Writer and Director Oliver Park talks to us about his critically acclaimed, multi-award winning and spine-tingling short horror film Vicious (2015) which was screened as part of the Exit 6 Film Festival launch.
1. Where did the idea for the story come from and what does it mean to you?
Many of my ideas are lifted almost beat for beat from my nightmares – instead of turning over and trying to forget them, I’ll sit up and try and remember every detail.
I'm an actor who has been a horror fanatic and horror writer since I was old enough to pick up a pen. I was born in the 80’s, so grew up with stories by M. R. James, H. P. Lovecraft, and Stephen King. Then, when I discovered horror films I quickly fell in love with films by Carpenter, Craven, Kubrick, Romero, Cronenberg, Russell, Barker and of course – Hitchcock (to name but a few). I remember being terrified by those stories and I would regret them every night as I was lying in bed unable to sleep!
My father is also a huge film fan so he introduced me to the horrors from the 50’s and 60’s, the Hammer Horror collection – and two of my all-time favourites: ‘Night of the Demon’ by Jacques Tourneur and Nosferatu by F. W. Murnau.
I used to collect films on VHS (my parents had to buy them for me of course as I was too young at the time). I remember having a binder full of horror films that I wanted to buy – I had hundreds before the big VHS/DVD crossover. From a young age I wrote what scared me most – although, reading back over those today, I am glad they never got made!
2. What were the main challenges you faced when putting this film together?
Directing is fantastically hard and I have so much respect for those who do it.
Having been an actor for fifteen years, I knew how things worked on set so I trusted my gut, and pushed hard to get the image in my mind replicated exactly to catch on film. I had an incredible team to work with on Vicious who I trusted and knew would help me turn the script into a great film. I have a strong vision for my ideas so although directing was complex and incredibly difficult, I found it exhilarating and am looking forward to doing more.
3. What were the biggest lessons you learned during the making of the film?
I am probably very different to most and as it was my first film I didn’t want to do it unless it was going to be perfect. So I planned every pixel in every frame. I worked hard with every department to obtain something that would be totally beautiful and horrifically tense. I simply did not want to do the film unless it was going to work and I use that same approach with all my work.
Something I knew before but didn’t truly experience until Vicious was the fact that it’s not just your film – it’s everyone’s. Everyone who worked on it has a piece in it and brings life to it in different ways. It will never be exactly as you imagined it but instead, it becomes deeper and richer with others bringing their fears and experiences to the project. What scares me might not scare others so I get everyone’s opinion on set to ensure that what we are doing is the ‘scariest version’ of what we can achieve. I can’t wait to do my next and find out what scares the next crew!
4. What was your best experience during the shoot?
One shot in ‘Vicious’ had me most on edge. I had no idea if it was going to work and I talked about it with various people before production to ensure it could be done right. Even whilst setting up the location, the lighting and the shot, I didn’t know if it would work. The setting had to be so perfect in order to pull it off - and my actress had been contorted into the perfect position. Then, everything was quiet, I called action - I saw the outline of a black hand cross the white wall in the background whilst moving towards camera and land on the foot of the bed. It worked exactly how I had imagined. I kept in my excitement until the end of the take and then yelled CUT! I knew then that Vicious was going to be a nightmare come true.
5. What has been your best experience screening Vicious?
Haha – that’s an easy one. Without singling out any festivals in particular (as I couldn’t attend them all so I don’t know what people’s reactions were) but at the Exit 6 launch several of the audience screamed out loud. It’s wrong to take so much pleasure from bringing so much fear to people but I’ve not seen ‘Vicious’ since. That reaction made all the hard work worth it. A quick message to the people who screamed – ‘Vicious’ was just the beginning. There’s more coming your way.
6. How have you found the festival circuit?
I entered about 50 festivals with Vicious. It won 10 awards (including 'Gold' at Toronto After Dark for 'Best Film' and 'Platinum' for 'Best Film' in LA) and it was nominated for a further 8 awards (including Melis d'Argent - translation 'Best Short in Europe'). It has now screened at over 55 festivals worldwide – once it got momentum other festivals got in touch and asked if they could screen it. It was my pleasure to share it with as many people as possible and I am so glad that it did so well.
I also learned a lot from doing the festival run – what people like and dislike, as well as what things improve films for festivals. A good film is not necessarily a good ‘festival film’. My next short horror (hopefully hitting festivals late 2016 and early 2017) is shorter and darker than Vicious – I hope it will leave many more people uncomfortable!
7. What plans do you have to distribute your film?
Honestly I don’t know. I know that most of the views for Vicious have come from the US and other big countries in the world – I would love to get some kind of distribution in place. There are various avenues for short horror films that I am aware of but I am planning on doing 3 in total before I push to get my feature scripts off the ground. Each short is a teaser for the feature version really and I’ve many more features scripts than shorts. I would love to make them all but first I need to find a production company that wants them!
8. What was the last short film by another filmmaker you enjoyed?
I watch a lot of short films. I don’t find many short horror films that I really like but I am aware of many great horror writer and director friends of mine so I am looking forward to seeing they’re new projects very much. The Jitterman and Perfect Monster are two to keep your eye out for!
9. Is there anything you would like to add as advice to fellow/budding filmmakers?
I am right there with you all as I only have one under my belt so far. I hate competition so I would much rather get us all together and make something even better. I totally agree with the ‘too many cooks’ idea but if we all stay objective I think we could achieve so much more.
If you’re new to film then just make it right – don’t cut corners and never settle. Film is forever and you’re only as good as the last thing people see.
'Vicious' is currently available to watch online here.
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