A horror film with a political edge? Seems almost too timely! We speak to THIS LAND writers Leon Longford and Collin Watts about developing their “north star”.
The film has such a great premise. I can only assume you’ve experienced something similar – folks fighting over their strong political beliefs?
Collin: Appreciate it! Oh yes. I feel that is a universal experience for all humans. Who hasn’t had a weird holiday interaction? But I also feel like having a conversation in person is so different than seeing people go wild on the internet with their political hot takes.
Leon: Thanks! Yeah, we originally wanted to do just a straight up horror movie, but as we got deeper into it, we realized we wanted to elevate it. So the idea of making it politicized worked so well, to 1) humanize each of the family members and 2) give our a film a deeper meaning throughout.
The movie is much more entertaining than, say, a business newspaper commentary on the political situation though. Was it hard to decide how much to weigh in on the political situation and how much to pull back on?
Collin: We used politics to serve the characters and conflict in the story. We tried to tap into a few hotly contested issues that almost anyone could relate to. Once the horror elements are unleashed on the families in the film, political situations get put on the back burner and survival takes over.
Leon: Our north star was that we knew we wanted to make a horror film about two families coming together, so we didn’t want to demonize or enflame tensions. We wanted to use the political differences to humanize both sides.
I know you’re in the film, Collin. Are you in there too, Leon?
Leon: Ha! No, I, strictly behind the camera and at the keyboard these days.
Do the writers get much say in how the film is marketed, distributed, or sold? Or did your job finish the moment it was handed over to the filmmakers?
Collin: I was fortunate enough to serve as one of the producers on this film which isn’t normally the case for all screenwriters. After we produced the film we partnered with a great distribution company called Terror films and they’ve been awesome coming up with a marketing plan, helping with the poster, and definitely making us feel like we’re all on the same team for the release of the film. It was cool that Leon and I were on the same page throughout the process from creation, casting, production, and post.
Leon: Thankfully, since we were producing this independently, we were able to be a part of the release and marketing for the film.
Is the finished film representative of the project you set out to write?
Collin: 100%. We’re super proud of the finished product and also know how hard people busted their asses to get this thing made and into it’s final form. Director Richard Greenwood Jr killed it and all our cast including lead Natalie Whittle took our script to the next level.
Leon: A hundred percent. We set out to make this film ourselves, so thankfully we were able to make the decisions hand in hand with our director and producer to make the strongest film possible.
Any compromises have to be made?
Collin: Every single day. A big part of filmmaking is compromise and simply dealing with unexpected changes. There’s always fires to be put out on a film set and It’s about simply trying to make the best out of every obstacle. Even crappy films didn’t start that way. Everyone is trying to make the best film possible, and I think or I hope most creative people understand this.
Leon: With any film, there will always be compromises. Collin and I both had different ideas and some horror moments that we eventually realized, we couldn’t eventually add to the script. It happens. Our goal at the end of the day was to get the film made.
Did the budget dictate any changes?
Collin: Yes. Some set pieces had to be shifted or cut. There was originally a dog in the script. The first thing to get removed in any script is the animal element… unless it’s a shark or bear movie.
Leon: Of course, we had a number of different set pieces in old drafts that we realized we wouldn’t be able to do because of budget. But, I think that budget helps writers strategize on making the characters and the more reasonable horror set pieces even stronger.
How hard was it to balance real life events with horror?
Collin: We tried to incorporate real world elements and tough conversations for the characters and their growth. But make no mistake, once an Aztec god worshipping death cult busts in your door… survival becomes the prime directive.
Leon: It’s always tough, but I think we did a good job of giving our audience political horror and cinematic horror as much as possible.
THIS LAND is now available on digital from Terror Films