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[Promotion & Interview] – Simon Pearce – ‘Judas Ghost’ – A Feature Film

 

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Posted March 26, 2015 by

 
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Synopsis:

The Carnacki Institute exists to Do Something about ghosts.

When reports of the supernatural from an old village hall point to an apparently standard haunting, an elite team of Ghost Finders is dispatched to assess the situation. The team of four includes a cameraman and former Ghost Finder from the Carnacki Institute, who is there to document events as a training tool for new recruits.

But things go from bad to worse when it becomes clear they are facing something far more sinister than they first anticipated. The hall harbours a dark secret, and the team must use every trick they know to try and get out of there alive.

Three men and one woman who think they’ve seen it all. That is, until they encounter the Judas Ghost…

JudasGhost1

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Interview With Director – Simon Pearce

1) To begin with, please tell us about your film ‘Judas Ghost’, we understand it is based on a set of best selling novels…

That’s correct – the film is based on the six part Ghost Finders book series, written by New York Times best-selling author Simon R. Green. They revolve around a fictional and covert government organisation called the Carnacki Institute, set up to help combat the dead, in whichever form they may appear!

This is actually the first film to be made from one of Green’s books, and whilst it’s not a direct adaptation of any one of the stories, it’s very much set in that same universe – featuring a new setting and group of characters, who also work for the Carnacki Institute. So there are certainly some nods to the series we hope fans will recognise, but it also works as a standalone movie.

Simon-Pearce-Director-Judas-Ghost

2) How did you get involved with the project?

I was introduced to Green a few years ago by a mutual friend of ours, who told me he was keen to make his own film. He’d had his books optioned a few times in the past but nothing had ever come of it, then after a few horror stories from friends of his who’d had bad experiences with adaptations, he decided making one himself was the best way to go.

When we actually met he had a different project in mind, a sci-fi script entitled “The Crooked Man”, about an alien probe that crash lands in remote countryside. I liked the idea and we continued to develop it, but ultimately we felt that to really do it justice we needed a bigger budget than what we could afford – and so we decided to do something else, a stepping stone piece we could use to raise finance for future films. Judas Ghost was that movie. In early conversations we referenced things like Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch Project, low budget films that had a small cast in just a few locations – and with that, in just a few weeks, Simon delivered a first draft of this script about four people in one room.

3) Have you worked on an adapted film before? How does this type of script differ?

It’s actually not a direct adaptation, whilst it’s firmly rooted in the mythology and universe of the books it is still its own story – so it is an original screenplay. That being said it was still connected and so we were still looking to capture a tone and style that the books had started, we wanted to stay true to that.

What was interesting there is that sometimes what works on the page doesn’t work on film, so you have to find new ways of accomplishing those beats visually, which can be a challenge, but also you have this very rich world already created which you can delve into for inspiration and ideas, so that is a big plus point. It’s not like you’re starting completely from scratch. We actually even added things later in the process as we went through the books because we would spot things that we liked and wanted to use.

It was of course a big help that the author of the books was the one adapting it!

4) What are your influences as a director & how did they effect the production and creation of ‘Judas Ghost’?

This is interesting because actually I wasn’t a big horror fan prior to this film coming along – that’s not to say I didn’t like them, I just didn’t really watch them, so influences I would cite are not obvious horror choices. I’m a big fan of film-makers like Paul Greengrass, Michael Mann, Christopher Nolan, Joe Carnahan, Tony Scott – people whose work is often very real and gritty, far from the fantasy world of the Ghost Finders stories. My first feature Shank, both in style and tone, is worlds apart from this one.

That being said, I relished the challenge to do something a bit different from what I might normally attempt – and as I began to watch more horror as research, I became really excited by the idea of creating that tension and suspense that you get from a good horror.

I would say my direct influences for this were classic horror film-makers such as John Carpenter and David Cronenburg, Peter Jackson with films like The Frighteners, and also more contemporary directors such as James Wan who I am a big fan of. Because the film is a return to ghost stories of old, albeit with a modern twist, I wanted to reflect that when we shot it by having a more traditional style of film-making, as opposed to the more contemporary fast-paced, off the shoulder camera-work I’d favoured previously. As always, the script and story kind of dictated how we wanted it to look and feel.

What might be interesting to note is that this was originally written as a found footage movie, but I felt that this kind of story just wasn’t right for that approach.

5) Have you ever worked with any of the cast before? Are you looking forward to working with the likes of Martin Delaney, Simon Merrells & Alexander Perkins…

This was my first time working with all of them, and it was a real joy. Not only are they all extremely professional and experienced, they were all genuinely nice people and a pleasure to work with – clichéd as that sounds. There was no ego, everyone was really working to make this film the best it could be, they all really bonded with one another and it was fun being around them every day on set.

Having come from a more technical background, this is probably the closest I’ve worked with a group of actors to date as well, because they are all on-screen for the entire running time, and we see all their reactions and interactions play out essentially in real time – it’s like a stage play in that respect. We had a weeks rehearsal prior to shooting and went over every page of the script in detail, each of them had their own ideas and brought something new to the table, which challenged me to up my game and really helped make the film what it was. I loved it.

6) How did the production of the film unfold? Where and for how long was the shooting schedule? What types of issues did you encounter?

The film was shot over 18 days, so three 6 day weeks, which is a tight schedule for a feature, but being in one space really helped as it meant we didn’t have to worry about a lot of the things that often plague a film shoot such as weather and light!

It was all shot on a soundstage in Portishead, near Bristol – and the village hall was built as a set, which was probably our biggest expense outside of the VFX. We did look at shooting on location in a real hall – but ultimately decided that wasn’t very practical. As you’ll see in the film we had to deal with things like moving doors, projectile blood (and vomit!), trapdoors – and a lot of things that would have been very tricky in a real building. This way we had total control of the space – and no one was there to complain if we made a mess!

There are some large VFX set-pieces in the film which were a challenge to shoot – I’d not worked with them on this scale before and it does slow your shooting time right down because you need to shoot each shot multiple times – with and without actors, green screen, take measurements and so on – so you drop from maybe three shots an hour to shooting say one in an hour and a half! So that was tough, but you just have to go through the shot list planned for that day and be as economic as you can whilst still telling the story. It was a good test for me as a director in that regard.

7) What is the next step for you? Do you have any other projects in production?

I’m currently developing my third feature film, which is an action thriller, a genre I love, but I do also have a couple of horror ideas brewing now I definitely have the bug for it!

In the meantime I have a short action film called “Watch Over Me” that I’ve just finished and is currently playing festivals, the trailer for which can be found here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktA-pXD24_c&app=desktop

I’m also about to release a 10 part science fiction web series called “Horizon” and the trailer for that can be found here:

www.horizonwebseries.com

Basically the plan is just to keep making movies! Thanks for the interview guys, and thanks for reading. For all the latest you can follow Judas on twitter and facebook via judasghostmovie.

 

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Adam Snowden
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