Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Framing Film - Simon Horrocks - Part 1

Hey everyone! Welcome to another edition of Framing Film, today we have an interview with Simon Horrocks. As usual we'll be splitting the interview into two, so make sure to check back for the second part!


Ferenc Igali: Hey Simon, thanks for agreeing to do this interview with us - first off, a public congratulations again on the project! But first, let's talk a bit about you; what did you do before Third Contact movie? 

Simon Horrocks: I was half of a composing duo, writing music for TV, adverts, corporate videos etc - plus I was a screenwriter and a househusband bringing up my son.

FI: How did you get into film making from the process of a directorial side? I noticed that you had mentioned previously that you had written for a while before penning the script for this?

SH: I had been involved in other people's shorts over the years, offering my time for free doing various things. As a sound engineer I was able to do location sound, for example. I focused my creative efforts on screenwriting, for over 10 years. I had had sold a few scripts and had an agent in LA, but nothing got made.

During one short production, the director was a very indecisive - which is pretty fatal for a director. I ended up pretty much directing the film and found that I was never short of ideas. Previous to that, I'd ended up directing a short with work colleagues which I was only down to write the script for. I just found that I was comfortable in that role.

FI: How was your 'movie-making' education before this? Did you have a lot of experience on sets? Any experience with shorts for example - which many people view as an almost requirement for going into features?

SH: I did have some experience with short films, one of which was a key learning experience - where we had to shoot the film twice over, the second time without any funding - a 12 minute film for probably about £200.

There's no excuse now for not making your film. I saw a lovely short by one of the kickstarter backers shot with her phone - the camerawork was great, imaginative, free - and better than a lot of other stuff people have been showing me. In other words, she'd used the fact it was a phone and she had no crew to her benefit.

It's not about 'oh well I'll shoot it with my phone as a make-do' - it's actually, 'why on earth would I shoot a film with all that machinery getting in the way of my creativity'. I think in the near future people will laugh at the amount of people and kit we used to use when making films.  The film industry is still very male dominated, and there's a very macho thing about the size of your equipment/budget/crew etc.

FI: Can you tell us a bit about the movie itself? What it's about, what it represents? Inspirations?

SH: It's about a psychotherapist who gets involved in a strange and obsessive investigation when two of his patients die in mysterious circumstances. The inspirations were many, from reflections on mortality from quantum physics theories such as  'many worlds', to Sophocles Oedipus the King, things that were happening in my life, including my own struggle with depression. But every time I answer this question I write something new. I'm still working what it is.

FI: Dealing with questions such as many worlds theory and quantum suicide, how hard was it to translate such revolutionary but exciting concepts to the big screen? 

SH: It all just came together in a rather organic way. I'm more interested in the philosophical implications than the detail of the science. As H.G. Wells said about his writing, the science is just there create a fantasy around. There's no real hard science in the story. Having said that, fiction did seem to mirror fact in a rather eerie way, after I'd written the script.

FI: We heard (and read on your site!) that it got great reviews - how did it feel to get those reviews for the initial screenings of it? 

SH: Incredible.

FI: Obviously, the big area with you will be the crowdfunding campaign - first off, how hard was it? Some say that running a kickstarter project is like a 24/7 job?

SH:Harder than making the film. But with experience I think next one could be a little easier.

FI: Why did you choose to go down the crowdfunding route and where can funders expect to see their money being used?  

SH: Most people who are looking for distribution money on kickstarter will tell you they thought it was 'right for the project'. The fact is they couldn't get distribution, but they probably don't want to phrase it that way in case you think they made a bad film. The truth is I couldn't get cinema distribution for my film - well, its shot on a camcorder and has no names in it, its not really a huge shock.

The money will be spent on PR and a cinema booker.

FI: Talk to us about a bit about funding the film initially and then the crowdfunding process - can you tell us about your experience of securing funding as a first time filmmaker? Is there any trials and tribulations that you could share with other filmmakers?

SH: I funded the film from my wages as a cinema worker (at the time about £7.50/hour). Don't waste your time looking for funding, or trying to get the industry to like what you're doing. Chances are, if they like it - its a bad sign, not a good one. If you want to be original and create something unique, work outside the industry. You will end up working harder then them and your lunches won't taste as nice, but you will end up with something far more rewarding. And you will have empowered yourself.

FI: If you had any tips for first time filmmakers, what would you recommend that they know or read up on? 

SH: Don't read any filmmaking or screenwriting 'how to' books. Use your phone or buy a camera from Argos for £50 and go and start expressing yourself and your stories and feelings and ideas. When I wrote Third Contact I'd been reading a book called The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker (it was being thrown out by the BBC library and I got it). Its not about filmmaking or screenwriting specifically, but it does talk about stories, from Ancient Greece up to more recent action movies. Its not a bible, by any means, but it gave me a few ideas. But that just so happened to be what I had in my head at the time, I'm not saying anyone should read it.

And watch films. There's over 100 years of astonishing films to get inspiration from, so use them. Why would you need anyone's 'how to' book?


So there we have it, the first part of the interview with Simon! Make sure to check back soon for the second part.

We just want to say thank you to Simon for taking the time to have an interview with us and a particular favourite comment of mine is not to read how-to books! I completely agree, it's all about trial and error (how else are we going to create new and exciting things?)

Make sure to check Simon out on Twitter and find out more about his movie right here!

But You Didn't Hear it From Us,

Mr & Misses

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