Monday, September 03, 2012

FrightFest double premiere report

The weekend before last saw the world premieres of Cockneys Vs Zombies and Tower Block, at the FrightFest film festival in London. I go to FrightFest every year, have done for about 10 years, and Severance premiered there in 2006. I've got lots of happy memories from the festival, and was really chuffed to have both of my new movies debuting there.

Because they were premieres, things were a bit more complicated than when Severance was on. FrightFest is a lot bigger than before, and now there's a whole media wall thing, with photographers, on-camera interviews, and all sorts. So I had to be in full media promotion mode, which can be quite exhausting and scary if you're not used to it. Thankfully, I've done a lot of talking about my work over the years, so I'm better able to handle it. It's still scary and exhausting, but I've learned how to best represent the work and myself - even down to simple, obvious things like how to speak in shorter sentences so they can edit me down without losing long, rambling sections. It's not something you get trained for, and there are lots of interviews with me from the Severance days where I get chopped down to almost nothing, because I couldn't give them anything they could quote.

Thursday 23rd began with lots of interviews at the offices of Diffusion PR, who were handling publicity for both films. There were camera interviews, audio interviews, in person interviews, and a couple of phone interviews. They all blurred into each other, and I may have repeated myself a bit. I think me and Matthias even swapped answers by accident at one point, we'd heard our answers so often.

One interview, which went really well, ended with the interviewer thanking me for not making a misogynist horror movie. I was a bit taken aback, but appreciated the thought - I work hard to make sure I don't have thankless roles for women, because there are enough of those out there, and to make a movie that doesn't automatically exclude 50% of the audience. It was a very nice compliment to receive - but kind of a sad state of affairs for horror these days, that someone actually remarked on it.

After lunch, me and Matthias did a camera interview for the Horror Channel, led by Emily Booth who is really good fun. I'll link to it if it goes online, please excuse our sweatiness, it was *very* warm in that tiny room with all the lights.

Later, I checked into my hotel, and changed into my suit. Yes, a suit. I'd promised Alan Ford ages ago that I'd dress up properly if we had a premiere. He had expressed displeasure at how "young people" dress these days, so I decided I'd make the effort, partly for him, partly for fun, and partly so I wouldn't be too embarrassed when I saw the photos. And I don't scrub up too badly - check me out:

Before the opening film played, there was a small surprise - a FrightFest advert telling people to turn their phones off. It starred Ian Rattray, one of the FrightFest boys, and was written and directed by... me! I spent a couple of days with James and Russ from the mighty Ne'er Do Well Films who organised the whole affair, and DoP extraordinaire Laurie Rose (Kill List) who made it all look fantastic (thanks to lovely producer Jen Handorf for snagging Laurie for us, Jen is also producing my short Crazy For You, more news on that later). The advert went down well, and you can watch it here.

And then it was time for my first UK media wall, after the slightly insane one me and Dan did for Girl Number 9 in 2010 (read that story here). It's pretty full on, and intimidating - it's a little enclosure surrounded by people and cameras, and it's a bit like a friendly interrogation. First you stand while loads of photographers take pictures and make you feel like Posh Spice - "Over here! This way please! Over here! Down here! Up here! Here one more time! Just over here please!" - and temporarily blind you with loads of flashes. And then the interviews start.

This is where I would have fallen if I hadn't already done lots of talking at other events. You go to the first interviewer, they start the camera, and ask you loads of questions very quickly. Once you're finished, they thank you, and you take a step to the right, and repeat the process with the next person, and so on, and so on, until you reach the end of the line and are shuffled out so the next person can come in. It's *mental*, but really good fun.

It's not the sort of thing you ever expect to find yourself doing. I still remember sitting at my crappy computer years ago, in the evenings after working a full day at my day job, wondering if I'd ever finish Severance, never mind sell it. It seems so far out of reach, the sort of thing that happens to other people. It still feels like that, I still don't quite believe it's really happening. And when it's over, you still have to get back to your desk and keep writing, you don't suddenly get access to the magical Script Elves who write everything for you. No, those bastards NEVER help. I'm glad I killed them all.

