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MetFilm School London Summer Open Day

Metfilm School

James Freeman (MA Directing) on horror short ‘The Witch Hunter’

By Elise Czyzowska

07 December 2023

Next Wednesday, SOUND & VISION are bringing their Short Film Open Mic Night to ActOne Cinemas – and the line-up includes MA Directing Graduate James Freeman with his short film, The Witch Hunter.

Ahead of this screening – which also features MetFilm School Graduate Max Mir’s short film, Walking Fernando – we spoke to James about the making of The Witch Hunter, how he adapted his filmmaking to suit the horror genre, and what he’s most looking forward to about next Wednesday…

What was your initial inspiration behind The Witch Hunter?

My inspiration came from a number of things. I’ve always loved the films of Robert Eggers – and lots of other period horror films. I wanted to see if I could make a film like that with a small budget. It was a welcome challenge, as well as allowing me to explore a genre I love.


You mentioned that this was your most ambitious project to date. How did you feel approaching it?

It was definitely the biggest budget and crew I’ve ever had! During our Master’s projects, everyone always came together in a really amazing way – the collaborative approach was something I really enjoyed.

You get to see the progress and specialisations emerge throughout the year amongst your peers, and then these films are where that experience shows. It was a huge responsibility to gather a crew and fund the project, but it was also one of the most enjoyable aspects.

And from this, were there any particular challenges you faced during the production?

As a low budget student film, there will always be problems! The generator broke on our first day, and there were countless logistical issues we had to overcome because of our rural locations.

Despite this, I had to use what I’d learnt throughout the year to produce the film effectively and efficiently. In the end, it came out great, and each and every problem really did teach my something important.


Horror is a particularly expansive genre. Which style of horror would you class The Witch Hunter as – and how did you adapt your filmmaking style to suit this?

I think The Witch Hunter can be best described as a period psychological horror. It was always really important for me to make something original and ambitious, while sticking to some of the classic tropes of horror – since that’s what made me fall in love with it!

Hopefully my audiences come out of the film thinking about what it meant and contemplating something deeper, while ultimately enjoying a few frights and having fun at the same time.

From I Married a Witch (1942) to The Crucible (1996), there are plenty of witches in film and media. Can you give us any hints as to your own ‘rumoured evil’?

I spent a lot of time thinking about what scares people before I made the movie. After watching a good few films about witches (and other woodland monsters), I started to realise that often, it’s what you can’t see that sets you on edge the most.

I started thinking about how I could implement this into the film – and without giving too much away, I’d say that the thought of the witch is scarier than anything you get to see in the film… At least that’s what I was going for!


What are you most looking forward to about the ActOne screening? Is there a favourite moment or scene you would like to see audience reactions to?

Of course I’m really excited about seeing people react to the scary parts, but mostly, I’m looking forward to chatting about the film afterwards with the audience. I think that’s where you learn what parts of the movie have been successful, and what you could improve on for next time.

And finally, this screening is part of a ‘Short Film Open Mic Night’. With this in mind, can you share any short films you’ve seen recently that you enjoyed?

I have been watching tonnes of short films recently, and while I’ve loved a lot of them, my favourite still has to be Joy in People (2017).

In terms of horror, one of the most inspiring short films I’ve seen would be The Cat With Hands (2001). The style, the feel… basically everything is just amazing. I love it.

  • James Freeman studied MA Directing at our London campus. This course is also available in Berlin and Leeds.
  • Next month, The Witch Hunter will be at Horror-on-Sea – find out more!
  • Find out more about this Open Mic Night, happening Wednesday 13 December @ 6pm!