Interview with Karl Holt, writer, and director of Benny Loves You
By James Whittington, Saturday 24th October 2020
Karl Benny loves you

Want to see a movie that's described as "Child's Play meets Fatal Attraction"? Benny Loves You from director Karl Holt is for you. We asked this talented creative about this superb movie aqnd about being nominated in the Horror Channel sponsored First Blood award.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in the film industry?

KH: At the age of 9 or 10 I watched Halloween and got into horror films in a big way. I've wanted to be a director since then really. The problem was, growing up in the 80's film was expensive and VHS camcorders just didn't cut it. I went to Uni in Watford, but even after leaving there really weren't any opportunities unless you knew someone in the industry, which I didn't. Like most people I got a job and it's something I've toyed with for years, making shorts and sketches here and there in spare time. Now the technology is affordable for anyone to make a movie, it just happened a little later in life for me. I'd reached a point where I thought I could put something together myself with a very small crew with a comparatively low budget.

HC: Where did the idea for this come from and from first word of the script to locked picture, how long did it take?

KH: This is loosely based off a short I made in 2006, which seemed to get a good reaction on the horror festival circuit at the time. So I always had it in mind to turn that idea into my first feature. I wrote it in 2013, quit my day job, and shot it in 2014/15. It took till the end of 2019 to finish it. It's been a much longer slog that I ever thought it would be. It's probably good that I was a bit naive and didn't realise how long it would take. I would have never started if I knew.

HC: How did you go about raising the money to make it as I can imagine the pitch to any backers was bizarre?

KH: I didn't, I took all the money I had saved as a freelance video editor for the last 15 years and used that to make it. I left a bit in the bank because I didn't know how long it would take me to complete the postproduction, I guessed about a year and a half lol. So not putting every penny into the film was the best move I made because I needed the rest to fund me living through 4 years of post.

HC: Was it a hard movie to cast?

KH: I had a lot of responses from the initial casting, so it's a case of watching all the show reels and narrowing down the search. For certain roles I put out a few scenes to audition which they could film on their phones and send to me, and I made my final decision on that. Hiring a hall and have everyone come down on the same day to audition just wasn't practical, and too expensive for us. The final decision is always hard and is never really about talent, just about someone seeming to fit the role you've written in your head. I got very lucky with all my actors.

HC: The effects are superb; did they take long to realise?

KH: Thanks, yeah it was a very long time because Benny is CG for 95% of the film, and of course most of the other toys are totally CG. I had a rough edit done a few months after shooting in 2015, and then began the hard work of progressing through each empty backplate and creating the effects. Sometimes the PC could take 3 days to render a shot after I'd animated it, so I got into a process of taking weekends off and left my PC to batch render each weekend. I'd work very late into the evenings in the week, leaving the computer to grunt from Friday night to Monday morning. My poor PC was on 24/7. It never goes to plan either, often you spend the weekend rendering a shot, and there's an issue with it you need to fix and start it all again. It was all finished visually in about July 2019, and then I turned out a score pretty quickly and submitted it to festivals that autumn.

HC: You have been included in the First Blood strand which is being sponsored by Horror Channel, how does that feel?

KH: The Horror Channel sponsoring First Blood is crucial in helping first time directors to get exposure. FrightFest do a great job of being such an important platform for UK horror, but this strand elevates that further. All you want is for your work to get out there, and this section really helps to create the space for first time directors, who often don't have access to a big budget. That means they have to bring something different to the table instead and be more creative with their resources. It's really important to nurture home grown talent and give it a platform to be shown.

HC: Will you be nervous when it shows at FrightFest?

KH: Ha, a little. We just played in Sitges Festival and we are being shown alongside other movies with 40x our budget, but of course, the audience don't know that. So the reviews that came in have ranged from positive, some brutal, some middling, and some very glowing. It's unpredictable, so I'm beginning to take it all less personally. My view is, if there's enough people that really love it, it doesn't matter about those who don't. You don't make a film for everyone. This is a comedy first and a horror second, that's not going to be everyone's cup of tea. At the moment it seems there is definitely enough of a good reaction to justify making it. People seem to fall for Benny himself, but I'm obviously very interested to see how the Brits respond, as I think the humour is very dry. I'm excited for the actors to finally see it, family and friends. This has been a long wait for anyone who starred or took part in this back in 2014, so I expect I'll be texting people most of the day on Saturday once it's shown.

HC: Did you have a favourite toy when you were growing up?

