Spence Wright Interview

Spence WrightDirected by Paddy Breathnach and starring Arielle Kebbel, Red Mist focuses on a group of medical students who are systematically eliminated by a comatose co-worker. A bit like a modern day Patrick. It is currently available at all good DVD retailers
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Back in May, I had a chat with writer, Spence Wright, to pick his brains about the movie and chat about his first experience in the pictures.

GP: Let me kick off with your standard first interview question, obviously Red Mist is the first major feature project you’ve worked on, so how did it come about?

SW: Well I’ve been writing for a long time, since I was in school and what have you, and during the whole 80’s VHS video frenzy I just fell in love with movies, and the first chance I had to tell my own stories I did. Eventually I started writing scripts, having written short stories. This particular story probably came from a couple of elements, one was the title. The term Red Mist, which has actually proven a wee bit controversial now because I understood it to be a pretty well known term, but it hasn’t turned out that way, a lot of people have asked what the hell this is about? Somebody thought it was the sequel to Stephen King’s The Mist which, although flattering, meant they were in for a bit of a shock.

There was something about the title, Red Mist that lead me to the idea of something taking us over, an all-consuming rage, and you hear about people talking about that, saying “The Red Mist just came down” “God, it was as if I was possessed.” Possession, again, it’s not something that is particularly new to us horror fans, but there was just something about it, and I had it in the back of my head for a long time, just the title. I also liked the idea of someone in a coma, I think the coma killer subgenre seemed to have a heyday in the late 60s/early 70s with Patrick, and the Psychic Killer and stuff like that. I’m learning there are a lot more movies about coma killers than I had ever heard of, some of the things I have apparently ripped off are great! My view is there’s always room for one more.

There is just something inherently spooky about a guy, very vulnerable, very weak, very still, who is capable of chaos, capable of projecting his rage through you. And the idea of someone trying to bring somebody out of a coma, but the person in the coma actually being more empowered in their coma than they ever were in their ‘awake lives’. It was just a strange sort of thing that started as a seedling in my head, a lot of my stories involve guilt and redemption, and the idea of karma, I think Stephen King said “if you mess with the bull you get the horns eventually,” and that pops up in a lot of my stories. Somewhere in the midst of; wanting to tell a story that involved Red Mist as a title and concept, the idea of a guy in a coma and someone trying to get free of their guilt, the story started to generate.

It was bouncing around in my head for a long time when I got news in 2006 that there was an upcoming slate of low budget horror movies, which in conjunction with Northern Ireland Screen were going to be made in Northern Ireland. To pen a Northern Ireland set horror film has been a long time ambition of mine. But the films had to be set in America. The reason being purely financial, sad as it is, the belief is that these films would primarily make money on the American DVD market. You probably know yourself, from seeing movies like REC being made into Quarantine pretty damn quick, the American market seems to have low tolerance for anything foreign, and so from a business perspective I could understand it.

Red Mist was the first film they wanted to roll out and the money it makes is supposed to generate enough to make the next, so I guess the Producers were trying to cover a lot of ground. I’ve had a steady intake of American set horror films since I was knee high to a Chucky Doll so the prospect of writing one of my own was a huge opportunity, not to be missed.

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That dispels a few internet myths I had read about the pressure you had felt to relocate the story from Ireland to America.

I got involved through my friendship with Michael Kelly. He was a member of ‘Screenwriters.Ink’ a Belfast based screenwriting group of which I was also a founding member. Michael had set up his own company Geronimo Pictures and he was keen for people like me to pitch our ideas which he could take to potential financiers and the like. I’d long been the group’s resident Horrorhound so I guess my name popped into his pretty little head when he heard there were people looking to make horror movies in Northern Ireland. But it was clear, right from that very first meeting that these were to be American set films, particularly the first one that would have a budget of $3million, which sounds huge to me, but apparently isn’t that much

That sounds pretty big to me too!

