TEN QUESTIONS WITH……LUKE MASSEY Interview by Christine Hadden Today we have an interview with writer/director Luke Massey, who has given us the compelling just-released (VOD) film Armistice, starring Joseph Morgan (The Vampire Diaries, The Originals) and Matt Ryan.
1) First, for those who don’t know, can you give us the premise of Armistice?
Royal Marine A.J Budd (Joseph Morgan) awakes in a mysterious house and is forced to fight for his life everyday against grotesque inhuman opponents. Trapped alone in an unchanging prison of unbreakable routines, he must kill everyday or die himself. As days stretch into years, the isolation and unceasing violence threaten his very soul. The only note of hope lies in the journals of a former prisoner of the house, WW1 officer Lieutenant Edward Sterling (Matt Ryan). Discovered behind a secret wall, Sterling’s diaries serve as a mentor to the young marine and help to keep him alive, but what dark fate befell their author?
2) Tell us a little bit about your own background. You’re British, correct? How did your love of film guide you into the business?
Yes I’m British. My dad was an actor so I think I was always destined to work in film or theatre in some way. As a kid I used to go on set with him or backstage at the theatre when he was doing a play and from a very early age knew that’s what I wanted to do. My brother actually wanted to be the director and I an actor; we used to make lots of short films as a kid and watch two or three films a day. My brother fell out of love with it so gave me all his books on filmmaking and I never looked back. My brother works in politics now.
3) This is your first film and you tackled both writing and directing, among other roles. In hindsight, was that a lot to take on or did it make it easier to bring your personal vision to the film?
Until recently I didn’t think so but after being just the DOP on Joseph’s short film revelation and seeing him just direct it seemed like an easier and more productive way of working. I’ve done the same on our next feature 500 Miles North and I’m considering doing it one more time on our third film this year but after that I doubt I’ll do anything else other then directing. I know the actors I work with would like me to do less and I enjoy working with them most of all so I probably will.
4) Did your previous work as a DOP help you to be more expressive and sure of yourself as a director?
I think it definitely made me more sure of myself. I started working professionally as a camera trainee when I was 16 so had ten years of experience behind me before I directed Armistice. Before working with Joseph and Matt Ryan I didn’t think much about working with actors but while doing their short film ‘With These Hands’ I got an education in what real acting was, they blew my mind and got me into reading the likes of Stanislavski and his method. I went from being a very technical director to an actors director thanks to them.
5) What was your biggest challenge in terms of the short running time of the film, and keeping your favorite scenes off the cutting room floor?
The original cut was 4 hours and had several more characters in it including a viking, a knight and a mute girl who is played by one of the greatest actors I’ve ever worked with. Cutting her out was heartbreaking, I still watch the scenes now and I’m still gutted I couldn’t make them work in the cut. I think every filmmaker goes through this and you have to do what’s best for the film.
6) Many fans will recognize Joseph Morgan from his role as baddie vampire on both The Vampire Diaries and The Originals. What can you tell us about his role in Armistice and about Joseph himself?
It’s a hard role to play. It’s a blank canvas, AJ Budd is a man who can’t remember who he is, where he’s from, not even his own name and that’s just the starting point. You then watch him trapped in this awful house for four or five years having to kill everyday and you can just see his humanity drain away. I think Jo would agree it’s one of the most challenging parts he’s ever played and one of his greatest performances, he really knocked it out of the park. As for Joseph he’s a cool cat, a good friend and one of the funniest guys I know, which is something I don’t think comes across in many interviews. We are constantly laughing and messing around on set. I’ve worked with Joseph and Matt on two features and two shorts within the last five years and they’ve been some of the best times of my life both professionally and personally.
7) Armistice was originally titled Warhouse, which some readers may have been familiar with already. Why the name change?
In all honesty it was a number of things War Horse didn’t bloody help hahaha It’s still called Warhouse in Russia and someone on twitter sent me a photo of the title which I appreciated.
8) Haha! I thought of that War Horse reference as well! Would you classify Armistice as strictly horror, and do you think horror will be your genre of choice or do you see yourself spreading your wings to work on other types of films?
I think it’s a thriller, it’s more of a war movie then a horror but think it’s a got a bit of everything which isn’t a bad thing. My next film ‘500 Miles North’, which we’ve just finished editing, is a road move in the same vein as Little Miss Sunshine or Darjeeling LTD. It stars both Joseph and Matt again and is a very personal story reflecting on my relationship with my brother and father. I do love horror movies though and we are planning to film an all out Wickerman type horror in June.
9) What would you say your biggest challenges were with Armistice?
I don’t want to give anything away to those who have not seen it, but it’s a fierce yet stunning film! Thanks for saying that. You’re always a bit nervous about what people will think. The biggest challenge was making a film with largely no dialogue with two actors who for the most part have to act on their own. That was a big challenge, but with actors like Joseph and Matt it made things a lot easier.
10) Is the film getting a wide release? Any particulars on the DVD release yet? And what is next for Luke Massey?
31st March will be a general release and someone tweeted me a link to it on Amazon already so you can pre-order it now. Next for me is overseeing the selling of 500 Miles North and the start of pre-production on our third film which is the wickerman type horror.
Again, thanks so much for your time! And I have to encourage everyone to check out Armistice – and keep your eyes on Luke Massey in the future!