I’m very excited to bring you a new interview today, this time with director Andrew Sean Eltham-Byers of the upcoming United Kingdom-based horror effort The Small Woman in Grey (2017).
Me: Hello, and thank you for taking the time to do this.
Andrew Eltham-Byers: You are more than welcome. Thank you for sitting down with me and talking about our film.
Me: What can you tell us about your new film ‘The Small Woman in Grey?’
AEB: Well The Small Woman in Grey is a new horror film shot in Berkshire in the United Kingdom in late 2016. It is a special film ( I think – though slightly biased) as it merges two horror sub-genres. This being that of a standard typical slasher and that of a more ghost orientated film. It is based on an urban legend (of the same name). It is a story of a group of young people who go camping in the woods, then they realize there is something in the woods with them. There is a combination of revenge, history, destiny and hauntings. What more could you ask for? There are lots of twists and turns, I hope people enjoy it. We are just reaching the end of post production and gearing up to release the film in 2017.
Me: What inspired you to tell this particular story for your first feature?
AEB: Myself and my creative partner Darren Byers (as well as real life husband) have dabbled in film for years – making short films for our own amusement and trailers. It has been done very low key as something that we both just enjoyed. I cannot count the amount of years we spent talking about “making a real film” our phrase for making a full-length feature. In 2016 we decided enough was enough and we should just do it. It was a slow process in terms of coming up with the story and structure for the film. I have watched literally 1000’s of horror films. I love the 1980s direct to DVD boom. I spent a long time researching old films and then broadening into reading urban legends, real life disasters or mysteries. I then came across the urban legend ‘The Small Woman in Grey’.
Two gentlemen were working in the town’s small general store. The store was quiet and no customers were shopping until she walked in. A small frail woman dressed in grey entered the store, and proceeded toward the dairy section, saying nothing. She picked up a glass container of milk and, without paying for it or even glancing at the gentlemen, walked out of the store.
The men, surprised by the woman’s thievery, hurried out of the store after her…but she was gone.
A few days later, the incident occurred again. The same small woman dressed in the same grey dress entered the store, grabbed a glass container of milk, and left without paying. Again the men tried to follow after her, but found her nowhere to be seen.
After a few weeks, the woman appeared once again.
The same small woman, dressed in the same grey dress, entered the store, paid no attention to the men, snatched a glass container of milk, and vanished out the door. The men, slightly more prepared this time, quickly followed the woman out of the store. She hurried down the town’s main street and the men found themselves having to run to keep up with her. She hastily turned down a dirt path, just at the edge of the woods. This is where the men lost her. They trekked on further and came to a small cemetery neither of them knew existed. Suddenly, they heard a small noise. Concentrating, they identified it as a baby’s cry…it was coming from the ground. The ground from which it was coming from was in front of a gravestone marking the death of a mother and her infant who were buried together. Unsure of what else to do. the men quickly found shovels and exhumed the coffin. The crying became louder as they dug. When they reached the coffin, they pried off the lid and inside found the small, grey-dressed woman…dead…with a live, crying infant in her arms…and three empty glass containers of milk
I started having questions once I read it in my mind. What happened? Who is responsible? Was it real? And from that I crafted my script and it came together really quickly once I started. The actual urban legend doesn’t appear in my film but is referenced. I wanted my film to have history and a bit of depth, which I think I was successful in.
Me: What significance does it have being a project you also wrote in addition to directing?
AEB: I think it was always going to be that way. I am someone who likes to own and manage something (control freak). It was a collaborative effort between me (Andrew Eltham-Byers) and co-director Darren Byers. We knew we wanted to direct it to make sure we made the film we wanted. It had been a desire to make a film for the both of us for a number of years and in doing so we wanted to just go for it without limits. It gave me a chance to protect the script and make sure what we wanted to be shown was filmed in the way we wanted it too.
Me: Did you have any struggles in getting this greenlit and off the ground?
AEB: No major struggles. We knew we wanted to do it, and we used our personal savings to fund it. We did go a bit crazy in purchasing equipment, but we wanted it to be the best thing we could produce on our budget. When you love film like we do it was just something we had to do. And we knew it might not turn out to a Hollywood standard but would be a labour of love and the best we could do. We are both really proud of the film. The struggles we faced were in post production. We had some issues with scoring and the creation of music that was fitting to the footage. Luckily we managed to get the lovely and talented Sam Hodge on board our film who has been working with us from America in creating some of the best musical scores I have ever heard. He has been such a great part of our team and we couldn’t ever thank him enough for adding a new layer to our film. We are lucky that Darren Byers is a skilled editor and expert CGI and 3D animation artist.
Me: What was your reaction to the casting of genre legend Brinke Stevens once you heard?
AEB: This was a complete surprise. We were reaching a point in the post production where a role yet to be cast was becoming a need. We needed a voice. But we needed more than that, we needed a voice who could become and portray a character. I was thinking of who we could use and was going to put an advert out on a casting website. By chance I was taking a bath and watching a documentary on the life and work of Brinke online. When I was watching her voice was just something that stuck in my head. There was a section of the documentary where she spoke about developing her voice and the tones she uses. And I simply just thought “hmmmmmm would she?”
