Scifipulse recently caught up with James Moran. The writer of Severance, Cockneys vs Zombies and Tower Block. Additionally, Moran has contributed scripts to Torchwood and Doctor Who. As well as running his podcast Not Guilty Pleasures. During this interview he discusses how Doctor Who is different from horror. And what audiences of the future will find scary.
SFP: What made you want to be a writer?
James Moran: I’ve always wanted to tell stories, right back as far as I can remember, I wrote stories all the time. When I was 4, the teacher read out one of my stories to the class, who all laughed and applauded, so I clearly got the bug for entertaining people with words back then. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, and the only thing I’m good at. I don’t have any useful qualifications either!
SFP: What in your opinion makes a good horror film?
James Moran: Characters you care about. That’s essential. If you don’t care about the characters, the you won’t be scared when they’re in danger – you have to want them to survive. Giving them a good situation and storyline *before* the horror comes in makes them more real, and layered. This is why writing horror is more difficult than people realise – because it’s two stories in one. The main story before the horror starts, and the horror story that crashes into the main one.
SFP: Following on from that question, what one film has had the most influence on you?
James Moran: For horror films, A Nightmare on Elm Street was the first one I remember seeing where the hero fought back, even though she was terrified. Nancy does her research, builds weapons and traps, and is really smart. For non horror, it’d have to be something like Die Hard, although I change my mind all the time. Die Hard is a perfectly constructed script, builds tension brilliantly, has great characters you care about, and pays off all the setups neatly in about 5 minutes at the end, making it look easy.
SFP: What are you working on at the moment?
James Moran: An audio play, a book, and a new action movie script. I’ve always got something on the go even if it’s not for anyone, as it’s easy to fall out of practice writing scripts, I need to keep myself in shape, so to speak. The audio play and book should be announced in a few months, hopefully.
SFP: How does writing horror differ from writing Doctor Who? Are they at all similar to each other?
James Moran: I write everything the same way, coming up with an idea, then brainstorming it, then outlining, then going to rough draft. The main difference is what you can’t show in a family TV slot at that time of day – burning a guy alive is fine if he’s vaporised and we don’t see any blood or burning flesh… But they all have the same essential elements – characters you can relate to, and a story that fits them.
SFP: Can you please tell us at all if you will contribute scripts to Russell T. Davies‘ second Doctor Who era?
James Moran: As with every show, that’s not up to me! I’d have happily come back every year since then, but you have to be asked, you can’t just rock up and decide to do an episode. If they want me to do one, I’ll come running. But I have no idea what they’re all planning or how it will work, the show changes all the time, and that’s a good thing. Either way, I get to keep watching the show, so I’m happy and so excited. I can’t wait to see what Russell has planned, whatever it is, it’ll be amazing, surprising, and beautiful.
SFP: What do you think the sci-fi and horror of the future will look like? What do you think audiences will find scary in 15 – 20 years’ time?
James Moran: Same thing we always find scary – the dark, the unknown, death, disease, injury, faceless killers, spooky houses, scary demons. Look at all the big horror movies this year, and compare them to the same top horrors 50 years ago – they’ll be very different in approach, style and gore content, but the themes are the same. Running from the unknown, scared of faceless killers in the dark…
SFP: And finally, who would win in a battle royale between Freddy, Jason, Pennywise the clown and a Dalek?
James Moran: Assuming the first three take physical form, then the Dalek would just exterminate them all. Daleks don’t dream, they don’t go to summer camp, and they don’t get scared…
Scifipulse would like to extend our most heartfelt thanks and best wishes to James Moran for so graciously taking the time to answer our questions.
James’ website: James Moran – writer, director, filmmaker (jamesmoranwriter.com)
His Twitter: @jamesmoran