Horror-on-Sea Interview with filmmaker Pat Higgins – Master Class: Pat Higgins vs The Scissors Man
Live show Master Class: Pat Higgins vs The Scissors Man
Indie filmmaker Pat Higgins returns to Horror-on-Sea to premier his latest interactive Master Class: Pat Higgins vs The Scissors Man.
Date & Venue: Saturday 12th January 15:00
Park Inn by Radisson Palace, Southend, Church Rd, Southend-on-Sea SS1 2AL, UK
Master Class: Pat Higgins vs The Scissors Man is the latest live show from indie filmmaker Pat Higgins, which premieres at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival. I got a chance to ask Pat Higgins a few questions about what we can expect from his latest Master Class.
Q. You are returning to Horror-on-Sea Film Festival once again with a brand-new interactive Pat Higgins Master Class. What can people expect?
I’ve been running live shows and masterclasses at film festivals for nearly ten years now, so we try and change things up each year. In the early days, I was able to lean very heavily on anecdotes and advice from the trenches of low-budget horror. Nowadays, people have heard an awful lot of my stories, so we bring in new elements to keep things punchy and interesting. Last year, I was interacting live with pre-recorded material for the first time. This year, we’re going to take that interactivity and run with it. Anyone interested in horror, creativity and filmmaking should hopefully get a kick out of the show; it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun.
Q. Scissors Man was introduced at the last Horror-on-Sea as part of the Pat Higgins Master Class: Fear and Film. How did the original concept for the Scissors Man come about?
There’s a story about exactly where The Scissors Man came from which I always meant to tell during Fear & Film (last year’s show), but never found a way. I think I’ll probably end up telling the story in Pat Higgins vs The Scissors Man. The obvious influence point is the old interactive horror board games like Atmosfear, which I adored and absolutely played to death, but there’s a slightly darker story lying behind that.
Q. Your previous master class was extremely interactive and relied on both the timing of your performance and interaction from the audience. Did you had any situations when the performance did not go to plan?
I lived in constant fear of the DVD skipping or freezing. On the Horror-on-Sea date, it froze for just a second in the middle of the show and you can hear me squealing ‘NoNoNo’ in the background on the audio recording. At the date for the Fear In the Fens team (which was a one-off date called ‘Ruined Childhood’) the disc was projected onto a MASSIVE screen which I looked tiny standing in front of; it really changed the power relationship between me and the video content! Even last night (13th Nov, when I performed Fear & Film for the final time) we ended up playing the disc on a DVD player which somehow had NO button to skip forward. Just eject, play and pause. I realised just before the show started that if the disc skipped or froze I would have absolutely no way of getting it back into the right position without playing the whole goddamn hour-long thing again, and spent the show in a state of constant nerves that a stray hair on the disc would completely torpedo the whole evening. Played fine, though!
Q. During your previous tour what was your favourite moment or reaction to the show?
I’ve had a good handful of people who have really responded to the show. Sometimes this has been because of the screenwriting side of things, sometimes just because of the silliness and sometimes because the stuff about childhood resonated with them. Either way, one of my favourite moments is always chatting with audience members afterwards. In some ways, doing a live show that gets a good response is more immediately gratifying than making a movie that people enjoy. In terms of the show itself, my own favourite moments are always connected with Paul Cousins’ performance as The Scissors Man. He makes me laugh, no matter how many times I’ve seen the clips.
Q. Although you have written and directed several films over the years, and apologised profusely for Strippers vs Werewolves, one film which has continued to attract interest is The House on the Witchpit (2016). Can you tell us about the two previous versions which have been subsequently been destroyed and when we can expect a third and final version to be released?
In a world where infinite content is available at the touch of a button, I loved the idea of destroying my movie after only a couple of hundred people had seen it. I’m sure we can agree that Banksy clearly nicked his ‘self-destructing balloon painting’ stunt from the concept for House on the Witchpit. I promised my cast, crew and everyone connected with that movie that I’d stop messing around with it four years after that premiere (which was when I destroyed both the master copy and the back-up onstage directly after the screening). So, that means I need to step away from the project on 20th January 2020. I’ll try and stick to that. The first version and the second version were structurally very different (with the second operating as a mock-documentary, and everything getting very meta). The third’s going to be the furthest departure yet, but it’s probably going to answer some of the questions that neither of the other versions did. The House on the Witchpit has, thus far, had a slightly sadistic aversion to giving people enough information to put the puzzle of the narrative together. I think this third, final version will finally provide a few more answers.
Q. Continuing the theme of fear and film, what horror films or characters have scared you over the years and why?
I’ve always been creeped out by the concept of Sweeney Todd, which is something I talked about a fair bit in Fear & Film. The poster for Scanners (1981) freaked me as a kid, since I had no way of putting the ominous tagline into any kind of context. As an adult, a lot of the imagery that didn’t bother me as a teenager has gained darker resonance as my concerns in life have shifted. Something like Pet Semetary (1989) didn’t worry me 25 years ago, but parenthood changes the way you look at stuff and I suspect I’d find that kind of a rough ride nowadays (and will probably approach the remake with caution)
Q. You are part of an independent production company called Sun Rocket Films. How did the company first come about and what sort of films can we expect to be produced?
Sun Rocket’s first feature is approaching the end of principal photography, but I think I’m probably meant to be keeping a bit quiet about that at this point! Not sure how much has been made public. That movie’s not one of mine, but I hear the shoot has been fantastic. The Sun Rocket project came about to try and provide meaningful work experience for students studying on media production courses whilst also producing interesting scripts that might otherwise not get made. It’s also about increasing opportunities for women behind the camera and in all creative roles. As with everything, it ends up being dependent on getting the funding in place to make it work, which has been endlessly challenging.
Q. Do you have any other projects which you are working on?
I made my first script sale to the US earlier this year, which was fantastic. A script of mine called Your Lying Eyes, which has now been snapped up out in LA. I’m very, very excited about that one, and it should be higher profile than anything else I’ve done thus far.
In terms of scripts that I’m still working on: Killer Apps, Puncture Wounds, Chainsaw Fairytale and Powertool Cheerleaders vs The Boyband of the Screeching Dead are all still very much in development! If any producers out there feel like optioning one of them in order to bring some focus to my work day, I’d greatly appreciate it.
Q. If someone was looking to write their own horror movie, what advice would you give them when getting started?
Do it. Just do it. Overcome your fears and do it. Those excuses you tell yourself are garbage, and nobody believes them. Do it. Write it, and don’t worry about it being rubbish. Worry about it existing. You can always make it not be rubbish later, but if it doesn’t exist that’s just the end of the story.
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You can find out more about the feature films playing at Horror-on-Sea Film Festival and details of tickets on the website.