Interview by Demitri Levantis
Following the release of their feature-length horror flick, “Hosts,” I caught up with filmmakers Richard Oakes and Adam Leader (Dark Fable Media) to discuss what the film offers to the world of horror and what it was like to be awarded Total Film’s “Best Death Award.”
Hi and thanks for joining us, so let’s begin with the film itself, whose idea was Hosts, or was it a joint idea?
Adam – The story itself was a joint endeavour from the two of us based on as many weird and wonderful ideas we could muster up at the time, some of which stemmed from some very intense personal experiences.
Was the film based on any personal experiences or any local myths or legends?
Adam – The catalyst for Hosts was from an experience I had in August 2018. My ex started freaking out about seeing some weird blue orbs in the garden by the window. Alarmed by this, I grabbed a knife and went into the garden to explore. Luckily I found nothing, however, I did feel that this could make for an interesting scene in a film. So I got on the phone with Rich and told him about my experience. We then spent the whole night brainstorming our ideas into a rough storyboard. I then went away and wrote the first draft of the screenplay.
Was it the original idea to shoot it in a suburban setting or did that change?
Rich – The only thing that changed, in the end, was the location itself. In an ideal world, we would have built the entire set in a proper studio, or at least hire a much larger house. But budget limitations resulted in having to make use of what we already had, which was my house. We spent several weeks completely redecorating my place into what would become the set for Hosts.
Is the film comment on infidelity or family value in any way?
Adam – Absolutely. At least for me, the film is one hundred percent a metaphor for the destruction caused by deceiving and betraying your loved ones; not only to the individual that consciously does it, but even more so to the people they’re doing it to, which are always the people closest to them, and they’re the ones who get hurt the most. It ruins relationships and it ruins people.
Have you ever worked with any of the cast before and if so, when? And how did the casting get decided?
Rich – Neal Ward and Nadia Lamin were always going to be cast from the get-go. We’re super tight with them after working with them on previous projects so the parts in Hosts were written for them. The rest were found from outside, and boy did they absolutely nail it. A fantastic group of actors that are all going places. Look out!
What can you tell us about the process of getting the film in production? You crowdfunded it from your YouTube following, did you expect to raise that much money or support?
Adam – Albeit small in the grand scheme of things, our following was dedicated, and most importantly, they truly believed in us as filmmakers. The rapport we were seeking from private investors that we could never find, we realised already existed with our subscribers, who then ultimately became the panel of investors for Hosts. So, as opposed to doing a traditional crowdfunding campaign that we always felt was somewhat unfair, uninteresting and a waste of hard-earned cash, our campaign was simple; Invest in Hosts, and in return, have shares in the profits of the film.
How does Hosts compare to the horror media you began making years ago on your channel “Dark Fable Media’?
Rich – On a cinematography level it’s pretty much the same but just turned up to 11. Our channel content on the other hand was mainly based on pure stupidity but Hosts has a much more serious tone.
Who on the production cast were you really excited to work with and why? And is there anyone you’d like to work with in the future?
Adam – Tough question, given the chance I’d work with all of them again. Each of them is so talented and brings something unique to the table.
Rich – I’d like to work with Adam again.
How did it feel having the film shown at FrightFest and the Best Death Award?
Adam – There was no feeling like it. Knowing that our little movie reached heights so much higher than we ever expected truly gave me that ‘made it’ feeling. Especially flying out to Spain to watch the world premiere at Sitges Festival.
Which characters did you have the most fun with, and why?
Adam – Probably Lauren (Nadia Lamin) and Eric (Lee Hunter). Those two characters endured so much physical and emotional trauma that at times was quite entertaining to watch, I must admit. Poor souls!
Is each character a representation of any particular themes or behaviour or humans?
Adam – Selfishness and cowardice.
Alongside the painting of Abraham and Isaac, was any of the imagery in the backgrounds (stag’s head, yuletide wallpaper) meant to symbolise any undertones to the film?
Rich – Yes, The stag represents the king of the forest and the protector. The dead stag always sits above Michael the father symbolising his failed duty as a father. Almost everything we added to the set had a reason for being there. If you notice the paintings above the father and son in the living room while they watch TV, There is another stag above frank and above Eric is a rabbit strung up by his feet. The rabbit represents fertility and Eric should be the future of Michael’s line. Michael has spent so much time focused on himself and his guilt that he has abandoned his child who needs his father’s attention but is always left hung up to dry and ignored. Later on Eric is dragged up into the loft by his feet after his father yet again fails to protect his family. There are many more symbolic features in the film but we will leave that up to you to find.
Was this the first huge production you’ve made and would you shoot something like this again, like a possible sequel?
Adam – It is the first feature film that we’ve made from scratch, yes. We’re happy with where we left Hosts, so a sequel is unlikely.
Was the Covid pandemic influential to the film in any way? And has it affected any of your current projects?
Rich – The pandemic allowed us the time to reach out to every single distributor on the face of the planet. Within a matter of days, we were on the phone with a different country every hour having deals thrown at us. It was quite surreal. We were quite lucky that we’d managed to wrap the entire production way before Covid hit.
Is the Xmas settings based on any traditional things like ghost stories on Xmas eve or is it meant to remind people of its pagan past, etc?
Adam – I’m not religious, but I’ve always loved the atmosphere over Christmas. The whole world slows down and people seem to actually enjoy themselves for a couple of days instead of being stressed and moving a million miles an hour like they do the rest of the year.
Do you have any interesting anecdote(s) from filming you’d like to share with us?
Adam – Neal Ward may or may not have accidentally stabbed himself on set. You’d have to ask him
For anyone who isn’t into horror, how would you describe Hosts to them; does it belong to a particular subgenre?
Adam – It’s definitely a rom-com. Give it a try.
How do you feel you have grown as filmmakers in the years and how do you feel the industry has changed?
Rich – As this was our first feature as Directors it’s hard to say how the industry has changed, however, I do know that making a feature film and getting it out there is easier and cheaper now than it has ever been so if It’s something you would like to do, now is the time. Have we grown? I’d say so, Hosts taught Adam and I a lot of lessons and has made us push the bar even higher moving forward.
Is the soundtrack important with films?
Rich – Yes, Especially on Hosts, I remember laughing with Benjamin Symons who wrote the score that the last section of music in the film is about 40 mins long without a breath. We wanted it like this to keep the intensity of the film.
How did you both get into this industry? Was it always something you wanted to do?
Rich – It’s been something I have dreamed of since I was 8 years old but sadly decent cameras were not available for cheap enough until I was in my 30s. After I bought my first camera, I started a music video production company where I ended up meeting Adam who hired me to film his band. We got on so well that he joined the company and we progressed into making films.
Are there any hobbies you have outside of the industry?
Adam – I play in a band called In Search Of Sun and we’ll be dropping some new tuneage later this year.
Rich – I collect broken caterpillars.
What advice would you give someone wanting to become an actor or director?
Adam – Don’t procrastinate. Jump in, do it and be ok with making mistakes, because after all, it’s the mistakes that make us better at what we do as well as the experience of being on the job. No amount of film school will ever compare to jumping in the deep end and doing the real thing.
And finally, do you have anything you would like to say to our readers?
Rich – Satisfied with the cleanliness of the chapel, he switches the lights off and leaves – The end.
Thank you so much for joining us, I wish you all the best for the future!