14th Feb2018

Horror-On-Sea 2018 Interview: Darren Kent and Lee Urquhart

by Philip Rogers

With film makers Darren Kent and Lee Urquhart attending to support the Horror-on-Sea film festival, I took some time to ask them about their upcoming project, filmmaking and the Syfy TV show Blood Drive.

Photo courtesy of J.Douglas Imagery

Photo courtesy of J.Douglas Imagery

You are both here today to support Horror-on Sea and although you haven’t got your own film here today, you have your own film coming in the festival in May. What is the new film you have coming out?

Darren – We are making a movie called Dead Man’s Chest. It’s a true story about a guy who one day just wakes up and is sick of life, he decides to kill his mum, kill his sister and goes on a killing spree outside of his place before going on the run. He ends up in this isolated derelict building hiding out, but then he gets surrounded by police. He’s basically telling the audience the story as he is going along in quite a twisted psychotic sort of manner. There are a lot of monologues, a bit like John McClane, Bruce Willis in Die Hard (1988). There is a lot of talking to himself and then obviously its about the decisions he can do to get out of that situation. There’s only a few options obviously, give up everything, go out all guns blazing or kill himself. He does make one of those decisions obviously, I’m not going to spoil it just in case you are back in May. Me and Lee are casting at the moment, Lee is assisting the direction and possibly even starring as well, we are still toying with which actors are performing and stuff. But we start filming, even though haven’t cast it yet in four weeks. It’s literally it’s a three day shoot a couple of weeks to edit, get it ready and put a soundtrack on it, so we will be ready for May I hope.

It’s a quick turnaround then…

Darren – It’s very intense on the script. I’ll be honest normally I think OK it’s just a little action film, but because its based on true events its more alarming and a bit more edgy. It’s very relatable, but at the same time there is something about this psychotic character. He is actually quite funny. I hate to compare him but Fred West, who is infamous for being the killer that he was, but if you ever watch the Appropriate Adult (2011 -), which is the Dominic West version of Fred West he was incredibly funny. There was something really funny and relatable and you think I could probably have a beer with you in the pub and get along with ya. I know that makes me sound really twisted, but there is something about that which I find really find quite scary about that, but at the same time relatable. There is something about them sort of movies that really grab me and make me want to know more. This guy is a very harrowing sort of guy, he’s very twisted and scary to meet, but at the same time he’s got a funny streak, he makes you feel quite relaxed and feel like his friend. Even though you don’t want that, you kind of like him, and that’s what’s drawn us both to this project.

And who wrote the script for this one?

Darren – It’s a guy who has died now, he wrote and did a stage show of it. His name is Arthur John Jameson, he wrote a lot of shows and a lot of adaptation and won a lot of awards for his work. We thought now would be a good time to grab a true story, do a lot of research and honour the work. Its gonna be a crazy one, its normally a stage show, so for us to adapt it to film is gonna be tricky. Talking to the camera as well that is going to be a tricky to find the right lead actor that can really do that justice.

Lee, you will be co-directing this one…

Lee – Yes, this is my first go at it, so I am going to let Darren show me how it’s done and try to learn as much as possible in the process. To be honest its going to be a great experience either way

Darren – He’s being very modest. When I do video auditions Lee is my first call. He will be acting opposite me while I am making my video auditions. He is under playing it, but he has got experience directing. I’ll be overlooking things, but I’m hoping to watch how creatively what Lee can bring to the table which I would not have initially seen.

Lee – This is why we work so well together because he lets me make decisions here and there that I would have thought myself are no go zones. It’s is nice because you do get fresh ideas like that. There are odd bits here and there.

What is it going to be called?

Darren – The original title is Dead Mans Chest but that sounds like a pirate movie Johnny Depp. We are playing with ideas Dead Man Talking is the current running title.

Lee – We were talking about it earlier today about how films have to have that name that doesn’t give too much away, but doesn’t lead you down the completely wrong path. There is a bit of thinking to do about it.

Darren – The artwork and the title is what makes a film. When you look on Netflix you look at the DVD cover and then the synopsis, or if its Jean Claude Van Damme with his leg in the air and you like those sort of movies you would probably go and watch it. If there ain’t a name, it’s going to be about the artwork or the title. I like to use my brain and think, but at the same time I like to know exactly what I am going to see. If the artwork isn’t doing it then that title has to be amazing.

Lee – Everyone say’s ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ but that is exactly what everyone does, so you’ve got to make it stand out and look good.

Are you both looking to act and direct?

Darren – It’s difficult because the lead in this one is very psychotic, so I don’t think I would fit the role, but Lee maybe.

Lee – It’s the thing I get cast in anyway, it works for me at the end of the day, but I would hate to put myself in that position and not be as strong in the directional side of things. Not be as pleased as I would have been had I not put that extra pressure on myself. I am sure Darren’s been in that position before where you had put yourself in some horrendous situations, but still managed to pull it off. But I don’t think I have got that experience to do that I think.

