After premiering at last years FrightFest to mass audience applause Paul Hyett’s tense and disturbing horror The Seasoning House finally gets the cinematic release it so thoroughly deserves. We got to chat to Paul about his shift from special effects guru to director, touring the festival circuit and how The Seasoning House came into creation.
LoveHorror: I saw The Seasoning House as part of last years Frightfest I am sure you happy that it will be finally released nationwide on the 21st June, has it been a long journey from then to securing a release date?
Paul Hyett: It probably feels like its taken a while to get to its release, but it was picked up very quickly after screening at Frightfest, and we went on the festival circuit straight away and have been playing ever since, actually just getting back from Fantaspoa in Brazil just this week. So it actually feels like no time at all. But yes, it’s great to see the release date coming along very soon!
LoveHorror: I remember the Q&A after the screening very clearly as a very rude Frightfester asked you if you would be re-cutting the film, please tell me you ignored them.
Paul Hyett: It was actually an old elderly gent. And yes, I ignored him. You always have to realise, with a film like The Seasoning House, that’s it’s a film people love or hate, and you have to accept that some people are going to like it and some not. But to say that he found it unrealistic, well, not quite sure what he expected, considering the film was based in reality?
LoveHorror: Did you enjoy Frightfest and will you be attending this year?
Paul Hyett: I absolutely loved Frightfest! And to be opening film was a dream come true! And the positive response was overwhelming. And yes, I’ll be attending this year!
LoveHorror: The Seasoning House is your debut feature as a director after spending many years working in special make up effects, prosthetic make up design and creature effects, how did you get into the movie making industry?
Paul Hyett: I always had a love of the horror genre, and a background in sculpting and painting, so the thought of creating creatures and gore, especially as an eighteen year would be the best job in the world. So I just started knocking on doors, and working my way in, at various FX companies, eventually taking on my own jobs, and then creating my own company and heading my own films.
LoveHorror: You worked on some amazing movies from The Descent to Attack the Block to the recent and brilliant The Facility, what was your favorite film you worked on and why?
Paul Hyett: Doomsday was a great movie to work on, it’s always fun to work with Neil, and we had the same team from The Descent, other friends like Simon Bowles, the production designer was there and it felt like the old team back together, working in Cape Town for months, in the beautiful sunshine, on the coolest script doing decapitations, car explosions, squashed cows, medieval knights squashing heads, virus make ups, just so much cool stuff on a daily basis, and a film that I’m immensely proud of.
LoveHorror: What is the best horror effect ever in your opinion?
Paul Hyett: Oh my, what a question, not sure if I could pinpoint a particular effect, maybe the dog turning inside out on John Carpenters ‘The Thing’, it really got to me at the time, I wasn’t expecting that. It was a really important film in my childhood, the nihilistic nature of that film, the dark score, the characters, the whole tone of that film, it had a profound effect on me. As well as sparking my interest in effects, it really stood out among the average slashers that were out at the time.
LoveHorror: What prompted the shift to directing?
Paul Hyett: I’d been wanting to direct for a few years. But it was hard to really do when I was so busy with my make up effects career, and I had to feel the project was right for me, but it got to a point where I said, that’s it, I gotta do it. And my producer Michael Riley and I just decided to get a project and get it made with me in the directors chair.
LoveHorror: You where involved in the writing script for The Seasoning House, how did the film come into being?
Paul Hyett: Well, the original premise of a mute deaf girl, living in the walls of a brothel came from Helen Soloman, who had done a lot of research into the subject of sex trafficking and sex slavery. I thought it was an excellent premise and setting for a film and we started to develop it studying the research, and when I had the sort of film I wanted to make in my head, that’s when I brought on my writing partner Conal Palmer and we both went away and wrote the script in a few months.
LoveHorror: The actors you amassed for your first feature are excellent especially Rosie Day, how did you go about casting the film and her especially?
Paul Hyett: We were very lucky with casting, Sean Pertwee who I’d known for many years (and killed in many movies) was always in my head for Goran, as I was writing the script I always imagined Sean so was really happy when he said yes. Kevin Howarth and Anna Walton were friends I had worked with before and they came straight on board and they both so brilliant! And the others were found in auditioning, Dominique Provost Chalkey was I think stunning as Vanya, from her auditions and during, she showed herself to be an excellent and very brave actress. And Ryan Olivia, David Lemberg, Alec Utgoff, and Jemma Powell were all so brilliant in their parts too.
I was really lucky to have such a great cast and crew! And with Rosie, we had auditioned about 120 girls, and I was getting worried about finding the perfect Angel, and then in comes Rosie, looking perfect for the role in her size. And then she gave an amazing audition as Angel, she got the perfect balance as the emotionally numb, vulnerable but the soul of a survivor, she was incredible and gave an amazing performance, recently winning the Best Actress award at Fantaspoa film festival for The Seasoning House!
LoveHorror: Being as the movie is very dark and brutal was it difficult directing the actors in such extreme scenes?
Paul Hyett: Well, I think, even before we started shooting, I was very much not wanting to make a tasteless or exploitative movie, especially considering the subject material. And I had been very open to the actresses about that and had reassured them of the film I wanted to make. So when it came to shooting the difficult rape scenes, everyone knew what was needed, that we only wanted to show what was necessary to tell the story and in a non-exploitative manner and with the respect that there are girls enduring this on a daily basis throughout the world.
So by the time we were shooting, it was just about doing it correctly and getting the right performances, it’s always hard, the actresses have to put themselves in that head space, imagining what it must be like, and that’s why it’s so important to have everyone as comfortable as possible, understanding the context of what we’re doing.
LoveHorror: You filmed the whole thing on a disused air force base, what was the shoot like?
Paul Hyett: It was a great shoot, the unused air base was amazing, we took it over and pretty much shot it entirely there with the exception of the interior walls set and some forest shots. We were shooting in the winter, so it was cold, and we had 5 weeks to shoot, which for a movie with so many effects, stunts and fight sequences and performance led scenes is quite short, but I had an amazing cast and crew and it was a really pleasurable shoot.
LoveHorror: As well as Frightfest your film also played at festivals all over the world, what was that like for you and how was it received by the international audiences?
Paul Hyett: It’s been really warmly received wherever we’ve gone, people always want to come and speak to us after the screening and the film really does seem to affect some people and stay with them. Really quite emotionally shaking them up in some circumstances. So it’s really been a delight taking the film across the festival circuit. And funnily enough, wherever we’ve been, the one thing we’ve noticed is that girls really like the film, they seem to react more positively to the film, even more then the males, and I think they can identify with what those girls (in reality) have to endure, and the fact that we handled the film’s subject matter in a non-exploitative way.
LoveHorror: Now you’ve mastered special make up effects and directing what’s next for you, acting?
Paul Hyett: Haha, I promise, I will never take up acting.. I just want to keep directing.. I have lots of stories to tell.
LoveHorror: And lastly it seems you have quite a few projects currently in development, can you tell us about them?
Paul Hyett: I’m attached to a few really good projects. All in the genre. And I’ll be announcing my next one very soon.
LoveHorror: Thank you
Paul Hyett: Thank you, it’s been a pleasure.
The Seasoning House is out now.