29th Dec2017

Horror-On-Sea 2018 Interview: John Adams talks ‘Aux’

by Philip Rogers

Aux is a new action horror from co-writer and director John Adams, which has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival on Sunday 28th January. I got chance to ask John a few questions about the inspiration behind the story, the reason for the abbreviated title Aux and working with such a talented cast including John Rhys-Davies.

AUX-uk-poster-2

What can we expect from Aux?

What we set out to make with Aux was a smart genre film. The idea was to take the structure and beats of a slasher movie but introduce and weave in a little known true story from WWII as the twist in the plot. From a commercial standpoint, our aim was to be within the horror space enough to attract the traditional horror audience, but be different enough to stand out from the competition.

What was your inspiration for writing the film Aux?

The inspiration really came from some research we’d been doing for another project we were working on into Winston Churchill’s strategic intelligence and defence plans when it appeared inevitable that the Nazis would invade Britain in 1940. It was perfect timing because we were specifically discussing looking for a smart genre idea to develop and the story of the Auxiliary Reserve, with elements like undiscovered underground bunkers and a British spirit of resistance, was a perfect fit and had all the elements we were looking for.

Why did you decide to use an abbreviated title of Aux?

The title has been the subject of a number of debates, both at script stage and with the marketing team at Evolutionary Films. Obviously, Aux can be misconstrued in a number of ways (including as Orcs given the casting of John Rhys-Davies in the film) but ultimately, we looked at a number of other horror film titles that have used short or abbreviated words: Saw (2004), Rec (2007), etc. and decided that the best strategy was to turn Aux into a recognisable visual logo to brand the film, and we’ve been consistent in our branding in all of our marketing assets. The other reason was that we considered a number of other appropriate genre titles (Dead Patriot was the leading contender) and decided that if we wanted to break out of the horror genre and appeal to a wider audience base, a less obvious title might help with that.

What were your influences with the look and style of the film?

Visually, the film is quite dark and atmospheric. I think the biggest danger we faced as an independent British feature is that the main thrust of the ongoing police investigation that dominates the first two acts of the narrative might have run the risk of descending into the realm of kitchen sink drama or even soap opera. We were therefore mindful to shoot in a consistent and stylised way influenced by other dark police partnerships in more international comparison titles like Gotham (2014-) and Se7en (1995), filming with moody lighting and unorthodox camera angles but without disrupting the pace or distracting from the narrative. Most of the exterior sequences were shot on a Movi Rig to keep the camera moving smoothly. The horror and slasher elements were then influenced by a number of films including the forest sequence from the opening of the 2013 remake of The Evil Dead, obvious comparisons with Halloween (1978) or A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and then by the last act and the advance into the booby-trapped forest, we’re into Predator territory.

This is the third film you have written in collaboration with your father, do you find it easy to work together?

We drive each other mad and argue like cat and dog. But behind that we’re very close and probably work well together because we can be more critical and blunt with each other than I could with any other potential collaborator. The way we generally work is that one of us will originate an idea and a first draft of a script and then the other will criticise it and be told to do it themselves if they can do better. Then, after several heated meetings and lots of throwing a screenplay back and forth on email to edit (including taking out all the silly jokes and puns we both put in to try to amuse the other), we’re normally in a position to share it with other people.

You have assembled an experienced cast which includes John Rhys-Davies, what was he like to work with?

We were filming in freezing cold conditions and for the most part in a forest that was in the middle of nowhere and could only be accessed by tracked vehicles. In those conditions morale is crucial and to have had a Hollywood diva on set would have been disastrous. In fact, it was John that kept everybody happy with his stories and enthusiasm. He’s a great raconteur and has worked with everybody in Hollywood. His anecdotes between takes, energy and encouragement were a major factor in keeping our unit happy. And then his performance is outstanding, and his work ethic is incredible. As a first-time director, I learnt a lot from his approach and his way of working, which of course has been honed working with directors like Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. He’s already started winning best actor awards for his performance in Aux and I feel genuinely privileged to have had the opportunity to work with him. Let’s not leave out the rest of the cast though! I was very fortunate to assemble the actors we cast in Aux and I think I can honestly say there are no weak links in the performances at all. Rosie Fellner and Tristam Summers are fantastic as the investigating officers and Paul Reynolds as the antagonist in their environment makes you dislike him from the moment we meet him in the forest. Some fabulous and highly experienced supporting actors too in Tanya Franks, Gary Mavers, Jack Derges, Theo Devaney and many others too numerous to mention mean there is a depth to the talent that goes right through the ensemble. Special thanks also to Glenn Salvage for a great physical performance and to Sky News for lending us their presenter Anna Botting to make our news reports in the film feel like the real world.

What was your favourite scene in the movie?

I have a few favourite moments in the film, but I guess overall the last act was the section I most enjoyed filming with soldiers patrolling through the woods and some pretty elaborate booby traps. There is one character in particular who gets a well-deserved comeuppance in this sequence, but I don’t want to give away too many spoilers! I think the reason this was the most fun to shoot and to watch is the collaborative nature of how we were working with the stunt co-ordinator Peter Pedrero, SFX supervisor Matt Strange and production designer Paul Burns all combining with me to really do justice to all the deaths and traps within the tight constraints we were working to. It would also be remiss of me if I didn’t say that one of my favourite scenes is the family picnic that gets interrupted by the police because the three kids playing football are actually my three boys Zach, Leo and Jake!

Do you have any other projects which you are working on at the moment?

Most of my time these days is spent on the business side of the industry running Evolutionary Films with my partners Diane Shorthouse (who of course produced Aux), Ross Boyask, Alistair Audsley and my dad Pete. For the last three years we’ve been running an international sales agency which now has over 20 titles under licence, and in 2017 we launched our UK distribution arm and have released four films so far including two theatrical releases through Showcase Cinemas. On the production side, the next fully in-house feature we have coming down the pipeline is Vengeance (starring ex-WWE superstar Stu Bennett, action legend Gary Daniels and Keith Allen) which Ross directed and Diane and I produced. Vengeance will be released in the first half of 2018 and has already picked up a number of awards including Best Film at HBO’s Urban Action Showcase and Expo in New York. We also then have a slate of projects in development at Evolutionary Films including several features and a TV series that has been picked up on a development commission by a major broadcaster.

What advice would you give to someone looking to direct their first film?

I’m not sure if I’m the best person to ask this question! I’ve been working in the industry for nearly 20 years and I’ve only just directed for the first time. I guess the best advice is to study hard, learn your craft, work on film sets as often as possible, network like mad to try meet the right people who could give you an opportunity (but don’t drive them crazy by constantly calling too much!) and keep the passion and enthusiasm burning. The film industry is a very competitive and difficult place to get noticed so perseverance, drive and a positive attitude are key to success.

Aux will be playing at the Horror-on-Sea Festival on Sunday 28th January at 7:30pm. Check out more of our coverage of the film right here.
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For 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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