Your new movie Book of Monsters - in a few words, what is it about?
Book of Monsters
is about an 18th birthday party that gets gruesomely
gatecrashed by a horde of monsters. Sophie, a shy outcast, must rally
together her team of misfits to take on the beasts over one blood-filled
What were your sources of inspiration when writing Book of Monsters?
We had lots of sources of inspiration for the film. The main ones that
spring to mind would be Shaun of the Dead
and Gremlins 2. I love the
tone and witty dialogue of Shaun of the Dead. It mixes amazing visual
humor with a real sense of peril. It hits a perfect balance between
characters you can relate to and an outlandish premise that brings
excitement and thrills. As a kid I watched Gremlins 2 way too much! I
loved the wacky characters, the comically psychotic creatures and even at
an early age I could tell that the film wasn't taking itself too
seriously... yet certain parts still terrified me! Also, that scene when
Gizmo finally fights back and takes on the bullying gremlins really struck
a nerve with me as a kid. You gotta love an underdog story. Gremlins 2 is
a really fun movie and it's my hope that people get the same kind of kick
out of Book of Monsters
I got watching Gremlins 2.
Do talk about Book of Monsters' approach to horror, and is that a genre at all dear to
Obviously I love horror. There are so many shades of horror, there
really is something for everyone. Ironically though I scare very easily! Book of Monsters
takes a ďwink and a nodĒ approach to the horror in
the film. Yet both myself and Stewart were careful not to cheapen the
events in the movie. We do poke fun at some of the typical horror tropes
but we do it with love and I think that care really shines through on the
screen. This is our second horror feature film and I still find it
impossible to know if the films we make are scary. You get so close to the
subject matter that it's difficult to see it objectively... I guess the
audience will ultimately decide. However, right from the start we knew we
wanted to make Sophie relatable and the horror elements needed to stay in
the realms of possibility. This would aid the sense of peril Sophie is in.
It was key to us that the characters acted in a realistic way, if a big
monster suddenly appeared in front of you what would you actually do?
Scream, run and hide! At least that's what I would do. I hate to see
horror characters act in ways that so clearly would never happen in real
What were the main challenges of shooting Book of Monsters
from a producer's point of view? And how hands-on
or hands-off a producer are you actually?
Haha, we could write a book on the challenges of shooting this film,
but then I would say any low budget filmmaker could. I suppose the biggest
challenge we faced was time. We had an amazing crew, brilliant cast and a
fun atmosphere on set throughout the shoot, but not even that could change
the fact that as soon as you start to make a movie your hours turn into
minutes and your minutes turn into seconds. Our main shooting block was a
tiny 14 days which was filled with practical effects, gore, monsters and
puppets. We was up against it from day one. Luckily we had the brilliant
Stewart Sparke at the helm. He kept us to time and on target even whilst
juggling the endless responsibilities of directing. And he did it all with
a smile on his face! Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be on set as much as
I would have liked with this film so I would say I wasn't able to be as
hands-on as I would like for the production. Yet the life of a film and
the role of a producer far outstretches the shooting period. With my dual
role of writer/producer I was able to work with the actors ahead of the
shoot to assist Stewart with getting the actors comfortable in their roles
way before we hit set. With this film we had crowdfunding, development,
post-production, marketing and the festival run. Thankfully Stewart is
also a very strong producer and we were joined by the brilliant Cal
O'Connell as a co-producer. Many hands make light work and it always felt
like everyone was working towards the same vision.
can you tell us about Book of Monsters' director Stewart Sparke, and
what was your collaboration like? And since this isn't the first time you
two have worked together, also talk about your previous movies, and how
did the two of you first meet even?
I've worked with many directors and I can honestly say Stewart is the
most talented and creative I have seen. He is a very visual director and
really knows how to call the shots. He edits in his head on set and can
see a scene coming together with crystal clarity even when we are shooting
out of sequence or doing something very challenging like a group action
scene. I often 1st AD on set and in that role I have every confidence when
Stewart turns to me after a take and says ďWe got itĒ. I know from
that understated expression that we actually have something really
special. A lot of my role as writer/producer is centered around supplying
Stewart with the tools he needed to realize his creative vision. Stewart is
also the most hard working filmmaker I know, he is a perfectionist but
also pragmatic. He knows what he wants and how to get it in the most
efficient way possible. He is able to get across his brilliant vision by
always being collaborative and listening to those around him. It's a joy
being on set with Stewart and an education to watch him work. Iv'e been
lucky enough to work with Stewart for many years now, as we run our
company Dark Rift Films together. We collaborate with every stage of the
process from story to promotion. It's always a thrill developing projects
with Stewart as he has a vivid imagination and a determination that makes
the impossible possible.
Do talk about Book of Monsters' cast for a bit, and as a producer, how much of a say did
you have in that department?
I was heavily involved in the casting process, we did all the casting
ourselves and used a lot of people we have worked with previously. Any
film lives or dies on the performances of the cast and I'm proud to say Book of Monsters
has a stella cast! Everyone really gave their all into
the roles regardless of the size of their part. The dedication, passion
and hard work everyone put in really shows on screen. I have no doubt many
of our cast will be snapped up by Hollywood as their performances are
outstanding. We had an incredibly large cast and it would be difficult to
mention each one individually but I want to talk about Lyndsey Craine [Lyndsey
Craine interview - click here] in
particular as her dedication and talent was mirrored in all of our cast.
Lyndsey gave a breakout performance as our lead Sophie. It was a joy
working with Lyndsey in the pre-production stage. She really delved into
the character talking to me at length about her backstory, her motivations
and her hidden intent. All this resulted in a depth to Sophie's character
that really grounds her in reality, making her endearing to the audience.
Lyndsey had full control over her expression of Sophie which lead to some
powerful moments on camera. This elevates the film beyond a typical teen
A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
The on-set atmosphere was great. We always try to make sure people are
having a good time yet also working hard. Everyone was cracking on with
the task at hand but had a smile on their face whilst doing it.
$64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?
The film is out now in USA on
iTunes and many streaming services and Blu-ray via Dread/Epic
have sold to other territories (outside of the USA) but we are just
waiting to hear when those release dates will be.
you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Book of Monsters?
People really seem to be responding well to the film, we have had
several sell out screenings, one of which was at the premiere at FrightFest
London. And we have had a great festival run, meeting some amazing fans
and picking up some cool awards. We feel so grateful to those festivals
and audiences who have supported us and promoted the film. Here is a list
of what awards we have been nominated for and wonÖ
AWARD WINS: Best Feature/Best Special FX/Best Sound Design - NYC
Horror Film Festival (Book of Monsters), Best International Feature -
Spooky Empire Film Festival (Book of Monsters), Best Practical FX -
PDXtreme Portland Underground Film Fest (Book of Monsters), London Horror
Society Award/Last Shirt on the Left Award - Unrestricted View Film
Festival (Book of Monsters).
AWARD NOMINATIONS: Best Actress/Best Horror Comedy/Best Feature -
Nightmares Film Festival (Book of Monsters), Best Feature/Best Actress -
Unrestricted View Film Festival (Lyndsey Craine, Book of Monsters), Best Feature/Best Actress -
Fest (Lyndsey Craine, Book of Monsters), Best Feature/Best Director -
of Night Film Festival (Stewart Sparke, Book of Monsters, Best Feature -
Dark Veins Horror Fest (Book of Monsters).
Any future projects you'd like to share?
Paul (right) with cinematographer Hamish Saks,
director Stewart Sparke
We are always in development of projects and Iím going to do that
really annoying thing now of keeping those cards close to my chestÖ
sorry. Itís just things change and certain projects suddenly pick up
pace so itís difficult to say exactly what we will be going into
production next on. What I will say is that I would love to revisit the
characters and world of Book of Monsters, and Iíd be lying to say we
havenít been playing with ideas for more chapters. Watch this space!
got you into screenwriting in the first place, and did you receive any
formal training on the subject?
Iíve always enjoyed writing but as a kid I struggled with the basics,
spelling and grammar. Truth be told I still struggle now but I care less.
Yet growing up I loved movies, I remember I desperately wanted to be a
stunt man! Then I wanted to be an actor, then I thought about directing
but all the while I kept writing and coming up with stories. It wasn't
until I started to learn about script formatting and the way in which
scripts are constructed that I realized screenwriting was what I wanted to
do. I love the format of scripts, the immediacy, the energy. Itís unlike
any other form of writing. I did go to university and studied theatre,
film and television. There was probably only one module on screenwriting,
but being around other filmmakers made my passion grow. My house mate Ali
gave me the book A Hero's Journey, and when I read that it was like a light
turned on in my head. I got obsessed with story structure, that led me to
delve into the craft of writing and how to connect with an audience, and
things just spiraled from there. A lot of my study in the craft was self
lead but there are so many amazing books on the subject and YouTube
videos, and I'm sure I have read and seen just about all of them by now.
