Back in my youth I remember film PRs puffing up movies like William Friedkin’s The Exorcist with tales of people fainting in the isles, naturally I took all this with the big pinch of salt (Lo Salt of course, can’t be too careful on blood pressure meds) it deserved. What nonsense I thought, but that was before I went to see Andy Stewart’s Ink.
Naturally anyone who can have this sort of effect upon an audience is someone who we want to talk to and Andy was only too happy to open up to us about how he got started as a filmmaker.
‘I was actually a freelance sports journalist for a while covering the lower Scottish leagues, which, as you can imagine is a bit of a nightmare. I got a bit fed up sitting in the cold after a while and decided to start my own (now defunct) blog, AndyErupts.com, focusing on horror films, which has always been my real passion, before going on to expand my writing to a few other sites and magazines.
I did that from a few years, with the writing staff on my own site swelling to nine, which was cool. However, I very quickly noticed from a lot of the screeners coming through that the general quality of direct to DVD horror, in the UK anyway, is quite poor, so I started thinking about going off and trying to make something myself. I’d always harboured a dream that one day my mum would be able to buy a book I’d written or a DVD of a film I’d made in her local supermarket, so I made the decision in late 2011 to try and make something. Anything.
So, I wrote Dysmorphia, Ink and a couple of other scripts in pretty quick succession before realising that I didn’t actually know the first thing about making films, or indeed, anyone that did, until I was introduced to the producer of Dysmorphia, Adriana Polito, who in turn introduced me to the rest of my crew.
It became pretty clear quite quickly that Dysmorphia was the place to start, as it was one guy in one room, with simple enough make-up effects, and I didn’t have any money for anything bigger, so that’s really where it started.’
Dysmorphia is certainly not for the squeamish and Andy’s next film Split ramped up the body horror even further reminding us of one David Cronenberg.
‘David Cronenberg is an interesting guy. His films are really cerebral, sometimes borderline offensive and wrong, but they always have a little hint of black comedy in there. That’s something I’ve always been really fascinated with, being able to find moments of levity in something dark, or revolting. I’ve also been inspired by film-makers like Shinya Tsukamoto, David Lynch, Frank Henenlotter, Stuart Gordon, John Carpenter.’
We really enjoyed the London Horror Society recent screening of Ink, a film which puts a whole new face on collecting tattoos, Andy went on to explain where the ideas for his films came from:
‘Thank you for saying that. I know we had someone else faint at the LHS event, which is always really weird and, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little thrilling. We had it happen a lot when Dysmorphia first hit festivals and I was really taken aback by it at the time. It’s still nice that people have that kind of reaction. Not a lot of people can say that they have made one film that made someone faint, let alone films that have.
Ink was a weird one, to be honest. I have a lot of tattoos and have always been really interested in tattoo art and body modification but, when I wrote Ink, for the first few drafts at least, it was very much a comedy of errors type of film. Almost slapstick in its overt daftness.
After the semi-serious tone of both Dysmorphia and Split, I didn’t feel like I wanted to then do a film that could be perceived as a comedy, so I rewrote it, and this very dark version of Ink emerged.
Dysmorphia came from a weird obsession I developed with Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Body Integrity Identity Disorder. I was insanely interested in these people who manifest a desire to amputate a limb, so I kind of merged the two conditions and ran with it.
Split is a far simpler premise. It’s a melt movie wherein a guy and girl break up, he breaks down, and is left to deal with his own culpability.
I think I just really like writing stories about real people in pretty surreal situations.’
Andy’s latest short Remnant was also a big hit at the London Horror Society, it’s not as bloody as Ink so we wanted to know whether he was changing direction?
‘I don’t know that it takes my filmmaking in a different direction. It’s certainly considerably less gory but those body horror elements that I love are still present and we did approach it from a more visual standpoint, but tonally and, at times, visually, it remains quite similar to Ink. It was actually written as a feature-length script, which is a good bit more violent than the short and the dream sequences are a good bit more troubling. The idea came from a bit of research I did into parasitic and vestigial twins in humans. I was interested in this mental bond that exists between twins, dominant personalities and the idea of this little clump of tissue still having some level of sentience and a malevolence stemming from a feeling of injustice and its obsession with having its time to shine.’
Remnant certainly is a creeping chiller but what can we expect next from Andy Stewart Filmmaker?
‘We just finished an 80’s throwback short-short for Crypt TV entitled She Lay At His Feet. It’s something a little bit different for me. That’ll be out sometime, when the powers that be decide to release it. Remnant is currently on the festival circuit and I will be going to Cannes in May, where it is playing in the Short Film Corner.
Then, pretty soon after Cannes, I’m going to take a couple of months off.’
Andy Stewart thank you very much and good luck at Cannes.