Friday, 22 March 2013

interview: Tim Cowles

Tim Cowles, writer-director of Backslasher, kindly submitted to a short e-mail interview in September 2012, as follows:

What was your aim in making Backslasher and how close do you think you've come to that with the finished film?
“My main goal was to produce something entertaining and relevant within the limited time and budget we had. I'd like to think we achieved that. Personally I was hoping to create a low budget, British version of Scream, which in hindsight probably isn't possible. Unless you can persuade Keira Knightley to let you bump her off at the beginning for the price of a sandwich! Overall though, considering three of the original scripted scenes weren't shot, I'm happy enough with Backslasher to put it out there. I'll be disappointed if my next effort isn't twice as good though.”

How did you and Jason Impey start working together, and what sort of professional relationship do you have?
“Jason responded to a crew call I put out through Shooting People many years ago. I'd just signed a deal to produce three boxed Murder Mystery Party games and I felt that I needed someone to cam-op for me whilst I directed the scenes that ended up in the games. We must have done all right as we went on to make 14 together and they were sold in places like WHSmith and John Lewis.

“It was awesome fun working together, and still is, and Jason is a more than competent filmmaker himself so I'd often ask him to do a 'Jason Cam' to get more angles - and he'd basically get whatever shots he wanted for a take. I haven't worked on many of Jason's productions, mainly because he likes to do all the cam work himself. We've worked on so much stuff together that whilst filming Backslasher I only needed to give a couple of grunts and he knew the shot I wanted.”

How did you assemble your cast and crew?
“Crew was normally Jason, myself and a boom op. Sometimes just me! Friends and family did most other stuff, and Stuart Godfrey helped on most days as a favour for a music video I'd done for him (which I'd done as a favour for letting me use his music in a sitcom pilot!). As for casting, so far I've cast all my productions in the same way - casting calls on all the big websites and then auditions, normally a rented Regus suite in London. Most actors who reply are based in London anyway, so London auditions make it easy for them to get to. In no-to-low budget film land it's important that everyone gets along (or at least has the good sense to 'act' like they're getting along!). Unfortunately we had to recast one of the main roles and reshoot two days of footage during production, which is something I've never had to do before, but I'll need to be a lot more drunk to recant that story!”

What pressures are there on you, as a young and relatively inexperienced director, handling nudity and sex scenes?
“I think my biggest concern was making sure that those scenes looked real and added to the viewer's experience. So much low budget horror nudity is token, and I didn't want to expose the cast just to tick boxes. During one of the last edits I actually cut out a lot of nudity because I didn't feel it was necessary. Fortunately I didn't really feel any pressure with the actors during the scenes, which is a credit to them. They were closed sets with Jason, myself and the actors, which helped. I scheduled most of those scenes last, but I'd probably shoot them first in future, they're a good icebreaker!”

How has Backslasher been received so far and what are your plans for distribution?
Backslasher has been well received by distributors in the US where four out of the four made me an offer. Not so in the UK where nobody was interested unless I had a 'recognisable' name in the cast. It's disappointing not to get picked up, but UK viewers can still download Backslasher from the website, and we're able to offer it in HD. Critically I think reviewers are disappointed there isn't more gore, and find the ending difficult to follow, but those that 'get it' enjoy the work that went in. Considering it was made for less than £2,000 it's great to see that nobody has mentioned production values (or lack thereof!) which hopefully means I've 'got away with it' in that department!”

What do you have lined up next?
“I'm currently working on House of a Thousand Murders which is a film noir horror, and an untitled genre bending romcom/horror that's more Sliding Doors than Shaun of the Dead. I'd like to add at least one more to that list before deciding what to green light next year, hopefully from a new screenwriter, so I'll be putting out a call for scripts sometime in the near future too. I'm also looking to find local acting talent here in Cambridgeshire, there must be at least one actor in the UK who hails from this neck of the woods…”

interview originally posted 1st October 2012

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