Interview: Clive Ford, Director of COLD CALL

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Cold Call is a British horror-comedy short that screened at the 2011 Film4 Frightfest, one of the UK’s biggest and bloodiest annual horror festivals.  With strong performances from an intimate cast, a professional aesthetic and macabre punch-line, this tale of an ill-fated house call by an overzealous preacher hints at greater things to come from director Clive Ford in the future.  Clive agreed to speak to Starburst Magazine about his experiences developing Cold Call and his plans for the future.

Starburst: Who is Clive Ford? Can you give us a little background about yourself and your filmmaking goals?

Clive Ford: I’m a Brighton (UK) based writer, director and occasional actor. Many years ago I met a bunch of like-minded locally based souls and we set up our own theatre company. We put on a few successful plays before people started going off to raise families. A few years back I went off to do an MA in Screenwriting at London College of Arts. This gave me the confidence to write and direct my first short Mother’s Day which I loved doing and last year I decided to follow that up with a film version of a short play I wrote. I love directing and the experience of Cold Call has definitely made me aim to make a feature in the next few years.

Cold Call screened at Frightfest this year, how was the reception there?

Frightfest is a total blast and the audiences are great. The film was very well received although compared to some of the extreme violence and general madness that made up a proportion of the short film showcase we were positively sedate! Killer bananas, someone killing sea zombies with a dead child, and more severed limbs than you could shake a bloody stick at. What is great is that you were playing to a hardcore horror audience who got the references and laughed and applauded in all the right places. Also the Empire screen and sound system was immense so it was a thrill to see my little film up there.

I read that Cold Call was originally a play. What sort of changes did you have to make in order for it to work onscreen?

The play was a lot wordier and ran for about 25 minutes, the film runs just 11 minutes. It was also set in one room. In opening it up most of the big speeches became redundant and we could go outside and explore the world more. We could see the preachers’ story and follow them. The play was more obviously comic but in putting it on film the performances needed dialing down so it wouldn’t all come across as overly arch.

If things go according to plan what can we expect from you in the coming years?

I am working on a number of other scripts at the moment. I have two strong contenders for a feature I would love to make and a play I want to produce next year. All these are completely different. There is a comic thriller set on a night bus, a grisly horror about Satanism and memory loss and a story about a homeless unit, an errant priest and his obsessive housekeeper. I’d love to write for TV but that seems in a state of flux at the moment with too many soaps and reality shows and limited budgets for drama.

There's a dark vein running throughout Cold Call. By choice would you predominantly write horror, or are there other genres that you hope to turn your hand to?

Even when I try to write something fluffy and romantic I find myself getting a bit bored and tend to throw in a bit of murder or intrigue to liven things up. The show ain’t over till the fat lady explodes. I love all genres and while I don’t want to exclusively write horror I am a big fan. I will literally watch any old rubbish if there’s a man with a big knife chopping up teenagers.  I love a good heist story or gangster movie and would love to tackle science fiction at some point. For many years I worked in a video shop and had the good fortune to have more free home entertainment than I could ever get round to watching. With the possible exception of the western I’d love to try a project in almost every genre. Who knows, maybe it’s time to think about that zombie musical.

Do you have any particular stylistic influences on your filmmaking? I felt like there was a little David Lynch with the baby in Cold Call, but that might have been me projecting my own tastes on the film!

With Cold Call I tried to homage many of my favorite filmmakers. David Lynch was definitely one and Eraserhead influenced the idea of the wailing baby making a strange otherworldly noise. The beginning, going from a film on the TV into the real world was stolen entirely from Pedro Almodovar. I remember seeing it in one of his films and thinking it was a great idea and one day I’d find a place for it. There are also nods to The Shining, The Exorcist and Evil Dead. From theatre Tennessee Williams plays, particularly The Glass Menagerie influenced the piece. The idea of bored women locked in the middle of nowhere and getting excited by the prospect of a ‘gentleman caller’ was a good starting point.

Are there any other artists that you consider to be your peers, either in theatre or film?

There are so many. I love good gritty British movies. I’m very impressed by the work of Shane Meadows, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Andrea Arnold and Lynne Ramsey. I’m also a huge fan of Kubric, Almodovar and Quentin Tarantino, who having worked in a video shop like myself, gets my vote. Most recently Ben Wheatley’s Kill List totally blew me away. As a horror fan you constantly yearn for a film that will frighten and unsettle you as oppose to bombard you with relentless violence. This had me terrified from about twenty minutes in and never let up and I wish I’d made that. With theatre Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) is someone whose plays fascinate me and you can’t go far wrong with Alan Bennett.

If you were given the chance to get your vision out to a wider audience but you had to choose between writing, directing and acting, which one would you go for?

They're all so interlinked it’s hard to choose. I studied Screenwriting at London College of Communication so I guess that’s the thing I understand best but now I’ve got the directing bug and would find it very hard to envisage handing my work over to someone else as I fear they might get it wrong. Acting is great fun but I’m more than happy to let someone else do that. If they let me I’d definitely plump for directing.

Can you name one story that has affected you more deeply than any other, from any medium?

Bizarrely I think it would have to be Apocalypse Now. I remember seeing it on the big screen as a kid and getting so caught up in the madness of it and wanting to see it again immediately. Every time I catch it on TV I think I’ll just watch a few minutes and lo and behold I’ve been sucked in and watched the whole thing. You simply wouldn’t get a film like that made these days. Nobody would dare take the risk.

What have I missed - what one thing does the world need to know about Clive Ford now that they're listening?

Thank you world! What can I say? Watch this space, there’s a hell of a lot more twisted stories where this one came from.

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