Mat Johns is a freelance writer, director, cam op / DP and editor based in Manchester with over 10 years of freelance and independent filmmaking experience.
In a freelance capacity, Mat develops & delivers a wide range of content and has worked with clients including the BBC, Art’s Council England, Creative England, The Warehouse Project, Wildfires & Arcarta.
A Father’s Day has been selected by over 140 film festivals; including BAFTA qualifying festivals Encounters, Leeds, Brest, Sydney and London Short Film Festival, and three of the top horror festivals in the world; Screamfest, Fantasporto and Sacramento. The film has also won over 30 awards.
Mat and producer Chris Lane are currently developing a slate of feature film scripts.
Q & A
Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Horror spirit animal?
There are a couple of characters that come to mind. Ophelia (Ivana Baquero) from GDT’s Pan’s Labyrinth is one. Whilst I obviously cannot truly grasp the horror of being a young girl growing up during the Spanish Civil War, every child goes through their own torment and conflict when it comes to family. I can relate to the need to escape when you feel like you have no control as a child, to disappear into a fantasy or story (books or movies) when things around you are falling apart. Sometimes being a kid is hard and being able to fall back on art or a life that isn’t your own is not only appealing, but essential. There’s also Ollie Weeks (Toby Jones) in Frank Darabont’s The Mist. He’s a decent human being, but he’s also cynical of the systems on which a lot of human conflict is built. He’s watching the world (or more specifically the people around him) go to shit and just trying to keep his head above water. I can relate to that!
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?
I had an idea for a vigilante film where a migrant goes on a post-Brexit rampage after her sone is hurt in a hate crime. It was absolutely unsubtle and on the nose. It had to be smarter, slower, less in-your-face. I scratched it off the list. Sometimes you have an idea that you can’t do much with immediately, but you don’t throw it away. It can gestate in our head for years and sometimes becomes something greater, sometimes it doesn’t. The hard thing for me is when I know I have a good core idea, but I struggle to put the pieces together; trying not to force the characterisation or plot to suit the other. I’m still learning to become more patient with myself and accept the fact that I don’t work as fast as other writers, that I need more time to sit with my scripts. That being said, sometimes that allows me time to poke holes in the good ideas and not carry on with that energy or element that I found exciting to begin with... it’s a shitty feedback loop sometimes.
Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
I feel like I’m somewhat connected to it locally as we have a good horror festival in Manchester called Grimmfest. I’ve had films do well online and at festivals in a genre capacity, but I’m not sure of its longevity. It’s always nice when people respond to the work though.
When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
I look all over. There’s plenty of inspiration for the beautiful elements of a story in the world, and sadly there are lots of bad things to hook on to as well. Movies, games and photography inspire me... Music is a big one. I listen to movie soundtracks a lot and shut my eyes, trying to build images in my head or characters and events, scenes or moments... it comes from all over. I think we have to be observant, for good or ill.
What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
I’d find a weapon, water and food! I think I’d become a proficient zombie killer. But then again, what if I saw these zombies protecting each other? Maybe I could learn to let them be?
Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
- The Thing (shapeshifting alien that can impersonate people and rip them apart). - The Predator (badass intergalactic warrior to help keep The Thing in line) - Evil Ash from Army of Darkness (we need a funny guy) - Bub from Day of the Dead (the conscience of the group)
Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
- Freddy - King - Practical - Post apocalypse
And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
John Carpenter’s The Thing. I love everything about it. The script, the characters, the setting, the effects, the music... it’s a perfect movie.