Holidays are a time for celebration… It is a time of horror as well. Each year we see a sack full of holiday and Christmas horror films come down the chimney with different visions and fears being told by filmmakers around the world. 2016 was no different as we saw different Christmas films show the true terror that comes from the most wonderful time of the year! Delving into the slasher genre against the canvas of poverty, the homeless and survival comes the twisted holiday United Kingdom thriller GOOD TIDINGS.
Gaining a huge following, film festival selections and fans around the world, this very layered, exploitative, dark drama is a compelling film overall let alone a new holiday terror! GOOD TIDINGS surrounds three escaped human monsters who break into a building where a community off the homeless are staying and celebrating the holidays. From there, character is defined, blood is spilled and the true hunt and survival may or not be a heartbeat away. Jay Kay had a chance to talk with the co-writer and director of GOOD TIDINGS Stuart W. Bedford about the film’s inspirations, deeper meanings, blood shed and the power of a moment for THE BLOOD SHED.
Interview Conducted by Jay Kay @JayKayHorror on Twitter / HorrorHappens.com
Jay Kay: First, talk about not only where the idea for the film came from but what was the inspirations behind the holiday madness? How has the film festival run been?
Stuart Bedford: It’s actually Stu Jopia my writing partner and Co-producer that came up with concept. He’s always wanted to do a Holiday slasher and I of course love them too (who doesn’t?!) So when he came to me with the concept in its early stages but basically fully formed, it was a no brainier. It has obvious notes of SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT but there were subtle inspirations from sources like ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 and even nods to HOME ALONE and DIE HARD. I feel in love straight away and that was it, it practically developed itself!
The festival run has been dizzying to say the least. To think of all those people watching our little movie! And not to mention the awards. We’ve netted five so far and each one got no less shocking and humbling. It’s just so awesome to send our baby out there and see it be received well by its audience. It’s something I’ve definitely gotten the bug for.
JK: Why this film is vicious, dark and tense, GOOD TIDINGS offers a film with a message at its core that is performed brilliantly by the ensemble cast of characters. This group of the invisible, neglected and forgotten residents have banned together to survive in an abandoned building working together and growing as a community. Can you talk about balancing that message and those themes against the canvas of an bloody slasher exploitative film?
SB: A good question! Okay so immediately, I started mulling over a controlling idea. Even though GOOD TIDINGS is a full on slasher, I wanted it to have some sort of moral meaning. Early on “Christmas is cruel to the poor” came to mind, after considering the homeless cast vs. the malevolent Christmas killers put forth in Stu Jopia’s concept. But I was always concerned about beating the audience over the head with the point.
So essentially, the slasher structure was key. If we could make that work, we could fit the message in as and where it was needed to ensure that we were never shoving our stance on Christmas down the viewers throats. And to be honest, simply the image of pitting the homeless vs. 3 psycho Santas was often enough to state our point without too much effort. In effect, the slasher angle came first, the message second, although despite this, I was always keen for the film to have this underpinning of social commentary.
JK: We open the film with the idea that these three patients have escaped from somewhere horrible. It is so bad, I think it is safe to say, that it has changed them in their looks, voice and behaviors. Made them almost primitive and sick. Am I close on this or did you want to write the three lead heels as characters who are just plain monsters by nature?
SB: Another interesting question! Theoretically, I wanted to know as little about these guys – where they came from and what motivated them – as I could. This was intended to serve that message of “Christmas being cruel to the poor”. I wanted to envision them as sort of Christmas demons if you like, unknowable by their nature. Anyone who knows my process will know that my character profiles are normally extremely in depth, going deep into their childhoods, school life, even talking about how they viewed their own place in society. But not the Santas. They were just a total mystery. And we wanted that to come across in the film too. Not only was it intended to throw back to those 70’s/80’s slashers in which the killers were just monsters, motivated by a desire to kill, it was also intended to make them a mysterious force to the audience so that the Christmas vs. Poverty battle would be that little bit more literal.
Funnily enough this idea has split the audience roughly down the middle; some people wanted more backstory about the killers, while other understand that function of this lack of information and enjoyed it for what it is. We live in an age where every detail needs to be known, usually given in the third act, where characters start talking about the why’s and wherefores – we miss those old exploitation films that seemed to have the attitude of “Why?! Who cares why!”
JK: What was the process like to create different forms of communication between the Santas and also the occupants?
SB: It was immensely fun to play with the Santas and how they communicated and I think this is what gave the three such distinct personalities. They’re very physical and obviously while they have no dialogue, I think their physicality says so much and this gave us the opportunity to weave in a little story arc, and some conflict that played out amongst the Santas which lends the film its zany edge.
With the homeless characters, I tried to keep their communication in the realms of the real world, almost kitchen sink drama-esque and I think these contrasts actually worked well together in the end. The bleakness of the homeless characters offset the wackiness of our Santas in a way that gave the film an interesting texture!
JK: Talk about the locations for the film and how challenging it was to create a holiday style film? Where does the building play into the overall theme of irony and reflection on society towards the occupants?
