Following the success of his first film ‘Wandering Rose’, Corrie Greenop is now focused on his next project ‘Dark Beacon’ a horror set in the isolated landscape of a cliff top lighthouse.
When Beth’s husband finds out about this, he tries to kill his wife in a suicidal attempt. She survives but the woman she was doesn’t. Beth disappears with her daughter Maya and not so much as a goodbye.
Geek Syndicate (GS): This is a unique location for a film, what came first? The script or the location?
Corrie Greenop (CG): The location came first. Originally I saw a lighthouse on the Isle of Skye in the middle of nowhere. It was an eerie, weird building in an isolated location so a great place for a horror film. Originally I had written a story for a guy and his daughter. While I was on the Isle of Skye I did some investigation to find out if anyone had filmed there before. It turned out that Keanu Reeves had filmed there even though it had not featured the lighthouse and they wanted £2000 per day to film there! So a while later I was sent some images of Corbierre lighthouse in Jersey and we went for it.
GS: What challenges are you going to have filming in a location like this?
CG: I was there yesterday with the coastguard. Shooting at height, the weather there and the fact that the lighthouse goes onto the causeway and we could get trapped depending on the tides, there are a lot of safety issues to consider. There will be big waves and salt spray. Probably why no one films at lighthouses! The Jersey film board has been very helpful. It is a very famous landmark in Jersey but is not well known off the island and they have been very kind in helping us and have been pleased to have the film crew there.
GS: You have won multiple awards at the 2015 British Horror Film Festival, how have you managed to keep such a strong career trajectory?
CG: I went the traditional route of learning film making at the Northern Film School. I find that some people are not proactive in the business although my career happened by accident. My family do a lot of rock climbing and I had an accident in 2013 that left me bed ridden for 3 months. I thought I am never going to have time like this again so I decided to write a script. I was 25 when I did that. I went around trying to get finance but I had never even made a short film and so no one was interested. I had been saving for a house so I used my deposit money to make ‘Wandering Rose’ for around £28,000. I am a tech geek, I know my cameras and so the production value looks great despite the camera. We were one of the first crews to use cinematic drones. When we got to Cannes, no one believed how low our budget really was because of the production values. It got picked up by Entertainment One in the USA. I hadn’t realised what a big deal it was until I started asking around. Film school doesn’t teach you how to market a film, you have to just sell your own product. I had so much passion for my product and that is the best selling tool. I have been living in London now for a year and that is helping a lot in terms of meeting people and being in the right place at the right time.
GS: You have worked at a very low budget and now you are starting with a larger budget and a relatively well known cast. What does that mean for your film making?
CG: Now we are using someone else’s money we really have to deliver on their investment, so that is a bit of added pressure. A bigger crew can be intimidating. Before it was just all friends making the film. The great thing is that now I can pay my friends proper money which is really nice. Although it is like making that difficult second album when you are a musician. I am 29 now, I was 26 then but I can look at the first film critically now. I am very proud of it and I have learned from it so now I can step it up a gear and really make a living out of it.
GS: You started life in front of the camera, what made you make the move to behind the camera work?
CG: Pushy parents when I was young! I did child modelling, I was on the Clothes Show when I was around 3 or 4 years old and got picked up by an agent. I have been on film sets my whole life. When I was about 14 or 15 years old I knew I wanted to do this for a career but I was more interested in asking the camera men about what they were doing than acting. I loved making short films when I was in drama school but my interest was always in the filming and editing.
GS: You have said that it is important to you that your films have meaning. What key themes are you exploring in ‘Dark Beacon’?
CG: I am very passionate about horror. It is a great way for people to start out. A major influence for me was when I saw terrible low budget horror films getting distribution. It is a great entry point for both directors and actors into film. Japanese and Korean horror films have a lot of meaning. They are real characters having real problems like PTSD but just taking them as far as possible. They explore guilt and grief, they aren’t just about serial killers and people running around with guns and knives. Films should stay with people after they have left the cinema. It should make them think. Fear is so primal. I have a scar on my hand from watching the Blair Witch Project when I was young. I wanted to get my eyes used to the dark before I turned the light off because the film had scared me and I burned my hand from trying to reach the plug with my eyes covered. I always wondered would that have happened if I hadn’t been watching that film, but something different, and it had not had such a powerful effect on me. In my last film and in this upcoming film, I wanted to explore something that could really happen but take it to the nth degree. Reality can be much more scary than the paranormal or the usual serial killer plot line.
GS: With this film you have now got a much more high profile cast in April Pearson (Skins) and Jon Campling (Harry Potter). Was that something you deliberately went for or did they bring something in particular as actors that you wanted to call upon?
CG: People always ask ‘who is in the cast’ when you bring out a new film. We got turned away quite a lot with ‘Wandering Rose’ because the cast were all unknowns. To make sales, having some well known names on the cast list does help. I always wonder, even though the film did well, how much better it would have done if we had well known actors involved. However, I don’t like it when you speak to actors at networking events and their USP is how many followers they have on social media rather than what talents and work experience they have. Selecting based on social media following, despite its marketing advantages, will not make a successful film. You have to choose talent and audition actors to make the film great, social media and fame is not the only ingredient.
GS: What advice do you have for upcoming directors?
CG: Just go out and do it. I had a full time job in media when I made ‘Wandering Rose’. I didn’t want to be in a full time corporate job. I would say ‘don’t sit around, make your own stuff’. If I hadn’t taken a risk I would not be where I am today. So many people think budget is important and so don’t make films because although they have the script and the actors they think they haven’t got good enough cameras. I made ‘Wandering Rose’ with a cheap camera and it is about what you do with what you have.
GS: What is the release date of ‘Dark Beacon’?
CG: Spring 2017.
GS: How will you be marketing it?
CG: We are working with The Film Label who made ‘Pandorica’ with cinema distribution and online marketing. As well as set visits from well known magazines, we will be attending HorrorCon and ComicCon. We are establishing a social media presence now and have a few viral projects in the pipeline so that we have a basis for ongoing publicity when we drop the teaser trailers and the film itself. This will help us a lot when we go to Cannes with the film and go on tour with Q & A screenings.
You can follow the progress of ‘Dark Beacon’ via @DarkBeaconMovie
Interviewer: The Aviator