11th Jan2018

Horror-On-Sea 2018 Interview: Audrey Cummings talks ‘Darken’

by Philip Rogers

Darken is new Sci-Fi thriller from director Audrey Cummings, which has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival on Friday 19th January. I got chance to ask Audrey a few questions about what we can expect from Darken, expanding on the universe and the inspirations for the look and style of the film.

Audrey-at-camera-headhsot

What can we expect from the film?

An action packed sci-fi thriller full of twists and turns with strong female characters that kick ass. This film is also a part of a bigger project. We are releasing Darken the digital series this winter, which is the prologue to the feature and reveals more about this world and how it came to be.  That will be followed by a VR experience where you can step inside the world of Darken and experience it for yourself.

Why did you choose Darken as your second feature film?

The film brings you to another time and place. It’s a parallel world created by Mother Darken back in the dark ages, with people that were brought in from all kinds of different eras. I felt immediately drawn to that world and its characters when I read the script – and artistically I felt like there was a lot I could bring to the table. There is a contradiction of beautiful imagery within a world of decay that I felt could create a really striking visual style.

As a combination both sci fi and horror Darken has an apocalyptic future feel. What were your inspirations for the films look and style?

The film feels contemporary and modern, but I also took visual cues from old classics to make a blend of old and new sensibilities. Inspirations were films such as Logan’s Run (1976), Alien (1979), Blade Runner (1982), Dark City (1998) and Silent Hill (2006). Other inspirations were pretty much anything created by Joss Whedon who has changed the landscape for female protagonists by creating interesting and multidimensional female characters within sci-fi/fantasy worlds.

Darken, like your previous film Berkshire County (aka Tormented) has strong female characters. Do you feel it important to portray strong women in your films?

Absolutely. I’m female so I naturally connect to those types of characters. Genre films have a huge female fan base that is looking for strong and clearly defined characters they can identify with and root for. They love action, energy, compelling stories, and high-stakes but they also love well-developed characters that must grow, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes and emerge stronger for it in the end. Women we can identify with and aspire to be like.

As a female directing horror you had difficulty with backing for your first feature film Berkshire County, which you eventually self-funded. Following the success of Berkshire County was it easier to get funding for Darken?

Both films came about very differently. Berkshire County was the result of everyone saying no to me, so I pushed ahead regardless and made it on my line of credit. Darken was already financed when the production company approached me to direct. They had seen Berkshire County and liked it – so they contacted me, met with me and then brought me on board. The funding agencies backing the film may not have green lit me to direct had I not had Berkshire County and its success behind me. So, I would say that yes for sure it came about more easily than Berkshire did in terms of funding. It’s interesting though how the pressure changes from self-financing a film and having all your own money on the line – to then having other people’s money on the line and being responsible for that as well as not letting down those people who put their trust in you. It’s a different kind of pressure but I loved the experience and am looking forward to the next one.

Are there any elements in the finished film which were changed from the original script?

Well we had a very ambitious script with ensemble cast, fight sequences, kill sequences, VFX, green screen and lots of locations… and I only had 14 days to direct it. So, once we found the location we had to do lots of tweaks to the script to make it fit our schedule and the limitations we were up against. Then there were things that weren’t part of the script such as the girls coming down the freight elevator and the scene that follows with them hiding behind big machinery when the disciple comes into the room looking for them. The script originally had it as a large room full of mannequins, but we couldn’t make that happen because we just couldn’t get enough mannequins – so I had to create a plan B. Often times these plan B’s turn out amazingly well because you’re fighting so hard to get that scene.

What was one of your favourite scenes in the film?

Well that machine room scene I just spoke about is definitely one of my favourites. Them coming down the freight elevator, hiding from the guy and then making the decision to fight for their lives is pretty kick ass. Oh, there is also a death scene I adore (which I won’t give away) but it makes me cry every time I see it. On set it was absolute torture doing take after take because there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.  The actresses gave it their ALL on every single take and we all felt completely drained once we were done shooting it. It came together so nicely in the end and it’s probably my favourite scene of the movie.

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

I just finished shooting the Darken digital series (x11 episodes), which is now in postproduction and should be released in a matter of weeks. I am attached to direct a few more feature films – and I’m really excited about them. Yes, they are genre films and I can’t wait to get them made and out into the world. I’m also creating a 1-hour sci-fi drama television series.

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

Everyone said no to me with Berkshire County and it was my non-stop perseverance that got the film made. I refused to take no for an answer. I think the key to getting into making movies is to just make them. Get writing and get shooting and give yourself your own start because no one is going to give it to you. It’s a career you really have to make for yourself. You need to be willing to press your will upon everyone that says no, pushes back or stands in your way. Stay focused and finish the film. If that’s what you want to – then go do it.

Darken will be playing at the Horror-on-Sea Festival on Friday 19th January at 3pm.
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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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