We love chatting with indie filmmakers, particularly those whose work we’ve admired for quite some time.
With short and feature films under his belt, I was fortunate to chat to writer and director Jonathan Chance to discuss his upcoming movie based upon the story of the most haunted house in Britain, Borley Rectory.
Please can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into filmmaking?
I’m a British Writer / Director based in Los Angeles. I’ve been making horror / sci-fi films with my Brother, Richard, for as long as a can remember. We grew up on them – it completely fed our imagination, inspiration you name it – this is what we wanted to do for ourselves. When I was around eighteen we got serious about it all and we’ve had some success on the film festival circuit; first with our no-budget no -cast- no-crew horror feature The Veil. With that one I think we proved that a no-budget film doesn’t necessarily mean no -value. After that our films have gone from strength to strength as we picked up Best Guerrilla Film for The Day I Tried to Live and Best Sci-Fi Film for The Timeslip with more than a dozen selections.
You’re currently in pre-production of a movie called The Rectory based upon Britain’s most haunted house, Borley Rectory. What made you decide to create a film about it?
Borley Rectory is probably one of the most unsung stories in our haunted history not explored in film. It deserves to be. The house could well be the blueprint for all haunted house movies of the twentieth century. Not to mention its public speaker Harry Price – one of the first real-life paranormal investigators of his time as well as an inventor and showman who was equally infamous. This still overshadows the iconic status he rightfully deserves in popular culture today. His work in psychic research has echoed through the decades but he should be known to not just paranormal enthusiasts in the UK, but the world over. He is a man of legend and almost mythical proportions if ever there was one. Beneath that I want to show the human being – he was like a locked book, hard to read.
Will you be shooting on site at Borley Rectory?
The Rectory was unfortunately gutted by fire in the 1940’s due to strange circumstances, but the church and area surrounding still exists. We look to shoot in England for authenticity – I grew up right near it in Essex – nothing can create the atmosphere of those creepy winding roads! We will also shoot in L.A as (like London) it’s one of the best international hubs in the industry to make a great independent film.
Who’s currently attached to the project?
First there’s Calvin Vanderbeek who will be producing – we met over coffee the thirty minute chat turned into four hours. He completely understood my vision for the film and I’m elated to have him on-board and for him to bring his expertise. I’ll be glad to work on a larger canvas – which this movie needs.
Our actors – firstly; Crispian Belfrage an outstanding British actor with undeniable presence will play Mr. Harry Price. He simply is him – a great character actor, very excited to have him involved.
We’ve just signed awarding winning actor Jason Vail to play Tennison one Harry Price’s cohorts – who is certainly making a scene today in the horror and independent film circuit. Then there are two wonderful actors in Angela DiMarco and David Hogan. Extremely talented, the auditions we’re excellent – they’ll definitely bring something special to the film.
Soon more actors, industry names will be signing on but it’s a surprise – I can’t say just yet… but we hope to announce them as our pre-production Indiegogo campaign progresses – with your help!
Will you be using CGI at all in the film or will you be using purely practical effects and tricks?
We’re extremely pleased to say the special effects in the film will be mainly all practical effects by industry special effects wiz Michele Mulkey. She has worked on everything from the Chucky films, Firefly and tons of movies, TV shows and independents. I am a huge fan of practical effects. All the best and the most memorable horror films have them and that’s why even after thirty years or more – we return to them, these films are classics – they stand the test of time. Tricks comes with the territory and visual effects will be used to compliment where need be.
How long did it take you to write the screenplay and how true is your story to the events that happened?
It was a seed as far back as 2003 when I wrote a short story called The Ruin. But I started compiling script notes, scenes, dialogue etc. as far back as 2006-08. This story has been etched in my mind for a long time – since I was a kid, I used to stay up reading about it in books by Peter Underwood and magazines on the occult.
Within the last few years ghost films have increased and all my script notes were piling, so, I had to sit at my computer and make this damn screenplay happen! Before a studio jumped on it, or whoever – then a couple years ago it was completed – and a good sign I was on the right track was it becoming a semi-finalist at Shriekfest Film Festival with the script that would become The Rectory.
The story is based on real events and real people –but the quote; ‘never let the truth get in the way of the good story’ by Mark Twain comes to mind. It’s surely relevant here. Harry Price and Borley Rectory to everyone were bigger than life – and with a title like ‘most haunted house in England’ I don’t want to let anyone down. But it’s more than horror, it’s a thriller, drama, mystery and I was dead meticulous where the facts resonated with me. After all I’m a fan – and the fans will know. They’ll pick up on the nods throughout the movie and enjoys the twists. I want this to be gritty and real and independent is definitely the way to go. The responses I’ve gotten from people reading the script are some of the best praises I’ve had in my career. I’m quite proud.
Will you be shooting in black and white or colour?
Colour. It’s a period film and will look authentic to the time.
When can we expect the film to be shot and complete for?
We shoot in the autumn and plan to release by the end of the year.
Can you please tell us a bit about your upcoming crowdfunding campaign, what the funds will go to and what will be on offer?
Lots of real good rewards will be on offer these include the exclusive Directors cut available in download, DVD and Blu-ray for an anticipated release early 2015. We have copies of The Borley Rectory companion signed by Paul Adams, Eddie Brazil and non-other than Harry Price’s paranormal successor Peter Underwood. Also we have T-Shirts, full length posters and more special Borley Rectory gifts for the fans out there.
If people can’t donate large or small – getting the word out on The Rectory can be just as important. They can follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook, and with Every RT, tweet and tweet with the Indiegogo link gets it out to more potential people who can donate to the feature film.
Anyone who is dying for a good horror film, a great story and into the supernatural – this will be for you, something rectory fans will enjoy – and as one that always enjoyed a tall tale around the fire with friends – Mr. Price would respect. It certainly has a nod to say; Hammer or Tigon movies from yesteryear, I’d like to think it would be a classic ghost story for the horror aficionados – but also apply to today’s modern audiences.
A question we like to ask all our interviewees: Which is your favourite horror movie and why?
Always a hard choice to pick! For me it’s always got to be a horror movie that has something deeper beneath the surface, with a message. I always return to Carpenter, Cronenberg, Romero, Mann – Hitchcock. Too hard!
Thank you very much Jonathan for your time.
Find out more or donate to The Rectory campaign, which is live now, by visiting Indiegogo