British director George Henry Horton on his new film ‘Project Dorothy’
British filmmaker, George Henry Horton has found success throughout various formats. Whether he’s working his viral YouTube comedy channel or making short or long horror films, George Henry Horton is becoming the next big thing.
2020 promises to be a big year for George Henry Horton, as both his indie psychological horror film, Ground Floor and his newest project, the sci-fi horror film Project Dorothy will make their way to audiences.
As Horton moves from the indie production of Ground Floor and into the bigger budget production of Project Dorothy, he shows his range as a director and producer.
George Henry Horton’s eclectic resume
Born in Kent, England, George Henry Horton has never been a stranger to hard work. First studying at King’s College London, and then at the prestigious American Film Institute, Horton’s first big break came in comedy.
George Henry Horton’s YouTube comedy channel, “JesterLads”, became a breakout hit. Featured on ABC’s Today Show, NBC’s Good Morning America, and Channel 4’s RudeTube, “Jesterlads” has accrued the kind of views YouTubers dream of, numbering in the tens of millions.
Currently residing in Los Angeles, George Henry Horton’s work has shifted from comedy to the sci-fi, horror, and action genres he’s currently best known for. His 2017 short film, Dreadspace, has been commended for its story, directing, and message, as it follows a lonely and disabled veteran trying to connect with his neglected grandson via a virtual reality game.
Moving into feature films
More recently, George Henry Horton created the edge of your seat thriller Ground Floor. The film’s unsettling plot follows Sophia (Stacy Chu) as she heads to the English countryside to get away from her stressful life in the US. As Sophia settles into the home, she awakes one morning to find one whole level of the home has vanished. As parts of the home continue to disappear, Sophia must determine what is real in order to survive.
Project Dorothy, Horton’s latest work, brings a fusion of sci-fi and horror. Starring Tim DeZarn (Fight Club, The Cabin in the Woods), Adam Budron (High on the Hog), and Alexander Flores (The Maze Runner), Project Dorothy is the story of two criminals who botch a robbery. Taking refuge in a presumably vacant scientific facility, they inadvertently awake a monster within.
A filmmaking deep dive with George Henry Horton
We were thrilled to learn about everything we could about the versatile director, writer, and producer, George Henry Horton. Gamely answering our full gamut of questions, we got the scoop on everything from his past police work to his true inspiration.
Tell us about your history as a filmmaker. How did you start your journey?
I’d filmed weird little projects as a kid, but I’d never really considered it a viable career path until I was studying at King’s College London – In Philosophy and Theology, nothing to do with film(!) – and I met a guy called James Shamsi. James convinced me to get involved in this YouTube prank/skit channel with him. It went through different names but the final – and current – name is “JesterLads”.
I rapidly found myself far more invested in the channel than anything else! It was just fun and games, with a few hundred views here and there. But then one of our videos went viral. This quite literally changed my life. We were featured on NBC, ABC, Huffington Post… You name it. It was surreal.
I then landed a gig helping a producer on a film in Canada. He convinced me to change my entire life plan and go study film in LA. That was it. AFI taught me my hand in film, gave me the network, and I’ve been in LA since.
I’m probably more invested in feature films, but I’ve never lost my connection to the cheeky fun of those little videos. I’m definitely more into films that strive purely to entertain than a lot of my film school peers. And so I’ve recently decided to merge my production company with JesterLads to create one diversified company/brand. We’ll do comedy videos and feature films. And maybe sell merch too!
Who are your current influences?
The Duplass brothers, A24, Blumhouse.
What five TV shows do you think everyone should watch this year?
I know it’s been out for a while. But if you haven’t seen it – Breaking Bad. More recent? Chernobyl. Black Mirror. After that… My advice would be to watch a diverse range of TV. Don’t like sci-fi? Give it a try.
Cat or dog?
What was the one movie you saw that made you want to go into film?
How was working on your last few projects? What did you learn from the experience?
Well, I got to direct a proper cast and crew for the first time on Project Dorothy, the one I’m currently deep in post-production. I can’t begin to say how much fun that was and how much I learned. I mean, it was essentially my first time directing, and it was a feature!
I also was working with an actor called Tim De Zarn in the lead role, who’s a guy who studied with Meisner and could be one stern dude. One of the producers was actually terrified of him for the whole shoot!