Doesn’t it mate! I’m told that budget places Red Mist in the upper range of the low budget film market. And I think every penny can be seen on the screen, it has a polished look which exceeds most people’s expectations. I would also imagine landing a cast like Arielle Kebbel, Stephen Dillane and Sarah Carter didn’t come cheap! The remit right from the start, was low budget horror that would be filmed in Northern Ireland but set in America, and did anyone have ideas that would fit round that? So I went off to pitch my idea along with a host of other writers. I think I was the last to pitch and by that time they probably couldn’t be bothered listening to any more ideas and in some ways I wasn’t really bothered either! By then I just wanted to go home, it had been a long day and some (and I stress some!) writers are hard work to get along with, they have very vocal, mostly low opinions about almost every film ever made. Film Nazis! I have a genuine love for movies so most films I will like on some level. I find it depressing to be in a room with people who just constantly bitch about other films, so I remember thinking ‘I hope this goes well. But if doesn’t I’ll be glad just to go home!’ But I’m glad I hung around, we got talking. I had another idea I actually intended to pitch a Horror/Die Hard-type fest set in an office block, which I guess has been done, hasn’t it?

Psychocop 2 is set in an office block but that is all that is coming to me…

I must check that out. Basically, my idea had the Custodian of this office block obsessed with one of the secretaries, and he locked her in. His advances spurned, a stalk and slash frenzy ensues! I think it and P2 would have proved very similar although P2 is set in an office car park. Back then I thought that would be a good idea, because an office block could be made appear to be anywhere in the world, and this was long before P2 was ever heard of. But on the day my mind went totally blank, I forgot all about that idea and so I pitched Red Mist out of nowhere – the story of a girl who was trying to atone for her sins, be rid of her guilt and in so doing she unwittingly unleashes a vengeful monster. And their eyes lit up. There was something about it they liked. I think they were probably fans of Patrick which was one of those films I deliberately didn’t watch during the later writing phase. I had seen it, I remember Patrick’s big curly head, I remember him spitting on people and I remember it creeping me out as a kid because, much like you, I was watching horror movies at an age when I probably shouldn’t have been, and that would have been a very early one for me to have been watching. They liked the premise for Red Mist – a strong central protagonist, an unusual ‘monster’ and the revenge and redemption theme represented a new take and that got me in.

It was a long, long time in development, we bounced a lot of ideas back and forth about how this was going to work, but it was a bit of luck, being in the right place at the right time. It sounds like such a cliché, and as a writer that used to bug me, “how am I just going to bump into Steven Spielberg on the high street or in the butchers?”, but I guess it’s getting yourself into those environments where you can meet people and make contacts. I helped my friend and Screenwriters Ink Chairman Richard Crawford (The Abduction Club) with the screenwriting group. As well as a creative forum for exchanging ideas, studying the craft in an open (non-bitching) fashion, it also meant producers could come to the place where the writers are. To the source if you like. So a wee bit of luck, a few sample scripts up my sleeve and having an idea which blew the financiers skirts up was just enough to get me in the door and I started writing the bugger.

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So how was it when you found out Paddy (Breathnach, director of Shrooms) was involved?

Well I don’t know, I used to just call him Mr. B, which was my way of getting round it. I’m supposed to be from Northern Ireland, ye’know?! I think it is Brannah. I’d heard his name but anyway, I hadn’t yet seen Shrooms, and I must confess all I knew about Paddy was that he did a film called I Went Down about greyhound racing, which I had enjoyed. Before I checked out Shrooms he’d already signed on. I’m trying to think of how long he was involved in pre-production, I guess it was long enough, by this time things were really starting to move. I caught Shrooms, which I enjoyed. Obviously, I like the idea of a horror film set in Ireland that is just fantastic. We’ve had zombie flicks – Dead Meat and Battle of the Bone and some mutated cows via Isolation. It was great to see an Irish Horror film and Red Mist, although filmed here, was never going to be set here so Shrooms got points for that straight away. I thought the atmosphere of Shrooms was good and it had a retro feel that took me back to the old ‘don’t go into the woods tales’ I’d grown up watching on VHS.

I felt the Red Mist script amounted to a different kind of horror film to Shrooms, the possession element alone meant its ‘horror’ would be derived differently, the tone was dark and the set pieces visceral. But there was also a chance to really ‘get in the pit’ with a strong main character. So I was both nervous about working with a Director on a soon to shoot production but at the same time excited by the prospect of what he’d bring to the table.

