As a horror fan, nothing excites me more than independent projects. I think platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Seed & Spark enable makers of horror related content to truly explore the genre. It’s a game changer.
Sitting down with us is Adam Nicholas, the co-writer/co-director of the upcoming project, Daniels. Join us as we talk about making independent horror films, the art of storytelling, and why – as a creator – you should never, ever give up.
Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us about your current project, Daniels. I’m a big horror fan and it’s always exciting to hear about everything that’s going on, behind the scenes, in order to bring the scares to life. Daniels sounds like it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
Could you give us a quick rundown of the project?
The film in a nutshell is basically a game changing horror. It starts of as a coming-of-age teen comedy in the vein of stuff like “American Graffiti”, “Stand By Me”, films by Shane Meadows, that kind of stuff. Just about three very average teenagers all named Daniel, living in an average small South Wales, valleys town. Then one night something happens completely out of the blue which changes the films direction into an extreme horror film. I’ll leave it at that as it will be a very cool surprise and something viewers won’t see coming.
One of the things that stands out about the project, at least from the outset, is that it’s an independently- and crowd- funded horror film being made in the UK.
Can you tell us about the process (headaches, triumphs) of trying to get Daniels made?
Being our first film makes it hard, here in Wales the film industry is a bit awkward as in they only seem interested in funding projects by directors who have a track record, which is completely understandable in one way but makes it so much harder for first timers, literally they won’t even listen to your pitch if you haven’t made a feature film before.
This is why Kickstarter and all over crowd-funding platforms are so great because it’s purely your future audience seeing you in your rawest form, seeing they like the project and then chucking you a couple of quid. I think indie film right now has a lot to thank crowd-funding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo for.
Tell us about the inspiration behind the project? Where did the idea come from?
Me and my co-writer Thomas Rees had just finished shooting a web-series (which is currently being edited and will be released early next year) and after filming that which all together was 80 minutes worth of material we thought “Hey we just filmed 80 minutes worth of stuff, that’s the same length of a feature film” and we thought we’d write a screenplay.
We wanted to do a horror as it’s such a great genre for a first film and has worked greatly for directors such as Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson etc. also we’re both HUGE horror fans. So got on to writing something we could do on a small budget and be as compelling and as intense as possible.
Why is Daniels a story that you *have* to tell?
It’s not so much a story we have to tell but more of a story we want to tell. I think a lot of films these days become bogged down in having to have a direct message or be a life-changing or thought-changing dogma. We just want to make a film that will entertain people as much as possible for 80-90 minutes, that will make people just get zoned in and getting the most out of the story and intense thrill-ride we have up our sleeves and then hopefully watch it again and again and have conversations with their fellow film fans and friends about it.
What’s your favorite horror film / book / graphic novel?
Too many to name, but to have a stab at it… One of my favourite horror films is “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” or Takashi Miike’s “Audition” or “Martin” by George A. Romero, seriously there are too many horror films to name I have to stop myself here! One of my favourite books ever is “Salem’s Lot” either that or “Flow My Tears The Policeman Said” and as for comics I like anything written by John Wagner, Garth Ennis, Alan Moore, Steve Bissette, Jamie Delano, Pete Bagge, Shannon Wheeler, Robert Kirkman, Michael Pearlstein again this list is huge.
Practical special effects or CGI – which do you prefer?
Practical are my favourite. However I also am fond of CGI effects, in “Daniels” we are using practical effects however to a lot of filmmakers these days CGI is the only option on such a small budget when they’re ideas are quite high concept so in a lot of cases if it weren’t for CGI a lot of the great low budget fantasy or zombie genre films wouldn’t be possible. I wouldn’t want to live in a world without the incredibly un-PC Kickstarter funded zombie epic “Osombie”.
What medium are you guys using to shoot the film? Traditional stock, digital?
We are shooting on a Red Epic which of course is digital but very high end digital. I love the look you get shooting on 16mm or 35mm but again, it’s too expensive and digital is what filmmakers like us on “Daniels” rely on to make our projects on low budgets, digital filmmaking is groundbreaking for today’s underground film scene.
What’s been the best part of working on your project so far?
Earlier this year we shot two test scenes from the film so we could cut together a trailer and such. That was the best part of the project for me so far, seeing all the cast bring the characters to life and working with the crew. It was brilliant.
And the worst?
What we’re going through now, which is the waiting. The big chunk of time before we shoot the film.
What do you want people to take away from Daniels?
Just a fun experience which they’ll tell their friends about really. The way we’ve written it is to be very relatable for anyone who grew up in a very boring, uneventful small town, so to have people watch it and think “I remember doing something similar” would be brilliant.
What inspires you to scare the shit out of your audience?
Because having the shit scared out of you is fun. As is scaring the shit out of people with your film. I just think about how happy, director Hideo Nakata was at the time when people were watching “The Ring” I bet he used to go to every screening of it close to him but with a chair facing out toward the audience making a loud Jimmy Carr sounding laugh in an odd, proud ecstasy.
