INTERVIEWS

LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS

Interview with Ruth Platt, director of The Lesson
By James Whittington, Wednesday 6th December 2017

On the eve of Horror Channel's network premiere screening of The Lesson, director Ruth Platt talks about the decision to quit RADA, why her film isn't 'torture porn' and what the future holds.

The Lesson received its World Premiere at FrightFest. How did you react when it was chosen? And what was the experience like?

RP: I was really excited when I found out we'd been picked - we got a call from the team, and they were passionate about the film, and they are such a knowledgable and experienced small team, Greg, Paul, Alan and Ian, and it meant so much. Especially when the making of it had been such an arduous and difficult process! I had no idea how people would react to the film - it was such a tiny budget, and put together on sheer determination rather than any actual means. But the whole FrightFest festival was amazing - the fans were so supportive and friendly, and the reception to the film was so generous, it was a really brilliant experience.

How did you develop the idea for the film? Did your own experiences at school influence the story?

RP: So my love of the horror genre stems from the satirical, metaphorical nature of the genre - how you can make a comment or observation about society, or about human nature, through the lens of horror - it is quite an expressionistic and stylised way of looking at the world, but quite a cathartic one, exorcising your deepest concerns, fears, and anger, I think! I have done a bit of teaching, though only peripatetic. I wasn't trying to exorcise my real desires to torture students, as some people might think! It was more an observation on the educational system and its failures, and also a psychological study of class dynamics, stemming also from my experiences at school. The teacher role was inspired by two things - there was a teacher I had at school, and the class just knew, subconsciously and collectively, that we could push him further than we could push the average teacher. There was an innate vulnerability to him, a fear of us, if you like, that allowed the class to behave in a much more difficult way. My film was a bit of a 'what if' scenario - what if that teacher we locked in the cupboard snapped? There was an article I read a few years back about a teacher who did just that, without any history of violence or bad conduct - and who harmed a teenage boy at school badly. That was my second inspiration. The two ideas together created Mr Gale.

The violence in the film is mostly inflicted by a school teacher on two 16 year-old schoolboys. Do you think this makes it even more controversial and difficult to watch?

RP: I think, and I did worry beforehand, that people would take it literally, it is meant to be a deliberate satire on the torture porn genre. It has moral ambiguity and complexity, certainly, I mean hopefully, and those that like the film seem to get this, your sympathies keep changing to and fro, from the teacher to the kids. Mr Gale gets his comeuppance! I think The Lesson is pretty measured violence-wise - you look at 15 films like The Babysitter and Deadpool and my god, the violence, and it is so slick, so easy. That makes me uncomfortable. The violence in The Lesson is hopefully earned, and deliberately difficult to watch. There is no easy, shiny violence.

What lessons do you want people to take from the film?

RP: Ha! Well, I guess I want people to think about the education system, where its failings lie, how a school is a microcosm of society, and without an all encompassing and deep rooted culture of mutual respect, responsibility and kindness, it can go badly wrong. But I didn't want to do that in a straightforward way, but rather through the horror lens. Some people seem to find it really cathartic to see these difficult kids tortured which is a bit disconcerting! I guess films like Fritz Lang's M are pertinent and influential - that moral ambiguity certainly - the scene where all the criminals in the area capture this mentally ill, but hideous child murderer, and they are relishing the power they have in their kangaroo court - the hypocrisy and the savagery of all of them. Reminds me of Social Media!

The film has been described many ways, ranging from "Kitchen-sink torture porn" to "bravura art-house horror". How would you describe it?

RP: Satirical anti-torture porn? Though I love the kitchen-sink bit and the art house bit obviously!

The casting is particularly brave, allowing young unknowns to flourish and excel. How difficult was the audition process?

