KAM: I notice Matt Smith in the trailer, who of course I know as the Doctor. Were you excited when he was cast in the supporting role? Also, while I know Wunmi Mosaku is now on Lovecraft Country, that’s just out, so had you seen her in anything before? Likewise with your other lead, Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù?
TV: It was great to meet Ṣọpẹ́ and Wunmi. We had seen Wunmi in quite a few things – she’s probably more familiar to British audiences due to her TV career here. I think quite a lot of US viewers think she is American!
FE: I had Wunmi in my mind from the get-go, so was thrilled the movie nabbed her. Ṣọpẹ́ I wasn’t familiar with, but I have since seen Gangs of London and he is beyond incredible – such a versatile and gifted actor, and boy can he carry himself in a fight scene!
TV: What was also noticeable during our set visit was that EVERYONE had literally fallen in love with Wunmi.
FE: Not surprising – she is a total goddess!
TV: Getting Matt Smith was also a real coup. It’s not the lead, but clearly his presence has helped it get attention.
KAM: Was His House originally planned as a theatrical release, switched over to streaming due to Covid?
TV: That’s a complicated one… The film was selected for Sundance 2020, and got amazing reviews, wall-to-wall. We were pretty stunned by the reaction. At that point, before COVID had hit, it was set for a theatrical release, but Netflix had anticipated the response and, even before it was screened, expressed interest. So, they basically snapped it up. Our producers were a bit disappointed because they thought it would be better to get out into cinemas. We were absolutely thrilled and felt that probably more people would actually get to see it on Netflix. As it turned out, we were right – because within weeks all the cinemas were closed. Had it not been picked up by Netflix, no one would be seeing it now, so really that was a huge stroke of luck. Netflix have also really got behind it and given it a big push.
They wanted a better life.
It has other plans for them.
From writer/director Remi Weeks comes His House, a horror story you won't be able to shake starring Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, Wunmi Mosaku, and Matt Smith. pic.twitter.com/ZJohtwIDZY
KAM: Has there been a small theatrical screening at the same time, as with other Netflix releases, so it will qualify for nominations for the Oscars and others?
TV: Not that I know of, beyond the Sundance screening, but that could change. What is going to happen with the Oscars is anyone’s guess. If they’re sticking to cinema screenings in 2020, it’s going to be a pretty limited field…
KAM: Yeah, I expect the Academy is reviewing their rules in light of 2020. In the US it’s also standard to re-release all the Oscar nominees before the Oscars and to show all the winners afterwards, at the usual theaters. Is it the same in the UK? But knowing what to expect this next year is another question.
TV: When it becomes possible, I suspect there are several festivals that might be interested in screening it. Especially horror fests.
KAM: Sequels are almost expected in the horror industry. Are you at work on His House II and is there anything you could tell us about it?
FE: We’re not currently working on a sequel – but never say never!
KAM: Anything else you’d like to share withAvaaz Media, both on this project and your other work?
FE: I definitely want His House to start a conversation. We know that the best way to share ideas with people is to tell them a story, to weave a compelling narrative, rather than bombard them with statistics. The emotional punch of this film will, I hope, be equal to the chills it provides as a horror film, and that the metaphor of ‘horrors faced’ – human and supernatural – in different parts of the characters’ lives comes across. Genre (sci-fi, horror etc.) is at its best when it’s telling the truth, like Night of the Living Dead or Get Out, and we hope that people respond to this. As well as enjoy it!
Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù and Wunmi Mosaku in a scene from His House (2020) (Photo Credit: Netflix)
TV: That’s really what we’re about as writers. Genre that can be enjoyed as genre, but which also says something. We’re not interested in lecturing people -– no one wants that in the cinema. But we’re not really interested in 90 minutes of jump scares, either.
FE: As to other projects – we have quite a lot on the boil with various production companies, but are sworn to secrecy on all of it at this stage!
TV: We did just complete work on a short film called Percival for Rebellion which is now out (so we can talk about it…). It’s kind of a miniature Arthurian epic, completely dialogue free – but the key thing about it is that it is the first ever film to be made entirely using virtual production methods. This is a game changer for cinema and TV – and there will hopefully be more of that to come!
KAM: Toby, as I think I remember from when I met you, you’re a keen bowman and general medievalist. Am I recalling correctly and anything more you can share on that and how it shapes your writing?
TV: You are completely correct in that summing up… Certainly for Percival this was handy, as it had a medieval theme – but, actually, it was really the interest in medieval things that led to it happening in the first place. When we met at FantasyCon, I was there as an author, having written a book about Vikings and zombies (someone had to do it). In research terms, that was a massively over-engineered book – but I really wanted the Viking world to feel authentic. That novel was published by Abaddon, which is owned by Rebellion, which is headed by Jason Kingsley, who it so happens is a medievalist. More than that, really – he has authentic armour, authentic weapons, owns 17 horses and jousts for real. I wrote three more novels for Abaddon on a medieval theme – the Gisburne novels, which turn the Robin Hood legend on its head, and make him the villain. While writing these, I got to know Jason and frequently hassled him for first-hand info on medieval matters. So, when I heard he needed a script for the Percival short, I stuck our foot in the door! It may seem a leap from His House to Arthurian fantasy, but from our point of view the process – and our core reasons for being interested in it – were exactly the same.
TV: I should also add that Jason himself plays the knight in Percival. And all the armour and weapons are 100% real. This is one of the things that makes the film great – the mix of fantastical, eye-popping backdrops and real armour that has authentic weight and texture.
KAM: That sounds absolutely amazing, Toby. I look forward to seeing it.
TV: Plus I can hit a hostile reviewer with an arrow at 100 paces….
KAM: Felicity, any of your current solo projects you’re free to share?
FE: I have a solo feature in development, but again, it’s under wraps! I can reveal that it’s a rom-com… with, of course, a twist!
TV: There literally is a sequence in which they do the twist.
TV: That is actually a total lie.
FE: (Silly 👆😂)
KAM: We look forward to seeing it when more can be revealed. Finally, to end, could you let Avaaz’s readers know where they can follow you on social media to keep up with your projects?
TV: If you want to follow just the writing, I’m at @TobyVenablesWr. If you’re happy to have a bit of tub-thumping politics as well (I’m really selling this, aren’t I?) you can also follow @TobyVenables. I’m also launching my script consultancy soon, which will be at tobyvenables.com.
KAM: This is a year for tub-thumping if there ever were one.
TV: Those tubs have never known such thumping…
KAM: Thanks again so much! Looking forward to seeing His House later this month!
His House is releasing October 30, 2020 on Netflix.
Kevin Andrew Murphy writes short stories, plays, poems, novels, and roleplaying games. A long-standing contributor to Wild Cards (www.wildcardsworld.com), George R.R. Martin’s super-hero series, Kevin’s story for Mississippi Roll, “Find the Lady,” won the 2019 Darrell Award for Best Novella. On the gaming end, Kevin’s currently editor in chief for Savage Sign, the Savage Worlds roleplaying game magazine. Kevin’s next short story is “Anastasia’s Egg” coming out in October in Weird World War III edited by Sean Patrick Hazlett for Baen. A lifelong resident of California’s Bay Area, Kevin has recently relocated to Reno, Nevada.