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Adam Mason

Adam: "I always loved the blood,
loved my own blood".

Conducted by Phil Davies Brown
August 2nd, 2006

Adam Mason's latest movie 'Broken' is currently doing the rounds at festivals and throughout the horror community, after it won at Dead by Dawn in Edinburgh earlier this year.

The film is one sick puppy and I instantly loved it the first time I saw it. I was completely blown away and decided to track down the sick and twisted evil genius who created this mad movie.

Read on to see what transpired when I sat down for a chit chat with Adam Mason, who is sure to hit the big time any day now.

You left the London International Film School with qualifications and a desire to direct. How did you get into filmmaking?
Basically - I saw Jaws when I was six and became totally obsessed with it, to the point where I could recite the whole thing by heart. One time at kiddie school - a girl kicked me in the teeth for looking up her skirt - and I remember laying on the floor gurgling blood all over my face, feeling cool as fuck - just like Robert Shaw at the end of Jaws.

I always loved the blood, loved my own blood. I used to give myself nose bleeds just because I liked it so much! I read Dracula when I was seven or eight and then moved onto Stephen King. The cover for Salem's Lot just blew me away back then.

Then when I was a teenager I discovered Fulci, Carpenter, Romero and Argento. The big guns. I guess my grown up film moment was when I first saw the Texas Chain Saw Massacre. It was then that I realised how films could have a real physical effect on you, that they could really fuck you up emotionally! And I loved that. Up until then I was mainly into the FX side of things - and always wanted to be an FX guy. But when I was about 14 I kind of figured out what a director did - and that that was what I wanted to do from then on.

I also loved writing. I always have. I actually much prefer writing to directing. Writing doesn't cost any money to do, and doesn't have to involve any people! Which is much the way I like it! When you direct stuff, you're compromising at every step of the way for whatever reason.

When you're writing - you can write whatever the fuck you want, and in that moment, on the page, it's just perfect. You write down 'Adam's head explodes' and you think 'thatís pretty cool'. When it comes to shooting it, itís always 'how are we going to explode the head, how much is it going to cost to explode the head, do you really need to explode the head, is it safe to explode the head? Blah blah blah'.

Then you do it and the really expensive squib goes off in the really expensive fake head and it looks nothing like how it looked in your mind when you wrote 'Adamís head explodes'. Thatís the joy of writing and the curse of directing. I bet when Tarantino writes ĎQuentinís head explodesí Ė it looks just like it did when he wrote it. But thatís the difference between him and me!

Is it true that you were sacked from Marks & Spencer for writing a screenplay when you should have been working?
It is. Well - that is the short version of events. Those were dark days. I used to drink a lot back then and I couldnít get my head around the idea of having a normal job on any level.

You began working on an idea which became The 13th Sign, how did you get the film made and were you pleased with the way it panned out?
When I was at film school - I seemed to think that it would be really, really easy to raise finance for a film - so I got my best mate from LIFS, Jonty Acton, to write this Indiana Jones style movie and assembled a pretty decent cast considering I was a nobody (Dexter Fletcher, Michael Elphick, Lisa Faulkner). I then sent out about 100 letters to parents of kids from a posh public school - figuring that they must all be quite loaded. I got the details from my friendís little brother's school year book. Most of the parents didn't get back to me. Some were furious, indignant even, but four or five were interested and three were very interested.

For reasons of bad timing (and thank fuck in hindsight) - that project didn't happen... but a year later, after I had graduated, I contacted the interested parties again and three weeks later we were rolling on what became, for better or worse, 'The 13th Sign'.

I am in no way whatsoever proud of The 13th Sign. There is not a single thing I like about it and I couldn't recommend it to anyone.

It took me a long time to figure out how to make films, and I'm still a long way off now. Itís not something you're just born with, like some inherent skill - whatever certain directors would like you to think. It's something you have an insane passion for - for sure, but more than that, it's about having a dogged determination to keep going and learning and get better. The 13th Sign was the first in what I hope are progressive steps in getting better and better as a filmmaker.

People not associated with film don't seem to understand how many skills are involved in putting together a feature. Especially when you have no money. I do most jobs myself as I can't afford to pay other people to do them! My contemporaries like Jake West and Alex Chandon are the same. Consequently you have to learn so many things, you have to wear a lot of hats, even if they donít really suit you or even fit - but I think it's so important having that backbone of understanding.

If you look at guys like Cameron, Aronofsky or Fincher, people who are really, really fucking good - you can just tell they have an insane amount of film knowledge. Lenses, mics - everything. Put it this way - I wouldn't want to be Cameronís sound man or Fincher's camera assistant - because you can guarantee they'll know the job way better than you do! I don't think you'd find that in someone like Eli Roth. And thatís the difference, I think, between someone who is great, and someone who pretends to be.

You then made Dust in 2001; did that open many doors for you in the film industry?
I am probably more ashamed of Dust than I am of 'The 13th Sign', as it was a missed opportunity financially and creatively. I used to be quite angry a lot of the time... and I made Dust to piss off people who saw it. And then, bizarrely, I was really upset when people who watched it were pissed off and despised it!

It was a wake up call, that film for me. It was like Ďmason: stop fucking around or stop doing this film thing, because people aren't going to tolerate this kind of shit'. Dust is such a weird film - I actually can't imagine anyone liking it. I look at it now and just think 'what the fuck were you thinking!í Those films are like illegitimate children to me. I think of them and cringe and wish theyíd go away.

I made a couple of short films after that - this thing called Ruby about a wife getting revenge on her paedophile husband, and then one called Prey - about an Alaskan serial killer who hunts women out in the wilderness. I'm really proud of those two. They were real steps forward for me as a director and as a writer. It was like when you pick up a guitar. 'The 13th sign' was the first fucking awful chord. Dust was me destroying my way through some classic song... Then the shorts after that were me finally getting the hang of it.

I think itís as much about finding your own voice as anything else, as pretentious as that sounds. You've got to have something to say when you make a film, and up until the age of 28 or somethingÖI had something to say, but I'm not sure I knew what it was! Or how to say it! It was frustrating really.

Adam: "This idea of the aggressive
director is bullshit to me".

You then worked on a few shorts as well as music videos before hitting the genre hard with the highly praised Broken. Where did the initial idea for the story come from?
After DUST - a band contacted me to make a music video. The next thing I know - its three years later and Iíve done 55 of them and made a great living from it. Itís how we keep alive - me and my wife Nadya. Without the music videos, we'd be totally fucked! Destitute!

Also - they were the best film school ever. Just trying out different things, what works and what doesn't, different ways of filming things. How to handle yourself on a set with a lot of people you don't know. I think to be artistic you need to be sensitive. This idea of the aggressive director is bullshit to me. I'm pretty shy myself, and itís hard finding yourself the centre of attention like that, on set with everyone looking at you and asking question after question. You've got to learn how to deal with that, and music videos were a great way for me. When I step onto a set now, I'm a totally different person to the one sitting here writing this. I feel really at home directing and I enjoy it now. When I was younger, directing felt like a kid sitting in a sports car or something. Itís exciting and daunting and you just know that as soon as you start rolling you're going to crash the fucking thing and everyone's going to hate you!

The original idea for Broken came from me getting so fucked off at the state of the British film industry, and how difficult it was to raise finance in the UK.

I had a particularly bad experience with The Film Council. And an even worse time with Sky TV, and countless other really fucking annoying encounters with the pricks and rats that populate this wretched business. It's all talk over here it really is. The shit that gets made... it makes me so fucking angry. Don't even get me started on that.

Anyway - after one such Ďexperienceí which I won't go into here, I just decided that enough was enough! Fuck it, fuck them etc. I was so sick of it.

I made Broken as an expression of that anger. Itís such a spiteful film. It was made with pure venom and vitriol and hatred. There is no hope for Hope in the film at all. Every time we give Nadya's character something, we just smash it all away from her time and time again - which is exactly how I felt for years and years of trying to get a film financed and made in England.

It was so enlightening to make a film like that. I cannot recommend it enough to anyone. My crew was like 5 people. It was essentially me and Simon directing, Erik the DoP, Neil the art director and Hopper the production assistant. Between us we did everything. The FX guys Tristan and Nathan would come in from time to time, but generally it was the five of us and the actors Nadya and Eric. This went on for over a year...

We shot most of the film in nov/dec 2004, but then weren't happy with the edit we came up with - so we scrapped the first half and the ending entirely and then re-wrote and re-shot those bits over the next twelve months...

I remember watching that first cut with Nadya and Simon. They both thought it was pretty good - better than expected at least. The looks on their faces when I said 'we're going to loose the whole first 35mins and the last 30 were priceless! They thought I was insane, but to be fair - I was right. It was ok back then, but not great. And after all the pain we'd been through on that first month of shooting, we owed it to ourselves to at least try to make something good.

It was such a good way of doing it. I've just shot a film with quite a decent budget and it drives me mad to know that I probably will have to make do with what I've shot! Because when itís costing you £10K a day or whatever it cost to shoot - you can't just pick up the camera and go.

Thatís why the Broken way for me is the future. Broken with a budget as I call it. Itís how I want to do things from now on. So I can pay people and the cast and crew can be comfortable. You really don't need 40 crew members to make a film. It doesn't make things better, having people carry shit for you. You need to get your hands dirty, get up to your waist in mud in some fucking trench. Thatís the way I like it.

I'm not interested in comfort or people bringing me coffee and a chair with my fucking name on it. When I make a film Ė itís my life. I live and breathe it.

The way I see it - things can always get better - and when it doesnít really cost much to do a days filming here, or a weekend there or whatever - you've really got no excuse not to. We shot and wrote and shot and wrote until we were all just so fucked off with it that we just stopped! With Broken - I was like 'thatís enough now', and everyone breathed a deep sigh of relief!

When you have nothing, you have to strip all the bullshit away and figure out what you can actually do that will work! We had fucking nothing to make this film - one location, a couple of great actors, and a small, super talented crew. It was tough to make that work.

Initially we found that we were trying to be too ambitious and that was so frustrating because it was such simple things we were trying to doÖeven then! But nothing means nothing! We had three lights most of the time! When a bulb went it was like the end of the world for us because we couldn't afford replacements!

I remember Erik, the DoP - went off to do The Hills Have Eyes remake in Morocco (he DoP'd the 2nd unit) halfway through shooting Broken - and when he came back it was hilariousÖ his 2nd unit crew on Hills was six or seven times the size of what we had on Broken. So many lights, so much gear. Then we were back in that fucking wood, with my XL2 and three knackered lights.

What Erik brought to Broken was truly remarkable Ė and Iíll never forget what he did for me. I hope I go onto make some big film just so I can pay him back.

But we got there in the end, and all the struggle and nightmare experiences along the way just made the film better. I don't think you can make a good film if the shoots easy! If itís not hard - you're not pushing yourself enough. Itís why so many Hollywood films are shit. Theyíre just too pampered for their own good.

Adam: "I'm not a big fan of much
horror wise at the moment".

How long did the script take to write?
When I decided we were going to make something for nothing - me and Simon really hammered it out. We wrote the first 90 pages in a couple of days then rewrote it over and over and over. We were still rewriting it right up until a few months ago when we finally finished shooting.

The whole time we'd just change whatever we didn't like! If there was a scene that we didn't think much of - we'd decide why we didn't like it and either re-shoot it, or cut it entirely and start from scratch with a totally different scene. The actors couldn't figure out what the fuck was going on! I felt really bad for them - because it always looked like it was their fault somehow, but it really wasn't. It was always the writing or the budget - mainly a combination of the two.

I'd stand by that first draft me and Simon wrote. It would have been great - IF we'd have £200K to make it. All the things that were shit in that first cut were due to us just having no money to do it properly.

What were some of the films which influenced not only the story, but the visual style as well?
A book called The Collector by John Fowles was a big influence. None really come to mind films wise. I get so sick of films these days. Especially the big ones that proclaim to be so nasty. Don't even get me started on Eli Roth!

I'm not a big fan of much horror wise at the moment. I loved my friend Jake West's 'Evil Aliens' - just for trying to get back to the Braindead days. No one has even tried to make anything like that for so long now, it really was about time! I like stuff like 21 Grams and Narc. I thought Switchblade Romance was fantastic.

I loved Wolf Creek. I loved that it didn't pussy out. When it went for it - it just fucking went for it - and so few films try that anymore.

The people making the films are afraid to go too far, they're afraid to offend! I mean - isn't that the fucking point of horror! Itís supposed to be dangerous. Not safe. Not horror-lite. Save taste and decency for Anthony Minghella or whoever.

Do you prefer to co-write and co-direct or do you like going solo?
I love co-writing. I'm great at coming up with basic ideas, but I'm so undisciplined when it comes to sitting down and doing the hard graft. Writing for me is like pulling teeth! I get as drunk as I can and sit in front of the keyboard and when I wake up something's there.

Simon loves the process. He can sit all day and write. He's like a pig in shit, a fantastic writer. We're a good team. I hope we get a break one day because we can churn this stuff out. If we ever get someone with some weight in Hollywood on our side - we could make some decent money!

Directing is different. I co-direct when I have too many other jobs going on. I tend to run the set (I definitely did on Broken) - so I'm ADing, I produced the film etc. Simon was fantastic on Broken. I concentrated mainly on the shots while he was great with the actors. I'm more of the school of 'get on and do it Ė thatís your job!' where as he was happy to go into the nuances of the script and character! I like to figure it out as we go along, almost by instinct.

