Coming from a background in music videos and advertising, John Hayes has recently completed a second independent short titled 'Venom', the successor to 'Two Fat Ladies'. His film making career is off to a strong start as he garners accolades for these works and sets his sights on feature length films with two in development.
'Venom' tells the gothic tale of an elderly widow, her cat Ziggy, and their confrontation with the insect world. See the trailer HERE.
A full biography for John is available at the BBC Collective HERE.
How did you come to work with Mark Tuthill and James Mather?
I met James about 10 years ago while shooting a pop promo where he came in at the last minute and saved my ass (my original DP had gone awol). Since then we've gone on to shoot dozens of commercials and promos together, including my first short film 'Two Fat Ladies'.
I also met Mark through the day job. He's a copywriter in an advertising agency here in Dublin and we'd done some commercials together over the years and gotten to know each other quite well. We're both obsessed with movies and talked about trying to get something off the ground for sometime before he finally came to me with the script for 'Venom' and I thought BINGO!
"...our insect wranglers would arrive on set carrying buckets full of ants, spiders etc..."
In regard to Venom, can you tell us a little about the “insect wrangling”? How many takes were necessary to achieve the shots featuring live insects?
Not as many as you'd think. Strange as it may sound I'd worked with our insect wranglers before (again on a commercial) and knew what these mad geniuses were capable of. Of course we decided what we wanted to capture in-camera and what would have to be done in post in advance of the shoot so everyone was well prepped. On the day once we got the shots set up and lit our insect wranglers would arrive on set carrying buckets full of ants, spiders etc and various suction devices to retreive them and we'd shoot 4 maybe 5 takes and that would usually be it. As with any short film time was of the essence so we didn't have many chances to gather our cast back up and go again.
Can you tell us a little about the feature length script “Cowboy Country” you’ve co-written with Mark Tuthill? And is this something that you plan to direct yourself?
It's a magical coming of age story about a 10 year old boy (Lewis) who's just lost his mum and feeling isolated and alone sets off on a road trip to track down his elusive Uncle Matt, the one person who he thinks will want him around. Lewis's companion on this journey is his wise-ass, talking dog Sufjan. Together they meet a host of characters, some who aid their journey, others who thwart it. And then there's Uncle Matt...
We're planning to do a 3rd draft of the script during the summer and yes it is something that I hope to direct myself.
"The stories I heard amazed me..."
And you’re also working on a screenplay about the Marathon des Sables; how did that come about? What in particular interested you about the Marathon des Sables?
Both myself and Mark are keen marathon runners and are interested in any kind of distance running, the more extreme the better. Through running I'd met a guy who'd done a few marathons and then topped this off by competing in the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara desert. I was intrigued by this and over lunch he told me about what he went through in preparation for the event and then during the actual race itself. The stories I heard amazed me and from there I dug up as much information as I could about it and other extreme marathon events and really from this research the germ of the idea came about.
What advice would you give independent filmmakers or alternatively, what would have done different in your career if you had the opportunity?
As it happens I've just come off a course in low budget independent filmmaking which has inspired me. The central message of the course, which really is the best one that I can offer forward here is just "get it done". Be passionate about your project, write the best script you can and then just go out there and do all you can to get it made. It's advice I'm hoping to put into practice myself.
In relation to the second part of the question I suppose that, although I have no real regrets at this early stage of my career, the one thing I do think is that I might have been a little more single minded earlier on about exactly what it is I wanted to do or say as a filmmaker. It's not something that keeps me awake at night just an observation really that I've come to be a little more aware of as I go.
Which filmmakers do you particularly admire? And why?
There's so many guys that I admire and for so many reasons as my tastes are pretty varied. But if I had to pick 3 directors right now they'd be Alfonso Cuaron, Tim Burton and Spike Jonze. The reason being that although they're all pretty different stylistically they all have a singular vision and that's really apparent within their work and is something that I aspire to hugely.
"...I flirted briefly with the notion of becoming an architect after reading 'The Fountainhead'..."
Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker?
Yes! As a teenager I flirted briefly with the notion of becoming an architect after reading 'The Fountainhead' but that idea died a death after I dicovered my math and physics results in my report that summer.
Are there any other artistic disciplines that you practice or interest you?
I'm a huge fan of music (although I don't play) and try to read as much as I can. Photography is also a great love of mine and I've just gotten myself a new camera which I plan on putting through it's paces this summer.
Would you tell us about the music in Venom?
All the music in the film is original and is scored by the hugely talented Irish composer John Walsh. We've worked together a lot over the years and have become friends and I count myself very lucky that John agreed to score both of my short films as he's a man in demand here in Dublin.
What opportunities do you see on the horizon for independent filmmakers and what do you see as the future of cinema?
I see huge opportunities for independent filmmakers right now. Because of the advent of digital technology and it's relative affordability it really opens the door for young filmmakers like myself to go out there and get their film's made. True, we may be working on limited budgets and with limited resources but once you're aware of these parameters and tailor your script to them then it's an opportunity to get your stories told relatively cheaply and quickly and hopefully to get them out their into the world.
Although I'm a huge fan of film and hope it's always going to be with us I do feel that the digital revolution has well and truly begun and is without doubt the future. I think that this will open up a myriad of possibilities in terms of where you can get your film shown ie. cinema, internet, other technologies etc. but that said the idea of seeing a feature film of mine up there on the big screen as I sit in a darken theatre full of strangers still gives me goose bumps (in a good way!).
PS: Is Two Fat Ladies or Venom going to be available on DVD?
At the moment I'm talking to a worldwide sales agent about 'Venom' and I hope that this will mean that I can get it out there to a wider audience. In the meantime should someone want to track it (or indeed 'Two Fat Ladies') down they can contact me through the film's website www.venomfilm.com and I'd be delighted to get a copy of either film out to them. As with any young filmmaker I just want to get the work seen by as many people as possible so anything I can do to help that cause I will.
Thank you, John and good luck on the development of your new projects.
Venom Official Site
Marathon des Sables (UK)
BBC Film Network
Original SiouxWIRE post