Producing movies in Britain is hard enough these days, producing exploitation films even more so. That though doesn't deter passionate filmmakers such as Shane Mather - the no budget exploitation guru and brains behind such underground splatter treats such as EXCREAMER and FANTACIDE. Well Shane is back with another slice of late night brutality with the shocking TERROR NATION so our very own Stu Willis caught up with Shane to discuss the films production in our exclusive SGM interview…
SGM: Hi Shane, it's great to speak to you again. It's been a couple of years since "Fantacide". What have you been up to in the interim?
Shane: Much of the time I've been dreaming up various film scenarios, or working on my music. Late last year I began to prep for shooting another production but it fizzled out due to cast and money problems, which was disappointing.
SGM: It was a shame the distribution deal for "Fantacide" with Unearthed Films did not see fruition. Are you able to comment on this, or would you rather not?
Shane: I wasn't happy with their lack of publicity for the film, which was zero. Also I was told something different every time I called them about the film's release, basically being given the runaround for almost a year. In the end I'd had enough and pulled out. I suppose I was somewhat naive, but it won't be happening again.
SGM: "Fantacide" is currently available to buy from your own site, www.fantacidethemovie.com. Is this likely to be the only avenue for buying the film in future?
Shane: After my experience with Unearthed I didn't bother submitting Fantacide to any other distributor, it didn't seem worth the hassle. I'm content to just sell a few copies here and there, so it look's as if it will remain that way for the time being.
SGM: You rescored "Fantacide" and added extra gore scenes (!), creating an ultimate Director's Cut. Do you consider the film completed now, finito?
Shane: Most definitely.
SGM: As a footnote to "Fantacide", what are your feelings when you look back on that film now? What sticks out in your mind? Do you keep in touch with the cast? And, what do you feel you learned from the experience?
Shane: I'm extremely proud of the film, and though it was a difficult production that I'd not want to experience again I do feel a sense of achievement that we got it made at all. I do still see some of the cast, we have a few jars from time to time. One thing I learned from the making of it was not to edit movies in caravans full of damp, you'll get very ill!
SGM: The new film, "Terror Nation", sounds like a more sober affair. Can you give a brief synopsis and explain the themes of the film?
Shane: I felt like trying to do a straighter film without the comedic elements. It's certainly more sober in that department, although we won't be holding back when it comes to the bloodletting. The film begins with five guys pulling a heist which quickly gets out of hand. What they don't realise is that it's the beginning of a journey in which they will end up in the middle of a very sinister government conspiracy. I despise the government for all their many attempts to rob us of our freedoms through stealth and slight of hand, and this is a central theme in 'Terror Nation'.
SGM: The teaser trailer looks very stylish indeed. Which films have influenced you on this occasion?
Shane: Before I write a script there is one consideration above all others, namely can it be done without a budget. This is the primary influence on my movies so far. The balletic violence of Peckinpah also influences me, as do many movies from the golden age of cinema. I rarely watch modern cinema or tv, it seems to lack something those older films and shows had about them.
SGM: You're currently shooting the film. Where is filming taking place?
Shane: We've been all over Norfolk and Suffolk, and I'm going to Devon to shoot a couple of scenes. Apart from a couple of days it's been a really enjoyable shoot so far, even though the schedule has been hectic to say the least.
SGM: Your site suggests you may be filming in Sweden at one point. Can you elaborate on this?
Shane: This was something I really wanted to do, but it won't be happening on this film. Part of the reason for the idea was down to Excreamer, which has a small following over there. It's still something I intend to do, but I'll need a bigger budget first.
SGM: What kind of budget are you working with? How does this get spent?
Shane: This is what you'd term a 'no-budget' film. What money there is gets spent on equipment and F/X materials, with a little left to hire a venue or two.
SGM: Do you film with permits, or is it more guerrilla-style? If it's the latter, do you have any tips with regards to filming "on the hop"?
