ARTICLES

LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS

Interview With Stewart Sparke Director Of The Creature Below
By James Whittington, Saturday 27th August 2016

The-Ceature-Below-300x135I'm a sucker for creature features and any that did into the genre are brave souls. The Creature Below is coming to FrightFest today so we chatted to its director, Stewart Sparke.

HC: How did you get started in the movie industry?

SS: Straight after studying directing at film school I got a few jobs in the UK TV industry, working as an intern with the BBC and then as a Camera Assistant on the 2012 Olympics in London. In my spare time I was also making a few short films with my collaborator Paul Butler and whilst the TV work was fantastic experience I found that my true passion was in making my own films. This lead to myself and Paul setting up a production company in the north of England called Dark Rift Films and through this we have made several short horror films that have been screened at film festivals around the world. We were lucky enough to have our last short film Containment included in the Horror Channel's 666 Shortcuts to Hell 2 anthology feature film a few years ago and it was actually the feedback we received back from the judges that influenced us to get started on a feature film. So really The Creature Below is our first step into the movie industry proper and we hope it is the first of many features to come!

HC: How did the project for The Creature Below come about?

SS: Whilst making short films for a number of years gave us the opportunity to develop new skills and gain valuable experience in the craft of filmmaking our ultimate goal was always to make a feature length film. Paul and myself had been developing a number of ideas over the course of a year and choosing the right one to tackle for our first feature was quite a challenge, as we had never made something of that duration before. Paul already had a great psychological horror script set in a house in the north of England about a young couple who become trapped in a cycle of jealousy and revenge. It was very gritty and disturbing but we needed something to make it unique and really stand out. At the same time we were developing a Lovecraft inspired script about a young scientist whose discovery of a strange creature drives her to madness and we realised that the two ideas were a perfect match for each other, eventually developing them as one film. In the end we were very happy that we had come up with quite a unique and disturbing film that we think horror fans will enjoy.

HC: Was it an easy movie to cast?

SS: The casting process was a wonderful process for us as we had a great deal of interest all of the main leads which was a great boost of confidence for us and showed that people were very interested in taking on our characters. We had some really talented actors read for the roles and paired up auditions so that we could see how our potential cast members would play off each other in some intense scenes from the film and make sure the chemistry was there. With any low budget independent film it was important that we not only found actors who could embody our characters but also have a passion for the type of film we were making and be fully prepared for some tough and emotional scenes. We were so lucky to find Anna Dawson, Michaela Longden and Daniel S. Thrace as our leads and we knew after getting them in a room together that they could bring the characters of Olive, Ellie and Matt to life in a believable way as well as bring out the raw emotions we needed. Complimented by supporting cast members Zach Lee, Johnny Vivash, Libby Wattis and Lyndsey Craine we had our dream cast and it gave us the upmost confidence that they could bring the film’s grim and disturbing universe to life.

HC: You shot the movie on an incredibly tight budget, what was that like and what pressures did it add to the shoot?

SS: Shooting to a limited budget was something we were very used to with our short film projects as much of it had always been self-financed by Paul Butler and myself. This challenge was increased ten fold when we started pre-production on The Creature Below and it was certainly one of the more challenging aspects of making our first feature. One thing we are very proud of and something I would urge all low budget filmmakers to do is ensure that the hospitality of the cast and crew is always at the top priority of your budget. We made sure we had good accommodation provided and hot meals on set every day and it's surprising how quickly this adds to the budget but the benefits outweighed the costs dramatically as everyone was happy and ready to work hard through the shoot. The tight budget also put pressure on the schedule, which had to be kept to just 14 full days and a few weekends in order to shoot the whole script and get everything we needed while the cast and crew were available. We were so lucky to have such a dedicated cast and crew who knew the stakes and they worked very hard to ensure we started and finished each day on time, ensuring we finished principal photography on schedule. Whilst the pressure was on during the whole shoot, it was an experience I wouldn’t change for the world and I value all of the skills and knowledge of making feature films I gained along the way!

HC: Did you have to leave anything out of the script due to the size of the budget?

SS: One thing Paul and I were very conscious of during the writing stage was keeping the script realistic, this was our first feature after all and we needed to make sure it was achievable. At the same time however, we had a great deal of success on previous projects getting access to some amazing locations and knew some very talented people who could bring our ambitious ideas to life so we didn't want to shy away from some incredibly ambitious sequences making it into the script. Whilst Paul was writing the screenplay I made sure that I was speaking to the relevant people to make sure we could accomplish what the script demanded. By talking to fantastic special effects artists like Neil Stevens, Paul Wilkins and Simon Brodie this early in the process we were confident that we could bring the creature to life whilst at the same time I was able to get permission to film on an old fishing trawler and shoot with the stunning Humber Bridge in Hull as a backdrop in a number of scenes. Likewise, visual effects supervisor Jeff Blyth assured us that we could accomplish an ambitious deep-sea dive sequence and we worked with him during the scripting stage to ensure it would be achievable when it came to shooting the film. Securing these key elements early on during the script writing process meant that we did not have to scale back our vision and I'm happy to say that the finished film stays true to our original ambitions.

