LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Interview with Bill Watterson director of Dave Made a Maze
By James Whittington, Sunday 4th November 2018
At Grimmfest 2017 we had the chance to view one of the most original pieces of cinema we'd seen in a long time, Dave Made a Maze. Directed by Bill Watterson it's an intelligent, thought-provoking film that deserves to reach a global audience and will be released here early 2019. We chatted to Bill about this incredible movie.
HC: Where did this concept come from?
WW: Three places: Steven was underway on a script called 'Operation: Death Maze,' or something cool like that. Portions of it were re-purposed after he jibed with a story I told about my mom coming home and seeing an incredible fort that I'd build in my bedroom, and concluding that I'd gotten lost within it when I didn't answer her calls (I was at a neighbour's house; I'd left a note!). He really dug that concept of being in your own room but somehow being lost at the same time. Thirdly, it was fueled by the frustrations that so many of us face when it comes to trying to be creative and not starve in the process. It gets more and more challenging to remain playfully inventive as the struggles of adulthood take hold. The more the script developed, the more the story became a metaphor for the creative life itself.
HC: Its surely one of the most original movies ever made, how long did it take to write?
WW: Thank you! Hard to say; Steven had a good 60+ pages before I ever came on board, and we spent so many years fundraising and trying to attach talent that in the downtime we kept revisiting and revising, tightening and solidifying. Then as we approached the actual production days, budget and personnel meant that certain ideas had to be left behind (the pit of deadly stop motion spiders!) while others came about very late in the game (the zoetrope!). From those first 60 pages to us shooting the movie was about 5 years, but obviously that wasn't all time spent writing.
HC: Was it written with a cast in mind?
WW: No, all of the early drafts were written with Steven's friends in mind. All of the characters were originally named after people we knew. Write what you know, write WHO you know! We drifted away from some of the specifics as we doubled down on and exaggerated what was unique about each character, as we changed genders of others, combined or cut others. And then the cast brought each one of them to life in ways we never could have anticipated. Lines that I heard as high energy in my head came out quiet and were a hundred times more effective for it, and vice versa. That cast really committed and brought it off the page.
HC: The set design is incredible, did you have a vision of how it would look, or did your set designer come to you with the concepts?
WW: A combo of both, mostly the latter. We pulled a lot of visual references as we started having pre-production meetings, and we hired artists who worked within and appreciated the medium of cardboard. They brought that experience, plus a willingness to experiment. A lot of looks were also based on what materials were available to us on the day, between what we could get from the dumpster next door, and what we had left from our original haul of donated cardboard. Sometimes it was just well, we've got THIS, and we've got to make THAT, let's see what happens! It was in the writing that it was a handmade cardboard world, and the art department went above and beyond to bring that world to life, and to give each room its own personality.
HC: As a first-time director, what did you learn about the craft whilst making this movie?
WW: I mean... everything! If I had known how much I didn't know going in, I probably wouldn't have had the guts to do it. I certainly learned how important it is to have trustworthy, engaged collaborators. How important it is to set your people up to succeed by giving them enough guidance but also enough freedom to stay creatively inspired. Listen to your people and let them have fun, too. That you can't be over-prepared, but you have to stay flexible to the realities that present themselves on the day. That everything matters: you can drive all your decisions through your theme, what it is you're trying to say, so that the frame can always be packed with information. I got that from Sidney Lumet's 'Making Movies,' but seeing it actually pan out was an eye-opener. That making a movie is easily 100 times harder than you think it is. That we got lucky because we had no weak links. That scheduling is everything. That you have to pick your battles; some things will just not work out, so you have to let them go, but others you have to really fight for, or the movie will suffer. That there's always a solution, so stay calm and stay open, and let some things come to you.
HC: It has a lot to say about awareness of people's state of mind and mental illness, is that what you set out to do?
WW: Not explicitly in regards to mental illness, although the relevance of it, and other things like addiction, were certainly discussed as bigger picture themes, particularly when breaking the movie down for the actors. It was expressly a metaphor for the creative process: exaggerating and bringing to life the pitfalls and dangers and traps, some of the dark, destructive side that tends to come hand in hand with the burning desire to make. But that didn't keep it from being relevant to other experiences. The Maze was Dave's mind-once you're in it, who knows what you'll find!
HC: Its been on the festival circuit, did each city/country react differently to it?
WW: Hard to say... I was lucky enough to attend many of the festivals, but by no means have I been able to gauge every audience. Some of the humour in the wordplay obviously didn't always translate, and the producer just informed me that absolutely no one laughed at any point during a screening in Japan. But it's not necessarily a laugh-out-loud kind of comedy. I was thrilled that people in France, Mexico City, Brazil, Spain, Austria, seemed to connect to the relationship at the heart of the film, as well as its metaphors. Creative types knew it was a movie for them, no matter the country.
HC: You're a man of many talents; do you have a favourite job?
WW: Nothing beats playing bass. If any one of the many bands I was in had taken off back in the day, I'd never be doing what I'm doing now. It just can't be topped.
HC: So, what are you up to at the moment?
WW: Writing scripts and breaking ideas for film and TV, trying to get that next thing made. I directed a couple music videos and a teaser for a TV pilot. Chasing every lead and trying not to become Dave at the beginning of the movie... trying to be more like Dave at the end of the movie.
HC: Bill Watterson, thank you very much.WW: Any time!
Related show tags: GRIMMFEST 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
Tuesday 3rd March
Sunday 23rd February
Saturday 29th February