James Plumb, the man behind Mad Science Films, chats about the joy of horror and finding time for filmmaking
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m your typical Englishman who came over to Wales to steal your jobs, home and your women. While studying in Aberystwyth, I fell in love with Cardiff. It’s easily the best city in the UK, with such a great community of talented, creative people. I formed Mad Science Films back in 2009 as a production company for the development and production of genre shorts and feature. In September 2011, we shot our first feature Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection. We’re just finished post-production on our second, Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming. This year we had our next four features green lit and they are all being produced by Andrew Jones, the Roger Corman of South Wales. Exciting times.
How did you get into filmmaking?
I’ve had a camera/camcorder in my hands since I was seven years old and wily enough to nab my Dad’s old VHS camcorder. Straight away I was making these little twilight zone-esque short films with friends, family, even pets. It just continued from there. I never stopped.
How did you come to work in Cardiff?
Like a lot of indie filmmakers in South Wales today, I headed over here when they announced the development of Dragon Studios. When that turned out to be a big bust, I got a regular day job and made short films in my spare time. I’m still balancing day job, fatherhood and featuring filmmaking but loving every second of it.
What attracts you to making genre films?
If you do it right, you can say whatever you want with a genre film, raise any question without being preachy, plus you get to play with all the toys of cinema; pacing, atmospheric score, and of course special effects.
What in particular attracts you to horror?
Horror and comedy films both want to elicit a specific response from the viewer, fear and laughter. It’s a primal, basic thing and yet one of the hardest things to achieve successfully. I love getting an audience caught up in our films, manipulating them, suspending their disbelief. Is that a bit wrong?
What has been your best experience as a film maker in South Wales?
I’m lucky enough to say that I’ve had several great experiences, from the first time volunteering on someone else’s film, to directing my own short, to directing my own feature. Along the way I’ve built up a great collection of friends and an extended family of talented filmmakers.
What challenges have you faced over the years?
The greatest challenge is just doing something/anything. When you’ve got a full-time day job, there’s every excuse in the world not to make short films in your spare time. It takes a lot of time, it costs you money. But for some mad reason, you HAVE to make films. So it’s that first step that’s the hardest. What’s great about South Wales is the sense of community and the support that comes with it. From the start two of my biggest supporters have been screenwriter David Melkevik and filmmaker Tom Betts; I’m lucky to have such talented people help me out on a regular basis.
Which piece of work are you most proud of?
That’s a really difficult one to answer. In some ways NOTLDR, as it was my first feature. There’s nothing like the excitement of going away into the middle of nowhere for ten days with a group of talented people and making your first horror film. But then, I’m immensely proud of what we’ve achieved on SNBN, we’ve really upped our game. It’s a huge evolution for us in such a short time. Also my next project, which hasn’t been announced yet (but we’re calling #projectroughcut for now) is something which a lot of people will get excited about.
I love getting an audience caught up in our films, manipulating them, suspending their disbelief. Is that a bit wrong?
Are you working on anything at the moment?
I’ve just finished Silent Night, Bloody Night, which I’m proud to say has been picked up for distribution by the awesome guys at 101 Films. I’m also co-writing my next feature, which was green lit on the basis of a pitch put together by Dave Melkevik and I. I’m acting as Executive Producer on Amityville Asylum, which Andrew Jones is directing, its a great project to be involved with. I’m also developing a few projects to produce and collaborating on a documentary with David Beynon.
What lessons have you learnt that you would impart on other film makers?
Don’t wait for opportunities, just write something/film something/edit something. Even if you hate it, you’ll have learnt a hundred things on how to improve your next film.Do you think South Wales is a good place to be a film maker?Hell yeah, we’ve got an amazing community of indie filmmakers in South Wales, there’s an amazing pool of talent here. You’ve got Rachael Southcott and Alex Harper on make-up and sfx. You’ve got Zoe Howerska on costume. James Morrissey is ridiculously talented. The boys from 441 films are perfecting their own brand of sickness. It’s like talent has been distilled here. But more importantly it’s so supportive.
Finally, what’s your favourite film?
Oh wow, that’s a hard one. I love so many flicks, but I suppose if you define favourite as the film that you come back to time and time again and enjoy it in new ways each time, then it’s got to be Evil Dead 2, that perfect blend of horror and comedy combined with innovative camerawork. Genius.