INTERVIEW: Richard Waters, director BRING OUT THE FEAR (2021)

“Bringing the film to FrightFest is like bringing it home”

With its fabulous central performances and terrifying concept, Bring Out The Fear looks set to be one of the best of this year’s FrightFest. Here we sit down with director Richard Waters to talk low-budget film-craft, making movies with his partner Alison Scarff and what the world premiere means to them…

Bring Out the Fear is a fascinating film. Where did the idea come from?

Thanks a lot. It’s nice to hear you consider it fascinating when it came from such a mundane place: my producer/wife Alison and I were walking our dog in a forest and I was just fantasising about the idea of never getting out. Once we’d fleshed out a plot, we really started to work on the themes we wanted to explore with the characters. It was pretty important to me to have interesting characters reflecting a lot of the more complicated issues that come up through toxic relationships, but can be hard to verbalise. Throwing them into this pressure cooker of a Blair Witch/Silent Hill-esque hellscape that SHOULD be the biggest issue they’re facing, but of course ‘hell is other people’ as they say, and one of the best parts of horror is really seeing just how far you can push people into that hell.

Incidentally, Alison loves to point out I came up with the plot of someone trying to force an engagement on an unwilling partner while we were in a long term relationship and on the cusp of getting engaged ourselves, but I’m sure there’s no correlation!

It feels a particular potent watch given what the world has collectively been through over the past eighteen months. How does it feel to have made such a relevant horror?

I’d never really thought of it like that, actually. It’s pretty surreal that the film reflects the pandemic restrictions, like small bubbles of people and isolation and the like, given we wrote and shot the bulk of the film before Covid struck and changed everything. Maybe I was just focusing on these anxiety-inducing scenarios anyway before close quarters forced a lot of folks to deal with it themselves? I guess I’m lucky people want to watch films that remind them of the pandemic, right?

But seriously, the general idea of being trapped, whether physically or emotionally or in a situation, is something we can all universally process and relate to. The film just ended up being a bit ahead of the curve with how trapped we’d all feel!

What films influenced you during the making-of process?

While setting the tone with Alison and Rowan (Moore, our director of photography) I kept trying to describe the dreary and unnerving tone of films like Blair Witch and the Silent Hill games. Kill List was a huge drive for me in terms of what I initially thought of for the visual style – thinking it might play well into the rough and tumble pseudo-documentary style I thought our budget would limit us to – but Rowan was actually able to bring a lot of beauty to the filth, or filth to the beauty, I’m not sure which: but he did it either way. I’ve never been so lucky to work with someone who was able to bring the idea I tried to convey on page to screen so well, and exceed my hopes in many places.

There’s tonnes of other references and influences scattered throughout the film, but I’ll give a quick nod to some very John Carpenter-esque wide shots, a tense scene of waiting to see something move inspired by Terrified, and definitely a bit of Twin Peaks terror in certain areas.

The central performances by Ciara Bailey and Tad Morai are exceptional. How did you discover this pair, and how was it working with them?

Ciara is someone Alison and I have known for a few years through an actor friend that we all shot a TV show teaser with. When I was casting, I initially wrote the character for a more cynical and harsher-style of actor, but then the thought of what Ciara could do in the role really intrigued me. She carries a certain innocence, yet can imply a lot of baggage that just gives her performance so much weight. Just so impressive!

As for Tad, we’d put out a casting call for the Dan role and he was one of a load of people who came back, but his reading really stood out from the crowd to me. Whereas Ciara brought a different take to the role than I had written for, Tad was the exact opposite: he seemed like the character had secretly somehow born itself from the script into the physical world, Hellraiser-style in some attic, then sent me an audition tape. I remember meeting him and his partner for coffee to see if he’d work out for the role, then dragging them both into the forest with me – a stranger – about a mile into the trees, so we could run some lines and see if it was working. Poor Tad. Most people would have realised it was a setup for a very bad slasher movie. But thankfully, he persevered, we made the film, and both of them shine in their roles.

I knew while filming that what we were getting with them was good, which was such a relief, but to see it all together in the final film, it’s like it could never have ever been any other way.

Bring Out the Fear is premiering at FrightFest as part of their First Blood initiative. How has it been to be part of this scheme, and how do you feel about screening at this particular festival?

I really find it hard to put into words that convey just how much it means to me: honoured and excited and nervous. I’ve been attending FrightFest since 2013, usually also working the media wall with my good friend, and to be on the other side of that – talking about a film we made that will show on a cinema screen for the exact people I intended it for – it’s just a lot, in the right kind of way.

Alison and I were invited to the First Blood workshop in 2017 with a great idea of hers (which if we ever get any proper funding, would make a killer main screen film!) and it was just inspiring. We had these great mentors in Travis Stevens, Barbara Crampton, Dominic Brunt and Giles Edwards, who all gave different and resonating advice. I was actually in a filmmaking funk at that point in time, and the workshop really rekindled my creative flame.

I made a found footage film called In A Stranger’s House right off of that energy, and that’s the film that allowed us to be able to make Bring Out The Fear by ourselves, albeit with an insanely low budget.

To say I credit FrightFest with helping me find my way back to my passions would be an understatement. Hell, every year at the festival, there is without a doubt going to be a film that I watch that gets the cogs running in my brain and gets the passion renewed. Bringing the film to FrightFest is like bringing it home. I know these people. I made this film for them. I hope they’ll enjoy the hell out of it. And maybe, just maybe, it might be the film to help give some other filmmaker the nudge to get their own films rolling.

What’s next for the film, and for you?

Right now the game plan is to get the film to as many eyeballs as possible. We are a zero-budget production with no PR or advertising, so we rely on people talking about Bring Out The Fear and spreading the word. Films like this live and die on the recommendations of one horror fan to another, so if you see and like the film, or know someone who you think would like it, please don’t be shy about spreading the word!

As for what’s next for Alison and me? Well I am still going to keep pushing her First Blood idea since it’s so interesting while also being so damn intense, and we have a couple of other horrors in the pipeline that I think FrightFesters or horror-lovers in general might be really into, but I don’t want to give the game away just yet!

Russell Bailey

Bring Out The Fear has its World Premiere at FrightFest on 28th August 2021, 11pm.

2 responses to “INTERVIEW: Richard Waters, director BRING OUT THE FEAR (2021)”

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