Q&A with Mark Murphy, Film Director
Tell Us A Little Bit about the Film.
A: So this is my first proper film. I previously did a film called “The Crypt” which had a micro-budget and was critically just awful; I mean, it was bad, but it was alright. It was my first proper feature, and it launched me into a better budget for my second film.
If we’re talking about the production side, getting the cost on board was tough, as it was a last-minute decision. By the time they committed, we had already shot up in Yorkshire at the Highfield Grange Film Studios. It was quite surreal coming back to where I had trained many years ago, which had now become a film studio. The place was Arts International, a film school where I had trained. This was where I made my first, respectable feature film. We filmed it in the summer, so it was a great experience. Normally, I film during the winter months, which can be unbearably uncomfortable.
Regarding the story, it’s basically about a father and his daughter living in a very remote location. He comes back one evening with a man named Jake, whose car had been in an accident that left him unconscious. He brings him back and Jake becomes stuck, trying to leave and escape, yet no matter how hard he tries, he just can’t. It turns out that the father is a psychopath, and he is also accountable.
Apologies for the spoiler alert! The film is about a very naive young daughter who has never left the comforts of her home, her psychopath father, and a travelling salesman who begins to realise that something is amiss. So, it’s a slow-burning thriller, but it eventually becomes somewhat insane and gory.
What Was The Casting Process Like For This Film?
A: Very simply, we had a casting agent called Lucy McShane from a casting company who approached a wealth of actors and we narrowed down the choices until we found the appropriate ones that we liked. Ironically, I had thought I would always cast the character of Jake with an active friend of mine, but when I did the auditions the next day, I found someone who was even better, which kind of messed things up for my friend. But you know, I apologised and I got the right actor for the right role.
When we interviewed people for the role of Lauren, we had a few who have gone on to bigger things, and some who have done some bigger things and not much afterwards. But we ended up hiring Diana Vickers, whom I hadn’t heard of before. It was quite interesting afterwards to find out she had several number-one hits in the music charts. But yeah, it was fairly straightforward; Tony was in and out of LA, so we spoke to his agent, who passed it on, and eventually, he came back with an affirmative.
I was in a taxi coming back one evening when I received a phone call from an unfamiliar number. The person on the other line said, “Hello, Mark.” I replied, “Hello,” and then they started speaking. He started to terrify me because he was behaving like Hannibal Lecter. Eventually, I realised I was talking to Tony, and I thought, “OK, we have the right person for the role of the psychopath.”
How Was Directing “Awaiting” Different To Your Other Projects?
A: This is my first time directing a long-form narrative with a decent budget to do some things. I am building a studio for filming locations, such as in the studio and with an established cost. Although I had done Casanova, which had two names, this felt like I was more involved with a better class of acting or factors was also a larger scale and every other sense, so in one sense it was exciting, but in the other sense, it was a lot more stressful because there was a tighter schedule that we had to fit into.
You know that if you’re missing elements, the story won’t make sense, and because the budget wasn’t large enough to afford reshoots, we were restricted to the time we had been allotted. So, when we started falling behind, it was a case of, “OK, we’ve lost that; how can we make it work?” You were filming, but you were also editing the script in your head as you went along, so that was a new experience.
What Was Your Favourite Part Of Directing A Thriller?
A: Working with Tony was incredibly fun, his character gave me a lot to play with, so it kept me on my toes and being creative. Filming in the woods for the final scenes was a lot of fun, and shooting the scenes with a lot of gore was enjoyable too. All in all, it was interesting to try and maintain a balance between the horror aspect and the more psychological aspect, which is why it’s hard to call it a horror, it is a psychological thriller. The whole experience was new for me and I loved it. I came away thinking this could be an excellent start to a career, something I had been waiting for for 16, 17, or 18 years, and I was finally doing it.
When I was sitting in the studio, I watched a scene that had been lit beautifully and noticed the fantastic-looking set that we had built. As I sat in front of the monitor, I had a fleeting thought: “I wrote this script – I can easily add in the scene’s information – his location, what the character is doing – sitting in a chair, reading a book, listening to music.” All of these minor, trivial things, and now I’m sitting watching it all unfold; it’s kind of insane how all the elements have to be put together to put pen and paper into real life.
That was quite a surreal awakening for me, which is why I got so excited. You know, this is part of movie-making; it’s a long slog, but it is enormously fun, especially when you consider that most people who get into the film industry do so. Or because they are passionate and crazy about films and filmmaking, we are very lucky, and I realised that on Awaiting.
How Did It Feel To Win The “Best Director” Award At The Horrorrant Film Festival For This Movie?
A: I was truly humbled when I received the phone call informing me that I had won. I wasn’t there, so I couldn’t stand up on stage and give an emotional speech. However, that didn’t matter, it was surprising. I didn’t think it would be, and essentially, it just felt like a massive compliment. So, I was thrilled and smiled for a good couple of days after that.
Tony Curran Is A Phenomenal Actor, How Was He To Work With?
A: Tony is like a big, playful dog, he’s always happy and chirpy. He loves what he does and has fantastic energy, so it was great to bounce ideas off him, watch him work, and see how he was very eager to try people’s ideas, explore new things, and develop the character in different ways.
He gave a lot, and that meant so much when I was doing my first proper film, to have someone be so supportive was invaluable. Actors can sometimes make life difficult for you, this has happened to me a few times. But Tony was the polar opposite, he loved the project, his character, and he went for it. This is why one of the best things about the film is due to what Tony brought to the production.
Either directly on camera or behind the scenes, keeping the crew morale at a high level allowed us to shoot effectively because we liked it, we loved filming. He also had a great sense of humour, so that made a huge difference in keeping everyone in high spirits. Working with Tony was an absolute joy.
Your Film “The Crypt” Is Also In The Horror Genre, How Did The Two Films Differ When It Came To Directing Them?
A: Chalk and cheese, The Crypt had an incredibly low budget, but Awaiting had a larger budget, which meant I had more time to film. I had a bigger and better crew that has allowed me to explore more with the options and tools available. Then, I had to learn how to swim in The Crypt, whereas Awaiting was like entering a race, so there were fundamental and massive differences.
However, The Crypt provided an opportunity to explore and develop future projects, the first one being Awaiting. I guess the other thing is because The Crypt is a horror and we did want to have a whole horror element in the game. It allowed me to be more objective in terms of what would be effective in the horror genre and what wouldn’t, so I was able to apply that knowledge to give it a tighter structure and pacing.
Do You Have Any Interest In Creating More Horror Films In The Future?
A: No, I’ve realised that my strong area is in comedy, horror wasn’t ready for me, so out of the abundance of groups I’ve been working on, none of them have been successful.
Well, apart from one being a horror, all of that being said, my next projects that I’m filming are both comedy horrors.
So yeah, I’m probably talking nonsense, but horror is not a genre I’m particularly good at, so there’s no ambition to try and improve that. I love making comedies, which is why I’m going to put my skin in the game.