Richard Parry is the man behind Tribeca Films latest horror release A Night in the Woods ( Currently available on VOD everywhere!). With a back round in documentary film making and a deep seeded passion for horror films of 70’s, it seems only natural that he would try to make his mark with a found footage film. Richard was kind enough to spare a few minutes out of his day and chat with us about filming in Dartmoor, working with the eccentric Scoot McNairy and his own personal paranormal encounters (sorta).
Slack Jaw Punks: Hey Richard. Good to hear from you.
Richard Parry: Yeah? Thanks for having me on. I’m stuck in an edit right now, another found footage film. Oddly enough… Well more of a mockumentary, a fake documentary of sorts…
SJP: Cool. Can you tell us what’s it about?
RP: Base jump. It’s interesting because base jumpers do everything with their Go-Pros [Camera] so it’s quite an easy format to do the found footage or documentary style.
SJP: You have a back round in documentary film making. I’m sure that comes in handy when tackling these found footage films.
RP: Yeah, making A Night in the Woods and more so this base jumping movie is very rock and roll. Unlike making a traditional film you’re in the lap of the gods and it’s improvised on top of that! Dealing with a bit of insanity is easier coming out of the documentary world than dealing with your more prescribed feature film where everything is contained.
SJP: Everything in Night in the Woods was improvised?
RP: Yeah. I wrote a short story. I wrote one page that developed into 40 pages. I wrote it like a short story with some dialogue, but the dialogue was just a guide. So really what we pretty much did was tear up all the dialogue and looked to the scene and the characters and what was going on and the actors decided what to say. So yeah it wasn’t scripted.
SJP: Tell us about the casting process?
RP: Scoot [McNairy] was offered the part off the basis of a film he had just done called Monsters. He did Monsters and that was an improvised film and I spoke to the director and producer, We were produced by the same company, and I knew what he could do and how much he contributed to Monsters. So there was no audition for Scoot. The other two characters [ Anna Skellern and Andrew Hawley] had sort of traditional auditions where I would improvise with them, I’ve kind of gotten use to improving, it’s quite fun. I would sit there and play the part of Brody with the girl, or I’d play the girl with the guy and sort of see how they do. With traditional casting you have a script so this just an improvised casting of sorts.
SJP: I’m a big fan of Scoot McNairy. I think he’s going to be a big deal pretty soon.
RP: Yeah he was on the cusp then and he’s already quite big. I just saw him he was in London recently. He’s a real talent. No doubt about it. Especially when it comes to improvising. He’ll carve an arch for his character. It’s not just about his scene and being present in the scene. It’s about where that character comes from and where they are going. He’s really clever and in the moment as well. Very spontaneous as well as clever. Great combination of both.
SJP: Scoot does give a pretty intense performance in A Night in the Woods. They whole cast is top-notch, but he really stands out.
RP: Casting was key to me. All films, really, fall on the actors shoulders. I didn’t want it to be a slasher film. I wanted it to have depth and character complexity.
SJP: You started your film career with a feature then went on to make documentaries for ten years. Why a horror film for your return to feature films?
RP: Pretty much cause that’s what I managed to get going. It was a bit of desert for me after my first feature film. I found it hard to get my second feature film off the ground and I guess I was just kicking ideas around and that was one that worked. Alan Niblo, the producer, that was one he liked. It was a relatively easy one to get off the ground.
SJP: Have you ever been to the Dartmoor?
RP: Yeah, the first time I went there I was twenty. I walked in there with a tent on my own and walked for four hours across from the north of Dartmoor to the woods and sat and watched it get dark. I pitched my tent and went to slip and woke up and felt fingers on my throat…
RP: Yeah, fingers squeezing around my throat. I looked up and I could see the silhouette of the guy pinning me down. You know that half-light where you can’t really see any details?
RP: He said to me: “What are you doing?” and I said, “Sleeping” and then I fell asleep. Anyway I feel back asleep and woke up later and thought: that was just s very vivid dream. When I got back home I talked to a friend who lived on the Moor and I asked are there any stories about the Moor and she said, “Yeah, people always talk about the hands squeezing their throats at night.” I don’t know what it all meant.
SJP: You handled that very casually. I would have been running…
RP: There was nowhere to run! (Laughing). It was 3 in the morning! I do think it was just a dream but it was very vivid.
SJP: You shot on location. Was there any difficulty with the shoot?
RP: The weather was very changeable. Dartmoor there is nothing between that and the sea so you get massive weather changes . It’s famous for having six different weather changes in a day. The first day we get up there is was lashing down heavy with rain. I do remember Scoot, he loved all that and he was like ” No we gotta shoot in this”. He loved it. I think he took the energy of that. That’s one thing I really liked about his work is he takes the energy of whatever is going on around him.
SJP: All of your characters are “complex” and ever-changing and it’s hard to pick a character to root for. Was that intentional?
RP: I just like characters that move and change. Scoot was clearly gonna enigmatic and very likable from the beginning. I liked his dry take on English culture. I find it very funny. His character was going to be all over. So yes it was intentional.
SJP: A Night in the Woods is being boosted as the British Blair Witch. Was that what you were aiming for?
RP: I have mixed feelings about that. I was going to make a film that wasn’t found footage and the producer wanted to go the Blair Witch route. To me I was concerned early on that we were just copy it. I think it did suffer by being to close to Blair With. Ultimately it did suffer. The story should of veered off in a different direction. Three people lost in the woods: That was enough to check all those boxes. It wasn’t my intention and that was failing. Maybe I’m being to critical. What did you think? You saw it.
SJP: I didn’t think it was. If you hadn’t gone the found footage route I don’t believe you would of got much comparisons. People see the POV and lost in the woods and that’s enough for them. You went for a more cerebral and psychological route…
RP: I use to love horror films. I grew up with the John Carpenters and the 70’s halloween films. That’s what got me into wanting to make movies. My first movie when I was 14 years old was a horror film. I haven’t done a horror film since then. It is like a return to my old passions. I felt that the fear, if there was to be any fear, would come the instability of the characters and the tension between them and then when the horror moments exists your bursting a bubble. To me the threat was always more interesting that the threat was in the three of them and not external.
A Night in the Woods is now available courtesy of Tribeca Films on VOD everywhere!