An Interview with Noomi Spook by Madeleine Swann
Noomi Spook is not only a co-founder of independent film company Strawberry Corpse, she’s also a writer, director and animator of enough odd and disturbing things to make you squeal with delight and revulsion. She wrote and directed award nominated horror/comedy short Annabelle’s Tea Party (featuring both cake and maggots, making it a hit in my mind) as well as working on a documentary about bespoke limbs for amputees and directing music videos. She’s currently preparing a stop-motion animation about serial killer HH Holmes which is in need of experienced animators, model makers and funding – just have a look at the website below.
UKHS – The new film looks very exciting! Can you tell us a bit about it?
NS – This is a film I’ve always wanted to make, and part of the reason why I chose to move to Bristol from London, because of the animation scene in this city. As soon as I discovered who Holmes was and what he did, I immediately pictured telling the story as an animation. Which I doubt is how most people would interpret this story but to me using models and miniature sets was an opportunity to create a perfect medley of fantasy and reality. It’s hard to believe that what he did actually happened, but of course it’s all true.
So rather than portray him with actors in a live action film, I wanted to juxtapose the real life story with a format often associated with make believe, even children’s films. It’s my intention to make an old school dark fairytale, like the Brothers Grimm tales, because their stories always had a strong moral message to them. It’s unorthodox, but that’s just the way my brain works. I’m obsessed with dark animations, particularly The Brothers Quay. I came up with the idea back in 2008. It’s taken me up until now to start putting the ideas together. I think the sheer enormity of it has been putting me off, but now is a good time and I’m finally ready to get it off the ground.
UKHS – What drew you to the story of HH Holmes?
NS – He was certainly an incredibly…inventive man. I read a lot, and I have a particular interest in reading about serial killers. I was particularly interested in Holmes because even though he was clearly a despicably evil man, he was a business man first. Death was his industry, he just didn’t care about human life and all the crimes he committed were in order to make money. He is the ultimate capitalist bad guy, so I think his story is pretty relevant even now, he’s just an example of how greed can corrupt a person. I’m also intrigued by this story because
so few people have heard of him in comparison to other serial killers like Jack the Ripper who lived around the same time as Holmes. Jack the Ripper didn’t kill anywhere near as many people, nor was he as imaginative. He just got away with it.
UKHS – Is this something you’ve written and directed?
NS – I have written the script yes, and I am planning on directing and producing the film. I may even do one of the voices, so this will be my Citizen Kane.
UKHS – Is it the most ambitious project you’ve done?
NS – It’s definitely up there!
UKHS – Has shooting begun?
NS – We need to raise some more of the funding before we will be ready to shoot. If anyone would like to find out more about how they can be involved in the film, they can find more information on the films website www.thecastlefilm.com.
There will be a kickstarter campaign set up in the near future to raise money, which will be giving away some great prizes for horror fans such as parts of the sets, models and original art work associated with the project, and the chance to have their face made into one of the puppets. The kickstarter is not live yet so anyone interested in finding out more just needs to email firstname.lastname@example.org
UKHS – What’s the most disturbing fact in your opinion you’ve discovered during your research?
NS – There are so many disturbing facts about his story! But one fact that stands out is: after Holmes’ arrest the police finally searched the castle (which had fallen into disrepair many years previously) and they discovered a maze of air tight windowless rooms, each fitted with gas lines. On the walls were hand prints made by his victims frantically clawing to escape as they slowly asphyxiated within.
UKHS – You also wrote and directed the short Annabelle’s Tea Party, can you tell us a little about that?
NS – Annabelle’s Teaparty was great fun. It was a very silly, off the wall idea. I wanted to make something as funny as it was twisted, and I feel like I achieved that! It recently found it’s audience as well, because the B-Movie Underground and Trash film festival in the Netherlands found the trailer online and asked me to submit the film for screening this year. They specialise in surreal black comedy, and psychedelic horror, which is exactly what Annabelle’s Teaparty is. So after all these years my crazy film finally found it’s home.
UKHS – It looks like a cartoon, is that what the inside of your mind looks like?
NS – Very much so! Everything about my brain is half child like, half terrifying, so most of my work is a combination of those two opposing forces. I was very influenced by cartoons like count Duckula and Ren and Stimpy when I wrote that film. A lot of people say when they watch it it’s like a live action cartoon, which is exactly what I wanted. So that’s a real compliment.
UKHS – It was nominated for an award, wasn’t it?
NS – It was nominated for best horror in the London Limelight film awards in 2012. We didn’t win, but I am OK with that. We are up against serious horrors in the competition, so it was fair enough that a weirdo black comedy didn’t take home the award for best horror. It was very nice to be nominated though!
UKHS – The premier was entertaining, zombies serving cakes. I bet you were very happy that night when it was finished?
NS – Yes the after party was a blast, a lot of people worked really hard making my freakish imagination a reality and we wanted to make sure everyone had a great time to say thanks. So we really pulled out all the stops, with the
zombie movie theatre usherettes and bizarre dance performances, great music, lots of cakes, sweets and gore. It was the best celebration I could have hoped for. Although some people were worried about eating the cakes in case they had maggots in them, but I wouldn’t have done that…
UKHS – Both films are being released by Strawberry Corpse, who are they and are they purely a horror production company?
NS – I initially started Strawberry Corpse with my business partner Ioanna Karavela in 2007. We felt that the name adequately summarised the ethos of mixing light and dark, beauty and ugliness. We certainly have a leaning towards making dark work, but it’s not an exclusively horror production company. We do light-hearted things too.
UKHS – Your online info says you’re an ‘offline editor’ for them, do you edit other people’s films?
NS – Not really. I have done it in the past on a freelance basis, but I find editing other people’s work tedious. Editing is a bit like doing an elaborate jigsaw puzzle and only you know what the finished picture is meant to look like. I get ravenously excited fitting the pieces together when I’ve filmed it, but I get no enjoyment at all from cutting up other people’s ideas.
UKHS – Is there anyone else who’s work is/was released by Strawberry Corpse that you feel people should know about?
NS – I produced a short horror film for an up and coming horror director by the name of Baylea Hart. We entered our film “Behind the Door” into last year’s Bloody Cuts short horror competition. We got into the top 50 of the comp
out of god knows how many entries, and for Baylea’s first film we were both very pleased with that. I expect great things from that girl, she is a very talented writer and I would like to work with her again in the future.
She also has a cameo role in my latest music video, which is also a kind of short horror film. She plays a timid nurse in a nightmarish a mental asylum.
UKHS – You also directed a documentary, how did that come about and how different was it from a fiction project?
NS – I’m still working on it. The short version called Ryan’s Leg will be available online soon, but I am actually starting shooting the first part of the feature length version this weekend. The documentary is about bespoke prosthetic limbs which really have to be seen to be believed. I fell in love with the craftsmanship first, and then with the idea of creating beautiful and bizarre limbs reflecting the personality of whoever wears them. It could be a really positive thing for challenging stereotypes around disability.
They are so amazing, and even though it’s very different from the other work I do, I just wanted to be the person to tell this story. And it’s incredibly rewarding. I’ve teamed up with a production company called Available Light, who are very experienced in producing factual documentary for T.V. So watch this space for more on that one!
UKHS – What does the future hold for you and/or Strawberry Corpse?
NS – We may have some very interesting music video projects lined up in the near future, but I can’t say too much as nothing is signed on the dotted line yet. But I can say this, it’s going to be brutal!
Strawberry Corpse: www.strawberrycorpse.com
Strawberry Corpse Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/StrawberryCorpse