20 Questions With…James Moran and Cat Davies

Cat Davies has proven herself to have a pretty steady hand when it comes to fusing comedy and horror. Her last two shorts, Keen-Wah and Connie both debuted to deserved acclaim on the festival circuit, and we were impressed enough with Connie to be genuinely interested in what was to come next. As it turns out, she’s teamed up with James Moran (writer of Tower Block, Severance, Doctor Who and Torchwood) for new short Blood Shed. You can find out more about the film’s Kickstarter campaign here, but in the meantime, they stopped by to get the 20 Questions treatment…

1. Why hello there. What’s your name?

James: Hello! I’m James Moran.

Cat: I think I’m Cat Davies… I think.

2. What do you do?

James: I’m a writer and director of short films, feature films, and web series.

Cat: I’m a writer, director and producer, but also an actress from time to time. And I’m a total geek. Very important credential.

3. Agreed. Is there a particular current project of yours you’d like to tell us about, and if so, what is it?

James: Our new short film is a horror comedy called Blood Shed, about a shed that eats people… It’s crowdfunding now on Kickstarter. We wrote it together, I’m directing, and Cat is producing.

Cat: Blood Shed is our current big project, with two other shorts, Hank: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and TickTock coming this year as well, both of which I’m directing.

4. Okay, you’ve got us curious, now give us your best sales pitch on Blood Shed – what’s it all about, and why should people check it out?

Jack loves a bargain. And he loves sheds. When he buys suspiciously cheap second-hand parts online to build his very own dream shed, he and long-suffering wife Helen find they’ve got more than they bargained for: a killer shed with an appetite for blood. As the body count rises, and the shed’s ferocious appetite grows, Jack is faced with a horrifying dilemma. A comedy horror about a man’s twisted love for his shed… that eats people.

It’s a funny, dark, twisted story about obsessive love – but for a shed, instead of another person. We’re going for an 80s horror vibe, influenced by Creepshow and other horror anthologies of the time – creepy, stylised lighting, synthesizer music, and all that fun stuff.

 

5. If you can, map out for us how the project came to be: what gave you the idea, how you developed it, any especially important support you received etc.?

Cat: I was cooking and I was just saying titles to myself and doing a fake trailer voice, which is where I tend to improvise ideas and story synopses, and it just hit me like a steam train… or shed. And I said to James, last November I think, “I have this idea… It could be mad, so stick with me on this!”

James: When Cat walks into a room and says “this is either a great idea or a terrible idea”, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be an amazing idea! Although for a while we weren’t sure if anyone else would find it as funny as us… So we’re glad that people are really liking the sound of it!

Cat: All the crowdfunding support we’ve had so far has been really lovely – we’re around 45% funded in just over a week. We never expected that. Every single pledger is important to us, and we’ve had wonderful support so far from press. We just desperately need to hit our target now to get the film made.

6. Do you have any people that you’ve particularly enjoyed working with on any of your projects, and anyone you felt like you learned from?

James: I always try to work with people way smarter than me, because they make me up my game. My absolute favourite person to work with, and who I’ve learned the most from, is Russell T. Davies (on Doctor Who and Torchwood). He always challenged me, made me laugh, saw through any excuse – no matter how clever I thought I was being – and could simultaneously rip my script to pieces while making me feel like the best writer in the world. He’s also possibly the nicest, most generous person in the business.

Cat: I loved working with Catrin Stewart on Connie, my last short film. She managed to play two roles at once, often in the same scene. It was a really taxing two days, shooting 34 scenes. She was such a hard worker, never complained once and was incredibly sweet and intelligent. She’s one to watch – she’s a total star. When I watch Connie back, I love it because she’s so great in it. I can’t thank her enough for that performance.

7. Can you identify a single piece of work (be it a film, short, book, TV show, anything) that you’ve seen that you remember as being your first step towards becoming a horror-lover?

James: Not the first step, but an early step was watching A Nightmare on Elm Street, and being surprised when Nancy did some research into improvised weapons and started fighting back. It blew my mind, because it was the first horror I’d seen where the lead character actually fought back and outsmarted the villain. It made me realise the cathartic joy of watching someone smart, tough and cool saving the day. That, and endlessly rewatching TV shows that showed how special effects were done.

Cat: I grew up watching horror movies on VHS with my parents – all the video nasties – so I feel like I almost fell out of the womb with horror films playing in the background. I remember Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2 most vividly from my childhood as the first one that I loved. Bruce Campbell’s performance really pulled me in. And it’s genuinely scary but also balances humour beautifully. I still love it. I also remember loving Cat’s Eye, Creepshow, Scanners and Videodrome. What an unusual childhood!

8. What was the last thing you saw that you genuinely loved?

James: Moonlight, and Hidden Figures – two films that are so gorgeous and life affirming, they actually improve your health when you watch them (probably). If we’re talking horror, I rewatched Sleepaway Camp and Raising Cain recently. New horror? Probably Hush, that scared the pants off me. Don’t Breathe was great too. And it’s not a horror movie, but The Nightmare, the documentary about sleep paralysis, is scarier than ANY horror movie I’ve seen in several years.

Cat: Horror wise, Under the Shadow was great – really jumpy and a beautiful period setting. It reminded me of The Babadook at times, which I also loved. The Love Witch and Prevenge are my other recent favourites. I’m writing a big slasher piece at the moment, so I’m rewatching every slasher movie – some great, some godawful.

9. Who or what would you consider your biggest influences or inspirations?

James: Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Harlan Ellison, Larry Cohen, Shane Black, William Goldman, Jimmy McGovern.

