In 2008, filmmaker Shaun Robert Smith uprooted his family from the quiet, picturesque town of Stamford in Lincolnshire to St Albans so he could be “nearer the action”. Eight years on, the 37-year-old father of two is premiering his first feature-length film, Broken, at FrightFest, where tickets to see his thriller are almost sold out.

We caught up with Shaun to find out more about his Frightfest debut film.

How do you feel about being nominated for Screen International’s Rising Star award?

It’s always an honour to be nominated, but to be recognised by Screen International is beyond amazing, I’m up against some brilliant filmmakers so just to meet those guys at Frightfest is good enough for me. We have had huge support from the Frightfest team, so they were just as excited as I was to have received the nomination.

What awards have you been nominated for in the past?

I did a short film back in 2007 called The Soldier, it did pretty well at the time. We were nominated for and won, Best Film, Best Editing, Best Cinematography and Best Sound. It was an interesting time and launched my career as a director.

What is the story of Broken?

In England to make a fresh start after a harrowing childhood, Evie (Morjana Alaoui) takes a job as an agency carer and is quickly placed with tetraplegic patient John (Mel Raido). But looking after the bitter former rock star and his excessive demands is emotionally and physically draining. Forced to go beyond the call of duty and tormented by her past shame, an explosive clash of personalities ensues and it’s only a matter of time before someone terrifyingly snaps.

Can you sum up the plot in a few words?

The Shining meets Misery.

How did you get into filmmaking?

From an early age I wanted to make films, me and my younger brother would produce film trailers and edit them together and eventually made our first short film called The Revenger, but it was the day I watched The Gate with a young Stephen Dorff I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker – especially in horror.

I trained as a prosthetics make-up artist and began my career as that. I did little bits of work here and there, most notably on This Is England but through creating scenes for my showreel and making corporate videos I got a taste for writing and directing.

In 2004 I did my first semi-professional attempt, a psychological thriller called This Place starring Clayton Fussell - who would later star in The Soldier. The road to my first feature has been a long one, but no different to any other filmmaker, the industry is just very tough but we just love it, it’s an addiction.

What did you study?

I studied TV and film make-up, which included fashion make-up, wig making, cosmetic camouflage and of course special effects. I have also studied TV and film techniques, which on a very basic level included all aspects of filmmaking from script writing to editing.

What made you change the name of your film?

When you start a film there is always a chance that things can change, a production company/investor has the right to change things, from the script to the edit. You have to be very open minded, it may be your idea and your script, but the rights belong to the money men, it’s just the way it is. Our distributor thought that they could sell the film better with a snappier title, so The Myth of Hopelessness became Broken, we were lucky in the sense that the distributor let us choose the new title.

How long did you work on the film for?

The film came from a short film script I had written in about 2006/2007. Craig Conway (producer/co-writer and actor) and I started working on turning the script into a feature film in May 2015. I had initially wanted to shoot a short film, but Craig saw potential as a feature film.

The whole thing was such a quick turnaround, from agreeing the budget to finally shooting the film in just 10 weeks, it was intense but one of the most pleasurable moments of my life. We wrapped in August 2015 and started the edit immediately. There was a delay between the assembly and the beginning of post-production, essentially we were in a queue, our investor had a few films ahead of ours so we had to wait. This really gave me the chance to refine the scenes and polish the assembly. We completed the film in July this year.

Where did the inspiration for the story come from?

I had a short stint as a carer around 2005, caring for people with many disabilities ranging from spinal cord injury to dementia. During my time as a carer I heard some harrowing stories from colleagues. It was the psychological aspect of spinal cord disabilities that interested me.

Before their accidents most of the clients were outdoor thrill-seekers, so all of a sudden one day their lives change and they’re wheelchair bound for the rest of their lives. The rehabilitation is life-long and caring for them is challenging, our job was to make sure they lived independently within their own homes, which for the carer was a difficult situation.

Are there any directors/producers/ actors who inspire you?

Anyone who can get a film off the ground and made gives me inspiration, it’s so difficult these days. I guess watching Craig put ‘Broken’ together with our tiny budget was very inspiring, he is such a great talent and has been in the industry for 25 years, starring in such films as ‘Doomsday’, ‘Estranged’ and the up and coming thriller ‘Mara’ with Olga Kurylenko.

The same goes for Mel Raido (Legend) and Morjana Alaoui (Martyrs) - the two leading actors in ‘Broken’. These guys really made my job easy, I just guided them from scene to scene, they really took the characters and gave them a heartbeat.

We were also so lucky with the crew on ‘Broken’, everybody stepped up and gave it everything, it’s the first time I have really felt the importance of every department, I would not be here now if any one of those departments had faltered.

What is your favourite film?

I really couldn’t say, it’s too difficult. To semi-answer your question I will list a few films I couldn’t live without (in no particular order) Alien, The Shining, Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, Lars Von Triers Antichrist, Taxi Driver and a whole heap more.

Was film a big part of your childhood?

Two films really stand out, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Memphis Belle. I remember me and my younger brother watched the next door neighbours VHS copy of Memphis Belle, we watched it so many times that we wore out the tape. Film was such an important part of my childhood, most of my childhood memories are linked to a film in some way.

Where did you grow up?

A small town in Lincolnshire called Stamford, it is a beautiful medieval stone town on the most southern tip of Lincolnshire, life was very quiet in the town, which wasn’t ideal for making films.

In 2010 I was set to direct a film called ‘The 4th Reich’, a project I had been working on since 2008, I wanted to be nearer the action so I uprooted my family and we moved to St Albans. Through this film I met my partner in crime - Craig Conway, we shared similar beliefs in film so we always vowed to work together, to this day ‘The 4th Reich’ remains in development so watch this space.

What is next in the pipeline for you?

I have quite a few scripts I am working on with Craig, including the much anticipated war/horror movie The 4th Reich and a rather exciting film called Ages of the Ages. I like to think that I could turn my craft to any genre so I am open minded.

FrightFest, Vue Cinema, Shepherds Bush, London, W12 8PP, August 25-29. Details:,