Exclusive: Doctor Who writer on Film4 FrightFest Premiere

James Moran Pic: Catherine Davies

James Moran Pic: Catherine Davies

James Moran is no stranger to a movie premiere. The Crystal Palace-based writer is a well-known name among fans of horror and sci-fi films and TV shows.

He penned the comedy horror films Severance and Cockneys vs Zombies and the thriller Tower Block, while his television resume includes Doctor Who, Spooks, Torchwood, Primeval, NBC series Crusoe and shows for the children’s channel CBBC.

Film4 FrightFest 2015, the UK’s largest international genre film festival, announced this week that Moran’s new short film Ghosting, which he wrote and directed, will have its world premiere at the event on August 31.

Here, Moran speaks exclusively to Eastlondonlines about the film and its upcoming premiere. “FrightFest is my equivalent of Christmas. Every film I’ve written has premiered at the festival. It feels right having it premiere there. It’s organised by four guys who love what they do and know horror.

“They trawl through movies all year to find the best ones for their audience, who know horror inside out. They’re the best litmus test. When writing a horror or thriller I think: ‘What would the FrightFest audience think of this’.”

Shot over just one long, intense day with a small crew in the leafy London suburb of Crystal Palace, Ghosting is the story of a female research assistant sent to investigate a supposedly haunted room. Like every other case, she expects it to be a hoax or waste of time, only to discover her worst nightmare.

This supernatural horror reunites James with actress Francesca Fowler, who starred in his Doctor Who episode The Fires of Pompeii which also featured two future Doctor Who stars, Peter Capaldi and Karen Gillan. “Fran had quite a challenge with Ghosting as she is the only cast member but she more than delivered.”

Francesca Fowler in Ghosting Pic: James Moran

Francesca Fowler in Ghosting Pic: James Moran

Ghosting marks his returns to short form filmmaking following  2013’s Crazy For You, starring Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who, Broadchurch and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow)  and Hannah Tointon (The Inbetweeners).

Moran describes of the appeal of making short films: “When you make TV and film you end up doing lots of development and you’re often waiting on other people to make decisions or do their part of it – it’s a long process. If you can do a short film, it’s great. You get an idea, write it, make it and get it out there so much quicker.”

Moran is the youngest of five children. He says he retreated into his imagination and relished making up stories. “When I was four I wrote a story at school and the teacher read it out in class. I had to stand on a chair while everyone stared at me. If you did anything good or bad at that school you had to stand on a chair. Everyone laughed and clapped. I’ve been chasing that applause ever since.”

He came to London from Ireland in 1996 when he was 24 and worked in a range of boring office jobs while writing his early scripts. However the office doldrums contributed to a major turning point in his life, inspiring him to write Severance, released in 2006, about a coachload of office workers on a team-building trip to Europe who are picked off one by one in the woods.

“The one thing I miss about day jobs is calling into an office and saying hello and chatting. Twitter is like calling into the office for me now,” Moran laughs. “I get up, make a coffee and check Twitter every morning before settling down to write. It’s my ‘watercooler’ moment.”

Moran cites his favourite films as A Clockwork Orange, Withnail And I, The Blues Brothers and A Nightmare On Elm Street, which left a particular impression on him. “It was the first horror movie I saw where the victim not only started fighting back but started fighting back REALLY well. I realised that even though there’s a supernatural, evil creature, the main character can still outsmart him. That was a great lesson in writing and in life.”

Moran directing on the set of Ghosting Pic: James Moran

Moran directing on the set of Ghosting Pic: James Moran

He moved to Crystal Palace earlier this year and loves the area. “It’s an incredibly creative, culturally rich area. It’s the first place in London I’ve felt a sense of community, of local pride. It’s also extremely family-friendly, everyone’s got a kid or a dog or a cat and everywhere welcomes you and any type of menagerie you might have.”

On offering advice to young writers, he quips: “Don’t be too good, because I’ll have to kill you! There are no short cuts. Read a lot, write a lot, rewrite a lot. Write the stories in your heart that you feel passionate about that you think only you can tell. Get your voice on the page.”

Moran has several feature scripts in the pipeline and a number of TV shows due to be screened later this year.

He is an active Twitter user, checking into the ‘office’ daily https://twitter.com/jamesmoran

Tickets for FrightFest are on sale now  http://www.frightfest.co.uk/tickets.html

by Catherine Davies