We sat down with Hereford Film’s Adam Stephen Kelly, the film director and producer talks to us about past projects and future projects.
Q. How do you feel about the success of The Krays: Dead Man Walking?
We’re incredibly proud of how well the film has done, both critically and commercially. When it was released back in September, it had the biggest first week on DVD of any non-theatrical British film in 2018, which is quite the accomplishment. It proves that there is very much still an appetite for these kinds of British crime films. As much as there is often snobbery towards them, people really do love them, and I think a huge part of that is that they’re uniquely British. There’s something very culturally British about these films, especially when you inject the true crime element as is the case with The Krays: Dead Man Walking. People are endlessly fascinated by stories of the Kray twins, myself included, and while there have been a fair few films about them in the past, our goal here was to bring one of the lesser known chapters of their lives to the screen in order to give audiences something new. We didn’t want to make just another sprawling biopic, we wanted to really focus on a certain point in their lives.
Q. It was recently announced that a sequel is on the way. What’s it about?
The Krays 2: Marked for Death will revolve around Ronnie and Reggie’s expanding underworld empire and their fractious relationship with former boxing star turned nightclub owner, Freddie Mills, whom was suspected of being a serial killer known as Jack the Stripper. We’re currently developing an excellent script written by talented scribe Christopher Jolley, and we’re really keen to make the film as authentic as possible, working closely with our incredible consultant Steve Wraith, who not only played Hartnell Harris in the first movie, but is probably the foremost authority on the Krays in existence today.
Ultimately, we’re just very thankful to those who made the first film such a success because, to be quite honest, getting the opportunity to make a sequel is a creative luxury as we now have the chance to really dig deep with the characters that were introduced in the previous movie. Of course, on the flip side, making a sequel comes with the added pressure of besting the first film, but we’re more than confident that The Krays 2: Marked for Death is going to be bigger and better in every way.
Q. More and more British gangster films are, for want of a better term, ripping off Hereford Films’ distinctive style and marketing. How do you feel about that?
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and all that. But in all seriousness, it really isn’t surprising to see simply because we have a business model that works. We see it all the time, from frighteningly similar DVD covers, to other companies using our films as examples of commercial success when they pitch their projects to investors and distributors. We have a habit of leading by example and kickstarting genre trends, so it’s more than okay with us if other companies try and follow in our footsteps as we’re ultimately all in this together, and the goal is to make the industry over here stronger and healthier.
Q. The Krays: Dead Man Walking seems to prove that DVD isn’t dead. Why do you think it broke the mould?
I wouldn’t say it broke the mould as such, it just reinforced that you need to know your audience. Our ethos at Hereford Films is commerciality without creative compromise. Our films are tailor made for a certain type of audience from the very beginning. If you make a film for the home entertainment market without knowing your audience or how to sell it, you’re not going to shift DVDs, and that means you’re not going to be making any more films. Our business model is very simple but highly effective. We study the market and trends and know what audiences want, so we give it to them. We find a balance between ticking boxes to ensure that our product is commercial, and satisfying our creative ambitions as filmmakers and artists in order to make the very best films possible.
Q. Your next film as writer/director is Reckoning Day, a gangland thriller starring Hereford Films mainstay, Chris Ellison. Tell us about it.
Reckoning Day is about a family man with an incredibly dark secret whose past catches up with him in a very big, very violent way on his daughter’s 21st birthday. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way and it’s got its fair share of pretty shocking moments.
Q. What’s Chris like to work with?
Chris is a really great guy with plenty of stories to tell. Obviously he’s been a part of the Hereford Films family for a long time and has been in several of our films, but this is my first time working with him in this capacity and I feel very fortunate and quite honoured. I grew up in the ‘90s and The Bill was something I always used to watch with my dad. We’re currently in what I call the ‘pre-pre-production’ phase of the project, and it’s been a joy to sit and discuss the script with him and hear his ideas. A lot of actors get to a certain age or level of experience and they cease to really care about the films they’re doing, but Chris is the antithesis of that and very much invested in the material.
