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An in depth interview with Zenithfilms director Gareth Morgan

December 21, 2014

 

For those who love both movies and Silent Hill games, the name Gareth Morgan might ring a bell for you. If not, that is about to change soon, as the guy who stumbled upon me earlier this year over a blog post I made about him and his upcoming new Silent Hill Requiem movie will enlighten you. Since then we've become friends and I've gotten to know him better and a bit of what makes him tick.

I constantly look out for new things to blog about, and Gareth has given me a number of things in the movie universe in more ways than one. He owns his own film equipment, directs and edits his own movies, and from what I've seen so far you can bet he will be making some major waves soon, if he hasn't already.

Gareth Morgan, as James Sunderland

Well here is another wave from the Zenithfilms ocean, as his film company is where he transforms art and imagination into reality. It's in the form of a one on one interview where I ask him a series of 12 questions concerning both him, his film making, and of course let's not forget his ever anticipated upcoming horror movie Silent Hill Requiem. So let's get this fire burning shall we?

1.) Tell us a little bit about yourself

Hi I'm Gareth, and I guess I am best described as a creative. Ever since I was young I have been into the arts. I started out with drawing which led to me writing stories about the pictures I drew, this led to me turning those stories into scripts so I could act them out with my brother and his friends. Being the way I am High School didn't work out for me, and I basically dropped out of that and spent my time in the local library.

I did however move to the college in the next town and studied theatre and found a talent for Contemporary Dance. Once I'd finished there I moved to Manchester and did my first time at University. I mainly studied Physical Theatre and became very concise with metaphorical based work. After Uni I ran a Dance Company with a good friend of mine. We ran it for several years and during that time I began working with film to make dance for camera pieces.

After we closed the Dance company (due to the funding at the time the company changed from a performing company to a teaching company and in the end neither of us wanted that) I travelled around SE Asia and Australia for a few years and wrote my first book (which I will be self publishing sometime in 2015). Upon returning to the UK I decided it was time to get a degree and studied at DMU in Leicester doing a split degree in Dance and Film.

During this course my love of film superseded my love of dance and I began pouring more and more of my energy into filmmaking, so much so that I graduated with a First Class Honours degree due to my final film piece.

That film piece, a Steampunk adventure film entitled 'The Halsteadarian' went onto premiering at the opening of The Rose City Steampunk Film Festival in Oregon and an edited version was shown at the 40th anniversary of Glastonbury. Since graduating I have been running my own production company Zenithfilms. Over the past 5 years I have made several short films, some released others still in post production, all thanks to having an amazing team of extremely talented actors and musicians who believe in me and my work.

2.) What made you decide to get into film directing?

It was just the next stage in a natural progression of working in the arts really.

3.) Why Silent Hill Requiem? Was the first movie and Revelations that bad?

Me making a Silent Hill film has nothing to do with the ones that already exist. I have always wanted to work on a Silent Hill story ever since playing the first game, back then I was a writer and an actor, so I designed a concept but never took it any further. I knew that if I was to tackle a Silent Hill film I would have to be on top form so I didn't even try working on the idea when I started to get more into film making.

Instead I was working on additional content for my film series EPiSODE and for that I was taking inspiration from Silent Hill and seeing how I could implement the horror ideas found within the games. To get further insight I joined Silent Hill Heaven, a group on Facebook, and began chatting with people about their own experiences and why they found it scary and tense.

But during working on this new part to EPiSODE I found myself in a bit of a rut. There was hardly any money coming in, and my clients had all dried up leaving me down to my last £10 (I had some more money coming in the next 3 weeks, but it was a sobering moment) and thus I found myself talking to God/Universe, which ever analogy works for you.

The way I see it, I am where I am in my life based purely on taking advantage of any given situation to continue working as an artist, so to be at a point of near poverty is my own fault for following the path I found, but at the same time why was the path there to begin with? So anyway I asked for a sign, if this is what it is then I need a sign either for or against. The next morning I'm on that same Silent Hill Facebook group and see a post about Brett Driver who is currently crowd funding his own Silent Hill short film 'Lost Days' and at that point he had raised near enough his goal.

So I thought to myself perhaps now is the time to make that Silent Hill idea a reality, there is obviously an audience for it and maybe that could be a way of generating more attention towards my work? I had no plans to crowd fund my idea, I had tried crowd funding twice in the past for two other projects and both times it had failed to generate anything. So instead I took a very small section of my original idea and turned that into a 2 minute micro film project.

It took me a few days to adapt a script and then storyboard it and with my friend Del (Olwen who plays Heather in the final film wasn't available at the time) we filmed the short in an evening. After filming I took one of the shots that didn't require any backgrounds to be made and played around with it until I set upon an art style and colour palette I liked, Del saw it moments later and said she loved the look, so I went back to the Silent Hill group and posted the still to get some feedback.

That's when the unexpected happened.

Within an hour that still had gone viral like nothing I had ever done before. Suddenly my Facebook page was inundated with messages from fans and Silent Hill page admins all asking what was this 'Silent Hill Requiem?' My like count shot up from 250 to 1000 in a matter of minutes.

So the next day I started cracking on with the short and became very chatty with the admins of Silent Hill Historical Society, Silent Hill Paradise, Silent Haven, Silent Hill da Depressão and Silent Nerd, who all suggested that just making a short wasn't enough and that I should use this short as a pitching tool for a crowd funder. So after a few hours of thought and releasing some new stills, that went viral the instant they hit the net, I figured why the hell not.

But I didn't think the amount of footage we shot for the short would be long enough for a Proof of Concept, so I begged Del to help me out some more and to film a series of shots that would turn that short film into more of a faux trailer for the full film. Thankfully Del had some free time and we shot a new scene and series of shots to simulate the trailer idea, all the while my page was growing and growing with new people all wanting to know any and all details of the project.

The rest as they say is history. I finished the POC and released it with the crowd funding pitch to raise $3k, a very modest sum to make a feature film with, but from my point of view I'm an unknown film maker, and since I have all my own equipment and a studio I just needed money to cover costume and actor/crew expenses. Well the pitch raised that $3k in 7 days and continued to raise money until it reached $5k by the end of the campaign. So I guess you would say there was my sign, right.

4.) Are there any more plans to expand Requiem's storyline in the future?

Of course. It took me around 2 months to fully flesh out the script for Requiem, I had a lot of ideas and once the script was together I realised that there was too much content for my first ever feature film; last thing you want to make as your first feature is a 4 hour Peter Jackson epic. So I started removing elements of the script that I felt weren't overly necessary for the story I wanted to tell, but these were still some good idea's, so I didn't trash them, I just stored them.

Then it came to my attention that Silent Hill Shattered memories was originally suppose to be a game called Cold Heart, not many people knew this (it is now pretty much common knowledge as the Pitch Document for Cold Heart is on the net for all to see) and all that was available to me was the concept art work for the box cover and a tiny paragraph of info that just contained the protagonists name and a few gameplay elements; even from that it was apparent to me that this game would have been much better then Shattered Memories, but that's just my opinion.

It was seeing this cover art of Jessica trudging through the snow that gave me the inspiration I'd been waiting for, and I knew what I could do with the ideas I had to cut out of Requiem, and thus Silent Hill Lazarus was born.

I don't want to go into any real details of Lazarus as that may end up containing spoilers to Requiem, but suffice to say Lazarus is set 16 years after Silent Hill Requiem and the over arcing plot follows Jessica, a British psychology student, who has been brought to Silent Hill under false pretences and soon discovers she has a dark and twisted connection to the town.

5.) What is your next project going to be?

After Requiem and before Lazarus I have several projects I want to get off the ground. One is based on the old arcade game Splatterhouse.

'Splatterhouse: Jennifer Smells of Rot' follows the story of the Splatterhouse franchise and is set between the first and second game and tells the story of Jennifer Willis. Rick failed to save her from West Mansion and has now been institutionalised because of his mad ramblings of this Mansion filled with demons, a Mask of immense power and has also been accused of the murder of Jennifer. Meanwhile the Terror Mask finds Jennifer in Hell and poses her the question 'Can you save yourself?'

Jennifer dons the Terror Mask and attempts to escape from Hell and West Mansion while trying not to lose herself to the power and temptation of the Mask.

Again this was a crowd funded project but as of yet hasn't reached its goal, so it will either be a feature film or more likely it will turn into a web series of 7 parts to match the 7 levels of the game, the story will remain the same but some elements will be removed because of the shorter run time and smaller budget.

Another film is an original piece entitled 'T.L.E. A cyberpunk adventure' which was going to be my first feature film, until Requiem took that slot, Requiem had a budget T.L.E. does not currently. This film is set in the year 2123 and focuses on a young girl called Tle who lives in the city of New Babel, a floating city run by the mega corporation Zenace. Zenace have total control over their citizens with a virtual world called Zenace, in there people can live out their dreams obvious to the decaying world around them.

But those people that can't afford or opt out of this way of life are persecuted and digitally locked out, referred to as Humanist. Tle is also a Humanist and all she wants is a way out, and a mysterious woman called G will give her that wish, but first Tle is going to have to kill a list of people for her, why? G calls it faith, because you don't have to understand here to be here.

What I intend to do is make a short version of the film as a Proof of Concept and then try to raise some money via crowd funding to develop it into the full feature it is destined to be.

I also have other Proof of Concepts for Parasite Eve, Resident Evil, Alan Wake and Syndicate Wars films, all based on their respective source material, and a web series based on the character Helsing from the Dracula novel, all ready to be edited.

There is always something new on the horizon with me.

6.) If you had the finances, what kind of project would you like to do someday?

To turn my book into a feature film. Constellation Gemini Chapter One is a science fiction story about the last day of the city of Atlantis. It is a very large scoped story and would require a large budget and an entire team of actors and post production crew to turn my vision from the book into a film.

'All Civilisations fall, but none so greatly as the Civilisation of the Atlantean Age.

