Richard Humphries Interview
We recently had a chance to sit and chat with ‘Seize The Night’ screenwriter Richard Humphries. He talks about Seize The Night, his inspirations and what he’d like to do next.
UKHS – Seize The Night is doing really well, getting lots of positive attention. That must be very pleasing?
RH – Indeed it is, the film was made by genre fans trying to make something we’d like to see. So having it be well received by fellow fans is phenomenal.
UKHS – How did you come to be involved in the project?
RH – I’ve known Emma for a few years, we met online and being rather shameless as a writer I mentioned I had written a few scripts. I sent her along a sample, she liked it, and got back to me about some projects she had in mind. We collaborated on a few short scripts before she conceived ‘Seize the Night.’
UKHS – Was it a long process from when you first started discussing it?
RH – No, it moved fairly quickly as I recall. It was like in mid October and the film was shooting in January; even for a short film that’s a quick turnaround time. We discussed the idea first in fairly broad terms over the course of a week or so and formed the basic structure of the short.
From there I wrote a backstory pitch for the world, which to be honest wasn’t used. Meryln composed a brilliant backstory that we used and extrapolated upon. The script was rewritten throughout most of November and the final rewrites were probably done in December.
The last thing I think that was written was Anthony Ilott’s role; Emma had interviewed him at a convention some time before and she messaged me on Facebook that he was interested in the project. She asked what kind of role could we put him in and in about an hour or so we messaged back and forth, worked out his backstory and I basically wrote his scene on my phone.
UKHS – Excellent. That can be the thing with writing, it can change quite drastically from what you first envisioned into something quite different, but just as good. What attracted you to writing?
RH – Back at SCAD [Savannah College of Art & Design] the thing that the Professors, especially Andrew Meyer (who had produced Breakfast Club) hammered into us: there’s the film that you write, film that you shoot, and film that you edit.
From the writer’s perspective that’s very true, but that’s where you must have have implicit trust in your collaborators and I have that in Emma. We’ve worked enough together and talked enough that we know what appeals to us as story tellers so a middle ground can be reached.
What attracted me to writing dates back to my childhood as cliche as it sounds. My Mom and Dad always told my brother and I stories, I loved listening to them; especially about their time in the military. I also grew up listening to NPR and on Sunday nights they would replay the old radio serials like ‘Gunsmoke’ and ‘Johnny Dollar.’
So I’ve always been attracted to listening to stories and from there I had the desire to tell stories. Either retelling great ones I heard and eventually creating my own.
It was frustrating during middle school and mostly high school as the English classes didn’t offer much in the way of ‘creative’ writing. But the few times we had an assignment that i could write a narrative, I took it.
UKHS – Trust isn’t always an easy give, so it’s always credit when a collaboration works out as well as Seize The Night. The nice thing with writing is you can generally disappear into your own world for huge chunks of time. What do you find the best part of the writing process to be?
RH – Agreed and without the time building up to Seize the Night, not just writing together but just getting into discussions about genre films and writers; I don’t think it would’ve been as easy as it was.
I think probably the brainstorming scenes is one of my favorite parts. Though I know it weirds everyone around me out as I do tend to talk to myself out loud and act out the scenes; which can make for some interesting situations.
I generally carry a notepad around with me or a voice recorder, making notes, writing stuff down, and probably rewrite even a simple dialogue scene a dozen or more times before I get before my computer and those countless rewrites. It’s the time I feel at the most free because the ideas are just flowing, I can ignore the ‘structure’ of writing a proper screenplay and the urge to go back and correct if I see a mistake.
It’s natural and organic. A sweet soundtrack always goes along with it as well, when I’m not at work of course.
StN – Still – Chris Hampshire – MIKKEL
UKHS – I guess it helps when you already know who will be speaking your lines too?
RH – Most of Seize the Night was cast after the script was written so beyond Anthony I wasn’t writing anything specifically for anyone. I think trying to do that limits yourself; while I might have a type in mind, I don’t have anyone specific. Though STN was a wonderful surprise as everyone cast matched the ideas i had in my head; especially Carey as Tobias.
UKHS – I know there are plans for more STN, but I won’t ask what those are as I don’t want anything spoiled. However, I know you have a number of other projects in various stages of development. Anything you can talk about?
RH – Yeah, I have a few screenplays I’m focusing on for pitching as they’re near to my heart as well as match the current marketplace the industry is in.
The big one that I have most of my focus on is called ‘After Wolf’ which is a war film with a very different breed of werewolf as the antagonists. Simply put it’s ‘Aliens’ by way of George A. Romero; but that’s just the most surface level description of it.
I’ve been working on the story for the better part of nine years; originally it was going to be a novel but has morphed over the years and multiple iterations to where it is now.
