Stratford-based film-maker Chris McGill is filming The Snatcher with his production company Dusthouse. He tells Molly Sutherland about the project and its starry support and cast list.
“IF you keep your eyes so fixed on heaven that you never look at the earth, you will stumble into hell. Let us play.”
These are the chilling words of TV presenter Grand Helpmann as he looks upon the feverish audience hungry for action. Haven’t heard of him? That’s because he’s the eccentric creation that spouted from Chris McGill’s head and soon he will host the game show The Snatcher in McGill’s eponymous short film.
Set in the UK just a few years from now, The Snatcher takes place in a world where the internet is now militantly controlled and, as a result, has driven audiences toward the now state-run TV network where they will be fed politically-laced propaganda. The jewel in the crown of the network’s schedule is The Snatcher, a distorted game show in which families risk all their possessions to win each other’s. However, the failing team don’t just lose their belongings but also potentially a child to the Snatcher, a strange mythical creature from a bygone age. Not much is known about this mysterious figure but one thing’s certain – you don’t want to meet him.
After training at LAMDA and several years’ experience as an actor on stage and screen McGill took on the role of associate film director at the RSC working on such hits as Matilda, King Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth and Richard II. McGill’s own production company Dusthouse, which is based in Stratford-upon-Avon, specialises in creating innovative visuals through short films and music videos for the country’s leading theatre, opera and dance companies. In the past, the company has teamed up with familiar faces such as Jude Law, Phil Davis, Suranne Jones, and RSC regular Jonathan Slinger.
Singer Lucy Rose’s video Nebraska was the first project produced by Dusthouse which featured the one and only Danny Dyer searching for escapism through cross-dressing. The video reveals the cockney’s softer side under the pink lights.
“Danny was a joy to work with and I learned a lot from the video,” says McGill.
It is also through Dusthouse that McGill takes on arguably his most challenging and daring project yet – The Snatcher.
“I sat down the day after the Brexit result and started writing about how the country may seem in eight or nine years’ time when the reality of Brexit and the Trump rule has taken effect,” he explains. “I don’t think we realise how quickly these things can shift. It’s really extreme but every morning you wake up and check America’s CNN it becomes more and more possible.”
McGill may not have hit far from the truth, with themes in The Snatcher reflecting recent events in the USA with detention of immigrant children from their families. The dystopian world on screen may no longer be just fiction.
The project will be mainly local drawing on what McGill calls “a huge pool of creative talent within the area”. He recognises that The Snatcher is an ambitious project that can only become a reality with the help of support of members of the public who have a deep affection for film and wish to further the arts in their local area.
“Stratford has been really good to me and my family but we are in the shadow of the Bard,” he says,
For this reason Dusthouse are seeking support from the area both financially and in-kind.
“We’re looking to unveil local talent whilst producing a world-class drama,” McGill adds.
The premiere of the film, which will be roughly 20 minutes of horror, will be held at the Everyman Cinema in Stratford, with all involved in the production attending.
BAFTA nominee Sinéad Keenan, known for her roles in Little Boy Blue, Being Human and Doctor Who, will star as a contestant and head of the Petifer family, Jennifer. Keenan’s emotional performance as Mel Jones in the ITV drama Little Blue Boy, the mother of Rhys Jones who was murdered in 2007, indicates she’ll bring the desperation yet determination needed in the role of a mother taking part in such a twisted game show.
Starring alongside her will be Faye McKeever who also starred in Little Boy Blue as well as Moorside and Trollied. She will take on the role of Mary who is head of the White family and a super fan of The Snatcher.
“After being enthralled by the script and then hearing Chris’s vision of the project, it was a no-brainer for me to jump on board,” says McKeever on joining the cast.
Producers include Edmund Kinsley, an award-winning actor, and Mike Lake, founder of the Forbidden Planet stories, who sees the short film’s potential to be a cult hit among sci-fi fans.
It feels like the perfect time for McGill to unleash his politically-loaded narrative into the world after the success of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror that tells similar tales of what may happen to our world only if technology takes over our lives.
“All these things could happen. We’re a country in trouble,” says McGill.
Let’s hope he’s wrong and instead that his vision remains just a horror story.
To help support The Snatcher visit www.thesnatcherfilm.com