Late to the party?

Well it’s been a while.

Because of everything else going on, the blog has taken a bit of a back seat, but I thought it was time for a bit of an update.


Alex Genn Bash has officially come on board in order to make more of our creatures which is a big help now we are plane bound. He is busy tweaking our wonderful puppets, allowing our puppeteers more opportunities for movement. 


The Dead Air feature script is well under way, this is an expansion of the short, taking it off in many different directions. Having already written a full version of the feature script, this has been thrown out and replaced by a page one rewrite which is ongoing but suffice to say TOTALLY BONKERS!


Our dates for the short are set and we shoot in September in lovely Hampshire at Black Hangar Studios. Still much to do before then, lots of planets to align, lots of props to build or find, lots of blood to gather.


We continue to be ‘in demand’ on Indiegogo. We will need to run another crowdfunder before the project is complete because this short is MASSIVE and the post production crowdfunding was always on the cards, so if you haven’t backed us because you’ve come to the party late or you really want to see this film become a success, every little does help and you can check us out at DEAD AIR INDIEGOGO


Our wonderful punks met for the first time this weekend just gone when the Dead Air crew had them come together for their head casts by Tank Fall FX & a quick photo shoot in a converted cattle shed. Charlie Bond, Kate Davies Speak, Stacy Hart and Johanna Bond came together and felt like they had known each other for years! There was also much discussion regarding the script & the way our director Geoff saw the film playing out on screen. This made it all feel very real and September cannot come quick enough.



Our characters in Dead Air – the short, have no names, they are just known as the Singer, the Drummer etc. This was very much on purpose but moving forward into the feature made me put on my thinking cap for names; therefore whilst we shoot Dead Air, our concept short, all our actors will have names attached to their characters. The band are named after famous punks and favourite holidays, the males have very comic booky names, including one who has appeared now in 4 films I’ve been involved in, which is always fun. It’s when the creatures find they share their names with the Co-Pilot we have to worry. All hell will break loose.


Finally, this is a bit of a tease, but within the next couple of weeks there will be some VERY exciting news announced. We are just waiting for the go ahead and then you will all know.


Until then, watch the skies…

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Monsters, punk rock and splatter horror! Support these guys.

We hit our goal on Dead Air on indiegogo on Sunday, and as I type this we are in our final day!

What this means is Dead Air is getting made. 

We can’t thank all our backers & followers enough! All of you that have helped to get the word out THANK YOU!

Whilst we describe Dead Air as a proof of concept short for a feature it is still self contained, telling an actual story and will hopefully tour the festival circuit garnering interest along the way.

We aim to shoot in the autumn. There will be other fun things happening along the way, we hope to keep the blog, twitter, instagram, the website etc all up to date as much as is humanly possible.

There is still time to back us if you like the sound of rockers fighting monsters on a plane (who wouldn’t?) Any money raised above our £10K goes toward our Post Production. The more we get now, the less we will need to raise in our finishing funds. If you are feeling generous…

Finally, one of our influences on this film is Deathgasm, the amazing Splatfest by Jason Lei Howden, so to have him tweeting the following this morning made my day!

‘Monsters, punk rock and splatter horror! Support these guys.’

Back us DEAD AIR on INDIEGOGO

What the bleeding puppets?!?

With the exciting midweek news that Netflix is producing a 10 part Dark Crystal series we find ourselves in the midst of a puppet renaissance on film.

When we first decided to add puppets to Dead Air, we were drawing from our love of Henson’s fantasy greats from the 80s as well as horror puppets from films like Critters and Gremlins. We thought that those days were long gone, but we now find ourselves amidst not just the new Dark Crystal series but a new Labyrinth (or at least a movie set in that world) as well as an interesting looking Kickstarter called We R Animals by Thobias Hoffmen, that has been in the works since 2010; the feature Cute Little Buggers by Tony Jopia which I’ve been following for the past few years finally getting distribution, and not to mention the reboot of Puppet Master – the Littlest Reich, which seems to have a decent amount of money behind it.

