Tag Archives: Horror Film

Producer Gaurang Bhat terrifies audience with horror flick ‘Vengeance’

As a celebrated film producer in his home country of India, for Gaurang Bhat, the most fundamental aspect of his role is simple: storytelling. Every captivating film tells a powerful story, and Bhat never takes on a project unless he believes in the script. He knows that the filmmaking process is a collaboration, and he always makes sure his team has the same goal as he does, to create a great film that entertains the masses, and to tell a great story.

This devotion to his craft is evident on every project he takes on. He has been pivotal to the success of many acclaimed films, including Never Too Late, Sushi Man, Nimbus, and SPARSH: A Leprosy Mission, which has received great praise at many prestigious international film festivals. He also has contributed to popular television shows, including Netflix’s hits Chefs Table Season 6and Street Food Asia as a consultant.

One of Bhat’s first tastes of international success came back in 2015 with his film Vengeance. The horror flick tells the story of four friends who, when a common friend dies in a car accident, decide to go in a house away from the city to film their own eulogies before the funeral. The situation turns dark when a fifth person menaces to kill them.

Vengeance“I always wanted to be part of a horror film. I have been a fan since I was a kid. I wanted to try my hand at a fun slasher movie, but this film has so much more than just gore, blood, and violence. That’s why as soon as Luca Ripamonti completed the script, I knew I was working on the film. This story takes a little bit of a different approach as its more about the creeping human fear of a mysterious masked figure. You rarely see the masked figure in the film. It’s all very grounded and psychological,” said Bhat.

From the moment Bhat began working on Vengeance, everything was smooth sailing. He and his team completed the project with ease. Bhat had a lot of creative inputs on the project. He worked on securing the funds and marketing and was involved in making sure that they completed the film as efficiently as possible, overlooking the whole development and production of the film. Based on the ease of filming, he more than did his job.

“It was a very good experience and it’s always great to work with friends. Luca and I have known each other for the longest time now. We still speak every day discussing films and new projects,” said Bhat.

Bhat’s work in marketing the film made it a tremendous success, as the film was selected for many prestigious film festivals, including Infinity Film Festival, Roma Doc and Visionaria, and the world-renowned Cannes Short Film Corner.

“I am ecstatic that the film was such a success. Not everyone can say that their project has been to Cannes. It’s such an honor. I am delighted beyond words. It’s sure been a long project but we got there, and it was great. It was always a dream to have film at Cannes,” said Bhat.

Needless to say, Bhat is at the top of his game as a producer, constantly creating successful projects that captivate audiences in India and around the world. He spends every day living his dream, and although it wasn’t always an easy road to get to the esteemed point in his career he is at now, he knows that working hard does indeed pay off.

“If you too want to be a producer, just keep working and do whatever odd jobs you get. Keep making connections in the field, keep being productive. You never know when you’ll meet someone who might offer you their next project, sometimes it just depends on luck and being there at the right moment. Also, be nice to everyone and be patient, it’s the most important thing in this industry, I can’t stress enough. When I was young, I might have burned some bridges, but I hope others don’t make the same mistake,” he advised.

 

By John Michaels

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Dominic Kay terrifies as conflicted veteran in ‘White Settlers’

Photo by Ian Thraves 4
Dominic Kay, photo by Ian Thraves

When one asks Dominic Kay why he went into acting, his response is quite simple; he would not have been happy doing anything else. Every day he arrives on set, he is eager to get started. Acting never feels like work to Kay, and the long days and trailer time that some find disheartening just add to the experience for this British native. He humbly feels lucky to do what he loves every day, and audiences around the world feel lucky to watch this talent on both the big and small screens.

Kay’s work in film and television has made him instantly recognizable in the United Kingdom. He has appeared in shows such as Hollyoaks in the City as well as the renowned British soap Coronation Street. His work in film includes the acclaimed historical drama Allies, and many more. However, this actor does not limit himself to just one genre, and as the villain in the 2014 horror White Settlers, Kay’s versatility is evident in every scene.

“This project appealed to me initially due to the fact that it was an opportunity to work with a director and producer that I heard very good things about. Then once I was read the script I was hooked, I read the whole screenplay in an hour, then immediately phoned my agent and told her that I wanted to do it,” said Kay.

