Filmed in Kent by director Scott Bates, The Tapes is a horror in the tradition of The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. However, 39-year-old Scott Bates’ film career couldn’t have started in a more unlikely place.
“Do you remember the TV series Pie in the Sky?” he asks. “My first job was being a runner on that. Then I got really lucky though and landed Alan Parker’s film Evita (starring Madonna and Antonio Banderas). I was only supposed to working on that for two weeks, and ended up working on it for 10 months in Argentina and Hungary and all over the place.”
Now a freelance assistant director, Scott has worked on the Harry Potter movies and continues to be asked to work on big-budget Hollywood productions: “I was recently asked to do some work on Clash of the Titans 2, but I was busy on Waterloo Road so had to turn it down. Working freelance is a rollercoaster of a career. One minute you’re having to seriously budget for the supermarket, and the next you’re in a 5-star hotel in Thailand – it does take some getting used to! That’s why I’m now going it alone, so I don’t have to rely on other people, and the dream is to make two or three films a year in Kent.”
The Tapes is the first of these Kent-based films, and was shot in and around Whitstable and Tankerton by Scott, who lives in Rochester.
“Kent is such an untapped area for filming,” he says. “London is overused and has shot itself in the foot by making filming so difficult and expensive. Filmmakers are tired of the landmarks of London too so it’s a great time for Kent to step up and bring some more work in.”
The Tapes wasn’t a solo project though, and was co-directed with Lee Alliston, another Kent filmmaker who owns the farm on which the majority of the film was shot. Lee Alliston has an equally varied background in TV and movies. He has worked on a number of Bollywood films, and also worked on Band of Brothers and Brad Pitt thriller Spy Game.
Scott says: “Lee and I met on Miss Marple, which is funny when you consider that we’re now working together on a horror movie.”
But it’s not just the directors who have a filmmaking pedigree, many of the cast are old hands too. The story revolves around three teenager – Gemma, Danny and Nathan – who sneak onto a farm because they hear that it’s where local swingers gather. What they actually stumble across is something far more sinister…
Jason Maza, who plays Danny, has appeared in Rise of the Footsoldier, Anuvahood, Kent filmmaker Andrea Arnold’s feature, Fish Tank, and a host of TV shows like Lucas and Walliams’ Come Fly With Me, Whitechapel and Silk. Meanwhile actor Arnold Oceng, playing Nathan is known from roles in Grange Hill and Brit-flicks like Adulthood and 18.104.22.168
The stand-out, however, is newcomer Natasha Sparkes who plays Darren’s brash girlfriend Gemma.
“Natasha had just come out of drama school and had no film experience,” says Scott, “but she’s amazing and definitely one to keep an eye on.”
From Kent and trained in Dartford, Natasha has a totally naturalistic style of acting and if you didn’t know she was an actress her performance would have you believe she’d come straight off the set of The Only Way is Thanet. That her character is involved in the story because she wants to shoot an audition tape for the ultra-trashy Big Brother is a stroke of genius.
Scott agrees: “Her naturalism is exactly what the film needed. There’s no messing around with her – she was always right on the mark.”
Just last week, The Tapes received a limited nationwide cinema release while the film is given a full release on DVD next week.
“We’ve got a tiny little goldfish and we’ve just chucked it in the sea with a load of sharks,” says Scott. “We’re not under any illusions, we know it’s a small film, but we’re all pushing it as hard as we can.”
This article originally appeared in the KM series of newspapers