Then there is us. Our little film.
Our budget may be small but our ambition is huge. We’ve been really lucky so far to get the amazing cast we’ve put together, as well as the crew, the awesome puppets by Lydia, Anna and the gang plus Andrew James Spooner, Alex Genn Bash, Tank Fall FX, Black Hangar Studios, without whom there wouldn’t be the Dead Air we are hoping to make.
Our Dead Air team gets bigger and stronger by the day. We’ve still a way to go to reach our goal on indiegogo so every little helps, every shout brings in a crowd. We want our film to be the start of something special, a short that travels the world, that makes audiences sit up and take notice.
We still have our feature script in the works, and this is our ultimate goal to make a short, a concept short that can show others exactly the kind of beast we want to be putting together.
With your help we can do this.
Oh, and just you wait; when we can announce our Hollywood Genre great, you will flip. Really, I guarantee you will.
Get Dead Air flying today. Help the puppet renaissance really take off.

Dead Air – onwards & upwards

I haven’t posted for a few days, so a quick update beyond what we can put on the other socials is in order.

Firstly THANK YOU to everyone who has contributed to our indiegogo so far, it is still so humbling that we have such support. We are still a way from our initial £10k goal so any shouts, screams, posts, anyway you can help us get that word out further would be appreciated. 

If we hit our £10k early we can get the film up and running earlier. If we don’t hit the goal we’ve set, indiegogo charge more of a finishing percentage (almost double what they charge if we hit our goal) so that would seriously damage what we can do with the final film, so please help. Tell people in your circles that may not be in our circles. Tell all!!

Secondly, we are being picked up by various online blogs and podcasts, so check out our twitter or Facebook feed to see who is talking about us and where. We have a few things on the horizon, so keep checking back.

Third, this week we met with Andrew James Spooner, our Puppet Co-ordinator on Dead Air. It was fantastic to see him be able to bring life to our puppet creatures and talk about movie influences and movie turn offs among other things. We are very excited to see where this collaboration will be able to take our project. Also to hear Muppet related stories made me a bit giddy to say the least.

So check our indiegogo by clicking on the link, or sharing the URL and if you haven’t already backed us, consider it and #backamonster

https://www.igg.me/at/deadairmovie

Finally, we are throwing a few more perks up this week for you to choose from. There are a number there of varying levels. Don’t feel overwhelmed. 

Choice is good. Make the choice. Back Dead Air today.

Thank you 🙂

In the beginning – Part Four

When things click, they click.

Geoff and I were finding working together ‘worked’ and I was throwing tons of other script ideas at him. With some of them I think he was probably humouring me, as looking back on some of the ideas – ouch – but some of them, hopefully, are there to be made in the future. Working with Geoff on Dead Air certainly made me more prolific a writer than I had been in a long long time.

My quest for puppets led me down various paths, including chatting to various twitter people, Andrew James Spooner among them, but these were people that I did not know, and really I didn’t think they’d want to humour us with a little comedy horror on hand.

I work at a college, so I thought I’d use some of my ‘contacts’ in speaking to students about whether they’d want to be involved in the project, harking back to the amazing times working with students on the Scrawl project. One of my colleagues pointed me in the direction of Wimbledon College of Art, where they ran courses that involved the construction and use of puppets. One email later, I was busy talking to a bunch of Wimbledon Art students about the possibility of working on a small horror film, called Dead Air.

This was really exciting, puppet makers and designers who shared our inspirations and in some ways were ahead of us. Lots of love of Henson and Labyrinth, Dark Crystal, Peter Jackson’s Braindead; even down to the kind of real creatures our creatures would be based on.

We commissioned a bunch of lovely students to design and build the puppets, they were working around their studies to create them and as I’m sure you can see from the pictures these are pretty special. Exceeding our expectations in many ways.