White Settlers tells the story of Ed and Sarah’s first night at their new home – an isolated farmhouse on the Scottish borders. This should be a new beginning away from their stressful London lives. And at first it is; come sunset they fall in love all over again on a wander in the woods. But as darkness falls, Sarah suspects they’re not alone, Ed goes to investigate and quickly, the evening becomes a nightmare. It suddenly dawns on them; they do not belong here, and they certainly aren’t welcome.

In White Settlers, Kay plays Local, the antihero. He is an ex-military psychopath, who stops at nothing to get what he wants. He is hard as nails, a bully, and a pack leader. He is definitely not one to be taken lightly. As you get further into the film, audiences see his desperation turn sadistic, forcing him to become more and more ruthless. He thinks nothing of terrorizing people to get what he wants. From when he first enters the feature until the very end, he causes nothing but chaos.

While playing such a menacing role, Kay made sure to maintain the constant barrage of peril and volatility. Particularly in the scenes without dialogue, he managed to be terrifying just with body language and facial expressions. To maintain being threatening and intimidating without being overdramatic can be a challenge, but Kay did so flawlessly. He exudes malice and instills fear into his c audience by doing as little as possible. He always made sure he brought an element of truth into his character. In one particular scene, he acted out of instinct and went off book. The director, Simeon Halligan, loved what the actor did and Kay’s instincts proved fruitful, as that scene made the final cut of the film.

White Settlers gave me the opportunity I had been waiting for a while – to play a real nasty piece of work. I love to play around with characters, and this character was going to be fun, despite being a challenge. I had to be very menacing, intimidating, and scare the life out of my co-stars. Decision making and being brave was key for this character. It was a difficult mindset to get into, so I found that if I wasn’t fully immersed into him it could come across a little forced,” Kay described.

Kay’s work as the leading bad guy helped White Settlers achieve international success at many prestigious film festivals. The film premiered at the 2014 Film4 FrightFest. It was the winner of the ScreamFest Festival Trophy – Best Cinematography 2014. It was then distributed by Falcon films, Grim up North. Many critics were impressed by Kay’s ability to terrify yet still be endearing. The Producer of the film, Rachel Richardson-Jones, credits Kay as being one of the driving forces of the horror film.

“I cast Dominic to play the lead bad guy in the film. He was an integral part of the cast and did a great job. We were hugely impressed by his acting skills and how he adapted to the role. He was a great addition to the cast and was good to work with. He was very professional and hardworking at all times,” said Richardson-Jones.

When casting for the film, Richardson-Jones immediately thought of Kay after seeing the actor in a television show. She invited him in for a meet and greet, and once Kay read the script, it was a perfect match. He was eager to explore a side of himself that he never had before, and working with a team that he knew would be ideal, he immediately said yes to the part.

“This project was great to be part of. Well, having to portray a character that is a complete psychopath was a joy and a challenge to be honest. It was great fun it gave me freedom to express my darker sides and go even further with them. The director was a credit to the production and got the best out of me with ease. The whole cast just performed really well and everyone bounced of each other adding the performances,” said Kay. “It’s not every day you get to be an axe wielding mad man and terrorize innocent people.”

This year, audiences can see Kay on the big screen once again in the feature Walk Like a Panther. The film tells the story of a group of 1980s wrestlers who are forced to don the lycra once last time when their beloved local pub is threatened with closure. Kay is incredibly eager to share this film with audiences around the world.

It is without a doubt that Dominic Kay is an inspiration to those looking to pursue acting not just in the United Kingdom, but around the world. He always knew acting was his passion, and never gave up on his dream, and he has wise words for those who would like to follow in his footsteps.

“Read as much as you can and expand your vocabulary. This understanding gives you so many more places to go with your performance. You can identify subtle changes in scenes and make better decisions based on the information in front of you. Secondly, I would advise that you study yourself and identify exactly who you are deep down – your core characteristics. This understanding of who you are lets you know what you bring to the table, what you are selling. There’s no point in trying to be something you’re not, because people can see through. Lastly, don’t be scared of letting yourself go or looking a fool, and be brave in your decision making. Unless you are very lucky, success won’t come easy, so work hard,” he concluded.

 

Photo by Ian Thraves

Background in Focus: UK Costume Designer Jemima Penny

Costume Designer Jemima Penny

 

While most creatives take many years to find their true calling and turn it into a career, often times there are hints during childhood as to the direction their artistry will later take, and London-based costume designer Jemima Penny is no exception.

