Adam: "I always loved the blood,
loved my own blood".
Conducted by Phil
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
"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
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
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
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.
"I'm not a big fan of much
horror wise at the moment".
How long did the script take
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
What were some of the films
which influenced not only the story, but the visual style as
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
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
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
How did you find your cast and
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
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
Eight weeks over an eighteen month period. None of it was fun. It was all
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
What are the current plans for
release? I believe youíre in Cannes just now with the
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
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
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."