But Simon really deserves that credit because me, as him and Nadya really lived that fucking film for a year and a half. It was tough for the others - but for them it was a couple of months spread over 18 months. For the three of us it was intense for a LONG time! Itís still going on now. I have to go and do the master of Broken for Another Hole in the Head in San Francisco - which is another £300 we don't have being spent on the film!

For me and Nadya it was particularly hard - because we were paying for it all! It got to the point where everything we had went into the film! We could have had a good year in 2005 money wise if it wasn't for the film! But you know - it only makes me more proud now. Because we put our money where our mouths were and we did it, against all the odds with no one supporting us. That feels good. It really was us guys who made that film. Itís pure - and I think that comes across in the finished product.

How did you find your cast and crew?
Nadya is my wife. We met on a film set in South Africa eight years ago. Sheís a fantastic actress. Eric Colvin was in one of my film school films nine years ago. They were both in ĎDustí and 'The 13th Sign'.

Erik Wilson is my right hand man and has been with me since day one. I've known him since film school. His career is really taking off now, and that is so exciting for me because we've all struggled so fucking hard, and no one deserves it more than he does. That guy is INSANELY talented. He'll go big time now and I won't be able to afford him! Simon and I have been writing together for years and are best mates. Neil is one of Jake Westís cronies and has been a good friend of mine for a while now. Hopper is one of the Brand Mason Limited (my production company) family, and Tristan Versluis (FX) is like my little brother. I first worked with him when he was 18. Itís great to see him doing so well now... he's as good as it gets FX wise.

Nadja Brand is obviously your wife, so was it weird to make a loved one endure such horrific stuff for the sake of your art?
Itís not weird. It's therapeutic. Itís quite funny really - as we hate each other on set. On Broken she was chained to a tree with a chain around her neck that weighed more than me in the freezing cold in December wearing a skirt and thin shirtÖ.for months. You can't believe how cold she was. When I see J Lo and those bitches complaining about how hard they had it - I just laugh. They must have had it hard on the casting couch getting fucked in the ass for a part by some lizard producer!

Broken was fucking brutal, there's no two ways about it. Nadya got smashed in the face by a log. I think mentally it was very, very grueling for her. She went through hell to do that part. I hope it pays off for her. She certainly deserves to go onto bigger and better things.

We'd have massive arguments on set then go home and everything would be fine. Itís weird how it works. It wouldn't make sense to most people, but to us itís all good! Whatever it takes, you know. Whatever it takes.

How long did the film take to shoot?
Eight weeks over an eighteen month period. None of it was fun. It was all horrible.

Did everything go to plan for the most part?
For the most part, nothing went to plan. Wherever something could go wrong, it would, and then something even worse would happen. It was by far the hardest experience of my life. We look back at it now and laugh. Only because if we weren't laughing we'd be fucking crying and killing each other.

What are the current plans for release? I believe youíre in Cannes just now with the film?
The film seems to be doing really well. People like it, which is the best feeling ever. We've had countless offers. I want to let the film go around the festivals and see how people react to it. The whole idea of Broken was to make enough money from it to make a follow up with a budget!

How have audiences and critics reacted to the film?
So far itís been pretty amazing. We won at Dead by Dawn which came totally out of the blue. I made it as a fan, for the fans - but you really never know. In the back of my mind I still wonder 'is this a piece of shit?' But when I watch it, I think it holds together really well.

We look at it now and think 'how the fuck did we do that?' If you knew what we've been through to get to this point you'd know why!

Whatís next?
I just shot a film called 'The Devil's Chair' (which is NOT my title). It's for the company who made Ghost Rider. It was an interesting experience! It came about so quickly itís hard to know how the film is going to turn out! We wrote the script in 3 days! It could be insane! The script is pretty mental. We had some great actors and the film looks fantastic, so it might be good! I hope so. The ending is the most brutal thing I've ever shot. It was great to have respected producers taking a punt on us and giving us some money!

We're writing the follow up to Broken at the moment. We want to go to Namibia to shoot it. It will make Broken look like Bambi. I'm so excited about it. Itís super original and just evil really. It pushes the boundaries of taste beyond anything Iíve ever seen Ė but itís also highly commercial in the sense that the story is really riveting.

Letís see if I can get the money to do it!! Itís one for the fans really. Something I would want to watch. No one else is doing that kind of stuff, so I'll have to go back to hell and kill myself making another one! But we love it man, we really do. Otherwise I'd be back at Marks and Spencer!

"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview Adam.
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."

Don't fall behind, make sure you get help
writing college papers fast.


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