The Horror Zine
Will Haynes
The Special Page
Mike Kerins interviews Will Haynes to let us see inside the film industry...and the passion that got him there


Ramsey Campbell
Joe R. Lansdale Part 2
Joe R. Lansdale Part 1
John Gilmore
Ryan Fleming
Mort Castle
Gabrielle Faust
Brent Monahan
Mark Crislip
John Russo

Interview with Will Haynes

by Mike Kerins

I walk into the bar of the Midland Hotel, Manchester and spot Will sat in the corner of the room, looking well heeled and tanned from recent adventures around South East Asia. A waiter hovers near by as I take my seat.

We shake hands and having dispensed with the preliminaries, make ourselves comfortable.

Will: So, fire away! What would you like to know?

Mike: You’ve worked in the film industry for a number of years now and with some well-known actors and directors, including Keira Knightley, Colin Farrell and Neil Jordan. Could you tell us briefly how you got started in the industry?

Will: I started as a runner and before graduating to various assistant positions such as Production Assistant, Producer’s Assistant, Assistant Coordinator and Assistant Director. First Assistant Director is the apex but no matter what position you are, you’re always a runner for somebody (laughs).

Mike: You were an Assistant Director on Madonna’s film W.E., weren’t you? How did that come about?

Will: Well…I have to watch what I say in general, discretion being king in the movie business and particularly with W.E. I had to sign a disclaimer with more pages than the Bible…but, yes, I was a very lowly AD.

Mike: A confidentiality agreement?

Will: Yes, that’s right.

Mike: Not to speak about the film or just Madonna?

Will: I can neither confirm nor deny anything, I’m afraid (laughs). To be honest I’m not sure if I’m even allowed to confirm or deny that I even worked on it all…but if I am allowed to confirm it, all I’ll say is that it was quite an experience.

Mike: Getting back to the industry, so you started as a runner?

Will: That’s right. I managed to get into TV first, knocking on doors and busting out millions of applications for work experience or paid or unpaid runner jobs. I ended up working for a very small production company. It was more of a boys club, looking back on it. That was my first industry-related job, though it was a world away from the professionalism and workload required later in the film industry.

Mike: What was the money like in those days?

Will: My salary was terrible but I really enjoyed it, unfortunately the company went under. Though perhaps fortunate for me as I ended up being in the right place at the right time, when a kindly production manager I worked with ever since, took a chance and gave me a break, as a runner on a big feature film…and I was in.

Mike: What motivated you?

Will: That one day I’d be able to create something that entertained others and at the same time make a living out of it…and that’s still what I’m aiming for now but with a bit more experience gained so far.

Mike: So you need to be a team player in the film world?

Will: Well yes, in a way…essentially each new film is set up for every production as a limited company, regardless of the parent company or studio involved etc., and then crew are hired and fired in line with the absolute minimum time necessary for them to do the work they need to do.  It’s a small industry so everyone tends to know everyone else and most of the work comes about through word of mouth. It’s hard work, but every job’s different and it’s rarely dull. It’s also nice to work on and be a part of something where you can see the end product.

Mike: You’re also involved in producing music videos. How did that come about?

Will: An editor friend of mine wanted to branch more into the production side of things rather than just work in post-production. He had an idea for a short film he wanted to direct, so I produced and AD’d (Assistant Director) it for him and a couple of months later he proposed doing a music video for an unsigned band, we subsequently did several more and went from there doing independent videos most weekends, for a while. Eventually we began sharing the directing and producing responsibilities. They were all ultra-low budget independent videos, and we never made much out of it as everything just went back into funding more videos, but it was good to be productive and create something every weekend. It might as well have been a charity venture, but it was good experience. It was a contrast for me, after working as a skivvy on large productions with their vast resources, to moonlighting as a producer and director on very small productions, with virtually no resources and see what we could make.

Mike: Working in films has that touch of glamour and excitement but there must be some frustrations. Can you tell me anything about that?

Will: I was working with the main unit, The Key Office PA, which is basically a nice title for the production runner. This was on Angels and Demons around the time of the writer’s strike in America. Without going into details, production and filming shifted from Shepperton Studios in the UK to the Sony stages in Los Angeles. It was an amazing experience to work on a production of that scale, particularly given the level of skill and talent involved; the enormity of scale in the production design alone. Sets were being created for the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Square etc. Much of what was created, such as the sculptures and props were made in the UK and then shipped over to America to be rebuilt over there.

Mike: What was it you found frustrating about that?

Will: The shift meant that it was no longer going to be filmed in the UK, where I live. Also, I was given the opportunity to shoot footage of some of the sets as they were being constructed using a Canon HVX200 for behind-the-scenes stuff, simply because of the experience gained in making independent films on the weekends (laughs). It didn’t interfere with my main duties, which could vary from anything from Office Admin to catering. Ironically, that ended up being pretty much the only footage for Angels and Demons that was shot in the UK, but in the end I don’t think it ever saw the light of day. It’ll just be archived in a dusty vault somewhere at Sony. Still, that was quite a privilege to do, but obviously frustrating that no one ever got to see it.

Mike: Any other drawbacks to the film industry?

Will: Well the obvious: lack of security, hellishly long hours, fear of never working again, fear of having to work again (laughs), that kind of thing. Hunter S. Thompson once said, "The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side." This could also apply to the film business.

Mike: To change track a little, how strange is it to meet actors whose faces are known around the globe?

