I owe an apology to director Lawrie Brewster and writer Sarah Daly. After watching (and loving) their 2013 feature, LORD OF TEARS, I asked Sarah to answer a few questions for an article on this site. Events have since conspired against me, and I hadn’t been able to post the piece until now. Why now? Because their new movie THE UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS is currently in its last few days of Kickstarter funding, and it’s tantalisingly close to hitting its target. I urge you to watch the video below and get involved. If LORD OF TEARS is anything to judge the new movie by, your investment will be worth every penny.
I wanted to take this opportunity to talk a little about LORD OF TEARS, not least because one of the RAVENS’ Kickstarter perks is this incredible limited edition action figure of LoT’s iconic and nightmarish Owlman.
LORD OF TEARS is a unique, beautifully filmed and paced, haunting movie which is truly worth your time. It tells the story of schoolteacher James who, haunted by horrific nightmares, returns to his childhood home in the Scottish Highlands. There he meets a mysterious woman whilst being plagued by visions of the terrifying Owlman. Once you’ve checked out the Kickstarter for RAVENS, click the link below to read more about LORD OF TEARS.
Please note – if you’re trying to track LORD OF TEARS down, a repackaged and retitled version of the film – OWL MAN – is coming in 2016.
I asked Sarah to tell me a little about the background to LORD OF TEARS, and something about hers and Lawrie’s backgrounds too:
“Lawrie and I have been working together for almost five years now. We started out in the glamorous world of corporate videos, with our own creative projects on the side, but in the last couple of years we’ve managed to make the transition to producing feature films full time. It’s not always been the easiest road but we’re both delighted to have made it here! I did a degree in film back in Dublin, specialising in scriptwriting and had been peddling my scripts for years, working admin jobs to make ends meet. I had a string of short films to my name but hadn’t managed to make the leap to working full time in the industry. Lawrie, meanwhile, studied an array of subjects from Theology to Acting and eventually Film. Since leaving university, he had been building his corporate video business here in Fife, Scotland, squeezing in the odd short film, and dreaming of one day directing and producing his own creative projects exclusively.
“When our paths first crossed online and we began sharing our creative work, we realised that we shared similar goals and a pool of skills that could work well together. I made the move to Scotland back in 2010 and we’ve been running our production company here ever since. We produced our first feature film, the mumblecore disaster film White Out, that same year amidst corporate work, and that was what really set us down the path to making feature films full time. In 2011, we started to plan our next project, what was to become Lord of Tears. We established a sort of method of working together on story that we’ve run with since on all our projects. First, we went through an extensive period of research into ancient mythologies, folklore, gods and monsters, searching for characters and stories that hooked our attention. We knew at this point that we wanted to make a kind of gothic/folk-horror inspired film so delved deep into those wells to find inspiration. The owl-headed God that eventually became the Owlman, the film’s antagonist, immediately caught our interest.
“Around the Owlman entity, Lawrie built a narrative backstory that tied the Owlman to our film’s hero, James Findlay. I then worked from this blueprint as if it were a historical document, building the narrative of the film around it, with the aim of creating a world that felt authentic, while obviously uncanny. We like to tell stories in the manner of dark documentarians, I suppose, in the style of Lovecraft to an extent, imagining that we are opening a window into another, darker world that may well exist somewhere in the multiverse!”
So how about that Owlman character? He made quite an impact in the marketing for the movie… Sarah said:
“When we first stumbled across the owl-headed God that was to become our Owlman (whose true name I won’t mention for fear of spoilers!) we instantly saw that he had potential as a cinematic villain. The depictions of the God online mostly showed the deity in ancient settings, and we knew that we wanted to make him slightly more modern if not entirely contemporary. We took inspiration from the online phenomenon Slenderman, a nightmarish, long-limbed faceless entity in a black suit. We saw the great menace that this character had, and how he captured the imagination of so many, and wanted to try to bring some of these same qualities to our monster. So the Owlman was to wear a Victorian tail suit, more fitting in a gothic environment, and would similarly have long limbs, in our case topped off with enormous talons. In a visual sense, the character was designed by our art director and director of photography Gavin Robertson and brought to three dimensional life by local artist Angela Allen.
“Lawrie and I created a full and plausible (in the context of the story!) character by blending various mythologies from pagan Scotland to ancient Carthage. We knew we didn’t want him to be an active, slasher-type monster but instead an ominous, brooding presence. The Owlman is almost always still, or moving very slowly – a watcher rather than an actor.
“Finally, we gave him a voice which he used to deliver several darkly poetical monologues. These are an important part of the Owlman character, brought to life by awesome veteran English actor David Schofield.”
LORD OF TEARS firmly wedged itself into the horror psyche a couple of years back, and I asked Sarah how the unique marketing strategy came about?
“I suppose that for Lawrie and I, creative control, independence and sustainability are the things we strive for, so to produce, market and distribute the film ourselves was a natural choice. We did some things that others in the industry found unorthodox or even foolish, for example, focussing on a premium physical product when the rest of the world is obsessed with VOD. We are big believers in the power of a tangible object, in creating something beautiful that feels special to own. We hoped that there were horror fans out there who shared our belief in the physical artefact, and were relieved to find that we weren’t alone. Reviews of our film have consistently remarked on the unique design of our Special Edition, and on the packaging too (each one is individually wrapped in black paper and adorned with a feather).
“It’s been a huge learning curve handling every element by ourselves from running a successful Kickstarter campaign, to creating viral content, to physically producing and posting out products, but it’s ultimately been hugely rewarding. We’ve been lucky enough to find an incredible, supportive audience for our film, who we hope to continue to engage with, and take with us on our journey into future films! We’ve also found support in the shape of patron of the arts, and artist in his own right Sultan Saeed Al Darmaki, who came on board as our Executive Producer. Lord of Tears went on to become Sultan’s company Dark Dunes Productions’ first ever co-production.
“Really, our aims were to build a model that would allow us to sustain ourselves telling the kinds of stories that inspired us, and I’m very happy to say that thanks to Lord of Tears, things are looking very good on that front!”
Which leads us nicely onto Sarah and Lawrie’s new movie, THE UNKINDNESS OF RAVENS. Sarah says “it’s a horror feature about an ex-soldier suffering from PTSD relating to a traumatic incident he suffered in Afghanistan. The trauma of this event manifests itself in a very real way in the Scottish Highlands where he is holed up, attempting to battle his demons.”
Let’s give this movie the final push to get it over its Kickstarter target, because I for one cannot wait to see it.