Screen talks to the British actor about his feature directorial debut, which receives its world premiere today [Aug 28] at Film4 FrightFest.
Set to be one of the most original films of this year’s Film4 FrightFest, Aaaaaaaah! is a twisted family drama with a difference: there is no dialogue, with all actors speaking in animalistic grunts and moans.
It marks the feature directorial debut of British actor Steve Oram who, along with Alice Lowe, wrote and starred in Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers.
Aaaaaaaah!, produced by Lincoln Studios, receives its world premiere today [Aug 28] and Oram believes FrightFest is the ideal place for the film to make its bow.
“FrightFest accepts and celebrates the weirdos, and we think we fit in quite well there,” enthuses Oram. “It’s the perfect showcase for us. It’s totally un-snooty and just about people who love strange films and horror films. It’s a big opportunity to show it to the people, which is all I care about really.”
Aaaaaaaah! was one of several scripts Oram had been working on, but it was the film that Oram and Rook Films producer Andy Starke felt they could make “cheaply and easily”.
“This was the one that we thought we could keep everything self-contained and within budget,” reflects Oram. “When you’re working on a really small budget, you’ve got to consider those things, so I couldn’t make my massive sci-fi masterpiece. It’s going to be set on the actual moon, so we need a bit of funding for that.”
Despite the final film featuring no dialogue, Aaaaaaaah! was written like a conventional script. “We played the scene initially in rehearsal with everyone speaking the words, and then everyone turned the words into grunts,” explains Oram. “As we went on, everyone got very used to it and we didn’t have to do the speaking thing at all; everyone just got straight in there and reverted to their original primal states.”
Casting his first feature, Oram turned to people he’d worked with before, including the likes of Tom Meeten, Julian Barratt (reuniting on screen with his Mighty Boosh collaborator Noel Fielding) and Lowe. The film also stars Julian Rhind-Tutt and British singer Toyah Willcox.
Was it difficult to get them to commit to the film’s unique premise? “Not at all. It was very easy and was really cool how willing actors are to pretend to be apes for a couple of weeks. It’s not hard, not with my mates anyway,” jokes Oram.
Like a dream
Despite finding it difficult to star in the film as well as direct, Oram says the shoot felt like a continuation of the short films he’s directed: “It wasn’t like your normal shoot, I don’t think. Everything was geared up for the actors to do their work; there was minimal lighting, no dollies, no jibs, so it was very rough-and-ready and handheld. But we had a brilliant DoP, Matt Wicks, who was totally in with that way of working.”
Oram continues: “It sort of happily happened, and it’s like a dream. There was lots and lots of planning that went into it and when it came to the two-week shoot, everything unravelled in quite a nice way.”
After its FrightFest premiere, Aaaaaaaah! begins a late-night residency at London’s Picturehouse Central from Sept 4, and plays End Of The Road Festival and Mayhem Film Festival in October.
It will be also be one of the first titles released under the FrightFest Presents banner, a partnership between Icon Film Distribution and the festival, on Oct 19.
Oram already has a couple of scripts he would love to make, but says with a laugh that he “doesn’t ever want to work with words again”.
“The great thing about working with noises and grunts is that you just get the intention of what someone wants in a scene. It’s a force and another force or a variety of forces, and it’s a lovely elemental way of working.”
For further information on Aaaaaaaah! and where it’s screening, visit Lincoln Studios website