DON’T ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE – AN INTERVIEW WITH INDIE FILMMAKER KEV HARTE
As you know at the Emerald Gore Society we are always excited to speak to talented Indie Horror Filmmakers about their work. Kev Harte is such a talent - a Writer, Director and founder of Abandonhope Films creating such acclaimed horror films as ‘The Sceptic.’ As Kev says himself, “We want to try and create films that honour our preferred genre, while still hoping to entertain, frighten and excite all who give us their time.” I was lucky enough to speak with him about his stimulating new project, ‘The Morning Star Preserves Company.’
Welcome to the Emerald Gore Society Kev! You are a filmmaker of the horror/fantasy genre. Tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
Thank you, been following you guys for quite a while now, so it's a pleasure. I originally hail from Co Armagh in the North of Ireland and have been living in England now for around 8 years. I have been a fan of the genre since I was very young when I saw John Carpenter’s Halloween. From then, horror has always been my passion, along with metal music, being a musician since the age of around 14. The two seem to go hand in hand really.
‘The Sceptic’ is a cleverly written and well directed horror short film. So much was packed into the screen time and yet the viewer was left wanting to know so much more, which is a key component of a decent psychological horror. What was your inspiration for the script?
Well, the film was ambiguous on purpose. I wanted to try and attempt to make a film that was really a two hander - it works as a short film, but also it could easily be a play. My approach was to treat it like a segment from those old classic shows that came from Britain in the early 80's like ‘Hammer House of Horror' and ‘Tales of the Unexpected’, those are the main inspirations. I also wanted to set up an uneasy tone and mood. The majority of the film was shot using just one light and I think with that set up, it helps draw people in, wondering, what's going on just in the darkness, while these two people are learning about each other.
You seem to be able to create polished, high class productions on a shoestring budget – what is key for you when dealing with restricted funds, the bane of all Indie films?
Getting the right cast would be the main priority. People who believe in the script and what you’re trying to achieve. If the actors can really sell the story, make the audience believe in the characters, then the budget really shouldn't be apparent. The second vital element has to be the locations. I'm a great believer that just because you can set a film in your house, it doesn't mean you should. There are amazing buildings and locations all around the UK and you would be surprised what you can get by just asking. The Sceptic cost roughly £250 pounds and that was to feed everyone and pay the actors a small amount which they kindly agreed to as I believe they believed in the story. None of the budget went towards locations as we got them all for free. Once you have those two things in place and you know what your story is and how you visualize it coming to life, the rest is all pretty easy.
Now let’s talk about your new and exciting project, ‘The Morning Star Preserves Company.’ You of course are the writer and director and it stars Emerald Gore favorite Emma Dark. Without giving too much away, give us a brief synopsis of the film.
Basically, the beginning of time when Lucifer is cast out of Heaven, he and God formed ‘The Heaven Agreement’. Essentially, God gets the good guys, and the Devil gets the sinners. As long as this is adhered to, peace on earth with no interference from either side. So ‘The Morning Star Preserves Company’ is born, which has a unique way of bringing the souls of sinners to the big man downstairs. It involves demons, killers and jam!
‘The Morning Star’ of course has biblical connotations and references to Lucifer – indeed you have included ‘The Heaven Agreement’ regarding good and evil in your taster for the film. With everything from ‘Constantine’ to ‘Dominion’ on our screens and the constant horror franchises everywhere, how are you going to make your film stand out?
I think we are taking a unique approach to how the supernatural is perceived. Again, back to low budgets, yeah it restricts you as far as the tools are concerned, we can't build animatronics and all that craic, but we can still sell the ideas with creativity and with what we have at our disposal. Trying not to give too much away of course, but how hell is envisioned in our story is not the hell of flames and steel rods up bums that we all know and love, but something altogether more relatable. Keeping ‘The Heaven Agreement’ stable, is just a job for these guys, and like any job, we don't always want to have to do it, but we do regardless. It’s a quirky vision of hell I think best sums it up.
You have said it is important to you that this production has a strong female lead character. Why do you think it is required for this script and what does it bring above a typical male lead?
For this story in particular and for the lead character Laura Kinsey who is played by Emma Dark as you mentioned earlier, the arc is something really interesting, I hope. I felt that having a female lead makes the audience warm to them right away. There is nothing imposing about her or special, in the way it’s written, and Laura becomes very relatable early on in the story. So it's not to say, that it couldn’t be a male role, but for me, and for this story, it had to be a female. There is always something much more shocking when bad things happen to people you like. Not that I'm saying something bad happens, it doesn't. Well, it might! HA.
There is always some criticism when a female plays the lead in a horror. Either too girly, too masculine, stereotypical slasher bait or the ‘Scream Queen’ label lends to a preconception of a damsel in distress. How difficult is it to find the right balance when creating a female lead character?
For me, it's in the dialogue. Yes there are always going to be certain stereotypes, but if you set out from the start, that this person isn't that, and then take them somewhere else the audience least expects, then that's always really fun for me, as a writer. I am a huge fan of Kevin Smith, and I tend to write a lot of dialogue, probably too much, but I feel it helps establish the character and give the viewers a clear idea of the capability of the player. I think recently a good example of that would be the film ‘You're Next’ which was really clever at setting up these type of stereotypes you mention, then just surprising everyone by taken them down a different route.
You have cited both my personal favorite, Guillermo Del Toro and classic Sam Raimi as your inspiration for the style of movie you wish to make with ‘The Morning Star Preserves Company’. What is it about their work that you admire and how do go about emulating their techniques and direction without their deep pockets?
I think it’s more their creative spirit that inspires me. I am a huge fan of all their work but it’s not so much an aesthetic inspiration I take from them, but how they both struggled but still manage to make films within the studio system, and still be classed as indie film makers. With Raimi for example, he can do ‘Evil Dead’ one minute, then ‘A Simple Plan’ the next, then ‘Spider-man’, but still manages to come across as the same personable goof he always was and not be tainted by the Hollywood system. With GDT, his complete vision of all his films is what inspires me. He seems to be the type of guy that has everything planned out to the last detail, sound, lighting, make up etc. and still manages to come out with more or less the films HE wants to make, even with studio guys getting in the way. So those are the qualities I admire in those two in particular.
You have also mentioned that visual stimulus is vital in this type of horror and something that GDT does so well. Why do you think it is so important to set the tone of your movie visually?
It brings the audience in and invites them into your little world for a while. If you can create something that's visually strong right from the get go, people will hopefully invest in the film. Yes the story is as important, but as Dario Argento has taught us, sometimes, people just want that visceral, visual experience, and others want some stories to have a bit more meat on the bones. Hopefully, we can give them both.
You have brought on board some other outstanding Indie horror film actors for this project –tell us a bit more!
Yeah, it really is a great cast. With Emma , I had always seen the things she did from a modelling perspective, and music videos etc, then I started to see the interviews she had been doing at Fright-fest and some of her paranormal investigation pieces, and in those she always carried herself really well, and I felt she could really bring that likeability to the Laura character, as well as be able to deliver some great passionate dialogue - of course with the ‘Seize The Night’ trailer it gave us a glimpse at what she can also do physically, which the role requires too. Mark Rathbone will be well known to the indie horror community and is just great at those quirky, funny characters.
Liam Olsen, is also an actor I have worked with before, and is the kind of actor that you don't need to give too much direction too. Liam gets it, knows his lines, and hits the mark every take. We will be shooting the standalone teaser for the film in the next few weeks also, with two really great North East actors, Stephy Cattran-Robinson and Dan Dobson. It’s going to be a really cool introduction to the Morning Star world too. So yeah I couldn't be more pleased with all the cast we have on board.
When it comes to horror films, what would be your favorite viewing and what do you avoid like the plague?
Any early Argento Giallo's I can sit and watch over and over, and see new things everything. ‘The Bird with the Crystal Plummage’ being a favorite. These days I’ll avoid anything with zombies. I think once you use a zombie to advertise a Kit Kat, then haven't we said all we need to? If I need a zombie fix, I will look back to Lucio Fulci .With a glass of wine and a Kit Kat.
With an unlimited budget, which horror film would you remake and why?
Oh... Eh I wouldn't. I would just take the money, pretend I'm remaking an old classic and use it for my own flicks! Ha!
Obviously ‘Morning Star’ is a huge priority right now. What does the future hold for Kev Harte?
I'm really focusing on this at the minute. There are a few other possible projects lined up but nothing concrete. I am developing the script for a sequel to ‘The Sceptic’, which picks up ten years after the events of the first. I still also have a few un-shot scripts waiting to be filmed, but hopefully we can get ‘Morning Star’ done in time for Fright-Fest next year, and get it into the hands of producers who hopefully will help us take the next step towards future projects.
Now horror fans have a very exciting opportunity ahead. They can be a part of the stimulating horror film ‘The Morning Star Preserves Company’ by contributing and becoming a backer through Indiegogo. How do we go about this?
You can visit the page right here. Every little bit helps so share, donate, pledge and hopefully we can get this really cool flick made for everyone to enjoy.