I think he is a great director, really adept at making the screen look fantastic, but maybe not the best at getting the most out of his actors…

It’s very difficult for me to be, even remotely, impartial about Red Mist, overall I felt Paddy and the cast did themselves proud. The cast were given latitude in their roles and Paddy was always keen to embrace their input. Likewise, he and I spoke long and often about new moments that were occurring either as a result of logistical necessity or via the organic, creative magic that kicks in during the rehearsal and shooting phase. There were challenges in the four week shoot – an ensemble cast, US setting, a host of set pieces etc but overall I think the story, direction and performances hold up well. Stylistically, and with the tight timetable to shoot Red Mist, I can’t remember how many shots a day they had to get, it was an enormous task, and the overall look of the thing is great.

It has been flagged that the latter stages of the film felt ‘rushed’. And whilst there were a few dropped scenes I’d love to have seen on screen, I’ll bet there isn’t a writer anywhere who doesn’t wish for ‘Just one more scene to be added here, or elongated there.’
Scenes that didn’t make the final cut are pretty well balanced against scenes and moments not in script that occurred organically, so all in all I’m a happy guy!

I suppose a lot can come down to individual taste. I’ve had particular plot moments hailed as ‘Shocking and Ingenious” only to have others refer to the same moment as ‘Same old!” Likewise, the performances may float some boats and not others. I think all we can do is stay true to our story and our characters and hope in so doing we bring something fresh to the genre.

What I loved about Paddy was how he “got” the script very, very instinctively; he has an encyclopedic knowledge of horror movies. One of the things that had happened in development was that a lot of dialogue was creeping in, and it wasn’t down to any one person, it was just one of those things. As more feedback was taken on board from developers, the more Kenneth was saying via the Meat Shields (or possessed to give them their proper moniker!), and the less scary he was becoming, which I think applies to most of our horror monsters, take Michael Myers. So one of the first things Paddy did, he said “what Kenneth is to me is this embodiment of rage. He is just a guy that is stuck in the moment they were calling him “Freakdog” and he was humiliated, then he fell and hit the ground, and that’s all he’ll ever be, just this enraged thing.” So we started stripping away a lot of the dialogue from Kenneth, taking it gradually back to some of the earlier drafts, and I felt that was a great indicator that Paddy was in step with the spirit of the script. I have to say, tonally, and in terms of the look of the characters, and the sets, it was uncanny. I try to be quite sparse on description, because I want the reader to emotionally invest, but 9 times out of 10 the look of the movie matched the things floating around in my head, even the voices. There was a great casting and production team who worked round the clock to make that happen.

On a personal note, I got on very well with Paddy, he was an absolute prince throughout, he invited me onto the set, gave me a bit part in the background as a Doctor… which was later cut… maybe he thought I was stealing the limelight from Arielle… well… probably not.

I think we have more to see from Mr B, I’m confident he will return to horror in some way, shape or form. Its been suggested that Red Mist is better than Shrooms and maybe what comes after Red Mist will be the one that hushes any remaining critics in the horror world. Paddy’s approach to the material and the shoot was always positive. I think he possessed the right fusion of directing talent and calm temperament needed to see Red Mist make the transition from page to screen. And as my first time on set I couldn’t have asked to meet a nicer director, we have since bounced ideas back and forward on other projects. All told, it was a great experience working with him. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

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So you mentioned the script a bit there, I’m pretty interested to find out where the term Freakdog came from…

Freakdog is one from my murky past! I used to be part of a dodgy bunch of guys, one of whom used to call people ‘wankdog’ quite a lot. (It seemed funny at the time!)
Well, he would call people lots of names actually and ‘dog’ would usually go on the end of it. Years later when I was writing Kenneth I thought about what two things would push Kenneth’s buttons? He already feels like an outsider, different, like he doesn’t belong, and “freak” seemed to do that, and then I thought ‘dog’ kind of told you about his standing on the totem pole. The reason it was snatched up as a potential title – Red Mist was liked by UK audiences but the Americans didn’t get the connection, and when they were cutting the trailer together someone noticed how often the word “freakdog” was used, and somebody said “well, maybe that’s our title.” At the time I thought ‘Aye, why not’ but in hindsight it is one of those titles that only makes sense once you’ve seen the movie, and I can understand people who thought FREAKDOG was going to be a movie about a murderous, mutated dog, so personally I am pleased it went back to Red Mist, because that was one of the three seedlings that helped create and give birth to the story.

