INTERVIEW: ‘Rabies’ and ‘Big Bad Wolves’ Co-Director Navot Papushado

This month Horror Channel is showing the UK TV premiere of ‘Rabies’, the first slasher to come out of Israel. One of its directors, Navot Papushado, took time to chat about this movie and his equally horrifying shocker ‘Big Bad Wolves’ due to be released in the UK in January 2014. Come on inside and check it out.

Q: Have you always been a big horror fan?
Navot Papushado: Oh yes! We grew up in the 80s and watched everything that came out of the US. We grew up on Steven Spielberg and George Lucas and Wes Craven and John Carpenter, everything that came out of the US. Later on we discovered European and Korean cinema and obviously the Coen Brothers and Tarantino.
Q: Did your classification system ever censor these films?
Navot Papushado: No, actually the opposite. The Israeli censorship board don’t take any notice of horror films, for example Piranha 3D came out in Israel at the same time that Rabies did and we got rated 18 and above, whilst Piranha 3D for 14 and above. Kick Ass got 12 and above! I think it has to do with Israeli audiences not being that keen on horror films, even the big US horror films like Saw, Hostel and Paranormal Activity don’t do very well.

Q: Where did the idea for Rabies come from?
Navot Papushado: We decided we wanted to get rid of the serial killer character and decided that we wanted to have all of the other characters kill each other, so there had to be more than the motive of running away from a serial killer so we had to write more complex characters therefore everyone would need a background story. Everyone would have a motivation to kill. The first story we wrote was the one about the Cop who always leaves messages for his wife who never answers and then he leaves this horrible one and then she answers (laughs) so we realised we had to write all the others to match that dramatic element and character development and that’s how Rabies was born.
Q: Did the script change much from the first draft to the shooting script?
Navot Papushado: No, we pitched it to a couple of producers, we showed them the draft and they were like, “OK, let’s wait for Government funds” but we didn’t want to do that. Then we met a guy who said, “How much do you want?” and we said an amount and he said, “OK I’ll give you half!” Then he asked, “How many days do you need?” and so we told him at least 20 and he said, “I’ll give you 15!” We got the green light from that script and just went out and shot it.

Q: Was it a tough shoot?
Navot Papushado: Yes and no. We didn’t realise it at the time that it was tough as it was our first feature even though we had done a few shorts before. But it was a shoestring budget and everyone on set was less experienced than us so we had to hide this from the actors!
Q: Did you have any actors in mind when writing the script?
Navot Papushado: Yeah, a couple of them. Actually when we pitched we told the producer that we wanted all these actors and they pointed out that we didn’t have that kind of money and we told him not to worry and that we’d take care of that!

Q: Rabies has a very strong story, do you think that helped reach out to audiences?
Navot Papushado: Thank you very much. One thing is we cast all A-list actors from Israel so it was like seeing Kate Blanchet or Tom Cruise in a horror movie so Rabies was kind of an event. It was more than a horror movie, everyone wanted to see their favourite actor get murdered, or something like that (laughs)

Q: Do you think one of its greatest assets is that most of the effects are practical and old school?
Navot Papushado: Yeah, even on Big Bad Wolves there is only one shot that lasts only three or four seconds that we had to use visual effects. We believe in getting everyone done on the set.

Q: What did the critics think of Rabies when it was released in Israel?
Navot Papushado: I think they were split. The older critics didn’t quite get it. They also don’t like violent films so they don’t like Tarantino films or Korean films for example. The younger critics, and when I say younger I mean under 45, they all loved it and gave it 5 stars, they loved it. It was a critical success and a box office success. There was an older critic whom we admire, considered to be the most acclaimed critic in Israel who writes for a newspaper whose logo is, “A Newspaper for Thinking People”, and he loved it! It gained a cult status through VOD and DVD sales.
Q: If you had made Rabies before Big Bad Wolves would you have approached it differently.
Navot Papushado: That’s a really tough question. Rabies is Rabies because of the time it was shot, because of the budget when it was shot and the ideas that we had at the time and our approach. Rabies was shot hand held in the woods because that is the genre. You have to shoot films and edit films to fit the genre so I’m really pleased with everything we did with Rabies.

Q: Would you make Rabies 2?
Navot Papushado: Oh, maybe when I’m old and Rabies has gained such a cult status and they give me $10 million dollars and a budget for $100 million dollars (laughs).

Q: Are you pleased Rabies is being shown on the Horror Channel?
Navot Papushado: Yeah, defiantly. We are huge fans of the UK. The UK has been so kind to us over he last couple of years starting from FrightFest from two years ago when they showed Rabies. You really can’t compete with the British audience. They are fanatics, they love horror films. The screening of Big Bad Wolves earlier this year in front of 1,300 people was incredible. We are extremely happy with what’s going on in the UK with our films. You guys seem to get us!

Q: So what are you working on at the moment?
Navot Papushado: We are promoting Big Bad Wolves which is coming out in the UK in January and working on a couple of projects here in Israel that we are starting to push and also receiving a few scripts from the US. We are writing a spaghetti western that’s set in the early 40s and a few science fiction scripts.

‘Rabies’ is broadcast on Saturday Dec 28 at 10.50pm. Horror Channel (UK) is on Sky 319, Virgin 149, and Freesat 138 – check your local listings.

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