Shane: A bit of both really. One thing I wanted to get this time was insurance, which we didn't have on Fantacide. That film was truly guerrilla style all the way. Now we're asking permission where possible which has enabled us to access some better locations. Saying that, only yesterday we were shooting in a field without permission and a farmer approached us, somewhat concerned that his crops were being trampled over. He was really good about it once we'd explained what we were doing. As to filming on the hop I'd say have it well planned so you can get in and out quickly without causing to much disturbance. I had an actor brandishing a prop gun all over the place last week, which could be very problematic if the police haven't been informed of your presence in the area (which they hadn't been).
SGM: Your brother Dean provides the righteously gory FX for your films (prior to "Fantacide", the Mather Bros made the superbly entertaining "Excreamer"). Is he going to be busy in "Terror Nation"?
Shane: Very busy indeed. There's already been a fair bit of gory mayhem, but the bulk of it has yet to be shot, so he's got his work cut out, especially on such a tight schedule.
SGM: It looks like you've got a largely new cast in the new film. How did you set about recruiting actors?
Shane: I advertised on a website for actors, which was something I'd never done before. At first I didn't think we'd get much of a response but I was completely wrong. Without holding auditions I cast the main parts quite quickly and they turned out to be really great to work with. Andy Callaghan, Sid White and Johnny Lynch play the main members of the heist team. We also have David Frost playing a very unpleasant government scientist and Claire Louise Catterall in the female lead. It's been a very different experience for me and I'm really enjoying it.
SGM: Is it difficult to come by actresses who are willing to get abused? How do they tend to react when they read the script?
Shane: The main female character in this film has a history of abuse, but it's not on the screen. It was a difficult role to cast but Claire agreed to do it and was superb, nailing the character spot on. She was involved in a pretty gruesome scene, but the character suffers more psychological abuse than physical.
SGM: Do you have any anecdotes from the set?
Shane: Sid White, who plays Shaun Mitchum, had a bad fall down a steep hill into a tree and dislocated his shoulder. It was looking like I had some serious re-writes to do but he came back after a day and soldiered on. Then when we did the heist scene at a building I'd hired Dean turned it into a bloodbath, staining the walls and carpet. Everything was tried to clean the carpet, including steaming the bloody thing. They've been phoning us ever since.
SGM: The film looks to be your most accomplished yet. How is it coming together from an editorial stance?
Shane: Apart from the teaser I haven't had any time to begin editing. From looking at the footage so far I'd say it will certainly be a big step up in the acting department, although behind the camera the situation is pretty much unchanged, with very little in the way of a crew. When I come back from Devon I'll really be getting stuck in and will have a better idea of how it's going to shape up.
SGM: When do you envisage production will be complete on "Terror Nation"? Are there any obstacles you can foresee?
Shane: The weather has been our main obstacle whilst shooting, it's all over the place from one day to the next. We should finish shooting with the main actors after the coming weekend, but there's a lot of pick up shots, cutaways and fx work to do after that. I'm hoping to have a rough cut soon. But the British weather hates filmmakers!
SGM: What medium are you filming "Terror Nation" on? Will it have a similar look to "Fantacide"?
Shane: It will have a similar look as I'm using the same cameras. I'm shooting on Dv as there wasn't any budget for hi-def equipment.
SGM: What are your goals with "Terror Nation" regarding distribution?
Shane: At this moment in time I'm not thinking too much about that. I'd like to see the film distributed and will probably approach more than one this time around and see what comes up.
SGM: Do you have any other scripts/ideas at present, ready to work on in due course?
Shane: I have a completed script ready and waiting, but I'll be seeing what happens once 'Terror Nation' is out there before embarking on any more productions.
SGM: Finally, can you tantalise our readers with perhaps an indication of the level of sickness in "Terror Nation"? Obviously, we'd never encourage "spoilers", but ... is there anything of nasty content you're able to give away?
Shane: It's a very different film from Fantacide in that respect, so you won't be seeing any cats being raped in this one. But as far as the gore goes it's flowing very freely at the moment, with lot's more to come.
SGM: Cheers, Shane.
For more information of TERROR NATION and the films of Shane Mathers check out his official site here.