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Interview: Richard Rowntree discusses his indie folk horror Dogged

Cult Faction has followed the development of Dogged from Kickstarter to full movie. Now as the film receives praise across the film festival circuit director Richard Rowntree sits down with CF’s Brett Summers to reflect back on the process that delivered the movie:

Brett Summers (BS): So to the uninitiated, how did the journey of Dogged begin?

Richard Rowntree (RR): Well, Dogged started life as a micro short film back in 2015. It was shot in a single day
for a measly budget of £200. The film was made for a BBC3 show called “The Fear” which was a competition to find the best undiscovered horror directors, and was ultimately judged by Eduardo Snachez (The Blair Witch Project). Although the film wasn’t screened as part of the show, we finished in 5 th place, and so decided to enter it into some festivals, and submit it to some reviewers.

BS: How did that go for you?

RR: We were blown away by the positive responses it received – and the selections we got for festivals all over the
world, and this all culminated in winning the Best Micro Short Award at Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival in November 2016.

BS: Where did that success leave you?

RR: Well in the meantime, we’d decided it was a now-or- never situation for us as filmmakers –we had completed 6 short films which had all been really well received, and we decided we were going to make the jump to a feature.

BS: Is financing a feature a challenge?

RR: The only way we were going to be able to finance the project was by crowdfunding – we’d had success on
Kickstarter with a couple of our shorts, so we decided to give it a try. We (writer Matt Davies and myself) finished up the script (19 drafts of it before we were happy!), and then went direct to our intended audience to ask for the financing. We were unsure if we would find the funds, but over the 60 day campaign, we just snuck over our
£15,000 target, and then the pressure and reality sank in – now we had to make this feature film!

BS: Was it a long process to go from Kickstarter to casting?

RR: Well, we had some cast and crew attached already – and the next step was to hold auditions for the remaining roles. We put out an open casting call, and we had around 500 applications for about 18 roles. We narrowed the shortlist by asking for self tapes initially, and then we had physical auditions for the actors we had chosen.

BS: I have heard that open casting calls can be “interesting” when it comes to quality. How was it for you?

RR: The quality was outstanding, and it was a tough choice, but I think we ultimately made the right decisions! It really helped that DOP Chris Foulser taped the auditions so we could watch them back and see how people came across on camera too. In the background we were also working hard securing locations, props and so on –as well as costumes (which came after the auditions). All of the HOD’s did an amazing job – not only in fulfilling their roles during the shoot, but the amount of prep and so on that went on was phenomenal. I realised I was part of this amazing team who were all pulling in the same direction to achieve something pretty special.

BS: How was the shoot?

RR: The shoot was 18 scheduled days initially, working on weekends from August until November 2016. We travelled from Bucks to Essex and down to Sussex too for some B roll footage – and then had 1 pickup day in January after the assembly edit was completed. Some days we had as many as 50 cast and crew on set at one time, which was a pretty spectacular sight for such a low budget indie film – and other days it was as few as 6 people – which is obviously a much more intimate environment to be working in. But, and I think I speak for all of the cast and crew when
I say this – although it was incredibly hard work, it was also tremendous fun crafting something with such an amazing team of like minded people!

BS: What happened next?

RR: When we had all the footage in the can, we pieced the film together over a period of about 2 months – editor Lee Wignall did an amazing job adding in the credits and VFX – and then we passed the film over to composer James Griffiths – he did initial scoring which worked perfectly, and then set about recording the music with some
amazing musicians in Vienna. The grade of the picture continued throughout this time, and the last piece of the puzzle was the incredible 5.1 Dolby sound mix done in Soho by Craig Dormer and his team at Red Light sound.

BS: When did Dogged first get shown to an audience?

RR: We had managed to get a cast and crew screening booked for 31 March this year, and we were working down to the wire to get it finished in time, which we just about managed!

We then put the film out to some festivals that we’d selected very carefully, ones who we thought would be receptive to what we had gone for – it’s not an out-and- out scare fest, very few jump scares, not your traditional modern day, low budget horror for sure!

BS: How is the festival scene looking?

RR: We’ve had 8 confirmed festival selections now – 5 in the USA, 1 in Canada and 2 in the UK – the European Premier is going to be some time in the week of 30 October at the Unrestricted View Horror Film Festival in London, and then on 5 November we’re playing at Glasgow Horror Fest – the filmmakers and cast/crew are going to be in attendance at these festivals, so we’d love to meet as many of the audience as possible – tickets are still available for both events if you fancy coming along!

BS: How have the critics responded?

RR: Well we decided to send the film out to some review sites, again mostly ones we thought would be receptive to the film in terms of what we were trying to achieve. Most of the reviews have been great, and it’s nice to know that there really is an audience out there for this kind of film – regardless of budget – and that the sub-genre (folk-horror) has a lot of fans who want to see this type of film that’s perhaps aimed at a slightly different audience from most low budget indie horror films.

BS: So looking at Dogged from its BBC3 beginnings to its place in film festivals around the world how do you feel about what you have achieved?

RR: We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved, and that we’ve stuck to our principles of trying to make a horror film that’s thought provoking, different, and the kind of film that we, as filmmakers, would want to see ourselves. We’re scripting two more projects at the moment, and we hope to do another crowdfunding campaign early next year, so keep your eyes peeled on our social media channels for more details!

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