Recently we had the extreme pleasure to interview indie filmmaker Nick Hunt. Nick Hunt is the writer and director for Safe Place which is going into production in February. If you ever wanted to have a little insight into what goes into getting an indie movie made then check out this interview:
What is Safe Place about?
SAFE PLACE it is about this terrible tragedy that happens to this family man Chris Craven, where he loses his grip on reality and is forced into this life of fear and seclusion, he crosses paths with Lori and her 5 friends and when they find themselves in distress he wants to save them from themselves and the world outside, and will do it by any means necessary, even if it means taking them out of the world, one by one.
Where did the idea for Safe Place come from?
SAFE PLACE comes from a few different inspirations. The title was an inspiration from the actual government signs which basically are in front of buildings that can be a sanctuary of sorts during dangerous situations. The idea I gathered from that was well…what is the place that was supposed to be your escape from danger wasn’t safe at all, and was actually equally or even MORE dangerous. The rest is really a work of inspiration from the world outside. We all are individuals and we all have singular opinions which are what makes us human. The world isn’t a great place by any stretch, and some people have in other’s eyes warped views about the world, and exaggerated views. To some those aren’t exaggerated views, to some its reality. The violence, the turmoil outside isn’t something we as a society or as individuals can escape; we simply have to fight to make it out alive. The last part of inspiration really came from the fans. What do the fans want to see? I tried as hard as I could to still sit in that audience’s perspective’s chair and live as an audience member throughout all of this. We are evolving, we are changing, and what we want to see on the screen is changing. We want the emotional experience brought back to horror. Gone are the days you’ll see the clichés running rampant that you’re used to. SAFE PLACE strives to break barriers in a lot of different areas down to the way it’s written, the way it’s portrayed, the characters, the violence, the story, the effects, everything!!!
How long did it take to write the script?
The original script was written over 10 years ago and if I remember didn’t take that long, the rewrites an revisions of the screenplay since have been the longest and most arduous of the tasks making sure to get all of the emotional experiences, the tension and those characters right and realistic and true to my vision.
How did you get the money together to produce the movie?
Some of the money came from private sources and private investors, and we are still trying to procure the final remainder of the funding for things like marketing, film festivals, etc. The good thing is we save a lot of money by the fact we have 99% of our equipment and that’s a big expenditure we don’t have to really worry about which is a huge relief.
How did you get the cast together for the movie?
For this film I really sought out feedback from other filmmaking friends and looked for presence and positivity, people who popped, there was no auditioning; these people were mostly brought on sight unseen. I did that because I had a feeling about the group and I thought they personified who I was looking for, especially when my niche is giving opportunities and breaking barriers in horror for having strong female characters, strong LGBTQ characters, strong minority characters, and even giving talents that are disabled the ability to showcase, in a genre that’s usually pretty cut and dry. We have a cameo appearance shooting next month in December with Lloyd Kaufman who is of course is a legend in the business whom I simply reached out to through Facebook and wanted to be a part of SAFE PLACE almost immediately after hearing about it! My main actress is Ashley Mary Nunes (ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE, upcoming DEATH WARD 13) who is just kick ass and amazing, destined to be the next big scream queen; We have character actor Dominick Santarsiero portraying Chris Craven our antagonist, and the rest of the cast is led by a group of young and up and coming talent the likes of Yvelisse Cedrez, Katy Votapka, Timothy Noble, John Gettier, Nathaniel Matos, Nick Graffeo & more!
Where will the movie be made?
The movie will be shot in and around the Orlando and surrounding central Florida areas this February in a mere few months!
What did you do before you were a filmmaker?
Most of my career has been spent in customer service, hospitality and restaurant. I have worked as everything but a bartender, and am a great food service manager, and love to cook as a general hobby.
What are your favorite horror movies?
I love the original Fright Night, the F13 franchise, the Halloween franchise, the Child’s Play films, classic Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento, all the Universal Monster Movies, I love foreign horror like Cold Prey, Frontier(s), Martyrs, Calvaire, Inside. At the end of the day though, anything and everything. Way too many to list!
What inspires you?
Hunger. The underdog. I love seeing that hunger that someone personifies come up and fuel them. I have had a lot of hard times in my life. Seeing someone make their way through the fire and flames so to speak inspires me more than anything else. Courage is a big character trait in my book. That’s why it is so important to me that SAFE PLACE really brings into light strong female characters, strong LGBTQ characters, and strong minority characters. This is a new day and age and the film world needs to keep up. The horror world more than ever!
What is the hardest part about getting your movie made?
The no money part is a huge thing, asking people for money, offering incentives, the business side, never thought it was something I’m good at, but I’m finding I am. The rejection sometimes. We originally had a lot of issues with a realtor with the original main location for the house, some casting issues, people I had hoped for not being able to commit. Besides that some days I sacrificed eating to boost a post on Facebook, or did something equally. It’s hard out there when all you have is your passion, now I’m starting to see it’s not just MY passion, but others that are fueling this project as well.
When will people be able to see the finished product?
The tentative release date is October 27, 2017 the final Friday before Halloween next year!
Where can people find out more about the movie?
