Interview with Johannes Roberts (F)

Thrill&Kill: Apparently, F is “based on true events”. Nowadays a lot of films seem to be based on true events and sometimes those real events are really far away. I could imagine things like we see in F happening in reality, but how much of it is really true and what were the real events?
Johannes Roberts: Ha actually I think it was only the UK cinema trailer that claimed that – we certainly never did on the film. I think it was just a marketing ploy. However in one sense it is true. Before I made F I was a teacher in the very place we shot F. All the characters are based on people I worked with. I never saw much violence but I did see a lot of examples of beurocracy gone crazy which was where the idea of F came from. It’s funny because one of the criticisms I often get from F was the lack of motivation of the children. Some people really found it unrealistic that this kind of thing would happen without a reason and then we had the London Riots a couple of months back. It was like a real life version of F.

T&K: F reminded me a bit of John Carpenter’s ASSAULT, although it’s not gangsters and a police station but teenagers and a school, but also of EDEN LAKE, where kids kill adults. Did you have any obvious influences or are all similarities coincidence?
Johannes Roberts: F is very much influenced by Assault which is one of my favorite films. It deals with very similar themes – like Assault F could be a western – with the group of characters trapped in a fort / school fighting off hordes of faceless Indians / kids. Also what attracted me to the idea of F and what I loved about Assault is the idea of a character out of time with the world around him. Like Napoleon Wilson Anderson is totally out of step with the world he now finds himself in. Oddly Eden Lake often gets bought up when people talk about F but it really has very little to do with it. I found that film well made but very empty and mean spirited.

T&K: While I liked the fact, that the film tells us little about the background of the hooded killers, other people complained about this. Can you give them some hints?
Johannes Roberts: The film is not about the kids attacking the school but about a broken man totally out of step with the current time who has to desperately try and get his daughter back. I loved the idea of a teacher who was terrified of children. How must it be to do a job your entire life then suddenly after one event (the head butt) to become terrified of them. I’ve heard some wonderful suggestions on who the kids are. I really left it up to the audience. I know who they are but I wasn’t interested in doing a reveal. F is all about that end. About the decision Anderson has to make. The whole film leads up to it. I know it drove a lot of people mad but I absolutely adore it.

T&K: The killers don’t speak, we don’t see their faces and they seem to be extremely athletic. Is there a deeper meaning behind this?
Johannes Roberts: I was really influenced by Asian horror. I love ghost stories and supernatural films. F is far more influenced by films like The Grudge and The Ring than films like Eden Lake or The strangers. In many ways I was shooting with the conventions of a ghost story which I think threw a lot of people.

T&K: The film was shot on limited budget. Was there anything you could not include, because it was too expensive or is everything just the way you planned it?
Johannes Roberts: Yeah we had no money at all. The film was written to be done that way so I never felt I had to compromise. Some people complained about the lack of on screen kills but again it wasn’t really a budget thing it was the asian ghost story influence where you see the aftermath and then have to imagine what the hell did that to the person – it is so much creepier.

T&K: You are British and so is the film. What would you say separates a British (horror) movie from an American (horror) movie?
Johannes Roberts: Hard to say really. I am very influenced by American horror movies. I think the independence from a studio and ability to make films on smaller budgets means we can be more original. I never would have got away with that ending and the lack of answers in a studio movie.

T&K: In your career you have done several horror-movies. Are you a fan of the genre and (if yes) what is your favorite horror-movie?
Johannes Roberts: I love horror. I grew up on Stephen King and John Carpenter. Cujo was the movie that made me want to become a film director. I love the Thing and I love In the Mouth of Madness. I think horror is not in a great place at the moment although I did quite enjoy Insidious which was the first time since The Orphanage that I was actually scared.

T&K: What will your next project be? More horror?
Johannes Roberts: I just shot a monster movie called Roadkill for American tv starring Stephen Rea which was fun and I’m currently in the editing room on my latest movie which is for Universal called Storage 24. It is a Science fiction horror movie written and starring Noel Clarke. It should be released sometime mid next year. I’m hoping it is going to be big. It has a great alien in it designed by Paul Hyett (The Descent).

T&K: Thank you for the interview!
Johannes Roberts: Thank you!

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