• Martyn Wakefield

Richard Waters & Alison Scarff (INTERVIEW)

BRING OUT THE FEAR is the directorial debut of Richard Waters and was premiered at FrightFest 2021. Here Richard and producer Alison Scarff discuss the making of the film and the challenges of independent film making.



BGUK:

Thanks for both for taking the time to speak to me about your recent film. BRING OUT THE FEAR, a fantastic film for a film on a modest budget. It's very well written, and the execution of that film is just fantastic. It really was one of my highlights of the festival, which sure that would go down well.


Alison:

Thank you so much.


Richard:

Thank you, that's amazing.


Alison:

That's that's the ego stroke we needed to hear today.


Even Sam Raimi started somewhere, so yeah, there's a future ahead. Do you want to just give us a brief view of how the film came about, and what the film's about?


Richard:

Yeah, so the film, BRING OUT THE FEAR is about a couple in a doomed relationship who go for pretty much a final walk in a forest, but they find that they can't escape. The paths are never ending. The sun never sets, and they're being followed [inaudible 00:02:51] and they're forced to face their fears and their degrading relationship, or disintegrating relationship, and what else is going to come to the forefront of it all. And the field itself kind of came from myself and Allie were going for a walk in that forest, and I just kind of got inspired at the idea of it's such a big forest, it's got so many different sections. I'm very turned around. How the hell do we get out of here? So, that was the general basis of that kind of simple idea of people trapped in a woods. It's never ending. I've always been fascinated by the idea of that kind of never ending, or that kind of labyrinth feel of things, like you have it from The Shining, or Grave Encounters does a great job of it as well, where they can't get out of the one building. I've just always been in love with that idea.


Alison:

Because it's truly terrifying, that feeling of trapness, especially when you're fighting your logic, where you're like, "Logically, I know I should be able to get out. I know it should only be X distance," but then when you're like, "No, it's not, it's a constant, never ending infinity virus," it's terrifying. It's truly a fear.


Richard:

And then once you kind of have your general basis with the story, you're kind of figuring out what's going to happen with the characters who are in it. Who are we going to set up in it? For me, I thought it was the idea of a couple in a disintegrating relationship, two people who have an awful lot of demons that they're carrying with them. I thought that that was an interesting avenue to explore? You have someone who's a recovering addict, who's in a relationship that might be kind of almost throwaway for her, whereas the other guy views it as this is his be all and end all. It's very important to him and he doesn't see the toxic side that he's bringing to things. And then the fact, again, about the idea of engagements and things like that. Allie and I are now married, but at the time we were still thinking about or talking about getting engaged. And I swear to God, it was nothing to do with that. That was nowhere near where it all came from.


Alison:

I was just reading the script, being like, "Is this something I should take to heart? Am I Rosie? What?". Should I take insult from this? I don't know where I should go from this. But yeah.


I'll leave you to do that.


Alison:

Thankfully I didn't have to take insult. Richard was like, "No, I only want certain lines of you for Rosie."


Richard:

No, that's it. I think it's a little bit of so many people in my life, you know?


Alison:

Yeah, it really is. It's funny because we know them. You can see them there on screen and it's always kind of fascinating to see that come out. I think you and Thad did such an amazing job as Dan and Rosie. They kind of really nailed that chemistry where it's kind of like you're supposed to have some form of chemistry, but also have that underlying level of toxicity that kind of bubbles up as the film goes on. I think they really nailed it. We were very fortunate finding them.


Yeah. That's probably one of the central parts of the film itself, is really the relationship between Ciara and Tad. That has to be authentic for the film to work, and it did come across that way.


Alison:

Yeah, we were so fortunate. We've known Kiera and we'd worked with her before, and this is something completely out of her wheelhouse. She's very much usually cast as the girl next door, very typecast as that. But we just love Kiera and knew she had such a range and she has so much to give, and she's so passionate about her craft and what she brings to the table. But Thad was such a happy find.


Richard:

I put out a casting call for that role. I think he was probably the only one that when I saw his audition, was the only one that really jumped out to me as this is someone who seems to get the role or seems to embody the role in a certain way. Sorry, our dog Sammy is here at all times.


So we knew Kiera very well. Thad we didn't know at all. And I actually think that that was probably something that really benefited their chemistry because-


Alison:

Yeah, he felt a little awkward, I suppose, when I came through.


Richard:

Yeah, he was a little bit of an outsider to all of our group, so his character is that little bit more awkward.


Alison:

Unsure, kind of like that vulnerable aspect, but instead of being vulnerable and passive, it's vulnerable and aggressive, and he really got that. Not that Tad is like that at all. He's not. He's an absolute...


Richard:

Oh, he's lovely.


Alison:

Like huge time. He's definitely part of our group now. But he really kind of understood the emotions, what to tap into when you feel socially awkward and what to bring to screen. He was such a brilliant mind, he's such an amazing actor, and like Kiera, is so passionate about his craft and really honing in on it and understanding the story. So it was such a pleasure to work with two people, especially when it's so pinnacle that the film really must nail these people, must nail it, that they had such a passion and an interest, and they wanted to know the development of the characters, which I think really helped them in the long run. But it was just so beautiful to work with people who were into that because sometimes you don't get that, but it was such a lovely collaborative experience with them where they were very understanding of Richard's idea and what he wanted and stuff. So, it was really lovely to watch.




That's great. And I think the elements of the human side of it, obviously this film, there is lot of supernatural elements, but the crux of the film is generally about the relationship between the two. The chemistry between the two really does come across so well that it carries the film. Just talking about that. So the supernatural elements, what inspired the way that that was portrayed? There's some quite ingenious ways of kind of hiding some elements, but on the other hand, there are certain things that are shown. What kind of inspired that?


Richard:

I wanted to kind of have almost a bit of a borderline idea initially in terms of is something happening, is it not happening, because initially it's only whispers and things. And nothing ever gets too overt in a way. But I actually think an awful lot of it came down to my love of the Lucio Fulci kind of films, say something like THE BEYOND where people are sort of set up in these kind of no-win scenarios, or I guess it's kind of a J-horror thing as well.


Obviously budget for us, we were kind of confined to certain ideas. We couldn't go too big without... it's good to know your limits with things so you can actually play as best you can in those circumstances. But for me, psychological horror is really one of my favourite kinds. I'm a big supernatural fan. That's kind of what scares me a lot more, as opposed to slashers. With regard to it, the supernatural side of things and what we decided to go with was always supposed to be you're keeping... I didn't want to kind draw away too much from the story of the people in it, but I still wanted things to be unnerving, to be unsure.


You don't quite know if someone's dreaming or if something's really happening or if something's actually been heard or if someone's paranoia. There's a lot of small moments in there. Even something like when Dan is staring at the wood man, there's these little moments in there that are slightly there to unnerve you and in ways that you mightn't expect. The sound design has an awful lot of elements in it there as well to kind of help build that world of things.


Alison:

Yes. That feeling of embracing the fact that you want people to feel uncomfortable, intense. And I think both Richard and myself do find the more you natural aspects of it more freaky because it's the idea that it's out of your control. I think that's always more terrifying, is the idea of where you do not have control of the situation and you can't logic or reason your way out of anything. I think there's definitely things like that where it's like no matter what, like you can see them trying to logic and use reason and everything to try put themselves somewhere. But there, when humanity breaks down, when you don't have those kind of overarching needs that we have and you can't fulfil them, so I think that definitely freaks us out.


Richard:

Yeah. And again, it goes back to that kind of... and Lucio Fulci did it a lot, and J-horror films do that an awful lot where people are really put in a no-win scenario. It's not necessarily dictated on a logic or a good and bad. It's more you are people who are now in this situation and that's your life. You just have to deal with it now. I think there's something inherently terrifying about that, really.


Absolutely. And Rich, obviously you kind of started from a bit of a critics background. How was it making that transition from looking out for the filmmaking faults and working out that way, and then kind of going on the other way? Was there much thought to how it would be perceived, or was it just straight in there?


Richard:

I think it was a little bit straight in that we've always loved movies and always been making movies. Even all the time that I was writing anything about them, I'm sure you probably know that I wrote for-


Alison:

Yeah.


Richard:

Yeah, okay. Even during all those times, like we'd be making short films and all. I'd be making horror things. We went to film school.


Alison:

We've always been chipping away.


Richard:

But that was it. But when we went to make this movie, it was about making it for the right audience or making sure that film could be enjoyed by an audience, but also be something that we could be able to stand behind and hold up and go, "This is the film that we were trying to make. This is a film that represents what we were wanting to represent and to have the themes be the themes that we wanted it to be." I think it's for the times that it was in, about a couple and about the gender politics and all that. I think that that really was something that I didn't try and make it something that was too overtly in front of the screen apart from maybe one very glaring line.


Richard:

But yeah, for the most part, I've moved away from doing any sort of critical writing because I thought that if I'm going to be making movies and things like that, it's probably a bit bad at me to be saying anything bad. And I did also find that even though I was enjoying watching the movies, I'd be watching it, but then I'd also go, "But this wasn't so good," where it's nice to just watch something and I can just enjoy it. Instead of enjoying it with the caveat of what I didn't like, I can now just watch things and enjoy them.


