After wallowing in the sublime decadence that is new indie genre movie Nature Morte, SGM's Stu Willis kicked back with writer/director Paul Burrows and sultry starlet (and co-producer) Carole Derrien to discuss the making of this ambitious film that the legendary Jess Franco described as "beautiful and insane"…
Stu: The film is set in many various global locations. How many locations were actually used, and how were they negotiated?
Carole: I'll answer this as one Paul will have no idea of the numbers. There were 14 in Asia and 11 in Europe.
All the island stuff was filmed in Thailand (Koh Samui and the nearby Koh Pha Ngam). The London and France sections were done when we got back to Europe. Practically every location in Thailand belonged to someone we knew. We did however rent Blanche's house and the boat, and we had to buy a lot of drinks in all the bars we used.
In London, we rented most of the locations and studios , but not at normal movie prices. The club is Madame Jo Jos in Soho, they were fantastic and they charged us a lot less than they charged Kubrick for Eyes Wide Shut. Olly and Blanche's big houses belong to old friends of Paul's from the pub, we got those for free. A lot of the interiors were sets decorated by Paul and I. The dungeon scene was originally going to be a set, but Morrigan (Hel) kindly let us use hers.
The Marseille shots were actually done in my home village in Lorraine (France), which of course is far prettier than the real thing.
Stu: What was the biggest logistical nightmare of such an ambitious shoot?
Paul: That's easy, noise. It was a nightmare as it's never truly quiet in Thailand, crickets, dogs, chickens, traffic etc. Looking back we probably should have ADR'd more, but I wasn't confident in how real it would sound, and Carole hates doing it anyway. But I called "cut" on so many potentially good takes because of unusable sound which used up a lot of valuable time. Experience has since taught me to keep rolling.
Carole: Also, our setup times were very limited when filming in bars and restaurants as we'd usually shoot between when they closed and when the sun came up, which was a bit tight. The filming at night also meant that our extras were often smashed by the time they arrived, so keeping them in order was a bit a of a challenge.
Stu: The initial concept of the John Stephensen character was a great premise to begin with. What was the inspiration behind this plot?
Paul: The Stephensen scene was actually done twice. We originally shot it in Thailand, and it was a brief silent scene. Parts of it are now "a film within a film" that Blanche is watching in her room in London. The whole thing will be on the DVD extras. Anyway, originally you hardly see him and he doesn't speak, so he was only an interesting character in terms of story, not in himself, he was just a plot device to get Lec's story going. When we put the movie together we decided that it was a bit of a waste and that we should reshoot it and flesh him out a bit.
Carole: And once we'd decided to cast Luxemburger Romain (Roll), we knew he just had to talk as he sounds so cool.
Stu: How was casting developed?
Paul: When I wrote the script, I knew all the island based characters apart from Randall Sparx and Davenport. So the parts were written specifically with them in mind, Blanche and Lec in particular. In fact Laurent is Lec.
Carole: We hired an acting coach from Bangkok, an English film director called Kaprice Kea and he introduced us to actors for the missing roles.
Paul: And Joy is actually the DOP's (Ryan Godard) wife, she stepped in when the original actress had to leave Thailand before we'd finished shooting.
Carole: Back in Europe, when we were looking for our Elizabeth Dahlia, I was browsing the internet and saw this great model (Morrigan Hel) in a bath of blood. I really had the choice on this one as all her scenes are with me, and they're quite intimate. She's very sweet.
Paul: Romain, who played Stephensen, we'd met at Frightfest in 2005 where we had a trailer showing. He has this great voice, those who've seen the movie will understand what I mean. He actually speaks like that all the time.
Carole: Michelle Esclapez, who played Livia, the Italian prostitute in the opening scene, we'd seen in a little movie called Asylum Night, she was fantastic in it so we got in touch. Michelle was brilliant. Normally, when you're filming, with the lights and boom and crew, everything looks fake, but when she did the chair scene, it was really horrible, scary.
Stu: Where did McFadden come from, and how did he come on board?
Paul: Oliver Davenport was originally written to be English. We talked about who we'd like for the part in an ideal world, Carole wanted Mick Jagger and I wanted Timothy Spall. As I'm a bit of a cross of these two, we decided that I would have to play Oliver. Then Kaprice came down from Bangkok and, to my relief, mentioned this new student who he thought would be great for the role. We met him, liked him, cast him. I had to rewrite his dialogue of course as Troy is American.
Stu: What were your own backgrounds, and how did they lead you to make NATURE MORTE?
Paul: We were both working in Banks when we met, then we moved to Thailand where I was an engineer for the British Embassies in Asia. I got laid off, and we had nothing to do. I'd always wanted to do a movie, we had some money from selling the flat, it was now or never. It's a massive risk of course, but I can't imagine not having done it.
Stu: When it came to filming the nudity, what problems were encountered?
Carole: Aside from one actress who changed her mind the day of the shoot, none at all, everyone was very professional. We closed the set for all the nude scenes and we made it very clear when we cast what was required.
Stu: Carole, I'm particularly impressed that you (more so as the film's producer as well as lead) didn't shy away from these scenes. Was this a calculated ploy to encourage other actors to follow suit?!
Carole: No, but it's not a bad idea. I have no problem with nudity if it's done properly. The crew were very sweet, running around to cover me up between takes, but I'm not a shy girl, I'm a French girl.
Stu: There is a lot of sex in NATURE MORTE. Is this important on a thematic level, or more for financial gain?
Paul: Perhaps neither. I tried to make the kind of film that I would like to see, and I like movies with a dark sexual element, it's as simple as that really.
Stu: The film was refreshingly sombre in tone, unlike a lot of today's self-consciously tongue-in-cheek horrors. What films would you cite as major influences when filming NATURE MORTE?
Paul: This is a strange one, as at the time I didn't think of anything specifically. But, having watched a lot of my old movie collection since we stopped filming I can see things that clearly influenced what NM looks like. So, I'd have to say: Masque of the Red Death, The Magus, Caligula, Franco's The Sadistic Baron Von Klaus, The Comfort of Strangers, Requiem for a Vampire, The Night Evelyn Came out of the Grave and maybe The Crow.
Stu: It was also refreshing to see that gore was used sparingly, which more filmmakers these days could learn a thing or two from. Was this a budgetary necessity, or a measured assessment in tone?
Paul: I didn't want the film to be too explicit in that regard. If I'd shown what the killer actually does in a graphic and realistic manner, it'd change the feel of the film to a grittier, more documentary style, and I didn't want it to be too rooted in reality.
If I'd gone for a more HG Lewis style gore, the tone would've been lighter, which I didn't want either.
I think the type of violence you show effects the way the audience perceives the perpetrator, and I wanted the characters to be disturbing, but not grotesque or campy.
That said, I didn't want everything left to the imagination either and I'm happy with the balance we achieved.
Stu: What was the budget on this movie? And how was it funded?
Paul: The total budget or the shooting budget? Actually it doesn't matter as it never had a set budget, and I haven't done the final accounts. But we've spent in the region of 100K GBP. A little more probably. As for the funding, it had to be funded by us as only a madman would invest in a film made by people with no experience or track record, and although we know plenty of madmen, they are all poor. So, we used to own a little place, now we rent one. And we owe a few quid here and there.
Stu: There's a lot of fetishistic images in the film, particularly in the later scenes. Is this film aimed at that market?
Paul: Not really no. It's largely a character thing. Real people do normal things like go to work, go for a drink and generally avoid murdering their friends. The characters in Nature Morte aren't real, they don't work, they do unfeasible amounts of drugs and they kill people. It follows that their sex life would be a little more dangerous than most.
Stu: One reviewer online has likened the film's style to Hitchcock. How do you react to that?
Paul: It's hugely flattering of course. And it's preferable to being compared to Adam Sandler movies. I'm not sure I can see it myself. I suppose thematically it could be compared, it's very plot driven.
Carole: And Paul cameos as a barman. He was very good.
Stu: How do you go about marketing NATURE MORTE now that it's made? Is there a distribution deal in the offing?
Paul: A few small distributors have seen it here and in the US, but no one has made us an offer that we could reasonably consider. It's very difficult to persuade people to look at it, I guess there must be a lot of product out there. I think had we have had a "name" actor, it would have been a lot easier. So, we're seriously considering going to market independently in the UK. The DVD extras are just being completed and then it'll go off to the BBFC, we'll see what they make of it and I'll let you know.
Stu: What's next for the talent behind NATURE MORTE? Tell us more about Carole's role in Robert (LONDON VOODOO) Pratten's MINDFLESH, and what projects you have lined up for the future.
Carole: I was offered the part after Robert saw Nature Morte. There are some similarities between Blanche and Jane Doe, they're both predators of sorts, neither have much humanity about them. But the films are poles apart, Mind Flesh is more claustrophobic, it deals with inhibition and trauma, it's more serious. Nature Morte is more Noir. I haven't seen it yet of course as it's still in post production. It should premiere at the end of the year. I'm really looking forward to it.
Paul: I have two scripts on the go, one called Torture Slide and one called Blood of an Englishman. The latter is probably the next one as Torture Slide is looking expensive. Blood of an Englishman is based on Jack and the Beanstalk, and is part spy thriller, part horror, set in the 1950's. The second we see some money back from Nature Morte I'll start looking at cast and locations, but until that time, it'll sit there as we need to get this one out there first.
Stu: Thanks again, and good luck with the film.
Paul and Carole: Thanks Stu.
For more info on Nature Morte check out the official site here.