I was pretty excited when I saw the DVD advertised on the back of Fango when I saw that the title had changed, I think as a title it makes a bit more sense.

I think that is one of the things UK audiences will appreciate; when I was on holiday in Wales I was talking to people we had met in a bar. I tried to work it into the conversation without saying “Oh, I’ve written this film,” but I asked, ‘have you ever heard of the term red mist?’ and everybody without fail said ‘Yes. It’s that feeling where you just lose control, and anger takes over,’ etc and it just reiterated its importance as a title. I got that response pretty much every time and in every place I asked it. So I was pleased, and I read Arielle was too when the title reverted back to Red Mist. I think it is a pretty classy title. Another interesting thing in regards to the script, one of the earlier drafts involved a lot of Kenneth POVs, and in those shots it was described that we were looking through a ‘veil of red mist’, what the world might look like to someone in a rage, and it was embedded in the early drafts, but as the POV shots dropped from the script I think that was a reason some people said, ‘well, maybe we can just go with Freakdog.’ It wasn’t just the POVs though, it was the fact it correlated with rage as well.

Is the version on the screen massively different to how it was written?

I would say 90% of the final script, ended up on screen, but the journey to that final script was full of changes. I think the biggest thing that changed concerned a time jump. The original script involved a group of teenagers having a party, they lured Kenneth there and got him to bring booze, because his dad was an alcoholic who made his own moonshine, a real nasty piece of work. These kids wanted booze because they were underage, so they brought Kenneth and there was an accident, in which a drunken Kenneth ended up comatose. Then we cut to fifteen years later. The kids have all since grown up and got over it in one way or another, but Catherine hadn’t. She was stuck, she was the one who lured Kenneth to the party and she had dedicated herself to trying to crack this enigma of Kenneth, and get him out of this coma (and to a degree out of her head). I loved the idea of paying in the present for something that you did in the past, when you were a totally different person. That really interested me. I remember myself and a guy that I went to school with running into another classmate from school. My friend said of the other classmate, there’s ‘God’s Gift’, which was a nickname I had given him in school. I just thought ‘Holy shit, all these years later and that guy still gets referred to by a name I gave him’. He doesn’t really give a shit, but what if he did? What if it really pissed him off, like “you gave me that awful name and now you’re going to pay.” He wouldn’t care that I was older, married or reasonably sensible now, he was just looking for some pay back and that really interested me.

The reasons for dropping the fifteen year gap came down to a couple of things, I think there was a casting issue of tying up the young kids with the older, more mature versions, and there was also something to be said for keeping it in the moment, where the wounds are still raw, everything is a lot more immediate and urgent. I think that was the biggest compromise I had to make, and even with that; the characters, set pieces and basic premise didn’t change much. So the short answer is it changed a lot from the early drafts, but in the last year of development it stayed pretty consistent.

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That shift in time from kids to adulthood is very Stephen King, was that something that influenced you?

He does do it a lot, he did it in Pet Semetary, It… As you can see from my cheesy picture, there’s two shelves of Stephen king books behind me while I’m posing. (My Mills & Boons are one shelf out of sight!) It’s something King goes back to a lot, and maybe it is something in my head now, as I grew up with his books and it’s something that is touched on a lot in other things like Ghost Story, do you remember Ghost Story?

Yes, the Fred Estaire/Douglas Fairbanks movie.

That’s the one, it’s the same kind of thing, be it a 50 year past transgression rearing its head or something more recent as in ‘What lies beneath’, it’s a recurring thing. I think its just one of those parts of the horror landscape we will always revisit; I think particularly American audiences respond to that kind of thing. They very much like the idea of a cautionary tale. It was another good reason why it didn’t bother me that Red Mist was set in America, as I thought it fit the American horror market as I saw it at the time.

So in terms of casting, did you get any say in who they looked at, or was it all Paddy’s remit?

They threw some names my way and asked me to suggest a few people. To be honest when it came to the main characters I struggled and I still do, even writing scripts I can’t always put an actor in a role. I can hear their voices, I can tell you the kind of people they are but when it comes to saying ‘Do you know who would be perfect?’ I still can’t do that. In the main parts, I didn’t have any firm ideas, my suggestions would take the form of ‘a little bit John Hurt with a sprinkle of Brian Cox!’ or something bizarre. But anytime they threw a name my way I would check them out. And each time I did I found Paddy and the casting people’s instincts to be on the money.

