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Interview with Michael Mort creator and director of Chuck Steel Night of the Trampires
By James Whittington, Saturday 25th August 2018
HC: Where did the character of Chuck Steel come from?
MM: I came up with the character of Chuck Steel in 1985 when still at school. I used to doodle this square jawed action hero in my English book when I should have been concentrating on the lesson. Over the years he developed a bit as I drew him in various adventure scenarios, usually involving monsters of some kind. I made a Super8 short film with the character when I was experimenting with animation and I also made a college film featuring Chuck a few years later. These were basically just Chuck fighting monsters for 10 minutes or so but I was learning about how to construct scenes and action as I went. Later in my animation career I revisited the idea a number of times and began writing a feature script which I completed in 2001, well the first draft version...
HC: You obviously have an affection for outrageous 80s action flicks, do you have a favourite?
MM: I love so many it's hard to pick a favourite. I think Rambo 2 and Evil Dead 2 would have to be at the top.
HC: How long did it take to write the script for Night of the Trampires?
MM: If I remember, it was something I kept dipping in to as I worked as a commercials director in animation. The first draft took about a year on and off. It went through a ton of revisions over the years before I got to the point of actually making it. Even then I was tweaking until the end. So in answer to your question - I started it in 2001 and finished in 2017.
HC: How did you get the voice talents of Paul Whitehouse and Jennifer Saunders involved?
MM: As a comparatively low budget independent stop motion film, at the start of the process we did not engage with name actors and opted to go with voice talent instead, in order to put the money on the screen. As things progressed with the film a number of high profile visitors came to the studio through various links with our producers. Simon West, director of Con Air and Expendables 2 was one. Also, Roger Taylor of Queen and his wife Sarina, and it was Sarina who hooked us up with Jennifer and Paul. By then we were well into the shoot but decided to take advantage of this opportunity and re-voiced a number of the characters. It's definitely not the right way to do things as the actors had to hit the lip sync marks while giving a performance as well so it's not a simple task, but there's no right or wrong when trying to make an independent film, and they both definitely delivered.
HC: Was it a hard project to get financed?
MM: If you consider how long it has taken me to finally get it made - around twenty years, then yes. I nearly gave up on the idea several times of ever getting it made, but in the end, sheer bloody mindedness won out and fate finally smiled on me at the point I met my financing partners. From then it became very easy, as they had total faith in it and gave me full creative control. It was a tough shoot to achieve everything I wanted but my backers were a pleasure to work with.
HC: Do you think the character would have had the same impact if made in CGI?
MM: No. I think part of its charm is the handmade stop motion feel.
HC: The animation is outstanding so without giving too much away, which scene was the hardest to film and how long did it take from first shot till the finished feature?
MM: I would say the dialogue scenes are the most laborious as they were all hand sculpted frame by frame - no replacement mouths. Also, the crowd scenes at the end of the film during the big battle. There's no CG used in those shots and all the puppets are real, so we have around 200 puppets running around - it was madness. I think the biggest wide shot was a second long and took two months.
HC: The detail in the film is amazing and it will take repeated views to try and catch everything, but was anything cut from the final version?
MM: There were a few shots we ditched, mainly due to restructuring of the script or a gag that didn't really work but there's not much on the cutting room floor. There are a couple of scenes from the middle act that we had to ditch because of time and money that I really wish we had been able to achieve but the film doesn't suffer hugely from their absence.
HC: This movie took a long time to be completed, how do you feel know it's ready for the screen?
MM: Relieved. And nervous. It's not a very PC film in some respects and we live in over sensitive times so it will be interesting to see if people will take it in the spirit it was intended - as a fun, ridiculous, thrill ride.
HC: Will you be nervous when its shown at FrightFest?
MM: I'm looking forward to it as it's gone down well in our previous screenings at Annecy and Fantasia, so I'm hopeful it'll be the same vibe.
HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?
MM: Mainly promotional stuff for the film, some small commissions through the studio and working on further feature ideas. Animortal Studio intends to continue making stop motion features if Chuck Steel hits the mark.
HC: Michael Mort, thank you very much.
MORE FRIGHTFEST Interview with Airell Hayles writer and co-director of They're Outside
Posted on Saturday 1st August 2020
FrightFest is once again on the horizon but this time, due to global events the event has become a virtual experience with all films being accessed online. Horror is once again sponsoring the First Blood strand of the event. Here we chat to Airell Hayles whose movie They're Outside mixes found footage and pagan horror genres to great effect.
HC: Where did the idea for They're Outside come from?