Before that, on my no-budget feature Ground Floor, it was just me and an actor, Robert Rodriguez, El Mariachi style. I learned that if you set your mind to it, you can do a feature pretty much by yourself. Not sure I’d recommend doing it too often though!
Tell us about your career before you found film.
So in between undergrad in Philosophy and Theology and grad school in film I had worked as a cop in London, at an insurance broker, and I had a plan and indeed an offer to go to NYU to study politics. So it’s fair to say I didn’t know what the heck I wanted to do for a minute there.
Where do you get your creative concepts from?
One part daydreaming and just trying to experience as much as possible in life, and one part pragmatism. I studied producing, and although I enjoy writing/directing, the producer in me is very practical.
My current model is to find a really cool location for free, then build a film around that. For example, with Project Dorothy we shot in an enormous abandoned car factory we had access to for free! Right now I’m trying something a little different and developing a zombie film which will be very run-and-gun.
What music inspires you to create?
That’s a good one. Tropical House comes to mind. Anything mellow. Coffee shop style stuff!
Talk us through your creative process.
So I’ll be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of development. I shot my first feature with just a beat sheet, and the second we had only a month to write (the car factory availability had an expiry date on it). I co-wrote with the main writer, and he was pretty stressed about getting it out so fast, whereas I secretly kind of loved it.
Too many projects stuck in development for too long. When on set, my creative process is highly collaborative and flexible, but with room to stick to my guns when the time calls for it.
What tips do you have for new filmmakers?
It’s a cliche, but… Go shoot. Shoot all day long. Until your arms are tired! And be friendly and try to be outgoing – build your network. And recognize possibilities that may lie right in front of you.
What part of filmmaking do you geek out about the most?
Finding creative solutions for edit snafus in post-production. And wicked visuals.
You’re very hands-on with your projects. How hard is it wearing all the hats?
You need to make sure you tailor the scope of the project accordingly. But I personally thrive on shoots with small nimble crews. Bigger crews might seem more efficient, but they can be cumbersome. And since my business model involves my company raising the money for the projects, small crews equals lower budgets equals a higher chance of a return.
If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The Lord of The Rings: Return of The King.
What’s your next project?
I do struggle to stay focused, but probably this zombie movie I’m working on. It involves global warming. I’m also trying to position it to be franchisable. Other than that, I’m looking to really make “JesterLads” more of a broad thing.
Have you worked with mentors in the past? How would you recommend people go about finding them?
The producer who convinced me to go to film school I consider a mentor, but I don’t know that I actively work with them on a regular basis. Maybe I need to look into that.
What has been your biggest failure?
- I didn’t shoot anything and I let post-production on my projects get far too delayed. 2020 I intend to shoot a lot more and not be a hypocrite to my own advice!
What’s your filmmaking mission? Name the most important thing you want viewers to experience when watching your movies.
I want my films to be escapism. And I want to build a community around my “JesterLads” brand and help others achieve their filmmaking goals.
What has been your biggest success?
When I was a kid in my small town in England my big ridiculous dream was to be a surfer and actor living in LA. I live in LA, I’ve kind of acted in a few things. As for the last one… Does having a random surfboard in my apartment count?
Can we expect to see any episodic television from you anytime soon?
If Project Dorothy or Ground Floor do well, I hope so. But it’s not my focus.
What’s your five-year plan?
I hesitate to be too specific here due to the unpredictable nature of our industry. I would love to just be working making content that entertains and inspires people. I do hope to make “JesterLads” a bigger and more dynamic entertainment brand. Secretly and narcissistically, there’s always the hope of broad(ish!) recognition within the film industry for my work.
What indie filmmakers should be on our radar?
I recently watched Thunder Road by Jim Cummings. Check it out if you haven’t already.
On a closer to home note, Lauren Guiteras and Olesia Saveleva are two unbelievable cinematographers I have worked with who I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, will be running Hollywood in no time. And about time. There should be more female DPs.
What’s your favorite film of all time, and what did you learn from it?
Uh oh. A repeated answer. The Lord of The Rings: Return of The King. From what I understand, that film’s cast and the crew were like a family. It shows.
Who would compose the soundtrack of your life?
I have to give this to my go-to composer Matthew James. May we continue composing music together whilst drinking rum and whisky for decades to come.