19th Feb2018

Interview: Sean Breathnach talks ‘Beyond the Woods’

by Philip Rogers

With the release of Beyond the Woods on DVD and VOD in both the UK and America on 19th February, I got a chance to ask writer and director Sean Breathnach a few questions about why he chose this as his first feature film, what were his influences and what makes Beyond the Woods stand out in the horror genre.


How did you first get into filmmaking?

At the start it was through writing scripts. I’d been writing stories since I was a child. I started writing scripts after that – very badly formatted scripts! But one of the scripts got some attention from a production company in London. They took an option on it. It never got made, but it gave me the confidence to keep writing. Eventually I started shooting short scripts myself after I ran out of patience waiting for funding. I got bitten by the bug and just kept making short films and music videos and writing loads and loads of scripts.

Having directed several short films previously, why did you decide to write and direct Beyond the Woods Interview as your first feature?

Budget is the number one reason. It was actually the 8th feature film I’d written, but I wrote it so that I could film it on very little money with talented cast and crew that I had worked with before and who I knew could do a great job on it. I knew it would have to be good, and it would have to make an impact with little money. So, the pressure was on – it’s hard to write that type of script. Once I married the idea of the house, the woods and the sinkhole I knew we had something unique.

What can we expect from Beyond the Woods?

Tension, atmosphere and horror! Along with characters who are well developed and who an audience will care about (I hope :) )

What were your influences with the look and style of the film?
The sci-fi film Coherence (2013) was a big influence in terms of the look and style. I was very impressed with what they achieved with a very good cast and minimal locations. They were very clever with their lighting too – night shoots can be very expensive (Paraic English and Kieran Fitzgerald did a stunning job here, given the budget). I’m a big fan also of John Carpenter and of David Lynch – their influence can be seen throughout the film. I love films with a sense of creeping dread – a slow build-up of tension – Jeff Nichols is particularly skilled at this, so he’d be an influence too. And of course, George Romero and Tobe Hooper- they’re always an influence on horror directors, especially those working on a low budget.

Where the concept for the Monster/Demon come from?

There was always going to be a creature – I didn’t want this film to be one of those “It was all a dream” films. The concept really took shape when I was sharing ice-cream sundaes with Arlene Keating (SFX makeup) and we were going into detail about the creature, where it came from and how it would manifest itself. Those were long and entertaining conversations – very creatively satisfying – though I am sure people sitting around us thought we were lunatics. Lisa Zagone (costume) put the final touches on it with the wonderful earthy costume. We wanted it to look unique. This was a creature that had crawled up from the earth, but also one that had come from hell. It had to look terrifying. Alan Riordan did a great job bringing it to life.

Are there any elements in the finished film which were different to how you envisioned them when you wrote the original script?

Yes. In the original script you saw the sinkhole. But with the budget we had there was no way to make it look good enough. So, I wrote around that and in the end, I think it works out better for it – sometimes what we imagine is scarier than what we see.

What was your favourite scene to film in the movie?

That’s a good question. The whole experience of filming this movie was incredibly positive. We all stayed in the area when we were filming which meant there was great camaraderie – this was by design of course – to help the camaraderie come across on screen. I often think of those 12 days in the woods like a retreat – but a hard working 16-hour day retreat, not a relaxing massage retreat! We all have very fond memories of it. It’s always a pleasure watching a talented cast bring a script to life. I don’t know if I can single out a particular scene – but there was something special on the two days where we had the creature wandering around the place!

What makes Beyond the Woods stand out as something different in the horror genre?

There are a few things that single it out. The sinkhole – I’m not sure that’s been done before. The age of the characters and the focus on who they are and what they’re about. The creature. The story too – it’s not your typical ‘cabin in the woods’ film.

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

Yes, I am working on two new horror films. One is about a creature that is living in an old house. The second is about a mysterious UFO-style cult. Both are feature films.

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

Make sure you have a good script. Be prepared for all the hard work – you’ll have to be first on set every morning and last to leave every night. When everyone else is done you’ll be working on this film for a long time to come -so be sure it’s a film that you passionately want to make because it will be a part of your life for a long time. And surround yourself with talented people – you can’t do it alone.

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