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Exclusive Interview With Director Jen Moss
By James Whittington, Thursday 23rd August 2012
Maniacs, monsters, demons, creepy kids, apocalyptic visions, phobias, heavy metal meltdown and snails - yes, it's the FrightFest International Short Film Showcase, an eclectic mix of worldwide cutting edge short films, which is once again being presented by Horror Channel. It will kick-off at 1pm on Sunday 26th August at the Empire Cinema in London's Leicester Square.
Here we chat to the very talented Jen Moss who has produced the cracking short My Brother's Keeper (Or How Not To Survive The Apocalypse) which balances comedy and horror perfectly.
HC: Have you always been a fan of horror movies?
JM: From as long as I can remember yes. I think I saw The Shining when I was about 8! I remember staying up late on the first Saturday of every month as they would always show horror movies from 11pm onwards on the French TV channel Canal+ (I grew up in France).
HC: Who are your favourite directors?
JM: Yikes! I'm always rubbish at answering "what's your favourite..." questions as I can never narrow it down. If we're specifically talking genre then in terms of the ones I grew up admiring: Wes Craven and John Carpenter would probably top the list. I really love Guillermo Del Toro and his ability to create these incredibly original, fantastical worlds. And ''ve also got a lot of love for Edgar Wright. He's right up there in terms of personal influence on my stuff.
HC: Where did the idea for the piece come from?
JM: I really like the idea of taking recognisable every day situations and then giving them a horror twist so in this instance, the idea was influenced by my relationship with my brother. I love him to death as he does me but we are just so different personality wise that we drive each other insane when we spend too much time together! I decided to take that idea to the extreme: what if you were stuck with no one but an annoying sibling at the end of the world. I have to stress though that while the idea came from personal experience, the character of Jo is actually nothing like my brother. I have to make that clear or he'll get really offended!
HC: Did it take long to write and did you find it difficult balancing the horror and comedy?
JM: The first draft of the script, I bashed out relatively quickly once I'd had the idea but I wanted to make sure it was as strong as it could be so over the course of a couple of months, the script went through several drafts after feedback from friends in the industry. I have a pretty dark sense of humour so the idea of black comedy really appeals to me. That's the kind of film I'm interested in making and I like framing that with horror elements. Although as a genre fan I adore scary movies, gory movies, suspenseful movies, for me personally as a filmmaker, the comedy kind of comes first.
HC: How did you go about casting the short?
JM: Myself and my producers put together a wish list of actors and sent the script out to agents. It was really important for us to find actors who could pull off being siblings not just physically but in terms of believable chemistry. We completely lucked out with April Pearson (Skins) and Alex Esmail (Attack The Block). Not only do they look like they could be related but they really do have that great vibe between them where they're bickering but you can tell that underneath it all there's real love between them.
HC: Did you have much of a budget?
JM: Ha! In short no. We had a pretty small budget and were just incredibly lucky to find such a wonderful crew willing to help us bring the film to life. I funded it all upfront from my not very deep at all pockets and once we'd shot the film, we set up a crowd funding page to help claw back some of that initial funding but also to ensure we could get through post production and have some money available to us for festival submissions etc.
HC: Where was it shot, the location seems pretty cool?
JM: Thanks. We shot the film at Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington. It's absolutely stunning. The script was initially supposed to take place in a basement but I'm so glad we found this place instead, I think it just elevates the story visually. When we first went to check it out, I couldn't get over how amazing the chapel was! And the guys who run Abney Park were brilliant, they were super accommodating.
HC: Are you nervous about it being shown at FrightFest?
JM: Yes. Massively! Have you seen how big that screen is! I'm really excited about sharing it with the FrightFest audience but I will definitely be watching through my fingers whilst trying not to have a heart attack.
HC: What advice would you give to someone wanting to make their first horror short?
JM: Don't get too hung up on making mistakes because you will. It's the mistakes you learn from though and with each project that you make you'll be a little bit more informed and have a sense of what to do and more importantly what not to do!
HC: Is it difficult for a woman to be noticed in the world of horror directing?
JM: I'm never too comfortable with these questions as I personally haven't ever had a negative experience because of my gender. If anything it's helped me! A lot of the festivals that screened my previous short The Morning After were specifically dedicated to women such as the Viscera Film Festival in LA. I totally appreciate that there is obviously a distinct lack of female filmmakers compared to men but I think that's true across the board, not just specifically in horror.
HC: So what’s next for you?
JM: Well I'm trying to decide on what my next short will be. I have a few ideas I'm toying with but I want to make sure I have a story good enough to tell before moving forward with anything. My ambition is that with each film I make, I step my game up technically but it all starts with the right story. And until then, I'm looking forward to people's reactions to My Brother's Keeper... But only if they're positive, ha ha!
HC: Jen Moss, thank you very much.
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