unique on the world festival stage and it's an atmosphere that we will always endeavour to foster.   ZH: FrightFest also enjoys special events such as the recent Drag Me To Hell screening. How do these come together, are you approached by studios or do you approach them?   AJ: In every case the distributor and/or director has come to us and said would we like to show their movie. Because we can guarantee a packed audience of enthusiastic fans who always ask brilliant questions in Q&A sessions. Simple as that. FrightFest as a brand can deliver what distributors these days need. Honest feedback so they can tailor their marketing campaigns accordingly. We have had many instances of distributors telling us their DVD sales have increased enormously when our name has been attached to their films. Obviously it helps that I can often get straight to the talent in question because I've known them for ages through my journalistic career.    ZH: This year’s FrightFest has for the first time two screens running, who came up with that idea?   AJ: It seemed a natural progression. Most other festivals have concurrent strands running so we decided to do it too. What's showing in the Discovery Screen are films we wanted to highlight but ones we also knew would not necessarily attract a massive audience in our main 1300 seater. It's important for FrightFest to promote new talent - it's the lifeblood of the genre after all - so this is a new way to do that. Some fans have complained we're making them choose between films but we never saw it that way. More a chance to extend quality selection.   ZH: Did you have many submissions for this year’s event?   AJ: Loads, and Paul goes through the pile systematically and watches everything. After he has weeded out the best ones, then we take a look and decide if it's something our audience would want to see. Last year we got The Disappeared and The Dead Outside this way. This year it was Best Worst Movie, Fragment and Evil Things.   ZH: How do you and the gang go about choosing movies for the event? Do you have a certain criteria etc?   AJ: Only that it has to be good, or have something unique going for it. Certain films suggest themselves of course. Like we're going to turn down The Descent: Part 2? I don't think so. Or not mount the World Premiere of Federico Zampaglione's absolutely brilliant Shadow.  That's an interesting example of how the FrightFest machine can work. We were in Cannes, Paul met Federico at a party, he told him he had just made a horror movie and would we like to see it. Paul said yes and invited him over to where we were staying the next day. In the meantime we found out that Federico was one of the biggest rock stars in Italy. So we never expected him to turn up. But he did and the film was just amazing. Then I found out that Federico knew Dario Argento well and we all became the firmest of friends. So much so that Federico and his band Tiromancino are playing at Dingwalls in Camden Town two days before we world premiere his movie. That was a star-crossed meet that worked out very well and there have been many surprises like that in our ten-year history.    ZH: Are there any movies that you are the other guys have chosen that have not connected with the FrightFest audience?   AJ: I don't think Bubba's Chili Parlor worked last year. We were split on that one ourselves but, as I said, it's all about promoting talent and director Joey Evans could still amount to something special. But every film has it's lovers and haters, isn't that the point in many ways? We knew we'd split the crowd with Martyrs last year and we did. The same will happen this year with Coffin Rock. Just as long as everyone loves Heartless, my fave film of the year so far (well, apart from Up), I'll be happy with whatever reaction we get from everything. I'm expecting Trick 'R Treat to bring the house down too.    ZH: FrightFest boasts a unique atmosphere, one where all festival goers get to talk and interact not only you and the rest of the team but the guests who attend. Was this just a natural occurrence or something you’ve strived to achieve?   AJ: It was a natural occurrence but one we do try to maintain. I think it all boils down to the fact that the four of us are fans first, festival organizers second, and we know all about that rabid enthusiasm dynamic.   ZH: FrightFest is such a recognised brand now do you have more plans for it?   AJ: Yes, we will be launching our own new DVD label very soon but my lips must remain sealed on this for the moment.   ZH: From the last 10 years do you have a favourite memory or moment?   AJ: So many, George Romero on stage and the wave of love he got from the audience, the Hideo Nakata live satellite link-up that went so hilariously wrong, Neil Marshall's mad dash to the cinema with the exclusive Doomsday trailer, Uwe Boll being, well, Uwe Boll, the Hellboy premiere where cast and crew all turned up. For me though it will always be showing Pan's Labyrinth, Guillermo del Toro's graciousness in letting us premiere it, my introduction to it that made many nearly cry, and the stunned reaction it received.    ZH: What does the future hold for FrightFest? Can it get any bigger?   AJ: I dare not think about this at the moment because this year's mega-event is scarily bigger enough!   ZH: And what is next for you?   AJ: Well I'm still hard at work writing my book on Guillermo del Toro ('Clockwork Fables: The Fantasy Worlds of Guillermo del Toro'). Because it doesn't have to be published until the first part of The Hobbit is released, I'm taking my time, really enjoying it, and promise it will contain the most incredible information he’s only revealed to me about his life.   ZH: Alan Jones, thank you very much.

FrightFest is running from August 27th - 31st at The Empire Cinema, Leicester Square, London. For more information click here.

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
CHILDS_PLAY_Universal_2D_BD_Pakcshot_UKIt 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
The Unspoken
THE UNSPOKEN
Monday 24th February
9.00 PM
Dr Terror's House of Horrors
DR TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS
Sunday 23rd February
6.35 PM
The Disappearance Of Alice Creed
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED
Monday 2nd March
10.50 PM