Q&A with Gavin Williams & Mark Lediard, Directors of “Chromophobia”
Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?
ML: Ripley – the last survivor, prepared to use all the tools from flame throwers to nukes (“its the only way to be sure, right”) to get the job done and leave no-one behind.
GW: The folks in the underground facility in ‘Cabin in the Woods’. I can certainly relate to working with a menagerie of nightmares in a very humdrum, prosaic fashion. Plus, managing to keep them caged is always a challenge!
You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
GW: I get * a lot* of ideas (consequence of being disconnected from reality and living in my own head most of the time), so they can’t all be bangers. Years ago I once had the idea for a woman haunted over decades by a ghost who was ageing backwards. Then she fell pregnant and it turned out the ghost was her baby. Eh, not my finest hour. Getting past the dross to reach the gold is like a process of prototyping and iteration. For a specific project I make a long-list of ideas shards, then “walk” them around, turning them over in my mind throughout the day, stress-testing for flaws or hidden plot possibility. Via this sifting process – and bouncing ideas off anyone who’ll listen! – eventually the gleams rise to the top…
ML: All film making is a collection of least worst ideas committed under duress to screen and then pulled kicking and screaming from an editors hands before fully formed and thrust into the world. That’s the process, you have to accept it. I edit as well as direct and sometimes do both, like on this film, so you have to honest with yourself when something isn’t working and cut like knife wielding maniac.
Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
MW: No, not horror specifically, though I do think we are absolutely part of a wider film making community. I’ll always look to help other film makers if I can, whatever the genre. You have to be supportive and try not to be a dick, you never know when you’ll need someone else’s help.
GW: My work probably shades a little more into the sci-fi end of the genre spectrum, but, sure, I can appreciate a good gushing head wound as much as the next fan! Plus, I’ve loved attending festivals with my previous films – especially our amazing run with feature ‘Await Further Instructions’ in 2018 – meeting other film makers, making friends, encountering other amazing movies for the first time. The horror community is a big, bloody-handed, extremely welcoming family.
When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
GW: It’s always about finding something specific and real, concrete details or textures from the actual world, then adding a drop of strangeness and building out from there. One of my favourite shots in CHROMOPHOBIA is of a lichen-covered wall which seems to have formed a pattern of interlocking mossy green spirals. Co-director, Mark – who created all of our digital effects – had already produced an enjoyably nasty effervescing effect for “infected” objects in the environment… and I just visualised the same effect animating those lichen whorls, almost like unsettling seething whirlpools.
ML: Definitely the real world. Plenty of post apocalyptic vibe that you can get just by looking around – abandoned buildings, disused industrial landscapes. We come from the North East of England which is an area where you can find post industrial ruins mixed into beautiful landscapes. That kind of stuff is thick on the ground round here.
What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
ML: A bit like the current apocalypse, I’d invest in toilet paper and flour – make bombs to fight the colour virus.
GW: Well, being utterly without colour is a way to protect yourself in the world of CHROMOPHOBIA and my hair has gotten progressively more, ahem, monochrome in the last few years… So, I guess I’d just tuck in and lead with the top of my head!
Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
GW: The Thing, the Babadook, Brundlefly, the Id Monster from ‘Forbidden Planet’, the Gentlemen from Buffy, Harryhausen’s Medusa, the Pale Man from ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’, and a xenomorph, riding on one of those Russian-Doll headed sandworms from Beetlejuice. Actually, that sounds like the set up for a joke…
Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
GW: Freddy– he rules a protean world of imagination and dark strangeness, Jason is just a big lumbering lunk; Lovecraft all the way, discovered him at a formative age via tabletop RPGs, and my work always seems to go back to those themes of cosmic indifference; practical, but with GCI post sprinkles to smooth things down; ironically given the subject of our film, Pre Apocalypse– there’s just more going on and more fun to be had for all us non-nihilists
ML: Freddy and Jason can fight it out together – I’ll take the winner.Lovecraft – The unknown terrors beyond the ken of man. Practical and CGI – make one better with the other. Post Apocalypse – real life is about living in the ashes and decisions of what came before and trying to make the best of it.
How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
ML: For our creature we looked at moulds and fungus growths. The natural world still has all the best horror references. The way certain animals use colour as warning was useful too. All our costumes were charity store purchases which we distressed and ripped to look used. The paintball guns were new but we took some sand-paper, gaffer tape and flour to them to make them look used. Our location gave us a huge amount of art direction for free, it had already been heavily distressed so that really helped sell the look and feel we were going for.
What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?
ML: The terror that comes from feeling small, like an insignificant speck on a floating dust mote in the infinite cosmos. I think that idea of scale is something that I like to try and bring to the table, whether its a huge wide shot or an impossibly macro close up. Also Wednesdays.
GW: Looking back on my work themes of identity, or more specifically “loss of”, and “questions about” identity recur. More recently, the problem of our human complicity with authority and the media has begun to edge in (‘Await Further Instructions’, especially). Ultimately, though, one of my fundamental fears – which gets a lot of airing in horror – is the concept of creeping changes. Distortions or mutations which happen sooo slowly, so subtly, so slyly that you don’t even notice them until it’s too late: hidden diseases, mental illness, even ageing… authoritarian rule
And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
GW: If pushed on pain of death to choose just *one* it would probably be ‘Alien’, for the mood, for the restraint and scale and the awe, the utterly unforgettable production and creature design, the wonderfully naturalistic performances, ground-breaking characters, the texture and the grit. Absolutely impeccable film-making on every level, and for a 41-year old movie it barely seems to have aged a day. I admire its purity.
ML: Aliens. It’s a sci-fi / action / horror blend but its also a razor sharp rollercoaster ride full of clever film-making hacks from a Director who’s vision clearly exceeded his budget, yet who never let that stop him making the film he wanted to (by the way, we didn’t plan these answers – we wrote them separately, but this does explain a lot about our creative relationship – Gavin is Alien, I’m Aliens).