The BIG moment for me in terms of cast was the read through in a hotel in Belfast. I read the script out, the slug lines, descriptions, interior E.R. and all that and the actors would jump in and do their lines and it was at that point … and this is going to sound naff and clichéd … but it’s true! … At that point everything changed for me. Arielle had introduced herself but it was only when her voice kicked in as Catherine, and like I was saying earlier, while I always find it hard to put a face or a specific look, when she spoke she had this kind of serious intensity which I always felt Catherine had. I was literally watching a character that had only ever lived and breathed inside my head being realized in the ‘real world’ and in a way which totally exceeded my expectations. In short Arielle blew me away. She was absolutely perfect for Catherine.

I’d say that’s pretty much true for the entire cast in that regard, the guy that played Sean for example was terrific, he’s a Scottish actor called Martin Compston. (Sweet Sixteen) I thought he was excellent. Sean was the guy we love to hate, utterly selfish and yet in his own way the most honest. I could go on about each of the cast but generally, I think they all brought something to the table that enriched what was on the page. I’m aware of the odd ‘Accent Anomaly’ that has been flagged but in the grand scheme of things they are few and far between.

I just remember thinking these guys can do this, ARE doing this! Andrew Lee Potts as Kenneth, was also blindingly good. The sly, disturbed guile to accompany his more sympathetic qualities made for an engaging mix. In one of the earlier drafts Kenneth had a stutter and it was taken out, I can’t remember why maybe it was suggested that we run with a draft without it and it never really came back. Andrew instinctively put in a stutter and it was just wee moments like that which just made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, they really did seem to be getting into these roles. Which made me proud and humbled at the same time if that’s possible!

If I had any regrets it would be that we didn’t have more screen time to give to some of the supporting cast because I think there was more to give. For example Kim, played pitch perfect by Sarah Carter – there was a bigger friendship between her and Catherine but we also wanted to try and build up the burgeoning love affair between Catherine and Jake. There were a few scenes with the brilliant My Anna Buring as Shelby which I miss, and one between Detective Carter and Catherine in the aftermath of Sean’s death. However, the read through and rehearsal phase resulted in a lot of organic changes occurring, between the characters and how they interacted with one another and as I said earlier, some old moments fall by the wayside allowing space for other moments to be born. To my mind it all evens out in the end.

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I thought Arielle’s performance pretty much anchors the whole thing, she is clearly a very talented actress, and it makes the whole thing seem much more real.

That’s nice of you to say, and I agree with you that was the thing from the get go – this was Catherine’s story. I like the way, people can argue that maybe she went too far down the morally objectionable path, but I love the fact the Catherine wasn’t just a clean cut heroine. She was trying to do the right thing but deep down she also wanted to keep her job so she used the skills that she had to try and fix this problem. So we had this fantastical supernatural element being introduced to a ‘real world’ environment. Which calls for a different set of acting abilities; an ability to first ground the viewer in the real world of the story and then take them with you on a journey to some place else … some place a little darker. That took some serious acting chops.

On set Arielle was very approachable and really excited about embracing a more intense and mature role. Catherine really got under her skin in the months leading up to the decision to take the role. I don’t think we could have found anyone more suited or committed to the role. Likewise, I think Arielle and Paddy sparked off one another. They were on the same page in terms of changes they both wanted to bring to the role. There are some really good interviews with the cast on the ‘making of’… stuff where they talk about their roles and what they liked about them. For Arielle I think it was a chance to do something different and she just responded to it and I think she took it up a notch from what was on the page, she brought a bit more sensitivity to the role as well. I agree with you, I think she anchors it totally and that is how it should be because it was her story, Kenneth is the monster with all the horrible abilities but he’s really just there as the flip side to Catherine. Primarily, red mist was the story of how a girl tries to right a wrong and just makes things progressively worse until she becomes the opposite of what she was at the beginning. She ends up taking a life instead of saving a life. Whilst, this story arc may not be anything we haven’t ever seen before it’s still pretty interesting and I’m sorry to say it is sadly lacking from a lot of bigger budget horror movies of late. Arielle made Catherine her own. I was awed by how much she gave to the role and I think her passion and connection with the character of Catherine really shows on screen.

What have you got in store for us next?

