Horror-on-Sea interview with short film – Mate! writer-director Martin W. Payne

Mate! (2017)

Director: Martin W. Payne

Writer:  Martin W. Payne

Stars: Mark Margason, Tyne Stewart

A game of chess turns deadly.

Date & Venue: Saturday 19th January 10:00

Park Inn by Radisson Palace, Southend, Church Rd, Southend-on-Sea SS1 2AL, UK.

Q. Mate! has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival, what can people expect from the film?

Mate! is a very short film, but hopefully long on horror and effects that will show viewers what can be achieved when you have a good team working effectively in a very short time-space format.

With the short film Mate! having been selected to plat at Horror-on-Sea in January, I got a chance to ask writer-director Martin W. Payne a few questions about what we can expect from the film.

Q. How did the original concept for the film come about?

I just fancied writing a ‘forfeit’ style film and wondered about the best way of showing one person losing in a typical gore shock horror style format. And we all know how competitive the game of chess can be ….

From that, developing the characters, of the highly intelligent, and a bit perverted really, gamester (he’s the sort of guy who just plays with his victims because he knows what they are going to do before they do) and the strong character but totally helpless victim, was just a case of being black and white really.

Q. What were your inspirations for the look and style of the film?

I wanted the space around the game to be claustrophobic and dark in order to focus attention on the chess board and the players. With only 90 seconds available to me (the original film being created for a ’90 second film festival’), a lot of back story has to just be inferred or portrayed by the actors on screen so cutting out the background meant that this story could be played out anywhere. In my mind, Black (played by Mark W Margason) had flirted with White (Tyne Stewart), taken her home, had suggested a game with strip forfeits in which he had deliberately lost sufficient clothing to lull her into a false sense of security such that he could ensure she would agree to the more torturous game of chess. The darkness of his character surrounds the chessboard as much as the darkness of the room.

Q. Did you change any elements from the original script during filming?

Well there was a single major change but I think it worked out for the best. Originally, I had a different actor cast to play Black but, after being at a party with friends the night before the shoot, he overslept and only responded to repeated phone calls from me an hour after he was due to meet me in North London for the drive to the studio location in Newark, Nottinghamshire. By which time, I had to tell him that I couldn’t wait for him to get to me so had to replace him at the last minute. Luckily, I had originally asked Mark to be my Assistant Director / Sound Operator and was able to switch him into the acting role due to his past experience on both sides of the camera lens.

However, the main elements of the script were all retained. And the pre-production work also ensured that the respective starting positions of the pieces of the two players were achievable and would lead to the desired conclusion.

I had also discussed all the shots and angles with my Director of Photography (Jack Eaton) beforehand and have worked with him a few times so knew he’d make my job as director a lot easier.

Q. What makes Mate! Stand out as something different in the horror genre?

It’s a very short piece but hopefully the watcher can appreciate that there is a level of gore, violence, brutality, and mental torment encapsulated within it.

Q. What was one of your favourite moments during the filming of Mate!?

For me, seeing the antagonist (Black) snip his own finger off was a definite highlight. It was one of those ideas I had that I wanted to try out in a short film to make sure it looked good and, thanks to Beth (Beth Gauntlett, Make Up Artist), the effect on screen is what I wanted – hopefully it does look like the actor went home that day with a finger missing!

Q. Do you have any other projects which you are currently working on?

As a writer, I am extending and slightly modernising an old script from a 1982 film Invitation to Hell, originally directed by the late Michael J Murphy, with a view to a remake being filmed later in 2019 or possibly 2020.

As a Director, my next project is a segment for a feature film (working title OPT or Occult. Psych. Trauma) based around someone who wants to examine the occult and unwittingly brings a demon into the world. The film is divided into five or six sections and I will be directing just one of those sections. So, a single story arc with different directors giving a different look and feel to parts of the story.

Q. What advice would you give to someone who is looking to write and direct their own movie?

As a Writer, the script is your baby and you can give it life by building a team around your to make it happen. But sometimes it may be better to let go and allow another ‘parent’ to direct your child….

As a Director, make short films.  See what looks good, what works, and understand how much there is to think about in a short film. And then keep pushing yourself onwards – I still need to push myself to take the next step into a feature film director role but I’ll take that step when I’m ready. I’m making the mistakes in short film where they can be fixed at low cost.

And, as a Writer / Director, you are in control of the script totally – after all, a writer has an original idea that they need to write to convey to the director to shoot. Think how much easier that is when both are in the same head!

You can find out more about the feature films playing at Horror-on-Sea Film Festival and details of tickets on the website.

Philip Rogers

Philip Rogers

Published in various websites, Philip is a reviewer who is best known for his interviews and media coverage of independent projects including; films, books, theatre and live events. Always on the lookout for something different to cover!