Film director Adam Stephen Kelly sat down with us and opened up about future projects and his Hereford Films role.
Q. What kind of movies do you like?
It sounds like a bit of a cop out answer, but it’s true: I like all kinds of movies. I grew up on a steady diet of James Bond and Star Wars, the latter of which I was absolutely obsessed with as a kid, and little has changed. As I got a bit older, I became infatuated with horror films and watched as many as I could. At the time, it became my mission in life to track down just about any film that had some kind of reputation for being controversial, so I kept surrounding myself with all these blood-and-guts gore-fests and obscure foreign films. If I was in HMV and saw a film on DVD that had been a video nasty back in the day, I had to watch it. If I was looking in the TV guide and saw that BBC Two was showing a Hammer film at one in the morning, I had to watch it. If it was horror then I was there. As a teenager, I’d go through phases. One week I’d be on a Spielberg kick, the next week a Tarantino kick, a Scorsese kick and so on. I’d go from watching a bunch of critically-acclaimed, prestigious Hollywood movies, to a bunch of strange, low-budget horrors no one’s ever heard of. I saw it as educating myself. Of course, I wanted to be entertained by what I was watching, but it always felt like seeing such a mix of films would benefit me down the line, and I guess it did. I’d always be open to watching absolutely anything, and nothing has changed in that regard.
Q. How did you get involved in the British film industry?
I was 18, nearly 19, and landed a position at a production company based in Ireland as a creative executive. It was an entry-level role, assisting one of the main producers and working primarily in development, helping to package projects for investors and edit some pretty woeful scripts and pitches. I was never 100% sure of my job description, as it seemed to change a fair bit, but I did what I was told and seemed to make a good impression as I was promoted pretty fast. Soon enough, I was the Head of Development, which seemed a bit of a stretch for a kid of 19, but I ran with it. I was there for a couple of years and then made the decision to leave. They never made any films and it was all a bit shady. They were a tiny firm without a track record and yet seemed to operate at a much higher level. I never quite worked them out, but I was glad to get shot of them.
Q. How was directing your first feature Kill Kane?
That was a tough one. I landed that gig on the strength of my short film Done In, which was the first thing I ever wrote and directed. I went from shooting an eight-minute short over 2 days, to shooting a feature in 9 days, which, if you weight it all up, is pretty crazy, although those kinds of schedules are becoming more and more common in independent filmmaking. As nuts as it sounds. getting a decent feature shot in a handful of days is achievable, but it’s all about prep and ensuring that your script is carefully tailored to such a schedule. Kill Kane, I feel, was not. The script was just too ambitious for a 9-day shoot, which I partly take responsibility for as I was one of the writers. It’s not an action movie per se, but what action scenes there were in the script were pretty intensive, and I’d say we lost about 80% of the action simply because every fight scene had to be streamlined as much as possible. It’s very difficult to make an action scene exciting when you have to pack as much as possible into as few shots as possible. Sure, you can try and be creative with your shots, but not getting the kind of coverage you originally envisioned doesn’t exactly yield many options to play with when it comes to the edit, so the age-old film industry adage of ‘we’ll fix it in post’ doesn’t always apply. On top of the gruelling schedule, there were numerous other problems: some of the locations were pretty underwhelming and we had to double up on them more than once, and entire scenes were cut from the script at the last minute for one reason or another. It was a nightmare, but we got it done, which is what matters ultimately. It was a difficult shoot and a very low-budget production, with the majority of the money being spent on our lead, but it’s out there now and it’s on sale all over the world, so I consider it an achievement, especially having made it at 24 years old. It’s far from perfect but it has its moments. If I was to go back in time and make it again knowing what I know now, I would approach it very differently.
Q. How did you get involved with Hereford Films?
I think it was around 2011 that I first met – or at least began speaking with – Jonathan Sothcott. I used to be a film journalist, writing for the likes of Ain’t It Cool News, and had struck up a rapport with Jonathan as a result of reviewing some of his early films. This is exactly how I came to know SJ Evans, who went on to produce my first film Done In. I had pursued journalism after leaving the Irish production company, so I was on my own in the world in terms of my film career and didn’t really have any direction. One day I just sat down and decided, ‘right, I’m going to write something and I’m going to direct it and it’s going to get made’. And that’s exactly what happened. It was 18 months after I wrote the script that I was on set directing, but I did it. The film was crowdfunded, which is remarkably more difficult to accomplish than probably anyone who’s never tried to crowdfund a film before realises. Promoting the campaign and doing whatever I could to share my passion and belief in the project with anyone who would listen became a full-time job. Jonathan took notice of all the work I was doing and called me to discuss joining his team. I came aboard in a marketing capacity, largely working on press releases and social media. I came in just in time to work on Vendetta, the Danny Dyer revenge film, and I must admit we did a hell of a job and the film was a huge success.