Cat: Woody Allen. As a screenwriter, filmmaker, comedian – he’s always played a big role in my life. Our house was always playing horror movies or Woody Allen stuff. Films like Sleeper, Bananas, Annie Hall, Purple Rose of Cairo, Manhattan. Just a beautiful body of work.

10. What, so far, would you view as your favourite moment of your horror career?

James: Probably because it was the first – arriving on the set of Severance, straight from the airport, and seeing a scene being shot including two actors I hadn’t seen any casting tape for yet, so they were just there, as my characters, speaking my words. It was SO surreal. And then the next day, seeing the stunt team sweating for hours to pull off a complicated sequence that I’d only put in there to stop the heroine escaping…

Cat: Meeting Robert England. Freddy is one of my favourite characters, so meeting him was a real head rush. I still thought of him as Freddy when I spoke to him, but he was so lovely. And he’s happy doing the Freddy voice and catchphrases. It was a real fangirl moment for me.

11. Do either of you have any frequent collaborators, either behind or in front of the camera? Do you think it’s important to establish a strong group of people you can repeatedly count on to understand your vision and ideas, or do you think working with new sets of people keeps things fresh?

James: Yes, Cat, because she’s my best friend and worst enemy – best friend because she’ll do anything to make my work better, worst enemy because she will NOT hold back when I haven’t done my best work… We also have a great crew we like to keep working with, because they’re brilliant at their job, fun to have on set, and are as excited as us to turn up and do the work. I love the energy fresh eyes bring too, but it’s important to me to have a few trusted collaborators around to make sure I feel safe.

12. Where can people go to learn more about you, your work, and your upcoming projects, and how can people support Blood Shed?

Our Kickstarter page is here:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jamesmoran/blood-shed-comedy-horror-short-about-a-man-eating/

The Blood Shed short film website is here:

And our own websites are here:

http://www.jamesmoranwriter.com

http://www.catdavies.com

13. What’s next for you?

James: Making Blood Shed, then editing, then all the other post, etc. I’ve got some feature films I want to make, some I want to direct, others I’m happy to entrust to other directors.

Cat: Hank: Portrait of a Serial Killer and TickTock, and a feature script I’d love to get made, so I’ll be pushing that around agents’ tables soon.

14. Story time – tell us any story of your choosing from your career up to this point. It can be happy, sad, funny, whatever you feel like – just anything from your filmmaking experiences that you’re up for re-telling.

James: Seeing the crew cover a kitchen in polka dots for the entire 3 days we were shooting Crazy For You, so we could do ONE scene on the final day. Then, as soon as we finished shooting, they had to immediately start removing the hundreds and hundreds of polka dots. I think that broke their spirit.

Cat: When we were shooting Connie, there were a couple of filthy jokes and references to things like raspberry ripples and bukkake… I found myself rather shyly explaining what these terms meant to the cast and crew. It’s something I’ll never forget – their shocked faces and roars of laughter. What a job.

15. If anyone out there isn’t sure about either of those terms, I’d advise against a Google Image search… anyway, let’s get off-topic! Where do your interests lie outside of filmmaking?

James: I really enjoy learning new things, which is why I’ve taught myself editing, grading, VFX, etc. Playing the guitar and the ukulele. Travel. And constant marathons of Forensic Files and RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Cat: I’m finishing off my second MA at the moment – so I’m doing a lot of work on that around slasher movies, “Final Girls”, gender theories in cinema. When not doing that, I like sleeping. A lot. I feel like I’m walking around in Fight Club at the moment, running on coffee and sugar.

16.What’s in your CD player/on your iPod right now?

James: I’ve got the Creepshow soundtrack on repeat while I work on Blood Shed, to keep me in the mood. I make a new playlist for each new project, but this one has been Creepshow and nothing else. John Harrison’s score is SO great.

Cat: George Michael’s Ladies & Gentlemen greatest hits album. George was one of my favourite artists as a kid and in the 90s, and I still love those hits. When he passed away Christmas Day, we were both really saddened. It was a tough year to lose George, Prince and David Bowie. I felt like kicking on Kate Bush’s door to check if she was ok! So, since then, I’ve been listening to his old classics a lot.

17. As a genre fan, what are you looking forward to this year in horror, and from film in general?

James: Like everyone else, I’m crazy excited to see Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Also really looking forward to Cult of Chucky (they can keep making those forever as far as I’m concerned), It, and Insidious 4.

Cat: Chucky, It, XXBlood Shed!

18. Is there anything else we should know?

James: I’m currently addicted to excessively graphic iPhone sniper games. I think they’re making me weird.

Cat: I’m a naughty vegetarian. I have a problem with Haribo.

19. Are there any filmmakers whose work you would like to let people know about before you go?

James: Brian Lonano (Gwilliam), Prano Bailey-Bond (Nasty), Katie Bonham (Mindless), Jamie Hooper (Unto Death). All strong, cool voices with plenty to say. Keep an eye on them all. They’ve made great short films, and it’s important to support short filmmakers because it’s hard to get them seen.

Cat: Anna Biller – The Love Witch, Alice Lowe – Prevenge, Rachel Tunnard – Adult Life Skills

20. And finally, sign off with a quote of your choosing. Whether it’s from a real person or a fictional character is up to you…

James: “Make the rules – then break them all ‘cause you are the best.” – Prince

Cat: “Who do you have to blow to get a drink around here?” – Connie

Blood Shed is crowdfunding until March 26th. Join the campaign here.

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