Kevin Connor [Interview]

Welcome to Day 26 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Annual Month of Horror Showcase! We have a fully loaded month of all things horror for you fine folks! October is our favorite month for this very reason, and we are so excited to share 31 full days of film showcases and interviews with some of the finest folks from the world of horror, just as we have been doing for the last 5 years. What started as a simple 5 day showcase, has now blossomed into a full blown month long event. You’re going to love this! Enjoy!

I am very excited to share today’s wonderful interview with you fine folks! Today we are speaking with the legendary filmmaker who brought the world such classics as Motel Hell and the Emmy Award winning Hallmark mini-series Frankenstein, which is one of the finest tellings of Mary Shelley’s famous story to ever hit a screen of any kind. It’s the wonderful British bred artist Kevin Connor! The man has had a career that is 60 years long, and has had no sign of slowing down. This is a true testament to Connor’s legendary status in the world of film and television.

Of course Kevin’s work expands WAY beyond the world of horror, we were very inclined to ask him about some of his wonderful work from the world of horror, from both the past and even what the future holds for his stance in the world of horror. It is a wonderful one Folks, you’re going to love it! Enjoy!

What inspired you to get into the world of film and television? Was it an early aspiration to do so, or did you just happen to find yourself in this world one day?

Like most kids of the fifties I was brought up on films at the local cinemas – the main one being the Ritz in Potters Bar – in England. Films fascinated me but it never occurred to me that one could get a job ‘making’ films – so I made do with a borrowed 9.5 mm camera and filmed the Annual School Sports (mainly to get out of running, jumping races and hurling pointy objects around). This led to finishing school at sixteen and wanting to be in the camera department swinging around on one of those Meccano like camera cranes. Unfortunately, the British film industry was in the doldrums but I wrote to every film company in the London Telephone Directory and managed to land a job in the cutting rooms of a documentary company in Soho, London, as a Trainee Assistant Editor.

So, to answer your question – I guess it was an early aspiration at age 14.

Your 1980 film Motel Hell is an absolute staple in the world of horror, making it a cult classic amongst die hard horror fans. I know on a personal level why I still enjoy the film so much, but I am curious to know your opinion. What do you believe it is about Motel Hell that keeps it so damn entertaining almost 40 years after it came out?

No one is more surprised than me that Motel Hell is still popular! It was my first directing assignment that I landed after arriving in Los Angeles – fresh off the boat – so to speak. I suspect it’s longevity and enjoyment is because there is no ‘slasher’ element on-screen. It all happens off-screen in one’s imagination – real horror. Also, the characters play their roles straight and don’t take the ’piss’ out of the genre and at the same time it’s tongue in cheek. There’s an innocence about it.

In 2014, you directed the amazing Emmy Award winning 2-part TV film Frankenstein for Hallmark, that I absolutely loved! Mary Shelley’s classic story has been told and re-told many times over the years. What I am curious to ask about is what exactly do you as an artist do to put your own personal touch to a well-known tale such as Frankenstein? How much of Kevin Connor can one recognize in your telling of this story should they look hard enough?

Frankenstein is one of my favorite TV Mini Series dramas – one that I’m proud of – (despite some of the bizarre editing that was perpetrated by the producers.) Basically, thanks to a great script and wonderful actors. Not to mention a great DP and Production Designer. As to personal ‘touches’ – I’m not sure that I consciously have them – except to say that any such ‘touches’ come out of the pre-production researches and viewing as many Frankenstein films as possible and trying to find a different angle or take on the story. Through long chats with the Production Designer I was fortunate to find several sketches and designs from the 30’s and 40’s of Frankenstein films that never got made. But at the end of the day it’s always down to a good script. My style (if any) is generally a classic approach to the subject matter – clear story-telling, establishing a photographic mood and no complicated flashy editing.

With 60 years of experience in the world of film and television, working in so many different areas of the process, I am curious to know what it has been like to adapt to the vast changes in the world of film production, marketing, etc.? And what would you say are some staples that haven’t changed in the world of filmmaking since your earliest days in the business?

Before moving to Los Angeles I worked some 40 years in the British Film industry – in all the various wonderful studios, Pinewood, Shepperton, Elstree and Twickenham. I was surrounded by great producers, directors, DP’s, Art Directors (they were called in those days), editors, technicians and actors of that era. Everyone knew everyone and you could rub shoulders and network with the best of the best in the bars and pubs in and around the studios. Today it is impossible to find and enjoy that camaraderie because of the way film making technology has developed. Everyone is behind closed/electronically controlled doors. Very little social contact. So that’s what I lament and miss most of all.  So, one just adapts to the changes and go with the flow – what else are you going to do? I was never into the marketing/producing side of the business – but I guess the staples that haven’t changed are that 90% of people in the world of filmmaking love what they do – are dedicated and hard-working. They are still great craftsman and developing the most amazing cinema magic.

While the world of horror is far from being your mainstay in the world of film and television, you have had some great success in the genre. And this being our Month of Horror showcase and all, I am curious to know what it is you enjoy about working in the more frightening world of suspense and horror? What sets it apart from other projects you tend to work on?

The few horror films I directed I have thoroughly enjoyed – except maybe for ‘The House Where Evil Dwells’. The genre does allow you to go beyond conventional set-ups and manipulate the audience unashamedly. Your characters can be ‘over- the–top’ or underplayed. The lighting, music and set design can be more bizarre than for a ‘normal’ film plot. They are just so much fun to make and one gets left alone to play more than with TV projects.

What is your favorite scary movie?

By scary I guess you mean pure horror genre – but I was scared by Rosemary’s Baby and Clouzot’s Wages of Fear.

But I was really really scared by Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre as I recall. I couldn’t watch it through to the end. It was so vivid and such real horror – but I wouldn’t call it my favorite but it sure worked on me. Otherwise Pyscho and The Exorcist are up there as my favorites.

What are you plans for the upcoming Halloween? Any kind of traditions you try to uphold each year?

Actually, no plans – no traditions. Since my kids are long gone into their own worlds I no longer have the excuse to traipse around the neighborhood. Sometimes I go and look at a few extraordinarily over-the-top spookily decorated houses (by SPFX guys) in Toluca Lake. Otherwise I stay home.                                                                               However, I am working on a Halloween script at the moment.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I have several scripts in hand at various stages of development (like every other director in town) –  my favorite is Connemara Days a delightful script set in Cong, Ireland in the 50’s when John Ford and John Wayne were making The Quiet Man. It’s a parallel story of two local kids who were extras in the film and Ford and Wayne’s activities seen from their point of view. Hopefully shooting next year.

The Halloween script – Mortuary Girl – a revenge tale by a teenager that was accidentally killed by her friends but covered up to look like an accident. She returns in the abstract through her mother – every Halloween –  and extracts justice on the kids that killed her and subsequently their offspring.

An anti-poaching romantic comedy set in Africa called Missionary Position. And it’s not what you think!

What was the last thing that made you smile?

As it happens – a few hours ago – part of Obama’s speech at John McCain’s funeral – who was a true American Hero.


About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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