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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.


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