Interview with Justin Carter (Director of Portent)
Above (Justin Carter directing camera)
What films have influenced you most as a director, and which one is most likely to have inspired PORTENT?
I'm influenced by every book I read, game I play, film and TV show I watch. How can I not be? Whether I want it to or not, my work will forever be influenced by other media. We're bombarded with information at an enormous rate these days and some of that is likely to "rub off" on any story that I tell. JAWS influenced me to become a filmmaker. It's always been my favourite film. My feature film TORN was inspired by it. Even though TORN is a mockumentary, it contains a similar structure and themes. My work has been described as brutal, cold and hard. One of the main cast of TORN described it as a "punch in the face". He intended that as a compliment. I was thinking quite recently that my work is shaping up a bit like David Cronenberg's filmography. I'm creating psychologically interesting horrors that are character driven showcases for my actors. A lot of short filmmakers latch onto gimmicks or use their films to present some technical wizardry, but I like to think that I make mini movies. Content is King. Always. And that's how I approached PORTENT too. I got the Writer and Producer over to my house prior to the shoot and screened PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK for them. It's eerie; such a haunting and mysterious film. I wanted to create a similar spiritual experience. I wanted to avoid the cheap thrills that so many horror filmmakers chase and make something beautiful instead.
Above (Cast, crew and crane)
If you got the chance to make PORTENT again, is there anything you would do differently?
Under the exact same circumstances, if I knew then what I know now, I would do a lot quite differently. I would abandon the complicated, time consuming 'set pieces' we filmed and focus solely on the spiritual aspect of the narrative. That's what we did in the edit anyway. We could've used our time more wisely. We also cut lots of communication between our characters which I would leave in. It was removed from the screenplay during the shoot and although it seemed like a good idea at the time, I actually think the production suffers without it. You live and you learn.
Above (Justin Carter on location)
And talking of changing things, you achieved a lot with the budget you had, but if you had a bigger budget for the film, what would you most like to change?
I'd make sure we had the proper time and resources to make the film as originally scripted. We made a Hell of a lot of compromises during that shoot and I was unhappy about every last one of them. But that's No Budget filmmaking for you. You have to roll with the punches. Unfortunately I got punched a lot whilst making PORTENT.
Above (Crane monitor)
The film has had a great response, picking up both nominations and awards, so tell me, how do you follow up an award-winner like PORTENT?
Well, after the ambitious shoot for PORTENT I wanted to make a contained horror, something much smaller. I wanted to knock up something quick that would be far less hassle than PORTENT, something where I wouldn't be traipsing all over Dartmoor with a shed load of kit. So I scripted ME. Mostly set under one roof, with just one actor, and...an even shorter title. I deliberately scripted something that limited the opportunity for complications. I didn't want to compromise this time around and luckily we didn't have to. The shoot went like clockwork. We had Richard Knox working with us in front of camera again, so the two of us already had a shorthand, and the rest of the crew worked hard and fast. We completed post production on ME in October and it looks great, with a really terrific vibe to it. The first time my Producer, Christopher Williams, saw my edit of ME he described it as, “Roald Dahl crossed with Maya Deren and Christopher Nolan.”. That's a huge compliment. I can see it doing very well on the festival circuit.
Above (Sam, Morwenna & Richard on location)
And finally, how can people get to see PORTENT?
The next festival screening is on January 29th at the Horror-On-Sea Film Festival at South End in Essex. Or if people are unable to come and meet us and see it there they can use their search engine to find it on Vimeo. It's on the Producer's ODDHAUNTS page.
Photo credits: Christopher Williams, Julian Kemp & Justin Carter.
I'd like to thank Justin for his great insight into the making of PORTENT, and can't wait to see what he does next. You can watch the film now by clicking the link below.