By Ninder Kaur
In recent months there has been much discussion of the lack of diversity in British media with many big industry names joining the call for the inclusion and promotion of BAME (Black and Minority Ethnicity) talent particularly in cinema and television.
With the help of an Ealing father and son team, they have helped conquer the absence of ethnic minority talent in their new movie Unhallowed Ground.
The new independent supernatural-thriller-horror will soon be hitting the big screen this month.
I caught up with the talented 22-year-old Paul Raschid, best known for his role in Ealing Comedy (2008) and Naachle London (2012), who not only has a starring role in the movie but also wrote this fully-fledged feature film.
- Why did you decide do write a teen horror movie?
Horror and thrillers has always been something that I have loved ever since I was little, where I would stay up late and watch them behind my parent’s back.
From a business point of view, my dad who is an independent film producer went to go see his distributor to see what the demand was out there. They advised him that for a low budget film, the genre that you can make well and that will always have a loyal fan base is the horror genre.
I had just started off screen writing so when my Dad came back to me and asked if I could write a horror film I was more than happy to do so.
- Was there any particular film you got inspiration from?
My main influence was Scream. That period in the 90s there was a golden era in Hollywood of teen slasher thrillers. It has always been a genre that has really excited me. But it’s truly been a lifetime’s mental stockpiling of influences that shaped the script of ‘Unhallowed Ground’. Primarily, I wanted to write a horror film with believable characters so that the audience would care whether the people on screen lived or died. By having an emotional attachment to the characters makes every scare or moment of tension that bit more intense.
- How did you go about writing the script?
I prefer to draft my work and write as I go. From there, I just re-work and restructure the body of the work. It took me four weeks to write a draft copy of the movie and that was after sitting in my room like a vampire and working non-stop. Then it was just re-tweaking it all for the real first draft. In total, it took about six weeks to write.
- How long have you been in the film industry?
I have always been involved in the industry because of my dad. I have even had parts in two of his films that he has directed.
When I was 16, Dad would give me scripts for a second opinion and I came across some good ones and bad ones, which were equally educational when it came to knowing how to structure them and learn about character arcs. I have always learnt on the go rather than being formally trained.
When I was 19, on holiday in Canada I just had an idea for a film and opened up my laptop and it went from there.
- What has the film’s response been like?
Considering it is a low budget indie film, I feel the support we’ve received has been great. I think what attracts people is the freshness of the project, by having a young, diverse cast and it being a fast-paced, suspenseful film. Plus, there is a great demand for horror films and the fan base is very loyal.
The reviews have been really positive. We had a screening in Cannes and a lot of people came and watched it. It was great to get the approval from such educated film viewers with respected views, which is a good start and vindicated that I was on the right path.
- This film combats the lack of diversity in British media. How hard was it getting ethnic minority talent in the UK into a film like this?
The multi-cultural cast was something that came organically because I grew up in a very diverse school community around people from all sorts of backgrounds. So I just wrote about what was true to me and created characters that reflected that.
While there were far less young Asian actors who came forward to audition for the film, it was definitely a case of quality over quantity. The talent is most definitely out there and I feel with the increasing representation of people from BAME backgrounds in the film and TV industry more and more people from those backgrounds will look to get into the creative industry.
- Do you think the film has opened up the doors for young Asian talent?
I think it’s a bit early to tell, but I hope it paves the way for more film and TV productions in which BAME actors and actresses are featured in interesting, complex and prominent roles because the talent is certainly out there.
- What is your favourite genre?
Thrillers are my favourite genre. I have already written a rom-com and there’s comedy stuff I want to do. There are other genres I want to explore. At some point I want to do a heavy affecting drama.
I am still young and learning my trade but horror has provided me a great platform to learn and showcase as a writer.
- What advice would you give to young aspiring filmmakers?
I’m always fully aware when giving advice that I’m in a particularly privileged position, coming from a producing family. But one thing I’ve learnt myself is that this is an industry where you have to go for it, no half measures. All the biggest British actors, directors, writers have got to where they are by hard work by building up their CVs over the years, gaining experience. It’s really like any other job but if you want to be in the industry then just get stuck in, write your scripts, and go for auditions, attend film classes, just go for it!
- What can we expect from Paul Raschid in the future?
I’m working on a few things but in the immediate future we are going to shoot a more traditional British ghost story later in the year called Servants’ Quarters. The script is written and is just undergoing some more development. The project is fully funded so we’re just casting the lead role for that at the moment.
ABOUT THE FILM
Set in an historic British boarding school six students from two prestigious single sex private schools, spend a night patrolling the grounds of the historic Dhoultham School as part of their Army Cadet training. As each hour passes and the teenagers complete their mundane tasks, they witness a series of increasingly disturbing occurrences: slamming doors, flickering lights and ghostly apparitions.
As the hours grind on, personal conflicts are magnified and the school’s gruesome history erupts with deadly consequences. Meanwhile, the ante is upped by two brazen burglars who have chosen this very night to carry out a heist on the school archive room – a vault of priceless historical documents and artifacts. As the supernatural encounters begin to take an increasingly malevolent turn, the students realise they must escape Dhoultham before the night’s end.
The film has already won ‘Best Horror Film’ at the London Independent Film Festival 2015, while two of its stars also picked up gongs at the British Independent Film Festival 2015. Marcus Griffiths won ‘Best Supporting Actor’ award and Rachel Petladwala was voted ‘Best Supporting Actress’.
Unhallowed Ground will be released on selected screens across the UK on 12th June 2015, where people can expect some great British acting talent, new and old. As well as a real adrenalin pumping ride filled with lots of jumps and scares.
The movie will be followed by the online and DVD release on 29th June and 13th July.