We had a chance to sit down with the multi-talented Jonathan Glendening, author of Ravenswing and director of 13 Hrs and Strippers vs Werewolves.
WC: Tell us a little about your new novel Ravenswing.
JG: It’s about a young courier who is charged with taking a package to an isolated village. But, it’s Halloween and he get’s lost in the winding roads of the countryside when he’s involved in a car crash. He thinks he’s killed the driver of the other car but there is a young girl in the back seat. She’s unconscious but alive so Michael decides to do the right thing and try and take her to find help. But… the driver of the other car is still alive and he’s the psychopath that just kidnapped the girl and he goes on the trail of Michael, leaving in his wake a trail of blood and murder. So, Ravenswing really is a nightmare adventure.
WC: After success in directing and writing films, what made you want to become an author?
JG: It’s not about a desire to be an author, it’s still just another facet of the creative process. It’s not a separate process for me, it just so happens that this project became ‘alive’ so to speak in this medium. I didn’t really make a conscious decision to write a novel. The basic idea and story has been in my life for a very long time, and I kept adding words and suddenly it was a novel. It’s funny for me as the book has been
optioned and I’ve now got to write it as a screenplay anyway. So, I didn’t set out to be an author it’s just me telling stories.
WC: What was your inspiration for Ravenswing?
JG: I was a very young runner (the gofer) on a popular comedy TV series in the UK called ‘Smith & Jones’ 1990 starring Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones (or it was on the show I did after that for Peter Cook called ‘The Twelve Days of Xmas’) and I was called into my bosses offices and told that I had to deliver a script to a TV intellectual called Ludovic Kennedy, who would be guest-starring. I had to set off at about 5pm on a really long journey to drive a script to a middle of nowhere village I had never heard of. Obviously, I got lost, it got dark, there was a full moon, the fog fell and it was past midnight when I finally found the village of Avebury. Now, Avebury is worth a google check as it is a
village surrounded by Neolithic standing stones (like Stone Henge), so imagine being 20, lost, tired, and driving into an isolated village past Sarsen stones. It was basically like driving onto Sommer Isle in the Wicker Man. So Ravenswing comes from a very personal and real experience.
WC: What are the main differences between writing a screenplay and writing a novel? Which do you prefer?
JG: Coming up with characters, plot and story is exactly the same in both disciplines. However, the advantage with the novel format is that you explore the inside of people’s heads. You can hear what they are thinking or take segways into their past experiences, effectively doing a flash-back. I don’t really like flashbacks in movies as they can be such an excuse for lazy writing and I prefer films with forward momentum; but in the novel, the flashbacks can be very effective illustrations of the on-going drama. In Ravenswing it allowed me to really build the characters before I embarked on the story. Also, in the screenplay the poetry of the prose is in the brevity of words that you use to create the world. In the novel, you can overuse your thesaurus to your heart’s content (But don’t).
WC: Would you like to write outside of the horror/thriller genre? If so, which genre(s)?
JG: Well I did start my feature film directing career with Summer Rain that I co-wrote, and that was a romantic comedy. I have written a screen adaptation of ‘The Duchess of Malfi’ and I’ve had commissions to write a sci-fi epic, a court room drama true story, and another true life drama about an inspirational woman. So horror is a genre that I love, but it’s not the only field I’m working in, it just seems to be my passion for it seems be more readily visible.
WC: “13 Hrs” is a film that got a mixed reaction. My opinion on that is because once you know what the film is about, it takes away a lot of the charm of the film. Once it was released under the title “Night Wolf,” that mystique was gone. Who made the decision to change the name?
JG: I don’t know who retitled it but even the image that was promoting the film wasn’t even anything to do with it, so I guess you could say they didn’t care enough about it to nurture the film. I completely agree that the title Night Wolf completely kills the film, as did the
German title ‘The Twilight Werewolf’. Urgh…. believe it or not, when you set out to make a film, even on a tiny budget, you set of with a belief in the project’s integrity, so it hurts to see it undone so carelessly. Having said that, my movie S.N.U.B! (secret nuclear underground bunker) – a B movie homage – was retitled AFTER CRISIS in Japan, and that was much better with a really cool poster too!
WC: Were you please with how the film (13 Hrs.) itself came out?
JG: Despite the budget, and despite the whole raft of problems that we faced, 13hrs came out pretty close to the way it was supposed to be. We came so close to pulling it off the way we wanted, but as always there are compromises – like having to shoot what should have been a 3 page suspense sequence in the last ten minutes of a night shoot, so inevitably the film isn’t executed entirely the way you’d like, to serve the script, but the way you have to – to get it in the can. But having said that, I’m very proud of the film and I was very pleased that significant reviewers got what we were going for rather than dismissing it as just another claw and teeth movie. I am so proud of the cast and crew on that film and I’d like to work with them all again.
WC: “Strippers vs Werewolves” is your more recent film. Tell is a little about it.
JG: Just a bit of grind-house fun, not to be taken to seriously, which gave me the opportunity to work with great people like DP David Meadows, and cast like Barbara Nedjelokova, Ali Bastian, Martin Compston, Mark Bayliss, Sarah Douglas, Stephen Berkoff, and Robert Englund.
WC: What was it like working with Robert Englund in “Strippers vs Werewolves?”
JG: Robert was a fantastic example of a truly professional actor. He was word perfect, diligent, and in every take offered something new. I would love to work with him again and not necessarily in a horror, his talent shouldn’t be confined to just the one genre. How did the final product of the film hold up to what you wanted to direct? Well… you should see the director’s cut!
WC: What is up next for you?
JG: I’m delighted that I’m working for some really great producers now who support my vision and they even pay. I’ve got an action movie which we’re hoping to shoot in South Africa next year. In the mean time I’m developing a project with Big Man Films which I can’t say too much about, and of course, scripting Ravenswing.
WC: What information would you give to aspiring directors?
JG: Directing is about more than choosing a flashy camera angle. It’s about people, and communicating emotions realistically. It’s about having something to say and using the camera and the performances to say it. Anyone can choose an extreme camera angle and make a lens flare, it’s about knowing whether or not that lens flare is appropriate for the emotions you’re trying to convey on screen, and what you say to the actors to get the emotion on screen. Otherwise you’ll have a movie of great shots and lousy acting that connects with no one.
WC: What information would you give to aspiring authors?
JG: Keep writing. Draft one is just that, a draft. It doesn’t matter if it’s rubbish, you just need to write it. Alterations and tidy up can’t be done unless you’ve written something. The best tip I got was nicked from John Milius (I think) – write 2 pages a day. That is just long enough to get ‘into’ the world you’re writing, and formulate what you’re going to write tomorrow and short enough to stay excited about what you’re writing. I tried it, and it works!
WC: What would you like to say to your fans?
JG: Thanks for your support. Every letter and email I get means so much to me. You’ll have to wait a while for my next movie, so in the meantime I hope you enjoy my novel RAVENSWING.