I recently got the chance to talk to director and actor Anthony Straeger about his film ‘Call Of The Hunter’. Here, Anthony talks about how the story originally came about and who has inspired him as a director…
Hey Anthony. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. Of course we‘re here to talk to you about your new film ‘Call Of The Hunter’ – been released in the UK this month in selected cinemas.
You both directed and acted in the feature. I suppose the first question I should ask is – how did the idea come about in the first place?
Hi Matt, the idea came about through a good friend and writing colleague Stephen Gawtry who was sat with me in good old Pret-A-Manger. I had been trying to sell two scripts without luck and said that I would really like to get something made. The problem with the other two scripts was that they needed too much cash. He said he had an idea for a story centered around the legend of Herne the Hunter. So what would be my criteria for the film? Well one location, and a maximum of eight cast members. From there he left and contacted me four weeks later with the first draft of ‘Call of the Hunter’.
How easy was it to put the film into production?
It doesn’t matter what the price tag is on the film, each level has its problems – it’s just more money makes it easier to complete. When you are looking to raise private cash and work to a bare bones budget, it gets a little harder. So I worked on how much I could realistically do the film for – then went out with my cap in hand begging to friends, Romans and countrymen. The initial budget to make it was £25,000.
Tell us a bit about your character in the film…
I played Herne the Hunter. The reason was simple; the part was too small to drag an actor from London down to Devon to do it. Anyway the opportunity to do a Hitchcock was too good to miss.
How would you say the film is different from other comedy horror thrillers released this year? What tricks as a director did you try to throw in?
It’s hard to gauge and compare with other films. ‘Call of the Hunter’ was trying to tip its hat in the direction of the old Hammer House horror films. I think we achieved the fine balance between humour and drama. It’s not meant to be a belly laugh per minute, but in the premiere it was interesting to see that most the gags were picked up on.
In terms of tricks, I believe the main trick used by every horror film-maker is sound. Bad sound, bad film. We had a great sound man in Chris Reading whom not only did a great job on location, but also added some really nice foley/soundscape to the final production. Our original score from Dan S. Elliott is also very beneficial in creating the right mood through the film. The only other trick I used personally is to cut the production as tight and as lean as possible. This is often the problem with other low-budget films I have seen, they don’t cut tight enough.
How has the reception been to the film so far?
The reception has been good. We have a worldwide distribution with RSquared in the US who have so far sold it to Canada and France. The overview is that it’s enjoyable and that technically every penny is on-screen.
The film stars Sarah Paul, Michael Intone, Katrin Riedel-Kelly, Don McCorkindale and Angelique Fernandez – what was it like working with the cast and crew?
I have a theory about casting, which I guess a number of directors will also adhere to. That is cast by trust. Don, Katrin, Mike and Angelique are people I have worked with over the years. They are professional and good people. I had to audition, Sarah, Julia Curle and Jonathan Hansler. I was looking for good players, but mainly people who could work under pressure for 12 days and keep a smile on their face and their energy up – team players… and they all were.
Let’s talk a bit about you Anthony. What made you want to get into the acting and directing chair in the first place?
I wanted to get into acting because of Lisa Fennersey, a girl I adored at school. I thought she was gorgeous. So I started with the local dramatic society, it was easy to get into as if you were male and had a pulse you were in! From there I went on to do a BA in English and Drama and went from there. As to directing, I was working for the BBC on a children’s series called, ‘For Amusement Only’, a ‘seven strand’ piece and my strand was called, Judge Jugular. After shooting three episodes it was obvious to the director that there wasn’t that much to this strand and it was bubbling along fine where as another strand featuring lots of kids was way behind it’s schedule. As the director at the time – Peter Leslie, had limited resources in terms of second unit directors, he allowed – get this – the temporary secretary/assistant to take over the directing of it. Obviously, she had no idea, but I had a good cameraman and a good sound guy, so every time she tried to be a director and got it wrong, I took over directing myself. At the end of the 13th episode, the crew came up to me and shook my hand saying, “You were great and you should give directing a go!” I thought f**k it…why not! I then produced, wrote and directed my first short, ‘The One We Came In For’.
What advice would you give to people wanting to pursue a career in acting and directing?
First would be, don’t take it personal. Second, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Finally, you have got to give it everything until you don’t want to give any more. This business attracts lots of ‘wannabees’, but keeping yourself motivated is difficult when your rents 6 months behind.
What films have inspired you as an artist? Do you have any favourites?
Oh yes! I love the ‘Evil Dead’ series. My favourite horror film of all time is ‘Hellraiser’. And in terms of directors I love John Carpenter (‘The Thing’ – best remake ever) and David Cronenberg (‘Rabid and Videodrome’).
What does an Anthony Straeger day usually consist of?
Interesting choice of question… I don’t have much of a routine. My day starts with a prioritized list and I start at the top and work down. I network on the Internet for maybe one hour per day looking for resources or work, and then try to get away from that side. I do enough editing without spending too much time playing on the web.
If you could have dinner with three historical guests (living or dead) – who would they be and why?
- Frank Zappa – he was a fantastic musician and intellect and was the Godfather (or is it Godmutha?) of Rock’n’Roll. I saw him once in a restaurant and sooo wanted to go up and say hello.
- Roger Corman, the man who created the ‘independent movie’. For anyone who has never read the book and wants to be in the business you should read, ‘How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime’.
- Ava Gardner, she was the ultimate hottie! I have a signed photo that was given to me when I was production assisting on an interview with her shortly before her death. Even in her 60’s she was still very beautiful.
What’s coming up for you in 2011/12?
At the moment, 2011 is nearly at an end, it has been a year in which I have been involved in helping other people produce shorts and producing one short of my own called ‘The Bet’. It’s a story about a game of life and death and Porter is a man who has spent his life searching for the ultimate thrill. This time he finds a game where the stakes are higher than he could ever imagine and being hunted down is not something he had quite bargained for. Having bitten off more than he could possibly chew, Porter is on the run and this time for his life. ‘The Bet’ is a game of life and death. Will he avoid paying the ferryman?
Other than that I am working on finding the funding for two movies:
- ‘Blue Green Yellow DEAD!’ is a zombie movie that deals with a bio-chemical company who uses its research establishment as a paintball facility where each colour is a different toxin.
- ‘STAN’ is a psychological drama where a young man suffering from schizophrenia has an encounter with a stanley knife.
Thanks for the interview!