Interview - Director and Writer Andy Collier
by Guy Russell
Charismata is the new film from directors Andy Collier and Toor Mian, which has been selected to play at this year’s Derby Film Festival in May2018. Our roving reporter Guy Russell got a chance to ask Andy about Charismata, his experiences making the film and what’s in store for him next.
The lead character Rebecca Farraway has to work within a culture of sexism and bullying in the department. With the current popularity of the MeToo movement, Charismata seems to have arrived at an important time. Was there a specific moment that made you start writing and if so what was it?
We wrote the film in 2014/15 so any current topicality is entirely accidental. Actually I think these issues have been around forever, and we aren’t being particularly original in exploring them. Rebecca’s character was pretty much completely inspired by (or, “ripped off from”!) Mia Farrow’s role in Rosemary’s Baby and, especially, Catherine Deneuve’s in Repulsion. So what’s topical now was apparently topical 40 years ago too. Hopefully things are changing now though so in future people will be ripping off some other aspect of horror movies from several decades earlier.
Your 2014 short The Seventeenth Kind, Charismata and your upcoming horror Perpetual have quite original premises, where do you draw your stories from? Personal experiences, people you know etc?
I think I just painted myself into a corner. Charismata was basically a mash up featuring the plot of Alan Parker’s Angel Heart with the story of the three central characters from the Apartment Trilogy. So on one level entirely unoriginal! However, by taking things in original directions and confounding audience expectations we can, hopefully, do something at least vaguely interesting.
The Seventeenth Kind and Perpetual are both adaptations. The first of a short story of the same name, which was extremely funny and very original. I thought it would either translate to a great short film or an absolutely terrible one. Luckily it came out ok I think. We were talking with a US studio for a long time about making that into a TV show, but that fizzled out as these things usually do.
Perpetual is based on a novel called “The German” which I read when it was released in 2011 and loved. We barely changed it... except by moving it from 1944 to 2019 and changing the protagonist from a German refugee in Texas who had fled the Nazis to an Iraqi refugee in Texas who had fled ISIS. Of course, the local Trumper Joes don’t like him much.
You also act in Charismata, is this something you’d like to do more often?
Haha no it’s more of a recurring cameo that crops up 3 or 4 times. I wasn’t allowed any lines because I sound like an idiot. I only slipped my name into the acting credits list to annoy Tor (Co-Director of Charismata). It worked.
I think I might also get to appear as Norwegian Cthulhu Cultist #6 in The Colour of Madness and Angry Ginger Redneck #4 in Perpetual though, if I play my cards right. Fingers crossed…
Charismata has been praised by critics for not relying on typical horror tropes, would you agree it’s an exciting time to work within the genre?
Absolutely, yes. There is so much great stuff being made now and so much of it is breaking moulds. I actually love attending festivals and watching the selected films as you get to see a curated sample of the most original stuff that’s coming out before anybody else does. Obviously you get to see some utter crap too, but that’s part of the fun.
With this being your first Feature film, how did this differ apart from the obvious length to making a short film? With Perpetual being another feature, would you explore shorts again?
That’s a good question. Actually I think I’m pretty rubbish at shorts because I tend to make them work like long-form stories anyway, rather than either “slice of life” or “set up - punchline” that good shorts tend to have. Also, sadly, shorts have pretty much zero commercial value so it would be unlikely that we’ll do any more.
Unless I’m mistaken this is the first time sharing you both share directing duties? Did this take some time to adapt? Did working closely together previously help?
It worked very well. We did a huge amount of prep work and argued for at least a year, so by the time we got to shooting we were 100% aligned. That worked out especially well on a micro budget shoot which was very ambitious in terms of number of cast and number of locations. Something was always exploding, catching fire or flooding, so while one of us was off set sorting out the ambulances the other could go on directing without interruption.
Social media plays a huge part in a lot of independent productions, was this the case for you? If so how did this help Charismata?
In our case we only really got the social media going after the film was finished. We didn’t crowd fund the film and we didn’t self-distribute - which are two areas where micro budget films like Charismata often need to connect with horror fans directly. Social media actually worked best in our case for connecting with news outlets/magazines/blogs/reviewers - we managed to get quite a bit of great coverage by connecting there. It’s hard work though!
Have you had any experience with the Midlands before, either shooting or festival wise?
Charismata screened in Leicester at a genre fest called Grindhouse Planet which was great fun. I’m from Sheffield originally but one of the bits that is (or at least was back in the day) technically Derbyshire. Does that count?
I can see your next feature has a filming location in the USA? As a producer does this take a lot more preparation?
Interesting question. I don’t think it takes more prep but it’s definitely much harder logistically, as it’s miles away! Some local help is an absolute must. For Perpetual we have a local line producer helping and the Utah Film Commission have been amazing. It’s still hard though.
What excites you most about the filmmaking experience? Pre-Production? Writing? Directing? Editing etc?
Unlike most people I find editing to be a total chore. That’s definitely the worst part. I think the reason is that we don’t shoot like most people: get plenty of coverage with different angles, wide-mid-close and then edit the film from what you have. We plan every shot and, essentially, edit it in the storyboards so the editing bit is just assembling the shots with a pleasing rhythm. The corollary to that: preproduction is the best bit. From location scouting to preparing storyboards and shot lists detailed enough to make editing a total chore. Great fun because that’s where the rather abstract script starts to turn into an actual film.
What is the single best piece advice that young filmmakers need to hear in 2018?
Don’t listen to me, probably. But other than that, make something that you you’ll love. Don’t try to make some generic paint by numbers thing that you think tick’s boxes. If you’re going to put so much time and effort into something with no guarantee that anybody will ever see it, at least aim for something that you find genuinely exciting. And then - other people probably will too!
Lastly, are there any future projects you can talk about?
The next thing we shoot, most likely before Perpetual, will be a VERY Lovecraftian folk horror provisionally called The Colour of Madness. It has the least original basic premise imaginable, which has been used in 5,873 horror films in the past, but we believe that we treat the story in such an unusual way that people will be excited enough by it to think it’s somehow “original”. It’s set in Norway for one thing haha!
Charismata is playing at the QUAD as part of the Derby Film Festival on the following dates;
Friday, May 04, 2018 18:00
Bank Holiday Monday, May 07, 2018 15:35
You can book your tickets below: