Here I pick the brains (!) of the great and the good, as well as the dark and demented souls, who have dedicated their mortal existences to the art of the motion picture.

Joby Stephens and Adam Kirley are the producer and writer/director respectively behind the recently released short fan film ROGUE TROOPER: THE QUARTZ MASSACRE. Based on the classic comic strip written by Gerry Finley-Day and drawn by Dave Gibbons, Rogue Trooper first appeared in the the legendary British anthology comic 2000AD in 1981.

Set in the far future in the midst of a galaxy spanning war between two rival human factions, the Norts and the Southers, the strip centred on the exploits of the eponymous character, a ‘Genetic Infantryman (GI) bio engineered to survive the toxic environment of Nu Earth, a strategically vital planet poisoned by decades of chemical and biological warfare. When his fellow GI’s are wiped out in a Nort ambush, Rogue is left to wander the ruined landscape in search of the traitor responsible accompanied only by his bio-chips – the downloaded personalities of three fallen comrades.

Here at the The Stricken Land, we are big 2000AD fans, and after the success of the JUDGE MINTY and STRONTIUM DOG fan films, we got very excited when we heard about a Rogue Trooper short being in the works, and both Adam and Joby kindly agreed to our interrogation. Read on…

TSL We think THE QUARTZ MASSACRE really succeeds in distilling the spirit of the original strips from the early 80’s. Tell us a bit about yourselves and how you came to put together a Rogue Trooper short.

AK I’ve worked in the film industry for 18 years in the stunt department. 12 years as a stunt performer and the last 6 years as a stunt coordinator. I was a big collector of comics as a kid, In particular 2000AD characters. I always thought Rogue Trooper was a great character and would make a great film. Myself and Joby have talked for over 10 years about making a short film of the character and then we both had a window of time between projects so we fast tracked the production.

JS I’ve worked in various roles in the film, tv and games industry for over 15 years and first worked with Adam on a short film called Project One about 14 years ago. Adam has always mentioned and talked about Rogue Trooper as one of his favourite comic books. Seven years ago we found a location that could potentially work and then two years ago we recce’d the location with Damien to talk ideas through. Schedules and timings dictated the rest and when we saw a window of opportunity early last year we decided to go for it. No production is easy, but this one certainly was a challenge we enjoyed!

TSL Considering it’s a 6 minute independent fan made film, THE QUARTZ MASSACRE has some impressive looking production values. How did you go about putting together the props and visual effects?

AK That was the main goal all along. If we we’re going to make Rogue it had to look right. We had a long journey with the VFX and ended up finding what I referred to as Our “Wizard” Steve Green who has made a couple of 2000AD fan films himself, Judge Minty and Strontium Dog. He was a perfect fit for this project because he knows the subject matter so well so building the environment and effects was a painless process.

JS We tested ex-army NBC suits we could pick up online, came up with concepts for the Norts helmets and tubes on mood/idea board and arrived at a look which was just about achievable in the few weeks we had before filming was to take place. We wanted Gunnar, Helm and Bagman to all feel and compliment each other in style (and rightfully so!).
I remember spending quite a bit of time discussing Gunnar with Adam. We had a really nice mood board and a few rifles that would work, yet they would all be easily recognised. The awesome guys at Airsoft World in Scotland agreed to bastardise and 3D print parts to create a unique practical firing Gunnar from our ideas. A completely unique one-off! I remember Rogue’s helmet being the last piece of the main jigsaw puzzle to sort. The first design we had to completely scrap due to the look just not being right. The bulbous style from the comic books sadly wouldn’t work.
I remember watching a documentary on Channel 4 and spotting a presenter wearing a kayak helmet that with some imagination looked very similar to a style of Rogue we had seen in a comic book! Luckily the brand and name were on the helmet so we purchased two bright blue kayak helmets.. after some design and modification to complement the already formed Bagman we finally had Helm. Mike Lawson did a fantastic job bringing Helm and the GI chips to life!.
Time wise we cut this very fine, and the first time we had Bagman, Helm and Gunnar together with the chips was one day before filming, in fact, at one point we had Gunnar being made in Scotland. Bagman (a foam and fibreglass version) being fabricated in Rochester in a garden shed and Helm was being created via the two blue kayak helmets I sent up north.

TSL Even though the film is a not for profit adventure, did you approach Rebellion (publishers of 2000AD and the owners of the rights to Rogue Trooper) before embarking on the project? Have you had any feedback/blessings from them since the film went live on YouTube?

JS We organised our costume, props, cast, crew and equipment within weeks – our main aim was to just get it filmed! Even going into post as the months dragged on I was worried it might not see the light of day. I felt until we actually had something, a finished product, that was when we wanted to approach Rebellion. Personally, I hope Rebellion have enjoyed it! It certainly works as a proof of concept and feedback from fans and non-fans has been really positive. Of course, there are things we would have loved to include but just didn’t get the chance to, but one thing I know and think everyone involved should be proud of, we’ve introduced the character to thousands of new people, and hopefully gained Rogue some fans along the way.

TSL Veteran actor James Cosmo of GAME OF THRONES fame provides the film’s opening narration. How did he come to be involved in the production? Was it a bit daunting to work with such a big name?

AK We had a final edit of the film that didn’t have an opening narration and I felt that people that weren’t familiar with the character needed a short introduction to get them up to speed so we worked on a version with just the text and then felt it needed to be narrated.
James Cosmo was my first choice to voice the narration and I am lucky that he is a family friend. Thankfully he was very supportive and agreed, I think our recording session at his home lasted under an Hour with the first take being the take we used. Was a pleasure working with such a Pro.

JS I’m not sure Adam is phased by anything. I’ve seen him do some ludicrous things over the years.. Personally it was more daunting to ask Damien to go back into make up to get sprayed with blue paint again on the 2nd day at 6:30am.

TSL What were your experiences during the shoot itself? The film is very much an extended action sequence, as we’d expect from such a grim tale of war in the far future, was the action choreography difficult to pull off? I noted that the Norts were all played by professional stuntmen

JS Over to Adam for this one!

AK Our main aim was to be as prepped as we could be prior to the shoot. We had visited the location numerous times to block out various camera positions and action beats. I worked with Damien Walters and some of the Norts stunt guys in a gymnastic gym on the hand to hand combat scene about 6 weeks before the shoot which gave us the framework of the fight. We also had a Prep day with everyone involved so we could block out the action with the performers and cast.
Our biggest challenge was time, action always takes time to shoot and we only had 2 days. Myself and Joby were very aware of this so I had to make a few creative changes on the fly in order to make our days without compromising the final product. Also having Professional British Stunt Registered performers made my life so much easier.

TSL Any future productions in the pipeline? A sequel perhaps or maybe another of 2000AD’s pantheon of characters? Or maybe your own original material?

AK I don’t think I will re-visit RT as a short, Id love to see it made into a feature someday whether I’m involved or not. I have a few other ideas I’m working on, keep scaring Joby with the scale.

JS Why Rogue Trooper the full feature of course…just need full support and a decent budget! I jest (I will continue to dream). I’m looking forward to the next challenge! Adam mentioned something to me about trenches…

TSL Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us. All the best for your future endeavours!

AK Cheers, Just wanted to thank our crew again. This couldn’t have been made without their time, passion and professionalism.

JS Thanks! Massive thanks to everyone that helped on this. So many people gave up their time and helped bring this to life.

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!

Following on from our review of KNIGHTS OF THE DAMNED, we recently got the opportunity to interview one of its stars, the actor and martial artist Silvio Simac. Silvio is of Croatian descent, although currently based in the UK. He is a World Gold medalist in Taekwon-do, and has also been crowned British champion 4 times and European champion 4 times. Silvio continues to build his profile as an action star with a  career that has so far has seen him go up against Jason Statham in TRANSPORTER 3, Jet Li in UNLEASHED, Keanu Reeves in MAN OF TAI CHI, and his friend and colleague Scott Adkins in UNDISPUTED II, who he also organises and hosts martial arts seminars with.

TSL Thanks for talking with us Silvio. How did you come to be involved in martial arts and where did your acting career start?

SS  Growing up in the 1970’s I was clearly inspired and motivated by late Bruce Lee who made a huge impact on the silver screen with his incredible physique, aura and magnetism. I showed natural disposition and excelled on the sports field whilst setting several school records in various sports. Shortly after I took up martial arts, belts swiftly changed colour as my enthusiasm grew and I started winning trophies and accolades. Within a decade I had acquired black belts in several disciplines and had climbed from British to European and eventually world gold medalist. At this stage I was endorsing products for various sponsors that backed me up as well as appearing in numerous adverts and TV commercials so I was somewhat familiar with the inner workings of film and tv sets. As such I was called up to join an agency and  within 5 weeks my life as I knew it transformed. From graduating from University in BA Economics, now I was training to be an actor and my new exciting journey had begun as I was getting roles in different productions and features.

