The UK based feature-length film director was awarded with the Roger Walker-Dack award for emerging talent in Miami. His good work includes the debut film “SHANK” which has been screened in over 60 film festivals around the world. Before working as a director, Simon was a freelance editor and camera operator. He has served in notable companies such as BBC, Diverse and Icon films etc.
Simon Pearce second feature “Judas Ghost” is a fun horror film – based on the Ghost Finders books by Simon R.Green – that’s due for release December 1 on DVD and VOD. Let’s find out more about this awesome project from Simon himself!
Fans of the books are going to be quite pleased with the film adaptation. Seems you’ve been very careful to make sure the adaptation is loyal and familiar – but was that difficult?
Ah thank-you I hope so – it was very important for to capture the tone of Green’s books, not least because this was his baby! He’d long wanted to make a film based on his novels and I’m incredibly grateful that he entrusted it to me. At the same time we wanted this to be able to play with horror fans beyond his usual readership – which inevitably meant a few changes. Also there are some things in books that just don’t work on screen in the same way – so we worked closely to hopefully reach the best ‘on-screen’ realisation of this world that we could.
I wouldn’t say it was difficult, no more so than just getting the film made – Simon had paved the way in his original script, all the pieces were there, we just had to make sure through production and post that we stayed true to that even when we added or changed things. He was very trusting throughout that process though and once the cameras were rolling pretty much left us to it!
Do you think it helps if audiences are familiar with the characters before they watch the movie?
I’m sure it would help but the idea of this film is that it stands alone. You don’t need to know the books to follow it. The characters and story in this are totally original, they work for the same organisation as those in the books but they’re not the same people. In fact it was fun to be able to swap a few things around – so in this the nervous, grumpy male colleague is the tech geek and the woman the psychic, but in the books it’s the other way around.
Is the storyline borrowed from one of the books in particular?
The main storyline no, but some of the events are borrowed from sequences in each book. The great thing about this is that we had six books worth of material to look at! Something we did add fairly late into pre-production was the suggestion that the Carnacki Institute, the group behind these ghost hunters, might have a more sinister objective – this was because in the books Simon begins to set up a potential conspiracy at the top of the Institute, and I thought it might be fun to hint at the events of this film being part of that… Again, you don’t need to have read the books for that, but it’s hopefully a nice little pay-off for those who have. There were a couple of other references in there – for instance to a big bad called “The Flesh Undying”, but they didn’t all make the final cut.
Why this particular story?
It was born out of practicality as much as anything else. We talked about the sort of thing we could make on a low budget, and inevitably referenced movies like The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity, films that are scary and suspenseful but work with limited casts and locations. Judas Ghost was created in that mould and Simon realised his Ghost Finders series were the best fit for that kind of story because of course all the books are about a small team of four or five being dispatched to a particular location!
Beyond that it all started with the phrase “Judas Goat” which refers to a trained animal used at slaughterhouses to lure the others in so they feel safe, and he thought, “what if I did that with a haunting?” which is cool idea.
How involved was the author?
He was heavily involved with the writing of course and we went back and forth on various drafts of the script – plus I would show him rough designs and concepts for things like the ghost and the vfx sequences, but I must say come production itself he pretty much just left us to it. He visited the shoot a couple of times to meet the cast and see the set but otherwise he was very trusting.
I was terrified when I showed him my first cut and was watching the back of his head in the screening room trying to guage his reactions the whole time! I was relieved when he stood up and said simply “That was the film I wanted to see.” He had a few small changes he wanted to make which I was happy to do but otherwise it was a fairly painless process.
What were the most difficult aspects and elements of the film to get together?
Finding the cast was actually very tough, in the script they’re all quite larger than life characters and obviously they do such an outlandish job – so finding people that could sell that but also still root these people in reality and have them be relatable for an audience was tricky. Also just having that balance of horror and humour again that is so key – the lead Jerry for example is quite a confident guy, almost arrogant, a bit like Sherlock or Doctor Who, but he still has to have enough charisma and charm to pull that off whilst being likable, which not many people can do. They’re also on screen the entire time and essentially playing it in real time – all their reactions, emotions, that is not easy to do. They have to really carry the movie and I can’t praise all of them highly enough.
We actually only locked our cast about two weeks before shooting!
Outside of that for me it was the VFX sequences. They were huge and I’d only really done limited green screen work before. Some of the shots in this were very complex and you’d go from doing say three shots in an hour to maybe one in two! So that was the main battle from a schedule point of view. Thankfully we had an incredible FX company on board in the form of Peerless Camera Company from London and they worked very closely with us on the design of the VFX sequences and making sure we had all we needed on set to deliver that. I have to mention our FX supervisor John Swinnerton who took the lead on that – he was a pleasure to work with and I learnt a lot from him.
How did you convince your investors – and cast, for that matter – to get involved? Did you do storyboards or cut a teaser… anything visual to relay your vision?
Well thankfully the first part of that was easy as the investor was also the writer! As for the cast, I think it was about mutual trust as much as anything else – when you meet someone in an audition it’s as much about can you work with them as can they do the performance, and I think we all felt comfortable working together on this project. We had a weeks intensive rehearsal in London before we started shooting and that was invaluable.
I did have some storyboards and concept art, done by a very good friend of mine and talented artist Sam Weeks, but that was mainly used for the visual and practical effects teams, as well as the set designer.
Is this the kick-off of a new franchise?
We’ll see! There’s certainly the potential for it in the books and I’ve actually written an outline for a Ghost Finders TV series as I think it would work really well in that format, so if the demand is there and people enjoy this one I’d love to do it. Simon and I have inevitably discussed a direct sequel too so there’s another movie to be had if people want it.