Decline is a fantastic film, and I’m not just saying that because I scored it. I’m saying it because it deserves merit among the indie film community for being brilliantly shot, acted, and the sound design is absolutely top notch. Ryan Carter plays a man who’s on a downward spiral, coping with emotional problems, relationship issues and his hobby, which involves a little bit of the old Ultra Violence. It was a great little film to score, and I was pleasantly surprised when people like Monster Dugan of Blazing Minds complimented the music. I rarely get complimented on music these days, because most of the time, people don’t let me master the music and just roll with my demo tracks which is very frustrating as a film composer… Still this one was a little different, and we did quite well. The Diabolical horror film festival gave us a win for several different categories, including music. I think Decline is a favorite of mine because I was able to watch Ryan about 60-80 times in the film and he didn’t drive me up the wall like a lot of films I watch. The man has a lot of layers in there, he’s like an evil angry onion, and I really felt that he pulled off a fantastic performance. There are a lot of high ranking actors who haven’t kept my attention so well, but with direction like Sam’s it was definitely going to be a good one from the start. I worked previously with Sam on The Millennial Killer a film about what I’d do if I was an estate agent. (Funnily enough I WORKED for an estate agents a while back and we found a horrifying blood spill hidden by a cooker!) What a time to be alive! I loved working on Decline and hopefully it won’t be the last time I work with Sam or the team!
So Planet of Horror was a fun little film to make. It’s amazing what silver spray paint can do. I used it on everything, the Helmet and the Spaceship, the planet… Ah this was my first little foray into Science Fiction and I was accompanied by Rikki Then Hammond and Now Lovett, and Rebecca Buckle, one of the amazing girls who endured me at college.
I did a lot of work on this little film and I am quite proud of it. It was filmed on a really, really old camcorder and was pretty terrible to be honest. As it was science fiction, I tried to do a little research on a few things.
Despite it never making me a YouTube Superstar, (because I am probably too ugly) the film did well and ended up in a compilation.
Set, Sound and Music were all constructed by me, though Rebecca helped me and probably stopped me from being crushed to death in the miasma that was my garage.
I am quite happy with the film, and looking back at it, the effects were really decent. I should really have worked harder on the spaceships and model shoots, but when one is a young naive idiot that has grown into an older, naiver idiot, one never really learns from one’s experiences.
What the hell was going on?
It was estimated by my character that Rikki’s character died from SADS. SADS stands for Sudden adult death syndrome or sudden arrhythmic death syndrome.
From my studies I noted that it tends to occur in people who leave the population they are from, so it would not necessarily be a bizarre experience to occur in space where we are far away from our home world.
I figured it would be a dark touch to imply that this was commonplace, and would potentially become a normal occurrence in space travel. The later implication there will be an investigation at the station offsets the idea that the crew could examine the body there. It’s too convenient and it gives no opportunity for suspicion to build within Rebecca’s character.
The crew were tired and sleeping little. Working night shifts and unusual hours people tend to not get a lot of sleep. I figured that in space, fatigue would be a common thing, especially for people in a small ship with little room for exercise. Ah the fun of a sedentary lifestyle.
I purposefully chose the timings and had the crewmembers cycling their sleep and awake times so there would always be two crew awake in case of emergencies.
Alan going down to the planet wasn’t a good idea, but he went down anyway. It was part of a longer mission they had undertaken. On the planet something dark and foreboding happened… Of course we keep that secret because the best horror is full of secrets. It’s no fun if we know everything about Freddy Krueger, as we found out when we started to find out everything.
Alan returns, and has a minor seizure whilst playing chess. Stacey is alarmed and they find that Tom has died. Stacey suspects Alan is involved and takes measures to protect herself. Due to tiredness, paranoia is probably rife. Later she shoots Alan.
How did Rikki’s character die?
Tom died from being in one of my crappy scripts.
I don’t like explaining horror, but something came back on board with Alan, whether or not it was inside him is unknown. There was a connection from the moment Tom’s character died with Alan, but as to whether Alan caused it, who can say?
Why did Rebecca shoot me?
Because she was in one of my terrible films.
When you don’t sleep a lot, you become paranoid. Alan didn’t listen to Stacey when she warned him and she pulled the trigger almost instinctively.
Rikki and Rebecca were never on set together. I don’t know if they’ve ever met, though I suspect they have as they’re artsy types. I used a hand to join our scenes together.
The Ship Name, U.S.S. John Hurt was inspired by John Hurt who was tragically killed on the Nostromo then even more tragically had to endure modern Doctor Who. What an actor. A legend, for sure!
I have always liked the name Alan, and hated Alex. I guess being the physical embodiment of the uncanny valley, having a similar name is somewhat ironic.
The planet’s surface is made of flour and spray paint. The smoke is from a smoke machine. (I was real original back then!)
I purposefully chose the timings and had the crewmembers cycling their sleep and awake times so there would always be two crew awake in case of emergencies.
The visual feedback effect I created was something I learned from watching old documentaries on Doctor Who.
“I’ve known him for years, he’s my friend…” That came from The Thing.
