Last year I was very privileged to be invited to the Fear in the Fens Festival as a guest speaker to present ` Otherworldly – an introduction to Folk Horror.’ As a part of that event there was screening of several amateur short films with a Folk Horror thread running through their themes and atmospheres. The best of this crop was the outstanding, spooky and tense `Toll Booth’. On my way home from this event due to railway works there was a bumpy bus ride along dark unfamiliar Norfolk roads and lanes during which I had the pleasure of chatting to the director of Toll Booth – Martin Stocks.
Since then I have kept an eye out for Martin and his work and it came as no surprise
when I saw Toll Booth picking up award after award at multiple film festivals. So far it had won 6 awards including the Gold Award for Best Thriller at LA Shorts Award; and Best Screenplay at Canada International Film Festival as well as being nominated for the Yorkshire Film Award at Leeds International Film Festival – making it eligible for the BAFTAS and Oscars!
The film is focused on Terry on his first night as the keeper of an isolated toll booth which is seemingly haunted by the fact that his predecessor disappeared from his post in mysterious circumstances.
Boredom – it is by no means a busy booth – starts to play on Terry’s mind and eventually he steps out into the mist to investigate and explore his new surroundings. However isolated as he is in this remote eerie landscape Terry oHostarts to get the feeling that there’s something out there lurking in the surrounding fog…something sinister and possibly otherworldly. The paranoid loneliness of the toll booth seems preferable however to the unnerving uncertainty of what is outside the protection of its flimsy clapboard walls.
Each customer who comes to pay their toll seem poised to be a terrifying new twist and each one adds to the nerve wracking tension…….until…
Somehow, whilst touring Toll Booth to film festivals around the globe, Martin has found time to start work on a very adventurous and ambitious project indeed – an animated short thriller called Black Lake.
….A man wakes in a dark, foggy, beautiful, yet hostile world after causing a fatal car crash. He navigates this place, initially spellbound by its stunning ethereal nature, and its pitch black lake with small floating stars. Dread quickly sets in as he realises the malevolent dangers lurking beneath the surface of this half-dead world. He is forced to confront his darkest fears and face the ultimate sacrifice to escape…..
Over to Martin –
“For this dark and compelling story, we are creating a starkly beautiful yet hostile world that our protagonist is thrown into. This project explores the concept of purgatory in a different and surprising way. It is also a taut narrative that will grab viewers by the throat and not let up until the end credits. We aim to produce a visually stunning thriller which will leave you breathless.
There is a multi-talented animation team on board to achieve my ambitious vision. This film will act as a proof of concept for a feature version that we are developing. as I think the script is one of the best things I’ve written. It explores complex themes like guilt, isolation and redemption – and creates a beautiful visual world. With the animation team we have in place I’m really excited to see them realise this stunning world. This film is also a big stepping stone for me as a director looking to move into feature films. Producing this with a proper budget will help me create a beautiful, compelling and touching film…… The success of Toll Booth has shown that I can produce films that engage with audiences and gain critical recognition. I want this film to be so good that it cannot be ignored by the industry and it helps my team get the exposure, recognition and opportunities they deserve.”
All of this vision needs support so if you want to help Martin and the team see their vision come to life there are options and rewards for those wishing to donate and be a part of an exciting project….
You can watch a trailer and read more about the project by following this link.
About the team:
This is the follow-up to Martin Stocks’ (writer/director) short thriller Toll Booth. This has won 6 awards including, Best Thriller at LA Shorts Awards and Best Screenplay at Canada International Film Festival. It was nominated for The Yorkshire Film Award at BAFTA and Oscar-qualifying Leeds International Film Festival. A feature version is in development.
James Wren is producing, having made several feature films. The Man You’re Not features Reece Sheersmith and Joanna Lumley, and recently premiered at East London Film Festival. He also produced short horror/comedy The Monster with Film London, which screened at over 50 festivals and won numerous awards.
Gabhriela Swan Gabhriela is a London-based Illustrator, Designer and Concept Artist whose creative practice takes many forms. From environment visualisation and character design for film to animation and fashion. Easily-identifiable by their trademark ethereal aesthetic, her illustrations have been recognised by major industry brands from both fashion and film including The Mill, Digital Arts Magazine, Ted Baker and Paul Smith. Her sensitivity to project narratives and ability to communicate stories by new and innovative means has generated commissions given her mysterious, often supernatural imagery, evident across all projects, media and disciplines.