The Horror Channel

Interview with Tony Hazell

The Horror ChannelTony Hazell is MD of The Horror Channel. Tony is an avid horror fan himself and a successful broadcast industry veteran.

SGM: We need to put this one to bed straight away (well someone's going to ask), being the former Broadcast Director of God TV it may seem to some less business minded folk reading that it's quite an extreme move to go from God TV to a dedicated Horror Channel! So, what exactly was the guiding moment that led to such an admirable move?

Tony Hazell: If there was a moment, it was sitting watching a horror movie on the Sci-Fi Channel a couple of years ago. It struck me as out of place on that channel - and I realised a much-needed dedicated horror channel didn't exist.

As for the transition, being a fan of horror movies does not make someone inherently evil. Horror movies are a safe way to explore feeling scared, shocked, disgusted and even amused, but in a completely harmless environment.

My real passion is broadcasting and developing ideas into full channels. Fundamentally, I'm a dedicated TV man who just happens to be a huge horror fan too.

SGM: The launch of a dedicated Horror Channel is not only long overdue but a very welcome and exciting one for horror fans across the UK. What was the 'first steps' in putting such a keen venture together?

Tony Hazell: It takes longer than you think! The critical first step is the flash of inspiration - the realisation that you can put out a service that people really want.

From then, it's all about making sure you have the stuff to satisfy the blood-lust and then everything, from technology deals to securing finances and a broadcast platform, falls into place.

SGM: Although censorship has become less of an issue in recent years (following a welcome overhaul of attitudes and policy at the BBFC) it must still have figured as a genuine concern with the launch of a Horror Channel?

Tony Hazell: Yes it has, and, although our policy is to screen our films in their uncut formats, we sometimes have to trim them to conform with Ofcom regulations - that's the law.

As a rule, though, we schedule our films so that they fit into 'U/PG' before 8pm, '15' between 9 and 10 and '18' thereafter.

Nothing But The Night

SGM: We've had a lot of readers already enquiring when they possibly might see The Horror Channel broadcast through their cable suppliers - how are negotiations progressing with this? Also, is there a possibility of the channel appearing on regular set top freeview?

Tony Hazell: We realise how big the demand is and we're keen to give access to as many people as possible as soon as we can. We launch on Sky's digital platform (EPG 330) on 3 May and we're in negotiations with other distributors such as ntl for later in the year.

SGM: Understandably the Horror Channel will be running advertising (well how else could you bring us such delights) but is there any planned policy on the presentation of the prints being screened? (i.e. widescreen, anamorphic, surround sound�well we can dream!)

Tony Hazell: Our policy is to try to present films the way they were intended to be presented, and we will always strive to present films in their original aspect ratios where possible. Unfortunately, because a lot of the films we have are so rare, it is difficult to obtain original elements to restore, but we're striving to do so where possible. We love these films just as much as you do.

SGM: The broadcast line up is a very exciting one indeed with many rare and unseen genre delights. Who (if anyone in particular) can we thank for the heady mix of classic and obscure titles being shown?

Tony Hazell: Jonathan Sothcott is our head of programming and is an absolute genius. He's worked as horror writer, documentary producer and director so he knows what will really work. Even better for me, he also knows how to get his hands on it!

SGM: In particular it is exciting to see The Horror Channel indulging in our great heritage of British genre movies (from the Hammer classics to obscure gems like Assault and Expose). Can we hope to see some screenings of the great Alfred Hitchcock's work?

Tony Hazell: We're certainly looking into it. Films like these are often tied up exclusively with other broadcasters for a number of years, but we'll do our best. I can tell you, however, that we've just acquired a couple of Hitchcock films.

SGM: There's a massive back catalogue of vintage horror TV series that deserve another outing in TV land. What series can we expect to see over the coming months?

Tony Hazell: We took a decision earlier in the year that TV programmes are difficult, principally because they tend to be (a) very expensive, (b) crap or (c) both. Obviously there are lots of exceptions, and we'd love to show everything from The Nightmare Man, Mystery & Imagination and Journey Into The Unknown right up to Buffy but there didn't seem to be enough available quality programming to launch.

So for the first six months, we're a movie channel, but we will have a review of this situation in October. If you feel strongly about it, let us know!

SGM: We've came across a lot of upcoming filmmakers over recent years who are producing some exciting short and full length features but sadly can't find an audience for their films (outside of the occasional festival screening). Can we hope that the Horror Channel might offer some support by screening their work?

Tony Hazell: Yes, we're very keen to use The Horror Channel as a showcase for new talent. Interested film-makers should contact Jonathan Sothcott's office in London. I'm afraid we're only interested in completed productions, however, and don't invest in unmade films.

The Monster Club

SGM: Likewise we know there is a lot of keen documentary makers out there (currently producing bonus features for various DVD releases), any plans down the line for The Horror Channel to utilise these folk for some home grown productions? (a DVD review programme perhaps?)

Tony Hazell: Again, if there's finished product, contact the programming office in London and we'll have a look at it. We're not, however, currently commissioning productions from third parties.

SGM: The horror genre seems to be 'on the up' both with success at the cinema box office and sales of DVD's. Are you confident that The Horror Channel will match this success and how do you plan to make sure the channel stays in the Spotlight? (apart from doing SGM Spotlight interviews of course!)

Tony Hazell: We certainly hope so - the idea of the Horror Channel is that you don't have to blow �20 per film to enjoy really good fun horror movies. We're also in a position to get our hands on goodies that you can't see anywhere else.

In June we're showing around ten UK Premieres - we've got them before they come out on DVD, and we're very excited about this. Until now, the home entertainment market has only been able to sustain a limited amount of genre product (the 'horror shelf in Virgin' if you like), but with us, there's a new platform, meaning we can make more horror films available to the public.

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