Whilst the puppets were being built we kept thinking about the script, revising odd lines that didn’t work or sequences that we thought we could improve, whilst we also thought about what we could do if we made the short into a feature. In my eyes, and in Geoff’s, the short needed to stand on its own two legs, but we believed in it so much that we thought it had potential to go further (the short essentially is the middle section of the feature film idea).

Whilst we already had Stacy Hart on board as the Drummer, we also, very early on had James Hamer-Morton on board as the Co-Pilot. He had offered up a couple of suggestions for adding the odd lines or sequences to the film, which I did and remain there to this day, but we needed to start to think about cast.

Initially when we had the band as male and female members, various cast from previous projects we had individually worked on came up in conversation and we kept lobbying for various people to be seen, to be considered; but once we made the decision for the band to be female, a lot of potentials went out the window and we had to find an ensemble that worked together. Each had to compliment one another, and that meant lots of interesting and strong cast that on any other day would have walked it had to fit together, in the right roles, and this led to lots of sad faces from Geoff and I when we had to say no to some exceptionally talented actors and actresses.

Johanna Stanton was always in the mix but the character of the guitarist came to her because of her audition & the fun she had with the character. She had mentioned in her audition that she was very ‘method’ on the last film we worked on with her (our last short ‘Smile’) so I am intrigued to see how ‘method’ she’ll be with a loopy comic character. Excited to see how that comes to life.

Kate Marie Davies came to my attention via twitter, my social media of choice, I had seen her trailer for Escape from Cannibal Farm and threw it Geoff’s way, the rest is history. Again, Kate was in line for various roles, but as the puzzle pieces started to fit together, the Bassist, who delivers one of Geoff’s favourite lines eyed up its actress, and that was Kate.

Charlie Bond was someone who we almost missed out on, eventually tying down to a last minute Skype call audition. Thankfully we did because she turned out to give us that spin we needed on the Singer to make her the perfect choice for the role. She’s lovely as well, which always helps when you are playing the antagonist of the piece.

Stacy Hart, as mentioned previously, had the role of the Drummer written with her in mind. This however was not a request from Geoff, who had worked previously with Stacy on numerous occasions but something I had done from the word go when first being asked to write the script. I did not know Stacy, but felt I could write a character that would fit her. A very early outline had her struggling with keeping her humanity for her daughter who was waiting the other end at the gig for her, but that was thrown to one side for a much simpler take.

The other cast were the boys that surround the female characters, the crew and the manager. The crew were made up of James Hamer-Morton as the co-pilot and David Schaal as the Pilot. 

James was on very early, someone Geoff really wanted to work with, but someone I didn’t meet until the auditions for the Monster Kitten band members. 

A fantastic writer himself (his script ‘Wishes’, a must read, and hopefully someone will snap it up to make it) meeting James and watching him perform the audition pieces alongside the actresses made me want to write more for the guy, and the feature script started to allow me to do that. When we didn’t meet our initial Kickstarter, I went back to the short script and made revisions that gave James more to do (we initially hit £16k of £20k so didn’t get any as it was an all or nothing campaign) In a way, not hitting our goal was a good thing, it forced us to go back to the script to see if we could do it for less. Making it completely plane bound I think really helps the short, as the feature will allow us to expand ‘what happens next’ and reworking the short allowed me to think on more about what to do with James as the Co-Pilot character moving forward.

James had worked with David Schaal before on the upcoming ‘The Fitzroy’, which Geoff had also worked on. and James and David seemed to have a chemistry that would work for the roles of Co-Pilot and Pilot. In watching James’ doc ‘Bid for My Life’ and the BTS stuff on ‘The Fitzroy’ shown, I could see what Geoff meant when he said they would work well together. 

Finally, the Manager went through numerous hands before falling into Dan Palmer’s. Dan was someone i really wanted to work with and lobbied for the role of the Guitarist when the Guitarist was still a male character. When we changed the script to make the band female, it seemed working with Dan on this wouldn’t happen. But when the role of the Manager came up again, I rewrote it with Dan in mind and then approached him. Thankfully he said yes, and now I’ve piled my Dan Palmer DVD collection up ready for signing. 

The final cast member is a secret weapon. A Hollywood star that we tried our luck with, by asking the question. They read the script, liked the script, and said ‘yes’. Now all we need to do to secure their services is make our indiegogo targets. We live in hope, as to have them on board would be AWESOME in every conceivable way!

With the cast in place, the puppets on the way, awesome crew who we had worked with before, like Dan Hall doing music and Tom Allen DP’ing, we approached a local sfx company, Tank Full FX about doing our practical special effects. A company that are very keen on practical fx felt like a match made in Heaven and we look forward to seeing what they bring to life. We had by this time discarded the ‘zombie’ aspect (yesssss), our creatures would infect & turn the unfortunates into human creature hybrids, our own kind of monster. We also took to Black Hangar Studios to check out whether a bigger plane would make our lives easier – so we went to check out our new plane, a Boeing 737. 

When we realised that the AN2 was too small to accommodate the vastness of the script I wrote, Geoff spoke to the guys at Black Hangar Studios, who he had got to know via another project (Exit 6 Film Festival) and we started to look like the 737 was the only way to go. 

Oh, I forgot about Erica Nockalls. Geoff had been in contact with Erica as a huge Wonderstuff fan, as Erica is part of the Wonderstuff as well as being a solo artist in her own right. There was talk of Erica being more involved but US tours beckoned. Still we are delighted to be able to use Erica’s original music as the sound of our band and it’s also put us in contact with the likes of the band Fuzzbox, all very exciting to add to our overall feel of the film.

So this leads us to our first shot at crowdfunding, where we failed to hit our goal despite a valiant effort and a lot of support. Of course, to not hit the target was disappointing but what did happen was we found our way to working with a bunch of people we may never have had we not attempted the crowdfunding the first time round, we also realised how big a draw the creatures would be, which led Geoff and I to discussing their use in any future Dead Air venture, Including the following conversation that happened during February as we were busy putting our crew together.

‘We need puppeteers for our puppets Geoff’ I said ‘There might be a guy who might be worth talking to’

‘Ok, great, who?’ Asked Geoff.

‘His name is Andrew and he’s worked with Kermit…’

To be continued…maybe in ‘real time’

In the beginning – Part Three

The thing I had to learn as a writer, after being a writer/director/producer/editor for so long was that now there was someone else in the relationship.

From the first meeting with Geoff after the initial vomit draft there were notes; notes I agreed with, notes I didn’t agree with, notes to try things, notes to discard things. His opinion here mattered, obviously, as he would be the one directing it and the biggest lesson I learnt from having someone else in the relationship was that I WASN’T ALWAYS RIGHT.

Some of the notes Geoff gave I initially sneered at, then tried and actually found they worked, worked better than what I had initially. I felt, after so many years writing purely for myself that I was growing as a writer, even If I were just throwing gallons of blood around; it made sense, and having that person invest their time in the script as much as you did made it a better thing.

Next, I tried writing the script as a silent movie. No dialogue at all. It worked, kind of, but the humour wasn’t 100% there. We found a middle ground with minimal dialogue. I wanted it to play as well to, say, a Japanese audience as a Western audience. Hopefully with the script, we’ve kind of found that ‘middle ground’.

In those early meetings we had 3 distinct sections in the script, which haven’t really changed to this day, but the things that have changed have made the project evolve into a different ‘beast’.

Firstly, the initial draft was male and female characters in the band. They had no name as a band, they were just the ‘band’.

Secondly, they started out as an 80’s metal band.

Third, the AN2.

Fourth, those glowing eyes.

