September 6, 2018 Interview – Tom de Ville
When we are children, our imaginations run wild, weaving in and out of fantasy worlds. A point in development we freely think of possibilities that are boundless, England’s Tom de Ville has been fortunate enough to live out those very dreams for a living. Fascinated by the macabre side of storytelling since a young age, de Ville has harnessed that interest into a successful career as a film and television writer. Written for series such as Urban Gothic, NBC’s Hannibal, and the 2014 film The Quiet Ones, he continues to work on his writings while eagerly pursuing work as a director. Recently writing and directing the delightful, Dark Fantasy short Corvidae, starring Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams as the lead, the world of Horror and Fantasy are on the verge of seeing a shining new talent emerge. Taking the time to talk about his evolution in filmmaking, de Ville discusses what he has learned, his desire to direct films, plus more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in film and television as a writer for some time now. First, tell us, what inspired you to pursue a career in writing?
Tom de Ville – When I was a kid, I just really liked movies and stories. I would dream about Star Wars and Ghostbusters and the Raiders of the Lost Ark movies, and figure out which stories I would tell in those worlds. At some point I started picking up ‘Making of…’ magazines and books and they taught me that there were specific jobs you could do to make films, so I started trying to figure out which one I wanted to do. I was immediately drawn to directing, but when I was a kid, I couldn’t afford camera equipment. Instead, I picked up a notebook and a pen and started writing.
CrypticRock.com – Very interesting. It seems that passion has lead you to positive things. Of your writing credits, many are within the Horror and Fantasy genres. Do you enjoy working within these genres?
Tom de Ville – I love genre filmmaking full stop. In many ways it’s the purest form of filmmaking, because you’re not just writing a script and choosing your shots, you’re creating a whole new world for your story to inhabit. In other words, you get to keep on playing the imaginative games you played as a kid and hopefully bring in your crew and actors, and then an audience, to share the experience. There’s nothing like that when it goes well.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, the possibilities are often limitless. You penned the screenplays behind such bigger-budget films such as 2014’s The Quiet Ones. How exciting was it for you to see your work reach such a large audience like that?
Tom de Ville – (Laughs) Unfortunately, for me, that was a time that it didn’t go well. I was thrilled that Hammer picked up the script because I have a huge love of their 1950s – ’70s movies, and I was thrilled that Jared Harris starred in it because I love his work, but I wasn’t happy with the direction they took my script in and the ways they changed my story. It was an experience which taught me that possibly the best way to protect my work was to go back to my original plan and become a director, and so I started working on that.
CrypticRock.com – Understood. Well, if anything, it was a learning experience as you stated. Your latest work is a short film entitled Corvidae starring Maisie Williams. A dark little tale, what inspired this story?
Tom de Ville – I’d read an article about how intelligent crows are, and how, in particular, they can hold grudges. This made me think about what would happen if the hero of my story tried to protect a crow from some bad kids. How would the other crows from its flock (or murder) help her fight back? And what would happen to her after that? I realized that this idea felt like a fairy tale, so I decided to write it like one.
CrypticRock.com – It is quite a fascinating story. Corvidae is one of your first directing credits in some time. Is film directing and production something else you would also like to do more of?
Tom de Ville – Absolutely! Corvidae was a huge challenge, but after making it, as well as a few music videos, I’m completely addicted. I’ve always approached my screenplays with a very visual sense: I can’t write a scene unless I can play it out in my head as piece of film. Directing gives me a way to fully realize that vision and bring the world in my head to life. I still have a lot to learn, but everything I shoot teaches me a little more.
CrypticRock.com – That is exciting to hear. Corvidae is an interesting tale with little dialogue in its 11-plus minutes running time. Have you considered extending the film to a full length?
Tom de Ville – I do have an idea to extend the short into a feature-length film. Now that the short is done and out there, I’ve started talking with my producers about how we can get it made. Obviously, I need to talk to Maisie about the idea as well, because she’s an intrinsic part of the short, and I’d be reluctant to make the feature version without her.
CrypticRock.com – Hopefully something comes from it all. There is a scene where the girl is dreaming of what appears to be her father dying. Without giving too much away, what significance does this have to the rest of the story?
Tom de Ville – I wanted to give a tiny piece of back story about the main character. We see her at home, alone, looking after the crow, but we don’t know much else about her life. In that scene, you can see a huge collection of books stacked behind her bed; these are all her dad’s books. She’s made a nest out of them after his death, because they make her feel safe. In some way, this ties her with the murder of crows who help after the crow she is looking after dies. They are both bound together by the pain of loss.
CrypticRock.com – That is very interesting and a wonderful subtlety to the story. With Corvidae set to be shown at film festivals, what is next for you? Perhaps some future full-length features?
Tom de Ville – Next I’m planning on making another short, which is also a story that could be fleshed out into a feature. I think shorts can be a great test-bed for ideas, and they’re also a great way to learn more technical filmmaking skills. After that, I’m definitely going to try to get my first feature off the ground.
I’m also very busy as a screenwriter. I have a couple of very cool TV projects that are getting some traction, including one that is being executive produced by Neil Gaiman. I still have to pinch myself whenever I tell anyone that!
CrypticRock.com – That is fantastic to hear! There certainly is a lot coming up for you. Judging by your writing, you certainly appear to be attracted to the more macabre and gothic side of Horror. What are some of your influences as a writer?
Tom de Ville – When it comes to genre writers that I love, it’s hard to know where to begin, so I might just blurt out a list and let your readers pick and choose: Robert Aickman, Stephen King, Arthur Machen, MR James, Shirley Jackson, HP Lovecraft (minus the racism), Thomas Ligotti, Joe R. Lansdale, John Ajvide Lindqvist, China Mieville, Alan Garner, Sylvia Townsend, Walter de la Mare, Angela Carter.
CrypticRock.com – All very good selections. Last question. What are some of your favorite Horror and Sci-Fi related films?
Tom de Ville – I love the films of Guillermo Del Toro, particularly The Devil’s Backbone (2001) and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), because they transform Horror into mythic storytelling, which is something that fascinates me.
I have a deep abiding love for weird genre film and TV from the 1950-70s – in particular, Hammer movies, the Quatermass TV show, Sapphire and Steel, The Avengers, The Prisoner, Doctor Who, because the storytelling back then tapped into something weirder and more primal than much of what we have now.
I love the lurid design and frenzied madness of Italian exploitation cinema of the ’70s and ’80s, particularly anything by Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci or Dario Argento. Lastly, and most importantly, John Carpenter forever!