TSL Were you a big fan of the action genre growing up, and if so what would you say is your favourite movie in the genre? Did you consider any of those stars as role models that influenced your career choices?

SS I suppose most young boys are into action films as they convey a story closer to young person’s primal instincts. My era saw emergence of timeless action icons such as Jean Claude Van Damme , Jackie Chan, Steven Seagal, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger, so I feel very lucky to have had an influence from such icons. Some of the biggest and favourite movies that I have had the biggest impact on me are  BLOODSPORT, KICKBOXER and ROCKY.

TSL  I remember as kid growing up in the 80’s and 90’s, the action genre seemed much bigger than it is now, with a whole raft of classic (and not so classic) movies making big stars out of the likes of Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Willis, Seagal, Norris, Van Damme and many others. Some of my favourites were on the lower budget exploitation end of the genre, particularly the Golan Globus movies. Being based in the UK, do you see this country and continental Europe as the best places to find action movie projects? We’ve produced Jason Statham here, and France gave the world the writer/director Luc Besson. Hollywood seems to have lost interest or either traded on past glories, i.e THE EXPENDABLES movies?

SS The action movie genre has grown and developed immensely world wide. South Korean as well as Thai and Bollywood action movies have been making an incredible impact in world cinema. It is also much easier and more cost effective to make movies so we are seeing much broader diversity and spectrum of action movies world wide.

TSL Action movies are obviously physically demanding usually requiring a lot of stunt work and fight choreography. As a trained martial artist and athlete are you usually hired to do your own stunts and oversee the fight choreography on your films in tandem with your dramatic work? Have you ever had any close calls when performing any stunts yourself?

SS To date I have done all of my stunts except in one of my latest features, KNIGHTS OF THE DAMNED there were several scenes they used the stunt double for horse riding as it’s not particularly a strong skill of mine. Nevertheless, I have jumped from a moving car, fallen from an 11 floor building, smashed through a glass window as well as many other adrenaline rush acts, One of the worst on set injuries I suffered occurred while making TRANSPORTER 3 and was of a pretty basic nature. The reason I say ‘basic nature’ is because it was a simple average kick delivered after a whole day of tedious filming where I tore my hamstring whilst fighting Jason Statham. But I managed to complete this fight scene with aid of strong painkillers!

TSL Given all the stars you’ve worked alongside, you must have a lot of stories to tell! What was it like working with Jason Statham for instance?

SS One commonality I found amongst all the stars I’ve had the privilege to work with is they are incredibly highly driven and dedicated to their craft. Jason Statham is a natural in the sense that for someone who never had previously practiced martial arts, pulled it off like an expert and required very little rehearsal time with the rest of the cast and stunt team.

TSL What has been your most satisfying film project to work on so far?

SS To date I have had the privilege to work along some of the greatest action stars. directors and choreographers in the action genre. Micheal J White, Scott Adkins, Jet Li, Keanu Reeves, Jason Statham, Tsui Hark, Yuen Wo Ping are just a few to mention. Each and every one of them has been a very unique and different experience, giving me the opportunity to learn, grow and evolve.

TSL We’re big fans of worthy causes, and you do a lot of work for several charitable organisations, helping to raise awareness. Tell us a bit more about this aspect of your career?

SS Part of the martial arts code of conduct is to contribute to the mutual welfare of our environment and society. From the onset of martial arts philosophy we are taught the more you give, the more you get back and as a teacher I get this gratification and satisfaction on a regular basis. As such it is normal and righteous to engage, participate and help worthy causes.

TSL Can you tell us about any upcoming projects that you’re involved with, that we can look forward to ?

SS  This year will see a release of OUT FOR VENGEANCE, TRANSIT 17 and THE DARK KINGDOM. Furthermore I  start shooting an action comedy to be filmed in and around New York city called MADE IN CHINATOWN. As well as this I have several other projects in the pipeline, but cannot talk about them until the contracts are signed. I am also conducting a series of seminars alongside friend Scott Adkins in Greece during July 2018

TSL We’ll look forwards to them! Many thanks for taking the time to speak with us and all the best in your future endeavours!

SS Thank you very much for giving me opportunity to share my life with you. God Bless.

You can follow Silvio on Instagram at #Silviosimac

Kate Davies Speak is a British thesp hailing from sunny Bristol, who has been busy making a name for herself in several genre pictures and tv series as a bona fide ‘Final Girl’ and all round kick ass heroine. Her recent credits include the VOD alien invasion series HORIZON, the dark fantasy romp KNIGHTS OF THE DAMNED and three exciting upcoming releases from new British production outfit Dark Temple Motion PicturesESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM, THE HOUSE OF VIOLENT DESIRE and THE BARGE PEOPLE. As well as all this, Kate is a qualified Personal Trainer and fitness instructor and is the founder and manager of  ‘Showreel Share Day’ via Twitter (@ShowreelShare) an initiative set up to aid her fellow actors in finding work.

In between fighting off marauding cannibals and mutated amphibians, Kate graciously agreed to talk with The Stricken Land about her career in film.

TSL What gave you the acting bug? Is your first love theatre, or film?

KDS Thanks for your questions! I originally got bitten by the acting bug many years ago when I became interested in musical theatre (prior to that I had wanted to be an illustrator and creator of video game characters). I was just finishing my A-Levels at college when I joined a production of West Side Story, I fell in love with performing and decided to embark on a career change. After performing on stage for roughly 10 years, I then decided it was time to chuck myself into working in film, I started on lots of small projects to gain experience and to fundamentally understand the difference between stage acting and screen acting. From that point onwards I became obsessed with screen work, I adore the film industry and literally love every second of being on a set. I sometimes miss being on stage but for now I am happy to work mainly in film.

TSL I’ve always been fascinated by the process behind making films and how actors approach material. What are the big differences between film and theatre acting?

KDS In the theatre the actor must perform to a huge space, therefore every ounce of energy they use must go into projecting their voice, movements, intentions, expressions. Everything appears pretty ‘big’. When you work on screen you have to pull the performance back so much, internalise everything, think the thoughts of your character without necessarily showing them. It’s the eyes of the viewer who will really decide what is going on in your character’s mind, much like real life when you read the emotions and expressions of the people you interact with. It can be so delicate and enjoyable to do. I love it. Working in horror is a little tougher as you are in such extreme and frankly ridiculous circumstances yet you must find an element of truth in order to tell your character’s story. Within any acting (theatre or film) it’s really all about listening to the other characters, whether you chose to show that is a different matter but it must always be done. If you’re truly listening, you are acting.

TSL As noted in the intro you’ve starred in several horror/sci-fi/fantasy pieces. Are you a fan of these genres yourself? What attracts you to these kinds of projects?

KDS I have many genres that I enjoy to watch but I have always been a fan of horror, sci-fi, action and thriller. Some of my favourite movies of all time are films in those genres from the 80s/90’s such as THE TERMINATOR, ROBOCOP, ALIEN, HALLOWEEN, SCREAM… Too many to mention! I am mainly drawn in by my love of simply being involved in the types of films I would go and watch at the cinema. If I read a script and I know that it’s a film I would wish to see, there’s every chance I will accept the role. I am also a sucker for a tough female lead, with idols such as; Lara Croft, Sarah Connor and Ripley – it’s often important for me that the women I portray show a toughness or strength (not just physically) that I hope will go on to inspire a new generation of young women.  Not all horror films have to have weak women in them. I really enjoyed THE DESCENT for the fact that it was a great horror with an all-female cast and some really interesting characters.

TSL It’s often noted that the horror genre in particularly puts its women characters at the forefront, and the best examples feature believable, well written characters (Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor, Laurie Strode), usually placing them in very extreme situations. Jessica Harver in ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM and Kat in THE BARGE PEOPLE look set to join this pantheon. What do you think it is about the horror genre that makes it lean towards female characters fighting against the odds?

Kate Davies Speak as Jessica Harver in ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM (2018)

KDS I think people genuinely like to see a female protagonist put through her paces and hopefully survive and come out fighting. I think that many of the classics (HALLOWEEN, THE FOG, CUJO) do focus on victimising women more, I remember really enjoying Sidney Prescott in Scream as she had an edge, a toughness to her that stood out at the time. We learn to engage and connect with these characters, then they are in peril and we truly want to watch them survive so it’s very cathartic when they get the better of their enemies. I can’t wait to see Laurie Strode return to take on Michael Myers once again this year. I hope that people enjoy both of my roles that you mentioned, both are very different; Kat is certainly more of a victim than Jess but I tried to make her as believable as possible, she doesn’t do stupid cliche things (like falling over when running away) but at the end of the day she’s scared, vulnerable and has no experience of confrontation. Jess is broken, damaged and a bit unhinged, she counteracts her victim status by turning the tables and losing an interest in doing the right thing.

TSL I have to ask; with you being a qualified personal trainer fitness enthusiast, do you do your own stunts? Have you ever had any near misses or anything go wrong during a shoot, a lot of your characters find themselves in physically demanding situations?

KDS I always do my own stunt work so far, most of the time my combat sections are given quite a good allocation of time for me to learn the moves, meet the other actors, rehearse loads and refine until we are all happy. Over the years I have had a couple of mishaps, my first ever short film involved me and another actress fighting and we (foolishly) decided to keep practicing when the crew had gone on their lunch break, we moved too fast and got a bit sloppy, I accidentally punched her square in the face. That was definitely a lesson to me to be more cautious.  I hurt myself last year shooting THE HOUSE OF VIOLENT DESIRE when one of the cushions that had been set in place for me to land on when I had to fall backwards down the stairs was moved by a crew member as it was intruding into the shot, I just hadn’t been aware and ended up cracking my head against a brick wall, that hurt and definitely taught me to be more careful. I will have lots of stunts in my upcoming film OFF GRID, I will therefore be having several meetings and talks with the film stunt team before we do the shoot. I think sometimes I forget that you get a bit more fragile as you get older it’s only when I hurt myself I remember to take it steady lol!

TSL I remember Emma Thompson responding to the criticism of the film industry not offering interesting roles to older actresses, by telling her peers to go out and write their own films (I seem to remember that she was promoting her self penned project NANNY MCPHEE at the time.) Have you, or have you ever been tempted to put pen to paper and write your own screenplay with a role for yourself in mind?

KDS I prefer not to write as it’s not my greatest skill (although I used to when I was in my teens) however I often have a ton of creative ideas which I love to talk over with filmmakers, I love nothing more than to meet up with my screenwriter friends and bounce ideas around. I often meet with Christopher Lombard (the writer of THE BARGE PEOPLE) and talk about our next film projects including ideas for a sequel to the film…They are all just ideas right now but then again THE BARGE PEOPLE started out that way originally so who knows?

ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM (Dark Temple Motion Pictures 2018)

TSL Social media and the internet seem to be revolutionising how creatives make and market their material to the wider world. For instance, platforms like YouTube and Vimeo give indie and DIY operations a way to channel and promote their films. As a working actress do you see this as a big positive, in that it lowers the barriers to entry into the industry for filmmakers, special fx people and performers themselves?

KDS I think that although it can be a good way to open a few doors and get people on the radar I also think that it makes it a little harder to really establish the difference in quality for projects, it seems that almost anyone can go out and shoot a film now, which is of course both good and bad. I believe that a valuable way for anyone to learn their craft is to go out and work at it so it’s important that people are able to do so. I know that when the team I worked with on HORIZON set out to make the show we were just thankful that we were able to have an online platform to generate an audience, it would have been tough to do all of that work and not have a way of sharing it with the world.  The audience was more important than the revenue, a true passion project.

TSL Tell us about #showreelshareday and the work you do helping to get the word out there about your fellow actors and actresses.

KDS #showreelshareday happened almost by accident on a day when I was sharing my showreel on Twitter. I had finally made myself a reel that I was happy to share (I’d always been very insecure about sharing my acting work) but on this occasion I think I’d figured that after all of the work myself and the filmmakers had gone to creating it that it deserved an audience, but I still felt a little awkward about just putting it out there for all to see. So I tried to make it a little more inclusive by inviting friends and followers to join in with the hashtag #showreelshareday. The next thing I remember was friends saying to me ‘do you realise that your tag is trending on Twitter?’ I couldn’t believe it! Thousands of actors were coming together to join in. It was brilliant – actors, agents, casting professionals all joining forces in sharing and watching each other’s work. It generated a real positive energy of creativity and I loved every second of it. I have now run 5 of the #showreelshareday events and will continue to do so if the actors are still enjoy themselves…

TSL Your IMDB profile states that you have a hashtag trending on Twitter – #katedaviesforbatgirl that campaigns to get you an audition for Joss Whedon’s upcoming addition to the DCEU. Have you had any comeback on this? The Stricken Land thinks you would make a fine Barbara Gordon, are you reading this Mr Whedon?!