Mum & Dad is an independent British horror film set amongst the austere backdrop of London’s Heathrow Airport and the constant drone of jet engines. The area is bleak and characterized by fences topped with razor wire and depressing homogenized rows of terraced houses which have depleted as the airport grew up around them. Each abode is the same as the next – but one of them hides a pair of serial killers: Mum and Dad.
Lena is a polish girl who works as a cleaner at the airport. She shares a shift with Birdie, who despite being light-fingered and a gossip, seems likable enough. Birdie introduces Lena to Elbie, her “adopted brother” who is a mute and also works at the airport. At the end of one shift Birdie orchestrates a situation whereby Lena misses the last bus, and insists that Lena comes with her so that her Dad can give her a ride home. Of course this never comes to pass, and after arriving at Birdies house, Lena is bludgeoned and drugged – awakening some time later to the start of a hellish surreal nightmare that she may never survive.
At this early stage in the film’s progression, the viewer could be forgiven for thinking that the plot is setting up a scenario seen regularly in copy-cat films since the success of movies such as Saw and Hostel. Whilst Mum & Dad does not shy away from extremely sadistic and nasty violence, it is not a gore film and instead relies upon creating a horrifically bizarre environment which is ruled over by the most deranged of minds. The fear comes from our empathy with Lena, and our vicarious terror is ratcheted up with every scene in this terrible scenario.
This empathy comes from Lena being a brilliantly written and acted character. For all the budget constraints involved with British independent film-making, it usually excels at the fundamentals – such as writing, acting and characterization. Lena is smart but still bound by realistic human character traits. She does what the viewer would do in many situations, or at least she does not do anything distractingly unbelievable – it’s a nice change from the idiots some mainstream horror would usually have us cheer for, or indeed the heroines who suddenly become almost superhuman when under threat.
Lena is awoken from her drug-induced stupor by terrified howls of pain coming from the adjacent room – several loud thuds later and the screaming stops. The door bursts open and an over-weight man with glasses and mole-like features enters, he is wearing underpants and a vest, clutching a hammer and is covered in blood. A moment later and a tall, thin, well-presented woman with angular features enters through a second door. All three stare at each other intently, until the woman strides over to Lena and states “I’m Mum. He’s Dad. You live with us now!”
It is made abundantly clear that Mum and Dad are serial killers – but very different to each other in their psychopathic tendencies. Dad is a violent sexual predator who likes to murder in fits of rage, whereas Mum is a true sadist who likes to torture with finesse for the physical delight it brings her. Dad enjoys to hack and bludgeon, Mum favors the use of spikes and knives – they are both homicidal lunatics.
Lunatics they are beyond doubt, but within the fortress of their own home they have created a world where their manner of living is completely normal. They acquire “children” and this is why Lena finds herself captive. Her “adopted” brother and sister (Birdie and Elbie) have become totally immersed in this culture and accept it as a standard existence. In one scene the rest of his family patiently wait for Dad to finish pleasuring himself into a hacked off chunk of human flesh before they introduce him to Lena; once he is done, Dad tells her that “family is everything”.
Family breakfast’s see dismembered body-parts brought out for disposal whilst people eat toast. Pornographic movies play on the TV and Dad inappropriately kisses and gropes Birdie (who reciprocates) before settling down with the morning paper. Every aspect of this film superimposes the normal with the deranged, and this unhinged atmosphere is the signature of the movie. This is aided by the stand-out aspect of the production – Perry Benson’s performance as Dad. Benson is a stalwart British actor and carries the film with both his appearance and the portrayal of his character. His hateful, twisted and completely unbalanced delivery is terrifying to behold.
The writer and director of Mum & Dad (Steven Sheil) describes it as “a fucked-up-family film”. Succinct as this summary is, it doesn’t even begin to do justice to the horror of this movie. Lena is completely at the mercy of a matriarch and patriarch whose lunacy now controls her entire existence, if she fits in and does not cause a problem she is told that she will be fine – if not there will be Dad to answer to. “Fine”, of course, in this instance is relative!
The unsettling torment of Lena’s predicament is sharply focused in the knife-edge balance of her captor’s insanity. Using the language of a normal parental unit, the actions of Mum and Dad are starkly juxtaposed. Calling Lena “her angel, sent from heaven” mum inserts spikes through her skin and lacerates her with a scalpel – all the while telling her to keep Mum happy so as not to upset Dad.
Playing it smart and trying to stay on the good side of Mum and Dad until a suitable chance of escape or rescue presents itself, Lena incurs the increasingly bitter resentment of Birdie who dreads the inevitable result of not being Mum and Dad’s favorite anymore. Lena now has to fear her new parents as well as some particularly twisted sibling rivalry as the tension reaches stratospheric levels towards the film’s conclusion.
Mum & Dad was made under Film London’s “Microwave” project, where the budget is capped at a maximum of £100,000. This is a miniscule amount of money on which to shoot a feature and it is to the credit of all involved that what was produced looks and feels like it was shot on ten-times that budget. Moreover, the result was a gripping and terrifying film that exemplifies all that is good about British independent horror cinema. If you want a well crafted horror film that is brilliantly acted, full of threat and tension, claustrophobic, violent and completely deranged – Mum & Dad comes highly recommended.
This article is written exclusively for Horror Addicts, but will appear subsequently on the authors website: