Writer/director Paul Hough is a gifted filmmaker that comes from a talented lineage. Starburst was on hand at the American Film Market to talk to him about his hit film, The Human Race...
Starburst: How did you come up with the story of The Human Race?
Paul Hough: I was inspired partly by one of my actors - Eddie McGee - who is unique because he has one leg and is one of the most amazing actors I've ever met. I was also greatly inspired by both Battle Royale and Run Lola Run.
Your father is a gifted director as well, having helmed such films as Hammer's Twins of Evil. Obviously, the apple didn't fall too far from the tree in your directing and writing skills. Did you ever get to visit any of the sets or work on your father's films when you were young?
Yes, I got to go on the set of Biggles when I was younger which was fantastic. Then I got to see him work on Something To Believe In. I made a making-of documentary of that film - which was both a remarkable record and also essentially a live-action film school - as he talked about the hows and whys for every artistic decision.
What were your influences growing up wanting to be a writer/director?
When I was about 8, I'd go with my dad every week as he played football. I was bored out of my mind. So he gave me an 8mm camera - and I started to make my own films. One by one my friends would get killed off in various ghastly ways - which I'd film during the 90 minute matches and then go back and edit. We screened one at my primary school but I remember being super upset that the Headmistress said no one under 8 would be allowed to see it because it would be too scary for them...
Where was The Human Race filmed and what was the process of making this film?
We shot most of the film in an abandoned youth correctional facility near Los Angeles. Essentially we had enough money for 7 days of filming. Then stopped for a few months. Shot a few more days. Then stopped for 6 months to raise more money. Then filmed more - and so on. Overall the process was a marathon in itself - taking approx 3 years to film.
That was the Fred C. Nelles School for Boys in Whittier, California. My father and I would drive by there when I was a boy when it was still a prison and would always tell me that if I didn't behave that'd he'd drop me off there installing the fear of God in me. Pop was a real winner. Is it as disturbing and creepy looking when you filmed there as it was in the ’60s?
That's funny. Growing up, my dad would actually take me and my brother to a spooky and overgrown cemetery in North London at midnight and we'd have a competition to see who could walk in the furthest without being too scared and running back. A great memory! But, yeah, the place is pretty overrun and empty. There wasn't running water in there, so for the first day no one could actually go to the toilet without leaving the facility. We had a bucket but no one dared use it. As the shoot progressed and people got more comfortable with each other the bucket did gradually get filled.
You had to learn your own visual FX as you had a limited budget.
Yeah, I learned After Effects from scratch. My friend Brian Harty taught me masking first - and as soon as I understood that then it seemed a whole new brilliant visual world opened up to me.
Tell us about the makeup in the film.
Well, there is a lot of blood. We used 3 different grades of blood. The cheap blood for the big gushing scenes. Medium cost blood for wider shots - and the expensive theatrical blood for close-ups.
The cinematography, music and sound are all excellent...
The music is by Marinho Nobre, an excellent composer based in Brazil. Sound was created and designed by Richard Gale - who also plays one of the most evil villains in the movie. He is the director of The Horribly Slow Murderer With The Inefficient Weapon and also contributed his expertise to the special FX in the movie. The movie was shot on 2 cameras by the excellent Matt Fore who used a variety of different tricks to achieve different effects.
What were some of the toughest days of filming and the easiest? Any funny moments?
There was a lot of running and I'm not the fittest guy in the world so, when I had to keep up with people, that was hard. We did a large double head gush explosion in the prison but forgot to roll the camera before the effects guy pressed the switch, so that was frustrating. Otherwise, the hardest thing was really shooting everything over such a long period of time and maintaining decent continuity with the actors. And also shooting some of the deaf-sign-language scenes was difficult since it was hard keeping track of the dialogue.
The cast is amazing. What was casting the actors for the right roles like?
It actually was quite easy as I had a lot of actors/people I knew in mind for the roles I was writing. I really wanted Paul McCarthy Boyington as the lead since he was so fantastic in Altered and his management company turned me down. So I went to him directly and got him involved. There were a few people who had never acted before, but were naturals. One of the main bad guys, a guy in a yellow shirt who is a serious runne,r is a rock star in his own right (part of Cinderella) and while he had never acted I knew I could channel his charisma and stage confidence into the character and he delivers a stellar performance. The deaf characters are not actually deaf and so for them they had to learn sign language from scratch. But, again, they were both actors I knew. Only a few actors came from blind auditions, such as the Priest and War Veteran. However, as the shoot started, I actually had to fire a few people, so some actors who started out having huge roles no longer did, and others had their roles significantly expanded.
As a director, you have this style like John Ford had. You could say that Paul McCarthy-Boyington and Eddie are your Henry Fonda and John Wayne characters while Trista Robinson and T. Arthur Cottam are your Maureen O'Hara and Ward Bond in this film.
Apart from my dad's influence - I do directly rip off one of his shots in the movie from American Gothic - I'm a huge Hitchcock fan. Since he did something with such immense style. I try to bring that also in my work.
The movie's ending is impressive. Any plans for a sequel?
No plans yet, but you never know!
THE HUMAN RACE hits DVD March 3rd.