Almost two years ago, I first interviewed Welsh independent filmmaker, Tom Hughes following the shoot of his non-budget short film, “Widower” in Aberystwyth. Since then, Tom’s career has grown from strength to strength with the recent release of his latest spooky short, “You Killed Us” and the launch of his crowdfunding campaign for “Wargrave House”; an ultra-creepy ghost story which is due to be shot on location in Hereford this August. One thing that hasn’t changed is Tom’s passion for horror as he has also launched his own production company, Ritual Video. In this interview Tom brings an honest insight into the realities of low budget filmmaking, proving that with determination and drive, you can achieve what you love doing. I’d like to thank Tom for taking part in this interview with me exclusively on Love Horror.
Since our last interview in November 2017 (See bottom of this page) how would you say your filmmaking career has evolved?
Tom Hughes: Well, I’ve been continuing to work as a freelance photographer and camera assistant on indie features and have been lucky to meet other low budget filmmakers; who have taught me a lot about directing, running a set, and scheduling; so I’d like to think all that has sank in and led me to become a better filmmaker. I’ve also been writing, a lot.
Your most recent short film, “You Killed Us” is now available to view on the Ritual Video Youtube Channel, what was the inspiration behind the film?
Tom Hughes: You Killed Us was a really handy exercise in the ‘use what you have’ school of filmmaking, and it’s where I worked out a lot of kinks as a director, and began finding my feet. Last summer me and a few friends were working on a series of shorts for the BBC and got together one Sunday and shot You Killed Us for fun. We took a location, props, gear, and costumes we already had, and I spent a week writing a short script around those items and locations. Sometimes imposing limitations on a small project can help you focus it; but, as usual it didn’t stay a small project for too long, as I then spent a year fighting through broken computers and fulltime jobs to finish the edit & colour grade, before hiring Matthew Green, a London based composer to sound design and score the film.
“You Killed Us” is both an unsettling and chilling short. Can you tell us a bit about the “Making Of” process? How did you create such an eerie atmosphere? and what was it like experimenting with gore/special effects?
Tom Hughes: Atmosphere is my favourite thing about Horror movies; it’s why I love Fulci, Bava and Argento so much, and also why I think Hereditary and The Witch are two of the best genre films in recent years; the atmosphere is palpable, and transports you to that place and holds you there until the story has run it’s course, that’s what I aim to do. In pretty much everything I make I try to have a ‘feel’ that I always return to; during production the lighting, smoke and pacing are all focused on creating the right tone; then in post when I’m editing, or sending a temp score to the composer I’m always searching for the best way to create that same feeling inside the viewer; Whatever tone I establish when writing stays with me throughout the whole project. The Make Up FX were created by Rachel Price, who also played one of the zombies, and honestly I absolutely loved that part of the shoot. Growing up on Savini, Baker and Bottin shaped the way I saw practical effects, so having them happen in-camera was always a really important part of Horror film-making for me; as was not cutting away from gore if it’s needed. The intestine was actually just liquid latex rolled around tissue paper, and the flesh they’re eating in the last scene was marshmallow Flumps soaked in fake blood, that’s what gives them that tearing, elasticated quality!
“You Killed Us” has been submitted to genre film festivals across the country, are you excited about presenting the film to a wider audience?
Tom Hughes: Yeah it’s actually the first time I’ve submitted anything to fests! And so far the reaction has been positive, I showed the film at Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff recently and was really pleased with the audience reaction, they jumped and grimaced where I wanted them to and the lady in front of me screamed ‘Fuuuck’ at one point; I was just sitting behind her grinning in the dark like a maniac.
You’ve recently launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for your next project, “Wargrave House”, what can you tell us about the film so far?
Tom Hughes: Wargrave House is a classic chiller that begins production this August in Hereford. It’s about a driven doctor that must fight for her life when her family is targeted by a nmalevolent entity. The script came together over the past year and we begin production this August with the same DOP that shot You Killed Us, Mei Lewis. I also have a bigger crew this time, and even a 1st AD to keep me on track! The crowdfund campaign is something new that I haven’t tried before, So I’m hoping people will contribute and help me make the film as big and exciting as I know it can be; I’m even looking for exec and associate producers if anyone reads this and is interested! I’ve spent time creating some really cool perks that are exclusive to the campaign, like t-shirts, posters, a making of documentary, and one-off 35mm stills from production. It would really mean a lot if people contributed, not only to the film’s budget but to me personally, as they’ll be allowing me to hire other people to help me with the post-production workload!