What can you tell us
about your filmwork prior to Book of Monsters?
Very early on in my career I made my own short films and even co-wrote
another produced feature film. I started making films with Stewart when I
started working with a production company called Glass Cannon. We made
commissioned content for the heritage and education sector. I loved
working with that company as it was filled with the nicest and most
creative people you could ever meet. However the content we were creating
was very family friendly and safe. Me and Stewart longed to dabble in
something darker. So we started making horror shorts on the side. These
grew in scope and we started getting them into festivals. We even got onto
a horror anthology feature film. The next logical step was to make a
feature. We saved up what little cash we had and rallied the troops. All
of our past collaborators came back and all of Glass Cannon's team helped
out on the film. The film was called The Creature Below, and despite it's tiny budget it got worldwide distribution. From then on we
were hooked and formed Dark Rift Films
to make more horror movies. For Book of Monsters,
many of our previous collaborators came back to help and
support the film. We are blessed with a very supportive network of
creatives who we love working with.
How would you describe yourself as a writer?
Still learning, but then I think you always are. I love words, I love
the craft and strive to be better at it. I've been obsessed with
screenwriting for 15 years or more but only now do I feel like I'm
starting to find my voice. I'm interested in exploring people under
pressure, battling insurmountable odds. I write a lot of action but I'm
actually more passionate about becoming a better dialogue writer. I love
the witty back and forth and rhythm of writers like Sorkin. I'm a big fan
of Sorkin as he has the confidence to write the way he wants to write. A
lot of his drama plays out on the dialogue level. I'm keen to ďborrowĒ
as much as I can from that style whilst mixing it with my own draw to raw,
visceral action. I like writing characters who get their hands dirty and
are put in situations where they have to dig into their animal instincts
to survive. Book of Monsters
was my first attempt at writing comedy. I
have always avoided comedy as it is the hardest genre to get right.
Luckily I work very closely with Stewart when I write. We plan the story
together and Stewart is always filled with clever and funny situations for
our characters to find themselves in. It's great having that collaboration
as I write as I always have an audience to try stuff out on. I've found
writing comedy horror gives me the perfect opportunity to test myself in
creating witty and funny dialogue. Yet it also offers up the opportunity
to explore visceral action, placing my characters in situations of
building terror. I hope to continue writing in this sub-genre.
Writers, filmmakers, whoever else
who inspire you?
I guess Iím inspired by storytelling craft and that can come from any
level in the industry. If someone is doing something different or just
doing what they do so well that they capture the attention of the
population, then that inspires me. I have nothing but admiration for the
likes of Fincher, Sorkin, Tarantino, Carpenter, Spielberg, Scorsese,
Cronenberg, anyone really who is at the top of their game. Yet there is
also some really interesting and inspiring things happening in the indie
world, and I think this is where the horror genre really shines.
Your favourite movies?
Wow, thatís a hard question as I love so many movies. Iíll divide
this question up if thatís cool into horror favorites and non-horror
Horror favs include Ė The Thing, 28
Days Later, Predator, Silence of
the Lambs, Seven, Aliens, Shaun of the Dead,
Gremlins 2, From Dusk till
Dawn, Iím missing out some obvious ones here Iím sure but the list
goes on and on.
Non-horror Ė Anything by Tarantino, anything by Nolan, anything by
Fincher but particular mention goes to Fight Club. Also Human
Traffic, The Matrix, True Romance, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking
Barrels. Iím also well
into my indie low budget contain thrillers so things like Exam, Red
Eye, Locke, The Hide, Confine. Then there are the films of
canít help but be impressed by the storytelling craft at work in films
like Inside Out and Finding
and of course, films you really deplore?
Haha, Iím not falling into that trap! Getting any movie over the
finish line deserves respect regardless of the quality of the product at
the end. What I will say (as I sit here firmly on the fence) is that any
film that disrespects the audience or treats the audience like idiots
annoys me. Entertaining the audience is the main reason for making movies
and you canít entertain if you donít first respect them.
movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Yes, please reach out and connect with us over social media, we love
meeting and chatting with likeminded people.
The movie website is our
company's Ė www.darkriftfilms.com
Facebook - www.facebook.com/bookofmonstersmovie/ and
you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
just want to say a massive thank you for taking the time to do this
interview with me. I really appreciate the support you have shown us and
Iím over the moon you enjoy the film!
for the interview!