Darren – If your assisting you can normally play a part in it. I wrote and directed my first feature five or six years ago and I starred as the lead, amongst the other leads. I wrote, directed, co-produced. I have never wanted to pull my hair out so hard it was so stressful. My acting although passable, some scenes were amazing, some weak. I know I could have been so much better in some of the scenes, but because I was worried, is the makeup there, is everyone ready, doing their thing, directing them. I needed someone to almost direct me then, it’s difficult. The best wasn’t brought out in me and if I was to do it all again I wouldn’t do both. Never be the lead and director.

It’s harder when it’s your baby, I made a short film last year called Meadow Lane (2016) which was shown here last year. I chose to take a step back and just direct, because I wrote it as well. I felt although I could play a traveller, because its about a traveller eviction, I auditioned, and they were just stronger than me. I could have got snobbish about it and said, “I am playing this role”, but I had to think who is the best person for the movie and who is going to sell the movie overall when you get the final product. Otherwise I would be the lead in every movie I make.

You never know Lee might be the face on the poster and be the lead next, but we won’t know until a couple of weeks when we sit in the studio and go through hundreds of auditions. 90% of which are going to be really poor, but there are a few magic ones. It’s like the X Factor you go through so much rubbish and then one or two X Factor sparkly ones come out and that it the process that people don’t see.

Lee – This is something I am going to experience this time around. I am looking forward to it because I have been on the other side sending mine in and not being able to wait for that response, but you don’t know there are three or four hundred videos

I would like to talk to you about your TV as you have been in Blood Drive recently, how did you become involved?

Darren – I have an agency that will send me on auditions, sometimes you get video auditions, sometimes you get sent in persons on the day. In my case I had to a video audition because it was NBCUniversal which was in L.A. at the time, so my work had to be sent to them. I just did pretty well in the audition. I just looked at the character and thought he’s very insecure, socially messed up, a bit of psychopath but he’s also a genius race mechanic. To be honest knowing the fact he was socially messed up allows me to play a very insecure character, give him a bit of a stutter, although they took most of the stutter out of the series. I originally brought the stutter because there were a few words which I was worried about doing in an American accent, so the only way I thought I could get this job and not show that I sound cockney on some of the words was to give him a stutter, and it was the stutter that got me the job. Then they took the stutter out of the show, but I got the job anyway, so I wasn’t that bothered. There is an element of luck as well as performing on the day, but with video auditions you get to do take after take and you only submit it when your happy. That is the bonus with video auditions.

Lee – That is why I chose film over stage, for me there’s just so much more you can put into it, where as on stage its got to be bang right now.

Darren – Some people cast you based on personality as well as talent. When you do a video audition you don’t get to meet anyone, you do your profiles, say your name and age then go into your performance. Where as when you get to go there and meet them in person it’s a completely different kettle of fish because you get to show them personality. Show how excited you are about their baby and that in turn can almost win you the role. Its cheeky but it’s a way forward. I used to, if I couldn’t get an audition send them an email with an image of a shoe. Then I would let them look at this image for a while and then 10, 15 minutes later I would send them another email and just say “Excuse the last message I just wanted to try and get my foot in the door”. Something like that would piss them off, but they will remember. They say this cheeky actor sent me this, but they are talking about me, mentioning my name and some will even find it cheeky but they will phone you up. I am a man full of blagging and tactics and I will try everything and anything. It’s about being cheeky and about who you know in this industry and networking very well. You know the ones sitting at home relying on an agent are not gonna get anywhere, it’s about passion and how much you love the job.

One more question what advice would you give someone who wants to get in to acting?

Darren – Don’t do it!

Lee – Make sure you have thick skin. If you can take a lot of criticism, knockbacks, rejections and not let it drag you back too much. Don’t get me wrong we are all human, it hurts sometimes when you put a lot of effort into something which you think you’ve done alright at and had a slight chance, but you are then one of the first ones to get cut. You need to have that think skin to turn around and say I am going to wake up tomorrow and do it all again.

Darren – A lot of actors assume they get in to a good drama school and get an agent, suddenly they think they are going to be the next Brad Pit. It makes no difference, you can be in 50 movies that never get distributed or be in one movie which is the next Robin Hood with Ridley Scott. It depends on the project and everything but one thing for every actor is don’t give up. You don’t necessarily need training, but you need to network well, be very friendly, engaging and if you look different even better. Hence there aren’t many sexy guys like me working out. For me it’s just never give up, get used to rejection and at the same time learn something from every audition. If you come out thinking I should have done that, that is how you should be thinking after every audition.

Lee – Even if you get the job there are still times when I look back and think I could have blown everyone out of the water. If they think I am good at this point, but I think I could have done this or done that. You live, and you learn with each audition.

Darren – I think it’s experience as well. In the beginning you make decisions which you think may not be the right ones. They might get you the job, but when you look back at the overall film in the cinema, there are scenes that really irritate me. I don’t like myself in certain scenes, but then I think I smashed that. So, just never give up, try and network and be amongst as many creative people as you can. Find out when there are networking nights, find out where you can get auditions, make sure you don’t pay to audition for anything and just learn about the business. Mix with actors who are already in the business, doing what you want to do one day yourself.

Lee – Going back to that point anyone who starts off do not pay for anything. You are worth something and make sure know it.

Darren – You learn from your mistakes I am learning, we are all learning, you are never at your peak.

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