Alison:

Yeah, I think this was the first film that we had part of and we had made that we had total control, total ownership over everything. It was a really freeing experience for us both to have that in our first feature, which is really nice. And I think it shows what we're capable of again, and hopefully we'll be able to step up again with our next project.



Oh, certainly. We look forward to whatever that brings. I know that you went through the New Blood process with FrightFest. How did that come about? And was that the project that led to BRING OUT THE FEAR?


Alison:

That is a different project. Oddly enough. It just needs a lot of money.


Richard:

Yeah. Well, we went to them with an idea of Alison's.


Alison:

Yeah, one of my babies.


Richard:

It's great. I think it's a great idea. But unfortunately we can't really give much away on it. But really what that was, it really inspired us because at the time I, in particular, was finding I was in a kind of bad place in terms of making films and working on things, and everything just seemed to be such a long slog in terms of chasing money, trying to do this or that.


Alison:

And it wasn't even something that you were overly enthralled with. It's like, yeah, I wanted to make films. Yeah, I want to be part of projects, but it wasn't necessarily your passion project around that time.


Richard:

Well, other things, yeah.


Alison:

Yeah.


Richard:

The thing is that you have people telling you you should do this or that, and with the idea of, oh, here's the career goal. And it became very disheartening because just a lot of bad experiences. But then when we did the New Blood, that's really what kind of made me go... it just kind of inspired me again because I've been in a Fright Fest for a long time. I've obviously always loved horror films, and to just kind of go like, "Oh, actually, if these people can see sort of a bit of merit in something," and when we were chatting to some of the people there, they kind of gave interesting good feedback and stuff that could apply to different projects as well. It's really what inspired to be able to kind of do a film like this. It's a small film, it's small, but in as big a way as we're going to be able to make a small film, really. It has a lot of not bigger, well, deeper ideas, certainly past the surface level of it as well, which is something I really enjoy. I like a good serious kind of-


... yeah, a bit more a dreary horror every now and again.


Alison:

That's the Irish in him. The Irish Catholic coming through in heart.


Richard:

It has got the Catholic guilt written all over it. Well, yeah, that's really where it came from, and the fact that Fright Fest were so supportive of the film-


Alison:

Incredibly supportive, like we've been so fortunate. We feel really, really thankful for all the support we've gotten from New Blood and into this, because the advice, the notes, the help, and attention and inspiration has been unreal. I don't know if we'd be where we are right now without it. And it's just such a privilege to be in this position.


Richard:

Yeah. And don't get me wrong. The idea behind the film was to always be making something that regardless of if it got picked up by festivals or anything like that, it was something were making, we were doing it with people we enjoyed working with, and it was something we were finishing.


Alison:

And proud of.


Richard:

And I'm proud of, yeah. And to that extent then, if it was a straight-to-Amazon release or something like that, that'd be something. But the fact that it has done what it's done, it's kind of exceeding what we'd expected anyway.


Alison:

Exactly, yeah.


Richard:

And with that, I submitted it to FrightFest along with a letter, and Ian from Fright Fest came back to me about it. It was a working progress at the time, so he came back with feedback and ideas and thoughts about ways that we could probably make it stronger. We were able to incorporate those. He was very instrumental. He was the one who gave me the call to let us know we were selected. When we were at the festival, he's the one who introduced it. He's just been generally supportive and great all the way. It's kind of sad when you think about it in a way, like Fright Fest is over. So I don't know what way that's going to happen. At the same time, Fright Fest and Ian are always going to be in the blood of the film now, which is great.


Alison:

100%, yes, such an integral part in the grand scheme of the film.


I see. Yeah, likewise, being at Fright Fest many years, now occasionally, even if you're stepping out and want to see one or two films at the time, but it's certainly a family atmosphere. So what is next for you guys?


Richard:

Well, we've got several things that we're trying to get on the go. There's nothing filming at the moment.


Alison:

No, COVID kind of got all over it, and then our day jobs got very busy, so it's all kind of like managing those things now. But we definitely have ideas we want to work in the next six months.


Richard:

We have things, they're going to happen, it's just depending on which one's going to happen first. Does someone want another darker kind of film? Does someone want something that's a bit more out there kind of film? Is their budget going to be on the lower side or are we going to be able to get a budget that can help us make the film that we initially went to Fright All these are the factors that are going to depend on what's next. But the big thing for us is that there is a next.

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