Baron Craze: What can you tell my readers about your film The Gatehouse?
Martin Gooch: It’s a Gothic Fantasy Horror film all about a little girl called Eternity who’s ten years old, who lives in a a haunted gatehouse at the edge of an ancient forest – she likes to go digging for buried treasure in the woods but one day she digs up something she shouldn’t and the forest want it back!
BC: When did you start penning this project? Did you have any cast pre-selected before you started?
MG: I wrote it with Scarlett Rayner in mind for the role of Eternity the little girl. I had worked with Paul Freeman (Raiders of the Lost Ark) before and I knew I’d write a role for him, but the rest of the characters were all cast.
BC: Who have worked in many different departments of filmmaker, what drove you to choose directing?
MG: I always wanted to be a directed since I was a small kid. But I have no family in the industry and it’s tough to find a way in, so I started at the bottom as a runner in 1994, and gradually worked my way up, whilst making a whole load of short films. I think I just like telling stories and creating worlds and that’s what I want to do.
BC: I noticed a future project of yours is entitled Black Flowers. In the film your character references Black Flowers, is there a connection? If not then what is your latest project about?
MG: Well it’s a very long story actually. My first movie Death (called After Death in the USA) was originally entitled Black Flowers, but during a re-draft it was felt that Death was a more ‘catchy’ title. So it became Death. When I wrote The Gatehouse the first draft was called Black Flowers, but it was felt that The Gatehouse was a more catchy title for the film, so we went with that. The actual Black Flowers appear in The Gatehouse of course! And when I was writing my new film which is a sci-fi post apocalyptic movie set in North America after a nuclear war. I decided to finally use the title I had been playing with for so long. And in this film the Black Flowers are a real presence in the movie – but not like in The Gatehouse!
BC: Looking at your body of work, and countless projects in every genre but one, you have yet to direct a horror film or even write one, why is that?
MG: I have written a horror – it’s called Werepig and all about a girl who turns into a werepig, like a werewolf but a pig. I actually wrote this script in 1997 and have been trying to get it financed ever since, every couple of years I dust of the draft and update it and see if I can find finance. I also wrote a horror set in the West of England in 1888, which had a working title of The Good The Bad and The Undead, but then someone wrote that book, so I had to come up with another title and settled on The Slaying of Slade for the time being. It’s about a village called Slade that gets haunted. I also wrote and directed a short film which is a horror called Eddie’s Sticky End, which is on the internet somewhere. That’s about 15 years old! But I prefer to direct things that are not ‘just’ horror and have another genre interwoven.
BC: Do independent films give you a luxury to experiment even though funds are often quite limited?
MG: Well yes of course, but you can only experiment so far as you have limited resources and if you do want to film a scene in WW2 you may only have one tank (like I did in The Search for Simon). I don’t so much think of it as a ‘luxury’ it’s more just creativity in the face of financial adversity!
I think luxury would be a decent budget and a decent schedule shooting a decent script! Not much to ask for really!!
BC: What was budget for this film and once achieving it did you realize you needed to lose a scene to make the movie fit the budgetary constraints?
MG: To be honest I hate being asked what the budget of a film is, I don’t think it is relevant. When The Search for Simon was released we had a review in Empire magazine, which gave it a 3 and a half stars. On the next page was Thor, which had a whole page devoted to it, loads of pictures and interviews and got 4 stars. Their film was $200Mil. Ours was not, but we were only half a star apart!
As the saying goes – it’s not the size of it that’s important but what you do with it.
We didn’t cut anything due to the budget, we did cut some scenes as the film was running a little long, the first cut was about 120 minutes and the final cut is 95 (including credits) so we cut quite a bit.
BC: What was the most difficult scene to film and why was that?
MG: I’m not sure – I am sure Clare Pearce (Producer) will have some thoughts on this, but maybe it was the almost final scenes in the woods with Farmer Sykes and the shotgun. There was just a lot to do in a small amount of time. We were shooting in January and the sun would set at 3:30pm so we had to finish by then! It was really cold and standing out in the woods all day was tough on the actors and crew, and we were a long way from anywhere to warm up or have a cup of tea.
The most difficult scene to edit was the death of mum in the canoe. I edited the whole film before I got to this scene I kept putting it off and putting it off to edit everything else, and I couldn’t find the right music to cut it to. So it was the very final scene. It was frustrating to cut as I didn’t want it to be silly or unintentionally hilarious, but we could only shoot it once for obvious reasons, and some people like it and others hate it. We didn’t shoot the oar floating in the water on the day we shot everything else, so I went back to the same pond about 18 months later just to get that shot of the oar in the water.
BC: The family dynamic seems very believable, from the daughter’s fantasy world and finally getting her father to believe. While children easily adhere to fantasy how was it to convey your thoughts of scenes to the adults?
MG: I think you either have an open mind or you don’t. People who can believe in castles in the sky without worrying why they don’t fall through the clouds, or where the sewage goes, will embrace an ancient god living in the forest, but people who don’t read fantasy or watch Lord of the Rings and ‘believe’ it, won’t get it. You just have to know who you are preaching to, and actors and crew are used to seeing things that don’t exist or are made up. I also greatly enjoy ‘creating worlds’ so we work with people who also have the same world view!!
BC: What film hooked you on the industry of filmmaking? (Not necessary your favorite)
MG: As a kid the films that changed everything were: Time Bandits, DragonSlayer, Excalibur and Monty Python The Meaning of Life, those are the films where everything was different after I watched them.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen is one of my all time favourite films of all time and one day I’ll do something spectacular like that! Look out for Black Flowers in 2018! It’s beautiful!
BC: Thank you for your time.
MG: Thank you! See you in the movies!!