Rising star, Paul Raschid, shares how he balances horror with everyday life
At the tender age of just 25, Paul Raschid is an actor, director, and writer. His latest release, White Chamber, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, is a gritty and intense ‘genre hybrid’ poised to feature at several film festivals this year.
We caught up with him to get the lowdown on his new film and find out how he gets back to reality after long days of filming terrifying horror scenes.
YOU STARTED YOUR CAREER AS AN ACTOR. HOW DID YOU MAKE THE TRANSITION INTO WRITING AND DIRECTING?
I’m in the very fortunate position that I’ve grown up in the film industry. My entire childhood I watched loads of free films in the cinema. In 2001 my dad [Neville Raschid] decided to move into production and independent British films so I spent my early teens growing up on his film sets. When you’re immersed and surrounded by it you really want to get involved.
When I was 18 I worked as a runner on one of his films. The onset experience and seeing what different departments did, getting to know the whole process and work out exactly where I wanted to fit into all of it was the best experience I could have asked for. In the meantime I was acting in a youth theatre, but then I got more into production and decided to write my first screenplay. My dad saw that I could write and asked me if I was interested in moving into genre films. I’ve always loved horror and thriller films so I wrote my second screenplay, Unhallowed Ground, which I also acted in. The second was Servants’ Quarters, which was my first feature film as a writer and director.
YOU WON AWARDS AT BOTH THE LONDON AND THE BRITISH INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL FOR UNHALLOWED GROUND. THAT’S A PRETTY EPIC ACHIEVEMENT AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE.
That was really cool! It’s the best thing about your job, when people watch a film and they get it, because that’s the end goal. You need to make films for the audience, it’s the most important thing, and to get that validation is fantastic. I’ve had a lot of advantages and fast tracks but I’ve never wasted it, I’ve put my head down, stayed humble, and worked hard.
TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR NEW FEATURE, WHITE CHAMBER.
I’d say that it’s a dystopian, sci-fi, horror, drama, thriller, genre hybrid set in a near future alternate reality in the UK in the throws of a civil war. The plot centres on a woman who wakes up in a futuristic white prison cell, which is a sophisticated torture device. A voice from the other side of the walls demands answers from her, which she claims she doesn’t have. As the plot unfolds she’s subjected to various forms of torture and we find out who the voice is, who she is, and what the purpose of this mysterious white chamber is.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR THE PLOT?
I started writing it just after the Brexit vote happened, and just before Trump was elected. As I was writing, all this stuff was happening around me, and the fall out after both made the opinions of everyone so polarised. There is so much division in the way people think and how they are in this country, what’s the worst-case scenario? It could be civil war. People always say the police are the thin blue line that keeps us from anarchy. As a society, as people, we’re always teetering on the edge of anarchy and chaos, it just needs a little push to tip. Of course, I hope this never happens, I don’t think that it’s realistic that what happens in the film will happen in real life, but it is the worst case scenario. I wanted to get people thinking and start a conversation.
I also wanted to generate conversation around gender stereotypes within the horror genre. The film starts with a very stereotypical set up with a blonde woman in a state of undress being menaced by a man and tortured, she’s very much a damsel in distress. But there are twists within the film that go on to challenge this. I wanted the film to be a commentary on archetypal characters within the horror genre. I always want to make films that people can enjoy as a story but also have a lot to talk about when they leave.
SOME OF THE SCENES IN WHITE CHAMBER ARE QUITE HARROWING. HOW DO YOU LEAVE WORK AT THE DOOR?
I think I’ve always been quite good at divorcing reality and fiction. To me, when you’re shooting, as a director, there are so many other pressures that you’re not really processing the gravity of what you’re filming. When you’re in the moment, and you’ve got a visual image of what you want you’re only focused on that. It’s when you’re editing and the music and sound effects are added that you realise how messed up things look. White Chamber was shot in twelve and a half days. So, when you’re in the hustle and bustle of having to shoot 7 pages a day you just go, go, go, to get everything done.
HOW DO YOU FIND BALANCE IN YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LIFE?
It’s just taking care of yourself. Health and fitness is really important for me, so eating and drinking right. I watch what I eat very carefully and watch the amount of caffeine and alcohol I take in. At the start of this year I cut out all hard liquor, I just drink beer and wine now, and only with a meal. I’m always trying to get a good night’s sleep, 7-8 hours if I can, sleep is the key.
The isolation of being a writer can be a lot sometimes. I’m shacked up in my room writing a lot of the time so sometimes I just need to get out to see friends because you start not feeling good when you’re isolated. The negative returns of that start to set in so I’d say social life, healthy living, sleep and keeping active. It’s a combination, there’s not one right answer – variety is the spice of life!
YOU’VE ACHIEVED A LOT AT A VERY YOUNG AGE. HOW DO YOU STAY MOTIVATED TO KEEP PRODUCING GREAT WORK?
I think I’ve always put a lot of pressure on myself. I think the pressure is coming for the next film because so far there’s been a clear progression. Unhallowed Ground got into film festivals, Servants’ Quarters premiered at Raindance Film Festival, we got into 7 film festivals with White Chamber, so I need to continue that upward trajectory. The next film has got to be even better and top the festival line ups we’ve had for White Chamber, which will take some doing, so I’m motivated by the success of the other films. I put pressure on myself because I don’t want this trajectory to dip. I try to relish it though and use it to make myself better.
WHAT’S COMING UP NEXT?
I’m working on a horror/thriller script at the moment that I’m very excited about which we will hopefully be shooting next year. It’s a slightly different piece to White Chamber, it’s a high octane, 100 mph film that’s constantly moving. I directed a music video a couple of months ago for a band called Ridder, the song is called Hero. That was really fun and I’d love to do more music videos. Feature films are very much where I’m at at the moment but I’m still young, and as a creative I’m always open to other opportunities.