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An Interview with Simeon Halligan

Simeon: "We have a wide range from mainstream films through to more obscure ones".

Simeon Halligan
Interview conducted by John Townsend
1 October 2013

As well as being an award winning filmmaker and running his own production company Simeon Halligan somehow finds time to curate one of the UK's leading film festivals Grimmfest which runs from 2 October to 6 October up in Manchester, UK.

Good afternoon Simeon, how are you today?
Hi there, good, thank you.

Grimmfest celebrates its 5th anniversary this year. What can we expect from this yearís festival?
I guess weíd like to think this is the biggest and best year yet in terms of the movies weíre screening. We have a wide range from mainstream films through to more obscure ones and as horror has such a wide fanbase we get a massive amount of interest in these obscure ones which is great. Against something like Curse Of Chucky which everyone has heard of we have films like House Of A Hundred Eyes which is a little like a found footage film but it centres around people wanting to make snuff movies in their house and is shot on surveillance cameras. Itís quite an interesting film and one of those that uses the sub-genre really well. We also have The Wicker Man with the director Robin Hardy coming along which is great.

Simeon: "Considering we started out just wanting to show our own film itís all gone a bit mental".

How did Grimmfest come about?
We never meant to have a festival. It was all a mistake and I keep wondering how weíve ended up in this crazy situation. Iíd made this film Splintered and weíd not had a screening so we decided to hold one in Manchester and invite the cast and crew, and some friends along. We were talking with Steve Balshaw, one of the Grimmfest organisers who was working on the Salford film festival, and he suggested putting on a few more films and making a Halloween event out of it. Everything then just expanded and grew from there. Considering we started out just wanting to show our own film itís all gone a bit mental.

It must become almost like an addiction then?
Yes, I think youíre right. Itís a bit of an obsession. We donít do it for the money so it must be! Itís just great to put something like this one. This year weíre involved with BFI Gothic season and a film festival over in Liverpool so itís a busy time.

How do you decide what films to show at festival?
Itís really, really difficult. We canít show everything, I wish we could, but we canít. Between myself, Steve and Ben Ross we watch many films and then sometimes we agree and sometimes we donít. Sometimes we vote and sometimes Steve just hits us until we comply! We do go to some film markets which are fantastic as it enables you to find new movies before theyíve been heard of in the UK. For example I saw John Dies At The End about 12 months ago and Iíve been trying to get it ever since and now we finally have. We get lots of submissions through and somehow we reach decisions.

Are there any of the films you are particularly looking forward to or that you would recommend people keep an eye out for?
Every member of the team has different favourites which is great because it gives the festival a broad range. For me Iím looking forward to seeing On Air which I havenít actually seen and we have the European premier of it on Thursday (3rd October) night. Chucky and Wicker Man will get the audience but itís these films that no-oneís heard of that are exciting. Jug Face is a very interesting film being shown on Sunday (October 6th) which is a new take on familiar themes. The Machine is also very interesting and one well worth checking out. We have a joint UK premiere with Raindance that night and itís being compared in style to Blade Runner which is really something.

Simeon: "The studios are always going to make certain types of films".

There are so many horror films being released now. Do you feel that that with the amount of studio franchises being made it is stifling the independents or do you think it draws a greater audience to the genre?
I kind of think the latter really. I donít necessarily have an issue with it as I think you can apply it to any genre. The studios are always going to make certain types of films and theyíll look to attract a big multiplex audience. The thing that is changing a lot is the way people watch films these days. Horror is really healthy at the moment. Most of the recent studio releases have done very well and made a lot of money, certainly in comparison to some of the big pictures that are doing badly. Films like The Purge and The Conjuring are where Iíd be putting my money.

To conclude then what are your favourite horror films?
The Haunting, the original black and white one I think is really scary. It relies purely on its visual style. My other favourite would be Donít Look Now which really influenced me. I guess theyíre not your usual horror movies but Iím really drawn to psychological stuff which is what scares me.

Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today.
No problem at all, thank you very much.


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