DEVIANT INTERVIEW: Making Films with Mat Johns

Mat Johns. Does that name mean anything to you? Trust us when we say that it will. Mat is an extremely talented filmmaker with his sites set on making truly epic films. When I first watched his short film simply called Run, I watched it over and over again until I realized that I had to contact the creator of this brilliant film in order to let him know how awesome it is. Soon I learned that he was already aware of this fact and that he is a very humble and kind individual. I asked him more questions....and this is how that went.

FILM DEVIANT: What is your favorite horror film?

MAT JOHNS: Not sure what my favourite horror film is... I think its either Alien  or John Carpenter's The Thing. They're scary in different ways; Alien  is reserved and very patient, revealing the beastie more conservatively, whereas The Thing  a more violent sci-fi with Rob Bottin’s amazing monsters all over the place... but they both share something absolutely essential: great characters. The films aren't about a group of hot teens running around a spaceship half naked and being offed one at a time with barely any character definition or development. They are about 'real' people; flawed and vulnerable in their own ways. The Nostromo has a very real and functional crew. They sweat, they're not supermodels, they have fears and desires. The Thing  is about a group of hairy fellas in the arse-end of nowhere trying to deal with a shape shifting alien. Its fucking terrifying. They're all pretty easy to relate too in one way or another. So for me, the presence of something scary is all the more valuable when the people under threat are believable. Kurt Russel, Keith David, Wilford Brimley, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holme, Veronica Cartwright, Sigourney Weaver etc etc... awesome casting. And when the gore kicks in in both films, it's fucking great.
FILM DEVIANT: What made you want to get into filmmaking?
MAT JOHNS: When I was 8 years old I saw Terminator 2. It changed everything for me. The scene where the T1000 is posing as Janelle and stabs Tod through the mouth whilst he's drinking the milk... that just blew me away. So at first I wanted to act. That lasted about a month. Then I wanted to be a stuntman, which lasted a long time. Easily a couple of years - I kept rolling down things, jumping off things, running through things, crashing my push bike intentionally... Then in high school, I wanted to do special effects -miniatures and so on, but there was no specific course for that in college so I did theatre lighting and sound as it VERY loosely of encompassed some of the same skills... on this course was a filmmaking module where we got to write, shoot and cut a film. I was hooked. It was then that I decided I wanted be a writer/director focusing more on the directing side of things. But I never made a decent film at college. I fucking sucked. Went to uni, made more bad existential and angst-ridden 'experimental' films and then left uni, and got my shit together and started making my own shorts. I left uni in 2004 and went freelance, and still had A LOT to learn. I'm still learning, you never stop learning.
FILM DEVIANT: Who inspires you?
MAT JOHNS: Inspirations are massively varied. Cameron to Jackson, Spielberg to Del Toro, Scorsese to Chan-Wook. I love so many films I can’t list them. But here’s a few from my top 20: T2, Braindead, OldBoy, Fight Club, Heavenly Creatures, Pan’s Labyrinth, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Pulp Fiction, Leon…it goes on!
FILM DEVIANT: How did the concept for your brilliant short film Run  come about?
MAT JOHNS: The very first concept for Run (it didn’t have a name then) came about when I listened to ‘Twisted Little Man’ by Michael J Sheehy. It gave me an idea for a very slick, very cold film about a cannibal that was just cruel but with the no back story. It never sat well with me and it kinda felt like Blade  but for cannibals… so I walked away from it. Then, one day I was in the flat and it hit me – he needs to be a tragic character himself, as well as a monster. So the format of his writing a letter to his mother whilst on the run gave me the hook I needed to seduce an audience and bring them in with gentle, intimate narration and photography…then I could pull the rug.

FILM DEVIANT: You've mentioned that you never intended to conceive Run  as a horror film. How has the reception been?
MAT JOHNS: Yes, Run  was never a horror movie to me at all. Seriously. It was a drama that’s just got some horrific elements to it – the sadistic torture and destruction of a young, happy couple by a man who has urges that most of us cannot understand. But he too loves his mother, and she was the one who could have stopped him when he was about to be busted for something Stateside. It’s a twisted loyalty on both their parts – the love a mother has for a son, and his knowledge that he is a disappointment to her… the fact it found a home with horror fans is interesting to me as I’d have thought its too gentle for most horror fans, who I might assume want more blood and guts… perhaps Run is perceived as more of a thinking persons horror film as its not full of blood and gore? I don’t know… but I’m very happy that its found a home, I’m glad people like the film and react the way they do. But I think if people label something as a horror film, then something is expected – the audience will know there will be an event or something terrible. Whereas if you go into watch Run  knowing little about it, it has a much more powerful effect –another good reason perhaps to label it as a drama. I think its the case with a lot of short films, you can't say too much about them sometimes as it gives the game away. That's why the description on Vimeo, as flat as it might seem, just reads: 'Sam is on the road and he writes a letter to his mother back home.' It doesn't give anything significant away, but might make a person curious to watch it.
FILM DEVIANT: I absolutely love the entire look of the film. What kind of equipment did you use to achieve the look?
MAT JOHNS: Run  was shot on a Canon 5DmkII using Nikkor lenses. I used a shoulder rig and follow focus for most of it and a slider for one of the shots. I used a variable ND filter for the exteriors, which allowed me to shoot at f2 in such hard daylight. The lighting in the house location was mostly done using practicals and candles, with an LED head used for some fill. It was pretty low-tech to be honest, but its all it needed. The whole thing was shot in one full day and one morning and then edited over the next couple of days in between shooting other people’s films at the Filmonik Halloween Kabaret event where it was made in October 2012.
FILM DEVIANT: Do you have any plans for a feature film?
MAT JOHNS: I’m currently writing my first feature film. It’s a vigilante film and it’s set around Manchester. Can’t say any more than that at the moment! I hope to shoot it next year. I am very lucky to know a lot of talented filmmakers of different disciplines and I think we can make something pretty special together. I will write, direct and edit the film. I’m in post-production on my next short, Radio Silence  and also editing a music video I recently shot in Holland.

FILM DEVIANT: What are some of your other interests aside from film?
MAT JOHNS: Aside form film, I love to go camping, hiking, climbing, mountain biking, long-boarding, read, eat, sleep, take pictures, people watch, write… not a fan of football or anything like that. I like to chat with friends and share ideas. I like a beer, I like cooking… bit of everything I guess!
FILM DEVIANT: What is you favorite film genre? Are you a horror guy?
MAT JOHNS: Favourite film genre… don’t have one. If a film is good, I like it no matter what genre it is. I can happily watch OldBoy  on the same day I’d watch The 40 Year Old Virgin  or Jaws… I just fucking love movies. Always have, always will. It comes down the character and vision. I love filmmakers who can turn their hand to any genre.
FILM DEVIANT: you have anything that you'd like to promote?
MAT JOHNS: As for promotion, I guess I’d like to push my next film Radio Silence (@RadioSilenceUK), which is my company, (@ZeroFacility) and Filmonik (@Filmonik). Hopefully Radio Silence  will be finished by June this year and then we will be pushing it out on the festival circuit, and taking my older short, Kiss, off the festival circuit and releasing it online. Its had a good run on the festival circuit and won a couple of awards, but its approaching its second birthday now, which usually means its time is up for festival submissions. Also Chris Lane, the very talented producer of Radio Silence (@chrislaneblog) is someone to keep an eye on.


Mat Johns is definitely a name that you want to remember. He is a talented filmmaker with a talented crew and I'm positive that he is just getting started on his road to the top. For the latest news on what's going on over at Zero Facility Films follow them on their Facebook Page HERE!

In the meantime, here is the critically acclaimed short film RUN. Please enjoy...

Thanks for reading!