Norman J Warren, one of Britain’s leading low-budget luminaries in independent film making has recently had a selection of his movies presented in a box set by Anchor Bay Entertainment’s arm in the UK focusing on four of his most popular and better known horror movies amongst his fans. Perhaps owing to that fact that his talents never lead to his being taken under the wing of one of the large studios, Warren’s work in the horror genre and horror/sci-fi field always managed to retain it’s own unique flavor and feel, without Warren needing to bow down to the studio heads. The London born Warren started his cinematic life in his formative years by being given a cine camera, which lead to an interest in movies, and soon enough the young Norman was making amateur films and shorts. His career started at the age of 17 as a runner, before he progressed up the scale, and directed his first short at the age of 23. Two years later, he directed his first film, Her Private Hell, at the age of 25.
Warren’s success as a film maker has come from working with a good crew and technicians, and his films more often than not, in particular his horror films, have been blessed with his fortune to have worked with some excellent and entertaining actors. Warren’s films have always been constrained at times by their budgets but this low budget mood and feel, and more often than not the imperative to work quickly has not stunted Warren’s ability as an auteur of cinema. In fact, more often than not, it has added a certain charm to the proceedings.
Warren’s cinema career spanned 9 feature length movies and the one short in a career that covered over two decades. Actors and co-workers remember him with affection and admiration, and his works have received cult status in various parts of the world where they were given theatrical runs, or released on home video in the 1980’s. Despite the fact that Warren is generally known amongst [mostly] British horror fans, his work has proved staggeringly difficult to see and to be enjoyed. His films have been consigned to dusty old out of date tapes, or badly cut versions by the UK state censor. Nonetheless, Warren has always retained popularity amongst his fans, and long last his talents are receiving the attention they deserved. It is with great pleasure that we here at Cinema Nocturna present a lengthy interview covering the lengthy career with the man himself.
CN- How did you get your start as a director and was this the area of film you originally wanted to make a career of?
NW- I got the chance to direct my very first feature film, because of a short film I'd made entitled "Fragment", which had gained a theatrical screening at the Paris Pullman cinema in London. The owner of the cinema, Richard Schulman, and a distributor by the name of Bachoo Sen were planning to produce their own films, and they needed a director for their first production. As it was to be a very low budget film, they wanted someone who wasn't too experienced, and who wouldn't ask for a large fee. It just so happens they were discussing this as my short film was on the screen, and so I received the wonderful phone call asking if I would consider directing a feature film for them, to which I immediately said yes. The film was "Her Private Hell". I had been working in the film industry for eight years at this time, and although I enjoyed all aspects of production, especially editing, directing was always my main interest and so this opportunity was a dream come true.
CN- As a director in the UK, when first starting out, had you ever wanted to work on a project produced either by Hammer or Amicus studios at all?
NW- Having been a fan of horror and science fiction films since my early teens, and a big fan of the early Hammer productions, I would of course have jumped at the chance to direct a film for them if the opportunity had arisen. Sadly it didn't.. However, in the early 70's I was set to direct a film entitled "The Book of Seven Seals" for Amicus. Over a period of two or three months, I had a number of meetings with Milton Subotsky and the screenwriter Anthony Craze, to discus the production. Various drafts of the script were produced, but Milton Subotsky was never really happy with any of them, and eventually the project was dropped.
CN- Your first film, LOVING FEELING, sounds like it is one of the sex comedies that were popular at the time. When you made this, did you initially intend to a career in sexy films, or did you want to work more in the horror world where you have made your mark?
NW- My first feature film was in fact "Her Private Hell", "Loving Feeling" was the second. Both films were what was known then as sexploitation films, and both were a box-office success, especially "Here Private Hell", which as well as being sold around the world, also played in London's West End for some 14 months. The success was not because it was a great film, nor did it have anything to do with my skill as a director. The success was due to the fact that "Her Private Hell" was regarded as being the first British sex film. There had been the nudist films, and documentaries like Stanley Long's "Secrets Of A Windmill Girl", but "Her Private Hell" was the first British 'X' rated sex film to tell a story. Of course if you were to see it now you would wonder what all the fuss was about. There were so many restrictions at the time, like not being allowed to show nipples, or having the guy without his pants on. It's hard to believe just how innocent it was then. I never wanted to make a career in 'sex' films, and in fact I turned down offers to direct more. The reason being that I found them very restricting and unrewarding, and frankly I was starting to run out of ideas as to how to film yet another scene with people taking off their clothes and getting into bed. Even so, making both film was a great learning process for me, and I shall always be grateful for the opportunity as it gave me the start to my career as a director.
