Film director and screenwriter Eric Ian Steele on telling surprising stories 

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Eric Ian Steele’s film debut ‘Boy #5’, a subverted vampire story, was incredibly successful and selected by FrightFest. Since then the Manchester-born director and screenwriter has shot two more exciting and ambitious feature films. He tells us about his unusual route into the industry, the challenges of shooting over lockdown, and his new alternate-history WWII film, ‘Forty-Two’.

How did you start working in the film industry?

Actually, I never intended to be a film director. For someone like me, born in Manchester in the 1970s, film and television was something magical that only happened in faraway places like London or Hollywood. So after getting my degree in English Literature (a fairly useless subject!), I went to work in a variety of jobs before ending up in the police. I stayed there for over 12 years. Then, thanks to the internet and a lot of hard work, I got an agent and started selling screenplays. After a while I met a local film group, and things just grew from there.

Can you tell us about your experiences as a writer?

I’d always written screenplays for fun. But when the internet arrived, it suddenly became possible to sell screenplays online through various websites. I got my first job writing a horror script for hire. Then I optioned a few spec scripts of my own, before finally selling my sci-fi action screenplay ‘Clone Hunter’, followed by ‘The Student’ to a company in Hollywood a few years later. But I got tired of having no control over the material. Now as a director, I understand why so many changes happen to a script – it can be anything from being kicked out of a location, to the weather, to an actor’s availability – but still, it’s nice to be the one making the changes!

What have been your favourite projects to date?

‘Boy #5’ was my first feature as a writer/director. It’s about a withdrawn young boy in a care home who also happens to be a vampire. We made it for very little money. We cast first-time actors in the lead roles and went out on the streets of Manchester filming drunks and rats in alleyways. The film was selected by FrightFest and had its premiere in Cineworld in London’s West End. We sold out an entire cinema screen and I was nominated for the International Rising Star Award. The film received amazing reviews from the critics and got picked up by LA-based distributors Devilworks. ‘Boy #5’ will be available on UK TV later this month. Our next feature was ‘Day of the Clones’, which is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi shot entirely during lockdown. Everything was incredibly difficult – all the shops were shut and we had a skeleton cast and crew. We had a lot of mishaps and accidents, including sub-zero temperatures, electrical explosions and a car crash that wrote off our lead car. But we learned a lot of lessons from it.

What are you looking forward to working on?

We’ve just shot an alternate-history WWII feature film called ‘Forty-Two’. It’s set in an England that has been occupied by the Nazis. A group of ordinary people are arrested on suspicion of being Resistance members and must somehow escape the clutches of a ruthless SS officer. We shot it all in just eight days in a deconsecrated church, and kept everything so secret that the locals didn’t even know we were there. We shot one huge scene in the middle of Oldham town centre, with Nazi stormtroopers and British civilians in period costume. We have an absolutely amazing cast and crew and captured some incredible performances. We now have a crowdfunding campaign planned to help us to get even more done. It was a totally insane shooting schedule – only eight days to make a historical feature film is unheard of. I collapsed with exhaustion at the end. But it was definitely worth it.

Photo credits: Vamoose Productions Ltd.