Firstly, the male and female roles were never a major head scratcher. They just fell that way. The Singer and Drummer were always female, the others started out as male, and we were thinking of various people that could potentially play those characters (note: Stacy Hart was always, since day one, the drummer. The role was written for her)

There came a day though where I thought, why not make the band all female. It actually made the characters stronger. Geoff pushed me to try it, it worked. We kept it.

By one of the early cast members we were queried as to why the band didn’t have a name. We gave them the name ‘The Stiffs’, but that was too on the nose, plus there was a band called that. So we thought and I came up with ‘Monster Kitten’

‘I like it’ said Geoff. So it stayed.

This second one, the music of the band, was one we flipped and flopped on so much. I loved both punk and metal, probably punk more now than metal, but Geoff has always been a metal fan, so one week they were a metal band, influenced by the likes of Iron Maiden, the next they were a punk band like the Ramones. This kind of back and forth really went on for the best part of the year, until we decided that the band’s main influences in the ‘real world’ were punk (pop punk/industrial punk etc).  They were now a female punk band. Attitude to the end.

Third, the AN2.

When I first wrote the script, it was like a live action cartoon, very Peter Jackson’s Braindead meets Dead Snow 2 meets Deathgasm kind of humour. Geoff’s main concern was how was the anarchy of the script going to work on the plane we had. I had no clue, I had just googled images of the plane and then written an ambitious short, something I’d want to see. So in going to see the plane when I did, I immediately saw there was a problem there.

How on Earth were we going to shoot this script on that plane?

Cross that bridge when we got to it was my initial assessment. Looking back now, with our bigger plane, I’m thinking ‘OMG, no way would we have been able to do ANYTHING on the AN2, no cat swinging, no nothing!’. The AN2 still looks lovely, but nothing that I had written would’ve worked on it. I’m glad we were able to move to Black Hangar Studios (causing yet more rewrites to the script, but in a good way). Otherwise lots of people (crew, cast, puppeteers, directors) would’ve hated me.

Fourth, those glowing eyes. They were written in the script to give reason to the zombie outbreak, but the more we thought about what were in those cages (inspired equally by Critters, Braindead and Gremlins) the more we thought ‘why does it have to be zombies’, why couldn’t infection turn into something else?

In fact, this started to be the one thing I was fighting for, get rid of the zombies!!!

Luckily, Geoff is such an easy guy to work with, it didn’t turn into a battle, it turned into a collaboration, of the best kind. We just now needed to work out what the humans would turn into? This would take some pondering.

But back to the glowing eyes. From the start they were going to be an effect, they would have been a post effect, until I opened my mouth one day in one of our coffee shop meetings and said.

‘Wouldn’t it be good if our glowing eyes were actual puppets?’

‘Yes’ said Geoff ‘but how are we going to do that, do you know puppeteers, puppet makers?’

‘Leave it with me’ was my response.

I was making a rod for my own back (pun intended). Where was I going to find puppet makers?

I had suddenly turned from ‘just being a writer’ to being someone that was trying to make life more difficult for himself, by making it even more complex.

I was loving it.

To Be Continued…

30% Funded on Indiegogo

3 days into our crowdfunding and we were 30% funded.  We are humbled by the support so far.

We still need help though.

The more backers we get, the better the film can look, feel, be.  The more we can do with it.  Help us raise an army of people that want to see this film made.  We cannot wait to get started.

Shout us from the rooftops.  Follow us on twitter.  Back our crowdfunder

DEAD AIR INDIEGOGO

 

In the beginning – Part Two


I pulled out all the zombie films I had enjoyed including Return of the Living Dead, Braindead, as well as really enjoying the zombie fun of Dead Snow 2 & yes, Deathgasm.
Music and zombies worked well together in that.

What if, I thought, those that were on the plane weren’t random people that just happened to be on a flight together, but were a band?

In my head, that sounded cool, a band expecting to get a private jet to a gig turn up to an airfield, only to realise they are at the wrong airfield. The only thing at the airfield is an AN2, so they commandeer it.

