LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS Interview with Tony and Ryan Smith co-writers of Volition.
By James Whittington, 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 early age that you both wanted to be in the film industry?
TDS: I was either going to be an astronaut or a filmmaker from the time I was 9 years old or so. I loved Spielberg's E.T. and I knew that I wanted to make rockets, make movies and make the world a better place. It wasn't until we moved to Vancouver Canada that my passions met opportunity, as Vancouver is a very busy film center. We had been making short films all through those tween and teen years, so it feels like I've been a cinema lover forever, and I'm still eager to get my cameras in space one day.
RWS: As the younger sibling, my interest in the film industry came naturally, because Tony was already filming everything and he needed an actor! But over time, we started collaborating on short films. Slowly, I phased out of the acting role and started taking an interest in story and writing. For a period, we both went on our solo explorations, with Tony writing and directing short films and TV and me writing and acting in projects with friends. But soon we joined forces and started writing features together. I would say that, for me, I knew I wanted to be in the film industry from a young age (it was always an important passion of mine), but it took me into my mid-twenties to really have the guts to pursue it as a career.
HC: Where did the idea for Volition come from?
TDS: Volition came about in a few stages. The original kernel was something I wrote in film school as a short. About a scientist who develops a pill that allows him to see 15 seconds into his own future. He wasn't a regular psychic who could see other people's lives; rather he could only see what he himself would ultimately experience. The script didn't have depth of character, heart or themes yet, so I tabled it and made something else at the time. Unable to forget about the concept, and with a little more salt in my soul, I started to really like the idea about a down and out character who feels like a prisoner to what he foresees. At that moment in my life, I was actually feeling quite stuck in my film/art life - and couldn't see a way out of it. And that's when everything clicked. I realized that my very "belief" was holding me prisoner. I realized that I had to face an "existential death" of my ego/fears and push harder for my goals. This became the foundation for James, who, like me, was a prisoner to his "belief" about his future. I wrote a first draft and then RWS jumped on board. He was always involved as a sounding board during my many dark days in the trenches of those early pages, and he had been pitching me this interesting idea of using James' unique perceptual affliction against itself, which would ultimately lead us to pulling the concept apart and building it back from the ground up together.
HC: What is your writing process, e.g. do you both sit in a room where one types whilst the other one paces?
RWS: We're lucky as brothers to have a lot of shared experience, so the process of writing together is very smooth. That said, we also sometimes see things from different perspectives, so we're always pushing one another to stretch and improve. Generally, we'll brainstorm and outline together in a room for a long time, until we feel we have a good handle on the beats of the story. At that point, we'll divide the outline in the middle, and each take a half to write in script form. Often new discoveries will happen for each of us in that process. Once those half-drafts are written, we'll trade sides and each re-write the other person's work. We repeat this over and over until we have a cohesive piece that feels like it represents us both.
TDS: The best part about our process of 'divide and conquer' is that it really allows us the freedom to feel things out in large swaths, and to try things without feeling someone over our shoulder, especially for more emotional sequences. Imagine writing an emotional crying scene while typing together... we find that a bit difficult. So we give each other space. There's no micro-managing involved, so if we stumble upon a fantastic idea that affects our half or the whole - we discuss, and generally go for it, knowing that the new discovery will lead to more discoveries in subsequent drafts, ultimately for the betterment of the script.
HC: The plot twists and turns almost constantly, how difficult was it to keep track of what was going on?
TDS: We had graphs, charts, structural topographical maps... it was an insane film to keep track of. But, as we keep moving through the story, always experiencing it from James' primary perspective, it became quite easy for us. We eventually used a color-coding system to track all the layers and plot turns, and I'm quite certain that we both aged 12 years with the 2+ year writing period.
The film has an incredible cast, was it written with specific actors in mind?
TDS: We love our cast, so thanks very much. Truthfully, yes, we had these actors in mind. Ryan and I were going to make this movie no matter what, and no matter what budget. So we started to talk to our actors friends in Vancouver - and as they expressed interest - we started to really hear their voices within the characters we were writing. I would also like to say that our cast took what was on the page and elevated it simply by their sheer talent. They are the authorities of these characters and Ryan and I are both so happy to them getting the recognition they deserve for their grounded performances.
HC: Did you have much of a budget as it does look slick?
RWS: While we can't talk specifics in terms of budget, I'll say that it was not a large budget, in comparison to studio films. In the writing of the script, we knew that we'd have to rely on the concept and the thematic ideas to make this story stand out. As for the slick look, I have to give Tony credit for his direction and shot selection. Also, Tony had such a key collaborator in our DP, Byron Kopman. These two pulled off incredible feats without relying on budget to save them.
