Jason M.J Brown is a local lad chasing a dream. He’s using his passion for the big screen and locations around Nottinghamshire as a springboard to Hollywood fame. He’s already got one successful feature film under his belt, which has been distributed around the US but Jason is hoping that lightning strikes twice once his new film, Dark Vale, is completed. James Bavin got the chance to speak to the budding film maker about his new film, Nottingham and what’s on the horizon for Mansfield’s answer to Wes Craven.
Firstly, the film you’re working on now – Dark Vale, what’s it all about?
It’s my second feature film and it’s basically about this young couple that get trapped in a haunted place called the Vale. It’s got a resident ghost, we named her Lady Lucy, and she got jilted at the altar 100 years and obviously she’s jealous of our main characters perfect love. In her mind she believes the lead male character is her long lost love so she goes out for revenge.
What were your inspirations behind the film?
I live about 15 minutes from the location we’re filming at (Mansfield Woodhouse) and oddly enough it’s called The Vale. It’s supposedly haunted by a ghost so I developed it into a script. I’ve had the script for a long, long time but haven’t had the money, the actors or the time to act on it. It’s now come to the point where I have decent camera’s and actors to do the film so I thought let’s just do it!
Has the fact that the location was haunted enhanced the atmosphere on the set?
Oh yeah, definitely. The locations are just perfect for filming there. The old churches, the woods and the cliff faces all look great on camera. I’m one of those people who has to have a proper look over the scenery, I wouldn’t just film anywhere. I also know the vicar of the church we’re shooting at and we get to do some awesome shots in there. This time we’re using candles to dimly light it and hopefully the atmosphere will come across on the screen.
Broadway Cinema is nationally a very well-known independent cinema. With a platform like that how good is the independent film scene like in Nottingham?
It makes looking for actors a lot easier in Nottingham because people just want to do it more. I struggle in Mansfield sometimes just for the sheer lack of people wanting to be in a film. I met an actress called Becki Lloyd who’s from Loughborough and she’s a fantastic actor, she just needs a platform and that’s the brilliance of the Broadway Cinema. It’ great for local talent in Nottingham. I’ve come second place in the Frame Film festival there, which you should check out as it’s very good.
What’s the great difficulty of producing films on a budget?
Not having great equipment is a big drawback. I only used a camcorder for my first film – A Date with Ghosts. Once you get more money you can pay to get better actors involved with the films and that comes across on the screen. I’ve got £5,000 to play with because of the success of A Date with Ghost’s. I now have private investors who have belief in me. This will be the biggest budget we’ve had. For the first film I only had £1,000 which came out my own bank account so the difficulties were greater with that film. Money isn’t everything but it does help a lot.
How successful has your first feature film, A Date with Ghosts, been?
It was only released in January but It got shipped to the US and been distributed around there quite a lot. It’s available on Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Target and Amazon. It got some good reviews so it’s doing alright for a low budget film. It’s opened a few doors as well for me because I’m starting to meet people from Hollywood and they’re impressed with the fact that you can make a movie off your own back. The film got compared to some classic movies such as Tombs of the Blind Dead and Village of the Damned. I’m very flattered. It’s about building my way up now. I got a contract for five years too so becoming a film maker is now quickly becoming my job. I’m living the dream!
So what was your job prior to film making?
I used to work in a DVD shop actually selling films to people so my life has always really been about films. I did a couple of short films while I was working and got them into Broadway so I just perused it. I never thought then that I’d get someone from Hollywood mentoring me.
How much of a rest did you give yourself between A date with Ghosts and Dark Vale?
None, I went from filming A Date With Ghosts to filming Dark Vale. We started filming Dark Vale in the summer of 2014 and finished filming A Date with Ghosts June/July last year. It’s all been pretty hectic but I want to get good stuff out onto the market.
When you do get a minute to relax what do you enjoy doing?
I’m a video game man me, I’ve got myself a PS4 but that’s mainly for the Uncharted series. Naughty Dog are a brilliant developer, you knew they’d be a great company when they brought out Crash Bandicoot. I think a lot of video games are the basis for the some good ideas. It’s becoming an industry that can really tell a good story. Horror wise my favourite game is probably the first Resident Evil; the mansion was a fantastic setting that’s brilliant and I’m so glad they’ve remade it. It helped inspire me to go into film making just for the sheer atmosphere behind it.
Also, believe it or not I watch a lot of movies. I like the work of Robert Rodriguez but I’d say my favourite films were The Fog, Scream, and I love Big Trouble in Little China.
2015 has been a very big year for you with the release of A Date with Ghosts and the production of Dark Vale, so what’s next for you?
I’m looking at doing a treasure hunt film and pulling away from horror and do something a little different. I did some gangster shorts so I have experience in doing other stuff. I don’t want to be typecast into just horror films.
Lastly, what advice would you give for young film makers?
The best thing you can do is pick up a camera and get out there and film. I know a lot of people will say that but it really is the best advice I could give. Just get hands on. Starting off on short films are great but at some point I think you should bite the bullet and get into doing feature films because short films aren’t really in demand. You’ll learn a lot more if you get out there and do a feature film.
For more information on Dark Vale head on over to the films official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DarkVale2015