Back at SCAD, I had planned to shoot a short film set in the universe as my senior thesis; but a confluence of events caused that not to happen. I did manage to shoot some material in a class with the werewolf suit that had been made for the film; this material is forming the backbone of a trailer for the script.
Emma has been a huge help in that regard, doing color timing and restoration on the footage.
I’m hoping to raise funds to shoot a short film later this year that’ll grab a producer’s attention and backing for a feature film.
StN – Still – Emma Dark – EVA
UKHS – Franchise potential too and that’s just from what you’ve told me!
RH – I already have the second and third film written, it’s a bit of an oddity as I wrote the series backwards; trying to accomplish the same goal of making a small enough film I could, as a first time director, be allowed to direct.
UKHS – Will you be acting in it too? I read somewhere that you were nominated for ‘Best Villain’ at a film festival a few years ago, is that right?
RH – Oh Lord no no no, I cannot stand acting. Those who can do it, I have the utmost respect for; but I find it awkward and uncomfortable when shooting. I was in a short film back at SCAD called ‘The Red Hood’ that was an update of ‘Red Riding Hood’ and I played the Wolf character. Who in this version was a serial killer.
The directors are friends of mine and they asked me to be in it, I agreed ONLY as a last resort; which they would admit later they never asked anyone else to be in it and wanted me from the get-go. It was a miserable experience, I was sick throughout most of the shoot and full credit to makeup Jordan Morris for making sure I was alive at the end.
Acting, no it’s not for me. Maybe a Hitchcock walk across the screen cameo…but I don’t see myself acting.
It was Best Villain in a short film at the Action on Film Festival 2010; was a surprise when Zach (one of the directors) called me over the summer to say I had been nominated
UKHS – Funny, so reluctant and then a nomination. And a wolf too! There’s a theme in your career.
RH – Aye and what was more amusing is that I had the same Professor the next year and of course he recognized me and suggested me to the class for anyone who needed a creepy murderer. Yeah, wolves are a theme it seems. But I have made a vow never to kill a dog, it’s the lowest, easiest form of emotional manipulation that can be done. So dogs are off limits for me.
UKHS – Yeah, I hate that. Leave the dogs alone!
RH – Amen, you can see it a mile away and you know it’s coming. The only film where I think it worked was ‘John Wick’ because his response is something I think all dog owners tuned into.
UKHS – In Wick it played a pivotal part in what happened next. There’s a sequel to that, I wonder what provokes him this time. His canary?
RH – He got a new dog at the end of the film, you think that people would’ve learned the first time: ‘don’t kill Wick’s dog’ but criminals in films aren’t the smartest bunch at times.
UKHS – Luckily for the heroes
RH – Indeed, but as the Joker would say ‘we need a better class of criminal’
UKHS – Which is why we always love a good bad ‘un. Are there any movies or writers that inspired you?
RH – A very long list of writers, I’m a voracious reader so certainly authors like Michael Crichton, Clive Cussler, Todd Stone, Fredrick Forsyth, HP Lovecraft, Bernard Cromwell, and Clive Barker among many others are influential for me.
Movies, as any of my friends would attest my taste is ‘eclectic’ to say the least. One of the most influential is George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead; that film came at the right point in my life where I didn’t know quite what I wanted to do. Something in that movie made me want to get into filmmaking.
Sam Peckinpah’s ‘Cross of Iron’, John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ Michael Cimino’s ‘Heaven’s Gate’, Lucio Fulci’s ‘The Beyond’ are probably four of the most influential movies upon me as well as four of my favorites. I could rattle on a list of directors from Steven Spielberg, Neil Marshall, Peter Jackson, Kathryn Bigelow etc.
I take inspiration from anywhere and everywhere; sometimes it’s easy to pinpoint…other times it’s near impossible.
UKHS – Any advice for aspiring writers?
RH – One bit of advice I’ve found as true than any ‘write write write’ advice is: have friends who’ll support you, push you, and challenge you.
I’m very fortunate to have a wonderful circle of friends the world over who are insanely supportive and amazing soundboards for ideas. Pushing me forward, giving me inspiration for rewrites and new ideas all together. Simple conversations here on Facebook or Twitter have sparked entirely new screenplays because of processing a different perspective.
Despite the obvious distance between myself and Emma for example, the internet makes communication easy and instantaneous. Without it, I certainly never would’ve met her and the wonderful folks involved with it; and they’re people I’d work with in a heartbeat.
That’s probably the best advice I can give: have friends who’ll listen to you, give you support, push you and challenge you not only in writing, but also in getting your material out there. Having that support structure is as important as having a fully polished work.
Directing After Wolf
UKHS – That’s fantastic Rick. Make sure you keep us updated on your future projects and thanks very much for chatting with me.
RH – I will and thanks for having me.
Rick Humphries, nice chap and dog owner!
You can find him in these places, sometimes at the same time: