HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE CONCEPT FOR “HAROLD’S GOING STIFF”?
I was trying to figure out a way to do a film that was a bit different but still had one foot in a popular genre. I spent a couple of years going out to the Cannes film festival to see what was selling at the markets and horror films just seem to keep going, regardless of the market conditions. It’s one of the few genres where you really don’t need a star cast, so that was really the starting point, to make something that has half a chance of being picked up for distribution. The zombie genre is well-trodden one, but that was the challenge that inspired me to have a crack at it.
ARE YOU INSPIRED BY OTHER ZOMBIE MOVIES?
The early George A. Romero stuff is an obvious place to go for me, because they managed to both entertain and have something to say about our culture. That’s one of the great things about horror movies; you can tear a few people up, have some fun with it and still give it some brains along the way. That’s when it works best for me. For pure fun though, Re-Animator is hard to beat, I’ll never erase that image of Barbara Crampton strapped to that bench.
WHAT WAS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART IN MAKING THIS MOVIE?
We shot Harold over nine days which was really tough, on average most films shoot between 6-12 weeks. We were able to move so quickly because we were shooting on the little Canon 7D camera and we had a crew of about six people, so we could move fast.
But to be honest the most difficult part for a film on our scale is finding distribution. Up until that point we’re pretty much in control of everything that happens in terms of production because we’re self-funded and didn’t have any deadlines to hit. But once the film is finished you have to convince someone else that it’s worth them putting in their time and effort to distribute it, and with so much competition that can be really tough for a small indie film like ours.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE NURSE PENNY RUDGE AND HAROLD’S RELATIONSHIP?
Harold lives alone and he’s pretty much at the end of his life, plus he’s become the first person to be infected with this new zombiefying disease, ORD, so he’s at a pretty low point at the start of the film. Penny becomes Harold’s nurse helping him with his stiffening arms and legs. She’s had a pretty bad experience with men and she’s looking for the man of her dreams and in the process finds Harold. Even though there’s a massive age gap they kind of meet somewhere in the middle and form this really strong bond.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE ACTORS WHO PLAY PENNY & HAROLD?
I met Stan Rowe some years ago. An actor friend introduced me to him and we made a short film together. A few years later when I started working on the script he kept popping into my head for the role of Harold, so we did a test shoot of him walking up and down his road with stiff arms, to the amusement of his neighbours, he was perfect for the role.
Sarah came to one of our open casting sessions. She was the first person to turn up, so we did a little improvised test shoot of her talking about Harold and it was just a magical moment for me because she was exactly what I had in my head. I remember looking over to Richard Guy, the producer, and just nodding with a big grin on my face.
WHAT SETS THIS MOVIE APART FROM OTHER ZOMBIE MOVIES?
I suppose the real difference is that we deal mainly with the process of becoming a zombie against the backdrop of a love story. I remember the first time I showed Harold to a horror crowd at the Dead by Dawn film festival in Edinburgh. I was absolutely sh*tting it because Harold is not a typical horror film in any way. It’s got romance, comedy and very little blood, certainly not one for gorehounds, and so I was worried that it wasn’t going to deliver the goods. But they absolutely loved it; in fact they loved it so much we walked away with the audience award.
WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER YOUR PROUDEST MOMENT FROM WORKING ON THIS MOVIE?
There’s a couple, I think the fact that we shot the whole film in nine days still makes me wonder how the hell we did it. The other is all the great feedback we’ve had from the festivals we’ve played at. We even managed to win a few along the way including the Austin Film Festival. But I guess the proudest moment was meeting the zombie king himself, George A. Romero. He watched Harold at the Strasbourg Fantastic Film Festival and I met him afterwards, he’s such a lovely guy and had nothing but kind words for Harold, and that was the icing on the cake.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE TO MAKE “HAROLD’S GOING STIFF”?
I started writing back in December 2009 and we went into production in March 2010 so it was a pretty quick turnaround and we initially shot for just six days and then did a further three days pick-up. Because I was trying to earn a living at the same time, post-production was spread out over several months.
DO YOU HAVE FAVORITE SCENE THAT YOU CAN SHARE WITH OUR HORRORNEWS FANS?
I have a couple, but I think my favourite has to be the zombified mice in the lab scene, that seems to go down well with audiences too. I had to buy frozen mice from the local pet shop and when I arrived it turned out there were three different sizes available, so I opted for medium. In order to get their legs straight I had to defrost them in the microwave and then hang them upside down from a rack made of lollipop sticks, then re-freeze them. They were in my freezer, right next to the frozen chicken, for about a month before we actually filmed them.
WHERE CAN FANS WATCH “HAROLD’S GOING STIFF”?
We’re still waiting for news of a U.S. release; we have a sales agent who are doing all they can to get it out there. It’s no longer my hands. I know there are lots of people wanting to get their hands on it because I get emails daily asking when it’s going to be released. All I can say is watch this space. You can keep updated of any release news through our facebook page.
Interview: Keith Wright – Director (Harold’s Going Stiff)