My real interest was in horror and science fiction films, because they offer the freedom of imagination. The horror genre allows you to explore situations and emotions which would not be possible with a drama set in the world of reality.
CN- Can you go into detail as to how it was when directing your first horror film SATAN'S SLAVE? Did it turn out actually how you envisioned it?
NW- Satan's Slave came after several years of frustration and disappointment. I've already mentioned the Amicus project that was dropped. Well , during this period I was also set to direct a film called "The Naked Eye" for AIP (American International Pictures) with Vincent Price in the leading role. It would have been a wonderful start to my career in horror, but unfortunately, after almost two years of pre-production, script revisions and casting, AIP decided to cancel the production.
So you can imagine my delight and excitement at the prospect of directing "Satan's Slave". However, the road from script to actual production was not an easy one. I won't bore you with details as it's an all too familiar story about the problems of raising finance for a film. It was finally decided we would have to make the film a truly independent production by producing it ourselves. Producer Les Young, mortgaged his home and business, and as he was an accomplished cameraman, it was decided he would also be the director of photography. Because of my editing experience, it was also agreed that I would both direct and edit the film. There was just about enough money for a three week shooting schedule, and apart from the usual assortment of hick-ups, such as aircraft noise, props refusing to work, and the occasional 'hair-in-the-gate', the filming went very well indeed.
You ask if the film turned out actually as I had envisioned it. Well that's a difficult question to answer. What I mean is that the polite answer would be yes, whereas the more truthful answer would have to be no, not totally satisfied, because I don't think you could ever be one hundred percent satisfied with any film you make. There are so many elements in a film production, involving a great many people and technicalities, that it's almost impossible to get everything just right. I think it is true to say that a film is most perfect when it is in script form, because at this stage, and in your own mind, you can see exactly how the film should be. Unfortunately, once you start the film making process, it becomes one long compromise, and because so many things get changed, the finished product can never be the film you first envisaged. Having said this, when I look at the film now, and taking everything into consideration, yes, I am happy with the film. When we screened the first cut of the film, it was painfully obvious that there was just too much dialogue, and too much explaining of the plot. It slowed the film to the point of tedium. So I went back to the cutting room and literally cut out great sections of dialogue, including a complete 'afternoon tea' scene featuring Michael Gough, Candace Glendenning and Martin Potter. Some months later, "Satan's Slave" opened in the UK and it was a wonderful feeling, knowing that at long last I had directed my film horror movie.
CN- What was it like to work with Michael Gough, was he easy to direct?
Michael Craze who I remember from Doctor Who as Ben Jackson, how was he like to work as well?
Michael Gough was a pleasure to work with, very easy going and very professional, and even with the incredibly long hours we worked each day, he never had a word of complaint. He also has a great sense of humour. By the second week of shooting, he started the rumour that it was his birthday on the following Monday. Naturally we decided to organise a surprise celebration. We had a cake made and bought champagne, and on the day we took a short break in the filming to wish him happy birthday. As we were all gathered round enjoying the champagne, Michael calmly confessed that it wasn't really his birthday, and with a big smile and another bite of his cake, he said, "But isn't this nice!" . Directing Michael Gough was a very enjoyable experience. He was always enthusiastic about every scene, and his performance certainly contributed to the success of the film.
I first met Michael Craze in the early 60's, when he was still playing Ben Jackson in "Doctor Who" and acting in the film, "Spare The Rod". We became friends through our interest in films, and over the following years we worked together on a number of projects, including my short film "Fragment", and my first feature film, "Her Private Hell". So when it came to "Satan's Slave", Michael was a natural choice to play Candace Glendenning's boyfriend, John. Directing Michael was very easy.