KH: Too many. I definitely used to get sentimental about some, one I had since I was 4 or 5 and he lost his squeak, which made me upset that he'd got old. Then others I used to practise my Taekwondo on lol. They all had their own personalities in my head, and there's something quite sad about the last day you ever play with a toy. It's not sad at the time, just when you look back. I think you lose a part of yourself when that happens. On some level that's reflected in this film too.

HC: You're a man of many talents, do you have a favourite job?

KH: I'm probably best at editing, I really enjoy the process of having the raw material and then starting to fashion what's in your head using the right pacing, beats and sound. A great film can be destroyed with bad editing and a bad film can be elevated with the right editor. I'd always want a hand in that process. Directing is fun, but it's actually the really exhausting part. Well, maybe at my level when we're running around doing every other job on set it just feels that way. For my next film the goal would be to narrow down the tasks, so I can focus on the important stuff like directing.

HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?

KH: I would love to make something very creepy and scary next. I've been dictating notes into my phone for the last 2 years about the kind of mood or style I want, but I'm someone that's always written to my available resources, so right now, it's let's wait and see what that is. My next film could be another film shot at a friend's house, or it could be something more, either way I hope it's something that doesn't take me 5 years.

HC: Karl Holt, thank you very much.

Interview with Adrian Langley, director of Butchers.
Posted on Tuesday 27th October 2020

Butchers is a superb piece of horror cinema from Adrian Langley. Here he chats about this grim and gruesome piece and his plans for the future.

HC: Where did the idea for Butchers come from?

AL: Butchers came from two of Daniel Weissenberger's old screenplays - he writes a lot - and I remixed them with some ideas that had been kicking around in my head after having read those scripts a long time ago.

HC: Did it take long to write?

AL: Not at all. Because Dan's scripts were so full already, the initial working draft only took about two weeks to put together and then I did a lot of rewriting during the prep process to streamline it to what...

Interview with Andrew Thomas Hunt, director of Spare Parts.
Posted on Tuesday 27th October 2020
Spare Parts

FrightFest is all about the diversity of movies, none more so than Spare Parts from director Andrew Thomas Hunt. This superb mash-up of gladiator-style fighting and a scorching soundtrack is desitined to become a cult classic so we chatted to Andrew about this movie.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in the film industry?

AH: I did - from the age of 16. I was a huge fan of David Cronenberg's films, and when I discovered that he was not only from Toronto, but made his films here, it made me realize you didn't have to be from Hollywood to make movies.

HC: How did you become attached to this wild project?

AH: It was pitched to me at TIFF (Toronto Int'l ...

And the winner is... Benny Loves You!
Posted on Monday 26th October 2020

The winner of the FrightFest Horror Channel First Blood Award 2020 is... Benny Loves You!

Here, Channel Manager Stewart Bridle chats to its very talented director, Karl Holt.

Interview with Liam O'Donnell director of SKYLIN3S
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020

FrightFest Digital Edition 2 concludes tonight with an out-of-this-world premiere, SKYLIN3S. Here its writer and director Liam O'Donnell talks about this and the other entries in this sci-fi series.

HC: You've been involved with the Skyline series of movies from the start, where did the initial idea come from?

LD: Initially the idea just came from, we were sort of do it ourselves film makers and I had been living in the building we ended up shooting in. We had already been illegally shooting on the rooftop helipad for a pitch that we were developing and when Greg's (Greg Strause, director of Skyline) unit on the top floor and he walked in and saw this big, expansive view of LA...

Interview with Paul Tanter director and co-writer of The Nights Before Christmas
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020
The Nights Before Christmas-poster

Prolific creative Paul Tanter has delivered a real treat for FrightFest pass holders today, the blood-splattered shocker, The Nights Before Christmas. Here he chats about this cracker of a movie.

HC: Have you always been a fan of the horror genre?

PT: Absolutely. One of my first cinema memories is my dad taking me to see Fright Night in 1985 and there being a promotional pack of vampire teeth on every seat. I was five at the time so I'm not sure how he snuck me in there, considering it's rated 18. I grew up watching The Omen films, in parts enthralled and terrified by them. I still can't pass that church in Fulham without keeping an eye on ...

Interview with Simon Phillips, star and co-writer of The Nights Before Christmas
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020
The Nights Before Christmas-poster

Seasonal slashers are once again coming into vogue but none as brutal as The Nights Before Christmas. Here, its star and co-writer Simon Phillips tells all about this movie.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in the film industry?