KDS Aw that’s very kind of you! That whole thing was such a wonderful example of what can happen when you get a nice bit of support from friends and followers. It was doing well for some time however sadly even Joss is no longer attached the movie, it’s all gone a little silent. I can always take the traits of Barbara Gordon and many other iconic ladies and implement them into my future roles.

TSL Finally do you have any upcoming projects that you’re allowed to tell us about?

KDS This year I am looking forward to the releases of THE BARGE PEOPLE, WINTERSKIN, DEAD AIR, season 2 of HORIZON, MINDING MAMA, THE HOUSE OF VIOLENT DESIRE and the UK release of ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM. My next film project will be OFF GRID (I’m so excited to be working alongside acting legend James Cosmo), and several more projects with Dark Temple Films… Watch this space! 🙂

TSL Thanks for taking the time to chat, and all the best for the future!

KDS Thanks for taking the time, much obliged, stay cool x

The slasher film is a well worn sub genre of the horror movie, but with last week’s release of 4/20 MASSACRE (dubbed ‘the first stoner-slasher’) indie director Dylan Reynolds and his team have managed to put a fresh spin on the concept and delivered a tightly paced character driven entry into the horror pantheon that has already received much praise in the genre press (you can read The Stricken Land’s review here.) To celebrate the movie’s release, I sent a bunch of questions to director Dylan Reynolds, who was only too happy to wax lyrical about filmmaking, the state of the industry and his love of movies in general. Let’s kick it off! –

TSL: Growing up I remember the ‘video nasties’ furore in the 80’s that gave the genre even more of an aura of ‘forbidden fruit’ Did you enjoy watching horror movies growing up?

DR: For sure- I would say I have a particular fondness for horror and exploitation cinema of the 70s and 80s. I knew I wanted to direct a horror film for my third feature and I gravitated towards the slasher sub-genre because some of my fondest “movie watching” memories from childhood came from late night viewings and VHS rentals of FRIDAY THE 13TH and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequels.

TSL: What movies would you say were your formative influences as a filmmaker?

DR: I love cinema in general- so it’s always tough to pick one movie because my tastes and “obsessions” change from month to month. I was born in 1980- so I grew up on Spielberg and Lucas movies as a kid and then in the late 80s/early 90s came the big wave of Sundance indies- and like many filmmakers of my generation I assume we’re all in one way or another inspired by Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.  I’m also a big fan of “maverick auteur” filmmakers like John Cassavetes and John Carpenter. But if I had to pick “my favorite movie of all time” I usually go with MONSTER SQUAD.

TSL: I’ve long been of the view that the communications revolution heralded by the internet will enable the next generation of filmmakers and weaken the big studios hold over creatives. The proliferation of YouTube and other VOD sites means they can bypass traditional means of distribution to get their visions out there. As an indie filmmaker yourself, what are your thoughts on this?

DR: I would say that’s partially true- but also not totally accurate.  On one hand- yes there are more platforms/ outlets where one can distribute your movie and more and more you don’t necessarily need a rep/ sales agent, or distributor to secure placement.

However- the revenue continues to shrink with these outlets- most recently Amazon cut down how much they were paying out for Prime by nearly half.  Places like iTunes, Amazon etc may take an indie title- but they aren’t going to put that title “up front and center” like a studio movie or one of their originals- thereby effectively “burying” your little indie film and thus making it more difficult to find an audience.

Also going back to Amazon (YouTube has done something similar) where they basically “censor” indie horror movies because it broadly doesn’t “fit their standards” (whether it be violence, nudity etc) but ironically they don’t apply the same criteria to the studio or their original productions.

I guess my point is that for every perceived opportunity- the actual trend is that media corporations are getting bigger, merging, and becoming more influential/ controlling.  And usually that means the true indies will be squeezed out or marginalized more.

TSL: Back to the movie itself; what was the location shoot like? Did you have a continuous shooting schedule or was it done mainly at weekends?

DR: We shot the film in a town outside of Big Bear, CA like a true “low budget indie horror movie” in 10 days straight.  People like Roger Corman and Charles Band have been known to make movies with tight schedules like that- for us it was a necessity based upon our budget and resources… but it was also kind of perfectly fitting I think.

