Martin Kemp has enjoyed a long and very successful music and acting career but with his new project Stalker we see him move behind the camera for the very first time.
The psychological horror sees him make his directorial debut as well as penning his very first screenplay. I caught up with him to talk about the movie, his directing experience and what lies ahead.
- Stalker is about to be released on DVD so for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet can you tell me a little bit about it?
Of course, what it is is an old fashioned horror film. When I sat down to write it I felt that all horror films are judged on prosthetics, how good the prosthetic is, and how many ways you can murder somebody and I didn’t want that.
I wanted to produce a movie that is more like the old fashioned horror movies in the way that it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up in the vein of The Omen or The Turn of the Screw where even the house that it happens in has its own character.
So I set out to write something like that and hopefully that is what we have achieved with Stalker.
- The move marks your directorial debut so what made this the right time in your career to step behind the camera?
I have been acting since I was seven years old, which is forty three years, and you kind of pick up enough along the way to kind of go ‘ok I should step being the camera and have a crack that side’.
You understand everything it’s not like you have anything to learn it has just grained in and has become a part of you.
So for me walking the other side and directing wasn’t a big job it was just back to being on a film set but looking at it from a different angle. I loved it!
For me directing was brining together all of my hobbies into one go it was everything I loved; directing, drama, cinematography and even the music that underpinned the whole thing and you bring it all together. So it was all of my hobbies in one piece of work which was fantastic.
- Being an actor and knowing the kind of things that you needed from a director how did that help as you took on that role?
Oh yeah absolutely. Hopefully I gave the right things to the actors that we had one the set but your right it does.
If you have been an actor you understand what the actors are going through and the stresses and strains of them learning their lines to their performances so I think it does bring a much more settled approach to directing - you are not shouting and screaming and you feel more like part of the team rather than separated from it.
- You also penned the script so where did the idea for the movie come from? How did you find the script writing process?
Me and a friend of mine we had the rights to an old movie called The House On and at first he gave me that and he said ‘can you do a re-write of it?’ I had seen the old movie and I didn’t think that it was worth doing a re-write but what we did do was take a grain of an idea out of it.
We took that grain on an idea and we flourished it into our own movie - we wrote a movie around that idea. So there is a big nod to The House On Straw Hill but we have created a different thing.
But I love writing and I think that if you have any ambitions of being a director at any stage in your life or you just love movies the chief way to direct any movie is to write because you get to see a film in your head as you are writing.
When you are actually writing a script you are directing in your head as you go along so writing is just a pleasure.
- And what was it about the horror/psychological thriller that interested you - it is quite a difficult genre to get right?
It can be but it is quite a good platform to start from. The horror genre is quite a good thing to sell on DVD so it’s a good platform to start on and move up from. But it wasn’t really that that was in my mind the horror genre is something that I have always loved - I love The Omen and the Exorcist and all those movies.
I remember the first ever horror movie that I saw was The Mummy, the Hammer House of Horror movie, and it frightened me to death. I saw it the day before we were set to go away on holiday and I carried it for weeks. So it’s something that has always been with me and sitting down to write horror is such fun.
- Anna Brecon and Jane March are just two of the names on the cast list so can you tell me a little bit about the casting process and what you were looking for in your two lead females?
When I wrote the film we didn’t really have anyone in mind as to who we wanted to play these roles. But with Anna and Jane it was just perfect because when you ask people to come along and work on such a low budget movie as Stalker was you are asking a lot more than just a performance you are asking for someone to stick with the film through really tough times.
But when we got Anna and Jane we were thrilled. Jane has a fantastic CV; she has worked in Hollywood movies, so we were thrilled with her. And Anna came along and really just gave us great performances. That film really lives or dies on the performances of those two girls so we were really pleased.
- We are always hearing how difficult it is to get film projects up and running in this country so how tough was it to get this movie off the ground and ultimately made?
It was actually a lot of hard work. Me and a friend of mine Jonathan Sothcott, who is a producer, made a shot together called Karma Magnet, which you can see up online; it starred my brother and Adele Silva and is about fifteen minutes long.
So we made that and because we made that and felt that we had done such a good job of it there was an investor waiting and said ’how do you feel about making a feature?’ Obviously that is like a god shining down on you so we shook his hand and went and made a feature.
- The movie was met well by the critics and went on to win gongs at the Scream Awards but how have you personally felt the response to the movie?
It was fantastic, I couldn’t have asked for anything better for a first movie. Not only directing it but writing it as well I was more than pleased and picking up a Best Director award as well is just fun - and it’s something that you want for the film when you are in the middle of making it.
- Now you have had a first taste of directing how much is it something that you want to pursue - you also have production company Black & Blue Films?
I would love to direct again, I am looking at a script at the moment and trying to get it into shape for next year. But what I don’t want to is get stuck just making horror films I want to get out of that genre because I love drama, of any shape, so I want to stretch out and find something new.
- You have enjoyed a career that has spanned so how have you seen the UK film industry change in that time? Has it changed for the better?
I am not sure if it’s changed for the better it has just moved on. I remember when reality TV came along and everyone in drama was moaning about losing jobs. But what people realise, and I realised very quickly, it wasn’t about it was changing and everything was going to be different and fall apart it’s just that things were moving on - and that is what happens with TV.
There’s some reality TV that I absolutely love, I am watching Celebrity Big Brother at the moment and I think that it’s the best Big Brother that there has ever been.
There is less drama on at the moment but when you see some of the drama that is coming over from America it’s so good and British drama is going to have to catch up with that and hopefully it will.
- Finally what’s next for you both in front of and behind the camera?
For behind the camera I am looking at scripts at the moment - it’s not horror it’s a piece of drama that it is a lot of fun and it’s edgy.
Hopefully that is going to turn out and work out but I can’t give you the name of it because one I don’t want to put a curse on it and for two I am going to have to sign on the dotted line before I tell everyone what it is.
In front of the camera I am in the funny position at the moment I have a film coming up that I am doing in the spring - but I can’t give you the name of that either because it’s not solid. So I am kind of juggling at the moment.
Stalker is out on DVD now - read our ereview of the movie here
FemaleFirst Helen Earnshaw