How did you prepare for your crowdfunding campaign?
Tom Hughes: It was a lot of work! I don’t have a producer so the entire Pre-Production schedule has been just me; thankfully I’ve been able to gather all the assets I needed to crowdfund, and I also had some helpful advice from James Plumb of Mad Science Films. I think the most difficult part has been trying to communicate my passion for the genre and my vision for the final film without being able to speak to the audience directly; and trying not to look too awkward on camera! I’m at a stage where I don’t have a dedicated audience and a proven film-making track record yet, so I’m hoping with my upcoming shorts I’ll be able to gain a small following that trust me artistically; and eventually will be able to self-produce features that the audience can purchase directly from me or stream online.
You cite The Evil Dead (1981) as a major influence. How did the film inspire you and what has it taught you about low budget horror filmmaking?
Tom Hughes: When other teens were out on weekends chasing girls or playing football, I was in asmall room watching as many Horror tapes as I could. I’m lucky to have grown up in an era where I could rent an array of amazing 70’s & 80’s Horror films from local indie Video Shops. Most weekends my Dad would take me to grab some videos. and while he looked at the blockbusters I would sneak off down the Horror aisle and marvel at the technicolour Graham Humphreys covers to ‘Return Of The Living Dead’ or ‘Night Of The Creeps’. Evil Dead had a huge impact on me, I remember seeing the cover so many times without being allowed to rent it and wondering what was inside, eventually my dad caved and let me rent it, and now im a 33 year old man running around dark basements covered in fake blood! I think reading ‘If Chins Could Kill’ around the same I watched all the Behind The Scenes docs on the 3 disc DVD really galvanised me into film-making, the way Sam Raimi was pushing his low budget as far he could made me wana go out and shoot with whatever I had available at the time; and that’s still what I’m doing today!
“Wargrave House” is set to be heavily influenced by classic ghost stories. What is it about supernatural/haunting style horror that appeals to you?
Tom Hughes: From a film-making point of view the sub-genre lends itself really well to low budget indie productions, as the real goal is make the unknown terrifying, which doesn’t need big VFX of creature design as much as it just needs a good back story, then lots of darkness and good sound design. On a more psychological level, I think everyone’s scared of death, and the idea of not being here fascinates me; if you think about it you’ve already not been here once so not being here again is probably fine and not this big terrifying thing we all think it is. Having said that it’s really people’s projections ONTO death that have always fascinated me, and once I decided the religious point of view on the afterlife wasn’t for me, I began looking into more occult, supernatural interpretations. The thought of sitting in your house and being watched from beyond the grave is scarier to me than any monster or serial killer ever could be, because ultimately you can’t prove that ISN’T happening at any point, which is exactly where I want my horror films to sit, in that space that follows you home into your safe space and turns it into a place of terror; it’s what John Carpenter did with Halloween, and it’s what I’ll do on Wargrave House.
Can you tell us a bit about how you launched your new production company, Ritual Video and what does the future hold? Will you be progressing into feature filmmaking?
Tom Hughes: I come from the underground metal scene, so I’ve always had a DIY attitude towards creativity; and Ritual Video was a way for me to produce content I wanted to see on the indie film scene. If this crowdfunding campaign goes well then Wargrave House will be completed by Feb 2020, when I’ll enter it into festivals and hopefully have a shot at gaining some private investors or co-producers for my next short; which is a proof-of-concept for my first feature. Ultimately my goal is to write and direct indie horror features with a small following that purchases my films directly from me; with the profits from the last feature rolling into the next one; I’ve always been fine with not having money, it’s time and satisfaction with my creative output that means something to me; and Ritual Video is my first real step towards that.
Tom thanks so much!
Watch Welsh Demonesses interview with Tom Hughes from November 2017 below: