Labelled With Love

Saturday, October 17 2015
Labelled With Love

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the launch of the FrightFest Presents imprint, a boutique label bearing the horror film festival’s trusted name, is not that it’s happening, but more a case of why did it take so long?

The FrightFest brand, expanded from an annual film festival through to more regular events not just in the capital but around the country and beyond, is one if the most trusted in genre film worldwide – a seal of approval from its team is as good a recommendation of horror as you’re likely to get.

A whole label – launched through Icon and initially a digital offering, with more than enough potential to spread into the physical arena – featuring its hallmark is a logical extension to the name.

The first question you need to ask is, why not before?

“We have been approached before, but with Icon, it’s the finest time we’ve ever felt really comfortable being in partnership with someone,” explains Paul McEvoy, one if the founding fathers of the organisation.

It’s a good fit, given that Icon’s roster since it became a rejuvenated force in UK distribution has included plenty of FrightFest friendly titles. The two, it appears, have a similarly keen eye for spotting potential hits within this sector,

“They’re so committed, have such a love of genre film and they’re really good people,” adds McEvoy. “They’ve had some brilliant genre stuff in recent years, taking in It Follows, The Babadook, Cold In July, The Guest… We knew we’d be in safe hands.”

The combined A&R skills of FrightFest and Icon makes for a formidable offering to sales agents and filmmakers.

“We have great relationships with the filmmakers, they trust us, as well as trusting Icon.

“We see pretty much everything and are looking at projects through from script stage through to completion. We have close contacts with all the international genre festivals, we spend the entire year putting together each festival. We get to see stuff early, on rough cuts, we’re in a unique position. We see stuff for the festival and the label.”

FrightFest’s relationships, built up over its 16-year history (and before for its founding fathers), are key to the deal. “It’s one of the advantages of working with them,” says Icon’s Chris Warrington. “They have these relationships, especially with lower budget and new filmmakers. It’s a real in to those kind of people.”

Warrington and Icon are fully aware of the worth of the name. “There’s a real value to FrightFest,” he says, “both the brand and the people as curators of horror.”

Curation, an often over-used word these days, is key to the FrightFest Presents imprint, as Warrington explains: “It’s well-curated, looking at all kinds of sub-genres. There’s creature features, psychological thrillers, strong gore, some lower budget titles. These are all great horrors.”

Each film released under the banner will include a specially filmed introduction from McEvoy and Alan Jones, another key FrightFest figure, using a kind of formula pioneered by Alex Cox on the old BBC2 late night film strand. “They’re introducing it in the way way they would at the festival itself,” says Warrington. “We want to turn it into a Moviedrome-style label. The introductions are almost paying homage to Moviedrome intros, Alan and Paul will paint a picture of what makes the film interesting and why they chose it to be part of the label.”

“It’s a personal touch and it gives it our seal of approval,” adds McEvoy.

So, what next for the label? As the range develops, and as Icon and FrightFest get a feel for what’s happening with separate titles, it may move into other areas. “There is potential for physical releases,” says Warrington. “It’s very much set up as a digital platform, but we’ll look and see what films deserve a physical release. First, it’s all about the digital accessibility, but there’s also an element of seeing how they perform. It’s early days yet.”

FrightFest is in it for the long run, as McEvoy states: “A lot of horror films come out at £7.99 and it’s al about week one sales. We care about the films, we want them to sell in week 21.

Both parties acknowledge that many FrightFest fans will be eyeing the chance to boost there collections. As Warrington notes: “There are different audiences. The core audience will watch it on digital and they could well own it as a physical piece if they are collectors. Then there’s the wider audience, the mainstream audience.”

The beauty of the new label is, he adds, that the two parties involved have the freedom to react to demand for titles. “There’s an element of seeing how they perform,” say Warrington. “It’s early days yet.”

McEvoy concurs. “It’s early days, but we’d definitely like physical releases – DVD, Blu-rays, theatrical, limited editions with collectables.

Those FrightFest Presents titles in full…
Paul McEvoy talks through the first batch due on October 19 as well as looking ahead to some of the second wave due in February 2016…

Aaaaaaaah!
“We’re very close to this. As soon as Steve Oram had finished it, he called me and said he had a film for me to watch. We had a couple of beers, and I got him round my house and made him introduce it as if it was a premiere. I said if I didn’t like it I’d tell him. But as soon as he’d finished it I said it was perfect for the festival. It’s not a pure horror genre film, it’s a real mix – dark comedy, surrealism and some definite horror. It perfectly illustrates the wide range of stuff we have for the festival and the label. In the over-saturated marketplace with big films such as Spectre and the new Star Wars, you’ve got to look at guerrilla marketing and guerrilla releases – pun intended. We’ve been touring around the country with Steve and the talent, like Noel Fielding and Julian Barrett doing Q&As. It’s gone down really well.”

Night Of The Living Deb
“We’re really setting our stall out with the label. This is a zombie comedy,  it’s not just stalk and slash or ultra-violent movies. It’s smart and savvy, but again it shows the range. We’re programming the label exactly the same we as we program the festival. We had 86 movies this year, if they were all the same tone and style, people would get bored quickly. Kyle Rankin is an old friend ours. Alan and I both fell in love with it, it’s a beautiful relationship comedy – but with zombies.”

Some Kind Of Hate
“This is a controversial title, it’s got some quite difficult subject matter. I got a copy of the film from the director [Adam Egypt Mortimer]. I got back to him 95 minutes later. I absolutely loved the film, it’s the perfect feminist slasher movie, it really delivers.”

Estranged
“It’s got a terrific cast, with James Cosmo and Nora-Jane Noone. Again, its a very different movie, it grabs you and takes you in a so many different areas. It’ a throwback 70s-style, old Amicus and Hammer films.”

The Sand
“It’a nuts and bolts creature feature. It’s a very simple concept, but it’s handled really well. In an age of Sharktopus and the likes, this fits in to that, but it delivers much more in terms of the acting. It’s a lot of fun.”

After Death
“We saw this one very early. It’s written by Andrew Ellard, who’s worked on Red Dwarf, but it’s a very female driven film – six of the seven leads are females.”

Landmine Goes Click!
“This is part of the second phase. Just when you think you’ve got it sussed, it pulls the rug from under your feet and goes in all different areas. The director Levan Bakhia has got a beautiful visual style. It’s quite political too.”

Emelie
“Another one in next year’s first batch, it puts a different spin on the bad babysitter story. It’s fabulously acted, visually astonishing, has terrific production values and is perfect for the label. This is going to screen at a few of the other genre festivals and events.”

The Lesson
“It’s great to support female film directors. This is quite a politically charged tale. It’s ultra-low budget, but Ruth [Platt, the director] has got a brilliant eye. It’s a tough watch, but it’s an essential watch too.”

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