CN- Now, I really enjoyed your film TERROR with John Nolan, Carolyn Courage and James Aubrey? What really intrigued me the most was the film's atmosphere. Can you elaborate on your time during the production of TERROR?
NW- Making a film can be extremely hard work, but at the same time it can also be fun, and I can honestly say that "Terror" was one of the most enjoyable and certainly the happiest film I have ever worked on. The same was felt by the entire cast and crew, and it was just like a group of friends coming together to make a film, and nobody really wanting it to end. We managed to achieve an enormous amount in just four weeks of shooting. Not just with scenes which included action and effects, but also with the number of different sets and locations that were used. We seemed to be constantly on the move and loading and unloading equipment, just like a traveling circus.
As to the film's atmosphere, I would suggest it had a lot to do with my having seen "Suspiria" prior to making "Terror". "Suspiria", which I still believe is Argento's best film, was like a breath of fresh air and a great inspiration to me. He had disregarded all logic, not just in the story, but in the photography. The use of colours without any explanation as to where the red and green light was coming from. Argento had thrown out all the rules. I didn't want to copy "Suspiria", but it did give me the confidence to have a more relaxed approach to the story of "Terror" and to go with whatever felt right.
CN- TERROR is the last movie with British actress Mary Maude. Do you have any memories of working with her and what happened to her?
NW- Mary Maude had been a friend for a number of years, but I never had an opportunity to work with her until "Terror". Mary made a perfect Lady Garrick, and even though the part had little to offer her as an actress, she still managed to create a believable character who was very much in control of her emotions. Mary was good to work with and it was a big disappointment when a few years ago, she decided to leave the acting profession. She is now a successful contributor to several financial magazines.
CN- Can you tell us the story of how you got involved with ALIEN PREY, was it a project that you were eyeing or were you approached to direct it from another source?
NW- It was the producer, Terry Marcel who approached me about "Prey". He called and said he was setting up a film about an alien that comes to earth in search of food for his planet. The alien encounters a lesbian couple, and discovers humans are high in protein and easy prey.. "Would you like to direct it?" His outline of the story had really fired my imagination, I said yes without hesitation. Terry went on to explain that he had arranged to shoot the film at Shepperton Studios, which sounded fine to me, but there was one condition, and it was that the shooting had to be done at a set time. This meant we had to start filming in three weeks time, and with a shooting schedule of just ten days. This all came as a bit of a surprise, but not so much a surprise as when Terry confessed there wasn't a script at this stage, just an expanded synopsis. It was a crazy situation, but the story idea was so intriguing, I really wanted to do it. So that's how I became involved with "Prey", and what was to be the most hectic production I have ever done.
CN- Was the claustrophobic feeling of PREY the atmosphere you had hoped to achieve?
NW- As there were only three principle character, I knew I would have to keep the film very intimate and allow the strange situation to drive the story on. The pace and atmosphere of the film was suggested to me by two factors. The first being the script, which due to the very short time the writer, Max Cuff had to complete it, was a little thin in some scenes and didn't always offer much to work with. The other factor was the glorious weather we had throughout the ten days of filming. Warm and sunny every day, which suggested the story should be presented in a leisurely and relaxed way, while at the same time keeping an underlying sense of tension and uncertainty. My aim was to make the film a slow build up to a shocking and very violent ending. I really enjoyed directing "Prey", and considering the short time in which it came together, and the short production time, I feel everyone involved can be proud of the film.
CN- Had he seen a similar film, again starring Barry Stokes - THE CORRUPTION OF CHRIS MILLER (1972) - prior to shooting PREY? In that film it is again Stokes invading the home of two female leads.
NW- If you're asking if the writer Max Cuff had seen this film, or Terry Marcel who came up with the original idea for "Prey", I can't give an answer as I really don't know if they did or not. They certainly never mentioned it. I've never seen the film, and in fact I didn't know anything about it until quite recently, when Jonathan Rigby told me the story. A friend of mine has an old video of the film so I hope to see it soon.
CN- Where is Barry Stokes today and what is he currently up to?
NW- Sadly, due to ill health, Barry gave up acting some years back. He now lives in Canada.
CN- Apparently different versions exist for various films - is this actually true or not? People have mentioned there being a different version of the "scissors" scene in PREY for example?
NW- "Satan's Slave" is the only film for which there is an alternative scene and additional material. At the time we made "Satan's Slave", it was common practice to shoot alternative versions of certain scenes, known as the 'foreign version'. When we screened the film to distributors and sales agents, it was suggested that if we could 'hot up' a few scenes, it would help gain more sales outside the UK. It was decided that we would shoot an alternative version of a bed scenes with Martin Potter and Gloria Walker, which appears early in the film. The scene was made a lot nastier with Martin Potter threatening to do very unpleasant things with a pair of scissors. This alternative version certainly did its job, and achieved sales in places like the Far East.
However, I have to be honest a say that I've never liked the scene. It may sound strange coming from someone who likes horror films, but I think the scene is very unpleasant, tasteless and really belongs in another kind of film. Of course this is my personal view and others may feel differently. I would have liked to have included the alternative scene as an extra on the Anchor Bay DVD, but unfortunately the BBFC would not allow it. Whereas the additional scene in "Satan's Slave" can now be seen in any UK release of the film. It comes towards the end of the film when Barbara Kellerman tells Candace Glendenning what happened to Michael Gough's wife and the affect it had on Stephen (Martin Potter). We see a flashback in which Martin Potter literally hacks a girl to pieces. Very violent and very gory.
CN- Once again you direct a SCI-FI based film only with comedic elements, how was your approach to SPACED OUT then of your other previous films?
NW- When "Spaced Out" was first offered to me, I wasn't too sure whether I really wanted to do it, mainly because if felt like a backward step to the days of "Her Private Hell" and "Loving Feeling". The original script was funny but when it came to sex, it had that English naivety about it. It was about sex but almost ashamed to admit it. Anyhow, the producers agreed I could work with the writer and make a few changes, and in March of 1979, we started shooting at Twickenham Studios. Apart from a few scenes in a local park, all the film was shot at the studio. My aim was to make a sex comedy which made no demands of the audience, and was just fun to watch. I'm not sure I really achieved this, but there are a few scenes that I feel worked well. One is when Glory Annen has to take measurements of Willy's (Tony Maiden) body. They both played the scene so well, especially his embarrassment and her amazement at the changing size when she attempts to measure his penis. Having worked with Glory on "Prey", I was confident she could play the scene well, and she was so good at doing the naïve approach to the situation. There is another scene with Glory that I'm quite fond of. It's when she has to deliver a meal wearing roller-skates. Glory really couldn't skate and she was almost falling over much of the time, but she made it work and the whole scene has a certain charm about it. I've always regarded the film as being a cross between a CARRY ON film and "Fire Maidens from Outer Space" and I would suggest the best time watch it would be late-night with a group of friends and a good few drinks.
CN- Once again you employ Barry Stokes as the lead of Oliver, was it much easier directing Barry especially after directing him in ALIEN PREY?
NW- Naturally, having worked with Barry on "Prey" it did make directing him easier, but my main reason for casting him to play Oliver in "Spaced Out", was that he looked right for the part, and more importantly, because he was a very good and versatile actor. Barry was also fun to work with and he contributed an enormous amount to the development of the character.
CN- Can you tell us what it was like during the production of your film INSEMINOID? Working with such actors as Robin Clarke, Jennifer Ashley and especially Stephanie Beacham?
NW- For me, two of the most important factors for any film, is a good script and a good cast. You can have the best script ever, but if you don't have good actors, you can never hope to make a good film. On "Inseminoid" I was extremely fortunate to have such a wonderful cast, and it certainly helped me complete what was at times a very difficult shoot. Most of the film was shot on location in Chislehurst Caves in Kent, which provided a visual quality that was far greater than the budget would have allowed us to build in a studio. However, working there for a minimum of twelve hours a day, six days a week for three weeks, was another matter. It was very cold and very damp, and because of the uneven ground, everyone suffered with leg cramps. Also, most of the cast hurt themselves in one way or another during the shoot. Nothing serious I'm pleased to say, mainly twisted ankles and wrenched backs due once again to the uneven surface. But even with the long working hours and appalling conditions, there was never any complaint from the cast. They suffered the cold far more than the crew, because for much of the time they were wearing just a thin T-shirt and thin trousers. Two of the principal players, Robin Clarke and Jennifer Ashley, were not part of the main casting sessions in the UK.
They were in fact selected in America by the producer, Richard Gordon, and I only met them when they arrived in London. Jennifer Ashley had appeared in a number of low-budget films in America, for companies like Crown International, and although she was not the greatest actress, she was very enthusiastic and very easy to work with. Robin Clarke however, was altogether different. He was pleasant enough when I first met him, and he certainly seemed right for the part. It was not until the first day of shooting that I discovered that he could be difficult to work with. In fact he could be extremely difficult, making every scene with him an uphill struggle. He was forever saying how effective it would be if he was to just sit and look, or if he played the scene very slow, and maybe with a pause in the dialogue. Anyone who has worked with me, or knows me well, will tell you that it takes an enormous amount to make me lose my temper. I've never been a director who screams and shouts at everyone, as I don't believe it ever produces a result and it just becomes anti-productive. But Robin Clarke was the one actor to change this. We were working on a scene in which Robin had to fight with Judy Geeson, and he just kept on about how he would do it, and how effective it would be if he did this or that, and he just didn't stop talking. I was trying to work out the scene with the stunt arranger, Judy, and supposedly Robin Clarke. Because when you're doing any kind of fight, every move has to be planned to avoid anyone getting hurt. But Robin kept on ranting and raving about his ideas to the point where I just couldn't take it any more. So I screamed at him to shut up and keep quiet.
I told him I was the director and we would do the scene the way I said. He was so shocked, he just stopped dead, and from that point on he hardly said a word. He had such a high opinion of himself that he really was a nightmare to work with. Happily, I had no such problem with other members of the cast. They were terrific to work with and they all gave me a tremendous amount of support, especially Judy Geeson and Stephanie Beacham. Not only is Stephanie Beacham a very attractive woman, but she is also great fun to work with. Stephanie has a wonderful sense of humour and she can always see the funny side of any situation. She insisted on calling the film "Insecticide" and with tongue firmly in cheek, she would often wind-me-up by asking what her motivation was for a particular action, just as I about to call 'Action!', knowing full well that my answer would be, "Because it's in the script." Don't get me wrong, Stephanie was very professional and I could always count on her to give a good performance. But at the same time we did get on very well, and we did have a lot of laughs during those long damp days in the caves. The other delight was Judy Geeson. She was an absolute joy to work with and just to be with. She had to play a very complex and demanding role, which in the hands of a less competent actress could easily have become comical. She also had to work in some awful conditions, but no matter how unpleasant the situation, she always gave me 100% effort and never ending enthusiasm. A wonderful performance from a lovely person.
CN- GUNPOWDER marked a comeback in the 1980's. It seems very different in theme from everything else you have made, and seems very difficult to see or find. Will you share some information about the film?
NW- It's interesting that you regard "Gunpowder" as a comeback. In truth after I'd completed all my work on "Inseminoid" in mid 1981, I went on to direct "Warbirds", a documentary for Gary Numan, and a one hour drama for the BBC, "Person to Person" which featured Hammer regular, Michael Ripper. It was early summer 1984 when I accepted the opportunity to direct "Gunpowder". Although I really enjoy directing horror, I've also welcomed the chance to work in another genre, and the thought of filming an action adventure movie over the long summer days was certainly attractive, but unfortunately, this was not the case. Due to a series of delays, the production didn't start until November 1984. The film is best described as sort of James Bond-type spoof. The story is of a mad scientist who has devised a way keeping gold liquid without heat, so he can ship it around the world and make it solid again at will. His plan is to flood the market with gold and thereby destroy the Western economy. MI5 need to find him and stop his activities, so they call in their ace agents, Gun and Powder. The producer had arranged to shoot the film in and around Macclesfield, for some unknown reason., and with a low-budget, which was fine as I'd always worked with low budgets, but in the case of "Gunpowder" the budget proved to be so low it was really impossible to achieve everything the script called for.
Casting was a good example of the limited funds, because apart from the principle characters, played by Martin Potter, David Gillian and Gordon Jackson, the selection of actors was very much based on where they lived. Rather than ask the actor or actress about their previous work, the first question asked by the producer would be, 'Where do you live?' If they didn't live in Macclesfield, or within an easy driving distance, they didn't get the part. But even with the extremely low budget, we did manage to film some reasonable actions scenes, including a helicopter and speedboat chase, but as we were shooting in November and December with very limited daylight hours, we did have to work fast and with little chance of a second take. I would really have liked to have made the film more fun, more comic-strip, and played on the fact that we didn't have everything the film should've had. But unfortunately the producer didn't agree, even though it was becoming more and more chaotic towards the end of shooting, with main props being sent back because we could no longer afford the rental. There are scenes in which Martin Potter doesn't have his gun because it had been returned to the prop company. In fact we did do one shot in which we played on the missing gun. David Gillian turns to Martin and asks, 'Where's your gun?', because he had it in the previous shot, to which Martin just shrugs and says, 'I have no idea'. Of course in the very next shot he has the gun back again.
The film was sold to various television stations, mainly in Europe, and it was released on video by Vestron. However, I don't think it would be easy to find a copy now, apart from maybe at a car boot sale.
CN- BLOODY NEW YEAR is a fine example of an 80's horror film, did it turn out the way you had planned it to?
NW- "Bloody New Year" was a great disappointment to me, although at the start the project seemed to have a lot going for it and I had every reason to believe the end result would be good. There are a few scenes in the film that I believe work well and create the right atmosphere. One is when two of the characters discover a crashed aircraft and the remains of a small campfire. All around there are broken bits of mirror swinging in the air and reflecting the sunlight through a mist that hangs over the area. There is also a radio that continually repeats a mayday message, and as everything is trapped in time, nothing will ever change. The campfire will never burn out and the radios battery will never go flat. This scene also features one of the best visual effects in the film. It's when the pilot of the crashed plane appears, who is also trapped in time and therefore is neither dead nor alive. When it seems as if he is about to attack the girl, her male companion strikes the pilot across the head with a block of wood, causing him to explode and fall to the ground in a pile of dust. The false head for this shot was created by a remarkable model-maker by the name of Phil Rawsthorne.
The likeness to the actor playing the pilot was incredible, but the most remarkable factor was that the head was almost entirely made out of dust. But unfortunately, most of the film just doesn't work, certainly not as a horror movie. This was not due to budget restrictions, but to the attitude of the production office. Although it didn't include production designer Hayden Pearce, who was also credited as producer but was never allowed to perform the duties of a producer. The problem was with the actual producer and the production office. They had no real interest or understanding of making a horror film. It just doesn't work if you don't like horror films or want to be involved with the genre. There was an enormous amount of tension between the shooting crew and the production office. Their thinking was very much 'let's get on and get it done' and 'we've done enough of that scene' or 'we don't need that', and by the time it came to post-production and in particular the soundtrack, I must confess I was beginning to give up on the film, because they wouldn't consider the kind of thing I had in mind. One of the most important elements of any film, and in particular a horror movie, is the music and sound effects. "Bloody New Year" has a poor music score and little or no sound effects, a very weak soundtrack in fact.
CN- Most of the cast of BLOODY NEW YEAR were relatively young and unknown, is this because of a tight budget or simply the way you cast it? Was there any actors that you had wanted to cast in this film?
NW- I thought the cast, who as you rightly say were relatively young and unknown, did a reasonable job, and I was practically happy with Mark Powley's performance and that of the American actress, Catherine Roman. However, it has to be said that the casting suffered like the rest of the film, by the 'let's get on with it' attitude of the production office. I would have liked more time for casting, but in the end it became a situation in which we just had to start shooting or the film would not happen, and a lot of people would have lost their job. "Bloody New Year" was a missed opportunity. It could have been a good horror film, but in the end, as I have already said, it was a great disappointment.
CN- Tell me something about your contribution to Gods in Polyester: A Survivors' Account of 70's Cinema Obscura?
NW- There's not that much I can tell you. The co-editors of the book, Suzanne Donahue and Mikael Sovijarvi, contacted me and asked if I would consider contributing something on "Satan's Slave", "Prey", "Terror" and "Inseminoid". What interested me was that they didn't have any special requirements, or any pre-set ideas about what I should write. They gave me complete freedom to write about any aspect of the films I wanted, and with no restriction on length. It could be as long or as short as I liked. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. The book is beautifully produced and the photographs look stunning in the large 'coffee-table' format of "Gods in Polyester".
CN- With the release of the recent box set in the UK, does it feel good to be the subject of a cult following once again in the UK?
NW- I was of course delighted when Anchor Bay said they wanted to release a box-set featuring four of my films, and also when they asked if I would produce bonus extras for the collection. I must confess I find it amazing that there is still so much interest in the films I made in the 70s and early 80s, because at the time of making them, never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that people would still want to see them some twenty five to thirty years later. So I saw the box-set as a wonderful opportunity to present the films in the best possible way, and to include extras which would give more information about the production of each film.
I have always despaired at the poor picture quality of VHS, and of such things as the dreadful process of 'pan and scan', or just enlarging the centre of the picture to fill the 4:3 (1.33:1) television screen. Naturally, I would prefer everyone to see the films in a cinema, on 35mm and projected on to a big screen, as I believe this is the way all films should be seen. However, I do appreciate that this is not always possible, especially with older films such as mine, and I'm very pleased that we now have the picture and sound quality of DVD, and the acceptance of the widescreen format on television screens. And if I have become regarded some form of 'cult director', then I'm very pleased, and indeed, very flattered.
CN- Are there any plans to return to directing, if so anything you can discuss with us?
NW- Although I have not directed a feature film for sometime now, I have continued directing, editing and writing, and in recent years I have been involved in numerous television productions, pop-promos, commercials and documentaries. There have also been film projects, such as "Beyond Terror" and a new version of "Fiend Without A Face", but unfortunately, for various reasons they never got into production. I still very much want to direct a new film, and there is a project I'm currently working on that I hope to get into production in the near future. However, only time will tell if it becomes a reality. I hope you understand, but being very superstitious about such things, I would rather not say anything more about the project at this time.
CN- Upon finishing, is there anything you might like to add or say about your career or films that you'd like to share? Maybe some advice for fresh young film makers looking for direction etc.?
NW- I feel very fortunate to have worked in most areas of film production since the age of seventeen, and over the years I have had the opportunity to work with some wonderful people whose talents I greatly admired. Film making for me is like a powerful drug, for no matter how difficult a production is, when it's over, I can't wait to start the process all over again. Getting into the film industry has never been easy, and today its even more difficult, with so many people chasing so few jobs. Even so, I would encourage any young film maker to keep on trying. Keep knocking on doors until one opens, and in the meantime, continue watching as many films as possible. All kinds of films, and not just your favourite genre. If you have the film on DVD or VHS, watch it a few times and study the way scenes are constructed. Also, if you have access to a video camera, start making your own films. It doesn't matter what the film is. A comedy, drama, or documentary, or if its long or short. But don't just go out and shoot off miles of tape. Write a script, no matter how simple it is, and plan your shots. Only shoot what is necessary. The same applies to editing. If a shot doesn't work, or is not needed, throw it out, no matter how difficult it was to shoot. If you learn this discipline, your film will be much, much better. There's not much more I can say. Just to wish you luck, and say don't give up.
On behalf everyone here at Cinema Nocturna I would like to thank Mr.Warren for sharing his time to talk about his film career. It has been a great pleasure and honor to be apart of this. I would also like to thank Kit Gavin for contributing the opening background intro on Mr.Warren. Please enjoy!
This interview was conducted by Steve Genier April 2005 for Cinema Nocturna. All still were provided and owned by Norman J.Warren except for the Anchor Bay UK Norman J.Warren boxset DVD.