HC: The SFX is key to many scenes, how did you design the look and feel of the creature?

SS: The design of creature in the film and each stage of its life-cycle was a collaborative process between myself and a number of talented artists whom we had worked with in the past. It was important that the smaller version of the creature you see was almost cute and that audience felt an emotional bond with it much like Olive in the film. Big bulbous eyes and some great sound design from Dave S. Walker were key in making that happen and it's a contrast to the huge hulking creature it eventually becomes which has smaller eyes and a more menacing form. Graphic novel artist Lee Lightfoot did a fantastic job at realising my initial ideas into concept artwork, which we then passed onto our creature FX team, who were able to draw up blueprints to build practical versions of the creature. With each one being some form of puppet we had to make sure that the creature could withstand the wear and tear of shooting and be fully interactive with the actors and the creature FX team were great at making sure the practical effects met the demands of the script. At the same time SFX makeup artist Simon Brodie was on set to manage the fake blood and guts and how that would interact with the puppet. VFX artist Jeff Blyth also had to make a CG version of the larger creature for a few scenes where a practical creation was not possible and used the same concept artwork to ensure the creature maintained the same look at style as had previously been seen.

HC: This is your first full length feature, what did you learn whilst making The Creature Below?

SS: I've probably touched on a few of the things I've learned earlier in the interview but overall it's that collaboration is key. I always remember a quote from indie filmmaker Pat Higgins where he said that the key to successfully making your first feature is finding people who have all of the qualities you don't have and listening to what they have to say. That was so important on this film and I was lucky enough to be surrounded by so many talented people who all had their own amazing input that made the film even better and overcame so many hurdles. From our costume designer Natalie Roe suggesting different colours for characters based on their emotional states during the course of the film to our Director of Photography suggesting a new camera move that made the scene even more impactful, all of this collaboration made the film even better.

HC: Are you nervous that the movie is getting its world premiere at FrightFest?

SS: I would be lying if I said I wasn't! The Creature Below is our first feature so we really hope people respond well to it. FrightFest was always in mind as the first festival we would submit our film to and we even built our schedule around getting the film finished in time so it's a huge deal to us that we were accepted. It's also the first time all of the cast and crew will see the film so what better place to watch it than on the big screen at one of the best horror festivals on in the world!

HC: Will you watch with the audience?

SS: I will be there on the front row biting my nails hoping that the audience jump/laugh/scream at the right moments. Most of the cast and crew will be there too and we are very excited to see it with fellow horror fans!

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

SS: Paul and myself are busy developing a few ideas for our next feature but everything is at an early stage right now so I couldn't mention anything specific but it's safe to say that another horror film is on the cards. As for other projects we have been having a great time working on a web series called Slice of Horror on our YouTube channel. In the series we travel around the country to interview other indie horror filmmakers and attend film festivals and conventions covering everything horror related. This has been fantastic for us to meet other people doing the same thing we are and learn more about their approach to making films and share it with the world. We also review independent British horror films, many of which have screened at FrightFest in the past and try and get the word out about some undiscovered gems.

HC: Stewart Sparke, thank you very much.


MORE INTERVIEWS
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
Interview with Simeon Halligan, director of Habit
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2020

Simeon Halligan is one of the busiest people working in the industry today. Writer, director, producer, director of celebrated film festival Grimmfest, in fact the list goes on.

His latest film is the neon tinged, blood-splattered masterpiece Habit which is showing on Horror February 14th so we thought we should get the story on how he brought this shocker to the big screen.

HC: When did you first become aware of the book by Stephen McGeagh to which Habit is based?

SH: I read the book a couple of years back and really liked it. A combination of gritty realism and dark fantasy; set within a very recognisable Manchester. There's a juxtaposition in the book; from a kind of soc...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Jackson Stewart, director of Beyond The Gates
Posted on Wednesday 22nd January 2020

Jack Stewart's sublime retro horror Beyond the Gates was recently shown on Horror. Jackson is one of the strongest creatives around at the moment but he took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about this contemporary classic and his future movie plans.

HC: Was there one film that you saw growing up which gave you the idea that you wanted to work in the film industry?

