Andy Erupted

Jan 19, 2017   //   by admin   //   News  //  No Comments

Hello all,

Permit me a bit of nostalgia, I was doing a bit of spring-cleaning on my laptop when I came across a file called “NOTLDR Interview template”, opening it up I found the first interview I ever gave with a man who has since become a very supportive friend, Mr Andy Stewart, formerly of the now-defunct (and sorely missed) horror site Andy Erupts. Andy is now an extremely talented director himself; so, with his permission, I’m running this interview from 2011 as a time capsule.

JPAB

(All stills by Victoria Rodway)

James Plumb – Writer/Director – Night of The Living Dead: Resurrection

Tell us about your background and what brought you to films?

Since I can remember I’ve been obsessed with films and filmmaking. My mum swears that when I was about 18 months old “Jaws” was on TV, my parents were watching it and I was sat there in my bouncy chair laughing and saying “Big Fish” every time he ate someone.

Jump forward 5 and a half years, and Dad brings home a videocamera from work. For some mad reason he lets me have a go and I start making these short simple horror anthologies with my friends, my sister and her friends. On every short I tried a new trick, a new gag, I figured out how the pros do it and see if there’s a cheap way of recreating it at home. I kept plugging away for the next ten years using this ancient Panasonic videocamera, I also learnt the basics of cinematic storytelling by seeing what works and what doesn’t.

Best way to learn filmmaking: make stuff, make mistakes and figure out where you went wrong.

Presumably you are a genre fan so, why Night of The Living Dead? What drove you to choose this as your debut project?

I’m a massive horror fan, always have been. Something about horror and sci-fi allows people to explore human/social/psychological issues without being preachy. A Kitchen Sink drama will tell you what’s wrong and who’s to blame. A (good) horror film, because it mostly deals in impossible, hypothetical situations can only raise questions about these issues.

As for NOTLD, the project chose me. Andrew Jones, the producer, got in contact after seeing the trailer for a short I was working on “Final Girl” -

-          Shameless plug here: http://www.virginmediashorts.co.uk/film/1647/final-girl

-and asked if I wanted to work with him on a zombie film. And to be honest, I hesitated. I love zombie films. Love them. But there are so many bad ones out there, I didn’t want to add another bad one to the sub-genre. With any project I take on, I need a “hook” something about the project that’s new that will keep me interested and keep it fresh for me. And for the life of me I couldn’t think of one for a zombie flick.

But Andrew and I had nearly worked together on another feature, and I didn’t want to turn him down cold without chatting to him first. So I told him I’m interested, and then he tells me he wants to remake Night of the Living Dead.

And I reread that e-mail five or six times because Night of the Living Dead, for me, is pretty much a perfect film. It birthed modern horror films. So now I’m wondering how I can break it to Andrew that:

a)      I don’t want to do a zombie film and

b)      I don’t want my first feature to be a remake.

So I start to write a response, and then rewrite it, then it becomes a list of reasons why I can’t do it. Then it mutates into a list of things I hate about modern zombie movies and modern horror remakes.

Eventually this e-mail becomes a statement of intent. So I decide to meet with Andrew, give him this list and then expect him to find another director to work with. Except, he listens to me carefully, smiles and says “Fine.” And at that meeting we bashed out the story beats for Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection.

JMJP

In your own words, can you describe NOTLDR?

NOTLDR is a horror film, pure and simple. So many zombie and horror films nowadays are action films with horror genre set dressing. You’ve got an action hero(ine), with two guns blazing, despatching the undead. I love those films, but they aren’t horror films.

With NOTLDR, I wanted to go back and make a film that scared people, that upset people, that HORRIFIED people. I wanted characters that you’d care about, that reacted realistically to the horrific events going on around them, so that the audience would get upset when bad things started to happen to them.

Can you offer us some thoughts on the cast and crew of NOTLDR?

Oh my, you’ve just cued me to gush, so apologies for the hyperbole…

BUT I consider myself so lucky to have had such a talented, enthusiastic and knowledgeable cast and crew. All department heads on this film are horror fans, which meant that we were all trying to raise the bar for low budget horror films. It also meant we were able to communicate to each other in a verbal horror shorthand. i.e. “More Carpenter, less Raimi”

I’ve got to single some people out, firstly my producer Andrew Jones. On a zero budget horror film, the producer’s role can be considered the shit job. But Andrew got stuck in and got his hands dirty. He’s also incredibly shrewd, and I mean this as a huge compliment when I say he could be the next Harvey Weinstein, Roger Corman and Lloyd Kaufman rolled into one!

Andrew also let me handpick the rest of the crew, so I was able to bring back my co-conspirator James Morrissey. Since making shorts, music videos and miscellanea in South Wales, I’ve involved Jim in every project. When I first went round to his house I saw he had the full catalogue of John Carpenter Films proudly displayed on his mantelpiece, I knew I had to work with the guy. Jim served as DoP and is currently co-editing the flick with me.

