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An Interview with Tim Cowles, Director of Backslasher

by Mike Haberfelner

November 2012

Films directed by Tim Cowles on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Backslasher - in a few words, what is it about?


A fun-loving party planner tries to stop a supernatural stalker killing everyone on her friends list.


Backslasher uses social networking as a major plot device - to what extent does the movie mirror your very personal views on the subject, and your thoughts on the whole phenomenon in general? And how much research was there involved prior to writing your movie?


I think that social networking is a great form of communication for most people. Personally, I wish it had been around when I was at university, but nowadays it's hard to find the time to join in. I read an article a few years back about a website that collected your social networking data and published the best times to burgle your house, highlighting the risks of sharing too much information with strangers. I just took that to an extreme and arrived at Backslasher. I did some research, mainly to make sure I didn't step too close to the real life instances where social networks have been used for murder.


(Other) sources of inspiration when writing Backslasher?


In terms of locations, much of Backslasher was based on the resources I had available to me. Half the film is shot in a studio where I was directing live TV chat shows at the time. Next door to that they were broadcasting adult phone-ins, so that crept into the plot too. Other than that, the characters and storyline came from my generally twisted imagination!


As the title already (sort of) suggests, Backslasher can be considered a slasher movie - a genre at all dear to you, and some of your genre favourites?


Horror is my favourite genre, I think it's got something for everyone. My favourites include Scream, The Shining, Hostel and a lot of other stuff that probably looks dated now. Slashers are fun, there's normally an ensemble cast and a high body count! I'll watch parody too - Scary Movie came out at about the right time for me.


How would you describe your directorial approach to your story at hand?


Mostly I like to get the technical side of things out of the way first, choosing shots and marking up the script for coverage, and then I'll go back through and pick scenes and shots I want to highlight. At some point during the shoot you start running out of time, either for technical or performance reasons. It's at that stage you're really happy you chose most of the shots beforehand because you know what you can throw away. In terms of performance, there were no rehearsals and we just steamed through stuff as we were rolling. I'd like to have spent more time with the actors experimenting with stuff, but the time just wasn't there.


Backslasher contains quite a healthy dose of sex and violence. Was there ever a line you consciously refused to cross?


I didn't want the sex to be explicit and I didn't want the violence to be unrealistic. The sex scenes were well scripted all the way back to auditions, so actors knew what would be required, which made my job easier on those scenes. There's actually quite a lot more nudity on the cutting room floor as I didn't want the film to be defined by that (although some reviewers can't see beyond the few seconds of topless footage). 

In terms of violence, it's difficult to do well on a budget, so Backslasher is pretty Hitchcock in its approach. Even if I had a mega budget I'm not sure I'd be too graphic. People's imaginations can be far scarier than my FX department!


A few words about your leading lady Eleanor James, and how did you find her and what made her perfect for the role?


Eleanor was great, giving a sustained performance throughout. She auditioned face to face in London with lots of others, but she had quite a few things going for her. Good enthusiasm, energy, and a superb scream! Plus she looked a bit like Shelley Duvall in The Shining - and who wouldn't want to try and emulate the mighty Kubrick?


What can you tell us about the rest of your cast and crew?


Crew was mainly family and friends. Cast were almost all found through casting calls and auditioned in London.


Would you like to talk about the actual shoot and the on-set atmosphere for a bit?


Backslasher was filmed in 15 days, spread over a 4 month period. I think most of those days were 8-12 hours long so there were no stamina heroics involved. Shoot days were generally rushed no matter how well prepared you tried to be, and each day there was usually a significant problem that needed resolving ("Where's the boiler room in this building? We need it for the last scene. What do you mean there isn't one?"). Initially I had a producer onboard whose expectations differed from everyone else's, so that caused some communication breakdowns and ultimately lost us our original distribution deal. Everybody has their own reasons to get involved in indie film projects, but it helps if those reasons at least overlap!


What can you tell us about audience and critical reception of Backslasher so far?