SB: We actually secured the location before we started writing. We did have our Santas vs. Homeless concept nailed down, but we were determined to write a script to a location we’d secured, rather than trying to retrofit a script to a location later. So we found this great old Courthouse through our production designer, owned by Amanda Robertshaw and her husband – the place was actually half converted into an office for their marketing business Access Point LTD. When we pitched to her, she really liked the idea and I think we sold her on our passion a little bit and she let us in.
So the message was molded to fit the setting really. The “judgement” aspect, which we do play with a little bit came after we sourced the location, and it just seem to feel right that these homeless guys had broken in and used this place as a makeshift home. I can’t explain why, it just seemed to fit. And of course, the script was mapped to fit the location which meant that everything we wrote essentially worked out exactly as intended. It’s an enjoyable way to do things, I must say!
JK: One of the scariest moments in GOOD TIDINGS, is when the occupants of the building are celebrating and you feel so good for them. Then the Santas enter into the fray causing mass chaos, tension and truly insidious acts. Talk about the process of these moments and scene from conception to finally seeing it on screen in the final cut?
SB: I’m actually a quite rigid planner, despite in all other areas being very disorganized! So a lot of those images you see on screen were quite clear in my head before we put them on camera. I once read a quote by Alfred Hitchcock about being able to “watch the movie in his mind before ever stepping on set”. I try to conceptualize that way as much as possible, although it isn’t always easy. Obviously being on set, actors physicality, time constrictions etc. These things can change the shape of things on the day, but for the most part, I’d say that what I’d imagined more or less ended up being what we see on screen.
But yeah, actually seeing it cut and running together, it’s quite a cathartic feeling, particularly when you start overlaying music, which just doubles that filmic feel! I’ve got to give credit to our DP Shane de Almeida who’s great at translating my terrible storyboards into moving image though. Without that guy, Good Tidings would have undoubtedly been a mess!
JK: What kind of lighting and cinematography was planned out for the film inside the building? Was it overall challenging or successful? Did the building work for sound and camera movement? Was that part of the location selection?
SB: As I mentioned, the location actually came first which was helpful as we were able to do lots of tests in regards to camera, lighting and sound before we started shooting so in effect we were able to troubleshoot before we started photography.
With the film being set in the day, we were able to make use of natural light throughout and of course with the script being written for the building, the cinematography was planned specifically for the building too which made the process a whole lot easier.
JK: Talk about the kills and how you planned the methods, weapons, FX and choreographing on indie budget? How much was practical versus CGI in post production?
SB: We wanted to do as much practical as possible! Luckily, we’re good friends with an incredibly talented SFK artist Andy Savage who joined the crew early on and even worked as a consultant during the writing process so that I could figure out exactly what we could pull of and where I was maybe getting a little bit too ambitious. I am a great believer of challenging your limitations, but challenge too much and you’re setting yourself up for failure. So it’s about striking that balance and Andy helped to no end with that. Instead of flying in the face of your limitations, you should always strive to work with them to create as much as you can without it ever going into the realms of the impossible.
During the post production process, we found moments that we feel needed CG enhancement, although these were not intended from the beginning. There was more we wanted to do in terms of VFX support, but thanks to budgetary limitations, we gave ourselves maximum of five pieces and whittled our lists down until we all agreed which five moments we were going to have enhanced.
JK: One of the questions left unanswered at the conclusion of the film is the connection between Sam and the Santas? Sam is a very mysterious character and we believe his methods, choices and intentions are honorable but who knows? Their are however several clues to a past connected with Sam and the trio of Santas that are spoken and unspoken. Can you shed some light on this relationship and also the jury box scene which reflects justice in an ironic, dark and a twisted way to say the least?
SB: This is why I love film! It’s so interpretative and I love how people can find meaning of their own. Truthfully, I wish that was intentional. And who knows, maybe the sequel (if it ever happens) will delve into things that were left open in the first outing. But honestly, that moment with the Jury box was actually a lot simpler in my intentions. Sam’s motivated by a strong moral compass and military training to “never leave a man behind” as it were, and Larry revealing their victims in the jury box in that way was actually intended as a sick joke from Larry. A sort of “look, you failed these people and they’re judging you for it”. Larry has that sick sense of humor, so killing Sam isn’t enough, he had to rub salt in those wounds. But you know, given what happens, he should have quit toying and just killed him!
JK: What is next for you and GOOD TIDINGS? Where can we find out more?
SB: Good Tidings is currently out on VOD in the states and can be found on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, The X-Box Network and Vudu. We’ve got a few more festivals in the pipeline and we’re also about to sign a European release deal for this year so while there’s no info to offer on that just yet, watch this space!
As for the company, we’re just starting development on our next feature film and we’re also getting involved in some up and coming anthology projects with some exciting filmmakers! Again, I can’t reveal too much, but 2017 is definitely going to be a busy year for us!
Check out GOOD TIDINGS on VOD and watch the trailer here https://youtu.be/EqU0N17FuNw
(Images found on Yahoo & Facebook)
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