SP: I don't know if I ever was sure I was going to be in the film industry but as a child I sure liked talking a lot and my teacher once shouted at me "They'd better pay you to talk when you grow up, because you sure like the sound of your own voice"... So perhaps it was always on the cards!

HC: Are you a fan of horror movies?

SP: To be honest they terrify me... not the o...

Interview with Elza Kephart, director and co-writer of Slaxx
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020
SLAXX_Elza_(C)photoB-Calmeau_0125FrightFest is all about originality and new talent and 2020 has been a belter of a year for such things. Slaxx from Elza Kephart is a prime example of the new and exciting creative talent that's out there at the moment. We chatted to Elza about this superb shocker.

HC: Are you a big horror movie fan?

EK: Yes, huge! I started my horror adventure when I was a pre-teen, reading Agatha Christie, R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Anne Rice. If there wasn't a death I wasn't interested. From that, I migrated to horror films; when I was about ten, I watched Aliens, the Fearless Vampire Hunters, Exorcist 2. I might have been a little too young, I remember being re...

Hair scares, killer jeans, Santa slays and an invasion from above. Day 5 of FrightFest Digital Edition 2
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020

We reach the final day of FrightFest but what awaits us will ensure that the event ends not with a bang but with an alien invasion!

It's always exciting when new creatives release work and The Stylist from Jill Gervargizian is no exception. Everyone dreams of being someone else... but for Claire that dream goes from an obsession to a living nightmare. Her job as a hairstylist allows her to move through other people's worlds, but when the right target sits in her chair, she does more than observe the client's life - she ends it, and keeps a permanent souvenir. Her lonely life, meticulous method and shocking secrets are suddenly thrown into turmoil when her regular client, Olivia, asks her to s...

Interview with Adam Leader and Richard Oakes, co-directors of Hosts
Posted on Saturday 24th October 2020

Hosts is a dark, brooding and sinister movie from two very talented creatives, Adam Leader and Richard Oakes. Here they chat about this outstanding movie.

HC: Have you always been fans of this genre?

AL: Yes, the first film I ever watched was the original Nightmare on Elm Street when I was eight years old. That turned me on to the horror genre, and since then I became absolutely horror obsessed. Every weekend, my dad would take me to the video store, and I'd choose the most messed up movie I could find for him to rent for me.

RO: Yes, coming from a family with a sister 7 years older than me, I was always fascinated by the films her and her friends used to watch. I walked in...

Interview with Barry Keating, writer of Embryo
Posted on Saturday 24th October 2020
Barry Keating at NIGHTWORLD on 25/08/2017Barry Keating is a scriptwriter who has had quite a number of movies at FrightFest over the years. He's back with another shocker for 2020, this time the truth might be out there in Embryo. We chatted to him about this sci-fi chiller.

HC: We show another of your movies on Horror, Nightworld, what's it like writing a script, which has horror legend Robert Englund in it?

BK: When I found out they'd cast Robert in the role that was a very surreal day. At first I didn't quite believe it, but when the producer forwarded a message from Robert to me saying that he really dug the script I completely geeked out. I'm a hug...

Interview with Patricio Valladares, director of Embryo
Posted on Saturday 24th October 2020
Embryo image 1

Chilean director Patricio Valladares is back at FrightFest and this time he's taking us into the science fiction zone with Embryo. Here he chats about working with Robert Englund on Nightworld and this sci-fi shocker.

HC: Have you always been a fan of horror and sci-fi movies?

PV: Yes, from my childhood, my old brother watched Jason Voorhees and A Nightmare on Elm Street film series at home with a couple friends in the 80s. So, I always went from the bathroom to the living room at night to watch from behind the sofa with them. I Loved it! I liked the ultraviolence and gore from Robocop. When I was 14 or 15 I was a metalhead, so I had lots of tapes of death metal and a lot of low ...

Interview with Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer, directors of Alien on Stage
Posted on Saturday 24th October 2020

FrightFest always has a fine selection of documentaries showing, but none have touched hearts like Alien on Stage. This warm and loving look at an amateur stage production of the classic movie Alien has been placed in the running for the Horror Channel sponsored First Blood award so we chatted to directors Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer about this wonderful project.

HC: How long have you worked together and are you fans of the film, Alien?

We met working on a no budget British indie film in 2006 (I think) both working for free. Danielle was a camera trainee, I was the costume stylist. It was like going through a war together, it cemented our friendship and Danille...

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