Thursday, 27 October 2011

Interview: A Q&A session with Arjun Rose

Writer/Director Arjun Rose
After having the pleasure of being invited to an advanced screening of the forthcoming teen cult urban movie Demons Never Die, I was given the opportunity to speak to the writer and first director behind the film, Arjun Rose. Holding a strong cast and long-term ‘3 Reasons To Live’ promotional campaign, I was interested to find out what inspired the film idea, how it’s influences were fed into the storyline, what challenges were faced within the production journey and where Arjun Rose’s story goes from here…

How did the first seed for Demons Never Die get planted?
I had been spending some time in America and had written a completely different film. I had come back to London to pick up my stuff and move out and get away for a while. I basically saw this picture…. I can’t remember now where I saw it, it was a kind of emo based art picture and it had a guy who had ripped out his heart and was offering it to this girl who looked quite shy and bashful. The picture was titled ‘I Give You My Heart’. It was a strong image that I really wanted to develop into an arc love story. The original draft was a psychological thriller based on these 2 characters. One of the characters of the 2 was the crazy one. It was a very different story to what is Demons now, but it evolved into the slasher that it is now.

Was it your initial intention for it to blossom into a feature length film?
I had always intended to write a 90-page script…. But you know, I’ve written a few scripts now and this one is my second one. When you start writing, you don’t know what’s gonna happen. The success rate for new writers to get their script made into feature length films is very rare, so it was more me wanting to get my thoughts and emotions on paper really.

Web Cam Scene
The film has various demons faced by the youth of today, are there any hidden messages within the storyline?
I wouldn’t say hidden messages. They’re all kind of based on people and experiences that I’ve had myself. I know those characters quite well. I know the girl who hears voices, I know the girl who’s bulimic and Archie and Kenny were sort of based on myself, but the different sides of me. So one was good and one was bad, but really they’re two sides of the same person. One is out and out hero and the other is a bit of a psycho (laughs). I don’t usually share that by the way (laughs)… But if you look at the webcam scene you’ll realise that their backgrounds are both the same colour, so there’s things like that going on to tie them together, but most people might not notice.

Regarding the cast for the characters, was there anyone you wanted and wasn’t able to get for the film?
No not really. The hardest part to cast was Archie and I had never met Robert Sheehan before so I had already casted the other parts and got a call from a casting director saying that he would like for me to meet up with Robert Sheehan. But at the time Robert was committed to another job so I suggested that we just have lunch. Jason Maza came along as well, we got on so well that he called his agent and wanted to be a part of Demons, which was like the icing on the cake. The other characters; I had wanted Tulisa for that part and got her, but I wasn’t too up to date with all the new young actors although I know some of them, so me and Jason were auditioning for 3 weeks solid everyday one after the other and that’s really how the cast came together.

Jason Maza plays Kenny in the film
Jason Maza has been working on this with you for a while (since the first (Suicide Kids) Demons Never Die trailer was released), what did you see within Jason’s talent to give him such a major role within the film?
It’s funny because when I cast Jason originally years ago in that green screen promo version that I did, he was only about 19 or 20 or something, he had a much smaller part at that time, but we became very close. I was still adapting to the world of film I guess, as I come from a very different world and people were getting to me. Jason has an ability to turn situations around. I had originally asked Jason to come on board as a producer for this film, but I told him “It didn’t mean you’ve got the part for Kenny even though that I know you’d love it.” Jason had to read just the same as anyone else. But he was so good and he nailed it. He knows me so well and he knew exactly what I was going for so yeah he just smashed the part and he was perfect for it. He didn’t get any favours.

I believe Donnie Darko inspired various elements of Demons, such as the character of Archie. What did you hope to carry through to Demons from Donnie Darko?
I think the great thing about Donnie Darko is that it has a very independent feel. Obviously it had a much bigger budget and it’s very well made but I think the character of Donnie Darko comes across a superhero really that ended up giving his life to save everyone else, but to try and make a UK version would be very difficult to do. I think Robert Sheehan brings that very different flavour in the mix of the other characters but the thing that I like about Donnie Darko is that not everything is explained. You can come away from that film after watching it ten times and still have varying ideas about what’s happened. I think in this country we don’t do that. We make films that nicely wrap up at the end with everything has been explained. But I think that’s because we’re used to watching things like soaps, which don’t leave things unanswered and nobody wants things left unanswered either, especially in horror films. But if we look at things like Nightmare on Elm Street, at the end Freddie would be alive and nobody would know how. Or how Michael Myers would be able to just stand up, even though a lorry had just run over his head. That’s a scary prospect but everything hasn’t been explained. In Demons there’s a masked killer out there, nobody knows who it is or why he’s killing, but there are clues to it. With Donnie Darko it’s probably one of the most complicated films around. In my opinion there is no definite answer so I suppose I liked having an element of that in Demons. We’re telling a love story and we don’t have to write everything down exactly how it happened. It’s open to some interpretation and there are some clues if people are watching hard enough.

Demons Never Die is released in cinemas nationwide on 28th October 2011

As a first time director did you find it hard to get your vision captured on the screen?
It was a massive learning experience. I’m sure directors get to a stage in film-making when it’s possible to capture the actual vision because there is the time and money to do that. In reality when you’re working with a micro budget in film making, you turn up at a location on the day (bearing in mind a lot of scenes were shot in Jason Maza’s house), and what you really want isn’t exactly what you had in mind. Such as where windows are placed and not being able to move the camera or lighting so you have to adapt quickly. But the two scenes where I really got to get what I wanted were the auditorium and the web cam scene, because those were the ones where I demanded and also had a full day to be able to work on. If you bear in mind that one of those scenes are a page from the film script, then two of those is two pages out of ninety, which means the other sixteen days of shooting would equate to 88 pages so it is a big sacrifice. But if you want to get an idea of my vision the auditorium and web cams scenes would be just that.

The auditorium scene has been said to have been a difficult scene to shoot. What happened to make it so challenging?
The original difficulty was that we never had many locations to shoot or have much of a budget. We turned up at Riverside Studios (in Hammersmith) where we had got for free and it was exactly what I was looking for as it had that old school feel. We got there and the first thing the Director of Photography said was “We can’t shoot here, there’s no light.” which was a great start (laughs). We needed light because it was a slow motion shot, which requires more light basically. Then there was a very thin stairwell in the middle and the challenge there was we would have to get a steady cam operator up and down these stairs backwards with the whole unit as we weren’t able to get the heavy shooting machinery. In the end we found a solution with the lighting by putting a lighting balloon at the top of the auditorium so it would shine some light down on top of everyone. The steady cam operator we had was a guy called Roger Avers who was brilliant, but we had a couple of people behind him ready to catch him in case he fell over. But the next challenge we faced was that once we were at the top of the auditorium, we would have to get back down to the bottom quickly. Which is where my friend Nicholas came in, so he jumped over all the seats and got us back down to the bottom so that we could continue shooting.

It sounds like you had a lot of things to overcome to get what you wanted and one of the things I know was really important to you also was the mask. How did you go about choosing the mask?
In slashers it’s all about the mask. In my head I felt that if we got a cheap looking mask or got something from a fancy dress shop, the film would’ve had a danger of falling into the wrong category. Like in Scream they have a mask specially made and it’s now their signature mask and I felt that we needed something that would be intimidating, something teenagers would be frightened of. I spent a lot of time searching the internet and when I saw it I instantly thought “That’s the one!”

Demons Never Die teens make a pact
Moving away from the storyline and props, what was it like working with Idris Elba?
Cool! We get on really well and I’m really honoured that he’s a fan of my writing and I’m also fond of his acting. The intention is that we’re going to work together in future as director and actor and it’s been great that he supported me to get me to a place where I’ve have been able to get into directing. Without him doing Demons, the chance of me directing my first film with A-List actors in it, would’ve been very unlikely. So him putting his name to this, even though he wasn’t around everyday, he showed a lot of faith in my writing and showed lots of support, so it was great!

Many want to know the basis behind the name being changed from Suicide Kids, are you able to reveal this?
Yeah course! The main basis was that it’s very hard to say the original name on mainstream media within TV and radio. Once you’ve seen the film you know it’s not really about suicide. I had grown up reading a lot of comic books and for me the film is a comic book story, so when I would say ‘Suicide Kids’ I would think it’s a cool comic book name. But people were taking it more literally, it was a bit controversial and when you make a British micro-budget film, you really need all the support you can get from the British media industry. If you’re automatically fighting that battle with people not being able to say things, it just causes problems. If the film had been about suicidal children, I would’ve stuck to my guns, but the fact that the film wasn’t even about that and was causing uproar before it even came out, I didn’t want to try and use the controversy for our advantage. Because when people went to see the film and then saw it wasn’t about suicide, it could’ve just left people confused. So we changed it to Demons Never Die and I’m quite glad we did. I think it works well.

When you announced the name change, there was also announcement of an amazing soundtrack. Before that, had there been a previous soundtrack?
No there hadn’t been one. Idris wanted to do the soundtrack and what happened is I met with Island, Universal and Sony, who asked how much I had to make the film. When I told them, they were all a bit shocked and they said “We love the film, tell us what you want.” So I ended up working with them and they were sending through hundreds and hundreds of tracks. I spent weeks going through them all, trying to figure which ones would work. Then we had to go to the individual artists after I had chosen the tracks to find out whether we could clear them. It was a lengthy process. Now the soundtrack is pretty much 80-85% of the songs I had originally chosen for the film, which I was incredibly lucky to get.

Will there be a sequel to the film?
You never know…..

What is in the midst for Arjun Rose?
I’m talking to a number of people about a few different projects at the moment so I guess I’m kind of waiting for Demons to come out so I can get an idea of how that does. My next film with Idris is called Swift, which is about a boy who can run very fast. So I’m just taking my time a little bit with regards to signing on the dotted line.

Demons Never Die is released in cinemas nationwide on 28th October 2011

Also featured on UK Chocolate and Niji Magazine

Follow Arjun Rose on Twitter
Follow Demons Never Die on Twitter
Demons Never Die Facebook Page
Purchase Demons Never Die Soundtrack
Demons Never Die Soundtrack Review

No comments:

Post a Comment