RP: Well - I had the tiniest budget so there was no casting director involved. All the kids were local, untrained kids. They were brilliant actually. They started with loads of stagey acting, and then I had to strip it down - they got it so quickly though and loved the process. I knew Evan already (who plays Fin) as I had already cast him in a music video - he was so hardworking and conscientious. I was lucky enough to go into a local college and have an audition with the young people studying Drama there. Rory [who plays Joel] shone immediately - he took my direction, and his truth of thought and quickness of mind was evident straight away in improvisations. I was lucky to find him - about a week before shooting! Mischa I cast very last minute too, I auditioned her on Skype after we had started shooting! She was a drama student at the Prague conservatoire. She was very natural and very lovely - and just astonishingly beautiful, I thought. Her separateness and her measured silence to me was indicative of what it is to be a woman in a man's society. She of course, is Fin's knight in shining armour, at the end of the day, but she is vulnerable, she has to compromise to survive. I thought Mischa had a beautiful stillness that was very watchable

You've been a successful actor yourself, having won a scholarship to train at RADA. But is it true you left in your second year to start up a theatre company? And will we see you tread the boards again?

RP: Well I wasn't that successful! I adored acting, but I was a very insecure person as an actor. I remember being called to an audition, by my agent, for a music video, and asked by 3 men to lap dance on a chair. I wished I had just told them to f*** off. But I didn't - I needed to pay the rent, and didn't want to annoy my agent. So I did it. That happened a lot. As an actress you have to have an innate confidence that I really didn't have. I absolutely adored RADA, and as soon as I left, I realised what an idiot I had been to leave in my second year. I fell into a deep depression - I was utterly broke, I had given up a scholarship, my mother was very ill, it all went wrong. I rang them and begged them to take me back but they had given my scholarship to someone else, and I couldn't afford to go back. But it was during my experiences forming a theatre company that I started to realise that I loved writing and later, when I found my confidence, directing. What I adore about directing is being able to guide an actor through each thought process, each moment of subtext, each emotional beat and each character trait, and I can do that because of my actor training. That is a really rewarding experience, and it is why I also enjoy working with new, untrained actors. Being an actor I think is terrifying - you are so vulnerable, and especially as an actress, I mean I know it is getting better but sexism and harassment is rife, absolutely endemic, though it has now suddenly exploded into the public consciousness and will probably now improve. But you really need to have balls of steel.

Who are your strongest influences in the horror genre and what's been your favourite horror film this year?

RP: Haneke's Funny Games (the original German language one) is my favourite horror film of all time. I guess that is what inspired my anti-torture porn premise. The violence in that film could not be more uncomfortable and less gratuitous to watch - Haneke is a genius. A close second, though not usually classified as a genre film, is Yorgos Lanthimos' Dogtooth'. One of the most brilliant, piercing satires I have ever seen. I adore Nosferatu, and Fritz Lang's M. This year, I loved Raw, which I think it is one of the greatest female horror films of all time - the central metaphor of an impossibly high-achieving girl, with the absolute rigid self discipline, that starts to discover her emerging sexuality and rage - so bloody, sharply funny. And the cinematography - I'm in awe of it!

Finally, what can you tell us about your next project?

RP: I have been in development with the BFI for a year now, so hoping to shoot something next year! It is a horror, but one that has a very detailed, socio-realistic world. And the whole thing is through the eyes of a child. It is also a largely female cast. Looking forward to making it so much, so wish me luck!

The Lesson is broadcast on Saturday 9 December at 10.45pm on Horror Channel.


Related show tags: RUTH PLATT, THE LESSON
MORE INTERVIEWS
Interview with Stewart Sparke, director of Book of Monsters
Posted on Friday 29th April 2022
Director Stewart Sparke watches a scene

A birthday bash becomes a bloodbath when monsters escape from a supernatural storybook, leaving a group of teenagers to fight for their lives and shut the party down in the UK TV premiere of Book of Monsters on May 16th on Horror. We chatted to its director, Stewart Sparke about this fun, retro-filled fright-fest.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a film director?

SS: I remember first realising that I wanted to make films during one of many viewings of The Mummy (1999) on VHS in my bedroom on an old 15" TV. I became quite obsessed with the film and tried to make all my friends come over to watch it ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Paul Hyett, director of Peripheral
Posted on Wednesday 16th February 2022
Paul Hyett

Paul Hyett is a multi-disciplined creative whose work is as inventive as it is imaginative. His latest movie is a dark sci-fi chiller named Peripheral and it will have its UK TV premiere on Horror, Friday 25th February at 11.05pm.

Here he chats about this incredible movie and his plans for the future.

HC: How did you become attached to Peripheral?

PH: The producer Craig Touhy and I had been friends for a while and had nearly done another movie together and he'd liked the claustrophobia and tension of The Seasoning House so we met up to discuss Peripheral. When he pitched it to me, very much a low budget, contained movie, in one apartment. I must say I was a little hesitant. I...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Abigail Blackmore, writer and director of Tales From The Lodge
Posted on Tuesday 14th December 2021
Abigail Blackmore 1

Ahead of Horror Channel's Xmas Day broadcast of her horror comedy feature Tales From The Lodge, director Abigail Blackmore recalls the brutal weather conditions, the challenges of casting and the joy of playing at FrightFest.

HC: Thanks to Horror Channel, Tales From The Lodge finally gets its UK TV premiere on British TV. Excited or what?

AB: So excited! I know a huge amount of people watch the Horror Channel so I'm hoping it opens TFTL up to a whole new audience.

HC: Looking back to its showcase screening at FrightFest in 2019, what are your abiding memories?

AB: It was a wonderful experience! FrightFest has long been one of the highlights of my ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Barbara Crampton, star of chilling horror Sacrifice
Posted on Wednesday 8th December 2021
Sacrifice Image 1

Barbara Crampton is a Horror Channel favourite. This much loved and much admired creative is starring in the UK TV premiere of Sacrifice, which is showing December 12th at 9pm on Horror so we chatted to her about this movie and her plans for the future.

Note that there are some spoilers for Sacrifice in the interview.

HC: Can you recall how you felt the first time you stepped onto a TV or film set?

BC: Yes, I remember the first time I was ever on a television set, it was for the soap opera, Days of Our Lives, and it was my very first job, and I had one line, "Hi. I'm your cousin Trista from Colorado". It was to the character Marlena Evans and subsequently I had w...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Michael Mayer and Guy Ayal from the acclaimed movie Happy Times
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
thumbnail_HT_set_Marie Alyse Rodriguez

Happy Times, which is showing at Grimmfest Online, is a movie that takes the home invasion genre and turns it inside out! Directed by Michael Mayer and co-written with composer Guy Ayal, the movie is a bombastic, bloody and hilarious piece of cinema. I chatted to them both about this dinner party from hell.

HC: Where did the idea for Happy Times come from?

MM: The idea for the movie started forming when I was invited to a Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year's) dinner in Los Angeles. It was the first year of Trump's presidency and wherever you went all people wanted to talk about was politics. One thing to know about the Israeli expat com...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with D.M. Cunningham, writer and director of The Spore
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
DMC_SetPic copy

If you like your horror with a huge lashing of gruesome effects and a strong story then The Spore is for. Showing at Grimmfest Online, the movie from D.M. Cunningham is a smart take on the body horror genre. Here he chats about this movie which is guaranteed to get under your skin.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a director?

DM: I started out wanting to be a makeup effects artist. After seeing Night of the Living Dead and discovering Fangoria magazine I was hooked. Tom Savini was a huge influence on my trajectory toward becoming a filmmaker. It wasn't until later that I discovered that you could boss the monsters around on set being the director. That's...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Ben Charles Edwards, co-writer and director of Father of Flies
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
Father of Flies director

A vulnerable young boy finds his mother pushed out of the family home by a strange new woman in Father of Flies, and he must confront the terrifying supernatural forces that seem to move in with her. This intense and chilling movie is showing at Grimmfest Online Edition so we chatted to director and co-writer Ben Charles Edwards about this movie.

