The multi-talented Jonathan Chance first established himself as a filmmaker (as well as actor, writer, etc) working with his brother Richard in the UK on ambitious projects like the zombie epic THE VEIL. Since then he’s made a move to L.A. and has thrown himself headlong into making short films, developing his voiceover credentials, and just generally being a renaissance man. He was good enough to talk with me about his latest short film THE TIMESLIP, culture shock, and the upcoming US cut of THE VEIL.
Sweetback: It’s strange.. We’ve known each other for a while now, but I’ve asked you very little about how you actually got involved with making films. Let’s begin at the natural place. Your brother and yourself have been collaborating for quite a while now. Talk a little bit about growing up together. Were you competitive? Did you get along?
Jonathan Chance: Growing up Richard and I were pretty close, and into similar things; Sci-Fi, Horror films, books and comics things like that. We were both into art and make-up special effects. Competitive not so much, when I was younger I looked up to him like any younger brother does. Now older we’re equals, worth is proven in what we do. I think everyone argues though. Today we aren’t competitive but we both can have creative differences because we both do most of the work on our films and we’re passionate about what we do.
SB: I’m not sure if there’s a significant age gap between the two of you, but did your interest in film come together at the same time? What were some of your favorite films growing up?
JC: There is fours years between us. Richard is the elder. As long as I can remember we’ve been into Sci-Fi and Horror. I remember Richard was really into STAR WARS when we were little and I was into this little weird Sci-Fi film called GLITTERBALL. Around four or five the earliest memory of a horror film was HORROR OF DRACULA. It was scary and exciting and my mother said I would get nightmares if I watched it. Of course because my mother said so – I had nightmares! But it was all fascinating. Me and Richard as early as 6yrs and 10yrs old wanted to make a horror movie – we had just moved to a small town in Essex (England) and, exploring, we found a gutted, abandoned cinema theater – and we had our hearts set on making film in there. We were going to use the elderberry tree berries to make blood (yes, even then we were thinking ways of doing our own thing) but our hopes were dashed when it was set to be altered into a surgery. I remember being sad we never got to make a film. That all changed later. Fave films growing up were the classics – ALIEN, BLADE RUNNER, THE THING, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, THE GATE … back then films were just so original and inspired. That’s what we want to do. Make original films.
SB: What was the moment where you knew you that you wanted to work in film? That this is something that you were going to devote your life towards?
JC: When I was 17yrs old I had an idea of what I wanted to do. Between college. I know it sounds silly thinking back now – but I wanted to inspire. Then around 20 yrs old when I started to see what we were making with THE VEIL- I thought this is for me. All of it. Writing, directing, acting, and editing. There is something so fulfilling when you finally complete your film. When we filmed a great helicopter scene, or a raw fight scene on a rooftop – that’s when you know – you were doing something far more interesting on a Sunday than the rest of the town was doing. Well, to me it was!
Also, I saw things on British TV just weren’t that great, uninspired – nothing trying to be out of the ordinary or epic. I am happy the competition is healthier now with more independent filmmakers trying their game – back in 2001 it was all romantic comedies with big indie budgets – wait a second it still is!
SB: Were the two of you making short films before THE VEIL? I can’t imagine you would try tackling such an involved narrative without having done a few trial runs.
JC: Yes, we started some projects; THE BEAST and another was THE HUNTED – they didn’t have the same appeal that early on so they were abandoned. We have since rewrote them both but like a lot of our scripts they are fitted toward that all needed budget! It’s like THE WAITING ROOM. We were nominated in 2009 for best Horror Screenplay – but it will sit there until it rightfully has the budget to make that movie. It’s not a lot by Indie Standards but we certainly don’t want to cut corners. We learned to make films effectively with very little – if the script makes it possible.
THE VEIL had so many things happening so we jumped in. So that feature was the first real film we finished. I wouldn’t suggest anyone to do it – but we did learn a lot quickly through trail and error.
SB: Now, THE VEIL – in its original form – is epic. Considering most low-budget features barely reach the 90 minute mark, the idea of a 2 1/2 hour black & white zombie epic might seem rather daunting – though it certainly makes a person sit up and take notice. Was the plan from the beginning to have such a long run time? Was there a concern that audiences wouldn’t be able to handle it?