I'd post some photos of me doing the media wall here, but there aren't many of me out there, and I'd have to pay to use them, even the ones of me. So I'll just link to the preview versions here and here. Look at how awkward and pale I am! Marvel at my inability to know where to put my arms! There's also a video of one of my interviews online here - imagine me doing more or less the same thing, 10 times in a row in quick succession. I had to chug an entire bottle of water afterwards.

Once that was over, it was time to introduce the film. We were taken to the fancy Icon Bar above the casino, where I managed to find a quiet corner on the balcony to let it all sink in. It's a weird, surreal experience, and I wanted to make sure I took time to enjoy it. Here's the view from there:

After some quiet time, we were all brought down to a secret entrance. They announced our names, and we were suddenly there, on stage in front of 1300 people in the cinema. This is what 1300 people look like from the side:

Yeah. That's before you go on stage, when you can still see them. Bit scary. But very exciting. I did a slightly manic introduction, I remember some laughs (at me or with me, I don't care, laughs are laughs), then we shuffled off, the lights went down, I sat next to Jodie, and the film played.

It went down really well, laughs and cheers in all the right places, and a huge round of applause at the end. Once it was over, me, Matthias and Alan Ford did a quick Q&A, which was bloody good fun. These should be online soon, I'll update this post when I have them.

That feeling never gets old - sitting with an audience while they watch your movie. It's so, so cool, and scary, and magical. I can sense when they're enjoying it or not, even if nobody is making any noise, I get completely tuned into their vibes. It's quite a rush.

And then it was over, with everyone filing out to the pub. I said goodbye to Jodie and my friends, then stayed to watch Grabbers, which I'd been dying to see for ages - it's bloody good fun, really heart warming, and very cool, please go find it and show it some love.

The rest of FrightFest was fantastic as always. Loads of great movies, my highlights were Grabbers, Rec 3, Sleep Tight, Sinister, and American Mary - seek them out. And then it all came back to me again for the closing movie, Tower Block. I went with a less suity outfit, partly because it was too warm and I couldn't face sweating again... These are the unglamorous things you don't usually hear about.

Media wall was insanity once more, same deal as Cockneys, pics, interviews, and then into the cinema for the intro, in which I rambled quite spectacularly. Here's a photo from that media wall, and here's an interview, I'm almost at the end of the line here so my voice is going a bit ragged. And dry lips! Jesus, they don't tell you about the dry lips. That sounds rude. But it isn't.

I managed to find Jodie after the media wall, and was SO relieved, because I was able to get some cuddles and kisses to reassure me! I knew Cockneys would play well, but Tower Block was a wild card, I had no idea if the crowd would go with it. We introduced it, and I went way off message with a rambling, bizarre, sweary intro, but hey, it got a laugh, so I don't care... And then it played.

Went down a storm, I'm very happy to say, gasps and jumps in the right places, more laughs than I remembered (all deliberate ones thankfully), and a bloody good time. Just before the film though, they played my second FrightFest phone advert - this one starring me, as I couldn't hold of any proper actors in time. You can watch that here, but be warned, it's sweary and violent (like me).

After that, everybody still standing went to get drunk, and the night became a blur of booze and congratulations. I remember gushing praise over one the Twisted Twins for American Mary, and Katharine Isabelle for the same film and Ginger Snaps. I saw lots of friends, old and new, and for the first time in god knows how long, stayed out all night partying. I think we left the Phoenix pub at 7am...

It still hasn't all sunk in yet, having two movies at one festival, and all the warmth and madness that ensued. I haven't come down from the buzz yet, and hopefully it'll last quite a while. Especially now that I'm back at my desk, wrestling with the latest outline. Hmm, wonder if any of those Script Elves survived the massacre...?