AH: This idea for They're Outside came from a couple of things. I remember as a kid hearing that my uncle suffered mild agoraphobia, and when I learned what it was, I was fascinated by this idea of some people being kind of scared to leave their homes. Of course, the recent Covid-19 events h...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Fionn and Toby Watts, directors of Playhouse
Posted on Saturday 1st August 2020
FrightFest is once again on the horizon but this time, due to global events the event has become a virtual experience with all films being accessed online. Horror is once again sponsoring the First Blood strand of the event. Here we chat to talented brothers Fionn and Toby Watts who have delivered a gothic, creepy piece named Playhouse.
HC: Was there one film or person who influenced or inspired you to become film makers?
FW: As a young boy I remember being absolutely blown away by the image of The Terminator's exo-skeleton rising from the flames. Around the same time I saw Candyman at a sleepover (rented by my friend's 'older' brother...) and it was such an i...SHARE: READ MORE Arrow Video FrightFest announces August Digital Edition line-up and Horror Channel sponsors talent-seeking First Blood strand
Posted on Tuesday 28th July 2020
The UK's most popular horror and fantasy film festival celebrates its 21st bloody year with a special Digital edition, showcasing twenty-five films, from Thursday 27th August to Monday 31st August, including seven world premieres and sixteen UK premieres. Ten countries are represented from four continents in a deadly, daring and diverse programme exclusively presented to UK audiences.
Passes and tickets will go on sale Saturday 1 August and details on how to access the event and choose which films to watch are on the FrightFest website. All film screenings will be geo-locked to UK audiences and only accessible from within the United Kingdom.
The men...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel highlights six summer weekend shockers in its August premiere line-up
Posted on Thursday 16th July 2020
August is a wicked month on Horror Channel, as the UK's most popular small-screen destination for genre fans presents six summer weekend shockers, five FrightFest hits including the UK TV premieres of Julian Richards, Reborn, a Carrie for the Z Generation, starring horror icon Barbara Crampton, Jordan Barker's Witches In The Woods, an unrelenting assault of pure terror, Alistair Legrand's highly unusual genre-blending chiller, The Diabolical and Milan Todorovic's sharp-teethed, seductive Killer Mermaids. All these films received FrightFest premiere screenings.
There is also a channel premiere for another FrightFest title, The Windmill Massacre, where Friday The 13th...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Tony and Ryan Smith co-writers of Volition.
Posted on Tuesday 7th July 2020
FrightFest 2019 delivered some amazing movies and one of the best was Volition from the talented brothers Tony and Ryan Smith. Now that the movie has been unleashed onto Apple TV, Prime Video and other Digital Platforms we chatted to them about this acclaimed movie and their plans for the future.
HC: You both hail from South Africa, what's the movie industry like in that country at the moment?
TDS: I believe the South African film industry is very healthy and it's a place Ryan and I would love to revisit and make a movie about. I have a number of filmmaker friends who film there and absolutely love the people, the scenery and the incredible crews.
HC: Did you know from an...SHARE: READ MORE Arrow Video FrightFest to present August digital edition
Posted on Wednesday 24th June 2020
Arrow Video FrightFest will go virtual over the August Bank Holiday, presenting up to twenty-five films from Friday 28th August to Monday 31st August inclusive.
There will also be additional online content including special guest intros, Q and As, and a short film showcase. Plus, some free Live events are at the planning stage. Passes and individual tickets will be available and go on sale early August. The films will be geo-blocked for viewers in the UK.
More details will be announced in the coming weeks, alongside the line-up of films.
Ian Rattray, FrightFest co-director said today: "Although we can't recreate the special atmosphere of our public gat...SHARE: READ MORE Important news from team FrightFest
Posted on Tuesday 2nd June 2020
Due to the continuing Covid-19 restrictions on social distancing, Arrow FrightFest's traditional five day event in August has been regretfully put on hold. Instead, the organisers are planning to expand their traditional all-day Halloween event at the end of October.
Alan Jones, co-director, said today: "Sadly, we won't be able to come together and celebrate our 21st year in the summer but rest assured, we will make our London Halloween event one to remember. FrightFest has always been about the genre community joining together, not just to embrace films but to demonstrate our unique spirit of supportive closeness".
Details on dates, venues, films and tick...SHARE: READ MORE 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 Arrow Video FrightFest announces Glasgow Film Festival 2020 line-up
Posted on Thursday 16th January 2020
Welcome the transgressive, the traumatic and the terrifying as Arrow Video FrightFest, the UK's favourite horror fantasy event, returns to Glasgow Film Festival for a 15th fantastic year, from Thursday 5 March to Saturday 7 March, 2020.
Thirteen is lucky for some as that's the number of new films being presented at the iconic Glasgow Film Theatre, embracing the latest genre discoveries from around the globe, spanning four continents, including one world, two European and seven UK premieres.
Alan Jones, FrightFest co-director, commented: "Welcome to another banner FrightFest and another invitation to explore the horror fantasy genre's fertile harvest bursting with creativity, ...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 Frightfest Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 PICK OF THE WEEK
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