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Chris Cooke and Steven Sheil on Mayhem Film Festival

30 September 16 words: Harry Wilding
We spoke to the organisers of the festival about it's 12th edition on the 13-16 October
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For the uninitiated, what is Mayhem Film Festival?
Steven Sheil: Mayhem is a horror, science-fiction and cult film festival based at Nottingham’s fantastic independent arts cinema Broadway. We show the best in world genre films, focusing on previews and premieres of upcoming releases, along with classic archive films, a diverse shorts programme and special live events.

Is Mayhem 2016 going to be the best Mayhem EVER?
SS: Well, we always try to make each festival the best it’s been and we’ve got a brilliant line-up this year with two UK Premieres - the Indonesian action movie Headshot from the Mo Brothers, starring Iko Uwais, who made a big impact in The Raid and The Raid 2; and the brilliantly over-the-top Don’t Kill It, starring Dolph Lundgren as a laconic demon hunter. We’ve also got a great live event in conjunction with our friends Kino Klubb - a live music/spoken word performance of two stories by HP Lovecraft, narrated by the actor Laurence R. Harvey (unforgettable in the notorious Human Centipede movies), plus previews of films like Julia Ducornau’s Raw, which is a brilliant film about a cannibalistic veterinary student. That said, it’ll be up to the audience to decide - hopefully they’ll enjoy it as much as previous years.

Which film do you think is going to most divide the audience? 
SS: We’ve got a couple this year. Mexican film We Are the Flesh is definitely out-there - experimental, daring, provocative - it’s quite an intense experience. Also on the same day (Friday) we’ve got Jim Hosking’s The Greasy Strangler, which is one of those films that you have to see to believe. It’s daft, gruesome, repulsive, sweet, funny and dark in equal measure. And it might put you off fatty foods for life.

Chris Cooke: Hopefully there’s something for everyone at Mayhem - if you don’t find a feature you totally get, there’s another great one around the corner. But I agree with Steven, We Are the Flesh will push the boundaries for some.

Say that I am a super busy person and I can only see one film per day – which ones should I see?
SS: I’d encourage you to clear your schedule, we can’t narrow it down like that. However...we make a real effort to get the filmmakers to the festival and we’ve got four guested events this year, zombie film The Rezort with director Steve Barker, mind-bending thriller The Ghoul with director Gareth Tunley, the Christopher Lloyd-starring YA adaptation  I Am Not a Serial Killer with director Billy O’Brien and writer Christopher Hyde  and our closing film The Void a practical FXtravaganza from some of the team behind Canadian collective Astron-6, Steven Kostanksi and Jeremy Gilliespie.

Say that I hate the sight of blood – are there going to be any films I can actually see at this festival? Is it, like, a total gorefest?
CC: It’s never all gore - we have some great sci-fi (the amazing superhero film They Call Me Jeeg Robot) and some amazing subtle, creepy thrillers, like the British newcomer Gareth Tunley with his first feature The Ghoul which is creepy and doesn’t have anything explicit like that. But if you LOVE gore we also have cult classic Blood Feast from the late great Godfather of Gore HG Lewis as one of our midnight movies!

SS: We try and get a good spread of films. Archive screening Planet of the Vampires is a super-stylish film from Italian master Mario Bava. On the more psychological end of things, we have Japanese movie Creepy, and the brilliant Pet, starring Dominic Monaghan.

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They Call Me Jeeg Robot

How do you ensure you get an even spread of films across all sub-genres that would appeal to Mayhem fans?
SS: We’ve been doing this for a while now and we have got an idea of what our audience likes, so that’s always in our head when we’re programming. And we’ve got quite broad tastes when it comes to genre, so the programme is always going to reflect that.

CC: We spend half the year watching hundreds of feature films starting at the Cannes Film Festival and Meli Gueneau watches hundreds of new shorts. We’re after a broad range of genres and films - we just want the best, most interesting or freshest ideas.

You guys don’t choose the short films anymore? What can we expect from the Scary Shorts line up?
CC: We select the final line up of films from a short list made by the incredible programmer, Meli Gueneau. She searches the whole globe to find the best, the quirkiest and the weirdest new short films… and she finds some of them from really close to home. In fact this year she found one of the strangest shorts we’ve ever screened.

SS: We’ve got horror, comedy, science-fiction and general weirdness - films involving teeth, hair, banshees, zombies and a vomited-up manifestation of masculine id. Y’know, just the normal kind of stuff...

With the sad demise of Bang! how important is it to showcase the Scary Shorts?
CC: Mayhem started as a side project affiliated with Bang! so they’re missed, but the Short Stack short film screenings are terrific. For us the Shorts Showcase is a chance to see some amazing storytelling, from all over the globe, in just a couple of hours - and a lot of filmmakers will be here.

SS: It’s important because it’s where we started as a festival and it’s where most filmmakers start their careers. It’s always a very popular screening and it’s a great opportunity to get a fantastic range of films - local, national and international - in front of our audience.

Explain a little about the Duke St Workshop on Thursday and how it came to be…
CC: The ever wonderful Kino Klubb had been planning on bringing them to Nottingham for ages and we were only too delighted to offer Mayhem as a platform for them - the album is terrific and Laurence Harvey is an incredible character actor. It’s a unique blending of synth and spoken word - something I really love. And it’s Lovecraft, one of the most unsettling writers to have put pen to Necronomicon.

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Duke St Workshop

How hard is it to get funding for events like Mayhem at the moment?
CC: Very - it’s an ongoing battle and a tough slog, so it’s good to have the foundation and support that Broadway offer.

SS: Funding is never easy - there are a lot of events around the country that are vying for support, so you have to try and stand out. When we began as a festival, there were only a couple of other genre festivals around, and now there are loads. All we can do is concentrate on what we do well, try and make sure we retain our audience, and keep trying to put on great events. We’re really lucky that we have a venue like Broadway who give us a massive amount of support across the board. They’re really the reason we’re able to keep putting on a great festival every year.

CC: The battle goes on.

Is organising the festival getting easier or more difficult with each year?
SS: Well, we’re getting older and crankier, which makes it more difficult, but we also know what we’re doing more, which makes some things easier. Swings and roundabouts really...

CC: As I get older everything gets harder. That sounds wrong.

What is your favourite part of Mayhem? 
SS: Genuinely the four days of the festival and getting to see and meet the audience - that’s the whole point, to get these films in front of a crowd and to present them and see what they think. It’s also stressful, because of all the running around, but it’s where I think we get the most satisfaction.

CC: My favourite part is standing next to David Flint (The Reprobate Magazine) while he does his annual horror film quiz on the last night of the festival in the CafeBar. I just stand there like a glamorous assistant. That and chatting with the audience - fellow fans of the genres we love.

SS: The first pint after the last film has finished in is also pretty special though.

Mayhem Film Festival will take place at Broadway Cinema from Thursday 13 October 2016 to Sunday 16 October 2016.

Mayhem website

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