15th Jan2018

Horror-On-Sea 2018 Interview: Chris Jupp discusses ‘Beast’

by Philip Rogers

Beast is new gothic thriller from writer and director Chris Jupp, which has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival for its World Premiere on Sunday 21st January. I got chance to ask Chris a few questions about why he chose to do a reworking of Skare (2007) for his first feature, the difficulties of shooting on a budget and some of the memorable moments from on set.

beast-poster

What can we expect from the film?

Entertainment! Although this was my first film, I knew exactly what I wanted from it. Humour, believable characters, real gore FX, a good story that keeps you guessing, but most of all a satisfying end to the story. There’s nothing I hate more than an enigmatic finale.  

Beast is a reworking of the Michael J. Murphy film Skare (2007). Why did you choose this as your first feature film?

Mike and I had become good friends since we met, and I’d appeared in a few of his films. Notably The Rite of Spring (1995) and Tristan (1999). But I enjoyed watching the process more than the acting and studied Mike in action until I thought I had all the elements of a filmmaker. How wrong I was. He’d recently lost the footage to Skare which was a huge blow and to him, so much so that he’d basically given up on filmmaking. The unmade script was going begging, so I asked if I could rewrite it and make it myself. From there it turned into a £10 bet that I wouldn’t complete it, which thankfully I eventually won. Initially he never liked my new story, and didn’t want a writing credit, preferring based on a short story by Michael J Murphy. Although many years later in a moment of weakness he confessed that he’d found it an enjoyable watch, which meant a huge amount at the time. 

It took 4 years to complete and with a budget of only £500. How difficult was the filming process for Beast?

Incredibly difficult. I was basically learning by my mistakes, I’d massively underestimated the time it takes, and looking back it was a ridiculous idea to attempt a full-length feature before I’d even filmed a short. I was learning lighting, how to use a camera (it was all filmed with a Canon xm2 on mini dv) editing and directing.  Plus, I was also playing one of the leads. I had a couple of mates Mick Aris and Antony Christie, who came onboard and were invaluable and another mate Stu Barnett made the props. But other than that, I performed all roles. From producer to runner. Including VFX stunts and catering. A lot of the additional actors were friends or family and even the experienced actors I had all worked for free, so budget was kept to a minimum although I was very lucky to know some great people with access to amazing locations and vehicles. 

Did you find it difficult both directing and acting in the film?

This wasn’t as hard as I’d thought, I had roped in my dad and available friends to act as camera operator which was great, but a lot of the time there was no-one available, so I worked with a static tripod. Sometimes shooting my scenes alone with the other actor’s costume draped on the corner of an easel to act as their shoulder and editing myself into what I’d already shot.

What were your inspirations for the look and style of the film?

I’m a big fan of British horrors and thrillers, and grew up watching tales of the unexpected. One of my favourite films of that genre is An American Werewolf in London (1981), I love humour mixed into something bloodthirsty and scary. The scene where the dead Griffin Dunne talks to his pal David Naughton via a Mickey Mouse toy whilst his dead rotting skin hangs from his face, is one of my all-time favourites. 

Are there any elements that you were forced to change from the original script during filming?

No, I can’t think of any. From the start I wanted one my friends Kate Faulkner to play the part of Alice. She had recently appeared in Emmerdale and was by far the most experienced of any of us. I’m sure she was constantly rolling her eyes at my continued incompetence.  Regarding the script, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted, and didn’t waiver on any of it, hence why it took four years to shoot. It’s worth noting that some of the scenes edited together were actually filmed years apart, where I had to return to locations for pickups I’d missed, through lack of time or experience or both. In fact some elements were even better than expected especially the prison scenes which were shot in Mark White’s (who plays Chief Inspector Braithwaite) chip shop. I needed a Mansion with a lake and swimming pool. A snooker hall, restaurant, quaint cottage and gym and Spanish bistro, but never expected to get a helicopter thrown in as well. We even found a burnt-out car on the way to shoot the tearaways scene, so obviously that was immediately written into the script. 

What was one of your favourite scenes in the film?

The lake shots were hilarious to film, Matt Johnston (Detective inspector Marsh) had a real fear of submerging his head underwater, which was exactly what I needed him to do whilst searching the lake. watching him and Mark White, plunge head first fully clothed to rescue a bikini clad Hellen Jolley was brilliant! Also, being taped to a chair by Kate and Helen, filming masking tape being ripped from my mouth was extremely memorable for all the wrong reasons, I’m not sure why they felt we needed multiple takes which left me with no skin left on my lips, but I’m sure they enjoyed they’re revenge after all the retakes, reshoots and demands I’d put on them. The out-takes from that day’s filming in the house with a roaring fire in the grate are some of our funniest. 


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

Yes, I’ve recently finished a short film, once more with Kate Faulkner ‘To Whoever Finds My Body’ which we’re planning to premier at the Odeon Port Solent on 10th Dec with all proceeds going to MIND a charity for mental health issues. 

And at the moment I’m working on a scarecrow horror, Original Sin, it’s starting as a short crowd funding vehicle which if it gets enough interest will hopefully grow into another feature. Most of it has been already shot and edited and I’m pleased to say that it’s already the best thing I’ve done to date. Also, my other feature the Red Nose Bastard is now available on my Fat Finger Films YouTube channel if anyone wants to take a look, as are the out-takes from Beast 

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

These are from my own inept experiences so excuse me if I’m teaching you to suck eggs, but planning is key! If you’re writing your own script, include as much information as to how you want each shot to look and be acted as possible. It’s so much easier when compiling a shot list when it’s all mapped out, plus never underestimate the importance of shooting a master shot for extra coverage. It’s so much more enjoyable when you’re editing with all the coverage you need, rather than having to plan pickups and reshoots, or worse cobble something together that wasn’t exactly as you envisioned it. Get the best actors you can and have rehearsals to make sure they know their lines and also what you’re expecting from their characters. And lastly write what’s achievable.
Don’t set your sights too high to begin with. I made a big mistake not listening and trying to run before I could walk, and it almost exhausted the filmmaker in me. If all you’ve got is a bicycle and a bedsit, then you’ve got a prop, potential stunt vehicle or stolen property and the main location, villains hideout or scene of the crime. Also remember there’s a lot of amazing stuff filmed with camera phones now and a lot of money made on YouTube.

Beast will be playing at the Horror-on-Sea Festival on Sunday 21st January at 10:00 am.
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You can find out more information on the event and purchase tickets from the Horror-on-Sea website https://www.horror-on-sea.com

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