Horror-on-Sea interview with Lonely Hearts actor and producer Martin W. Payne
Lonely Hearts 2018
Directors: Jessica Hunt and Sam Mason-Bell
Writers: Jessica Hunt and Sam Mason-Bell
Stars: Martin W. Payne, Alice Mulholland, Chris Mills, Sue Dawes, Sophie Atkinson
A reality TV show has deadly consequences for five single people looking for romance.
Date & Venue: Saturday 19th January 10:00hrs
Park Inn by Radisson Palace Southend-on-, Church Rd, Southend-on-Sea SS1 2AL, UK
Lonely Hearts is a new horror from co-writer/directors Jessica Hunt and Sam Mason-Bell, which has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival. I got a chance to ask actor and producer Martin W. Payne a few questions about what we can expect from the film.
Q. You feature in the upcoming horror film Lonely Hearts, what we can expect from the film?
Lonely Hearts is an independent, low budget, British Horror and takes its influences from reality TV shows, such a Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity, but with more than a nod to the US series, Unreal. What we tried to convey was the sort of reality TV show incidents that TV producers would kill to get to increase public interest in their show – the rows, the new relationships being formed, the inability of contestants to complete the simplest of tasks – but, of course, this is a Trash Arts / H B Films horror, so expect plenty of blood as well!
Q. You play Donny in the film what originally attracted you to the character?
Sam (Sam Mason Bell, writer and director) mentioned his idea of a reality TV based film after we had worked together on Toxic Schlock (2017). His plan being to film totally on a campsite location with this character, a vicar looking for love and finding something else instead. I won’t go into spoilers, but of course what happens to Donny attracted me, as well as the opportunity to play a vicar complete with dog collar, and naive attitude to the world. The last person you’d expect to see on a reality TV show, let alone a dating one, and someone totally out of his depth with what happens during the reality show.
Q. How much input did you have when creating your character for the film?
Sam is a great collaborator. Whilst he knows the outline of the characters that he wants to film, he also knows to get actors who have the flexibility and freedom to improvise based on that outline. So, I just sunk into being Donny, assisted to start with by the dog collar, and that later led to his very buttoned up attitude. It’s a technique that I have developed over 25 years as a Professional Murder Weekend actor for the Original Murder Weekend Company – which has probably given me over 300 opportunities to create a believable character and perform live in front of paying guests for a weekend without breaking character. Sam also allowed me to run with an idea that I had that became the end of the film – the last lines are very heavily influenced by a very Christian character in similar circumstances in a very recognisable and famous film…
Q. Are there any elements of Donny which reflect some of your own personality?
When creating a character that you have to live rather than drop into, because what he says has to come from Donny’s life, not mine, it is easier to allow those parts of your own personality to remain that can. So Donny is a kind, thoughtful, generous person, as you’d expect from a Vicar, but equally what happens to him has to be achievable by the actor in performance – Sam and Jess (Jessica Hunt, co-writer and co-director) knew how far they could take / push me in performance so what happens to Donny is, if not part of my own personality, certainly something that I’m relaxed enough to convey on screen.
Q. What preparation did you do for the role?
I bought a dog collar and black vicar shirt!
Seriously, there was some research but knowing there was no need to learn Latin or recite any gospel meant that there wasn’t a lot I needed to do. What was required before the actual location shoot was for the characters to each film their own ‘audition tape’ for their application to the reality TV show, Lonely Hearts. So that was interesting, filming myself on my mobile phone, dressed as a vicar standing on the pavement outside a local church, as passers-by looked at me rather strangely.
Q. What do you think makes Lonely Hearts stand out as something different in the horror genre?
Lonely Hearts, for me, contains various elements that you can probably only achieve with cast and crew working closely together with all of us in front of camera able to improvise through the scenes to give the content you see on screen. But there is also the great direction given by Jess in certain scenes where cast members had to be comfortable with, and relaxed around, each other to give performances that could be regarded as reality on screen – but keeping it all faked. Much the same with the end scene being, hopefully, a hard watch and one that, on past screenings, has produced an audible reaction from the audience and that is absolutely great. And credit has to be given to Katie Johnson, a makeup artist I keep working with because she absolutely gets the horror concept. But Lonely Hearts still has structure and a forward momentum throughout the whole film. You can’t please all the people all the time, but I do hope that there is something for everyone to remember in Lonely Hearts.
Q. As both an actor and producer did you experience any difficulties during filming?
Not on this shoot! I have doubled before and had issues arise during the shoot that distracts focus from acting and retaining the character and pushes you straight back in to the management role of producer. But, fortunately, all went well with Lonely Hearts. Part of avoiding having to turn Producer is actually to make the most of the pre-production stage and try to plan for any eventuality so that either they don’t happen, or you know what has to be done to fix the problem. Of course, things do go awry, but being able to make a fast decision on, hopefully, the right response to fix the issue, means that, I think, I can act and produce at the same time. It also helps to have others with a “producer hat” on despite also doubling up – so there were times when Sam, Jess, myself and Jackson (Jackson Batchelor, Cinematographer) all just made sure the production was safe, on track, and professional. Whilst Lonely Hearts worked in that respect, I did make the call on another Trash Arts / H B Films co-production to step back from the acting role, replacing myself with another actor, so that I could solely focus on the production side, just to ensure that shoot could proceed smoothly. I think Sam will agree, on that feature film (in post-production at the moment), I did the right thing.
Q. What was one of your favourite moments during filming?
There were a few but I’ll mention the skinny-dipping scene that we filmed on the last morning. It’s one of those scenes where you have to present your character’s attitude towards the reality show task that has been set, but I think all of us were just grateful it was the last scene to be shot when we had all worked as a team – and, of course, knowing the outcome of the challenge because it’s in the script!
Q. What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get into acting?
Get out there and act. I started as an accident really 25 years ago, just by saying ‘yes’ to being asked if I wanted to be part of the Murder Weekend team. Another accident of being in the right place at the right time gave me my first major character in a feature film. I use StarNow as my main source of opportunities – and am lucky enough to be able to accept quite a few roles from there when offered and that just gives you experience in front of any camera. It also gets you on to set, where you can observe and learn the best way to behave, keep focused and be ready to go when the director says they are ready to shoot.
You can find out more about the feature films playing at Horror-on-Sea Film Festival and details of tickets on the website.