Q. Who else can we expect to see in the movie?
I’m really pleased with the cast we’ve managed to put together so far. Joining Chris will be the likes of Nick Moran, Janine Nerissa, Red Madrell and Danielle Harold; three really terrific actors who I’m really looking forward to working with. The rest of our cast will be announced in due course and I’m really excited to share their names.
Q. Talk us through your writing process?
I like to know exactly where I’m going when I write a script, so I usually start with a treatment, even if it’s very rough. It makes it a lot easier when you’re writing the initial draft if you’re following a blueprint of sorts. Some writers like to use cards or whiteboards to map out their story as they go, but I prefer to keep it a little more simple. Once I know where I’m going, I begin what I call ’stream of consciousness writing’, which is essentially vomiting a script from beginning to end just so I have the story down. This forms draft zero. It’s extremely rough, with plenty of placeholder dialogue and action lines that read like a child has written them, and I pay absolutely no attention to the page count. I just write and write until that draft is done, and I usually end up in the vicinity of the desired page count. Then it’s a case of going back to the very first page and editing the hell out of the script until it becomes a presentable first draft. I refer to this process as ‘colouring in’. I’m a pretty fast writer, and have delivered numerous first drafts in a week or less.
Q. What’s your favourite part of making a movie?
The writing process is a slog but the result is extremely satisfying. There’s a great quote that I very much subscribe to by George R. R. Martin that goes something like, “I hate writing but I love having written”. When you’re on a deadline and tapping away furiously at your keyboard for countless hours, it’s hard to see anything else but the script. You can’t really take a break and get away from it because it’s always at the back of your mind; it kind of just snows you under. But when you’re done, it’s like this huge release and a great sense of achievement. Other than writing, I very much enjoy working closely with actors; listening to their ideas and really dissecting their characters and discussing what makes them tick and why they do certain things.
Q. Away from the film business, you’re training to be a professional wrestler. Talk us through this journey?
I’m a lifelong fan of professional wrestling and it really is one of my great passions. When I was about 16, I was sort of at a crossroads in my life in terms of what I wanted to do as a career. I knew I wanted to be a writer, but I was also very passionate about film and wrestling. I looked into wrestling schools at the time but for a 16 year-old kid it all seemed a little too far out of reach. Of course, I’m kicking myself now because I’m 28 and it’s a huge regret of mine not to have started training all those years ago, but then perhaps I wouldn’t have done what I have done in the film industry if that were the case. What I do know for sure, however, is that I absolutely love it. Throughout my life, if I’ve wanted to do something, no matter how far it may be out of my comfort zone, I’ll usually find a way to do it. I got to a point in 2017 when I just said to myself if I don’t at least try to do something in wrestling I will regret it forever, so I took the plunge and started training. I’ve only recently gone back to it after taking most of the year off due to a back injury and losing my dad last Christmas, but I’m so glad to be back in the swing of things. I train at the Revolution Pro Wrestling school in Portsmouth and it’s an absolute blast. My primary trainer is a 16-year veteran of the business named Rishi Ghosh and he’s a really great guy and a wonderful coach. To me, a pro wrestling ring is like sacred ground, and I genuinely feel honoured each time I climb into one. I’ve also become quite friendly with a number of wrestling stars in the US, and it’s been a privilege for me to hear their wisdom.
In addition to actually wrestling, if I had the resources I would also set up my own promotion in a heartbeat. As a writer and creative, the idea of running my own wrestling company and creating characters and storylines is another dream of mine.
Q. What else do you and Hereford Films have lined up for 2019?
One thing that never changes at Hereford Films is how busy our slate is. We always have a high volume of projects in development. 2018 was a great year for us, having made our supernatural horror films The Exorcism of Karen Walker (aka Aura) and Pentagram, and of course The Krays: Dead Man Walking. 2019 is gearing up to be our biggest year yet and will finally see the production of the hotly anticipated We Still Die the Old Way, as well as Reckoning Day, our Roy Shaw biopic Pretty Boy, and a few more horror movies.