Exclusive Interview: Gav Steel (The Shadow Of Death)
What sparked your interest in making films initially?
I always loved horror films growing up and was a keen musician, I was finding it hard trying to find films to score for. So instead I thought the only thing I could do instead was to make my own film (The Shadow of Death) and use that as a way to show my musical scores – a strange way to get into it but I found that I really loved making films and just carried on.
The majority of your Directorial work has been in short films but before that you took on the challenge of directing the feature film THE SHADOW OF DEATH (2012). What for you is the biggest difference between working on a short film and feature film and what did you learn from the experience?
I did it totally backwards and made a feature film first before I made a short film! You wouldn’t normally do this and I wouldn’t recommend it, but it did throw me in at the deep end. The difference between the two films though is that I did most departments on The Shadow Of Death because I just didn’t know anyone who could do a lot of the things (saying that I did have an fx artist, and a boom operator at least ) where in the short films as they were years later, I ended up having quite a lot of crew for all the short films. So it is hard to compare on the actual production side but the only real difference is the cost of budget and how long it will take to make, more days more money. Apart from that everything goes all in if it’s a feature or a short, so the bare bones of film making applies to both short and long form mediums. With a feature you have to love it though, as it’s going to be with you for a while as you nurture it before setting it free, generally unless fx heavy, shorts should leave you quicker and also leaving you freer to move onto the next project. I did learn lots from making a feature first though, like how to talk to actors and give clear direction which has ultimately helped me out.
Which (if any) Directors have had the most significant influence on your work?
Peter Jackson and Robert Rodriguez have given me the most influences with their way of making films. Both of them came from DIY film making approach and achieved some amazing results because if this – when you can see what can be achieved with skill and ideas, it just helps to let you know that if you can also make films. But then there’s the classics like Steven Spielberg and John Carpenter, with the latter I was and still am influenced in John’s musical scores and I think you can hear his influence in my own score especially Sanctuary Moon (view HERE).
This December VIPCO & BayView Entertainment will be releasing THE SHADOW OF DEATH (2012). What can you tell us about the film without giving any spoilers?
The Shadow Of Death is a throwback horror comedy to the days of 80s/movies along the lines of Friday The 13th. It is a simple story of four friends going out into the woods to try and score some weed. Unfortunately, for them, there is a killer roaming the woods, taking out victims, but they just maybe in luck as there is a hapless policeman en route after the killer.
Do you have a specific genre of film that you prefer to work on and if so why?
Horror mainly as it’s just such a fun playground, you can go all over the place with it and that’s absolutely fine, it also has the best audience of any genre. I find that horror I can picture the script in my head and even hear an idea of what score is required for the scene at hand and it can be very exciting. I think with my love of music writing, horror again is best suited for my style so that is a big draw too.
As a filmmaker you are tasked with many potential challenges not just on set but throughout the whole filmmaking journey. What for you is the biggest challenge?
Finding the funds to actually make the film! I hate to say it, but unfortunately trying to find money is the hardest challenge. I did challenge myself once to make a feature film for £100 which is called Preternatural, a found footage film that I had to act in as well as film it. Sometimes other sides of production like scheduling can be hard. The pre-production side of things generally is the fun side where you can just let your imagination go into the story and have some real fun and games with it.
Production is also really fun, but almost like a train once it gets going it just doesn’t stop! So that’s where prep comes into it in a heavy way, so you are prepared for whatever might come at you but there are many challenges throughout the whole production of film even when you come to post in the edit suite. You can find out that you have not got a shot which was very important but then accidents can happen and sometimes accidents bring out new things which would never been thought of and change the movie in a significant way.
Which film of yours do you feel most personally connected to, and why?
The Shadow Of Death as it was my first film and I wrote filmed directed, edited and composed. It really is written with friends in mind scenarios. Things have happened and influences from my childhood and watching horror movies so that’s definitely my most personal film.
For any budding filmmakers out there, what is the best piece of advice that you could give them?
People talk all the time, but they say they have an idea and are going to make a film, but don’t do it which I don’t understand. So I think the best advice I can give to anyone is to actually make the film!
After that, it’s a case of when you are writing, your story, and the story has to be really good. Otherwise the rest of the film is going to fail even if it was great in every other department, a story is very important to be solid and strong saying that when you write your story, write in what you have, and what you know, a lot of my films have been filmed in the woods, but that’s because I have access to a private woodland and even though they are the woods they do still give production value and work great in the horror genre.
If you have an Uncle who owns a car mechanics garage, maybe you could ask if you could film there in the evenings so then write a movie based on something that happens in the garage. You just have to look around you and see what you have and write a story about those things take in all your influences from movies, songs, books and people and craft it all together in a big pot. Utilising all the resources you have available will enable you to come up with a clear story quite easily.
If anything all the things you have around you that you can use – will start to make the story!
What do you think the future of filmmaking holds?
With the recent Hollywood strikes and AI being a large reason for them, without a doubt we will be including AI to help us tell stories – help us doesn’t necessarily mean doing it for us but the same with downloading it’s not going anywhere and we will have to learn to work with it. But I do think we are in a unique place where independent film makers can show their voice and hopefully some of these voices will tell some incredible stories. I’m hoping a lot more unique and original stories will start to come out of the new generations and we will hopefully get away from a lot of the remakes we’ve been seeing so much more of recent. Again with AI (like downloaded) it is not going to go away so you have to embrace it in a creative way still using the soul of a human and their feelings but with AI just helping shape ideas.
Finally, what projects do you have coming up?
We have just released Star Wars – Sanctuary Moon over on YouTube (view HERE) – it’s a horror fan film, like if the Predator was hunting stormtroopers. But now we have a new short being prepped for shooting early 2024. We are now planning our next feature and we have a choice of five, but it comes down to what one is the best choice for many reasons. But for now please check out Star Wars – Sanctuary Moon.
You can stay up to date with Gav Steel and Deadbolt Films via the social media link below:
Interview by Peter ‘Witchfinder‘ Hopkins