HC: Where did the idea for Father of Flies come from?

BE: It came from my childhood experiences. When my good friend and journalist Dominic Wells was talking to me about my next project, he told me to draw on real life experiences. So, I did. My own experiences were neither as heightened nor as traumatic as they may...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Marcel Sarmiento co-writer and director of Faceless
Posted on Friday 15th October 2021
Faceless Director

Showing at Grimmfest Online Edition is the incredibly inventive horror/sci-fi hybrid Faceless. Here, co-writer and director Marcel Sarmiento speaks about this superb movie.

HC: Have you always been a big horror movie fan?

MS: Definitely as a kid. My first movies made with my Betamax were all about scaring one other and how gross we could push makeup effects. We mostly strangled, stabbed, and threw each other off buildings. I think as I got older, I appreciated what you could do with horror more than horror for horror's sake. I love that you can make characters do things that in any other genre you couldn't make them do and still come out the other end liking them and routi...

SHARE: READ MORE
Tom Paton, director of G-LOC chats about his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman
Posted on Tuesday 14th September 2021
Tom Paton on the set of G-Loc-3-1

Ahead of the Horror Channel premiere of his sci-fi action thriller G-LOC, director Tom Paton reflects on why making movies is like solving a puzzle, his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman.

Horror Channel will be broadcasting the UK TV premiere of your Sci-fi adventure G-LOC. Excited or what?

It's honesty so strange to me every time Horror Channel debuts one of my movies. The channel has been such a big part of my life growing up and informing my taste in films, that it's always a "pinch myself moment" when I see something that I've made appear on their TV listing. G-LOC is much more of a SCI-FI adventure than any ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Alexis Kendra, the writer and producer of The Cleaning Lady
Posted on Tuesday 15th June 2021
Alexis Kendra-4

Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of The Cleaning Lady on June 26, the film's star, writer and producer Alexis Kendra talks about playing a 'Goddess', coping with lockdown and why she can't watch horror films on her own.

HC: The Cleaning Lady is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?

AK: I love you guys. Always have, always will. I'm honoured.

HC: It's a very disturbing film, dealing with abuse, addiction and hidden rage, yet the characters are sympathetic and have real depth. It's horror with a twisted heart. As a co-writer, alongside your director Jon Knautz, what were the main challenges in getting the balance right between acting and writing? <...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Jen and Sylvia Soska, directors of Rabid
Posted on Tuesday 1st June 2021
Soska sisiters-WEB-1

Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of Rabid on June 12, Jen and Sylvia Soska reflect on the challenges of re-imagining Cronenberg's body horror classic, meeting the great man and their new monster movie, Bob.

HC: Rabid is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?

SS: The Horror Channel has supported us and our work since the beginning, so it's a special treat to have the newest film premiere there!

Js: We are so excited. Having Rabid on Horror Channel feels like coming home. They've been very kind to us. We are happy to have so many of our films on there.

HC: We all, of course, remember that Rabid was one of David Cronenberg's earli...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Mickey Fisher, creator of sci-fi series Extant
Posted on Thursday 6th May 2021
Mickey Fisher 1

Horror Channel will be continuing its commitment to bringing cult and classic sci-fi to its audience with Seasons 1 and 2 of the CBS Studios/Amblin Television production of Extant, starring Halle Berry as astronaut Molly Woods, who returns home to her family, inexplicably pregnant after 13 months in outer space on a solo mission.

The series begins on Horror May 11th so, we decided to chat to its creator, Mickey Fisher about how the series came to be produced and what it was like working with Hollywood royalty.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a writer?

MF: From the time I was maybe five or six years old I wanted to be an actor. Going to see Star...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interviews Archive: 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
PICK OF THE WEEK
Alive
ALIVE
Wednesday 1st June
9.00 PM
Death Trench
DEATH TRENCH
Monday 6th June
10.45 PM
Tales From The Darkside
TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE
Sunday 5th June
8.30 PM