What a great start to the new year, spending a little time learning about filmmaker Matt Mitchell, writer director of the film The Rizen, a tale of secret, occult experiments in the 1950s, a tale of Allied Forces and Arms races.
Matt Mitchell, writer/director of The Rizen (out now via Uncork’d Entertainment), talks to us about his writing process, where he believes his strengths lie as a screenwriter and how the script changed over the course of the film’s development.
Is this a movie you wrote or co-wrote? How long did it take to get out that initial draft?
I wrote and directed The Rizen, so if anyone is to blame, it’s me.
Please, leave the others – they’ve done nothing to deserve this! It’s me you want! In all seriousness, The Rizen actually started out in 2013 as an ultra-low budget concept that myself and Clare (the incredible and unstoppable producer behind all our productions at Last Eye Films) were kicking about. Back then it was just called ‘The Tunnel’. It was a very simple idea to keep a small amount of characters trapped, but constantly moving. That small idea quickly exploded into the Lovecraftian action/sci-fi/horror set in the 50s that spans TWO films. We now have The Rizen and it’s sequel The Rizen 2.
How much did the script change over the course of the next few drafts?
The script was changing even through shooting! We didn’t have Ade Edmondson or Sally Philips attached until halfway through production, and so when Clare (somehow?!) convinced their agents to get them to look at a character breakdown and script, we had to expand their roles accordingly. This meant while we were shooting – mostly between takes – I was doing re-writes. Trust me, it was just as much fun as it sounds. Like everything we’ve been through on the film/s though, it was 100% worth it. They are fantastic in the film/s and it’s been a real cope having them (and their expanded characters) involved!
Is there anything you found more challenging when penning the screenplay?
Than re-writing it between takes? Probably haha! Of course I can’t think of anything right now though.
When working on the screenplay do you have actors in mind for some of the characters, as you write them and their dialogue, or did that come later?
Sometimes that is the case, yes. However, with The Rizen/s that didn’t happen. I think that’s mostly because of the era it’s set in though.
Can you talk about some of the initial ideas for casting?
We got so lucky with our three leads in The Rizen. Laura Swift (Frances) is not only a truly excellent actress, she’s also extremely physical, as she’s a fully trained and qualified stunt woman with a military background – you literally couldn’t ask for more. Patrick Knowles (who plays Briggs) would bring me to tears sometimes with his comedy timing, he’s so funny and and so natural. Real leading man material, and one of those rare actors who simply ‘gets it’, making the process such a joy. Then there’s Christopher Tajah (who plays Baughman) who is my personal hero. He absolutely hammers a difficult role with utter sincerity and realism, sometimes it’s just beautiful to watch him work.
Did you do a Tarantino and cameo in the movie?
I thought you were talking about foot-shots for a second then?! I’m in both films quite a lot, but mainly as Blinds/baddies getting beaten up or falling over/down something. I’ve been doing fight choreography for a while now and am fairly physical, and on a low budget extravaganza like this we didn’t have a ‘stunt team’ so I choreographed all the fights and action. If there was anything we didn’t have (or couldn’t find) a performer for, I’d simply do it. It was easier, quicker and safer that way… most of the time 😉
Any advice for those looking to make a movie – should they just ‘go out and do it’ or do you advise they get educated first?
Just go do it. Of course that’s easier said than done. Getting an education is very important, but again, the only way to really do it, is to do it. I’d say start by writing a script you CAN make. Write around locations and people and props that you already have or can get for free. Then stat gathering people around you who are also driven enough to go through hell making a film. It’s also ok to ask for help or guidance from people who have already made some of the mistakes for you. Find other filmmakers online / offline and ask advice. Hell, hit me or Clare up on twitter or something. We’ll always help out with advice if we can. Don’t let anything stop you and may the force be with you, always.