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Q&A: New Zealand’s David Blyth Talks “GHOST BRIDE”

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New Zealand-based director David Blyth (WOUND) is well known for making grisly, uncompromising horror features that turn stomachs and bend minds. But his latest is a radical departure. Out last month from Midnight Releasing, GHOST BRIDE (written and directed by Blyth) is a meditative, sensual and romantic ghost story telling the tale of a Chinese immigrant named Michael who falls into an arranged marriage with a long dead woman named May Ling. When Michael’s true love tries to steal him back, May Ling quickly proves that old adage, ‘Hell hath no fury like a dead woman scorned’. 

Filled with eerie music and dense atmosphere, GHOST BRIDE is an immersive film experience but, seeing as it is so unlike anything Blyth has ever done, Fango jumped at the chance to speak with him about it…

FANGORIA: You are known for your more visceral work and yet GHOST BRIDE is very much a mood piece. Why the shift?

DAVID BLYTH: I like to see myself as a versatile filmmaker who doesn’t keep making the same film and wanted to explore new frontiers and take creative risks. I like to subvert genre film and take it to my own unique place. Creating a unique cinematic experience.

FANG: On that tip, GHOST BRIDE is heavily hypnotic and immersive. A big part of that is Jed Town’s ambient score. What can you tell us about Jed and working with him here?

BLYTH: Jed and I met at High School. From 2001 on, Jed has composed music for five of my documentaries and three feature films. Jed (http://www.audioculture.co.nz/people/fetus-productions) Town is an extraordinarily talented musician/composer who understands the emotional consciousness that an ambient score can evoke. Utilising traditional vocals and Chinese instruments in his compositional ambient mix helps to take us into an authentic emotional realm that gives the film’s imagery another hypnotic dimension. The process of working with Jed on the sound design is one of the most exciting parts of post-production for me. Music is so important as an emotional underlay of the storytelling.

FANG: Are you a fan of the traditional Chinese ghost story?

BLYTH: I am more familiar with Japanese ghost stories than I am with traditional Chinese ones. I was influenced by films such as RETRIBUTION, directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, and EMPIRE OF PASSION, directed by Nagisa Oshima. I wanted to subvert the traditional supernatural ghost story by suggesting that the Ghost is erupting into consciousness as a cultural artifact, a projection by the brain of inherited memory or belief. It is a 21stCentury exploration of the different levels of our own consciousness and how we can project an unconscious outcome onto our present life.

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Director David Blyth

FANG: The cinematography is also lovely, betraying the budget. Can you talk about Marc’s work?

BLYTH: Marc Mateo was instrumental in bringing WOUND to life as the cinematographer, giving the film a unique look. He also introduced me to Craig Parkes, who became the producer of GHOST BRIDE. Together, Marc and Craig suggested future proofing the film by shooting GHOST BRIDE in 4k on a Red Camera.

This has proved advantageous in a market saturated with HD films, where there is a real demand for a limited supply of 4k films to play on the next generation of TV screens.

Marc took on board the Asian philosophy of simplicity and reductionism to create beautiful, haunting imagery with a very limited budget and shooting schedule.

FANG: What is the New Zealand indie film landscape like? Is it hard to get movies made?

BLYTH: 2014 has been a bumper year for New Zealand Cinema in general and this includes half a dozen low budget indie digital films. The NZ Film Commission is pretty much the main funding body of NZ feature films. The digital revolution has resulted in the costs of storytelling coming way down and it is heartening to see a wider range of film makers being able to tell their own stories outside of Government funding.

New Zealand producer Ant Timpson (ABCs OF DEATH 1 & 2, HOUSEBOUND) has connected with North American Festival directors and USA Horror Distribution companies to promote and sell New Zealand genre films to the world.

So New Zealand is entering a new, exciting phase where local genre films are being successfully sold.

Regarding GHOST BRIDE, through our North American distributors Acort International, it has already sold to the Middle East, Russia, Taiwan, Philippines, China and North America where it was released for DVD and VOD on November 4.

FANG: What kind of feedback have you gotten re: GHOST BRIDE thus far?

BLYTH: Like most of my previous films, reaction to GHOST BRIDE has been mixed, depending on expectations. Certainly hardcore splatter fans wanted more of the same, after my last visceral film WOUND.

WOUND was a festival darling, being invited to over 40 International Film Festivals, but only managed a handful of countries for DVD distribution which as we all know (DVD)  is a rapidly shrinking market.

I wanted to make a film that could be shown on cable TV, which is where a lot of the income for Indie films comes from today. So GHOST BRIDE was designed to attract a new audience and also to look towards Asia as the new growth area in Cinema. The fact that GHOST BRIDE has been sold to China commercially for VOD release is a milestone for New Zealand cinema.

Learn more about Blyth and GHOST BRIDE by visiting: www.ghostbridemovie.com and the director’s personal website at:www.davidblyth.com

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About the author
Chris Alexander
Author, film critic, teacher, musician and filmmaker (not to mention failed boxer) Chris Alexander is the editor-in-chief of FANGORIA Magazine. He got his first professional break as the “Schizoid Cinephile” in the pages of Canadian horror film magazine RUE MORGUE before making the move to FANGO in 2007. His words have appeared in The Toronto Star, Metro News, Wired, Montage, The Dark Side, Tenebre and many other notable publications and he appears regularly on international television and radio.
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