Taking a chance I reached out to Brinke and she responded. I was a bit of a fan boy and geeked out when it seemed Brinke could just say yes to doing it. Brinke did agree to take on the role and I was so happy and ecstatic. I feel I did a little jump for joy. I am (as are many) a huge fan of Brinke Stevens. Now Brinke Stevens has just said yes to my movie!! Brinke was the absolute professional. She was engaged with the story and the character straight away. She spent time developing and working on the requests this role had. Brinke smashed it. We could not of asked for more. She was brilliantly timed and creating a real character. Brinke completed all the things asked of her fast and to such a high quality we couldn’t of asked for any more. Brinke loves horror and is inspirational in her attitude to the genre and her willingness to support and work within it. She even came back on board to voiceover our trailer.
Me: How did the cast, in general, get along during filming? Was being out in the woods any more challenging than you figured for your first movie shoot?
ASB: The cast got along great. It was weird for us. Having never casted and worked with actors we didn’t know what to expect. Our actors were from all over England and in some cases were meeting in person for the first time on set.
They all got on and were both funny and professional all at the same time. It felt like a group of friends whom we had known for years by the end of the production. I wish I had a feud story to tell you but we really didn’t. We did all share many alcoholic beverages and takeaway pizza after a long days and nights filming.
Cast members Josh Boden and Alan Harding become good friends during production as they are the leads in the film and spent a lot of time together. Though should never be left alone. Lot’s of phones being stolen and filled with photos of them being naughty. Matt Fisher became a good friend of us all and me and Darren and our production assistant went to watch him perform as he is a musician during one of his gigs.
In terms of hitting challenges by filming outdoors all I can say is YES!!! There were so many things we didn’t expect. Things you just don’t think about. Firstly in English weather is never guaranteed even in summer. We were lucky with that. Our biggest problem was the airplanes. We had no idea how many of the bastard things fly over and around where we were filming. Many stop/starts due to them gits. We also battled swans, ducks and believe it or not a crazy lady. A lady who was clearly watching our filming and then started to just shout answers to characters lines like she believed she was in the conversation and the film. She even sat and waited in her car until 11pm at night when we wrapped our nights filming. We also found a creepy doll that was not in good shape and very creepy on the first day of filming. Which can be seen in the opener of the film if you look closely.
Me: How would you describe your directorial style? What genre filmmakers did you look to for inspiration while filming?
ASB: Mine and Darren’s style is very different. Darren is more of sci-fi and I am more horror. I would say classic. I like to think I lean a little into John Carpenter, Wes Craven, Fred Olen Ray, David DeCoteau, Sean Cunningham but that is where inspirations come from which you might pick up on. I would love to think I have a mind like Rob Zombie, but my budget doesn’t stretch to do his type of film.
Me: Did you pick up any new skills to your filming style during the shoot that surprised you?
ASB: I personally did. Sound is never something I had spent to much time getting involved in. But it was all hands on deck. I learnt a lot about that. I have also learnt never film sex scenes for actors who have not met before. It’s an awkward first day on the set. That is something I never thought I would be doing. Directing a sex scene is not in anyway sexual and frankly is the most unsexy thing you can do. It was having conversations I never thought I would have. Like for example padding actors underwear so private areas would not touch. Not that I personally did the padding but discussing it with actors and making sure it was used. Also having a conversations for a protocol for erections if they were to accidently occur. Luckily it never happened. Trying to make everyone feel completely safe and secure and ensuring nothing actually touched and was simply simulation but making it look as if it did. Crazy conversations!! And guess what, that scene is on the cutting room floor and was never used.
Me: Felissa Rose has a special thanks on the film. How did you get in touch with her and what was it like to have her on-board supporting the film?
ASB: I have known Felissa for 4 years now, we began as Facebook friends. After that, I have been working with her running her official website for over 3 years. We are always in contact and share our stories with each other in between work and requests that come in for her. Darren has helped support a couple of her films in post productions. When I told her we were thinking of doing our own film she was beyond encouraging. Felissa being the kind soul that she is wanted to help, support and encourage in anyway she could. She gave me the confidence to write the film and put any of doubts to bed. She is an incredibly giving and has been pushing and supporting the project and giving advice. She was thrilled when I asked her to Present the film as it was a nod from me to say thank you for making my little dream come true.
Me: Since the film is finished, what is the projected route for the film’s release and where can people come to see the film?
ASB: Well we are reaching the exciting stage now. We are looking into distribution. The official website will be launching soon where the film can be purchased. Brinke Steven’s online store will also be selling it. We are looking at streaming with Amazon and selling via them. We have a few independent DVD distributers interested as well so we are very excited. Don’t worry it is going to be accessible.
Me: Lastly, do you have any other projects coming up you’d wish to tell our readers about? Thank you again for your time.
ASB: We are still very focused on The Small Woman in Grey. We want the release and promotion to be as good as it can be and hopefully attract an audience. I have written partly our next film but it is still in development. We are excited to see the debut of Twelve Pole from our sound creator Sam Hodge.
Thank you for chatting to me, really appreciate it.
The film’s official trailer: