With ‘The Chamber’ opening this week we spoke to its director Ben Parker about making the film and all the difficulties involved for a first time director…….
AnyGoodFilms?: How difficult was it getting your debut feature film produced?
Ben: It’s incredibly difficult for any first time film maker. I don’t have a background in music videos or commercials or anything. It’s very difficult getting a feature film off the ground cold. I’d made a short film that had played well at FantasticFest & FrightFest so I think that that helped a lot. The other side of the slog is getting the money and it’s depressing but it’s always about money. You want people to invest in you and they want a return on that investment and I think that’s the difficult part for any film maker whether they’re first time film makers or not. So much of the business is…..business which is a shame but I had good backers and good producers who looked after me but, this will sound like an innuendo, my first time was pleasant.
AGF: So if you don’t have that sort of background how did you get to direct a feature film?
Ben: I did short films at university. I went to Leeds and worked with the film school there. I trained as a designer and my day job was working in print advertising on the design side and I used to trade designs in exchange for stealing a DoP or stealing a camera. So when I came down to London I took a job at a prestigious film poster design agency and I enjoyed being in the industry or being on the fringe, watching films and working on them but was never quite part of the process of making films. But over the years I started cutting trailers and doing more short films and there was one that did pretty well and had a sizeable budget and that really kick started the opportunity to do a feature film.
AGF: You must have had a good crew for this.
Ben: The 1st AD is definitely someone who does a lot of work on set. I’ve got a lot of respect for the 1st AD. We did a very short turnaround, just 22 days, and a film in water in a tank. The 1st AD’s job is just incredible. We had a guy called Geraint who did a great job.
AGF: It looks quite a cramped set. What was the worst part of filming?
Ben: I’m personally not great with small spaces so I wrote a horror film for myself. I wrote what I consider to be a horrible situation so being in that small space was pretty difficult especially with a fear of claustrophobic spaces but it was fun. Shooting the film is one of the more fun parts of the process more than raising the money to get it off the ground but I enjoy every one of those challenges with glee.
AGF: You’ve also got a set which floods. How dangerous did it all get?
Ben: One of the crew members I caught saying, ‘Everything will be easy once the water comes in’. Sometimes it restricts you as to how much you can move the camera around less but adding water to any situation makes it infinitely more difficult and dangerous. And there are the practical problems that no one gets electrocuted, no one drowns. The tank we were shooting in was lined with black vulcanised rubber so outside of the submarine set it was like being inside a void like that Scarlett Johansson film ‘Under The Skin’ where there’s just a layer where you can’t see anything and it’s quite possible that you could have lost the 1st AD in the water. There’s something in your psyche that tells you every day that you’re into water you know it’s a dangerous situation and you’re a little bit raw, a little bit worried about dying.
AGF: Did the actors need any training for the fighting or water sequences?
Ben: Everybody was prepped and primed for the situation they were going into and we were talking to the actors as we were going into casting so that they were fine in a small space and that they were proficient at swimming and being zipped up in this horrible escape suit which is just horrific on the inside. I had to go inside of it at one point and it was horrible. I think all of them has had some training in fighting but it was a new situation for all of them to do it in a small space that you can’t even stand up in. It’s a different way of fighting and our great stunt coordinator, who worked on Game of Thrones, is fantastic and he taught Charlotte (Salt) the Israeli crav magar which uses peoples weight against them. It’s a skill she would have to have to overcome guys bigger than her in that small space and it worked really well.
AGF: You’ve got a terrific soundtrack to this by James Dean Bradfield from the Manic Street Preachers and it’s his first film soundtrack. How did you get him involved?
Ben: I’ve asked him this a bunch of times and he’s quite mercurial and mysterious about it. He was passed the script and read it and really loved it. It was the same with Johannes. You give the script to as many people as you can and hopefully they come back to it. Luckily Johannes is a big fan of submarines and James loved the idea of the film so much that he wanted to help get it made and wanted to actually see the film and lending his hand to it and saying whether he’d produce it or do the soundtrack it was great that he wanted to do the score. We were all out of our depth. It was my first feature, his first film score and it was a great experience working with him. We actually started working on it together before we started filming and started working on the music before we even got on the set. It was really interesting to give the actors samples of what James was working on at the time so they got a feeling of the vibe he was going for. It’s a very atmospheric score.
AGF: So you’ve got your first film under your belt. What’s next?
Ben: Well this has been good in opening a few doors and we’ve got a couple more projects in the works but one I’m excited about is a thriller set in World War 2 called ‘Werewolves’ and its based around the guerrilla unit on the Nazi side who were called the werewolves. Nothing to do with actual werewolves. Might have to change the title. We’re in that horrible place of trying to raise money for it and getting the greenlight.
AGF: Thanks Ben
Ben : Thanks Simon. Love the website.
THE CHAMBER IS IN CINEMAS 10TH MARCH AND DVD, BLU-RAY & DIGITAL DOWNLOAD 20TH MARCH