Beyond the Gates –
Interview with Actor Graham Skipper
Released in 2016, Beyond the Gates is an American horror film with a quirky and original slant. Directed by Jackson Stewart, it premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival where it was received well by viewers and won the Audience Award of the festival’s Midnight Selection.
I was late to the game: as an avid horror fan (both in film and literature), I am usually quick to jump on new releases in the genre, but it wasn’t until recently that I purchased Beyond the Gates – and my initial impression? Amazed. I loved it. The film is full of vintage style and retro-creepy horror – with a unique story to tell. Based upon the old VHS game tapes of the 80s and 90s, Beyond the Gates tells the story of two brothers as they find themselves trapped by such a game – with fatal and frightening consequences.
I enjoyed the film so much – the acting, script, set and directing work together stunningly to bring a solid horror film to the table – that I was excited when one of the lead actors – Graham Skipper, who plays Gordon Hardesty – was willing to be interviewed. So, if you are a horror fan and you enjoyed Beyond the Gates, I am sure you will enjoy reading Graham’s responses as much as I did…
Can you tell us a bit about yourself, Graham, and how you became involved in the film industry?
I’ve been an actor for as long as I can remember, and did quite a bit of sketch comedy work while living in New York City just after college. It was through connections made there that I got put in touch with the great Stuart Gordon and thus got cast in Re-Animator The Musical, which then introduced me to the Los Angeles horror film community, and the rest is history!
Do you focus mainly on horror films – do you prefer exploring darker themes in your work?
I do primarily focus on horror, or more broadly “genre” work. I love horror – I’ve been a fan my whole life and for me, it’s one of the few genres of film that still makes me really feel something. And for some reason I identify with it. Like Guillermo Del Toro often says, there’s something about monsters that really speaks to me – I understand them, and I see the beauty in them. That extends to the artistry of the horror film. No matter how grisly or ghastly something might be, I like exploring why the filmmaker needed to put that on screen. Why tell this story, now? I feel like horror in particular has a way of really getting at current events and cultural trends that other genres have a hard time tackling. Plus it’s important to explore darkness somewhere…there’s so much of it in the world, we have to understand what we’re up against.
I recently watched Beyond the Gates and it was brilliant – very original. How did you become attached to the project?
I’ve been friends with Jackson Stewart for years, having met through the horror film community here in LA. We’d worked on a couple of shorts together and had a great time, and he graciously offered me the role! I jumped at it – Gordon’s a spectacular, meaty role with a lot going on between the lines. That’s a real gift as an actor.
How was it working with Jackson Stewart, Barbara Crompton, Chase Williamson, Brea Grant and the entire cast (who were all fantastic in their roles)?
It was a really fun shoot – all of us on that set were friends and most of the cast and crew had worked with each other at some point or another on various projects. And Barbara Crampton is of course a legend in the horror genre, so getting to act with her and have her there for guidance was a real blessing. It’s always fun getting directed by your friends, so getting to work with Jackson was a real pleasure, and that combined with a cast of other buds made the whole thing like a party.
Beyond the Gates was received well in the horror community, how did YOU feel about the film after completion?
I’m super proud of it! As I said it’s a real treat when someone’s written such a complex role for you, and even more of a treat when you get to act opposite really talented people that you feel comfortable with, and I think all of that shows on screen. The chemistry on and off screen is evident in the finished product, I feel. It’s also just fun! I’m really proud to have been a part of it.
What were some of the best and also most challenging parts of the process of filming Beyond the Gates?
What is always a challenge when filming independent films is just time and money, so it’s really all about finding creative ways to get around whatever hurdles you’re presented with. But I feel like we did a good job of pivoting when we needed to and really built a solid foundation around character and relationships that carried through the final product.
I read you recently made your debut as a director – can you tell us more?
Yes! It’s a feature film called Sequence Break that’s been making the rounds at film festivals this year. It stars Chase Williamson (who plays John in Beyond The Gates), as well as Fabianne Therese, Lyle Kanouse, Audrey Wasilewski, and Johnny Dinan. It’s a Cronenbergian love story centering around a reclusive video arcade repair technician who falls in love with a mysterious young woman, while also falling prey to the metaphysical clutches of a sentient video arcade machine. I’m incredibly proud of it and am happy to say it will be coming out on Shudder early this year!
How do you feel the horror genre as a whole is shaping up, do you think it is getting the recognition it deserves now?
I think that the horror genre is probably the strongest it’s been in years, to be honest. There’s a lot of really great material being produced by artists who care deeply for the genre. I do feel it will always sort of be the “shunned stepchild” in the world of “respectable cinema,” but I’m kind of ok with that. It’s certainly heartening to see films like GET OUT or THE SHAPE OF WATER getting awards recognition, and that gives me hope that the mainstream will continue to see horror not just as popcorn fluff, but as legitimate works of art that can teach us more about ourselves and the world we live in.
What are your plans for the future in terms of film and directing?
I’m going to continue to act and am certainly looking for the right next project to jump back into the director’s seat for! I love creating new worlds and characters and I’m eager to keep working at that.
Finally, just for fun – what are your personal three favourite movies?
Gosh, this is a tough one. They change daily. But I’ll go ahead and say, in no particular order… EVIL DEAD 2, THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, and THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. But like I said, those may change tomorrow!
Thank you Graham for the interview! I recommend to readers to check out Beyond the Gates if you haven’t yet!