In honour of The Mayhem Film Festival, which took part from 13th-16th October at Broadway Cinema, we sent our Marketing and Communications Assistant, Lauren Lynch, along to check out what went down! Lauren spoke with two of the directors whose short films were shown as part of Mayhem’s Short Film Showcase – Liam Banks, Director of ‘Sandman‘ and Tristan Ofield, Director of ‘White Lily‘. For both directors, Mayhem’s Short Film Showcase was the world premiere of their films!
“Mayhem had everything from gore to elements of comedy…if you have a twisted sense of humour…getting all you horror fanatics in the mood for the Halloween season and making you feel as if you’re not alone (of course you’re not alone, you were in a cinema with other people!)”
Here are the questions Lauren asked Banks and Ofield about their work:
What got you into the film industry?
Liam: “One of my earliest memories as a child is watching movies with my Grandma, I can always remember sitting on her lap and watching the likes of E.T. and Bedknobs and Broomsticks with her. E.T. absolutely terrified me and left me traumatised for years (seriously), so in some ways I would say that explains my fascination with horror films in particular. From a very young age I was always drawn to storytelling and used to absolutely love creative writing. When I was about 14 or so an old SONY Handycam came into my possession and the rest is history. I found that filmmaking was another way I could tell stories and it really allowed me to create my own little world on screen to entertain other people. I made my first proper short when I was 16, which was of course terrible, but from each short I have made since I learnt so much. With each thing I make I always feel like I learn so much. Aside from the shorts I have made over the years I studied Film and Media Studies at college and then graduated with a first class honours degree in Film Production last year from the University of Derby. Studying more and more just clarified for me that filmmaking is what I want to do full time whilst giving me the technical competence I needed. Every year, since that first short at 16 I make a horror film for release online and into festivals at Halloween. Each year I dedicate it to my Grandma because I don’t think without her I would be doing what I love today.”
Tristan: Personally, I’ve never felt like I’m in the industry at all. I’ve always been an outsider. Making films is just something I do with my friends – over time we’ve become a bit more skilled, the films have become more ambitious and the toys have got bigger.
From Tristan’s film: White Lily
What drew you to directing?
Liam: Aside from honestly being a bit of a control freak, directing really allows for involvement in all aspects of filmmaking which is so exciting. I love so many of the elements that go into creating films so orchestrating how it all comes together is an absolute dream. Naturally I think I often take the lead in most situations so directing just felt organic. I really think my love of directing also lies within getting to work so closely with actors. Through school I absolutely loved drama, and occasionally still get involved in front of the camera when I can. The acting talent of your film is really what brings your story to life so getting to collaborate on a character within your film is always an amazing feeling. I think my opinion of directing has changed a lot though through the years. When I first started out I was the director, as well as the producer, cameraman, actor, editor, etc – you name it I did it. As I’ve gone on I have met so many like-minded people and have had the privilege to work with them on a lot of the content we create today. Working together and collaborating with some hugely talented people is such an honour and the responsibility of directing is one that I love to take on.
Taken from the Sandman’s poster
Tristan: Directing has been a natural progression. I’ve never really thought of myself as a Director though. I love every element of filmmaking but I’m an Editor first and foremost. To me, that’s where filmmaking truly comes alive. Later, I found that I got the most pleasure from editing footage I had created myself. So Directing is a means to an ends for me.
Why did you go into the horror genre? How did you get into that?
Liam: I think I mentioned this earlier with my ‘E.T Experience’ but horror has always been a genre that I have loved to watch and work within. To me a great film is one that stays with you and leaves you with a feeling, whether it’s a feeling of joy from a comedy or a changed worldview from a biopic. I just choose to scare people and make them afraid to go home to a dark house. I personally love that feeling of being scared, being on the edge of your seat and not knowing what to expect next. I think through the years the films that have stuck with me are horror movies so naturally when I started thinking of making my own film(s), horror was the genre I wanted to experiment in. Linking onto that, horror is such a diverse genre, there are so many sub-genres for you to play with, other genres come with expectations and restrictions. The more work I have done in the genre I have come to really appreciate the following horror has all over the world. Horror fans in my eyes are the best kind of fans, no matter how low budget or arguably ‘bad’ in some cases a horror film might be, there will always be an audience. An incredibly honest audience at that. If a scare falls flat in your film a horror fan will be the first to tell you it sucks. I like that. Horror is for me the best genre to work in because of genuinely how much fun it is! I don’t think many people would expect it but splashing fake blood everywhere and running around in the woods screaming have led to some of my fondest memories. I know every time before a horror shoot its going to be a blast and everyone always has such a great time. Why would I not want that?!
Poster from Liam’s film: Sandman
Tristan: Both horror and the science fiction audience demand innovation. Either in scares, gore, concept or character. It’s so much fun to work in. When I sit down to watch a film I ask only one thing. Entertain me. Thats what those people want. To see something different. But they’re a very generous crowd too. Horror audiences make the best audiences.
Do you have any up and coming projects coming up in the near future?
Liam: With SuperfreakMedia you can almost always guarantee we have something in the pipeline, either set to film or be released. We have a short planned for release this December, similar to our twisted tale ‘SEASON’S GREETINGS’ released last Christmas to get everyone nice and festive. Aside from that we have plenty of ideas we are toying with, it’s just getting all of the resources and people needed together to get it all made. I definitely think the next step is to make something again with an actual budget. Often the work we create is self-funded and it’s super low budget at that. I don’t think money makes a film but it would certainly allow us to push the boundaries further with our work. The main thing that we’re developing is our first feature film. This is based on our short film released last year called ‘MR CREAK‘. We were lucky enough to get the short featured on BBC Three’s ‘THE FEAR’ where we were placed 5th nationally out of nearly 900 entries. I’m keen for us not to lose the momentum of that and expand the universe we established in the short. The short is now online and just recently broke 100,000 views so the support is still pouring in thick and fast. We’ve got a lot planned for the feature so again it’s just about trying to put all of the pieces of the puzzle together. Ideally we plan to shoot the feature late next year.
Tristan: I have a mountaineering feature in development called Snow Blind. It’s a horror film about an adventure that goes wrong. It’s an idea I’ve been toying with for a few years. Luckily I now have Adrian Reynolds attached to write it.
Are you currently working on anything at the moment?
Liam: Aside from the horror I do like to work in other genres too, we just recently filmed our first comedy called ‘OH SHIT!’ which should be set for release mid/late November. That was a really interesting experience as of course there is a sense of comfort and familiarity in horror for me, with comedy I felt the pressure. I really hope people respond to that well when we release it. I did joke when making it this is one of the only films I have done that takes place during the day and no one dies! So we will have to see how that pans out. I also have an action short planned, so that should be rolling before the cameras soon enough. The idea behind it has been gestating for a while so I’m looking forward to shooting this one. I do enjoy mixing things up a bit so after having quite a horror-heavy year it’ll be nice to wind down with some projects that are a little different.
Taken from Liam’s film: Sandman
Tristan: There’s a period piece I’m cutting for Jack Delenay and Blake Sporne. It’s a short that’s set across the backdrop of the Battle Of Waterloo. It’s really ambitious. In fact it’s the sort of project that people would tell you not to do because it’s too difficult – that hasn’t stopped them. They’ve taken the horse by the rains and I really admire that. It looks great too. I’ve also been promoting my war documentary, Operation Oman. It’s fascinating that so many people can’t point to the country on a map. Let alone know that we helped them win a civil war.
How did you get involved with Mayhem at Broadway?
Liam: Mayhem is a festival that has been on my radar for as long as I can remember. When I was in college, soon after making my first short I was really encouraged to enter something into Mayhem. I think honestly pretty much every year since I have entered something but we weren’t successful until last year. Last year we got in with ‘MR CREAK’ but due to it then being shown on the BBC we had to pull out which was so frustrating. This year we made ‘SANDMAN‘, which we were lucky enough to have selected, purely for Mayhem. The festival was always in the back of my mind when writing it, to shooting and editing it. I still can’t quite believe we made it. Mayhem is always packed full of super high quality content, so it was a huge honour. Not having my filmmaker head on, Mayhem is such a great film festival for genre fans. I have been lucky enough to attend in the past and this year was no different. I bought a full pass for the entire weekend and I had such a good time. The atmosphere, the people, everything is just spot on. I’m so gutted it’s over, I can’t wait for next year already!
Tristan: Mayhem is the best curated UK Horror festival. They have just opened their doors to science fiction and I have no doubt that Mayhem will shortly become the landmark festival for both genres. Chris Cooke knew about White Lily when we were filming in Nottingham and asked if he could have a look. We submitted the film as a work in progress. We were still tinkering with the mix at the time. Chris and Steve were able to see the film’s potential.