JS: There were definitely a number of them; I think the ones that stick out strongest in my memory were Temple Of Doom, Batman '89, Nightmare On Elm Street 4, Raising Arizona, Back To The Future, Marnie, Army Of Darkness, The Frighteners and Dirty Harry. All of them had a big emotional impact on me. Dirty Har...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with acclaimed author Shaun Hutson
Posted on Friday 20th December 2019

The British horror legend Shaun Hutson is back with Testament, a new novel featuring one of his fans most loved characters, Sean Doyle so we decided to catch up with this talented chap about his acclaimed work.

HC: Was there one author who inspired you to become a writer?

SH: My inspirations were always and still are cinematic if I'm honest. Even when I first started writing my influences and inspirations came from things like Hammer films, from TV series like The Avengers (with Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee) and from old Universal horror films. I read the Pan Books of Horror Stories when I was a kid and I think they were probably the first "literary" influences I ever had. I also read lo...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Tyler MacIntyre, director of Patchwork
Posted on Thursday 12th December 2019
On the eve of Horror Channel's UK TV premiere of Patchwork on December 14th, director Tyler MacIntyre reflects on body image issues. twisting audience expectations and his admiration for current female genre directors.

HC: Patchwork finally gets its UK TV premiere on Horror Channel. Excited or what?

TM: Relieved actually. It's been a long time coming. The third screening of the film ever happened at FrightFest in Glasgow and since then I've had people asking me when it was going to come out. The UK genre fans are among the most diehard in the world, so I'm very excited to finally have it available for them.

HC: You were in attendance when Patchwork, your directorial feature debut, rece...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with James Moran, writer of Tower Block
Posted on Monday 25th November 2019

Writer James Moran is about to do what few other writers have done in the past, the Horror Channel Triple! He is one of the few creatives who has had three of his movies play on the channel; Cockneys Vs Zombies, Severance and now Tower Block which is playing on November 29th. So, we decided to chat to this talented chap about this superior thriller and the rest of his career.

HC: Your first movie, Severance is a huge favourite with Horror Channel viewers, were you ever tempted to pen a sequel?

JM: Thank you, I'm really glad that people can still discover it with every new screening. Everybody wanted to do a sequel, we actually had several meetings about it. Nothing came of it, they carried on with...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Gary Dauberman, writer and director of Annabelle Comes Home
Posted on Saturday 23rd November 2019

Gary Dauberman has been the scriptwriter for some of the most successful horror movies of the last few years including IT: Parts 1 and 2, Annabelle and The Nun. His latest movie, Annabelle Comes Home which is also his directorial debut, has just been released onto DVD and Blu-ray. We caught up with this talented chap about his career to date.

HC: What was it about the horror genre that grabbed your imagination and made you want to become a writer?

GD: The earliest movie going experience I can remember was my parents taking me to Raiders of the Lost Ark and I was 4 or 5 or something and I had to sleep with them for a week, you know the opening up of The Ark and the face melting, a rea...

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
Interview with Paul Davis, director of Uncanny Annie
Posted on Wednesday 16th October 2019

Ahead of the International premiere of Uncanny Annie at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween 2019, director Paul Davis reflects on working for Blumhouse, bemoans attitudes to British genre film funding and reveals the movies that inspire him the most...

HC: Tell us how Uncanny Annie came about?

PD: Uncanny Annie is my second movie for Blumhouse as part of Hulu's Into The Dark movie series. I had the opportunity to actually kick off last October with a feature adaptation of my short film The Body (which had its world premiere at FF in 2013). The concept was to release a movie a month, for twelve months, with each revolving around a holiday or particular day for the month of its released. With The Bod...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Lars Klevberg, director of Child's Play (2019)
Posted on Thursday 10th October 2019
CHILDS_PLAY_Universal_2D_BD_Pakcshot_UKIt was the remake everyone was against! The interweb was ablaze with negativity but director Lars Klevberg and his team managed to pull off one of the best horror movies of 2019. Here he chats about the smart shocker, Child's Play.

HC: How nervous were you taking on a re-imagining of such a beloved concept and franchise?

LK: I was in fact very nervous the minute I signed on to do the movie. Before that, I worked relentlessly for weeks to get the job, but immediately after getting it my body had a very stressful reaction. I was fully aware of the legacy I was about to re-open so, I didn't sleep one minute that night.

HC: W...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interviews Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
PICK OF THE WEEK
Inanimate
INANIMATE
Tuesday 3rd March
9.00 PM
Quarantine 2: Terminal
QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL
Sunday 1st March
10.55 PM
The Disappearance Of Alice Creed
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED
Monday 2nd March
10.50 PM