Isaac Gabaeff Interview
Gez Medinger Interview

It’s October and at last Halloween is just around the corner which can mean only one thing – horror films are everywhere. There is nothing better than sticking a good horror movie on the gogglebox as the evenings start to draw in, but what to watch? I know I have my staple films that get recycled every year but it’s always good to add something new. As if reading our minds the guys at Frightfest have combined with Icon Distribution to bring us Frightfest Presents, a new digital platform featuring some of the best films screened at this summer’s Frightfest. One such film is AfterDeath.

Directed by Gez Medinger and Robin Schmidt AfterDeath starts with a group of five people waking up dead. That’s right, waking up dead. It’s a heck of a hook, the film attempting to answer that age old question of what happens to us when we die. We spoke to Medinger about how he found tackling his first feature, what he thinks is really going on and what films scared him as a child.

Fez Medinger interview
Gez Medinger interview

How did you get into directing?

After I finished an engineering degree at University I decided that I couldn’t really see myself following most of my friends into the ‘normal’ sort of jobs so I went skiing for a couple of years. In this process of a couple of years on the alps I ended up making a ski film. I’ve always been fascinating by films and by making films, but I never really considered it was a possible career choice, but after making that ski film I thought why the Hell not, let’s do it!

So I started a production company called Chrome Productions back in 2002 and we started off by making extreme sports films and documentaries. We then moved across to TV documentaries and music videos, but the goal was always to make feature films. Finally after a number of years we got ourselves into the position where we could actually make a film and that film was AfterDeath.

AfterDeath featured
Gez Medinger interview

How did you come to be involved with AfterDeath?

Between myself and Robin [Schmidt], who’s my creative collaborator and co-director, we had developed and written a number of scripts. The issue with each one was that they were too much for a first feature. When you’re in that position, you’re an untested director, it’s very difficult to raise a significant amount of budget.

So in the end I thought I needed to be a little savvier about this and I turned the paradigm around and rather than saying this is the film I want to make and find the money to make it, it was more a question of how much money do have I now, what I can raise, and what film can I conceivable make with that. Robin and I had started playing with the idea of doing something with Jean-Paul Sartre‘s play No Exit, using that as the inspiration for a horror movie. The play is three people in a room together for eternity. I thought that really represented Hell. It seemed like a good starting point for a really interesting and low budget horror movie.

Once I decided that this was the direction I wanted to go in I wrote a treatment and I sent it off to Andrew Ellard for some notes and he came back and said ‘You have a fantastic premise’, he was an interesting writer so I immediately hired him to write it. It was a ten year gestation of the idea that finally got turned into a script for the project.

What is AfterDeath about?

In the most literal sense, AfterDeath is about five young people who wake up washed up on the beach and struggle to come to terms with the situation they’ve found themselves in – that is to say – dead. But on a deeper level the film interrogates the degree to which we’re responsible for our actions, and the righteousness of how those actions might be perceived by a higher power. It’s a film about guilt, justice and the possibility of redemption – with of course a few scares along the way too.

Fez Medinger interview
Gez Medinger interview

Were there any challenges with having such a small cast?

The interesting thing about the size of the cast is I thought coming into it casting a movie with five roles would be really straight forward, because you just have five actors and off you go, and actually it’s way more complex then than. Each one of the characters doesn’t just have a relationship with one of the other characters, because many of the scenes are five-handers, every character has a relationship with every other character. So you’re casting not just opposite one of them, but opposite all four others. It’s a very intricate casting process. That meant that the whole composition of the group had to work but so did every single line between every one of them. All five characters have to work so it’s like the five points of a pentagram. We had to think very carefully about each and every casting choice and we were very short on pre-production time to do chemistry readings. So what we did was have everyone read sides from the same scene and then that meant that we could cut the casting tapes together, and we could actually play essentially the actors against each other in a virtual scene to see how they played off of each other. That was a really useful thing for us to be able to do. We could actually see how the film would play and how these characters would play off against each other on screen.

Gez Medinger interview
Gez Medinger interview

What’s your favourite scary movie?

The movies that had the biggest impact on my as a kid growing up in terms of scaring me were I think An American Werewolf in London and Poltergeist. I watched Poltergeist by myself in my bedroom when I was seven, and it terrified me (laughs). I couldn’t sleep for four days afterwards and I didn’t want to tell my parents I’d watched it because I’d be in trouble (Laughs). Basically I was trapped in this solo world of being haunted by the Poltergeist movie.

Then the look of the moors in An American Werewolf in London has stayed with me since childhood. They were the movies that defined my appreciation of horror films. Them and then a little bit later The Thing, which I still love now, I think it’s incredible.

AfterDeath is one of the six titles launching the new digital platform Frightfest Presents, how does it feel to be picked? 

AfterDeath1Really, really, really exciting. I think when there’s so much content out there that as a viewer it’s quite easy to get lost or confused in what decisions to make. Do I watch a film or the next Netflix series? There’s a whole ton of independent movies, how do you now what’s good? So having a curated platform like Frightfest Presents is amazing because it suddenly means that people who come to Frightfest/Icon presents know what their getting and that the content has their seal of approval. It’s a real privilege to be a part of it.

AfterDeath is released in time for Halloween, why should people pick AfterDeath for their Halloween fright flick?

I think viewers should pick AfterDeath for their Halloween scare because it won’t just give them their Halloween thrills it will also give them something to think about once Halloween is over.

Watch AfterDeath on digital download now at Frightfest Presents.

Frightfest Presents