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A candid chat with Hereford Films SVP – Adam Stephen Kelly

How’s 2019 shaping up for Hereford Films?
2019 is looking to be our biggest and best year yet. Sure, it’s easy – and hopeful – to say that at the beginning of every year, but we had such an excellent end to 2018 with the incredible success of The Krays: Dead Man Walking, which was the biggest non-theatrical British film on DVD last year, and we’re very much riding the momentum into 2019. Our latest release, The Exorcism of Karen Walker, was the biggest independent horror film in the UK DVD charts in its first week. With so many exciting projects in the works, from The Krays 2: Marked for Death and the Roy Shaw biopic Pretty Boy, to my next effort as writer and director, Reckoning Day, it’s going to be a busy year as always, but a great one for sure. We’re more focused than ever, and mark my words, 2019 is going to be a game-changer.

It seems by hiring Steve Wraith you’ve signalled you’re sticking with the Brit crime movies?
There has always been a voracious appetite for British crime films. People love their gangster movies and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. We’ve always been more than happy to give audiences exactly what they want, which is why our upcoming slate includes films that we know are going to be crowd-pleasers. We’ve always been open and utterly unapologetic about how we are a commercially-driven company, for the main purpose that we want to continue making films in an ever-changing business, but we always ensure that we’re not telling the same stories over and over again. Of course, The Krays: Dead Man Walking wasn’t the first picture to be made about the Kray twins, but it was the first to tell the story of their ordeal with ‘The Mad Axeman’ Frank Mitchell. We’re not a factory churning out the same product over and over and over. That would be incredibly boring. Audiences live with a film for 90 minutes, but we live with it for months, sometimes even years. The last thing we want is to put our absolute all into making a film that’s flat-out boring simply because we know it’ll do well in the marketplace. Being creatively stimulated is an absolute must. With each project we undertake, we strive to find a balance between commerciality and creativity, especially with our crime films as those have proven to be our most successful. We’ve brought Steve Wraith on board as a consultant to help us make these kinds of films as authentic as possible. He was a great asset to The Krays: Dead Man Walking, sharing his incredible wealth of Krays knowledge with us (he knew the twins for nearly a decade), not to mention his acting talents, and he’s working with us to develop the scripts for the sequel as well as the Roy Shaw movie. It’s important to add that while we’re committed to continue making the crime pictures that we’re known for, we also have a number of very different, much more ambitious films in the pipeline that are on a much grander scale to our gangster stuff, such as Assault on Hazard Rock, which is a fun and appropriately explosive love letter to ’80s action movies.

Which three Hereford Films should we most look out for this year?
The Krays 2: Marked for Death because, as successful as the first film was both commercially and critically, the script for the sequel is a million times better. There’s also Trappers, which is one of our newest projects. It’s a beautifully written piece that revolves around a young woman’s downward spiral into a life of crime. Of course, it’d be remiss of me not to include Reckoning Day, which is a twisty thriller I’ve written and will be directing. I’m very much looking forward to shooting that one.

Do you and Jonathan Sothcott share a taste in film or do you have completely different tastes?
On the whole, yes, especially where horror is concerned. We’re both incredibly passionate horror fans and have seen everything from the most mainstream classics to the most obscure films that no one else has ever heard of. Jonathan is a particular expert when it comes to British horror, and his knowledge of Hammer for instance far outweighs mine.

Would you say your role at Hereford Films is more business or creative?
Definitely creative. I got into the industry with purely creative ambitions, but have been steadily learning the business aspect over the years. You can’t help but absorb the business side when you’re part of a prolific company with an ever-growing slate, especially when the film industry seems to be changing on almost a daily basis. Jonathan is very much the business mind and that should never change considering he’s made around 40 films over the last decade.

What’s the craziest idea Hereford Films has ever been pitched?
We get pitched so many scripts and ideas it’s impossible to keep track of the ones that are a little out there or simply don’t pass muster, but I do remember one about a volcanic island that was inhabited by killer monkeys. I think it was even called Monkano. Still, sometimes crazy is good.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?
Still working with Jonathan and being a part of Hereford Films, but as a global indie on a much larger scale. I’d also like to think that my writing and directing CV will be a lot longer. I’ve grown and achieved a fair bit over the last ten years, so it’s pretty exciting to think where this journey will take me over the next decade. As I said, 2019 will be a game-changer, and we’ll look back on this year as the one that was the catalyst for the company’s evolution.

Aside from film your other passion is wrestling. You’ve not only written about it for Rolling Stone but you’ve enrolled in wrestling training! Tell us about that and do you there there’s any synergy between Hereford Films and wrestling?
I don’t know if there’s synergy as such, but in terms of the film industry itself, there are plenty of people I wouldn’t mind clotheslining! I’m a lifelong fan of professional wrestling and have always wanted to get involved, I just wasn’t sure in what capacity. When I was about 16 and looking to pursue film, I sort of resigned myself to simply being a fan, but ultimately that just wasn’t enough. When I wrote for Rolling Stone back in the day, all my articles were interviews with wrestlers; some of them the biggest names of all time, like Steve Austin, Mick Foley and Chris Jericho. It was very cool to get the opportunity to speak with them and hear their stories, so that certainly changed my outlook a little. I also ended up befriending quite a few well known wrestlers and wrestling personalities through social media, and received a lot of encouragement when I was toying with the idea of starting training, so off I went. Since I’ve been training, the same wrestlers have checked in with me to see how I’m doing and offer any advice. It’s pretty awesome, as is training in general, which I absolutely love every second of.