Red Mist went to dvd in the states. It’s weird to think someone, somewhere is browsing a dvd shelf (or excavating a bargain bucket as the case may be!) and they’re picking up Red Mist and giving it a punt. Revolver have picked it up for a UK release this July!! We’re still very much hoping for a cinema run as well. Red Mist is available on pre-order from Play / Amazon and the like and I think-hope-pray it will be well received when it goes on general release here.

So with a first feature in the bag after all these years I’m trying to capitalize on the moment.
I’ve got loads of other projects on the go. I’ve completed Mourne which is the name of a mountain range in Northern Ireland. I think CS Lewis got some of the inspiration for Narnia from there… So here’s hoping! Mourne is a story about a group of students who are going up a mountain looking for Doran, a fellow student who has went missing. Doran is a ‘weed in tweed’, I guess, obsessed with Irish folklore because he believes he saw a Banshee as a child. So he goes missing and the police don’t want to know, they believe he is going to show up eventually. His fellow students have been teasing him a bit, which is another constant of mine, so they kind of get guilted into searching the mountain by Aisling (Doran’s elder sister) Here they all run afoul of a Banshee. It’s kind of like the Blair Banshee Project, you could probably call it that in the sense it takes an old legend and gives a bit of a contemporary edge. So that’s in development with Crawford Anderson Dillon of Hub Media. Crawford is trying to generate a bit of interest in the script. Local director Scott Morgan is lined up to direct. Scott and I met during Red Mist and continue to collaborate as we bounce ideas hither and yon. He’s a super-talented Director and long time horror aficionado and I think together we can do some great things with Mourne. We have just got some positive news back from the BBC and a few others but nothing concrete as yet. I think the sad thing is if Mourne were set in America it probably could have a named, no doubt very young, handsome cast and be made already! But I think the Ireland setting is important and worth fighting for.

I think if you take a banshee story out of Ireland, you are effectively taking the banshee out of it.

Exactly, I said I’m not doing it. Somebody suggested that, and I said no. I don’t remember the name of the movie, I don’t know if you’ve seen it, it was about Jack The Ripper popping up in Modern Day Arizona or some place because they brought over bits of London bridge! It was just a novel excuse for ‘Ol Jack the knife’ to kill American people I guess, and I’m not doing that. If this is about a banshee it is our chance to take something that is uniquely Irish. To try and put Ireland on the map as a place where you can tell an out and out horror story. We are well placed to do that with the banshee legend. So why shift it? You’re right man, what is the point?

The other project ‘Teenage kicks’ is one which I literally just heard has created a bit of a stir in Cannes. Produced again by Michael Kelly (Geronimo Pictures) and Cormac Fox (Vico films) , I have Co –written it with another Screenwriters Ink member John Cairns. Co-writing was a new experience for me but John was script editor on Red Mist and we’ve known each other a long time, so we usually know exactly where the other is coming from.

Teenage Kicks is I suppose, SKINS meets Lord Of The Flies for the Battle Royale generation! A bunch of teens plan to hold a rave in an abandoned leisure centre. But the night turns sour when an argument over dodgy drugs ends in murder. And so the body count rises! Another party gone wrong type scenario. The group decides they can dump the body and get away with it. They then split into two camps and trapped in this cavernous leisure centre they turn on each other. Its strictly more thriller than horror, I guess. Like kind of, I dunno have you seen Eden Lake?

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Yes, I thought it was great

What would you call that? Like a thriller or a horror or…

I don’t know, it is kind of like a home invasion story but outside isn’t it?

Yeah.

Somewhere in between the two.

That where I feel this one lands, between the horror/thriller posts. We’ve been working closely with another Irish Director Peter Foott (The Carpenter’s Clumsy Wife) who has brought so much to the last few drafts. The tension is upped to the max, Peter has planned for some very striking and contrasting moods and visuals which really compliment the tone of the script … it has the potential to be something really, very special. There is not a lot of money available at the minute, but the project is getting a few Post Cannes bites, so we’re keeping everything crossed.

Its interesting in that how teenage kicks starts, judging it on the small amount of info you’ve given me, it seems to start in a similar vein to Red Mist, is that a message you trying to get across that drugs are bad or is it just a coincidence?