Q. What does your role there entail?
A lot has changed over the last five years and I’m now Senior Vice President. Of course, outside of the company I’ve written and directed two films, but as part of Hereford Films, I’ve been involved in some great movies and have been fortunate to have met and worked with some terrific people. I still like to keep my toe dipped in the social media pool, largely because I know I’m good at it, but my responsibilities these days are mainly creative and on the development side. It’s very fulfilling to be part of a project at its inception, like when it’s nothing more than an idea, and then be able to watch it grow into an actual movie. It’s such a long and intensive process, but I love it. There’s always work to be done and films to be made. What I enjoy about working so closely with Jonathan is the simple fact that he gets stuff done. There are far too many talkers in the film business, but at Hereford Films we’re doers. It was so refreshing to go from that little company in Ireland that didn’t get anything done, to working with a producer who’s made 30 or 40 films in 10 years.
Q. Tell us about the Hereford Horror division?
As I said, I’m a big fan of horror movies, but I’ve never met someone with a mind for the genre quite as encyclopaedic as Jonathan, British horror especially. What he doesn’t know simply isn’t worth knowing. He could talk for hours, if not days, about the likes of Hammer and Amicus and Peter Cushing. Jonathan made a few horror films in the early part of his career but they didn’t exactly set the world on fire, and deep down I don’t think they were really even his cup of tea. When he expressed an interest to get back in the horror saddle, I suggested that if he really wanted to make a go of it that we try and create a sort of brand that would become synonymous with producing entertaining genre pictures, and came up with the Hereford Horror name as an ode to Hammer. Jonathan and I are both big fans of what Jason Blum is doing with his company Blumhouse, and in a way they’re sort of a modern version of Hammer, so we’re aiming to be something in between. Of course, it’s early days for us but it’s good to have a clear vision and a goal to strive for. We’re about finding great ideas and stories and telling them in a way that’s both commercial and pleasing for audiences. We want to tick creative boxes for ourselves as filmmakers and genre fans, while also delivering entertainment for audiences and carefully tailoring our films to do well in the marketplace, because the reality is that if we’re not focused on producing commercially viable films, no one will be buying them and then it’s goodbye to making them. With our supernatural horror AURA now out in the US and next year in the UK, along with PENTAGRAM being released next year too, the future is very bright for Hereford Horror and we’re off to a great start.
Q. Guy Henry stars in the new Hereford Film The Krays Dead Man Walking – you’ve worked with him before: what’s he like?
He’s the best. On set, he’s incredibly professional but also very, very funny. Everyone who meets him is charmed. I’m honoured to have worked with him and honoured to call him a friend. He was so easy to work with on Done In and did whatever he could to get it out there. Needless to say, he’s a wonderful, wonderful actor. He’s very proud of that little film and it means the world to me to know that. His parents think it’s the best thing he’s ever done! On a very personal note, I lost my dad at the very end of last year, and he was someone who texted me on numerous occasions to check in and make sure I was doing okay, which truly meant a lot.
Q. What’s next for you as a director?
I’m returning to the director’s chair in the autumn with a twisty little thriller called RECKONING DAY. We’re just finalising the script and have a great cast lined up so it’s going to be fantastic. I’m looking forward to getting stuck in!
Q. What can we look forward to next from Hereford Films?
It’s been a busy year and we’re closing 2018 out strong, with the recent US DVD release of AURA, RECKONING DAY on the horizon, and the release of THE KRAYS: DEAD MAN WALKING in the UK on September 10th. 2019 is shaping up to be our biggest and best year yet. The world has been waiting for WE STILL DIE THE OLD WAY, and we’re going to give it to them. It’s been in the pipeline for a long time simply because we’re absolutely determined to get it right. We’re excited to have director Zack Adler on board for that one. Our Hereford Horror slate keeps getting bigger and better, so we certainly won’t be lacking in the shocks and scares department, and of course we’ll be lifting the lid on the incredibly intense PENTAGRAM as it finishes post-production.