Hush: writer director Mark Tonderai interview

The new British road thriller — and how often do we say that — is hitting screens today. We’ve been talking to the man behind Hush…

Mark Tonderai has a background on the radio – you may have heard him on the likes of Radio 1 and Kiss 100 if you live in London – but he’s a man who’s clearly been harbouring movie ambitions. Nearly two years after he filmed it, his tight, tense horror-thriller Hush is one of the very few British films in this genre to get a cinema release. And we’ve been talking to the man behind it to find out more…

WARNING: There are some mild spoilers in this article, including a discussion of the ending (we don’t tell you what it is, but we do discuss it), that you may want to avoid if you haven’t seen the film.

Congratulations on the film, which has been getting a really positive response. You must be quite pleased with that!

Yeah, it’s been amazing actually. We’ve only had about four negative reviews, which I don’t really worry about because I don’t think that you can. But it’s been really cool, and people have really taken it in the spirit it was intended to be.

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The thing is as well, it’s simply not the kind of film that Britain’s particularly renowned for making.

That’s what’s got me quite a lot of attention! I met someone a guy called Paul Brookes, who runs a company called Golden Circle [Films], and he literally said what you said. Literally word for word. He said he really enjoyed it as well.

It’s very interesting, and pretty cool actually. I’ve been talking to people and they say that there’s only about ten people doing what you’re doing, an elevated genre thing.

Did its distinction work for you when you were trying to get the funding together?

Yeah, yeah, I think so. I think it was. Because there hasn’t really been a road thriller in the UK. There’s been a lot like The Vanishing in Holland, and a lot of American stuff like Breakdown. But in terms of British nightmare road films, with the backdrop of the M1 and service stations, it’s not really happened before. I think that’s what did it. I think the premise as well. People liked the premise. We’ve all been on long drives, and we’ve all been on car journeys. That’s kind of what helped it.

So just how many arguments have you had on the motorway, and are they what inspired you?

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[Laughs] My wife works with me, and we fight quite a lot! But for us it isn’t really fighting, it’s just how we talk to each other you know? And we’ve got a lot better as we’ve got older! When we were younger, we argued a lot more!

The theme you seen quite keen on persuing in the film is whether we should intervene or not?

Yeah, yeah. It’s a bit of a weird one this, because I wanted people to discover it for themselves. It’s one of the things I did start writing the film about, because I think, I’ve said this a lot, Alan Moore in my mind has written the best book on writing – Writing For Comics – and one of the things that he talks about is how you must have a point when you’re writing things. And I think films and art does that. Films ask questions. And that’s what we were trying to do, ask a question. What would you do if you saw this? How would you respond? That’s pretty important to me, that. Otherwise I think what’s the point of spending three years of your life on something?

Was it always part of the deal that you’d direct the film?

Yeah! Yeah, it was nice! I had the best time…!

The press screening I went to you actually came in at the start and introduced it, and you were talking about the realisation of what typing words such as EXT > NIGHT > RAIN started to mean when you got down to the nitty gritty. It was a five week shoot to get all of this in, I gather, at night?

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It was. A lot of the stuff in the car, that’s all back location, so we cheated on a lot of it because we had no choice.

They say sleep deprivation is a torture technique and I think it makes sense now. I’m very careful about writing night scenes, just knowing that if I’m doing that I’m entering a whole different world of hurt there! You’ve got to be very careful. If I go into that again, I won’t go in lightly! Maybe we’ll shoot in the winter and you can start at four? You can shoot nights and start then!

That’s one of the lessons, as a writer/director, you take into your next project?

Yeah, I think so! I’ll always pretty much write my own stuff I think too.

You filmed it two years ago. It seems to have been quite a long process to get the film promoted. It was shown at Frightfest last year, and you’re still pushing it now?

I think it’s important though. I think you’ve got to see the whole thing through, and I really believe in it. I’m asking people to part with ten pounds, and I think you’ve got to earn that. I really believe that. I think you’ve got to commit to it. I think you can feel it in the film, that there’s a lot of work that’s gone into that film.

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Is it frustrating? The prolonged promotional side on a smaller project must hold you back on other things?

If I’m honest with you I got the deal for this new film last year, because I finished editing the film in about April, doing the score and the mix. So it’s been on hold for about a year. And I got a new deal about a year ago. The people who needed to see it have seen it, in terms of industry screenings, it’s sold really well internationally. It’s done what it needed to do for me to go onto the next thing. That was all I was after. Trying to start a career. Anything else was a bonus for me. It’s just the way it is. I’m lucky I’ve even got a release.

So how do you feel about Hush getting such a wide release?

I’m lucky. Coming out a week after Watchmen! Some direct competition!

You’ve left Hush quite open ended at the end. Will you ever go back to it?

No, I’d never revisit that. A lot of that was that the scene we shot didn’t work. When it was cut together it didn’t work. So I had to think of a different ending. I actually got the idea from an awful story I read about a paedophile site in America, and they’d shut it down. And several hours later, another one was set up. And I just thought that was the most terrifying thing I’ve read. I thought it would give me a really interesting way to end the film, but I don’t give a shit about a sequel.

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You’ve got three films that you’re currently working on. Which are we likely to see from you next?

I think it’s this one called The Twelfth Prophet that I’m doing with Pathe. I really hope that I can deliver the script that’s really good, and I really hope it does well, to be global.

Is it British?

This one’s set in America, with an American cast. It’s very, very different!

Mark Tonderai, thank you very much.

Hush is out in UK cinemas now. Check out our review here.

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