Interview: Writer/Director Scott Bates on ‘The Tapes’
Interview conducted by Aled Ll Jones of MovieDromeDVD; introduction by Ben Bussey.
Found footage has been one of the most prominent and divisive subgenres of horror in recent years. Among the films utilising the first person camcorder perspective to horrific effect is The Tapes, a British chiller which I’m ashamed to admit has somehow skipped our attention here at Brutal As Hell. Rest assured we’ll do our best to amend this and get a review up as soon as we can, but in the meantime Aled caught up with writer/director Scott Bates to discuss the film, its production history, its influences and more besides.
BAH: Having been in the industry for a while what inspired you to direct your own movie?
Scott Bates: For me it’s all about writing and I’ve been doing it now for over 10 years and then it’s all about trying to get people to take them on. I’ve now got this film called Bloody Londoners that I’m trying to get off the ground and I need about 600 grand to get it going. So at one point we thought we had it then it wasn’t going to happen so while we were waiting we just thought of an idea that we could do quickly and cheaply and that became The Tapes.
BAH: You mention on the DVD extras that you had just seen Paranormal Activity before doing The tapes. Are you a fan of the found footage genre in general or is the possibility of making it on a small budget the main thing?
SB: Both to be honest as I genuinely believe it can be done well for very little money. To be honest I’m not a big fan of Blair Witch but I did enjoy Paranormal Activity. But the thing was this, I went to see an afternoon screening of Paranormal with my girlfriend and the screening was full of kids. Watching them screaming and jumping was unbelievable to me. They were talking about the film even after coming out and I just though I could possibly do something like that.
SB: 100% correct. I cannot stand all the Big Brother stuff and the other reality stuff as its just killing quality television in my opinion. The film has several digs at reality TV to be honest as I just cannot stand Big Brother and all the nonsense that surrounds it, it just drives me mad to be honest.
BAH: You’ve said that Natasha Sparkes is one to watch for the future and I have to say I did find her performance utterly spellbinding at times.
SB: She’s just fantastic and she’s so raw and real that I have no doubt at all that’ll she’ll establish herself and do something really impressive in the future.
BAH: For me she just nailed that low class wannabe Jordan thing, it was just so believable.
SB: Before we shot we had the Christmas holiday so we work shopped the characters and all three lead performers lived in a house together just before we shot and continued to work on their dynamic. Jason would just work and work on it even after wrapping for the day he’d be forcing the other two to still workshop the characters, he was fantastic. All three just put so much into it I have to say working with them was just so simple.
BAH: Was the plan to always shoot in cold conditions or did it just work out that way?
SB: We always knew we were going to be shooting in January but we almost called it off as we were driving down to Whitstable after I almost lost control of the car and crashed, the weather was awful. Once we dug out the car to get to the farm it was a simple question of either cancel or just go for it, we went for it. Now the snow seems like an n extra character of sorts, it definitely gives the film a certain feel I think; it was a virtue in the end for me.
BAH: The scene I loved in the film is the closing monologue at the end of the film. The genre usually finishes with either the monster coming at the camera or the camera falling to the ground as the person holding it is killed. Where did the monologue come from exactly?
SB: To tell you the god’s honest truth I always knew it was going to end like that as we had no script we just work shopped the scenario with the actors. So just before we actually came to shoot the scene I had to actually bloody write something so I hurriedly jotted down the monologue, but I was writing quickly and making a mess of it. So when Gemma’s saying I can’t read your bloody writing it was in fact very real and she was actually talking to me in a certain way and I bloody loved it. It was just one of those things that came together by chance and worked perfectly.
SB: Lee the co-director had been around leaving some hints of what had been going on in places and that was one of them. Like all the tarot cards that keep popping up it was all designed to signal what was to come if you could notice them. People had said that kids wouldn’t go to the farm given the danger but in my opinion kids don’t see the danger they just think its all mucking about.
BAH: You have mentioned that post-production was a nightmare is there anything you learned from that experience you can use moving forward?
SB: 100% yes, make sure you have a post production plan before you start anything like this. I’m 17 years into this industry and I thought I knew it all but I found out that I knew nothing about post production. I put my hand up well and truly and I’m happy to admit it now. I thought we’d be done with post production in about three months and it’s actually taken three years. So have a plan and have somebody to advise you as well, critical.
BAH: How is the future looking more directing or writing, what’s the plan?
SB: I really enjoyed the directing but what I’ve always wanted to do is write and I’d love to make my living by writing scripts if I could. As I said I now have Bloody Londoners and it’s a very funny script with nice slice of horror. So I’m hoping to get that going in the future at some point.
BAH: Last Question; if there was 1 film you’d recommend to somebody right now what would it be and why?
SB: I always recommend The Wicker Man as I love it and I still haven’t found one person that can tell me exactly what it is. It’s not a horror, not a comedy nor a musical but it’s all of them at the same time. One other film I always comeback to is Withnail and I just for the writing alone. Anyone that wants to be a writer, just watch that over and over as you’ll never get bored with it as the script is perfect.
Many thanks to Scott Bates and Aled for this great read of an interview. The Tapes is out now on Region 2 DVD from Exile Media Group.