James Webber, director of BAFTA long-listed short film Driftwood , talks to us about his first foray into the horror genre with The Prey (2015). The award-winning film has been selected by film festivals around the world and was also 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?
I originally wrote the script to The Prey back in 2009 but then ended up putting it in a drawer and going on a drama spree for a few years – making almost exclusively serious and stylistic dramas. My goal was to take certain horror stereotypes, turn them on their head and have fun with them. Originally the film was a lot more straight forward but over time the humour found its way in, I just didn't know how much it would.
A couple of years later, after finishing my short films Driftwood and Soror  I fancied a complete change – something dark, visceral and, perhaps, a little bit silly! So I dug out the script, made a few changes and put it into production – mostly funding the project through my production company Springhead. I've always had a huge love of horror so to be able to dip my toes into new creative waters has been a hugely rewarding and fun experience.
2. What were the main challenges you faced when putting this film together?
The shoot itself was pretty tough! We shot for three February nights on location in Hounslow – it was freezing! Going into the project (perhaps foolishly) I was looking forward to filming at night as the continuity of light would always be the same. The weather on the other hand was very changeable, raining on and off constantly which resulted in having to constantly change the schedule so that shots matched. The 'transformation' scene was tough and we had to shoot a couple of shots on each of the nights. When combining weather issues with practical make-up effects it can get a little interesting to say the least! The crew came together well and the cast were absolute troopers especially our lead actress Rebecca Van Cleave who always had to look like she wasn't absolutely freezing cold whilst on camera!
3. What were the biggest lessons you learned during the making of the film?
My biggest lesson I took from making The Prey is that no matter how much pre-production you do (and I do a lot - I love it!) some things are out of your control! Being able to think on the spot is so incredibly important. I've been quite lucky on my previous shoots as things have been pretty smooth but I've probably learnt more from The Prey experience.
4. What was your best experience during the shoot?
I'd say shooting the practical special effects. So much work had gone into them that to finally get the pieces in front of the camera was really exciting. Our make-up FX team of Marc Greensmith, Annie Tagge and Francis Darvell White were all stars and gave 110%. Originally the effects element was going to be a little simpler but the more I worked on the project the more I was drawn to doing the effects I grew up loving in films like The Thing  and An American Werewolf In London  so it was interesting (and certainly much more complicated / expensive) taking this route. Having said there is a small amount of CGI in the film as well which really enhances the overall effect – without going too far.
5. What's been your best experience screening the film?
Our two biggest festival screenings were in the states (Screamfest L.A and Mile High Horror) and I wasn't able to attend so the first time I saw The Prey play with an audience was at the Cornish Horror Film Festival - the reception was fantastic and we ended up winning not only Best Film but the Audience Award & Best Actor as well! It was an amazing evening!
6. How have you found the festival circuit?
It's been great to visit and by screened at horror genre festivals and events that I wouldn't have been a part of before with my previous films. There can be a slight stigma attached to making genre films, especially horror which I find deeply frustrating – especially as there are some incredible films out there that are just as powerful and entertaining as any of their mainstream counterparts. But I do think things are beginning to change and more horror shorts are beginning to creep into general festivals.
7. What plans do you have to distribute your film?
The film was acquired by horror filmmaker Eli Roth's company CRYPT TV and is now available to watch for free on their Facebook group. Roth said that he loved the film which certainly means a lot to the whole crew.
8. What was the last short film by another filmmaker you enjoyed?
I've seen so many short films in the last few months that I've enjoyed... it's difficult to pick only one! Recently highlights have included Night Of The Slasher, a hugely enjoyable horror comedy by Shant Hamassian, Textual Relationship, a brilliantly observed comedy about the perils of modern dating directed by Syd Heather and powerful drama Stereotype by Jordan McGibney - a big up-and-coming talent!
9.Is there anything you would like to add as advice/ interest to fellow/budding filmmakers?
Always keep learning and being ambitious in what you attempt to achieve!
To keep up to date with all of James' projects visit the Springhead Film Company website.
You can also follow James on Twitter: @DirectorJWebber
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