I first met Rachael Southcott, when I put out a request on Facebook for a make-up artist for my “Final Girl” short film and she replied within 30 seconds (no lie). What makes Rachael great is that she’s got an artist’s eye, she knows how to use negative space to create a striking design. Let me elaborate, whereas some make-up artists will cover a whole face/body with make-up and gore, Rachael appreciates that sometimes its best to leave certain areas unmarked to make the gore more shocking. Rachael was also able to bring back Laura Clarke from “Final Girl” as make-up assistant. The two of them are a hell of a team.

Another “Final Girl” alum, Vicki Rodway served as 1st AD, and she beat the rest of us into shape. She was a hard taskmaster, but she kept us all in check and actually got us ahead of schedule for the majority of the shoot. And somehow during the shoot she managed to take some beautiful stills as well.

Paul Brookes was a new addition to the Mad Science Films Team, but had worked as sound guy on Andrew’s last film. Paul was great and very patient with us when I kept on asking for all these bizarre angles, which meant we had to play “Hide the Paul” in a number of shots to keep the boom mic hidden.

David Morgan is a longtime friend and another guy who I’ve worked with on almost everything in the past ten years. Dave ended up primarily becoming a Gaffer on this shoot, and his level-headedness and no-nonsense attitude helped us keep on schedule. He also showed amazing dedication by proposing to his girlfriend in Italy and then hopping straight back on a plane to work on the film. I understand they are still together.

Finally, our Runner, Adam Phillips. Adam regaled us with useless facts in between shots and served as our “shemp”, body doubling and appearing as a variety of background characters. A fun drinking game would be “Spot the Adam” although you’d probably end up wasted twenty minutes in!

Cast-wise, they were all total pros. We were lucky enough to cast Sule Rimi as Ben. Sule is a funny and charming guy, but when you point a camera at him he looks like a movie star. If Sule doesn’t become a leading British actor, there is something very broken in the British Film industry.

Rose Granger is another person I’ve been lucky enough to work with on almost every project since moving to South Wales, so it was great to cast her in my first feature. She is such a hard working, dedicated actress a director’s dream.

Mandy

I worked with Mel Stevens on “Final Girl” and noticed during that shoot that she understood how to work with the camera and was very focussed in her performance. So of course I dragged her back for NOTLDR.

Ok, I’ll cut it short there, the rest of the cast and crew will kill me, but I’m guessing I’m running way over the word count anyway!

Remakes/reboots/reimaginings are frequently subject to strong criticism from fans of the original. How do you think NOTLDR will be received by those who hold the original in such high regard?

Ha! They’ll hate it!

Okay, seriously, lets tackle the remakes issue.

I get it. We’ve been burned a number of times. I was at Abertoir last year (Wales only Horror Film Fest!) bitching and moaning about the “I Spit on Your Grave” remake and my former lecturer, and all round great guy, Mikel Koven pointed out that four of my favourite films were remakes.

1)      John Carpenter’s The Thing

2)      David Cronenberg’s The Fly

3)      Phillip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers

4)      Brian De Palma’s Scarface

And I realised that my issue wasn’t with remakes, it was with bad, bland, big budget remakes. What all the modern remakes have done wrong, in my opinion, is they’ve kept the characters, the settings, the plot points from the original but forgot what made the concept so great to begin with. The majority of modern remakes are studio flicks developed by committee, without a strong, singular vision. The films listed above pretty much just kept the core concept and then did their own thing.

So with NOTLDR, I’ve kept the concept and a number of the themes that made the original so powerful and then taken the film in a different direction. Sorry for being vague, I just don’t want to spoil the film by giving away too much!

Recently, The Human Centipede 2 has been heavily cut in order to pass certification by the BBFC, what are your thoughts on censorship?

As a recent father, I’m okay with classification as a guide for parents.

But as an adult, I think it should be up to me to decide what I can or cannot watch.

Simple as that.

What is next for you?

Being locked away in the editing room, working on NOTLDR. We started putting together a very rough edit during the shoot, and I’m really happy with what we’ve got.

After NOTLDR, I hope to work with Andrew again on another top secret project, which I really can’t speak about just yet.

Before NOTLDR I was partway through working on a “Final Girl” feature film, which I was hoping to crowdfund. So I’ll dust off the Indiegogo.com account and get to work on that.

Also I’ve got a giant-monster/comedy spec script doing the rounds with production companies. It’d be great to get that film off the ground, it’s quite a departure from NOTLDR.

So, the original NOTLD sees the principal cast holing up in a house in the country… realistically, if some sort of zombie apocalypse were to happen, where would you head and why?

If zombie movies have taught me anything, it’s that even the survivors have a pretty bleak existence after the end of the film. So I’d throw myself willingly to the zombie horde, doesn’t look like a bad life!

 

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