Penny recalls, “I was always drawn to costumes. As a little girl my favorite game was ‘dressing up.’ I never wanted bought costumes, I’d always make them up myself.”

Over the past decade Penny has become known internationally for her work as the costume designer on a wide range of projects, including films such as the popular Nick Cave documentary 20,000 Days on Earth, which was nominated for a prestigious BAFTA Film Award for Best Documentary in 2015, the dramatic mystery film In The Dark Half starring Jessica Barden from the Golden Globe nominated series Penny Dreadful, the comedy film Where Have I Been All Your Life? with two-time Primetime Emmy Award winner James Corden (Into the Woods), and many more.

“I was always fascinated by how people define themselves and send messages to wider society about who they are through the way they dress. So I naturally gravitate towards character work over trend. And of course, storytelling is one of the most important and basic human needs. Its how we communicate and pass messages on to one another. So to be able to be part of this industry is a wonderful thing,” explains Penny about what led her to pursue her career as a costume designer.

Penny recently wrapped production on multi-award winning director Jonathan Hopkins’ (Goodbye Mr. Snuggles)  upcoming horror film Slumber, which is slated to be released later this year and stars Maggie Q (Live Free or Die Hard, Mission: Impossible III), Will Kemp (Reign, Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce) and Sylvester McCoy (Sense8, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey).

The film follows Alice, played by Maggie Q, a rationally minded sleep doctor who, after finding no plausible scientific explanation for the terror an entire family of clients faces while they’re asleep, is forced to abandon reason and accept the existence of the ‘Night Hag.’ In Slumber, we realize that this supposed mythical creature who paralyzes her victims while they’re asleep, one who’s been referenced and written about by practically every culture since the beginning of time, may not be as mythical as everyone believes.

Poster for Slumber
Poster for the upcoming film “Slumber”

For the upcoming film costume designer Jemima Penny has done a thoroughly brilliant job of representing the changing mental states of the characters into their wardrobe, which in the case of this film in particular, changes drastically over the course of the film, at least for some. One of the most drastic visual changes in wardrobe style that audiences will immediately notice is that of Q’s character Alice.

“Alice, the main character is a rational, scientific person who likes to have total control over every element of her life. She is ordered and methodical. However over the course of the film she starts to unravel as the Night Hag becomes more real to her,” explains Penny.

“We used her costumes to help depict this journey. At the beginning of the film she is very put together. Her clothing reflects her character– buttoned up, stylish, sleek, conservative and coordinated… As the film progresses and Alice’s mental state deteriorates we gravitate to more casual, rougher looks– jeans, boots and tees… and the colour palette becomes more earthy and darker.”

The reason Penny has become such a recognizable and sought after costume designer in the industry is due to more than just her skilled abilities as a designer and seamstress. At the end of the day her success can be attributed to the rare and unique way that she gets inside the head of each character she designs for… it’s the methodical way that she breaks down their personality, changing emotions and the outer circumstances that they can’t control to design their wardrobe scene by scene that makes her such a powerful force in her field.

Slumber star Maggie Q says, “Jemima is one of my favorite designers. Not only does she have an incredible sense of style, that is evident in all her work no matter what the brief, but she is totally dedicated to getting the costumes right for the piece, which, for an actor, is such an essential part of being able to fully become immersed in a role.”

Bringing such talent to the table, it is not at all surprising that Slumber is not Jemima Penny’s first time working as a costume designer on one of Jonathan Hopkins’ films. Earlier on in her career she served as the costume designer on his comedy film Minimus, which earned the Festival Award from the 2013 Chicago Comedy Festival. The genres alone reveal the polar opposite nature of the previous project compared to their most recent collaboration, but clearly Penny’s talent as a costume designer proves that her skill exceeds the limitation of any particular genre– or medium for that matter.

“Johnny and I have worked together for a long time. We started making TV commercials together nearly 10 years ago and have built a solid understanding of each other’s work. So after an initial meeting Johnny will ask me to develop designs for the piece and we have a very collaborative process… he is always open to new ideas and trusts in the rest of his creative team to bring valuable input to the project,” says Penny about working with director Jonathan Hopkins.

In addition to making a strong impact as a costume designer in the world of film, Penny has also created a dazzling repertoire of work that includes music videos, such as Calvin Harris’ ‘Sweet Nothing’ feat. Florence Welch, which has over 200 million views on Youtube, as well as an overwhelming list of commercials for globally recognized brands such as Nike, Virgin Media, ITV’s The X Factor, the BBC, Cadbury, Dyson, Disney, Absolut Vodka and many more.

Up next for costume designer Jemima Penny is Primetime Emmy nominee Polly Draper’s (Thirtysomething, Demolition) film Stella’s Last Weekend starring Nat Wolff (Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars) and Alex Wolff (Coming Through the Rye, Patriots Day), as well as the upcoming film Farming, which is set in Great Britain in the 1970s and follows a Nigerian child who grows up in a white working class family and ultimately becomes the leader of a skinhead white supremacist gang.

About the upcoming film Farming, Penny says, “It’s a heart wrenching terrifying look at racism in the not too distant past and it should be a very powerful piece. It’s also a fantastic era for costume.”

 

Editor Minghao Shen helps terrify audiences in award-winning horror flick ‘Emily’

Growing up in Beijing China, Minghao Shen always loved film. Unlike many who enjoy watching a movie, he would think about how it was being made. The details behind how each scene was put together were what captivated him; he wanted to be a filmmaker. Eventually, the nuances and strategy behind editing caught his attention, and he knew that was where his future was. Now, he is an internationally celebrated editor.

Shen has worked on countless critically-acclaimed projects, earning him a reputation as one of China’s best recent film editors. His work on films such as Inside Linda Vista Hospital, Stay, Cartoon Book, and Red String has allowed worldwide audiences to see what he is capable of, showing without a doubt why he is so respected in the industry. His work on the horror film Emily perfectly encapsulates what the editor is capable of.

“It is a simple but tense horror film. The movements of shots and the whole visual style are really outstanding. I knew that there would be challenges, but that it would be a great chance for editing,” said Shen.

The film tells the scary story of a woman named Emily. Emily dies giving birth at home after her husband, John, abandons her. However, she will have her revenge from beyond the grave when she returns as a ghost set on killing her widowed husband.

“My favorite part of the whole production was talking about the story, because we found out that there were multiple options would work for it. Although each of the options would have been great, but couldn’t mix them all together, otherwise the tone would be chaos. As an editor, having to narrow this down and figure out how to properly tell the story and convey the right tone was great,” said Shen.

Shen’s instincts proved to be spot on, as Emily went on to do very well at several prestigious film festivals. It was an Official Selection at the Los Angeles CineFest, the SoCal Creative and Innovative Film Festival, the Pittsburgh Independent Film Festival, the Action on Film International Film Festival, the California Independent Film Festival, and the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival. It won Best Overall Micro Film at the Indie Gathering International Short Film Festival and at the Accolade Global Film Competition it won the Award of Excellence.

“I had many complex feelings when I discovered the film was getting a lot of awards. It was a blend of excitement and satisfaction after the hard work everyone had done. We know that we took a bunch of time and work on the film, so I was so glad that our hard work got such encouragement from the festivals,” said Shen.

None of this could have been possible without Shen’s editing talents. He spent his time taking notes every time he met with the director, ensuring he still achieved the vision of the film while bringing his own touch to it.  After the first rough cut, there were a lot of points that needed to be ironed out and redone, but based on notes he did originally, it greatly assisted to the time it took.

“Horror film is always about beats, so the director worked really hard with me to specify each second to make the film the best,” said Shen. “I talked with the director about our thoughts and he trusted me for the style based on my previous experience. There were always some different editing choices between me and the director. He is a talented and continuously brainstorming how to make the film better, so I always let him know more than one choice to let our minds be more open, so that we could avoid some useless change and waste of work time. We actually had some different thoughts in some parts. After a lot of meetings, we finally compromised our differences and both of us thinks this made the finished product better than what just our own ideas would have.”

The director, Jun Xia, agrees, and knows that without Shen his film could not have achieved what it did. The two have worked together on multiple projects since Emily, and Xia knows that Shen’s talents are essential to making a good film.

Minghao and I had worked together for a few times before, and he is always a good listener. He can take feedback and produce more ideas all the time. Minghao is an experienced editor. We talked a lot about a lot of different ways to make Emily better, and it did. He can always come up with unique thoughts when it comes to editing,” said Xia.

Everyone that works with Shen is continuously impressed by his editing skills. Without his work on Emily, audiences may not have been on the edge of their seats, terrified about what would happen next.

You can watch Shen’s impressive editing work on the short film Emily here.