I recently got the chance to talk to director Neil Jones about his new film, ‘The Reverend’. Here, Neil talks about how the idea came about in the first place and what films have inspired him as a director…
(Source – www.burnhandfilms.com – Neil Jones (L) pictured with Stuart Brennan – (R))
Hey Neil. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. Of course we‘re here to talk to you about your new film ‘The Reverend’.
No problem I appreciate you taking an interest.
You wrote, produced and directed the feature – how did the idea come about in the first place?
I don’t see myself as a genre director as such. My last film ‘Risen‘ was a biopic about Welsh boxer Howard Winstone, so to do an action horror film straight after seems like a strange choice to some. When people see ‘The Reverend’ I think they’ll see that even though it has action and gore – at the heart of it, it is a character driven film. I wanted to create a comic book like hero, but also ground him in reality as much as possible.
How would you say the film is different from other horrors released this year? What tricks as a director did you try to throw in?
The one reaction I got when people read the script was, wow this is a really original story. It’s about a preacher who is a vampire and decides to use that to find crime. It’s got a bit of ‘Death Wish’ about it I suppose, but this isn’t a revenge story, this is about a guy who has an affliction who doesn’t know what to do with it, so he uses it for what he sees as good: helping people by ridding the world of bad people.
How has the reception been to the film so far?
We’ve had two public screenings so far, and the reaction has been positive. Scream magazine gave us four stars; I’m really pleased a genre magazine liked the film. I think people will hopefully want to see more from the character and therefore that will open the door to a trilogy.
The film stars Rutger Hauer, Tamer Hassan, Doug Bradley, Simon Phillips, Emily Booth and Shane Richie – what was it like working with the cast and crew?
I was so lucky with this film, every cast member I wanted I got. The script went down well with them and I was honoured they came and did the film. I filled the film with really unique and clear characters in the hope we’d be able to attach some high-profile names and thankfully it worked! The crew worked so hard on this film, it makes my job so much easier when the departments around you are in sync and all striving for the best results.
Let’s talk a bit about you Neil. What made you want to get into the writing and directing chair in the first place?
Honestly, I grew up watching films, buying videos religiously every week but the truth is, and this really surprises people, I never wanted to be a film-maker. Sure I thought it would be a cool job, but I was always a fan rather than a creator if I’m honest. My path into this as a profession started in University where I wrote a script, mainly to see if I could, I showed it to a few people and then Stuart Brennan (co-producer and star of ‘Risen’ and ‘The Reverend’) read it, liked it and asked me if I wanted to make it. It all came from there really. I loved the whole process and then started learning about finance, distribution all the aspects that get a film actually financed and distributed.
What advice would you give to people wanting to pursue a career in any of these?
If you really want to direct a feature film, then start learning all you can about producing. No-one is going to jump out and say “Here’s a load of money, go and direct”. So many film-makers I speak to tell me they can’t get a break, yet they don’t understand how the finance works, tax breaks, etc. Learn that stuff! You wouldn’t find a doctor saying he didn’t understand the aspects of his job. Study; learn everything you can about how the industry ticks. There’s a lot of brilliant, creative film-makers out there who don’t make it because they fail to grasp that to succeed you have to know every aspect of the game. There are few producers willing to gamble on a first-timer, it’s so competitive. If you want to direct, learn the business side. That will help you find your own finance and that will ultimately get your film made.
What films have inspired you as an artist? Do you have any favourites?
I have tons, ‘Rocky’ is my all time favorite film. Horror wise my two favourites are ‘The Shining’ and ‘The Birds’, amazingly suspenseful films.
If you could have a dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
You know honestly someone else asked me that recently, and I have no idea. If I’m honest it all seems a bit awkward to me! But I’ll go for Howard Winstone (never met him even though I made a film about him), Muhammad Ali and Alfred Hitchcock.
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
Man United losing 6-1 to City. The world’s gone mad!
What’s coming up for you in 2011/12?
I’m in post with my new film ‘Deranged’ which we shot in Madrid in August, and I’m exec producing a film called ‘Zombie King’ which starts next month. Off to the AFM next week, so a busy end to the year. Have two projects I’ll be directing next year. Feel very lucky I’m getting work really.
Thanks for the interview!