It’s a weird one actually, now you say that, its glaringly obvious – two parties that go wrong one ends in a coma and another ends in a death. Both involve drugs.
When I boil it all down I think what appeals to me about both those ideas is that cautionary tale aspect, the dilemma of doing the right thing in the aftermath of an event of any kind – what do we do? Do we go with the majority or do we stand up and say “Well this is wrong I’m not going to do that.”

In Red Mist, the focus is on how Catherine tries to right the wrong. Teenage Kicks is going to happen very much in the immediate aftermath. It all happens in one night. The death and the suggested cover up, sees simmering tensions boil over and old friendships torn asunder. When I say the drugs are bad in teenage kicks, what actually happens is they buy a load of drugs which turn out to be duds, the drug dealer has stiffed them. So it is never actually the drugs that make the people do anything. It’s more that when the drugs turn out to be bad the group implode, they turn on the guy who was tasked with taking all their savings and buying them. He ends up dead and then BOOM! The group are suddenly in a new place.

It’s a coming of age story that exaggerates and condenses the often vicious arena that is ‘growing up’ into one, brutal night. We plan on riffing on those familiar themes and indulging in some gory, thriller stalwarts but with some surprises along the way – like who takes the moral lead in this film isn’t the person you’d expect etc. All to try and make things a bit more fresh, interesting and most important of all exciting.

That sounds good!

Cheers, man. I think it stands to be a real edge of the seat, honest to god thrill ride. We are also excited that this kind of story has never been done in Northern Ireland before.

I have also just completed Runners. I call it a sort of cyber-voyeuristic thriller, I don’t know if that is a genre? But it’s an old idea of mine that was long due a revisit. As with Red Mist there is a kind of medical backdrop again. Chris is a Young Doctor who runs a shelter for the homeless. A superflu is wiping people out. No one really gives a shit about the poor. So people are dying and basically the shelter is getting run down. So Chris gets involved in some nefarious techno-voyeurism to try and raise the money to keep it open. Again, it is about trying to do the right thing backfiring. If you’re doing ‘bad things for good reasons’ or if you believe ‘the ends can justify the means’, then it’s probably not always going to end that well for you in one of my stories! Runners is with Generator and Producer Mark Huffam (Red Mist, CherryBomb and… Mamma Mia! which took horror to a whole other level!)
Local hero Terry Loane (Mickey Bo and Me) is in the Directors chair. And whilst the ink on Runners is still wet it’s already early, but very exciting, days.

Production Still

Obviously you’ve got a lot on at the moment, is it quit your day job time?

I wish! (laughs) Well part of me wishes, I think I would go a bit Jack Nicholson in The Shining. I think I would go bonkers. Its ok, I’ve got myself into a system. I try to get an hour in before work, which is usually my most productive time because I know I only have an hour and the battery on my battered laptop only lasts an hour. I just brainpuke it onto the page and then fix it later. Then I do a few nights during the week and the rest of the time its marathon weekend sessions, days off etc. It’s a double edged sword, it keeps me sane while I work but it does get tough when the deadlines kick in. So maybe sometime down the line I would go on a 3-4 day week where I have days set aside for writing. But that’s on the long finger. At present I like that my 9 to 5 pays the bills whilst my writing brings in the odd bit of money for luxuries; holidays and the like. There’s also something to be said about not becoming some insular hermit, living in some cosy ‘movie world’ I like being around people … if only to plunder their life experiences for ideas!

One thing in my favor is that I do work quite quickly. I run the idea round in my head until it drives me and my wife half crazy and she eventually says “just go write that down because you’re not in the room. I can tell.” When that happens, that’s usually the ‘pin my colors to the mast’ point. The time to put the idea to the page. The ideas have usually been in my head for so long that when I do sit down to write either a first draft or a treatment it’s like an exorcism, it just pours out. It’s so cathartic, when you finally get that idea out.

And when it is out and it’s on the page peering back up at you it’s like stumbling on a fresh field of untouched snow. You know that eventually there is going to be a lot of other people coming to put their footprints down. But, for a moment at least, it’s just yours and that’s always a special feeling. Have no doubt about it… writing rocks!

Production stills provided by Helen Sloan/Generator Pictures.

One Comment on “Spence Wright Interview”

  1. Spence Wright says:

    I don’t half bang on!! Great work on the site Jamie here’s to Gorepress god bless her bloody bones!

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