“I want to make international films. I adore Stephen King’s writing, there are a few of his stories I would love to do.”
Irish filmmaker Paul Ward’s fangtastic new short horror is not only an adaptation of Stephen King’s One for the Road, but also an exciting sequel to the vampire classic Salem’s Lot. The film is produced by Tim Sullivan (2001 Maniacs, Chillerama) and stars Phantasm’s Reggie Bannister, Danny O’ Connor and Karen Andrews. After Paul secured the rights to the short story, he initially planned to shoot the film in Ireland until Sullivan told him they’d raised enough cash to make the film in Los Angeles.
The director has worked in both the theatre and film and has done extensive writing, producing and directing courses with Filmbase. Other training includes the Robert Towne masterclass in Galway Film Fleadh and the Tim Sullivan masterclass in Low Budget filmmaking as part of Horrorthon 2008. His previous credits include writing/directing the gay rom-com Fur coat and No Knickers (which stars Yours Truly and premiered at The Gaze Film Festival in August 2009), and producing Conor McMahon’s no-budget The Disturbed.
He shares his thoughts on the relationship between the film/arts industry and the horror genre in Ireland, what made him first fall in love with the story, the recent announcement that he will be producing the latest Tim Sullivan project based on the novel from The Doors co-founder Ray Manzarek called A Poet in Exile and some of his favourite King adapations…
PW: When I decided to do a Stephen King dollar baby, I re-read every short story (all seven collections). One for the Road was by far the one that I loved the most as I was always a huge Salem’s Lot fan, so anyone who knows that story knows all the history and it makes it hugely intense when they finally tell Lumley that Jerusalem’s Lot is full of vampire.
Tim Sullivan (2001 Maniacs) produced One for the Road and you appeared in his sexy slice of horror, I Was a Teenage Werebear! When did you first decide to adapt the story and how did Tim first become involved?
PW: I had just finished directing my gay rom com, Fur Coat and No Knickers (that you were so fab in) and then I wrote a period supernatural romance called Innisfree. So I thought it would be good to do a short horror project to show I could do more than boy on boy kissing movies, which I love. So then, as I was working on I Was a Teenage Werebear with Tim Sullivan, he said I should find a Stephen King dollar baby to do. I did, and then decided to make it here in Ireland, I even cast it! Then Tim rang me on Christmas Day and told me he had secured the funding and we were going to make it in California.
Was securing the rights to film a Stephen King story difficult? Can you tell me a little about it.
PW: Getting the rights could not have been easier, you just go to stephenking.com, then the Dollar Babies list, pick a story on the list, apply, then they get back to you with a contract, you sign the contract, include a dollar bill, and they get back to you and say proceed.
You worked with Conor McMahon (Dead Meat) on The Disturbed which was shot in Ireland. You’re involved in Ireland’s horror community, what are your thoughts on the relationship between the film/arts industry and the horror genre in Ireland?
PW: Well its always hard to get funding for horror from arts bodies, although I hear the new regime is a bit more open to making films that people actually want to see instead of boring the public to death with their usual claptrap, although I have no intention of dealing with them. I want to make International films and most of my stuff will be in the United States where people really love to help you instead of Ireland where people go out of their way to hurt you.
PW: Adapting was a pleasure. I wrote the first script in two days and most of the finished film is that script. The only major change from the story is the casting of a little boy rather than a girl. The lady we cast as the mother had a boy [actor] the right age. We thought it would be best to cast them both and make our life easier. The other change is that the story is set in a snow storm.When I arrived there was snow, but I had a version of the script with fog in case the snow was gone from the location – we didn’t have the budget for big snow machines. So when the cast finally arrived the snow had melted and we went with the fog. As in the 1979 Salem’s Lot, the vampire boys appeared at the window through fog. This pays respect to the history of the story on film.
The Vamp design is close to the ghoulish Nosferatu from the original film. There is something primal and terrifying about that kind of Vampire! Did you instruct and talk through exactly what kind of bloodsucker you wanted for the film?
PW: Well that was easy for me, as I had Tim Sullivan as the main producer and guiding light on the film, it was him that got Tom Devlin on board and I gave them free reign When I arrived in Los Angeles I went to his studio and saw the designs. We did a test the day before we shot them so we could tweak and also get the little boy use to it, which he did in about ten seconds – everyone wants to be a vampire.
PW: We premiere at Horrorthon in Dublin, Oct 27, then San Sebastian Spain Nov 3, Fright Fest Vienna Nov 5, then a Stephen King dollar baby fest in Antwerp Nov 20 and the United States premiere on Dec 4 at Bentcon in Los Angeles.
You’re a big fan of Stephen King, what are some of your favourite adaptations of his work and which book would you most like to see brought to the big screen?
PW: Yes I adore Stephen King’s writing, the best movies for me are Carrie, The Shining, Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, Apt Pupil, The Dead Zone, Misery, Green Mile, Silver Bullet, The Mist and of course the 1979 TV version of Salem’s Lot. I’m excited to hear of Warner Bros plans to make another movie version of The Stand with a huge budget. I’d love to see the same done with IT – that book has wonderful potential as well. Both would make perfect HBO series. There are a few of his stories I would love to do, in the latest novella collection there are two, Big Driver and my favourite, 1922. I adore Duma Key – that would need the HBO or Showtime treatment. I’ll be waiting for the call on them…
What are you plotting next?
PW: Well, as I mentioned, I’d love to do my period supernatural romance Innisfree. It’s set in 1921 and 1940 on a tiny island off the west coast of Ireland. There are a few projects in development – most I can’t talk about as it’s too early. I will be a producer on A Poet in Evile, a Tim Sullivan project based on the novel from The Doors co-founder Ray Manzarek.
And finally, what for you is the perfect horror film?
PW: That’s easy, The Exorcist…..