Which is the best Moment on set?
There are so many. The best moment for me is kind of an oxymoron because I enjoy shooting so much and never want it to end – but it’s probably when filming’s wrapped, everyone applauds and gives each other a hug – that’s the best feeling, because it’s the most gratifying – everyone’s worked so hard and you really feel that sense of accomplishment and love for those around you, that family you’ve spent a week, a month, a year working with feeling so happy that you’ve accomplished the really difficult task of making a movie you’re all so passionate about with.
Did anyone ever tell you weren't good enough?
Yeah, loads of times and I thank them every day for it. Harsh criticism makes you thick-skinned, which is something you need not just as a filmmaker, but in life in general. Without being thick-skinned, how can you have those difficult conversations with all the people who don’t agree with you or the hateful people in the world today that try to cancel you and ruin your life for saying something they didn’t personally like? You have to power through without letting it get you down. When me and my composer Hayden made a comedy web series about eleven years ago, the ratio of comments was significantly more negative than positive. People told us to give up pretty much on the daily and we never, ever did. Now the movies we work on together are internationally award-winning. Without the harsh critics, I genuinely don’t think I would have had the drive to prove to people what I’m capable of behind a camera. So, I really am thankful for being told day in, day out that I wasn’t good enough, because all it really told me eventually, is that I was.
How can you stay focused on your goal?
When so determined to meet a goal, that becomes the focus of my life until it’s achieved. I believe that if you fail to stay focused on a goal you’ve told yourself you have, then you’re not really that ambitious about it. If you’re not prepared to put in the work to achieve the goal, you don’t really want it. So, passion and determination is what drives me to complete the goal. The Village 3 took about a year to make from writing to release and, for that year, making that movie was my goal.
Have you ever had a breakdown because of your Job?
A breakdown, no, but I have found myself questioning if I’m going in the right direction a few times. The industry can be very competitive and you feel that taking a toll on you as you try to push your way into it. You wonder whether or not it’s everything you thought it was going to be, so I had a bit of an identity crisis when I was in university. Ultimately, I discovered that I was indeed exactly where I belonged in the film industry after I began a teacher training course and dropped out because I realised early on it was absolutely not for me. I lacked the drive I thought I had when I was accepted onto the course - something just did not feel right about it from the very start. And because of my life being consumed by that, I realised what was missing: filmmaking. So, I left and went back to filmmaking and re-discovered my passion; I do not regret that decision at all – sometimes you just need to experience something like that to really be sure of yourself. I still enjoy teaching, I run a weekly filmmaking class for young people called the Prop Box Filmmakers Academy, an off-shoot of Prop Box Youth Theatre through which I directed the first two Village films and I’m forever grateful to Caroline and Sarah and the great students at the class for giving me the opportunity to do so. However, unlike teaching in a school, it’s a very comfortable environment where I can teach my own syllabus and it doesn’t require practically giving up a social life and personal projects to pursue. So, that’s probably the closest I’ve come to a breakdown because of my job.
Talent is a blessing or a curse?
It’s a blessing. It could only be a curse if you use it the wrong way like the many famous people who unfortunately find themselves going down a self-destructive path for various reasons – maybe the wealth and being able to afford dangerous and addictive substances or just the stress of being in the public eye. But no, I think it’s absolutely a blessing being able to release something from your brain and grab other people’s attention because of it – that’s not something everybody can say they’re able to do.
What would you like to improve about yourself as a director/actor/screenplayer?
Sometimes us directors fall into the trap of getting so wrapped up in capturing the perfect shot for a scene that we lose track of time. My shoots have never had the benefit of having loads of time. The first Village was shot in two days, the second in three days and third had four days (although Village 3 was the only one without consecutive shoot days), so there have been times where I’ve spent too long on a particular scene or shot and that means not having as much time to spend on other scenes, so, although most of the time we’re good with the time-keeping I’d rather know for sure we’ve left enough time to get it all done.
As for writing, and I tried to do exactly this with The Village 3 since I felt it was lacking somewhat in the first two films, is create more in-depth characters. The Village 3 had a smaller cast which allowed room for the characters to grow more before we got to the carnage. All the films in the franchise are slasher horrors with elements of drama, but the first two focused a bit more on the splatter violence and less on the drama, but the new one swaps that around, which has been quite positively received. So, I think in future screenplays, I’ll stay focused on character development with smaller casts.
As for acting, I feel I’m more of a writer-director than an actor – I’m really in the new film because we struggled to find the right actor for Officer Redfield and having written probably the most complex character in the franchise, I knew how I wanted him to behave and new it’d be fun, so I took on the role myself, but never really intended to when writing it. I think if I act again, I’ll have to get better at learning my lines, because there was a fair few times during editing, I was getting frustrated with myself because there was a great take and then I’d have to stop to remember my lines halfway through and ruin it.
What's the worst critic you have received?
They say you are your own worst critic. I have a habit of saying that looks awful or something to that effect whenever anything looks slightly off. It doesn’t help that I edit most of my own stuff, so I kick myself when I see something not quite right and I didn’t think to do it a different way on set. Actually, I suppose it does help because I know for next time. Of course, we have plenty of banter on set, none of which any of us take to heart – I think it was Charlie, one of the sound recordists and cinematographers on the set of The Village 3 that told me my policeman’s outfit made me look like a stripper, so if you haven’t watched the film yet or next time you do, try not to think about that. We all laughed our heads off, we have a great time on set, but in all seriousness, I think my worst critics except myself were the aforementioned people that told me and Hayden our web series we made at like eleven to fourteen years old was awful – there really were some scathing remarks that are far too sweary to repeat here, but as I said, I actually look at it in a positive light – not that I particularly encourage it, I think constructive criticism is a much nicer way to give feedback, but those who scream obscenities about your work and tell you to kill yourself will always be around – this is the age of the internet and hiding behind computer screens, you might as well just embrace it.