We all run up against creative blocks. Can you tell us about how you handle any creative roadblocks you’ve run into while working on this (or past) projects?
Yeah it does happen. I remember when we were writing “Daniels” the first two acts were a breeze really, flowed very well but the ending was near impossible. It’s annoying at the time but so satisfying and a real “HIGH 5 MOTHERFUCKER!” moment when it’s resolved. To anyone reading this, DO NOT GIVE UP YOUR NOVEL, COMIC BOOK, FILM SCRIPT OR WHATEVER YOU ARE WORKING ON BECAUSE OF WRITER’S BLOCK. YOU WILL THINK OF SOMETHING!
Tell us about your favorite horror film moment?
SPOILER ALERT HERE: One of my favourite ”Jesus Christ” moment’s in a horror film was the end scene to Wes Craven’s “The Hills Have Eyes” where Martin Speer’s character is killing the final savage and in this shot that goes on for too long as he’s pounding his head in with a blunt object you see this guy just losing it, this character with a liberal, anti-violence outlook on life reduced to the most primal state ever and just enjoying venting his anger in the most brutal way ever. Then it goes still and this deep red colour just bleeds over the image and the film ends. You just don’t get endings that amazing anymore. Loved that moment, Wes Craven is just amazing. A true genius.
The remake directed by Alexandra Aja is also good! And stars one of my favourite actors ever, Ted Levine. Just a little side note there…
It’s different for everyone I guess. I (and I’m sure a lot of people into writing or anything creative can relate to this) go through a stage of thinking, I need to write a script, then you go through like fifteen ideas which never materialize past three pages of a bogus written script opening, then finally out-of-nowhere you’ll have an idea that just spikes you a little more than the others and then that goes past page three and ends up becoming finished and you fall in love with the idea and your script and you want to tell the story and that love and determination to get your project made I think just drives you and then it’s easier to keep going I find.
The act of creating a film is ultimately collaborative. Can you tell us about how you discovered members for your team? What makes for a good collaborative environment?
Just from working on other films projects in and around Cardiff city being made by fellow filmmaking friends. A lot of networking events, I’d recommend to any filmmakers reading this to attend any sort of networking event possible or close to them, through doing that we met the producers for the film “Daniels”! So it really helps.
As for making a good collaborative environment I think the main is just, don’t be a dick. Treat everyone fairly whether their a runner or the DP, be cool to everyone and be a friend, the second you get a power trip because you’re the director is the second everyone is all like “What a fucking dick” when they’re having lunch together. It’s not worth it.
Tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to make films.
I remember when I was really young and seeing “The Terminator”, I was around four years old and being blown away and TERRIFIED of it (I was only four) – I think then at that moment I fell in love with films but I think it was when I was around seven when I learnt the word director (I had no idea what a director did back then just that they made the film) that I started telling people that’s what I wanted to do when I grew up. It was from watching films like “Army of Darkness”, “Jason and the Argonauts”, The Dollars Trilogy, “Drop Dead Fred”, BBC show “Bottom”, John Carpenters “The Thing” “The Incredible Shrinking Man”, “Return of the Living Dead part 2”, the kids show “The Demon Headmaster”, “Star Trek”, “The Toxic Avenger” and much much more, films I weren’t supposed to see but did anyway mainly thanks to having a TV in my bedroom with Channel 4 that got me wanting to make films one day, now all these years later here I am still trying to do it.
What makes a horror film a great horror film?
I love a lot of horror films. Seriously from the trashiest piece of trash ever, something like David Decoteau’s “Creepozoids” to the really artful, incredibly skillful, beautiful horror films like Dario Argento’s “Suspiria”.
I think what makes a great horror film is what makes any great film really and that’s just an engaging story and originality. “Creepozoids” for example, although there may be many rooms for improvement is about some people who are overdosing on 80s thrifts and hair-do’s being chased down by a radio-active mutant baby who eats people’s faces off. That to me is a lot more fun and original than say “Paranormal Activity 28” or any generic found-footage “Argh no, there’s a ghost in my house that makes loud ‘causing-the-audience-to-jump’ noises”.
But to make a great horror film is something with a great story and at the end of the day something that doesn’t give a shit i.e no characters are safe, stereotypes are thrown out of the window and something that is a huge thrill-ride. A great example of this, one of the more recent GREAT horror films is “Red State” directed by Kevin Smith.
Well I don’t want to give too much away, but I think the genre switch will take a lot of people by surprise and also the fact that it mixes comedy with the horror.
By this I don’t mean it’s an a-typical comedy/horror, I love that genre, but I mean it doesn’t have scenes where there’s a funny bit of violence and there are laughs throughout. No. It’s a coming-of-age teen comedy one minute and then BAM it becomes the most unforgiving horror intense film possible. I haven’t seen many examples of this in horror films. There are always seeds of what’s to come planted throughout the film whereas in this, it’s purely a slice-of-life film where the life it’s chronicling is randomly plunged into chaos.
Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us about your project Daniels! We look forward to seeing it!
Thanks so much too and thanks very much for featuring us and this project on your blog. We love you C. Taylor.
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