14th Dec2017

Horror-On-Sea 2018 Interview: Maria Lee Metheringham talks ‘Pumpkins’

by Philip Rogers

Pumpkins is new 80’s style horror from writer and director Maria Lee Metheringham, which has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival on Sunday 21st January. I got chance to ask Maria a few questions about making the film, her influences and adapting to changes during the shoot.


What can we expect from the film Pumpkins?

I would describe Pumpkins as an Ambient/Atmospheric horror. It combines elements of 80’s style classic horror films rolled into one feature. It’s not meant to be a gore film but it is meant to be visually creepy, eerie and suspenseful. Hopefully you will experience the old school settings along with an atmospheric journey.

What was your inspiration for writing the film Pumpkins?

It started off as a short to be included in another 80s style horror feature film we were writing but we liked the story so much we turned it into a full feature and put the original script we were writing on the back bench.  The story came from some really old artwork by cartoonist Tom Jordan who was at school with Will Metheringham (writer). We found it in a really old folder, containing images of this really creepy half man, half pumpkin dude.

Why did you decide to set the film in the 1980’s?

It’s not directly set in the 80s but we wanted it to have that feel to it, so we’ve tried to keep it as close to the 80s as possible. We haven’t got any modern technology in there and the costume is very nonspecific. We absolutely love horror films of that era and I’ve always wanted to make a film of my own that had the same feel to it. I hope we’ve achieved that as we’re big fans of films such as Christine (1983), Friday 13th (1980), American Werewolf in London (1981), Halloween (1978) etc.  Setting horror films in the 80s were all shot with low budgets and also shot on film so it feels like when you take out a lot of the technology that we have now you can rely more on the composition of shots to do the story telling, setting the scene and atmosphere. Even though we used very up to date high definition equipment we tried as much as possible to get that style across.

Were there any elements of the original script which had to be adapted during filming?

I was constantly updating and changing things in the script as we went along. I think I added about 4 extra scenes because Gary Rogers (DOP, Editor) was editing the film as we went along and sending it to me, so we could get a feel of how things joined together. I saw spaces and gaps that needed more in to tell the story and certain lines of dialogue that enhanced the scenes. Some of the deaths had to be altered as I couldn’t afford a special effects specialist and had to do it all myself on very basic knowledge. We also had the Actors on occasion, when the scene was scripted, throw the lines out the window and improvise to make a scene more hectic.

Did you find it difficult both directing and acting in the film and did you find it helpful or a hinderance to making the film?

I didn’t mind being in the film and directing at the same time as I didn’t actually write myself a very big role. My character Shelly is only really in the opening scenes then she pops up very briefly again towards the end of the film. I have a lot of trust in Gary with the shots, so I didn’t feel the need to check every time I was in a scene, if Gary said it was cool then I pretty much took his word for it. I felt like I had to direct the film so I could have complete control of everything, yes I am a bit of a control freak but I had such a set idea of how it would look that I wouldn’t be able to sit back and watch someone else attempt to do what was in my head.  Will gave a lot of ideas when we got on set and found what we had written down didn’t quite match the setting and it all worked pretty well.

What was one of your favourite scenes in the film?

I absolutely love the opening of the pub scene with all the locals signing along to a very rude song which was played live with the musicians. It was a right laugh having all these burley Yorkshire folks shouting profanities and acting drunk, spilling their drinks everywhere. I probably made them go on for a lot longer than needed just because I was enjoying the Actors doing their thing so much, it cracked me up. The pub scenes where actually filmed in two locations, The Red Lion in Burgh Le Marsh for the interiors and The Old Glen House in Baildon for the exteriors.

Do you have any new projects which you are working on?

Oh yes! Already started on the next script, or rather scripts. We’ve got three in the pipeline for next year, it’s just a case of figuring out which one we want to do first. If someone asked for a follow up to Pumpkins we would obviously be more than happy. There were a few actors we were hoping to work with that we couldn’t afford, I was talking with agents of Tamara Glynn, Jon Campling, Gareth Hale and Linda Lusardi that we would love to bring into the mix. We loved working with the Actors of Pumpkins so much we plan on working with as many of them as possible in the next.

If someone is looking to direct their first film, what advice would you give them?

I know everyone works differently but my personal opinion is plan and be organised! I was so thankful of my schedules and shot lists and pre- communication with everyone involved before each filming segment.  Also important is enjoy yourself, don’t take yourself too seriously as your mood effects the mood of people on set and when your freezing cold and your body is shutting down from tiredness to suck it up and crack on without moaning.  I enjoyed every bit of filming and can’t wait to get back in the director’s chair (so to speak).  Surround yourself with passionate, determined and hard-working people and you should have no problems.

Pumpkins will be playing at the Horror-on-Sea Festival on Sunday 21st January at 10:30pm. Maria will also be appearing in another film at the festival as Mina Adams in the horror prequel Mask of Thorn, which will be shown on 19th January at 8pm.

You can find out more information on the event and to purchase tickets for the Horror-on-Sea please see the website for details:  https://www.horror-on-sea.com


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