18th Apr2018

Interview: Director Richard Rowntree talks ‘Nefarious’

by Philip Rogers

In 2016, Ash Mountain Films launched an ambitious crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to finance a feature length adaptation of their award winning short film Dogged – a modern folk horror film. Flash forward to 2018, and the film is not only completed on budget and schedule, but has been picked up for international distribution by Left Films, and will be released on DVD and VOD in July this year.

Following the success of their first feature film, director Richard Rowntree and production company Ash Mountain Films have decided to harness the popularity of their style of high concept, low budget indie filmmaking by launching their next ambitious project Nefarious, a home invasion horror/thriller with a twist.

In this interview I chat to director Richard Rowntree about Dogged and, more importantly, about Nefarious and its Kickstarter campaign…

richard-rowntree

You had critical success last year with the Folk Horror film Dogged. Were you surprised at how well the film was received?

In all honesty yes, remarkably surprised!  When we set out to make the film, we were adamant that we would only want to make the kind of film that we, as filmmakers, would want to watch ourselves.  We poured so much passion and energy into the project (not to mention time and money!), that we hoped that would come through on screen – and luckily, I think it did, which struck a chord with audiences.  Folk horror as a sub-genre is relatively niche – but there is a huge audience out there who are into it, even if they don’t like what you’d consider to be more mainstream horror. Something, I think, in the subconscious taps into these primeval fears we all share, and thankfully I think we managed to hit those fears with audiences.

And the film will be available to buy later this year on DVD and VOD?

Yes, Left Films are releasing the film this summer on DVD and VOD in the UK, Eire and North America – which is something we hadn’t anticipated before making it!  It’s an indie filmmakers dream to have their work released in this kind of way by specialists such as Left Films – and we hope that we can now reach a wider audience than just die-hard fans and festival goers.

You are looking follow up Dogged with a home invasion thriller Nefarious, which you currently have a Kickstarter campaign active for. Can you tell us what the film is about?

Nefarious is a home invasion horror/thriller with a bit of a twist – on the surface, it’s about how people need to feel safe in their homes, how the class divide causes people to commit criminal acts and how that gets flipped on its head when homeowners decide to fight back to protect themselves and their property.  The film has serious undercurrents that we feel are of specific interest & relevance in the modern day and age too – the social divide gap, how people sexually manipulate each other and how mental health and disabilities affect our perceptions of people (particularly in horror movies). “Nefarious” means “extremely wicked or villainous” and that applies to both the protagonists and the antagonist of the film.  We honestly believe that the real monsters in this world are people with twisted ideals and belief systems – so we’re focusing on that again with Nefarious, just as we did with Dogged – and again, it’s a film that we believe we would want to watch ourselves as horror fans.

The theme of Nefarious is completely different to your previous film. What were the inspirations behind creating a home invasion film?

After we’d made Dogged, we were discussing what we had learned from the process, what we’d do differently if we had the chance to make another film, what truly scared us and so on.  One of the things we all agreed on was that we had been naively ambitious with Dogged in relation to the budgetary constraints we had – in terms of the number of main acting roles, the sheer number and distance between locations and so on.  So, we thought about putting together a script that was largely based in a single location and with a small number of characters. We’re fans of the home invasion sub-genre too, and so it made sense to formulate something in that space. We batted some ideas around about what the film would mean on a deeper level than just aesthetics and came up with the story for Nefarious.  Matt (Davies, co-writer) and I then went through several drafts of the script and worked with our fabulous script editor Sirah (Haq) to refine it and condense it into a punchy, socially relevant final draft. We’re very happy with the script, and we’re excited to be able to get the chance to make it with the help of the Horror and Kickstarter communities.

With so many horror films coming out at the moment, what makes Nefarious stand out as something different in the genre?

Without meaning to sound full of ourselves, I think that the level of production values we put into our films, and the quality of the script will stand out against the current crop of films being made at around the same budget level as ours.  And I don’t mean that to sound disrespectful to any other filmmakers – it’s just that everyone has their own ideals. We like to make our films stand out as we believe filmmaking is an art form – so we make them cinematic in look and feel, and because we’re perhaps slightly older than a lot of filmmakers working at our level, and because we make these films as passion projects, I hope that shows up in the finished project, as well as in the themes and script we’re using.

Nefarious will be the second feature from Ash Mountain films who brought us Dogged. Will you be looking to work again with the same crew that made Dogged?

On the whole yes – it was such a wonderful experience making Dogged with this team of people, and every one of them put so much time and effort into their roles that it would be remiss of us not to do so.  I work in the film industry as a paid job, and what really strikes me is the difference between people who genuinely have a passion for the job and those who do it for the wrong reasons (to be rich, famous, to gain kudos etc.) – the crew (and cast) on Dogged were, without exception, amazing – and we have developed a great understanding between us as a team – and that can only help when you’re all pushing towards such an ambitious final product.

The title once again plays an important part in describing the film. The adjective for Nefarious being something extremely wicked or villainous. What is the process for creating a title for the film?

Haha, we’ve discussed how our film titles often need a bit of explanation, so maybe when Nefarious and our final feature with an obscure title are done, we could release a “dictionary trilogy”!  In all honesty though, with both Nefarious and Dogged, we wanted a title that was going to make audiences think a little bit – both as an immediate reaction when they see it on the poster, and as an afterthought; about who in the film the title actually refers to.  We could do a film with an on-the-money horror-centric title, but I don’t think it’s probably our style!

How much are you looking to raise for the Kickstarter and what is the deadline to contribute?

Our total budget is £20,000 – a little more than we raised for Dogged – and that’s largely down to us needing to build two very important sets for the film where about 70% of the action takes place.  As one reviewer mentioned about Dogged, it seems an enormous amount of money to some people, but to make a feature film, it’s peanuts! Almost half the budget is used on catering and travel expenses – which, when the cast & crew are all working for free, is absolutely essential.  But we’re very frugal with the money as we know how hard people have had to work to earn the money that they pledge – so we don’t waste a penny of it. The campaign closes on 18th May, and we’re a little over halfway funded so far, so we would love it if people could check out the campaign, and if they engage with it, then they can get some pretty cool rewards, including an early bird digital download of the film for just £15 (about $20).

Where can people go to find out more about the Kickstarter campaign and the rewards for backing the film?

There’s all sorts of rewards available, including some money-can’t –buy experiences like being an extra in the film, visiting the set, spending a day shadowing the hair/makeup/prosthetics department and the chance to be a producer on the film.  Also, for people who like more tangible products in their hands, there’s DVD’s of both of our films, T Shirts, mugs and posters for example. The Kickstarter page also has a very sincere video from the four of us producers about the film, about why we want to make it so much and about other ways people can help if they’re short on funds right now.  The link to the campaign is below, and every single pledge, from £1/$1 upwards is enormously appreciated. We only make films because we love doing it, and we love seeing people enjoy them! We’re also very transparent throughout the entire process, so if people want to, they can ask us any questions along the way!
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You can find details of the Nefarious Kickstarter campaign by following the link below:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1718939790/nefarious-a-home-invasion-horror-thriller-feature

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