JC: It took about four years to make over weekends while we were working. We loved the idea of making a micro epic feature film. I mean why not? Is it only allowed for say Kubrick to make 3hr films and get away with it? Only for the established perhaps? We certainly wanted to make an impression. But also the story is so complex. A thinking man’s horror film with layers to explore. To be honest we didn’t think about audiences – but rather what makes a good movie? Let them come in to this world an almost ‘real time’ like cold war experience between these soldiers stuck in a hopeless situation. What I love about this story is it could of taken place just now or 50 years ago or 50 years in the future. It looks out of time.
It never was supposed to be a blockbuster zombie film with big CGI effects or trying to be a crowd pleaser. Those movies never seem to be very original – just cash cows where all the art is filtered out completely by the time it’s ready to make. It is a psychological horror movie made by literally three guys and some extras working cast and crew. Warts n’ all – I still love the film – I think of some great directors first films and I think – not bad at all for a first film.
SB: Talk about the first time you saw the film cut together. What was your reaction? Did you think this was something that could be sold?
JC: We were proud. Naively we thought the film would shine through and that it wouldn’t matter. Not so. When you’re new to the game you have to make doors open, by being persistent and showing what you have to offer – is different from anything else. But, today more than ever – attention spans are shorter so understandably we’re settling for a taught cut of THE VEIL being released with a good solid company.
SB: How did you go about finding distribution for THE VEIL? Was it challenging?
JC: Yes. For starters a low budget (let alone of epic proportions) art house horror film is not your normal film to pigeon hole. Let alone pitch. We had acclaim, good reviews that helped us. But with swimming comes sharks. Even the great directors we know and love got screwed in the beginning. And it’s happening even more today unfortunately. Do invest time in checking backgrounds of distributors, folks!
It was finally released in early 08′ after looking around. When it was released we were happy it was out there – but a lot of distributors just want to make money and will exploit you.
So among a number of reasons we just weren’t happy with the quality of the DVD that was released. In fact I only wanted reviewers to see a copy of my masters – than from the DVD that was out there. I still to this day would like to properly release THE VEIL in its entirety and best possible quality.
SB: You’ve been working on a re-edit of the film. What are some of the significant changes between the original and this new version? And when can we expect to be able to see it?
JC: The new version THE VEIL US CUT is a nice 103 min. Some sharper cuts and less flashbacks. Some zombies had to go of course, to make the flow more even and much tighter. This is a nice chance to see a brand new cut and the quality that we desired to be seen on DVD since the start. It’s down to you! If you want to see it ask for it to be put on shelves, if people want to see how it SHOULD look (and re-cut to boot) to tell DVD companies about it. Demand it. We are looking for the right distribution for the filmmaker – that works with the artist and shares a common goal. So distributors should get in contact to talk if that’s you!
SB: Can you talk a little about your move to LA? What prompted it? Did you encounter any significant culture shock upon arriving?
JC: Without sounding cheesy – Good old fashioned following your dreams and falling in love! In the summer of 08′ I had this wild idea to come out to a festival to see how our current film THE DAY I TRIED TO LIVE would measure up, to network etc. Cut back to 8 months earlier. I met this beautiful, enchanting, funny girl on YouTube that was into all the same things I was into. Music, horror films and Howard Stern. We built a rapport and a great friendship. Summer 08′ – I discover the festival I was going to was literally 20-30 mins from where she lived! We decided to meet, I had the best summer of my life (won best Guerrilla film to boot) started a long distance relationship and the rest is history. I had this feeling, I had to go – things would be very different if I didn’t. Now, I’m happily married living with my wife in California.
Culture shock – yes! People drive crazy on the roads, morning breakfast shows seem to be more fun and there is as many fastfood places here as there are pubs in England – neither are good for you. Well all in moderation. They seem to like Brits here – though I don’t have the heart to tell some people we don’t say ‘Cheerio’ anymore.
SB: Your lovely wife Camie is not only your partner in life, but she’s also a bit of a horror fanatic. Her vLogs and Blog show a depth of knowledge that would give most readers of this site a run for their money. Did you two originally bond over your love of films? How did you meet?
JC: It was all about films and music with us when we first met.Yes! I’m very proud of my wife. Absolutely – it’s taking off. She is so talented at what she does. She has this amazing ability to write like she speaks – her humor, vast knowledge of geekdom and witticisms echo in her blogs. Her personality shines through. It’s like we’re having one of our fun movie discussions and she’s letting people in to listen. Words are definitely her art of expression and the creativity pours in those blogs … I’m proud.
I’m just as excited as everyone when she’s made a new one – cause’ I know I’m in for some interesting facts or debate on films or some weird inane films from yesteryear and it’s definitely going to make me laugh.
SB: Let’s talk about THE TIMESLIP. Who came up with the original idea, and what prompted it?