Can the Queen of Atlantis stop a threat so great that it would destroy everything she has come to know? Will her trusted Priest be able to avert the course of time and save Atlantis from an inescapable fate? And what of the powers massing in Babylon, will the declaration for peace be signed or do the real problems lie with the council of Atlantis itself, a gaggle of ancient scholars led by a mysterious Cleric?

Can the fate of Atlantis be its only destiny?

Constellation Gemini Chapter One chronicles the hope, gluttony, and deception that befell the greatest Civilisation that ever lived on planet Earth, and how they came to vanish from it.'

The book should be available to buy sometime in 2015.

7.) Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Couldn't say, I know most people say that you need a 5 - 10 year plan to be successful, but that's just the thing, fame and fortune doesn't concern me. I'm just a story teller and that's what I do and will always do, if people take enjoyment from my work and want to get involved along the way then that's awesome.

8.) On behalf of the ladies out there, are you married and if not do you see that changing?

This has to be the most bizarre question I have ever been asked, but I shall indulge you. No I am not married, I have always seen myself as a bachelor without the possibility of parole, but if the right person came along, who knows.

9.) What would you say is both the toughest part about film directing and the best part?

The best part of film directing is working with actors. On a whole my team of actors are people I have known for years so on set is always a joy. We laugh, we joke and piss about, but because they are such a talented bunch as soon as they are in front of the camera it's all business. Then I shout cut and it's back to chatting and laughing. For the most part, up until Requiem of course, my films were made with no budget and my actors were giving me their free time, so it was more like hanging out, but rather than being at the bar we were in a green screen studio making films.

The toughest part of directing, not sure I've come across it in that regard. But in terms of film making as a whole, especially when I do all of the pre and post production, would be the long hours and lack of a social life. Which is again why I keep it light on set, that is my social life.

10.) For those who give you a hard time, criticize, or even mock your hard work, what is your response?

Meh, it is an impossibility to please everyone, so I don't even try. Insulting me is like water off a ducks back, all it proves is that the person throwing the piss and vinegar needs to sort their own life out, especially getting that wound up over a movie, bullies are always the real victims. The only thing that gets my blood boiling is when these people attack my team, say what you want about me and my work, but you leave my team alone, they are some of the greatest people that have ever lived and far out rank some snivelling kid who thinks its big to hide behind a false name and avatar to hurl abuse.

11.) It seems that the majority of people in the world don't realize what kind of elements go into making a great movie, so what would you tell those people about the most important aspect of making a decent film, along with what should be deemed less important.

Time is the most important aspect when making a piece of art, well a decent piece at least. I get a lot of people griefing me because they think the film is taking too long to come out. But they just remind me of some of the students I used to work along side at Uni, thinking that you point a camera at something, record it, eject the tape and there's your film.

I'm a perfectionist, and thus I will not release anything until I and my team of peers have had a good long look at it and made sure that what is humanly possible to get right has been done so. Also editing takes forever, especially green screen editing. If I had filmed on location, which would not of been possible with a $5k budget, the editing would have been a quicker process f'sure, but that's not the reality I'm dealing with.

I'll break down Requiem for you.

I got the budget in February 2014 and began writing the script.

The final draft of the script was finished in April and me and Olwen did a read through to make sure it flowed well and made sense.

I then began drawing the storyboards, this took me everyday of 3 months to complete, we're talking turning an 80 page script into a 160 odd page storyboard, each page consisting of 8 panels of shots, and I don't just draw stickmen in a box, I draw highly detailed comic book strips. Because we are filming in a green box, most of the time there is little to no set, so having detailed storyboards means me and my actors know exactly what is occurring in each shot, the spatial awareness of the scene and what else is in that shot for them to take notice of.

We filmed end of July into August, collectively the shoot took just over 2 weeks of 10 - 14 hour days.
And since then I have been editing and am currently a third of the way through the film.

So people can either appreciate that or not, makes no difference to me, the film will be out when it's ready, which is what I have been saying all along.
Is there anything that can be deemed less important in making a film? No.

12.) Is there anything you would like to add for the readers?

I would just like to give thanks from the bottom of my heart to the undying love and commitment of my team and also to thank all of the people that have donated and followed this project since day one. Without any of you Silent Hill Requiem would just have been a 2 minute micro short floating around on the net.

All the best and thank you for your time, I hope we all have an exciting new year ahead.
 

-End of Interview-

There you have it. Now that you know more about the man behind the magic of his movies, why not show your support for the projects? You can do so right now using the following links, where you can both purchase Silent Hill merchandise, or make a donation and get some cool perks when the movie releases.

You can also help make the next project come to life by making as little as a $1 donation using Paypal. Every little bit adds up and helps bring these projects to your living room. For more information on the Splatterhouse horror movie project, follow the link below and check out both videos to get an idea of what the movie will be like. Then you can follow Zenithfilms on Facebook and Tumblr to keep up with the latest updates and news for new releases!

Be sure to share with your friends to let them know about the project. The more support the better.


Come and join the rest of us today, and let's make a great movie together!

 

 

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Silent Hill Requiem Perks

Splatterhouse Movie Page

New Requiem Teaser video

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