Tom Patton (INTERVIEW)
Ahead of the Horror Channel premiere of his sci-fi action thriller G-LOC, director Tom Paton reflects on why making movies is like solving a puzzle, his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman.
Horror Channel will be broadcasting the UK TV premiere of your Sci-fi adventure G-LOC. Excited or what?
It’s honesty so strange to me every time Horror Channel debuts one of my movies. The channel has been such a big part of my life growing up and informing my taste in films, that it’s always a “pinch myself moment” when I see something that I’ve made appear on their TV listing. G-LOC is much more of a SCI-FI adventure than any of my previous movies, so it’s great that Horror Channel is supporting it and bringing it to UK audiences.
How difficult was it getting the film off the ground? It was shot in Yorkshire, right?
Films are always hard to get off the ground to be fair, I’ve just been incredibly lucky that there are people out there who have believed in me and the stories I want to tell and so that’s made my journey through filmmaking slightly less painful. We shot the film in York in a town called Bubwith and I was there for around two months by the time we wrapped and really felt like Yorkshire had captured a bit of my heart. I’ve spent a lot of time there since.
One of the interesting layers in the film’s narrative is the issue of ‘space immigration’ – the fact that Bran, the main character (played by Stephen Moyer), is banned from settling on another planet because he’s a refugee from Earth. How did that idea form?
One of the things I’ve always loved about science fiction is the power to tell a very relatable story in a completely fictionalised setting. I’ve never been a fan of lecturing an audience or being lectured to myself when watching a film, and so I feel like my job as a writer is to create something that you can enjoy on its own or take away something from it that could change your perspective if you so wish. The idea of a planet being entirely built on immigration that suddenly decides it doesn’t want any more immigrants arriving really came out of the situation in America and the plight of South American immigrants trying to cross the border. The concept was to switch that to a character who you wouldn’t traditionally see trying to go through that type of journey so that the movie would act as “how would you like it?” cautionary tale.
It’s got a great cast. Are you personally involved in the casting process?
I was very involved in this one yeah. I’d been a big fan of Stephen since TRUE BLOOD and he’s such a great actor that he really brought so much to the film that would not have been there had he turned it down. Casper Van Dien was always on my bucket list of actors to work with because I’m such a huge STARSHIP TROOPERS fan. Landing him felt like a big deal for me and we’ve literally just finished another film together called ASSAILANT (it’s a return to my Horror roots so hopefully we’ll be doing another one of these interviews for that one down the road.) Tala, John, Emily, Shayne and Mike were all an absolute pleasure to work with too, so I had a real blast on set with this one.
You’re famously a self-taught filmmaker. Is that why you can easily move from directing and writing to producing and company-building? Some might call you a film entrepreneur.
Well, I appreciate the compliment. I think being self-taught certainly had its advantages in terms of teaching me the business side of filmmaking. Truthfully, it’s about lateral thinking – making movies is a puzzle that you’re having to figure out and the more aspects of the process you can master the easier it becomes in terms of finding your path to bringing it to life. It’s very similar to a game of chess and if you move the wrong piece early in the game then it will come back to bite you in the ass later.
All your films flirt with the horror and sci-fi genres. Is that a space you feel particularly comfortable in?
I’ve always been in love with films as a form of escapism, so I think that’s what attracts me to genre movies in general. But I think my real love is in survival tales - my two upcoming movies are both still in that survival genre but move away from sci-fi concepts entirely. I think my thing is to apply what makes a person tick in survival situation to different genres and see what happens. I have a comedy and a post-apocalyptic project in the pipeline, that whilst entirely different tonally, still explore what it means to survive in a tense situation that is beyond your control.
What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers just starting out?
With the technology available today, I honestly believe that if you think you’ve got something thematic to explore then there is nothing stopping you from getting two actors together and shooting something. The best way to become a filmmaker for a living is to just go and make something and prove to people that you’ve got the chops to hold a story together. We made my first film PANDORICA for hardly anything and if we did it today it would’ve cost even less with the available tech. Not only did just having the resolve to go and do that signal to the wider industry that I was capable and someone worth working with, but to this day it’s still the most fun I’ve had on set and will always be one of my favourite things I’ve ever done. So go do it, you’ve got nothing to lose.
You’ve been called Britain’s answer to low budget movie legend Roger Corman. A fair comparison?
I love hearing that. It was first said to me by a journalist that doesn’t like my work and was clearly trying to insult me, but it was music to my ears and has kind of stuck. I love the idea that Roger Corman carved his own space within the industry and maintained that output for over fifty years. It was reading his autobiography that made me get off my ass and go and make my first film. So, to be in a position where I can even now get that comparison is a huge compliment to me and I can only hope that one day someone will read a book about my journey and set off on their own adventure.
You’ve already shot your next movie 400 BULLETS, an edge-of-your-seat military action thriller. What are the release plans for that?
‘400 Bullets’ is very much for you if you like ‘Assault On Precinct 13’ and drops in the UK in September after a successful US run earlier this year. I’m really proud of the movie and if you love action then hopefully, you’ll have a blast with this. I’ve also just wrapped on a movie called ‘Assailant’ with Casper Van Dien, Chad Michael Collins, Poppy Delevingne and Jeff Fahey that is a return to horror thrillers for me and should drop in 2022.
G-LOC airs on Horror Channel Friday Sept 17, 9pm.