TDS: Stretching dollars is basically a pre-requisite for a director on any budget - any it was no different for us. We knew we had a very complex script and shooting schedule ahead of us, so my prep (story boarding and shortlisting) was very key in making sure we got the look that I saw in my head. I knew we wouldn't have time for elaborate oners, steadi-cam, etc - so I made a very early decision to not be fancy with the camera, as we would lose our day and fall behind schedule. So the "slickness" that you see is a testament to the prep/vision that I went for - and then also the incredible talents of Byron Kopman, our cinematographer (currently shooting Neill Blomkamp's feature) - who understood how to translate my gritty, sweaty, character-based vision into reality.
HC: Was your initial vision restricted by budget?
TDS: In talking to many of my director friends about this topic, our visions are always limited by budget - but there is also great creativity in having limitations. Some of the best songs are written in 2 chords and some of the the best movies were strengthened by their constraints. I feel the same. While Volition could happily work on a bigger budget and longer schedule, I feel like the style and execution are cohesive with the characters and themes.
HC: The response the film has had globally has been phenomenal, has the film opened doors for you?
TDS: The biggest door that has opened has been the one of internal confidence. We took some big swings with this film and it's been gratifying to hear from fans and filmmakers that they love the movie! Ryan and I have some really cool stories that we want to tell, so the success of Volition has encouraged us to be bolder as we take on our next project. As for literal doors, yes, it's been really nice to take meetings knowing that Ryan and I get to play in bigger pools and with bigger ideas.
RWS: Also, having the film play at some of the great sci-fi and horror festivals around the world has opened up strong connections with that community. We've really loved to getting to meet people and share in conversation about the film and the genres we love.
HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?
TDS: We can't reveal too many internal secrets, but we are working on a number of very cool projects that relate to Volition, and also a few that will be natural stretches for us into new science fiction territory. One story that we're excited about is about our grandfather, who was a magician, but who also suffered from dementia towards the end of his life. Stay tuned!
RWS: Among other projects, we're developing a TV series that's also in the grounded sci-fi zone. It has some connective tissue to Volition, but it's exploring a broader swath of society, rather than being focused on one particular person's affliction. We're excited by the concept's potential for exploring issues that concern us about our current day world.
HC: Tony and Ryan, thank you very much.
Related show tags: FRIGHTFEST MORE ARTICLES Horror Channel announces raft of premieres for February
Posted in Features, Thursday 13th January 2022
February on Horror Channel keeps genre fans alive with the UK TV premiere of What Keeps You Alive - another suspenseful knife to the throat of 21st Century genre cinema from the deliciously warped mind of Colin Minihan, director of It Stains The Sand Red.
And expect more total shock and abject terror in the UK TV premiere of Paul Hyett's sinister sci-fi horror fantasy Peripheral. This twisted cross between Ex Machina and Videodrome boasts an astonishing performance from Hannah Arterton.
Plus, there are channel premieres for the gore-filled, stomach-churning zombie chiller Death Trench, Producer M. Night Shyamalan's claustrophobic supernatural thriller Devil, the...SHARE: READ MORE Marco Beltrami and Brian Tyler's Scream scores get new releases
Posted in News, Sunday 9th January 2022
Varese Sarabande celebrate the return of Scream with two very special releases. Marco Beltrami's scores from the first four films get the box set treatment via a 4-LP set, 6-CD set (exclusive to VareseSarabande.com), and digital releases. Featuring a trove of previously unreleased material, both physical sets come in packaging that folds out into a Ghostface mask. The digital album is now available to stream wherever you get your music!
Meanwhile, Brian Tyler's score for the brand new Scream is getting an LP, CD and digital release as well... The expanded 24-track CD and digital version of Scream: Music from the Motion Picture are out n...SHARE: READ MORE Who ya gonna call for help in the Afterlife?
Posted in News, Wednesday 5th January 2022
From director Jason Reitman and producer Ivan Reitman comes the next chapter in the original Ghostbusters universe, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, available to Download and Keep on January 10th, to Rent on Digital on January 31st and also on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
Starring Carrie Coon (Gone Girl, The Nest), Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things, It), McKenna Grace (Young Sheldon, Gifted), Annie Potts (Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II) and Paul Rudd (Ant-man, Avengers: Endgame), the film is written by Gil Kenan and Jason Reitman.
When single mum Callie (Carrie Coon) and her two children Finn (Finn Wolfhard) and ...SHARE: READ MORE Stagefright - Blu-ray review
Posted in Reviews, Thursday 30th December 2021 Stagefright Shameless Entertainment Certificate 18 ****
Also known as Aquarius, Deliria and Bloody Bird, Michele Soavi's bold directorial debut Stagefright finally gets the Shameless treatment. Released at the backend of the slasher trend this 1987 effort takes the genre in a far more artistic direction than most of the era and stands up to close scrutiny to this day. More recent movies such as Halloween (2018) and Climax (2018) seems to have taken some themes from this which is a fine reminder of why slasher movies don't just start and end with the more famous franchises.