JC: Richard came up with the basic idea to start, about this business man who falls into another place … We weren’t sure what should be hunting him and I went towards going with something savage, and definitely with horror elements. From there we brain stormed ideas. We wanted it to be very apparent in our analogy. That people are slipping further away from basic survival, hunting, even spiritualism replaced by consumerism and technology. We rely on everything today. It’s like owning a rabbit and feeding it everyday – it has no survivalist instinct … all it knows is that it will get fed at 10am and 3pm. Someone leaves the hutch open. Rabbit’s escaped. We find the animal dead two hours later attacked in the woodland nearby. Sheltered animals don’t stand a chance in the wild.
SB: While you’ve always been involved in the creative process for your work, this is one of your first credits as a director. Has directing always been the main goal?
JC: Richard and I have always been such key parts in all our films. Even back when Richard started THE VEIL I was 18 – 22yrs old I was doing alot of things with him – creative input, the screenplay and editing the film. Which I find is where some of the some of the magic is made! We did everything together. So by our second film – a short CHAINMAIL we became Chance Brothers. We fell into it, it seemed natural and undeniably we were both doing all the work. So now THE TIMESLIP is our third together. I debuted my own short film called Apt. last year that will be showing at the Geek Independent Film Festival along with The Timeslip in Indiana next month!
SB: The Timeslip continues your collaboration with your brother. Is he still in England? Are you two planning on continuing to work together?
JC: We enjoy making films together and want to continue doing so. As you can imagine my living here in the U.S and Richard being in the U.K can be difficult, but we make it happen. He is welcome to make his own films as I have done, and he is currently working on his own Sci-Fi film with a Colchester film group. We will always make films together – it’s like bands – we all should be able to make side projects.
SB: THE TIMESLIP is currently making the rounds on the festival circuit. What are some of the upcoming screenings, and where is its eventual final destination?
JC: It premiered at the Action on Film Festival in July and now there lot’s of places over the next couple of months it will be screening:
The Timeslip – The Angeleno Film Festival in L.A Next month (Website for latest schedule)
Apt. – Geek Independent Film Festival Oct.8th 1:00pm
The Timeslip – Geek Independent Film Festival Oct.9th 1:50pm
The Timeslip – Horror Quest on October 24th, 3:00pm in Atlanta, GA
The Timeslip – Killer Film Fest
We plan to keep showing it at as many places as possible. Get it seen, noticed and shown at some even bigger festivals. We want people to see what we’re capable of and give us an opportunity to make a a feature from this exercise in a short.
SB: You also – and this is very interesting – market yourself as a voiceover artist. Tell me how that came about, and what it takes to get into the voice-over business.
JC: It’s funny I just see it as an acting role for your vocals. I’ve always loved acting – the art of expression from a young age. I’ve been taking off voices since I was very little. My mum will tell you one of the first things I heard and took off was Churchill. When we were on holiday at Duxford aviation center in England, she was surprised how uncanny a 10 year old took him off. Four years ago while searching for acting work I stumbled over a need for voiceover work here. Apart from being British in America (there can be a need for British VO) I found if I kept my rates reasonable give a good performance, people will come back to you. I’ve done commercials in American, Australian, Scottish and love to take on characters; I’ve played an Arabian narrator for a short film, been a Jamaican animated dog and played a rasping old British housekeeper for a halloween clothes line! It’s all alot of fun and rewarding.
SB: If anyone reading wants to check out your work, and keep updated on what you’ve been doing, how should they go about it?
JC: I like to keep my independent film work separate from my acting and Voiceover work as they are two very different things.
The films are stories in their own right and deserve their own attention. So for all the film work from trailers, info, accolades etc can be found at www.chance-encounters.org and we urge people of interest to get in contact with us on our films for funding, producing or donations to be part of the next Chance Encounters film whether it be a short or feature!
For Voicever work please get in contact here: http://voicesbychance.blogspot.com/ for a quote!
SB: Anything else to plug?
JC: Just to check to out Chance-Encounters.org for the latest screenings! Festival screenings are coming rapidly with five U.S screenings in the next couple of months and with the U.K and more countries on the way. Press and Industry are welcome to attend and to please get in contact with us on more information on our films!
Distributors interested in our feature film THE VEIL US CUT should also get in contact with me @ chance-encounters.org.
SB: Cheers, Jonathan.
JC: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure!
- [NO-BUDGET NIGHTMARES] PODCAST #80: PLAGA ZOMBIE (1997) - July 25, 2016