Frightfest London interview: Banjo director Liam Regan Simon Fitzjohn July 23, 2015 Editor's Choice, Film4 Frightfest, London, London Interviews 3557 Of all the films heading our way at this year’s London Frightfest shindig, Liam Regan’s Banjo is one that has already caught our eye. A quirky, violent tale of revenge (with a twist), the flick gets its world premiere at the festival on Monday, August 31. (NOTE – since we ran this interview demand has seen Banjo moved from the Prince Charles Cinema to the Vue West End) If this hasn’t yet popped up on your radar, then we suggest checking out the trailer below: Naturally we wanted to chat to Liam after savouring that slice of craziness, and he was happy to answer our questions: Q. Can you describe your route into the horror genre and filmmaking in general? My love for horror movies began at a very young age, my Mum took me to the local video shop and I always found myself wandering into the horror section, and would get goosebumps by just looking at the video cover art. I instantly became a fan of the A Nightmare on Elm Street and Child’s Play films, however it wasn’t until I discovered The Toxic Avenger 2 in 1996, that inspired me to look at filmmaking as a craft, I quickly worked my way through the Troma back cataloge and started reading filmmaking books by Troma president Lloyd Kaufman. I self taught myself the screenwriting structure, by reading books like Screenplay by Syd Field and Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder, from there I worked as a production assistant on set for Troma’s Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 1 & 2 and Damian Morter’s The Eschatrilogy: Book of the Dead, which allowed me to gain experience and learn how a film set is run, it was invaluable experience, that I will always be grateful for. Q. Banjo began life as a short film back in 2012 – what was the original inspiration for the story? I was in London with an ex-girlfriend for the weekend in 2011 and one night performed unprotected sex, in turn I felt an internal pop, and was bleeding profusely, the bed sheets made it look like a murder had just taken place. The next day, I watched Darren Lynn Bousman’s remake of Mother’s Day in Leicester Square, and after the movie, I turned to my girlfriend at the time, and we joked about the incident the night prior, and what a fucked up premise it would make for a horror film. Q. At what point did remaking the film as a full-blown feature become a possibility? Once the short film screened at TromaDance in New Jersey back in April 2013, I began receiving emails from people telling me what a sick bastard I was, which was a great compliment, and I joked around with the producer of the short film about actually turning Banjo into a feature length movie. However the more we joked about it, the more we wanted to see what would have happened to the characters in the short film, after the “Banjo incident”, so I decided to take the characters, and place them in a different universe than the short film, and bring in the imaginary friend element. Banjo went through around seven different drafts, the first draft was a no holds barred, balls to the wall exploitation movie in the vein of The Human Centipede 2 and A Serbian Film, to the final draft which is basically my love letter to movies by Lloyd Kaufman and Frank Henenlotter. I don’t believe in self-censorship as an artist, however there is a fine structure to screenwriting, and a concern of desensitising the audience within the first ten minutes, it’s all about the pacing of the story and the evolution of the characters. Q. You crowdsourced to help the budgetary process for Banjo – how critical was that financial support? My original plan was to raise £5,000 through Kickstarter, and put in £5,000 of my own money to fund the film, I based our budget around Astron 6’s micro-budget epic Father’s Day released by Troma Entertainment back in 2012. However, after each draft, the project became bigger, which would mean working 16 hour days on overtime to raise the budget for the movie, and in true Kevin Smith style, maxing out credit cards and taking out bank loans to fund the feature length movie. Q. Obviously your love of Troma led to Lloyd Kaufman making an appearance in Banjo – how did you get mixed up in that crazy world? Tromeo & Juliet is my favourite movie of all time, and after discovering Troma at the age of 11, I became obsessed with everything they would churn out on VHS, Laserdisc and DVD. Lloyd Kaufman (President of Troma Entertainment) would release books on filmmaking, which inspired me to look at movies as a craft. Lloyd visited Leicester in 2002 as the Phoenix Arts Cinema was presenting a three day Troma retrospective, and as a hardcore Troma-nut, I had to meet my filmmaking hero. I worked alongside Lloyd that day, dressed as Troma mascot Sgt. Kabukiman NYPD, which was a dream come true. Over the years I kept in contact with Lloyd, and he would always give me advice and support on the screenplays I was writing, we then would meet again at his filmmaking masterclass at Oxford University in 2010, and when the opportunity to work on his latest epic Return to Nuke ‘Em High came up in Summer 2012, I jumped on a plane to Buffalo Niagara, NYC, slept on the floor of an abandoned funeral home with over 100 people, and truly learnt the art of filmmaking. Troma was my film school, and I’ll always be in debt to Lloyd Kaufman for his time, guidance and advice. Q. Banjo has a great cast, from Kaufman to the likes of genre favourites Laurence R Harvey and Dani Thompson – how easy was it to attract people to the project? With a movie like Banjo, I was always very hesitant in sending the screenplay to cast & crew alike due to the content, and always pre-empted them with an email explaining my love of the horror genre, and what I was trying to bring to the table with a movie like Banjo. However more people were open to the project that I initially expected, after watching the UK premiere The Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence (2011) at FrightFest, I instantly wanted to work with Laurence, and I wrote the character of Clyde Toulon with him in mind, and it was a case of tracking down his agent via IMDb, and he graciously agreed to the project, it’s very humbling for genre actors such as Laurence to come on board to a no name, micro-budget horror movie, by a director who only had a short film credit to his name, as a director, the cast and crew that we had on Banjo were nothing short of phenomenal. Q. How would you sum up Banjo if you only had one sentence to work with? A darkly comedic, bodily fluid soaked, love letter to exploitation genre. Q. The film will get its world premiere at Frightfest – you must be excited about that? I attended FrightFest for the first time five years ago, as a lifelong horror fan, it was always a dream to attend the festival, so when the opportunity arose in 2010, I went for the full five day experience on my own, and I’ve met so many friends over the years that I consider my FrightFest family. So to have my own feature length movie play the very festival I love, five years later, is nothing but a dream come true. I can die a happy man. Q. Frightfest obviously pulls together the best the genre has to offer at the present time – how do you see the shape of modern horror? I feel over the past few years we have had moves that have redefined the genre and pushed the envelope, such as The Human Centipede trilogy and A Serbian Film. I’m a huge exploitation fan at heart, and would love to see the genre break boundaries in taste and decency. Art shouldn’t be safe, and I’ve always looked up to the shit disturbers in the horror genre, it would be nice to see something shocking come out of the genre to shake everything up. Q. Finally, and somewhat obviously, what’s next for you? Submitting Banjo to further film festivals, and currently writing a new movie titled Parents’ Evening which is best described as I Spit on Your Grave meets Mean Girls.