When a masked killer infiltrates a group of actors rehearsing overnight in an isolated theatr...SHARE: READ MORE Horror Channel ushers in 2022 with zombie invasions
Posted in Features, Tuesday 21st December 2021
January weekends on Horror Channel are invaded by the undead with the UK TV premiere of Lin Oeding's newly-flavoured zombie horror-comedy Office Uprising, and the two highly acclaimed Zombie apocalypse road movies - Stake Land, receiving its Channel premiere, and the sequel The Stakelander, enjoying a UK TV premiere.
Plus, there are channel premieres for the bone-chilling The Wretched, directed by The Pierce Brothers, Sam Raimi's classic Evil Dead 2, once again starring the demon battling Brue Campbell and the original Dolph Lundgrem/Jean-Claude Van Damme futuristic thriller Universal Soldier.
Here's everything you need to know:
A VHS classic on the 8th as Je...SHARE: READ MORE The best kind of honey trap! Doctor Who: Hornets' Nest is coming to vinyl
Posted in News, Thursday 16th December 2021
On limited edition vinyl for the very first time, Demon Records presents Doctor Who: Hornet's Nest, the unique audio adventure that first instigated Tom Baker's remarkable return to the role of the Doctor.
This release will include an exclusive, frameable portrait of the Fourth Doctor - every copy of which has been individually signed by Tom Baker himself and is just one of the treats inside this stunningly designed package which also includes an impressive, die-cut removable outer sleeve houses a hornet-adorned lidded box, inside which are 10 individual, exquisitely illustrated LP sleeves featuring full cast and credits for each story.
Also included is The Do...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Abigail Blackmore, writer and director of Tales From The Lodge
Posted in Interviews, Tuesday 14th December 2021
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 in Interviews, Wednesday 8th December 2021
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 Stagefright to be released thanks to Shameless
Posted in News, Saturday 4th December 2021
Combining graphic, blood-splattered set pieces with his trademark wit and filmmaking elegance, Michele Soavi's (Dellamorte Dellamore, The Sect, The Church), Stagefright is now unleashed in a new 4K restoration.
When a masked killer infiltrates a group of actors rehearsing overnight in an isolated theatre, thesta ge is set for carnage! Featuring an abundance of over-the-top kills and spills, shot with Soavi's typical style, marvel at the mayhem as the iconic chainsaw wielding 'Owl Man', delivers a bloodsoaked performance for the ages.
From one of the masters of Italian horror, Stagefright is at the pinnacle of 80s slashers. Michele Soavi was schooled by Dario Argento and Terry Gil...SHARE: READ MORE Scream - Legacy cast posters revealed
Posted in News, Saturday 4th December 2021
It's always someone you know.
Twenty-five years after a streak of brutal murders shocked the quiet town of Woodsboro, a new killer has donned the Ghostface mask and begins targeting a group of teenagers to resurrect secrets from the town's deadly past.
Neve Campbell (Sidney Prescott), Courteney Cox (Gale Weathers) and David Arquette (Dewey Riley) return to their iconic roles in Scream but will all three survive?
The cast also includes Melissa Barrera, Kyle Gallner, Mason Gooding, Mikey Madison, Dylan Minnette, Jenna Ortega, Jack Quaid, Marley Shelton, Jasmin Savoy Brown, and Sonia Ammar.
Paramount Pictures and Spyglas...SHARE: READ MORE Finally, Argento's masterpiece to get 4K restoration release
Posted in News, Saturday 4th December 2021
From master of horror Dario Argento (Suspiria, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage) comes Phenomena - one of his most eccentric and unique thrillers, featuring telepathic insects, maggots galore, and even a razor-wielding chimp!
Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelly), daughter of a world-renowned movie star, arrives in the so-called "Swiss Transylvania" to attend an exclusive girls' school. However, a vicious killer is targeting the pupils, and sleepwalker Jennifer finds herself in the assassin's headlights when her nocturnal wanderings cause her to witness the death of a fellow pupil. Aided by paraplegic entomologist John McGregor (Donald Plea...SHARE: READ MORE Video nasty classic Don't Go in the House will reopen next year
Posted in News, Saturday 4th December 2021
A legendary title from the Video Nasties era, Joseph Ellison's relentlessly bleak and disturbing Don't Go In The House has lost none of its power to shock in the decades since it was first censored by the BBFC and seized by UK authorities.
Donny Kohler (The Sopranos' Dan Grimaldi in a gripping central performance), a disturbed loner unhealthily obsessed with fire, comes home from his factory job one day to find his abusive mother has died. Now all alone in the large Gothic mansion he calls home and consumed in an inferno of insanity, he is finally able to fulfil his violent revenge fantasies against her. Soon, any woman unlucky enough to enter...SHARE: READ MORE Articles Archive: 2022 | 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 PICK OF THE WEEK
Sunday 23rd January
Friday 28th January
Friday 21st January