In a new interview on HorrorScreams VideoVault I got an opportunity to ask directors Michael Holiday and Alex Churchyard a few questions about; the award winning I Scream on the Beach! which is being released by VIPCO, working with Lloyd Kaufman and their next feature Mosiac.
Your debut feature I scream on the Beach! has been picked up for distribution by VIPCO. Can you tell me a little bit about what we can expect form the film?
Alex – The film is a mystery, comedy, slasher film – a lot of the comedy is derived from the fact that we are paying homage to bargain bin films of the 1980’s. The story itself is about a young woman named Emily whose father went missing 10 years prior – as she starts to investigate what happened to him, her friends start getting picked off one-by-one by a killer in a gas mask.
Mike – Yeah, the idea is that ‘I Scream…’ is a VHS copy of a long forgotten about 80’s horror film that you the viewer has discovered.
How did the concept for I Scream on the Beach! come about?
Alex – Gosh, it’s convoluted. Basically, there’s a central mystery in this film that was the basis for many shorts that we produced in our youth. After a few different attempts at turning that idea into a very different screenplay, we eventually came upon this idea of setting it in the 1980s, in a small seaside village and using our local seaside location where we’ve grown up as the backdrop. The original idea was more High School based.
Mike – Alex came to my back in (I think) 2015, with a script based on these shorts we used to make. Over the course of a couple of years we basically took this script that was kind of an out and out monster/slasher comedy and rejigged it into this seaside set mystery.
As an 80’s slasher throwback what were some of your influences for the film?
Alex – I think that it’s mostly influenced by films that were derivative of the bigger slashers like My Bloody Valentine, The Burning, Halloween and Friday the 13th. There’s also a healthy dose of Giallo in there and even some Evil Dead.
Mike – There are too many influences to mention I think. We really wanted this to feel like it could have realistically been an ultra-low budget film from that time period. Something that was trying to compete with the bigger films Alex has mentioned but doesn’t quite have the budget to pull it off. Oh, there is also a sprinkling of Basket Case in there…
The film has a very retro VHS look to the film, which fits in with the original history of VIPCO. How did you recreate this effect?
Alex – So, it’s mostly done via actual scans of VHS tapes and then overlayed and the footage is colour corrected accordingly. Of course, we also tried to make it look like a film shot in the 1980’s first and then damaged on a VHS. So, it already has film grain and there are stylistic choices we made, such as redubbing the entire film. We did originally try putting it through a VHS player and actually if you hunt down our original teaser, then you can see what the results of that were like (it’s even in 4:3). But it was too time consuming for the feature and we were conscious of how it might look blown up on a big screen.
Mike – If you saw our editing timeline, you’d have a shock. It was a messy process, but I think it was worth it. It’s funny, the film is shot in HD and we’d get to certain parts and think ‘oh this shot looks really nice! Right, time to ruin it’. We really put a lot of time and effort into getting the VHS look right. We were conscious of it not looking digital still with a bunch of effects thrown on. Ultimately, I think it was really essential to pull off the style we were going for.
You have some unusual characters in the film, did you have any actors or actresses in mind for the role when writing the script?
Alex – Probably not with I Scream – well he is a tiny part, but our friend Jamie Anniss was always meant to have a role, but originally it was a different one and we ended up writing in a larger part for him during production. Hannah Paterson came onboard early on, but the part of Emily wasn’t written for anybody specifically. There’s a few characters like the Nun and Emily’s Mum (Alexa) where we actually expanded the roles during production because we really liked what the actors did with the roles.
Mike – A lot of the casting came about through casting calls to be honest though. I believe we contacted Martin W. Payne directly as we had seen him in some films at Horror on Sea and thought he’d be good for Bradley, and also Chris Linatt-Scott is a local actor who happens to be the dad of a friend, so we went straight to him for Dr. A as well.
Despite being you first feature the film includes British Scream Queen Dani Thompson and legendary Troma filmmaker Lloyd Kaufman. How did they both get involved in the film?
Alex – Yeah, so Dani actually got involved initially just with the film-within-a-film; The Decorator and then we were kind of bummed out that it was such a small part, that we actually changed the role of Paula so that she’s an actress and therefore Dani was able to play both roles. It’s great because I think it really adds to the character and gives her this sort of background story throughout.
Mike – We actually have you to thank for bringing in Llloyd Philip! I think the first time we discussed it was while I was promoting my previous short film. We’d done an interview and got speaking about Troma, and you mentioned you knew Lloyd and suggested we get him involved in I Scream. I think the stress of trying to put together a feature with a team of 2 in pre-production meant that we almost dismissed it and thought it wasn’t going to happen so let’s just leave it. Then Alex spotted he was in the UK just as we had started filming, so we thought let’s try our luck. We messaged you to try and get his contact details and it turned out you were stood right next to him at the time! So, after a bit of back and forth – 24 hours later, we’re running around Soho trying to find anyone who can give us a location to shoot in at short notice. Literally 5 minutes before we’re due to shoot, someone takes us in. And yeah, we got to spend the afternoon filming with Lloyd and hearing amazing stories from both himself and his wife. Was definitely one of the highlights of the shoot!
As independent filmmakers it is always difficult filming on a small budget. What were some of your biggest issues you faced whist filming that you had to overcome?
Alex – Budget probably was the biggest issue, definitely towards the end. We had proper catering on the first shoot by the end it was pot-noodles all round! It’s always hard to get people to come and help on no-budget stuff – you rely on friends, but in our case we were asking people who worked all week to then give up their weekends.
Mike – We shot in March/April 2019 and so the weather was horrid when we shot on location – luckily there were lots of pubs (remember those?) nearby to run in and have a drink. Shooting on the seafront was the biggest challenge, I live here but I don’t think you really appreciate how brutal the wind can get until you’re all out trying to make a film in it. One day, we’d rigged a whole fake throat slit effect. The killer has a razor to Tim (Rob Shaws) throat, he cuts, nothing comes out. It was so cold that the fake blood had formed into a solid jelly.
What were some of your favourite moments on set?
Alex – I think the third/fourth day where we shot all of the pub scenes – it was crazy as we had so much to shoot, seven main cast members, over a dozen extras, probably the biggest crew we ever had and this pub location all to ourselves. It probably felt the most like a real set and it was daunting and frankly terrifying, but after it was all done, and everyone went home on that second night; we both got to sit there and realise we’d pulled it off and all these amazing people had helped us to do it.
Mike – Yeah, I’d second that, I don’t think I’ve ever been as mentally exhausted after those two days than I was. We’d planned something ridiculous like 120 shots in 2 days. But running two cameras and working with such a great group of people we were able to pull it off. It gave us the sense of, if we’ve got through this, we can handle the rest of the film.
One of the characters in the film, played by Jamie Evans, is obsessed with horror movies and he wears several t-shirts with film titles of fictional movies. Do you have any plans to turn any of these fictional titles into an actual feature?
Alex – Well, we certainly have plans for The Decorator – he is part of Mosaic and we also hope to spin him into his own feature. A film called Striptease Massacre also features in I Scream and the 7th part Striptease Massacre 7: Strippers in Space! Will feature in our next film ‘Mosaic’…
Mike – We will make Ghost Alligator, once the technology has caught up to where it needs to be to pull off such a feat.
Mosaic is your latest feature which you are working on now, can you tell me a little bit about the film?
Alex – It’s an anthology slasher film. It focuses on DI Foley explaining a bunch of seemingly unrelated cases to his colleague DI Wentworth; as he does so we see each of the 10 cases play out and we realise there is a connection to each case, but it isn’t the killer…
Mike – We have four different writers working on this one, so it’s a bit more collaborative than I Scream was. Each ‘case’ is its own stand-alone story, but all based in the slasher genre. So, you can expect killer Santa Clauses, an insane baby-faced monster, a possessed teddy bear and a director with a passion for ‘authentic’ murder scenes to name a few.
The film had a successful Indiegogo campaign, with you achieving several stretch goals. Were you surprised at how much support the film received and why do you think it was so successful?
Alex – If only we knew?! I think we can only imagine that I Scream has still been doing the rounds at festivals and people seem to have enjoyed it. We know some of the people who contributed to the campaign are those that saw the film, actors, fellow filmmakers, and even festival organisers. It’s all incredibly gratifying to be honest. We set a fairly modest target for a Crowdfunder with the hope that perhaps by the end we might reach that target, but we ended up over 200% funded – basically people are amazing!
