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Johannes Roberts


Johannes: "Watching Platoon when I was thirteen really changed the way I viewed films".

Conducted by Phil Davies Brown
February 7th, 2006

Johannes Roberts has been slowly building a reputation of late for his ability to assemble a cast of different nationalities, and produce films which are then sold across the world.

With his latest movie Forest of the Damned just released here in the UK on January 23rd I tracked him down for an interview.

How did you get into filmmaking?
I've always liked stories. This seemed a great way to focus my love of them. Also to start with, I used to do the music on a lot of student films. In a strange way I guess I actually started making my own films so I could use my music on them!

Had you always been interested in film?
Yeah. Watching Platoon when I was thirteen really changed the way I viewed films and when I discovered John Carpenter I realised I wanted to be a director, although the film that actually made me realise this was a Stephen King film called Cujo! I love what the director is doing with the camera!

Did you struggle to break into the industry here in the UK?
I don't think you could actually say I am within the industry now. I'm just a third rate B-movie hack to most people. Believe me the four films I've made open exactly zero doors for me most of the time!

Your first film was Sanitarium which starred Uri Geller. How was the experience of making that film?
That was great. I've loved every film I've made but the experience of making the first was just unbelievable. We hadn't got a clue what we were doing (I co-directed it with a guy called James Eaves). The longest film we had directed before that was a two minute black and white piece filmed on a wind up camera. We spent two weeks encamped in an abandoned psychiatric hospital. We used to sleep in the padded cell we had constructed and everybody got fed on crisps and unbranded cola.

You next worked on Hellbreeder and assembled quite a cast. Was this a better or worse experience for you?
Hellbreeder was originally called Alice. I really enjoyed it. For me I really felt that it was the film that I 'came of age' as it were, as a director (again I directed this with James Eaves) - I threw everything at that both in terms of script and stylistically - with the lenses and the stock and the camera angles. It was a very hard shoot though. The sad thing about Alice is that no one would touch it - all the buyers hated it - they thought it was unmarketable. I eventually re-cut it so it has nothing to do with the original film, and re-titled it Hellbreeder and it sold really well but the original film is probably the best thing, certainly the most personal thing, I have ever directed. Its initial rejection has certainly affected the way I approach every new film, which is a shame. I'm much more cautious, whereas Alice was balls-out craziness. It's an amazing watch. Hellbreeder isn't really a film at all. I can't watch it.


Johannes: " I think it is available in over forty countries now".

Darkhunters again had a great cast and seemed to sell quite well around the world. Do you feel that by this point you had acquired the necessary skills and experience needed to take things to the next level and make a film which could be sold around the world?
All the films have gone worldwide but Darkhunters certainly saw the widest release. I think it is available in over forty countries now. I just sold it to Germany yesterday which for some reason hadn't sold before. Darkhunters was very affected by Alice / Hellbreeder. Originally the script was all back to front and very strange but I literally rewrote it the week before filming. I just didn't dare to shoot it as I had originally intended, because at that time Alice still hadn't sold. Darkhunters has some great moments and it looks gorgeous at times. It was shot on 35mm and used a lot of SFX and had a pretty good cast so that helped commercially and means it still does sales now. The cut came in really short. My greatest regret is that I didn't shoot extra material. Instead I padded it and it certainly feels it.

Your latest title Forest of the Damned will be released on January 23rd here in the UK, can you tell us about your original idea for the film and how it came to fruition?
Alice (Hellbreeder) and Darkhunters were both quite personal films in the themes they dealt with, so it made it quite hard to take when they got a lambasting critically. I felt the need to distance myself a little with Forest. I was actually originally planning a film about microscopic creatures from outer space that infect the water and drive people crazy. It was called Luna Ticks. Beautiful huh? So FOTD was going to be straight exploitation. However, as is the way of things, once production rolled it turned into something so much better. I love the film. I love the concept of the angels. I think the script is weak but I think visually it has some fantastic scenes.

How did Tom Savini and Shaun Hutson become involved?
The film was a commercial package. I really wanted stars that appealed directly to the market audience. I used Dominique Pinon in my previous films (whom I love!) but he wasn't really a horror name. I wanted everything about this film to say horror. Shaun Hutson is one of the funniest and nicest people I have ever met. I'd really like to work with him again. He can't go two words without swearing. It's so good when you meet people like that because it gives you faith that in order to be in the creative industry and make it, you don't necessarily have to be a complete jerk. Shaun was only half jerk. (Only kidding).

You actually mention on the DVD that you struggled with an appropriate way to ask young actresses to come in and strip nude when auditioning. Were any of them concerned that your intentions may have been a little unsavoury?
(Laughing out loud) Great question Phil! Yeah I'm sure a few of them thought I was some kind of porn baron. It has to be said I'm not sure any of the cast or crew really knew quite what to expect from the film! The auditions were without a doubt one of the most bizarre experiences of my life. I remember one of the girls doing her routine and you could see the tampon string hanging down. No one knew what to say! I'm pretty pleased at how the film turned out. It could really have looked like a porn movie but really you don't even notice the nudity.

How did the shoot go? Some of your cast were inexperienced but seemed to cope well. Would you agree?
The cast was awesome. Nicole (the main girl) hadn't done anything and she was amazing. But so were the rest. They really had a hard time. In many ways directing is all about time decisions - how much time you devote to one particular thing. We had very little time anyway (we shot it in twelve days) and the time that I did have, I would always give over to cinematography and SFX. The actors had to fend for themselves. They did an amazing job.

What advice would you have for any aspiring filmmakers?
I'm not sure how qualified I am to give advice but I guess the one thing I would say is believe in yourself and listen to criticism people might make and learn from it. Also remember you are filming for an audience not for yourself.

What are your thoughts on the state of the British film industry at present, and also on the horror genre?
I love all the Asian influence on the horror genre at the moment. Horror is scary again for the first time in decades! But its high time people rediscovered Stephen King for the big screen. I mean the adaptation of Dreamcatcher was awful but at least with King you know you are getting something genuinely different! As far as the British film industry goes I'm not really part of it so it's kind of hard to comment.

When can we expect to see your next movie, Station 13 and how are things progressing with that?
At the moment Iím not sure. It's been through a lot of changes. Hopefully things will get moving this year but who knows?


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

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