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Interview With Farren Blackburn Director Of Hammer Of The Gods
By James Whittington, Saturday 24th August 2013

Hammer Of The GodsThe best thing about FrightFest is the varied programme of movies the four guys create. This year has an exceptionally wide-ranging selection and one that stands out is Hammer Of The Gods (pictured). Here its director, Farren Blackburn chats about this and other areas of his career.

HC: How different is directing a movie to TV?

FB: At the lower budget end its not much different at all, infact in many ways its harder because the chances are the tv budget will be higher. With Hammer Of The Gods for example I had less than half the budget I had when directing The Dr Who Xmas Special. But in terms of creative vision I don’t approach film and television any differently because I always set out to push the visual ambition of the project as much as possible. There used to be a notion that big cinematic images didn’t work on a small screen and television was reliant more on mid shots and close ups but we watch movies on the TV all the time and so I don’t really buy into that.

HC: What attracted you to Hammer Of The Gods?

FB: When I first read the script for Hammer Of The Gods I knew instantly that version of the film could never be achieved on the budget but I saw a Hearts Of Darkness theme running through it and felt if we pushed it more in that direction, made it more of a psychological journey for our main character we could scale things back a bit in a way we could afford and make a kind of Apocalypse Now with Vikings and who wouldn’t want to do that!!!?

HC: How much pre-production went into it?

FB: We had 8 weeks pre-production on Hammer. During this time I had to work on getting the script as good as it could be, developing a visual take on the material, the mood and the tone of the movie, cast it, work with my Heads of Department on Production Design, Costume, Make-Up, Locations, plan fights and stunts, the lot and the time is never enough!!!

HC: Was it a difficult movie to cast?

FB: Casting is crucial so in that sense every project is difficult to cast. But my approach is less prescriptive, I don’t look at someone the minute they walk through the door and decide whether they are the character or not, I work with them in the audition to see what the character could be in that particular actor’s hands. For Hammer I wanted a diverse band of Vikings, each with their distinctive look and personality but who would work as a cohesive unit so it was challenging. But I was really pleased with everyone in the movie. What was also key on Hammer was that everyone had to be prepared to get their hands dirty. We didn’t have the budget to pamper anyone, there were no luxuries, sometimes no toilets and on certain days we were all dropped at the bottom of a mountain and had to walk for 2 miles to get to where we were shooting, all of us carrying kit, actors included. I needed everyone to know what they were in for but my lead Charlie Bewley lead from the front and when your main man is mucking in no-one else has any right to complain!

HC: It must have been a tough shoot on the actors due to all the fights?

FB: Hammer was a tough shoot for many reasons least of all the challenge that many of our locations set us but choosing those landscapes was a way to achieve real production value on a low budget. It was a very physical shoot for everyone but when you factor in the number of fight sequences, the actors really needed to be at the height of their fitness. The stamina required to keep the level of intensity up was insane but what young male actor wouldn’t relish the chance to ride horses and get involved in some serious fight action?

HC: A lot of the effects are practicle; do you prefer to CGI?

FB: The way we approached the visual effects in the movie was partly down to budget but also down to the fact that I like to do as much as I can in camera. The movie has an offbeat tone to it, a strangeness, almost supernaturally heightened at times but I didn’t want it to feel fantastical, I still wanted it rooted in a reality and I think that would have been lost had it been very heavy on CGI.

HC: Are you nervous the movie is playing at Frightfest?

FB: I am nervous and excited at the same time. I am delighted the movie is playing at Frightfest as it means tonally what I set out to achieve, I must have to a certain degree. As a filmmaker you always want your project to be seen by a committed and passionate audience and I think without doubt it will find that amongst the people who attend Frighfest.

HC: What will be the next thing in Horror?

FB: Tough question and in honesty I don’t know. I guess we had the latest take with movies like Paranormal Activity. Horror has infinite possibilities but for me you can’t beat a good old fashioned Ghost story!!

HC: Farren Blackburn, thank you very much.


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