Andy Edwards is the writer/director of the newly released undead comedy horror film Ibiza Undead, and the upcoming The Vampires of Soho film shooting later this year. We caught up with him after Frightfest, and he was kind enough to give us the lowdown on his films and the UK horror scene.
It’s great to be chatting with you. We really enjoyed Ibiza Undead, especially how you flipped a lot of character stereotypes in unexpected ways. Especially your women characters—seeing party girls be the smartest ones in the room was a nice change, and added more humanity than we often get in a slasher flick. Was that a conscious decision on your part?
Andy: Totally! When you’re making an ensemble film, especially in the horror/comedy genre, I think stereotypes are a really useful tool to introduce a large number of characters to the audience. However, I think that after that, to engage the audience, you have to show that there’s more to these characters than what’s on the surface. I really wanted to get in some of those emotional beats in there, and hopefully there’ll be at least one or two characters that each viewer can relate to, even if there may be some they hate!
And it was absolutely important to have a diverse cast, both in terms of race and gender. Girls love horror movies as much as guys, so I wanted to have some female characters in there who have just as much fun as the male ones, both in terms of zombie-killing and the comedic aspects.
A lot of the Ibiza cast is familiar to English audiences, and some, like Cara Theobold (Downton Abbey) and Matt King (RocknRolla), have reached U.S. shores as well. What was it like directing a cast with that kind of experience and pedigree?
Andy: We had a really great mix of cast, both in terms of experience and in what that experience was in. I think it was definitely an eyeopener for Cara to come straight from Downton Abbey to an ultra-low-budget zombie flick for example!
Matt King was my first choice for the part of “Karl” from day one. In the UK he’s best known for playing a character called Super Hans in the sitcom Peep Show – I have no idea if that’s available anywhere in the US, but track it down if you can – it’s genius. And Emily Atack is another actor we were delighted to get – again she’s best known in the UK for her sitcom work, in a show called The Inbetweeners, which features similar teenage shenanigans to Ibiza Undead.
Most of the other cast came from the audition process, and you’re not just trying to find the best actors, it’s about relationships – we’ve got best friends in the film, boyfriend and girlfriend, brother and sister etc, so it was a case of trying to find the best chemistry. I think we succeeded – the three lead guys for example met on the film, and are still best friends now.
So yeah, it was all a lot of fun. Not without its challenges – but I can’t really talk about what it’s like making a film on a party island with a young cast and young crew, because what happens in Ibiza stays in Ibiza!
Something we noticed about Ibiza Undead was the lack of abundant nudity—for a spring breaker film, it’s unusual. Do you think keeping people’s brains above the waste, so to speak, helped aim the focus onto character development?
Andy: Well I’m a big fan of nudity when it’s used well in films, but it does have to be appropriate and not take you out of the film. I’m not sure nudity purely for titillation works in movies anymore when we’re all carrying around handheld computers that can access any form of nakedness our heart desires with the swipe of a finger.
And also, the movie (bar the zombies), is loosely based on a spring-break style “lads” holiday I took to Ibiza myself when I was young. We were all promised gratuitous sex and nudity but we were all so uncool, that never really happened. So it felt appropriate for the male characters in the movie who are similarly not great with the opposite sex to have the same experience!
Outside of Ibiza, you’ve done a lot of short film work for anthology projects—Grindsploition, Three’s a Shroud, and the upcoming Blaze of Glory. Is there something about the short-form medium that draws you to it?
Andy: Well, like most filmmakers these days, I started by making shorts, that’s where I learned my craft, and felt able to experiment.
And anthologies are a great way of getting your shorts out there. Putting your short online obviously gives you access to a potential audience of billions, but I’m old-school – there’s still something satisfying about being part of a feature film on a physical release.
I loved those old Amicus anthology films, and I think anthologies are making a bit of a comeback with VHS, ABCs of Death etc, so I’m glad to be a part of that revival!
What can you tell us about those upcoming features? Any more feed for the gorehounds?
Andy: You can see Grindsploitation now on Troma on demand, and apparently there’s a physical release soon. It’s a collection of faux-trailers and no-budget shorts, and obviously very high-brow as the name suggests! Three’s A Shroud is out on DVD too via Wild Eye Releasing, so anyone interested can check out my segment in that, which is called “The Time Knife”. It’s a slasher movie with time-travel in it, so what’s not to love?
Blaze of Gory is an odd one. There’s 10 shorts in it, and the stories they’re based on were written by a young teenage girl, who was barred from her English class because she was writing all this horrific prose. The producer knew the girl’s mother, so he got hold of these stories and gave them to a bunch of filmmakers. I shot mine years ago, but I haven’t seen any of the other sections yet. I had to tone down the violence in the script to make it filmable, so to answer your question yes, there will be plenty for gorehounds to enjoy! Last I heard it was due for release this year, but that’s about all I know!
Beyond anthologies, what have you got in the pipeline?
Andy: The film I’m working on at the moment is another undead-in-a-party-location film – it’s called The Vampires Of Soho, and we’re hoping to start filming soon in London. It’s about a vampire rock-band, and you can follow our progress on the film’s twitter – @vampiresofsoho. I’ve got plenty of other projects in development too, including a modern-day folk horror witch movie, and a script I’m writing about a deaf werewolf.
Those sound fantastic, deaf-initely in love with the werewolf idea—pun intended. As you know, the horror film world is a tight-knit group, and a lot of auteurs watch films like Ibiza Undead with an eye towards learning the craft. What was your path to film-making?
Andy: As I touched on before, it was mainly through shorts. I made a series of short zombie films – starting off with ketchup for blood on some mates, and working my way up to using professional make-up artists, CG etc. The series is called “Houseparty of the Dead” and they’re on YouTube & Vimeo, so if anyone is interested in the progression of a filmmaker from making something exceptionally amateur with a camcorder to a full feature, you can check them out!
Do you have any advice to those looking for a career in film-making in the U.K.? Any mistakes to avoid?
Andy: Well, both the good news and the bad news is that there isn’t a clear career path. Everyone’s route is different, so you have to find your own unique way to get where you want to be. So the good news is that if one way doesn’t succeed, there are potentially hundreds of other things you can do.
But I would recommend getting as much on-set experience as you can in any capacity, that way you can see what areas interest you – and also what film-related jobs are the most oversubscribed and conversely what jobs are the most in demand.
As for mistakes to avoid, all I can say is “don’t be a dick” – the film industry in the UK is a very small world!
Thanks Andy, we’re looking forward to what you’ve got ahead for us. For those who have yet to check out Ibiza Undead, get the downlow on the gory fun with our full review!