The stuff of nightmares

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This Halloween sees the release of local author Philip Henry’s new novel, Dreamwalker.

The Portstewart-based writer usually releases a book every year, but this is the first since 2012’s The Dead Room, owing to the feature film he wrote and directed last year.

“I initially thought I could do both,” Philip told the Coleraine Times this week, “but the film was a lot more work than I anticipated and took a lot longer to complete than I imagined.”

Noirland, was a full-length feature film made for only £3,000, something no-one thought possible, including Northern Ireland Screen who co-funded the project.

“I think they thought I was mad,” says Philip. “I had to explain to them that I had been making short films for as little as £50 in the past, so £3,000 was a big budget to me.”

Featuring a largely unknown cast and crew, most of whom gave their time and talent freely, the finished product – which is suitable for adult audiences only - stands up against many films with much larger budgets.

Some of the best up and coming actors from all over Northern Ireland travelled to the North Coast to be part of the film, some of which was shot in Flowerfield Arts Centre itself.

Local bands and musicians supplied the pulsating soundtrack, which is being sold at screenings to fund the film’s festival entries, local nationally and internationally.

The film was part-funded by Northern Ireland Screen, with the balance being raised through an online crowd-funding site.

Philip admits though that the film would not have been possible without the support of the local community. “The only reason I could bring the film in for such a small amount was because so many people helped us out for free. The actors and crew worked for little more than crisps and coke, and we were given lots of props, costumes and locations from all sorts of people who just wanted to support film-making around the North Coast.”

After the premiere of Noirland at the Belfast Film Festival, Philip got stuck back into writing his novel so it could be released for his usual Halloween deadline.

“This book was a challenge because I let the members of my Facebook group choose what it should be about. I gave them about half a dozen options and they voted overwhelmingly that it should be about dreams and nightmares. So I came up with a story about a boy who could enter other people’s dreams.”

The novel was originally entitled Oneironaut; meaning an explorer of dreams, but the title was changed only a few weeks before publication.

“I liked that title because it was original,” explains Philip, “but I got to thinking that if someone saw it on a shelf they wouldn’t know what the book was about. With Dreamwalker I think they at least have a vague idea.”

Next year looks like being a busy one for the author, with another feature film script already written he’s now looking for funding to get it made.

“The little tour of Noirland will hopefully raise some money to enter it in festivals, and with any luck that might get some money-men interested. I think I’ve proved what’s possible on a very small budget; no one who’s seen Noirland can believe how little it was made for, but next time I’d like to be able to pay all those people who worked for free on Noirland.”

Where Noirland is a crime story, Philip promises his next movie will be aiming to scare, proving his heart still lies in the horror genre where so many of his novels are set. “I’ve got a really strong idea for my next book, but I’m keeping it under wraps for now, so readers won’t know what to expect next time.”

Philip will be doing a book singing in Waterstones, Coleraine on Halloween (Friday, October 31) from 3-5pm.