British Shorts Berlin 2019
‘I Am The Doorway’
Festival Screening / Midnight Movies (only for 18s and older)
Horror / Mystery / Animation / SciFi / Black Comedy / Music Video
Sat 19.1. 00:00 / Sputnik Kino 1
After a journey to investigate desolate Pluto, astronaut Arthur returns home a shattered man. He sees eyes forcing their way through the skin of his hands, eyes that distort his friends and the landscape itself into monstrous visions. Believing himself the doorway to an alien invasion and gruesome murder, he must take desperate action.
Hi Simon thanks for talking to TNC, you all set for British Shorts 2019?
I think so! Never been before so I'm excited to attend and check out some of the other films in the line-up, especially as mine is in a midnight screening - should be fun!
Any nerves ahead of the festival?
Attending a festival is always a bit nerve-wracking. I love the sense of community and meeting the other film-makers there, but when it comes to actually watch the film - as a director you can't help but pick at things in your own work, even when it's finished, so sometimes it can be tough sitting and analysing the film with a whole audience of people around you-you just assume they're all thinking the worst! But equally we've had some amazing reactions and it's great to get anything like that from a group of completely unbiased new people.
How does it feel to have I Am The Doorway at the festival?
It feels great. The script first came to me in 2015 so it's been a long road to completion, but I'm really proud of the end product and feel so grateful to be able to share it with so many new people around the world. We've been very lucky with the reactions so far. A big thanks to British Shorts for giving us the platform!
Tell me a little bit about I Am The Doorway how did your film come about?
So I wasn't originally familiar with the "Dollar Baby" scheme set up by Stephen King, which basically enables aspiring film-makers to get the rights to one of his short stories for a dollar. It first came to my attention when an American screen-writer, Jeffrey Stackhouse, contacted me because he had the rights to this particular story and was in the process of writing a script, along with Richard Becker and Wendy Lashbrook. He'd seen a horror feature I directed, Judas Ghost, at a festival in LA and believed I was the right choice to direct. I loved the premise and their writing so agreed to do it, then brought my producer from Judas back on-board, Wolfram Parge, to help bring it all together.
What was it about Stephen Kings short story that interested you so much?
First off it just felt like such a creepy idea, the idea of an alien life-form living inside of you? Eyes under your skin? It just makes you shudder. Also, there are so many layers to the story itself, it's definitely up to interpretation how much of it may just be in the protagonists head.... and Kings writing, of course, is so immersive. I thought all three writers did an amazing job of capturing that in their adaptation.
Did you have any apprehensions about bringing one of King's shorts to the screen?
I was definitely a little nervous about the reaction - horror fans generally are an extremely passionate group, which I love, and certainly, King has a huge fanbase, so I wanted to do the story justice. At the end of the day, you just have to make the best film possible and hope people will like it! So far the response seems positive which is great. I can honestly say so much of it was already in the writing so it was about capturing the same feeling and atmosphere on-screen.
What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing I Am The Doorway to life?
100% the logistics of the location. We were on a very limited budget. We did run a crowd-fund campaign but after that, it was just about whatever myself and the producer could contribute - and what favours we could call in! We filmed in Scotland because it was the only place that suited our needs, but the majority of cast and crew working on the film were all based in the south of England - so it was getting everybody up there and housing them for 6-7 days, feeding them, arranging transport etc... Wolf did an amazing job with all that. We did look at locations closer to home - remote coastal areas in Wales, Cornwall and so on, but either way we'd have to travel 2 hours or more, and a lot of the places we saw just didn't look right or were way too expensive to hire because they were holiday homes. High Tide, the hut we used in Scotland, had the perfect look and feel, and the landscape around it as well was exactly what we were after. As soon as we went up there to look at it we thought "damn it, this is the place!"
I must also acknowledge three people here - Todd Tucker at Illusion Industries in LA who built our alien eyes, Derek Lloyd, our make-up and prosthetics artist who did an amazing job on the day applying them to the actor, and Padraic Culham our VFX artist who animated all the eye movement - blinking, dilating pupils etc. The second biggest challenge was definitely the special effects on this film, and we were almost a year in post as a result, but they did an incredible job between them helping to realise a very tricky and vital element of the story on minimal money.
Have you always been interested in filmmaking?
Pretty much. I started playing around with the family video camera when I was 10 or 11 years old and instantly fell in love with the process. It then became a regular feature for friends and I to get together at a weekend, make up a story, and shoot it in-camera. Then when I was around 14 my mum got a new laptop which came with iMovie, so I started editing... and it went from there!
What feeds your creativity?
Just a passion for films and story-telling. It's honestly pretty all consuming in my life. If I'm not writing or working on one in some capacity, I'm watching them, reading books and screenplays, watching behind the scenes online, and I often get involved as an editor on other peoples projects. I just love it. It's just so satisfying to initially visualise an idea and then start to put it together and see it through to completion. The only drawback now is as the ideas get bigger you need more money to do it! But one of the many upshots with making shorts is learning ways around things that you can apply to other projects.
How has your approach to your films changed since your debut short film?
Oh wow, so much. My taste in the kind of films I want to make probably hasn't changed much (as my friends and family will attest haha) but I've learned so much more about the process - how to be more economical and disciplined on set. I work as an editor when I'm not directing so that has been a huge help in teaching me what you do and don't need etc.... I do think as well when I started I wasvery focused on the technical side of things, I often operated myself so I would get very hung up on camera movement - things like that, whereas now I'm just as focused on the performances. And finally just generally having more confidence and being able to deal more quickly with problems as they arise. Just getting out and doing it is the best way to learn.
As a filmmaker how important is the collaborative process for you?
Very. It's important to have outside input - I'm especially wary of that as I often edit my own films, so it would be very easy to get tunnel vision slightly and lose sight of what is/isn't interesting, whether something works and so on... I feel very fortunate to have cultivated a good group of people around me that I can always use for some honest feedback, and of course, on set, you try to work with the best people who can all bring their ideas to the table. Again it's about having the confidence to listen to them and go with a new idea when something works, and also when you might want to stick to your gut on something as well. But it's all a collaboration.
One of my fondest memories on I Am the Doorway was when a scene wasn't working, and so we stood the crew down whilst myself, the lead actor and the 1st AD/co-producer all sat around and tried to work it out. What we came up with (I think) was not only economical and practical, it really worked well for the story too. It was just so satisfying.
Do you have any advice or tips for a fellow filmmaker?
I've sort of touched on it now but just to go out and make something would be my biggest advice. You learn so much and even if everything goes wrong you learn a hell of a lot from that too! The tools you need are so readily accessible nowadays. And if there's something you need that you don't have, be it a location or piece of kit, don't be afraid to ask! As long as you're polite and respectful the worst someone can say is no - and I've often be surprised by how willing people are to help.
What are you currently working on?
I'm currently prepping for a feature project called "Blood Valley", which is an action thriller. We're in the process of sourcing our cast and crew and raising finance, so hopefully, we can shoot that towards the end of this year. Fingers crossed!
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from this film?
I just hope it's something that lingers after the screening and gets them talking. I love films because they entertain, and that's what I want to do for other people - whether they experience excitement, fear, sadness.. whatever it might be if they can get swept up in and gripped by the story that's great! I'm not looking to have a specific message or anything like that. One day I might, but not right now. As long as they don't just shrug their shoulders and instantly forget about it... I'm happy!