But then, I thought, how do I incorporate zombies? I didn’t want it to be a virus, cos that sounded dull and done to death. I didn’t want it to be records played backwards. How could I do it?

Turns out, that was the week I was rewatching Critters.

What if we had creatures that somehow turned people into zombies, with a scratch or a bite?

That sounded like fun.

Only because this was essentially a ‘no budget, we’ve got a free plane to shoot on’ affair, as I started to write, all I wrote of the creatures were glowing eyes in a box. I wrote it with Scrawl actors in mind, so a lot of the characters were a lot younger, and I also wrote the band, who at that point had no band name, as a mix of male and female characters. They also didn’t have names, so they were the Drummer, the Singer, the Guitarist etc, they were punk kids. It just felt…right.

The first draft, my typical vomit draft took a little over 2 days to write, and that was not 48 hrs but probably around 8? It flowed really well, I knew instinctively how I wanted it to start, what I wanted to happen in the middle, and how I wanted it to end. That never ever happens, but it did for this.

I was so excited I sent that vomit draft to Geoff.

I then panicked. I had sent a vomit draft to a director who had never actually seen my writing before, I had never worked with him before, I felt sick to my stomach. My arrogance at thinking this peas and carrots vomit draft was good was about to get undone by a director who was about to tell me it’s shit.

‘I really really like it’ said Geoff. ‘Lets meet up and go through it, this could work!’

‘Oh, and I love the title, Dead Air’

My smile was wider than a Cheshire Cat. But this was still only the beginning…

To be continued…

In the beginning – Part One

 

As we begin our crowdfunding journey again, I wanted to, as the writer of Dead Air, give those new (and old) to our plight a bit of background to what we are all about? As well as document the making of the film, both the short and ultimately, hopefully, the feature film idea, I wanted to take a trip back in time via my addled memory and bring us up to date, as much as I can, over the course of various blog entries.

I have always wanted to just be a writer. Somewhere along the way I found myself doing other jobs; editor, cameraman, producer, director, puppeteer 😉 but writing was what I really wanted to focus on.

The director Geoff Harmer and I met for the first time around November 2015. Whilst we had mutual friends, and had done for years, we had never met until this point. This meeting, in a coffee shop, was the beginnings of a journey, an adventure, one which started with a weird little horror film I had made a couple of years earlier, but only now was going out to festivals.

This was a horror feature film called ‘Scrawl’ which I had made with students and professionals working together to create a film to play festivals as well as give the students credits to ‘kickstart’ their careers. One of the professionals we worked with right at the start of her career was Daisy Ridley, who exploded onto the scene in mid 2014 by being cast in Star Wars episode 7.  What had started out for us as an independent feature for students to ‘learn their craft’ on, turned into something people were wanting to watch. Including Geoff.

Geoff watched the film over the Christmas period, and in early 2016 we met up again, where he posed the question.

‘Would you like to write something for me?’

‘Sure’ I said, trying to not explode with excitement at being asked to write something for someone else.

‘I have access to a plane’ Geoff said ‘and can do anything I like, as long as it involves zombies…’

Ugh, zombies, I thought. Aren’t we drowning in zombies at this point?? Turned out the zombies idea didn’t come from Geoff, but being given the ‘location’ for free we had to see if we could make it work.

The plane was a AN2 Russian Biplane, and the initial idea that Geoff had was good, involving our ‘fear of flying’ and ‘fear of those around us’ and it was something I would’ve gladly written if I WASN’T SUCH A CONTROL FREAK. I wanted to see what else I could do with it, and how to make zombies cool again.

I asked Geoff how closely he wanted me to stick to his idea. He replied

‘As long as it’s set on a plane, and has zombies…’

I went home excited at the new writing task, but also petrified. How was I going to make this all work?? I started thinking, and writing, and thinking some more.

My brain started to hurt. What was I going to do with this plane? Who was going to be on the plane? Why were they going to be on the plane?

Then I had an idea.

To be continued…