Mike – Yeah this was huge for us. The vast majority of I Scream came out of our own pockets, and being it was shot over such a long time period there was a constant feeling of ‘okay, how much money do we have to shoot next weekend?’. So, we set a small goal, just to help us cover some of the expenses. We really wanted to push the practical effects further in this next film so we thought that would help there. But yeah, people really got behind the project. We’d reached our goal within 24 hours, which was just such an insane feeling. Every bit of extra money we raised meant we could then come up with progressively more gruesome deaths for our poor cast.
I can see already that several of the cast members from I Scream on the Beach are also returning in Mosiac. Is this set in the same world and will we see any of their characters returning?
Alex – Yeah, we have quite a lot of returning cast members, mostly playing completely different characters, but Dani Thompson is reprising Paula and Andrea Rose is back as The Nun. There are other connections such as The Decorator and Striptease as well.
Mike – I think it’s a yes and no thing to it being the same world – you certainly would not have needed to see I Scream – narratively there’s no connection. I think we definitely want to return to that world, but never expected to do it in our second film.
This was more about thinking it would be fun to have Dani back as Paula; meaning she can again be in our film-within-a-film and also in the main film itself – she’s a fun character as well. Also, maybe she’s a vampire and can’t be killed? Who knows?
Alex – Hannah Paterson is responsible for bringing back The Nun – she’s a personal favourite of all of ours at TIS Films, such a weird character, but basically, we had a part that was originally a homeless person and stumbled upon the idea that it could be The Nun again – she died twice in I Scream, so we’ll have to see what happens to her this time and if she can make a another comeback…
But other than those mentioned Mosaic features I Scream cast members; Ross Howard, Jamie Evans, Kurt Deed, Reis Daniel, Michael Fausti, Ben Morris, Tess Gustard, Jamie Anniss, Martin W. Payne and Karen Davenport. And who knows, perhaps some others that haven’t been announced yet…
Other than those we have Tony Mardon back in this one after working with him on a short titled The Allotment, and also have a plethora of actors that we’ve never worked with joining Mosaic which is really exciting. Including Mask of Thorn star Eve Oliver and amazingly; Simon Bamford of Hellraiser, Hellbound: Hellraiser II and Nightbreed to name but a few.
Despite lockdown restrictions you have already completed some of the filming. Have the restrictions influenced the story or how changed how you filmed certain scenes?
Alex – Some of the segments were written more in mind of having very few characters and in the case of the first segment we shot (Baby Babble) we cast a real-life couple in Charlie Bond and James Hamer-Morton so they could act like a couple on screen and not need to be two feet apart. We’ve also shot the majority of Christmas Shopping which mostly centres on one character (Played by Erin Grace) alone in a shopping centre on Christmas Day – so again easy enough to socially distance.
Mike – Some will be more challenging and we are certainly on pause at the moment while the country is in the dire state that it is. But we hope to resume a couple of months time.
Do you have any other projects which you are working on or have planned for the future?
Alex – We have a number of projects – we don’t know what our third film will be necessarily but in the pipeline are; The Decorator, The Wolf Will Hunt and I Scream Parlour! At the moment I think there’s a desire that film three might be a smaller, more intimate affair. There’s a bunch of other film ideas we have that will also hopefully come to fruition as well.
Mike – We’re also co-producing and editing Tony Mardon’s ‘The Witches of the Sands’ which is frankly mental and the cast has to be seen to be believed. There’s also another collaboration with some other exciting filmmakers potentially in the works as well…
Coming back to the Indiegogo campaign, VIPCO are looking raise money for special limited addition releases of I Scream on the Beach! releases of Day of the Stranger and Harvest of the Dead: Halloween Night. Why do you think people should get involved and support the Indiegogo campaign?
Alex – We’ve not seen ‘Harvest of the Dead: Halloween Night’ yet but we’re excited to catch it at Horror on Sea later this year! Day of the Stranger was one of our personal favourites at HOS in 2020, the audacity to attempt a western on a shoestring budget and to actually pull it off, incredible! I think the thing that all three films have in common (other than being British) is they were made for next to no money and really through passion and hardwork and if that’s not enough to get you involved, then remember that this will mean the BBFC will have to sit through our silly film!
Mike – Yeah to highlight DotS there. The moment that filmed started on the big screen at HOS I had the biggest smile on my face so I’m really excited for more people to see that. It’s a great opportunity for people to really support three truly independent films and get them the kind of release that we often don’t get to see at this level. Plus, it’s bloody VIPCO! Who doesn’t want VIPCO back?
You can find out more about the VIPCO campaign here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/vipco-limited-edition-movie-releases#/