FrightFest 2023 - Interview with Graham Hughes director of Hostile Dimensions

A chat with Death of a Vlogger director about his latest movie

James Whittington
August 27, 2023

A few years back Graham Hughes wowed audiences with his first feature, Death of a Vlogger, well know he's back with Hostile Dimensions. We chatted to him about this inventive thriller/sci-fi/chiller.

NYX: It’s been a few years since “Death of a Vlogger”, what have you been up to since then?

GH: I was really lucky with my lockdown. I got to work from home, spend more time with my (now) spouse and my dog. Since there was no chance of shooting anything, I also got to writing and came out of lockdown with two new feature scripts. In early 2022 when lockdowns were really easing, I started considering making another low budget film, but the scripts I’d written in lockdown were too big in scale. Which led us to Hostile Dimensions.

NYX: Where did the idea for Hostile Dimensions come from and did it take long for you to write?

GH: I’d been working with Evrim and Mike on a new film, but everything takes forever in film. I could see that finance was somewhere away on the horizon, so I realised that I could actually make a “bonus” film in the interim, and with Mike’s blessing, and Evrim’s backing I got to work. I wanted to make something in a similar style to Death of a Vlogger, but I also wanted to make it different and more ambitious. Because I was going to be doing most of the jobs myself, I aimed to make all of the logistics as forgiving as possible. So shooting in my flat was a big one. Since it was such a key location for Vlogger, I started thinking about how to use it as a base, but also find ways to escape the flat location too, so the door to other worlds formed from that. I’m more of a plot-based writer, so I like to think of a high concept idea and find the characters that fit into that. With the state of the world right now, I have a lot of anxiety about things getting worse and worse, and having almost no power to change it. A real sense of apathy was creeping into my mind, and that was where the two main characters came from, and the central question: if you were offered an escape from this world to a perfect world, would you stay here and try and fix things, or would you jump ship and escape? It kind of poured out of me and I think it was written in about 3 months.

NYX: Was it written with a cast in mind?

GH: Similar to the pragmatism of location, I’m very lucky that I have a few actors I’m privileged to call friends. Annabel, Paddy, Josie, Joma and Stephen (and of course Lucy the Dog) I’ve all worked with before, and fortunately they were all keen to again. And they were all cast as I was writing the film. I’d tried and failed before to get a film made with Annabel in the lead role, so I was delighted that this one actually came good.

NYX: What is it about the found footage genre you like so much?

GH: I love the immediacy. There’s a much more instant visceral connection with the medium. I love that it allows a lot more creative freedom, in some ways. Sometimes because of the restrictions it imposes. For instance, I’ve only seen one good use of a 360 camera outside of found footage, as it’s kind of difficult to justify. I also love the accessibility of the medium for emerging and low-budget filmmakers. Depending on the circumstances, there’s usually no need for coverage of scenes since there’s usually only one camera in a scene. And if there’s more, usually the cameras are diegetic so you can roll all of them at once. It’s an insane time-saver on set, which is crucial to low budget, you can pack so much more in a day.

NYX: To say its ambitious is an understatement, it seems as if the budget allowed you to do everything you wanted it to, how difficult was it making your script come to life?

GH: I’m glad that it feels that way! The script was written in about 3 months and the film was shot in about 9 days. Postproduction is still technically ongoing, almost a year after we wrapped. This film almost broke me in the edit.

NYX: Did you ever lose track of where you were when shooting as the “door jumping” moments mount up and become progressively more complicated?

GH: Honestly, I don’t remember this being much of an issue. I think it maybe looks more complicated than it is, just a case of making a note of which direction or angle you go into or out of a scene. What was really head-scratching was the mirror universe scene, which I think I did completely fuck up with the blocking. I’m not sure if the space makes geographic sense!

NYX: Was it all shot on location and what issues did this bring up?

GH: It was all location shooting, though many locations were cheated, if that makes sense. The main issue with this kind of filming is travel time and logistics. That’s probably a boring answer, but genuinely that’s the issue. The pyramid scene for instance was about two and a half hours drive from our base in Glasgow, so you’ve lost five hours of your day right there, not to mention the trek up that God-damn hill was an extra half an hour there and back. The beach scenes were all shot in a relatively popular area, because we needed close access to toilets, and a car park since we had to lug six doors to the beach and back. But that meant I spent hours and hours painting out walkers, dogs and kite-surfers from the background of every shot.

NYX: How did you get all the shots for the final reel as its quite a ride?

GH: Thank you! It’s mostly not that interesting to be honest, I’m trying to remember what they all were. Mostly just woods and industrial places around Glasgow. The “China” bit I filmed when I was in New York for a wedding last October. I just packed my GoPro and Joma chased after me in Chinatown. If I’d have known we’d be in post for so long I’d have added in shots from New Orleans (another wedding I was at in January).

NYX: There’s a small cast and crew here, did everyone pitch in doubling up roles and responsibilities?

GH: More or less, yes. It was a real family affair. Our sound guy Peachey, he wore about five or six hats. Stephen played Brian, but was also the Panda Monster, and made our DCP. My friend Andy Stewart, a great horror filmmaker, jumped in as extra hands on deck, and also played the Red-eyed guy. Everyone was doing loads. In fact, Joma probably deserves an exec credit for keeping me sane, never mind starring, doing production design and makeup.

NYX: So, what are you working on at the moment?

GH: The aforementioned feature scripts that came out of lockdown are next. One is a contained, terrifying horror, and another is a violent, paranormal home invasion film. With a bit of luck I might get to make one of them!

NYX: Graham Hughes, thank you very much.