Will: To be honest, you stop being star-struck approximately five minutes into your first job. I’ve been highly fortunate to work with some huge stars, but I’ve been most privileged to work alongside some of the best talent behind the scenes and learn from them. Though I do remember one occasion when I was tongue tied. I was pretty green and it was my first day on my first ever film. There was a bit of a quiet patch in filming and I was shadowing Matt Damon and Michael Gambon…

Mike: Shadowing?

Will: Making sure they were being looked after and ready for when the cameras begin to roll. Damon was having conversation with Michael Gambon about America’s foreign policy or something like that. I stood hovering awkwardly on the periphery, not really knowing what to do but occasionally nodding my head politely, when unexpectedly Matt Damon turned to me and asked my opinion. Terrified of offering my thoughts on what had now become a charged political debate I panicked and squealed: "Would you like another coffee?" Then I turned on my heels and ran before he could reply. It was a very 'Bridget Jonesish' moment really, one of many surreal moments in my career and I suppose a little embarrassing. (laughs)

Mike: Okay, as you know, we are in the business of horror so I’d like to ask you some questions about Neil Jordan’s Byzantium (2012). You’re a fan of Neil Jordan’s work; do you think elements from his previous forays into the horror genre, like Company of Wolves and Interview with a Vampire have in some way influenced Byzantium?

Will: Yes I am and I do. I was really happy to be involved with Byzantium and it’s a film I really enjoyed watching, regardless of the fact I’d worked on it. I’d always loved Interview with a Vampire, and so it was a huge privilege to work on something with the makers of that. To answer the question though, I think it would be impossible for them not to have informed Byzantium in some way; any artist’s work tends to feed into itself and it’s a constant on-going process…and that applies to any and every director or creative person. I think Byzantium is a very interesting take on the Vampire genre, miles away from the whole Twilight thing. On one hand, it combines much more of a contemporary setting, along the lines of Let The Right One In, but still weaves period elements into the backstory similar to Interview with a Vampire. There’s a dark fairy-tale quality that encompasses some of the themes of Company of Wolves, even within the contemporary setting, though in a much more subtle way.

Mike: The red cloak that Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) wears; what about that?

Will: It automatically gives you that Little Red Riding Hood feel.

Mike: There’s a strong Angela Carter type feminist perspective here wouldn’t you agree?

Will: Yes, the struggles of Clara (Gemma Arterton) who plays the mother, abused in a male-dominated world…it's fascinating to see her attempts to protect her child throughout the centuries. The whole fantasy and mythology that you have to surround a vampire film gives it that magic realism associated with Carter. Everyone is aware of the whole vampire lore and in some ways that takes a back seat, although it doesn’t really follow the traditional vampire conventions anyway. Though, of course, the mother eventually defeats the brotherhood, it was representative of such a society but the sensitive portrayal of Frank gives some balance to the equation and represents change. I love how the ephemeral nature of stories is illustrated, with Eleanor discarding each page as she writes it, the way that the narrative gathers pace as the story within a story is shaped and crafted by the two women. I think it’s a beautifully balanced film that weaves all of the elements together in a very understated way. I believe when Stephen Woolley first began developing it for the screen from Moira Buffini’s play, the vampire boom in film was yet to erupt and then suddenly the Twilight thing happened and vampires were everywhere, but this film stands completely apart from all of the others. Our experiences are what shape us and define who we are. I hope to continue experiencing as much as I can, for as long as I can. (laughs)

Mike: What can you see yourself doing in the future?

Will: It would be nice getting a few books published, to be writing my own material, and perhaps one day to make some of my own productions, see my ideas in print and on the big screen and be fortunate enough to make a living out of it. In my wildest fantasies, it would be very good to be incredibly successful at it, be critically and commercially praised, sleep on a pile of money and never see a rainy day again but to be honest, if I can avoid going to Starbucks for anybody other than myself again, that would be a good start…
I’ve been working on a novel, actually, and in fact, it accounts for my spending so much time in Asia over the last couple of years, combining work and play you might say. It’s something I wanted to do for a long time, so I finally decided to take some time off from films and just do it.

Mike: How would you describe your novel, and what type of book is it?

Will: Well as you might expect, it draws on my experiences in the film trade but is purely a work of fiction. Actual events inspire but there is nothing of an overtly personal nature, no kiss and tell or scandal, all good fun. I suppose you might describe it as a comic novel drawing, in the main, from the type of experiences we’ve discussed this afternoon. It’s still in draft form, although it’s just reached more or less its final draft and I’ve had some positive responses from those who few have read it. I’ve not gone down the publishing road just yet, tweaking it here and there but I suppose that’ll be a whole new experience at some point.I suppose it’s unavoidable that a writer invests his characters with sides of his own personality but they do say to write about what you know. The title is Shoot the Runner.

Mike: Thanks again for doing this interview for The Horror Zine. I’m sure our readers will appreciate this glimpse into the world of film, and good look placing your novel with a publisher, I’m sure it will be a success.

About the filmmaker

Will Haynes

(photo above)

Will Haynes is known for his work on Angels & Demons (2009), The Good Shepherd (2006), London Boulevard (2010), and many more films.

See his entire film bio HERE

About the interviewer

Mike Kerins

Mike Kerins

Mike is a writer and artist/illustrator from the UK and has exhibited his work in various galleries. He’s written book and TV reviews and short stories and illustrated for various publications including: Yellow Mama, Dark River Press, Black Petals, Tartarus Press, The Horror Zine and the BBC. He is currently working on his first novel.