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An Interview with Peter Dukes

 
 


Peter: "There are a few things that sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously work their way into my stories".

Peter Dukes
Interview conducted by John Townsend
18 March 2014

Peter Dukes formed Dream Seekers Productions several years ago with his sister Aubrey with the intention of creating unique and thought provoking films. Now with many impressive short films to his credit Peter is becoming linked to several feature productions.

There have been several different styles and ideas expressed in your short films but there is definitely a theme of other-worldliness and a sense of the unknown, but also time. Would you agree with that? Are they ideas that particularly fascinate and interest you?
There are a few things that sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously work their way into my stories. Time is one but death is certainly another. Time has always been fascinating to me and as Iíve grown into an adult and the years are flying by faster and faster itís something that becomes extremely relevant. I certainly put it into the films either directly or more layered but itís definitely something thatís there. In terms of other-worldliness, horror and fantasy are two genres I have a soft spot for and it affords me a tremendous amount of flexibility and that fits with how my mind works. Itís also something thatís enjoyable and interesting to get into when youíre on a particularly low budget.

There was a television series in the UK in the 1980ís called Tales Of The Unexpected which was a little like The Twilight Zone but more about twists and atmosphere than scares. Would you say that side of horror appealed to you more than visceral and gory effects?
Atmosphere to me is paramount, sometimes more than the plot, but certainly more so than any monster or ghoul. The worlds that you are putting together are crucial and I learned a lot from reading in particular, but also old movies and television shows like The Twilight Zone. Itís definitely something I aspire to put into all my scripts as for me the atmosphere can make or break your film. Itís always very much at the forefront of my mind.

The complexities of making a short film are obviously very different to making a feature but apart from obvious time constraints what do you consider the greatest challenges?
Short films are very much their own animal. There are similarities with features but there are definitely differences that, depending on how successful you are, dictate whether you sink or swim. Obviously there are very specific time and budget constraints, if there are budgets at all, and then you see where you can go with all the pieces you have. Most of the time though these restrictions can result in producing a better film as you are forced to delve deeper into each scene to make sure you get the best from it. Each film Iíve done has had different challenges though whether that is financial or in doing a new effect as you must continue learning and honing your craft. Youíre always working towards making a feature and that opportunity may only come along once.


Peter: "Each film I've done has had different challenges".

As an independent filmmaker I wondered what your thoughts were on the ease with which anyone can go out and make a film. There is so much technology available and even films being released made on iphones. Do you think this accessibility risks diluting the quality or do you consider it to be a good thing?
Itís all changed and itís a shifting landscape on almost every level and in every department. Itís a double edged sword because itís great that anyone can make a film if they want to whether thatís a long term career plan or not. On the downside though there is of course a risk of dilution because it is so much more difficult to stand out now. There are virtually no studios or agents that will take new or unsolicited material anymore because they will have literally half a million scripts dumped on their desks. At the end of the day though the same rules still count; no matter how many filmmakers are out here you still have to make the best movie you can and try and hopefully get noticed.

Following that I wondered on your thoughts on film funding. Do you think this is making it increasingly difficult for filmmakers to find funding with studios reluctant to take chances?
Studios have always been a business but even more so now. Itís so much about the numbers and finding that safe bet with remakes and franchises. The independent world is where there is more opportunity to get your voice out but itís such a challenge to help a film find its feet. Iíve been attached to a couple of projects in the past and they just fall apart for one reason or another and for a lot of these films that are £1million and under the options are very limited. Itís really just private investors around which is such a challenge. If you ever do succeed and break through enough to make a living then itís the icing on the cake really. If you come into the business looking for fame and fortune then the odds are really against you; you have to really love what you do first.

As someone who has made so many short films, if in an ideal world substantial financing became available do you think youíd like to adapt and elaborate on something from your back catalogue or perhaps begin an entirely new project? I presume you always have several working scripts around.
Absolutely. There are definitely some of my short scripts that I would like to elaborate on. My werewolf film The Beast was getting some good press and I thought that maybe I could expand it into a feature. I got the script revised and started putting out feelers. A few months later I met someone for whom the script really resonated and hopefully this will now come to fruition. A lot of the scripts Iíve done were written with expansion in mind so itís always there in my mind.

Youíre listed as director for The Beast (not related to the previous short film) which also has Jessica Cameron attached. Can you tell us much about that?
Thatís another film Iím attached to direct and Iíve been working with the writer / producer for around six months now to the point where weíve been putting the cast and crew together and starting to scout locations. If it happens then it happens but even while developing Iím always working on other things so you never know.


Peter: "Even while developing I'm always working on other things".

What are your favourite horror films or which ones have had most of an influence on you?
Thereís a lot really but from the early films I was a big fan of Carl Theodor Dryerís Vampyr from 1932. Itís not for everyone but itís very imaginative. Iím a big fan of Hitchcock and similar films where it was about the atmosphere mainly as you couldnít show any real violence on screen in those times. They were the types of films I was drawn to more than the cult films that are now more mainstream. Many people who have grown up with these modern hardcore movies and donít really know about many of the earlier ones. Recently there wasnít much I was interested in but then Let The Right One In restored my faith a little in the horror genre. Above all that though my main influence is from books, authors like Lovecraft and Shirley Walker which was daring and original at the time.

If there was a new visitor to your site Dream Seekers Productions and you could recommend just one of your short films to them which one would it be?
I try hard to produce very diverse films so there possibly isnít one film that particular sums me up. Iíd probably just say have a look at the list, maybe ignore a couple of the earlier, rougher ones, and then try a few.


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



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