16th Feb2018

Horror-On-Sea 2018 Interview: Nina Romain and Roman Wood on ‘Fright Corner’

by Philip Rogers

Following the showing of Fright Corner at Horror-on-Sea I got a chance to talk with writer and producer Nina Romain and actor Roman Wood about the stories which inspired the horror short, filming in the most haunted village in England, and dealing with three unexpected visitors on set in the graveyard at 3am.

Fright-Corner

You had you short film Fright Corner premiere yesterday at Horror-on-Sea, where did the idea for the film come from?

Nina – It sounds pretty crazy, but it is one of those ideas that you can’t believe someone hasn’t had before. This is the most haunted village in England, someone has to make a movie about it. I went there for a summer day trip and thought I would love to make a film here, but I bet it’s been done it before. I went home, IMDB’d it and so far, no one has. I thought this can’t be happening. So, I basically did what I did for my first film which was rent enough equipment, get some good actors like Roman here and said right, anyone that can make it here three weeks from now, let’s all go to the most haunted village in England and made a film.

You used a lot of folklore in the film itself can you give me a few examples of where it comes from.

Nina – Because it is the most haunted village in England, there are 12 separate legends and even though they may or may not have existed in the 1800s or whether they were invented slightly later than that, no one knows. But I thought with 12 ghosts you could do at least a couple of features with that, let alone one short. We used the Red Lady Ghost in the graveyard, the highway man who is stabbed to death at Fright Corner, which is where the title comes from, and the old lady who sets fire to herself and dies. There was a lot to choose from.

Whilst you were filming in the area did you experience any abnormalities on the set?

Roman – The only thing we experienced which we thought was a bit abnormal was three drunk gentlemen, turning up at 3am, with cans in their hands, while we were in the graveyard.

Nina – They were asking: what are you doing, we were like, we are making a short horror film, what’s your excuse? They were saying, we are just looking around seeing what everyone else is doing. We were wondering why are you here? Are you looking for your lost dog?

Roman – I was thinking I could do with that beer, it’s been a long night.

Nina – I have to say though there was a slightly creepy air to it. There was this one time when everyone had finished shooting, we had all gone to The Black Horse, supposedly the most haunted pub in Kent for a hot drink before we all went home. I said I will just go back to the graveyard and do one final sweep through to make sure we haven’t left any equipment from the shoot or any litter, not that we ever would. I was completely on my own pitch-black darkness. It was a very kind of cold creepy feeling. You’re on your own, surrounded by nothing but graves and just thought…. I just did not want to be there on my own. I had written the script and I was still creeped out.

Roman – Pluckey is a beautiful village, but very creepy: there’s just one shop, one pub, a few houses; it’s the essence of a real village. And a graveyard, so this is the entertainment here.

You only used a few of the stories from the local village, will you be looking to use the stories again for a follow on?

Nina – I would love to. It is one of those places where it is an embarrassment of riches, the people are lovely and really friendly. The old lady who we filmed outside the Black Horse talking about the village was not an actor, she is a genuine resident. We turned up for a pre-recce drink and the barmaid said that’s one of our regulars, she has lived here all her life and she could tell you some stories. I thought that’s amazing, so I said, do you mind if I film you telling me? And that’s why she seemed so natural. You hear her right at the end of the short saying: how the woods are called the screaming woods for a reason, but I don’t know because I won’t go there, and I have lived there all my life. She said her dogs wouldn’t go in the graveyard and I thought that was creepy.

Was it all true then what she was saying about the dogs?

Nina – It was all true, she wasn’t reading from a script.

Roman – We were chatting to the locals when we were filming the scene in the pub and they were curious about what we were doing. We said we are basically telling a story about the ghosts here and they started telling us about their stories. There is was a story about a headless woman with a child…

Nina – There was a headless horseman and there’s a Red Lady Ghost who is looking for the ghost of her stillborn child.

Roman – That’s the one, I should know this I am in the film (Laughs). I am embarrassed.

Nina – They are similar. She is looking in the graveyard and she’s looking for the grave of her stillborn child, but they didn’t bother to dig a grave because the baby was stillborn. It’s incredibly sad and that’s why I thought it should turn up in my short, because it is a really sad and genuine piece of folklore. Not the type of legend where somebody does something evil and dies horribly, but her child just dies, and she can never get over it. Now they receive counselling and all sorts, but back then with 50% mortality rates half of the kids would die by their fifth birthday, so it was very sad.

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

Nina – Yes. I don’t know how much I should go into it. I am shooting something in South London. A horror kind of inspired by the Halloween Returns reboot which is coming out October 19th. I happened to be in LA the year before last for the screening of my first short U Never Listen. One of the organisers said, I will take you to Pasadena where there is the Michael Myers house, the house that’s seen in the movie. I thought there’s got to be a story here. We will see what happens here.

Roman – I’ve got a few short films coming out. One of my most recent films in post-production is Friendship Experience and that was about a girl who goes online to find a friend to have dinner with. So, it’s not the usual way of doing social media, it’s a website specifically for paying for friends and it all goes a bit wrong. A bit like Fright Corner, I don’t play a very nice character. I keep getting type cast as the bad guy. I wonder why?

Nina – In real life he is so nice, he is so cool.

Roman – I am a nice guy in real life!

They do say the people who play the mean characters on screen are often really nice in real life.

Roman – Because it is so much opposite to what I am it is really exciting to explore that other avenue in life that you don’t get to do in real life.

Nina – It’s fun though to play the total opposite of who you are in real life. In Fright Corner it’s an ensemble piece where all four characters are abrasive, they get at each other, argue and squabble. It’s not going well until this script suddenly comes to life and almost attacks them and they are the ones who have written it. Even before that you know it’s not going to end well for them because they are such unpleasant people. They have written a script which basically invites the spirits in the village to attack them.

Roman – But that’s horror – anything can happen.

Nina – It was such good fun to shoot, even if I’d never done a night shoot before and there is nowhere we can charge the batteries.  You’re always thinking: What happens if it rains? Which it did.

Roman – We had to postpone production.

Nina – We basically ran for shelter and waited for it to pass!

Roman – I don’t like night shoots, especially in graveyards.

Nina – Everyone said it’s easy to act scared at five in the morning, in the middle of a deserted graveyard in the middle of nowhere.

Roman – Shooting ran from 7pm until 5am and you get to sleep about 6-6:30am. I am not used to that. I am normally in bed by 10:30 most nights, it was really difficult for me, but we got through it in the end.

Nina – Originally there was a longer version in which there was some scenes shot in the daylight, but most horror movies work better at night. It’s just scarier.

Did you have any other horror films playing at the festival?

Nina – No. Last year I had a horror micro short U Never Listen, which only four minutes. It also had the wonderful Billy Chainsaw, the Brighton horror icon, who also appears as the creepy Black Horse landlord in Fright Corner. Lovely guy, he’s amazing.

Roman – He is very knowledgeable. I went through five independent titles that I was watching as research for a role which I was auditioning for. He was like yeah, I know all of them and was just chatting about all of the films. He is a Wikipedia of horror.

Nina – In U Never Listen he was the crazed horror fan who was obsessed with Leatherface, so he starts to live out his fantasy. It was great to have him in both films. Another Fright Corner actor who we really like working with is Rob Callender who plays the Hammer Horror director and is of course in Game of Thrones

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into filmmaking?

Nina – What advice would I give? Don’t put it off as long as I did. Go ahead and make a film, everyone has an iPhone these days, work with whatever you’ve got. Is there a site or place which you like yourself which can almost be a character in the film itself like Pluckley is a character in Fright Corner.

Roman – There was a young boy who’s 13 years old, who made his first film last week and we saw it. I was like this kid is 13 and he made his first movie, what is everyone else’s excuse? Grab a camera or smartphone, mine is brilliant for filming. I can easily go out, grab an actor friend and start filming them walking along, record him or her in the lounge. It has a very good sound attached to it as well, so you don’t need anything else. Just make little films and edit it, it’s not that hard. See where it takes you, keep showing people, get it online, and someone might be interested.

From an actor’s perspective I would say go online on social media use all the actor Facebook pages like Actors UK, because that‘s how you get seen. Get your headshots done. If you can’t afford drama school then start as an extra and I worked my way up by watching what I could on film set, learning what the directors were doing, what the other actors were doing, I watched everyone. That in itself is a wealth of knowledge, although you are not having to pay for that it is still very important knowledge. When you move onto a film you know how to behave, you know what to do. It helped me a lot because I never went to drama school.

Nina – I also worked as an extra and you kind of work your way up and you get to see how it works in real life rather than how you might imagine it to work. To add to what Roman is saying, to make a horror film I would think of what scares you, not just killer clowns, zombies or werewolves, but something that scares you on an everyday basis. Find the perfect location where the script almost writes itself, like Pluckley. If there is a thing that terrifies you just play with the idea, write it up and see where it takes you. Ask yourself: What’s the worst thing that can happen in quite a mundane place?

You’ve also got social media where people are making one-minute movies, 60 second horror films, normal films, any kind of film. That’s a really good way of making a film.

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