Before Christmas I had lunch with Piers Tempest, one of my favourite film producers – he made Robot Overlords and Grabbers with me. Piers is that rare beast in the world of UK movies – he’s incredibly driven, and gets out there and finds the money to make films he believes in, at high speed. He’s never discouraged by set backs – in fact the opposite, if anything, he thrives on adversity. Piers and I have something in common in that we are both innately optimistic, it’s a credo with both of us, almost a religious belief. Like Tim Allen said in Galaxy Quest… “Never give up, never surrender!”
I’ve had an idea for a horror film in the back of my mind for a while, now, and haven’t been able to shake it – it’s stuck with me. Piers doesn’t like horror films, he finds them too scary, and the (often dubious) morality of the genre doesn’t sit very comfortably with him, either, so he wasn’t an obvious choice to produce it. On the other hand: it struck me as an obviously commercial idea, and Piers loves an idea he can sell, a catchy concept. A hook.
So – I pitched it to him.
And – to my surprise – he loved it.
He said he thought he could get past the fact it was a horror film – that’s how much he liked the idea. And, of course, the runaway success of recent low budget horrors like Get Out and Don’t Breathe probably helped pique his interest, too.
Can you set it in Yorkshire, he asked?
(He lives in Yorkshire, and is itching to make a film there.)
Most definitely, I said.
(The story is set in a remote country house near a wood.)
Can we make it for around £5 million UK, he asked?
Most definitely, I said. It’s a Blumhouse budget.
Has it got scale and scope, he asked. Will it feel epic?
Yes, I said. It’s a movie.
So we gave it a nickname: “The Yorkshire Project”.
Shortly after New Year’s day I sat down and started writing, and have been writing most mornings since. I think I’m maybe a week away from having a first draft and I have to say, I’ve really enjoyed writing this one. I’m not a natural writer in the way I’m a natural director, hand on heart – but I love films (and TV) with a passion and have a vivid, visual imagination, and a good vocabulary, so I think that makes up for it, give or take. And I’ve learned a lot co-writing Robot Overlords, and learned even more directing TV shows for experienced, ultra-talented folks like Danny Brocklehurst, Dan Sefton and Tony Grounds.
And this time out I simply pictured myself sitting in a cinema – a full house, of course – watching the movie unfold, and something really clicked. I’ve written a film I want to see, no compromises. As a result it’s very dramatic, and very violent, and delves into that side of horror I really enjoy where it’s almost like a dark fairytale, a psychological case study.
It’s called The Magic Door, by the way.
And the sequel will be called The Magic Mirror.
Will Piers love it like I do? Or will it end up with another producer? Now that, sadly, I can’t predict. It’s in the lap of The Movie Gods, now, and they’re nothing if not unpredictable… Watch this space!
Update – May 2018
Piers is out, sadly, while there’s a lot he likes he said the film is just too scary and violent for him to produce – “I can’t sell something I’d never watch!” Which is, of course, true. Meanwhile I’ve hired a talented young writer called Alexander Stewart to take it to the next draft. Alex wrote a set of notes on my script which were brilliantly insightful, and had me thinking – “now that’s the movie I want to make”.
Again, watch this space…