TSL: As a director, I think you managed to coax very naturalistic performances from the very talented actresses which contrasted nicely with the larger than life performance by Jim Storm as Ranger Rick. Did you intend this in the script? How much input did the cast give to the characters?

DR: Thank you for saying that…  I’m not sure what works for other filmmakers but the method that I find works (as far as getting believable/ naturalistic performances) is number one- cast good actors that are open to exploring and being creative.  Then I try to have conversations with each individual actor prior to filming- i.e. talking about their characters and sharing ideas/ questions etc. Then we have some readings/ rehearsals- but I find it’s best not to overdo those because you want to capture the “real magic” on set.

Then when we get out to set I try to create the atmosphere and freedom for the actors to have fun and be creative.  That means allowing some room for improvisation- either “between the lines” or doing extended takes and letting the opening and ending of scenes play out.  I also encourage the actors to “give me some options” from take-to-take… and then in editing I just go through and “cherry pick” the moments.

With Jim Storm- he was in my first film Chain Link and I basically wrote the role of Ranger Rick with him in mind.  So I definitely wrote the character as a “scenery chewing monologuing bad guy” and just had fun with it. But when it came to the other characters I tried to ground them and make them “characters that you would care about before they die”.  So in many ways 4/20 MASSACRE can be described as an “indie drama… and then a slasher shows up”.

TSL: The film is lucky to have such a talented cast. You are married to Vanessa Rose Parker who plays Aubrey, was she instrumental in casting the other parts? What attracted the other cast members to the project?

DR: Yes- Vanessa also produced the film and was instrumental in crafting the whole project… from script to casting.  She was friends and worked at a restaurant with Stacey Danger- who played the “stoner chick” Donna- and she did a reading early on and really brought a cool angle to the character- so we knew we had to have her in the film.  Stacey helped attract Justine Wachsberger (who played “Rachel”) to audition for the role and we found Marissa Pistone during the casting process… I think having the whole “strong female characters in a genre film” made the film a little unique- therefore we attracted some very nice talent.  

TSL: John Carpenter said that horror movies were always the most fun type of films to make. I always imagined playing ‘the masked killer’ role to be the best bit of making a horror film. How was it working with James Gregory who plays ‘The Shape’ (nice nod to HALLOWEEN by the way!)

DR: James I’ve known for a number of years and he was one of the first people I approached when 4/20 MASSACRE was going into production.  As well as playing “The Shape” he was also the Stunt/ Fight Coordinator on the film and he even designed the cool gillie suit/ costume.  He’s a super talented dude and I consider him to be an asset that can elevate any film set he steps onto.

TSL: The movie features some great kills and gore effects. How easy/expensive is this sort of thing to stage? I remember reading an interview with the great Tom Savini where he said in the early days you had to get the whole thing done in one take or the effect would be ruined and they’d have to start again, and the director would be on his back!

DR: Our Special FX Make Up Artist was Brennan Jones… going into the project we didn’t have a big budget so I went around to some fx make up schools and asked for some referrals.  Brennan was one of the people I interviewed who was young/ hungry and got all the references I had (yes- Tom Savini’s name/ work was definitely discussed). I think we both wish we gave him more time to craft the “gags” and get them right- but as often is the case with low budget/ indie stuff Brennan would ask for 30 minutes and we’d tell him he had 10.  Considering the circumstances/ schedule I think he did an awesome job and came up with some cool/ unique stuff.

TSL: I read that Steven Soderbergh shot his latest film UNSANE solely using iPhones. If you were to give any advice to a kid with a video camera/phone wanting to make his own movie what would it be?

DR: I’d say “screw it- don’t listen to any naysayers… in the words of Lloyd Kaufman- just make your own damn movie”.

TSL: Finally, are there any plans for a 4/20 MASSACRE sequel?

DR: I have some ideas- it would be real fun if we could do a sequel…  my plan is to do a different “slasher sub-genre” with each instalment.  Part 1 was more of a “backwoods slasher”- part 2 would be an urban-set “Giallo- influenced” mystery… a ‘who- done-it?” with slasher overtones.

TSL: A big thank you for speaking with me, all the best for the future!

DR: You too- and thanks for the time and opportunity!

NB – At the time of writing 420 MASSACRE is only available in the US market. I’ll post an update when the movie will be availale in other territories –  TSL