Interview by Jakob Lewis Barnes
The horror genre is a tricky place to make your name, but Oliver Park is an up-and-coming director taking the independent film scene by storm. Stepping behind the camera, after making his name as an actor, the future is bright for Oliver Park, with his short film ‘Vicious’ enjoying success on the festival circuit, and upcoming short ‘Still’ set to do the same. We caught up with Oliver to speak horror, filmmaking and the future.
JLB: With a degree in architecture, we might never have had the pleasure of conducting this interview, so we’re very glad you decided to dabble in the film industry. How did that move come about?
OP: I’ve been writing all my life and always had a deep passion and fascination for horror. By the time I started studying Architecture I’d written various short novels, ideas and scripts. Then, any down-time that I had whilst doing my studies, I would write. I used to bug my housemates to read my scripts. I continued to act whilst at university so was constantly meeting new filmmakers and in the middle of the filmmaking process. I always knew I would be involved in film somehow.
JLB: Whilst your directorial future looks exceedingly bright, you’re probably still better known for your acting skills, with a vast array of performance credits on your resume – what would you say has been your most challenging role to date, and why?
OP: Thank you. I hope so! I have been lucky enough to have had some amazing roles in various different capacities. I’ve had to put on and lose weight, shave my head and grow my hair. I’ve also done various accents. I like to dig deep into the character to really bring them to life. The hardest roles are always the ones that come in last minute – usually because someone else has been unable to do it or they’ve been hurt in fight rehearsals! Once I was brought in to a film to do a fight scene the day before the shoot as the actor broke his arm. Those are always tough. But no matter what is thrown at you, the passion is still there inside and it drives you to want to come back every day. And you always want to go back and do it all again once it’s over! The most challenging role to date was in a film called ‘Synced’ which is a feature set for release in 2017.
JLB: It must be quite an honour to know that people have written films with you specifically in mind to play the part. Do you find that this adds an extra element of pressure on yourself to perform in the role?
OP: I feel more pressure working with people I’ve not worked with before as I like to know the mind of the person I’m on set with so we’re always on the same page creatively. It’s always an honour to get told that something was written for you as there are so many talented actors out there. It’s nice to be chosen without having to audition.
JLB: Was it always your intention to move behind the camera at some point?
OP: Yes. Never to stay there, but yes. Acting came later. When I was nine, I wanted to do special effects for horror films. That’s where my fascination with horror really took off. My writing never stopped and I tried to find people to make my ideas countless times. I’m so glad that I was able to do some directing earlier in my life as it’s also helped me exponentially in acting.
JLB: And which side of the camera do you prefer to be on?
OP: I’m so passionate about both. I just want to help make the most of the project. I’m not in any of the scripts that I have coming up so I guess we’ll have to wait and see!
JLB: You’re building quite a reputation as a horror filmmaker – what is it about the horror genre that appeals to you?
OP: It’s the oldest tale of them all and it taps into an area of our mind that nothing else gets close to. Fear is such a strong emotion that it’s endlessly interesting to me. I don’t feel like I’m doing it to scare other people though. I want to scare myself. I’d love to do some psychological research into why we fear the way we do. I adore horror and although I’ve written various other genres and rarely act in horror, I will be focusing on directing horror for a while yet.
JLB: Your short film ‘Vicious’ enjoyed plenty of success on the independent film festival circuit – how does it feel to have people in the industry appreciate the work you do?
OP: There are no words! I made it for me. To see if the script itself would be as scary as I wanted it to be. The script isn’t that scary. The words ‘she slowly puts the knife down’ don’t put people on edge. So when it did so well and when I heard people scream at film festivals, I know I’ve pushed the boundaries slightly. It’s an incredible feeling. It is a collaboration. It wouldn’t have been nearly as great if the team I had weren’t amazing. Everyone that worked on it wanted to make something awesome. I can’t wait to work with them again.
JLB: And coming next year is the short film ‘Still’ – what can you tell us about this project?
OP: ‘Still’ is very different. It’s more of a teaser for the feature version that ‘Vicious’ was. All my shorts are essentially teasers for the feature versions which are written and ready to go. I just hope I can do them all! ‘Still’ is about a foreboding figure that has a sack over its head. This figure never moves. With that, a twisted game of ‘cat and mouse’ ensues.
JLB: After that, what does Oliver Park have in the pipeline?
OP: There are various things brewing. Definitely some feature films which I cannot wait to talk about. Possibly a few other short films but if I can focus on feature films for a while then hopefully people will be seeing the feature version (and what’s really behind) Vicious at some point soon! I’ve got various scripts so if anyone out there wants to collaborate then definitely get in touch.
JLB: Finally, what is the best piece of advice you can offer to those hoping to make it in the film industry?
OP: No-one is going to make it for you. If you want to make it then make it great, work with others and don’t stop.