Alex Withers is a writer/director based in Nottingham, UK. The stories that spark Alex’s imagination are character-driven with a unique perspective on everyday issues, set against an otherworldly backdrop or heightened reality. He loves to place grounded and relatable characters in unlikely situations and to find beauty in unexpected places. He has been a member of BFI Network x BAFTA Crew, his work has screened at several BAFTA Qualifying film festivals and has featured on the online platform Directors Notes. As a fan of horror, Alex’s latest work has steered him into the genre and he continues to develop stories both within the horror world and elsewhere.
Q & A
Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?
The little girl in Poltergeist. It all started in front of a TV and now I’m in another dimension doing weird stuff like making films.
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?
So many bad ideas! For me it’s about writing ideas down in a notebook and going back to them after they’ve had a bit of time to stew. Sometimes an idea that seems bad on its own, when you revisit it in a fresh context, can lead you down the path to something great. At one stage with Dead Quiet I had an idea that revolved around our seeing flashes of our protagonist Paul’s memories of his lost love; in the end I felt it was a bit heavy-handed as a concept, but it ultimately helped inform my direction for the actor and allowed us to dive deeper into his psyche.
Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
There’s an amazing wider horror community out there and I can only hope that they would take me in as one of their own. But I’d like to think that working in horror and contributing a little something to that world brings me closer to other people with a passion for well-told horror stories and draws me at least a few tentative steps into that world.
When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
The flaws that define who we are as human beings, and the absurdity of existence.
What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
I’d probably die very quickly. I don’t think I’m built for staying quiet for long.
Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
The Evil Dead and all of its various minions. Pure unadulterated joy and anarchy.
Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Freddy (this is the part where I admit to never having seen Friday 13th). Stephen King is the man. Practical all the way. Give me something real and hide it in the shadows and my imagination will do more than any CGI ever could. Pre Apocalypse! Strange coming from someone who’s here because of a Post Apocalyptic film, I know. There’s terror in what lies beneath the surface of ordinary life.
How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
Buying a caravan from a stranger online while trying to get a phone signal, because I’m out in a field somewhere helping out on somebody else’s film. Every project has its own bizarre challenges and great moments, but on Dead Quiet I was lucky to have a fantastic team which included production designer Charlotte Ball. It all started with ideas about colour palettes, the rules of the world and filling in the gaps about where the characters have been on their journey before we meet them. Side note - the caravan was in immaculate condition when we got it, so the process of turning it into what it became is kind of its own horror story. For campers, anyway.
What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?
Existential terror. Which I guess is to say, everything. Is that a cop-out?
And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
The Shining. Please don’t come after me with an axe.