An Interview with writer and director Elliott Maguire

Hailing from the rainswept northern climes of the UK, Elliott Maguire is the writer and director behind the dark psychological horror film THE FERRYMAN, which is currently available on the Vimeo platform (you can rent or buy it here.)

Filmed exclusively using iPhone 7’s on a micro budget in and around his home city of Manchester, THE FERRYMAN tells the story of Mara (Nicola Holt), an emotionally fragile young woman who, whilst recovering from a suicide attempt finds herself stalked by a vengeful spectral entity. You can read our full review here if you haven’t already, but in the meantime, Elliott graciously agreed to sit down and talk to us about his experience making the film along with his influences and future plans.

TSL Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into filmmaking. Do you have any formal training in screenwriting or directing?

EM I’ve always been more of a film fan than filmmaker to be honest, until I got my hands on a copy of THE USUAL SUSPECTS at quite a young age and became really obsessed with screenwriting and storytelling. In terms of training, I did okay in college but I’m a two time university dropout, it just wasn’t for me. Not sure why really. So other than college I really just trained myself, with a bit of help from google. It wasn’t until very recently that I did anything other than the writing side of film though. Directing and stuff, well everything I learned from watching other films basically.

TSL How did the idea for THE FERRYMAN come about? What gave you the impetus to make your own film?

EM I’d always been interested in the image of the coins in the eyes since THE HITCHER and FROM HELL, and began looking into the Greek myth Charon and just thought it was ideal for turning into a new, iconic boogeyman. The Ferryman started off as a very Blumhouse-style supernatural horror, loads of jump scares, high body count, but as you can probably tell that changed a lot over the development. I’d always wanted to move into directing as well as writing and I had that many scripts get a bit of interest, almost happen, this that and the other, I just thought “I’m not ready but I never will be, so let’s just crack on and make something”. In hindsight I should’ve picked something a bit less complex production-wise but oh well.

TSL As a child of the VHS era, I’m pretty obsessed with horror, fantasy and sci fi, in particular post apocalypse movies. What are the films that have your biggest influences?

EM For THE FERRYMAN specifically, it really developed as my taste in cinema developed. The films of Nicolas Winding-Refn, Ben Wheatley, Nicolas Roeg, and David Lynch really stayed in my mind while filming. I wanted it to feel like you were in Mara’s head, in this psychological nightmare where everything is just slightly off…and then you drop right off down the rabbit hole.

TSL If there are any aspiring filmmakers reading this, I’m sure that they’d love some advice on getting their own projects rolling. How did you set about finding actors, makeup artists and scouting locations for instance? Did social media play a big part in finding suitable collaborators?

EM Social media was everything for me really, in terms of cast and crew it was basically a case of reaching out on Facebook. Except for Nicola and Shobi, I found them on Mandy and they blew me away with their self-tapes. But yeah everyone else was either an actor or filmmaker I knew through social media, or a friend of there’s. I got really lucky with everyone, I couldn’t say it’s the right way to do it, all I can say is it worked for me. Locations were really just places I had access to, my house, parents house, where I work, anywhere I could get for free really as paying was out of the question. In terms of advice, it’s such a cliche but it’s the right answer, you just have to go and do it. Think about something you can do with what you’ve got to hand and do it. If I can, trust me, everyone else can. If you wait around for funding, or for sometime else to do it for you, there’s a big chance it’ll never happen, so take control. Even if you’ve never been to university or anything, I can guarantee there are a thousand tutorials on every aspect of filmmaking on YouTube, and that’s free! Create your own university while also making things happen.

TSL What would you consider to be the most important thing you’ve learned in your filmmaking career so far, and what would your advice be to other aspiring filmmakers?

EM Organisation in the pre-production stage 100%. I got swept away in the excitement and started setting dates and deadlines for things without figuring out how to meet them, which really messed up one or two locations and led to a few last minute recastings. It worked out in the end but the stress of it really sucked the fun out of it a few times. So be organised, and have back up plans, and back up plans for your back up plans. But also, don’t think of this as a business, not until after post-production anway. This should be fun, it should be your passion, something you want to do regardless of the money. Stick to your guns and make the film you want to make, not what they tell you would sell more DVD’s.

TSL Do you have a preference for a particular aspect of the craft, either writing or directing?

EM I’ve just started writing again and I’ve missed it so much, as I feel in complete control and maybe that’s just the way I have to be. But the chaos of being on set and seeing stuff come to life and coming up with scenes on the spot and working with other filmmakers is amazing too so I don’t know. Maybe ask me after the next one…

TSL Certain films, particularly in the horror genre have gained a reputation for strange coincidences and unnerving occurrences during production. As lovers of film trivia, can you tell us if anything like that happened during the filming of THE FERRYMAN or indeed, any other interesting anecdotes relating to the production?

EM It was filled with drama actually, nothing supernatural even though my house and my parents house are definitely haunted. But yeah there’s been lots of stuff but I really couldn’t divulge any of it come to think of it. Some of it very private to cast and crew and some of it may get the FBI coming after us all if they’re not already (seriously).

TSL Finally then, do you have any upcoming projects or ideas bubbling away that you can tell us about?

EM Oh yes loads, I have a back catalogue of scripts that are no longer in anyone’s hands but mine and my plan is to basically work through them in terms of budget and scale. I have my slasher film set in the homeless community, my cult thriller Follow The Leader, a supernatural horror centred around security and CCTV, and I’m also hoping to start development on a film based on the Hexham Heads true story. But the next one is going to be very small, smaller than Ferryman even, but much more visceral than psychological, Buried-meets-Wicker Man is how I’d describe it with a bit of French New Wave ultra violence thrown in. Hopefully sometime this year.

TSL Thanks for volunteering your time to talk to us. We look forwards to your future productions!

EM Thanks Ian, and thanks for all the support!

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