From Tristan’s film: White Lily
What was it like having a world premiere for your films?
Liam: Having the world premiere was so exciting! When I say I was nervous that is the understatement of the century. I had palpitations until about film 6 in the Scary Shorts Showcase – I was so nervous. For us it was the first time screening the film on the big screen to an audience not made up of people somehow involved in the production. I think as an artist, no matter the field, it’s always natural to be curious about how your work will be received. Films, like art, are subjective and I know how hardcore some of the genre fans are at Mayhem. Overall, I just really wanted to scare people and I think we certainly succeeded in that. The feedback we have had back has been fantastic. We weren’t booed off and I think we held our own with the other shorts that were up there, even though I can guarantee ours was by far the cheapest. I think that’s what really surprised me, we were in the company of some other really well funded shorts. It was such a good evening and I just hope we get the chance to do it again in the future with something new!
Tristan: Mayhem is the perfect place. Nottingham was my home town, it was shot there, most of the crew are local and I’m proud White Lily premiered at a Nottingham festival. Bang was the Nottingham Film Festival and we were all very sorry to see it go. I hear good things about Short Stack. I think both festivals are a reflection of the amount of creativity and talent in Nottingham. The independent scene is alive and thriving. We couldn’t have made White Lily anywhere else.
What inspired the ideas behind your films Sandman and White Lily?
Liam: I always have a soft spot for urban legends and mythical creatures. The figure of the ‘Sandman’ has been one that I’ve always wanted to bring to life on screen but never had the opportunity or the idea for it until now. As mentioned I knew we wanted to make a short contained film that we could enter into Mayhem and release online on Halloween. I think a lot of the story really stemmed from very real fears I have had through the years when falling to sleep at night. What would I do if I looked out the window and saw someone staring back at me? What would I do if they broke into the house? I think that would be scary enough if they were just burglars but making that intruder completely supernatural just added an extra level of terror I really wanted to explore. A lot of the set pieces within the short came from ideas I have had walking through the house at night in the dark, thinking this is where something could jump out or just be crouched watching me. I heard once, a while back now, that is how James Wan created a lot of his scares in his movies. I just took that notion and ran with it and although I’ve freaked myself out a hell of a lot I think it’s led to some decent ideas.
Tristan: White Lily came about from another film I was planning to make about a guy barracked in a broom cupboard on a space station in the arse end of the galaxy. I converted a room in my flat ready to start shooting. In chatting with Adrian he had already had the concept for White Lily and suggested we make two films using the same set. When I read his script I realised that I was desperate to make it and that we needed a bigger set. In the end we focused all our energy into White Lily.
From Tristan’s film: White Lily
What are you future plans within the film industry?
Liam: The next big step I think for me and the guys at SuperfreakMedia, would be to get our ‘MR CREAK’ feature well and truly off the ground and successfully funded. I have been making shorts for some time now and however much I love it, I really want to test my stamina and my ability with a feature film sized project. Alongside that I think it doesn’t hurt to dream bigger and better with each project. Another great festival I have always wanted to tick off the bucket list is ‘Fright Fest’ so I think it would be cool to get something screened there in the next few years. The main thing for me is to not lose sight of where my strengths lie as a filmmaker and continue to try and improve from project to project. Although I like to direct I love getting involved in any kind of way on a film set and definitely want to look to get more experience on some more professional sets and features. I don’t think you ever stop learning and I can’t wait to see where I might be in a few years time, what sort of films I will be making. Who knows I might not be making as many horrors as I am now, I might be making more?!
Tristan: There are so many films I want to make. I just want to create and continue creating. I’ll certainly stay working in genre. Whether that’s in the industry or on the fringes, who knows. Crowdfunding platforms are the place for people like me to raise money. Lots of Notts based filmmakers are turning to crowdfunding because why wait for someone else’s permission to make your film? Nottingham is an incredible place to find writers, directors, DOPS, producers and actors. Its a shame they don’t have their own TV channel because they could fill it with original content every day.
“I would like to send my special thanks to both Liam and Tristan for taking a few moments of their time to speak with me and answer my questions! It’s been interesting talking about horror especially as it’s the Halloween season!”
SANDMAN will premiere online on Halloween Night (31 October) at 7PM GMT for ONE WEEK ONLY. The film will then continue on its journey into festivals all around the world.
To check out more of Tristan and Liam’s work, check out their online media: