FAN Interviews Filmmaker James Chappell

I recently viewed a short film entitled “Kitten in the Cat Trap”. It’s a wonderful little chiller with superb direction! Immediately after viewing it, I knew I needed to contact the director. Thankfully, due to the large community this and the podcasting world has created, it wasn’t hard to track him down. The Gentlemen’s Guide to Midnite Cinema briefly covered his short, allowing me to quickly find him in their Facebook group.

What I found was an incredibly nice and intelligent man with a keen eye on film making! He has a passion for film that is not only evident in his films, but the way he goes about speaking about it. I asked him about his knowledge and expertise on film making, his films, his aspirations and his general love for the craft.

1) What made you want to become a director?

Just my ever- growing addiction  for cinema!  I have always loved the idea of making films from a really early age despite not having the means to do so until a few years later when i got my first camcorder .When I was 8 years old I was introduced to films like “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” and “The Monster Squad” and all these 80’s cult films that I was instantly blown away by . I also remember seeing Stuart Gordon’s ‘Dolls ‘, the first horror film i ever saw and  being amazed at how terrifying it was – I was hooked on film from then on in ,  and all i ever wanted to or had any interest in doing  as a job when i was older was to make my own.

2) Who were your inspirations?

There are so many films and filmmakers I love and admire so it really depends on what projects I’m working on . With Comatose Avenue , my first real short,  the character of Lucinda Wallace was very much inspired by  Isabella Rosselinis character in Blue Velvet. With Kitten In the Cat Trap the obvious inspirations and homages were  of course Dario Argento and Mario Bava , but there are certainly brushes of Lynch in there too in relation to  some of the themes and narrative choices.

I adore David Lynch and what he brings to his work, but he is also an inspiration for the fact he never strays to what he thinks people will like, he stays true to himself and to the film , and that is something to be admired and something i am keen to apply in my own work.

3) What are your favorite films?

Perhaps the hardest question to answer whenever anyone asks !  I watch so much and love so many films that to pin particular titles  to favorites without leaving something out is impossible , there’s just too many !

I guess it could range from  anything from  “Blue Velvet” to “Double Indemnity” to “Belle De Jour” right through to “The Beyond”!

4) How and/or where did you learn how to direct?

I learnt some technical stuff whilst doing my Film degree , but to be honest most of it really came from constantly watching movies.

5) Explain your latest short, “Kitten in the Cat Trap”.

Kitten In the Cat Trap , is an Italian inspired horror film that surrounds the story of Isabel,   a little girl who survives a car accident on a dark country road . As she wanders aimlessly through the night she falls victim to a series of unnerving characters and events.

6) Where did you get the idea for “Kitten in the Cat Trap”?

I am a huge fan of Italian genre cinema and knew from the offset that I wanted to pay homage to the wonderful aesthetic and artistic freedom films during the 60s, 70’s had from guys like Bava and Argento, so this was always a starting point. But I didn’t want to do just another Giallo, so I put the stylistic ideas aside and Daniel Hayward and myself began coming up with a story ideas.

Although I had written the script, what was weird but interesting is that during editing we noticed an added depth to the story and characters that we hadn’t consciously planned. Developing  and realised the films themes of loss, resentment, guilt, etc. which is what really lays core to the story. Its always nice when things like that happen!

7) What is your favorite film you’ve done to date?

At this point I’ve only got three shorts to my name; Fragment (2008), Comatose Avenue (2009) and Kitten In the Cat Trap ( 2011). But, I think Kitten is by far the most accomplished. Comatose Avenue is a film we made a couple of years ago and its a film we were pleased with at the time and still are today. Although I think if I were to make it now there would certainly be technical things I would do differently . But Filmmaking is a process which you have to continuously learn from, so twith each new project you are informed on what to do differently from the last. With Kitten In the Cat Trap, I was happy with the final result especially stylistically and technically. But, it did take a long while before I got to a point where I was satifyed with something that resembled the image I had in my mind when I originally wrote it.

We originally shot Kitten in the Cat Trap solely for a festival here in the UK , called ‘ 2 days Later’, a 48 hour film competition where the goal was to shoot and edit the piece in 2 days and to no longer than 10 minutes in length, so we were very compromised when we shot it –  2 days is not a long time to shoot, especially with no money!

Although it managed to get shortlisted into the festival, I felt, cut to 10 mins the films pacing was rushed. It didnt flow how I wanted to, nor did it have the right  look in terms of the colour grade, music, etc. So, it needed tightening up in a big bad way . So after the festival we spent time tweaking  the cut, adding bits back in from footage we had to cut out, etc., and really getting  it to a point where we all felt the film  should look and feel from the original script. So yeah, I think it was definitely worth giving it that extra push and are pleased with what eventually came out of it.

8) Any future projects you’d like to discuss?

Yes, I am working on a few projects on and off. One is a comedy short that we’ve just started working on, but one in particular (which looks as if it might be feature length at this point ), is a  character piece about a man who suffers the effects of being the first man to travel through time . Its a long way off, but the first draft is done and we are pretty excited about it. We just need to raise some funds. Unlike Kitten, this might need a little bit of money to produce!

9) What are your goals for the future?

So cliche, but I guess to just to keep making films as long as I have the passion and commitment to do so and to just see where each one takes me!

10) Any words of inspiration for aspiring filmmakers?

I think, although most aspiring  filmmakers including myself would like  to get to a point where someone pays you for what you love doing, if you’ve got the true passion you’ll do whatever it takes to make films regardless, so just keep doing it .
You can watch “Kitten in the Cat Trap” here:

You can stay posted on his career here:

You can like his production company’s Facebook page:

You can read his writing on film here:

I’d like to thank James for taking time out of his busy schedule to conduct this interview!