Backslasher has split opinions which is a good thing! You can't make a film that everybody loves, and the worst thing would be for people to feel nothing at all after watching it. Critics have been positive on the whole, and those that haven't generally dismiss it without breaking the surface. People that watch Backslasher will hopefully at the very least be entertained, that's what I'm hoping for, that I can make you forget about your everyday troubles for a little while.


Any future projects beyond Backslasher you'd like to share?


I'm working on a couple of things right now including a noir horror and a romantic comedy. I've also received a couple of scripts from some experienced writers and I'm looking for more.


Let's go back to the beginnings of your career: What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


I got into filmmaking about 7 years ago when I had some free time on my hands. I loved watching films and TV shows and in essence wanted to create worlds for other people to enjoy. I bought lots of books, watched DVDs about filmmaking and listened to director commentaries. At the same time I started writing screenplays. Shorts, features, TV pilots - anything and everything. My first foray into film was a two minute short called Venture Decapitalist, about the Devil trying to raise money for his business (of killing people). I had an ex-BBC cameraman come down and auditioned actors on the phone. It was a disaster, with the ex-BBC guy having a total power trip, not even calling the actors by their names. When we wrapped he asked me what I'd learned and I replied "never to invite you on set again." He'd taken four hours to light one setup, and there lies the difference between indie and any other budget film making. But I wasn't put off. If anything, it's the challenge that keeps me going.


As far as I know, you have made quite a few short murder mysteries over the years - care to talk about those for a bit?


We made a deal with a big publisher of boxed murder mystery party games to produce content for them including a DVD. There were four short scenes that could be watched during each party. All in all we shot 14 DVDs that were all BBFC rated so they could be distributed retail in stores like WHSmith and John Lewis. Producing, writing and directing all those shorts ultimately gave me the confidence to try a full feature. I also worked with some very talented and amazing people over those five years so it was great for networking. Some of them worked on Backslasher too.


You're also responsible for a handful of documentaries about supernatural subjects, right? What can you tell us about those, and how does directing documentaries of this sort differ from directing fiction?


We produced a tarot DVD a few years ago called Tarot Stripped Bare which was a bare-bones guide to tarot without all the surrounding mysticism. My wife wanted to do it and scripted it. We filmed it all in half a day - it would have been a full day but the place we'd hired didn't get us the key until lunchtime! Luckily my brother had just moved out of a rental place so we piled around there and did some voiceovers while we were waiting.

The Legend of the Serpent was a DVD that someone else encouraged me to produce with him - a guy I'd met whilst TV directing some of his pre-recorded chat shows. It was pretty quick and easy to do and sold fairly well abroad. I find directing documentaries far easier than fiction. People are more than happy to talk endlessly about their chosen subject (much like me and this interview!), which gives you lots of options in the edit. You're also not checking to see if they're giving a believable performance.


Any other past films of yours you'd like to talk about?


I'd give a shout out to a TV pilot I made just before Backslasher called 'Sellavision'. If you like seeing shopping channels mercilessly parodied and have 15 minutes spare it's worth a visit to YouTube.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


Being a producer and director seriously hampers my directing style. As a director I'd like to do takes over and over again until I'm happy with everything. As a producer, I'm thinking that as soon as it's 'passable' we should move on. So in a word, conflicted!


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Stanley Kubrick is probably my favourite filmmaker. He wasn't prolific but produced some amazing films like The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket, Lolita, 2001. Joss Whedon had me hooked on TV too, and his foray into film has been pretty succesful.


Your favourite movies?


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Scream, The Shining, Blade Runner, Hostel, Star Wars, Highlander, Empire Records, Memento, Alien. The list goes on and on...


... and of course, films you really deplore?


I can't say I really hate any film, not after having an understanding of how much work goes into them. That said, I think some sequels and reboots are cash-ins, and please stop with all the dodgy National Lampoon-franchise films, they're diluting something that was actually quite good!


Your website, Facebook, whatever else?


The Backslasher website is, Twitter is and Facebook is


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?



And thank you for the interview!


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD