Saturday 10 January 2015

Mayhem Horror Film Festival 2014 (Part 4): 10 Years of Mayhem

2014 marked 10 years of the Mayhem Horror Film Festival. For me, it was only my third year in attending the festival. My first experience was in 2012. I was desperate to see American Mary (you can read my review HERE) as it was doing it's UK festival rounds. FrightFest (London) had shown it and also Grimm Up North (Manchester), but alas, they were both too far away from me.

Then I discovered MAYHEM! Perfectly located a mere 20 minutes away by car or train in Nottingham, I felt like the Gods of horror had given me a third chance to see American Mary, so I booked a ticket straight away. I only saw the one film that year, but vowed to be back for at least a whole day the following year.

2013, I got myself a day ticket for the Saturday. Had a blast, made some new friends, got to meet a couple of directors and actors and of course a great selection of films (you can check out my report HERE). Again, I vowed to be back the following year for the whole festival.

2014, true to my vow, I was straight on the ball and ordered myself an early bird weekend pass. The whole weekend experience was simply amazing. You can read my day by day reports here - Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

From left to right: Chris, Me, Steven
The two main men behind Mayhem Film Festival and also in the spot light introducing the films are Chris Cooke and Steven Sheil (director of Dead Mine [2012] and Mum & Dad [2008]).

I asked both a few questions about the festival and their experiences running it...

Why and how did you start Mayhem?

"MAYHEM started out in 2005 as a short film festival. I had worked for ages programming Bang! the short film festival in Nottingham and every year there were great horror films. So it seemed like a good idea to put on a showcase. Plus, Steven, Gareth Howell and I would regularly hold all night horror film screenings, so we were all fans and wanted to start showing stuff in the genre we loved."

"The next year we added a feature – and the audience grew. The year after that we added another feature, the audience was still growing. It seemed like there was some demand, so… We decided to do 3 days the following year, with guests… and it grew again."

"Gareth was one of the main drivers of the festival in the beginning. Now Steven and I direct, Gareth has a huge amount of work elsewhere, and Broadway are massively involved with supporting and developing the festival with us."

"Essentially we’re fans putting together the festival we’d like to attend if we weren’t running around behind the scenes."

Did you get much support and people attending in the early days of the festival?

Annie, always ready for action!
"It was a slow and steady build up. It’s hard to reach out to fans and know for sure if they’ll come. Every festival is a relief after the hard work programming and planning."

"We get massive support from within Broadway. We’ve worked alongside Annie who programmed the shorts with us – she finds some amazing, weird, twisted stuff…. The front of house staff love dressing up and taking part and being the faces of the festival, they’re amazing. Planning and programming are an incredible team of people, Meli, Eleanor, Laura and more, working to make it all come together smoothly… and hidden behind the machinery are pair of amazing technical wizards, who have been working for months to make the festival look amazing, the films run perfectly and look and sound amazing: Leigh and Noel. There are many other people too, taking shifts, behind the scenes, who we couldn’t do without."

Was it more hard work in those early stages compared to recent years?

"If anything it’s gotten harder, tougher, the bigger and more successful it’s grown. We have ambitions to maintain, goals to achieve. It’s hard work. The festival has a size and scale to repeat and we want the audience to enjoy it, find the time to meet, chat and become friends, talk genre and get drunk. It’s hard – but worth it if that happens."

If you could put a top 10 together, so 1 film (a new release) from each year, what would be your top 10 films from the past 10 years of Mayhem?

"Well – we didn’t start with feature films, so I will cheat. My favourite Mayhem Films are (and it’s tough excluding the cult classics and archive screenings we love to programme the most":
2.   AMER


Outside of the films, what has been your most memorable experience over the many years of putting on the festival?

"It was great meeting Mike Hodges, Nic Roeg and Robin Hardy – legendary film makers I admire a lot. But for me it’s been doing things between the festivals, special one off screenings that have included BIRDEMIC and BIRDEMIC 2 with the wonderful James Nguyen, for example. Those films drew such amazing responses, but it was so weird watching the films with him, so odd, surreal and… funny."

"We’ve had some great guests over the years, and getting to talk to them is always a highlight. We’ve had people like Mike Hodges, Robin Hardy and Stephen Volk, all of whom have been fantastic, but for me, the chance to interview Nic Roeg [Don't Look Now (1973), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Puffball (2007)], in a Gothic church on Halloween was a thrilling and unforgettable experience. He’s a man with a fantastically agile mind and I’ve always loved his filmmaking, so that was really special for me."

"Outside of that, the main memorable moments for me are usually the times spent in the bar with the audience. It’s great getting to experience people’s direct reactions to films. I remember when we showed Martyrs as a closing film one year and people came out looking like they’d been punched in the face – but still really wanted to talk about it. This year, a highlight was getting someone to sing the lyrics to ‘Let It Go’ from Frozen as the answer to a spot-prize quiz question before Dead Snow 2…"

Mayhem 2013. From left to right: The Borderlands - Actors Robin Hill & Gordon Kennedy, Me, Producer Jennifer Handorf, Director Elliot Goldner
You have a lot of actors and directors etc. attending the festival promoting their films, but who has had the most affect or left a lasting impression on you when meeting them?

"Mike Hodges for me. We screened a film by him that I had seen at a festival, Black Sunday, years and years ago called BLACK RAINBOW. It’s a moving, powerful and unsettling piece of strange cinema. So meeting him and finding him to be a great one for anecdote, for teaching and for engaging was a pleasure, plus we got to chat about Flash Gordon and more beside. I love so many of his films – The Terminal Man, for example. But Black Rainbow makes me cry. So it was nice telling him that… come to think of it, he must have found me very odd."

"I’ve already mentioned Nic Roeg, but one person I should talk about is Mark Gatiss. He came in 2008 when it was our first weekend festival, so we hadn’t been established that long. He was really generous with his time and we really appreciated that he made the effort to come – it really helped us to have a guest of that stature, especially when trying to get other guests subsequently."

Birthday Cake!
When attending Mayhem, one can't help feel that there's a very friendly "Mayhem family" atmosphere which adds to the whole festival making the experience even more enjoyable. Is that something you strived to make happen or did it happen naturally?

"I’m glad to hear it. The festival is only ever what the audience make it – they bring warmth and excitement and are so very inclusive. Everyone is made to feel at home. Broadway becomes a house they’re welcome to come into and relax for four days. It’s a lovely atmosphere. I want Mayhem to be the kind of place I’d enjoy chilling out at. If I wasn’t so busy running around stressing (more often than not unnecessarily!)."

"I think we definitely aim for it. We want everyone to feel that the festival is open to them – we don’t want anyone to feel like they’d be excluded because they’re not enough of a horror fan or they don’t’ like the ‘right’ films. Myself and Chris are both fans, so we put on films that we’d like to see and we always think about our audience and what they might like – that means that we listen to what people like and try to respond accordingly. We’ve moved into more sci-fi and cult films alongside horror because it seemed like people would go with that. I think we’ve always had the idea of it being a festival, ie; a celebration, and that it should have that kind of feel. It’s also helped that people have responded to that – we have a terrific audience that has been building year on year, with many people coming back three, four, five years in a row – or more – and that’s something that makes us really happy – that people see us a somewhere they’d like to spend their time. There are a lot of other festivals out there, so it’s not something we ever take for granted – we want people to come to Mayhem and have a great time and feel welcome."

A birthday present from all the Mayhem staff. Framed picture with every film ever shown at Mayhem

What can we expect from Mayhem in the years to come?

"Me getting greyer and older. Steven getting taller than ever. Or I am shrinking.
I think we have a good structure now and hopefully the audience will grow. I’d like to put on more events like 8MM ORCHESTRA – it’s so exciting to see films brought to life by musicians as talented as they are."

"I think we want to make sure that we get the best films we can, alongside unique events that aren’t happening elsewhere. We’ve got plans for things that we’d like to do, but often it’s a case of finding the budget or making the contacts in order to make them happen. As we grow, it gets a little easier though – people have heard of the festival and heard good things about it, so that helps. I think we just want to make sure that the festival builds on the audience that we have."

"So, more great films, more fantastic guests, more surprises…"

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

CHRIS:"Let us know what you like – audiences – let us know what was working and we will respond. It’s great having you every year. More is on the way!"

"Just a big thanks to anyone who comes to the festival!"

A big thanks to Chris and Steven for sharing their experiences and thoughts with us and for putting on such a great festival. 

I just want to touch on the "Mayhem Family" atmosphere again. It's makes the festival experience even better and knowing that all involved go that extra mile and are friendly only makes you want to be more friendly and open with everyone that attends. I went to FrightFest last year, although for only one film, and it seemed very hurried and with the venue being so big having a lot of screens there didn't really seem to be a place for people to hang out and chill, besides outside of the building where everyone stood for a smoke.

With the Broadway cinema having a centralised bar and all the films shown in the same theatre screen, it gives a real warm and close feel to the whole event. The attendees are friendly and having a quiz as part of the festival encourages that feeling even more so.

Our team for the quiz. We came 4th, I think, out of about 10 teams or so

With Mayhem being held over Halloween some of the patrons and staff dressed up, which again was fun to see. The special guests are always approachable and have photos taken. The event always has stalls you can buy merchandise from which includes DVDs, Blurays, Books, T-Shirts and more. I got carried away and spent an absolute fortune! Then there's the many giveaways that are presented before the start of a film. I got a quite a bit of free stuff too, by running down to the front of the theatre and answering questions. In fact, I did it one to many times and got told of by Steven. Oooops. HA HA

Here's a few examples of what I got my hands on...

Free stuff, I love it!

Just some of the Blurays I purchased

Signed poster by Aston6's Conor Sweeney, Adam Brooks & Matthew Kennedy

T-Shirts, you can never have too many
The early bird weekend pass only cost £55 and the normal price is still only a mere £65! With day tickets available from £18 Mayhem Horror Film Festival is truly worth every penny. Plus they hold various screenings throughout the year.

Get on Facebook and give their page a like to keep up with updates -

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you there this October! Here's a few more photos...

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