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Interview With Ben Loyd-Holmes Writer, Producer And Star of Extinction
By James Whittington, Sunday 24th August 2014
There aren’t many found footage movies at FrightFest this year, one that is showing is the creature feature Extinction. Here its star and director Ben Loyd-Holmes chats about this creature feature.
HC: What inspired you to write Extinction?
BLH: All around the world there are these elements of nature that are still unexplored and unaffected by modern society and I love the idea that there could be something still hiding out there. Of course it may not be dinosaurs, but the idea that undiscovered creatures or differently evolved creatures exist is one that is commonly held. Having that as a starting point is really exciting and of course there’s a lot we can utilise and play on, the superstitions of locals, the affects of logging and deforestation driving wildlife out of their habitats.
HC: Are you a fan of found footage movies?
BLH: I’m not sure I would say I either was or wasn’t. I’m a fan of good films, of well made films. Found Footage can be really good, but it can also be really bad. The biggest problem it has is that a lot of projects have been made in the Found Footage style but made without much care, because they feel it’s an easy option. The truth is, to make Found Footage well is actually quite hard, because there’s no cutting away to the other angle and fixing it in the edit. I do love some found footage films, but I also love a lot more ‘traditional’ cinematic films. If the style works for the project and it’s done well, I think it can be awesome and I really hope that’s how people feel about Extinction.
HC: What was the shoot like and how did you find those impressive locations?
BLH: Shooting on location is always great, the elements provide you with so much extra production value, even though they are challenging. Shooting in them was tricky but the team were very prepared. Everyone was put through a boot camp, which prepared them for the environment and taught them how to move in it, ropes were set up for the trickier terrain, so we made it safe and workable. Rich was a great DOP for the project, he has some experience in that type of terrain, so is comfortable in it, which makes a big difference. I spent a lot of time looking for them, I think all filmmakers are a bit obsessed with finding the magic canvas to tell their story on, for me ours were perfect.
HC: Did you have a decent sized budget and did you keep this in mind when you were writing it?
BLH: Budget is always a tricky thing, you want to push as hard as you can and make the film as good as possible, but everything has a cost. When I was writing the film I did pay a lot of attention to a multitude of factors, including the budget. I think you have to if you are going to make a film work commercially. It’s gotta have all the elements and be achievable within budget.
HC: What challenges does working on a movie like this present to an actor?
BLH: In a film like this the challenges are also what makes it so exciting. Portraying a truthful, ‘real’ character whilst also being confronted by Dinosaurs, it’s conflicting, it’s fun, it’s exciting. But it’s also easy to get wrong. In a film like this there’s fluctuations,, deviations, improvised moments and mistakes and in those there is opportunity. Sometimes that opportunity can create something really great. Sometimes it’s just rubbish! Now these fluctuations and mistakes are maybe a line goes wrong or the cameraman trips and stumbles into an actor or tree or whatever, but you can either be unprepared and the take is ruined or be prepared, be in the moment and maybe get something awesome in the can.
HC: What’s the hardest job; writing, acting or producing?
BLH: What a tough question. If you are doing them right they are all hard! If you’re not pushing the boundary and yourself, it’s easy to get sloppy. No one wants that. Writing is hard going, takes discipline and relentless re-examining of the same work and of course respect and understanding of structure and the knowledge of why it’s important. Acting is a wonderful thing, but you of course, it’s something that, no matter how much you love it, it’s something you have to do in a way that fits the project and character. Again there’s a lot of discipline needed, it’s about being ready, knowing it all inside out and also still being ‘present’ so you can play and adapt and still be in the moment, trusting yourself to do it right, whilst still keeping the pressure on yourself. It’s a balancing act. Producing, that’s largely a thankless task. If you have a strong team behind you, it can take off a lot of pressure, but the truth of being a good producer, is no one cares as much about the project as you, no matter what they say they don’t. Because most people are on it for much shorter a period, they can love it for a few weeks or months and then off they go and because anyone else can walk off the project, if they get tired, unwell, stressed, whatever, they can take a break, you can’t. No matter what happens, you have taken money from an individual or a corporation and you have committed to returning it, you are also responsible for people’s jobs and for the money they have earned. There’s a lot of responsibility for a long time and the buck stops with you. For that reason, I think Producing takes the ‘hardest’ biscuit.
HC: Do you believe that there are monsters lurking hidden in jungles around the globe?
BLH: Yea why not, Madagascar has many animals that are evolved entirely uniquely because of their environmental factors after the island split from Africa. Life is more exciting with the boogey man, with something lurking in the shadows. Be it in the deep depths, or the dense jungles, there’s something yet to be discovered and a lot that needs to be protected.
HC: Are you nervous that it’s getting its world premiere at FrightFest?
BLH: Yes and no. I know the film, it’s one we are very pleased with and one that a lot of people have really got behind. But I know the Fright Fest audience are a tough bunch! I also know a lot of people have their reservations about Found Footage, I just hope they enjoy all the work that went into creating something different and hopefully exciting and immersive.
HC: So what are you working on at the moment?
BLH: I’m lucky to be in a position where there’s a lot of interest in what I’m doing next from distribution partners so hopefully it won’t be too long till we are giving everyone a new and equally exciting, ambitious story. Keep an eye out for Kill Time and Dark Water, I think they will be the first two. There’s another two coming too, but I think they’ll be the first.
HC: Ben Loyd-Holmes, thank you very much.
BLH: Thank you.
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