The guns were made by Martin Bower, model supervisor for Alien. Yes they are in everything I make.
Yes, there was a sound like Orac. That was intentional.
Monkey Madness was the result of my talented friend Liam writing a script for an odious creature who we shall hereafter call Bill Blight and another weird being we shall not refer to as Blancmange Jumanji who isn’t worth talking about hereafter. Bill was supposedly ‘teaching’ Liam (and being paid for it!) at the point and stated in his officiously pompous voice that the task couldn’t use a script written by Liam. I volunteered to turn Liam’s script into a science fiction piece we could both work on as a team and he agreed. Thus monkey madness was born.
Due to the fact we knew were writing for a person of limited wit, we decided to write the script as a homage to 31 famous films rife with religious symbolism and a huge amount of references based deep in pop culture, but make the script so stupid that no one would likely get them. As Bill regards himself as something of a genius, I was disappointed in hearing that he didn’t really understand it, and what’s more did not appreciate it’s artistic beauty.
We used purposefully dumb lines to make sure that Bill Blight knew we were trolling him. We took a lot of care ensuring that not only did the lines sound incredibly stupid, but that the actors playing the characters would make them as ridiculous and terrible as possible. Making the film was an absolute joy.
Joining us in our journey to drive Bill insane through sheer stupidity were Zach Miller, Ellis Macaluso (now Lex), Jacky Fong, Cameron Wilton, Neil Rowe and James Pottinger. With a combination of bizarreness and unorthodox film making techniques, I think we managed it.
Despite the fact the film doesn’t make any sense, according to Bill and most other sentient life, it actually has a story. Before I go into the oncoming rant, I don’t expect anyone to get any of this because it was so convoluted that there’s no need.
Deekon and Itano are heading to Earth, Itano means stage, and his character sets the stage for the film, revealing what has come before in true Shakespearean fashion. Deekon by the way is subservient to Itano and his name means servant. Ah the devil is in the details.
Raphel (God has healed relating to something I will go into later.) is a rogue exile on the run from the Chimps who are chasing him. He is hiding on Earth disguised as Tom. Raphel murdered T.L.C. (T.L.C. Being a reference to the squirrel monkey ‘Baker’ who was one of the first two animals sent to space by the US. (Jesus Christ Bill.) The other being Able, as Abel was already murdered by Cain, Raphel couldn’t murder him…Also Tom Baker… Ah well…) The murder scene is actually quite horrible. But it also features a Rubber duck. (T.L.C. Likes rubber ducks and the Captain in Hitchhikers says one can never be alone with a rubber duck, you can and should look this up if you have the time.)
Ah yes, there are guns from Blake’s 7 in here, (Bill didn’t watch it clearly so he had no childhood.) The glitch trip in the following chase scene was an actual camera screw up from me for running the darned thing too long and burning it out.
Tom is being spied on, as is mentioned, if one is paying attention to this crap, by Amanda (Meaning must be loved) who tells him that she wants a real relationship with him. He is staring at a blue screen with ‘insert subliminal message here’ written on it. A reference to Okabe (another reluctant hero from Stein’s;Gate, a series from 2011 about time travel who also looks at screens but these ones have weird alpaca men on them.) I love the way Ellis also references that this film is a bad movie and breaks the fourth wall. You deserve all of this Bill. Ya curly haired Philistine. *Slaps Blight with A Kipper*
So basically Tom and Amanda head out to the woods (at Amanda’s request, remember this) which are a ridiculous way away. This is for an evening of romance at Amanda’s request. Tom clearly is not connecting with her, remember she wants to be loved. He even ignores the fact she found the flashlight, and claims to have found it himself.
I threw in a Rocky Horror reference about the spare tyre. They bicker for a while and then Ellis references the fact that her character is afraid of the dark. I actually referenced it for Bill because I didn’t think he would pick it up in watching. I was probably right and he probably missed it anyway. Amanda persuades Tom to get out of the car when they hear a weird sound. (Remember this.)
So Tom isn’t really surprised to see giant alien monkeys outside. This should be a red flag that there is something off with him if nothing else was to this point. If you haven’t worked out at this point that Tom isn’t actually who he appears to be, then I despair.
Tom is actually Raphel. Who the hell knows what a Z6000 hyperdrive is on Earth? The monkeys in the beginning even said he was possibly hiding in human form. There are constant hints dropped throughout the movie.
Raphel is chased down by the monkeys who follow him through the woods, and finally arrives back at the car, where he calls for Tetragrammaton to save him. (Tetragrammaton for those who do not know is the Hebrew name for God. This is more commonly YHWH or Yahweh.) He climbs back into the car to find out Amanda is actually one of the monkeys coming to get him, and regrets his relationship. (Amanda is his Judas. Yes we are getting religious in biblical proportions.)
All along, as previously signposted. (For god’s sake Bill Blight.) Amanda was a spy, as mentioned sent to Earth to keep an eye on Raphel. She lured him out to the woods so that he could be ambushed and slain by monkeys. They stab him ruthlessly with bananas as he lies on the car arms out to each side.
With Raphel dying on the car, the monkeys are healed from their monkey affliction and murder frenzy. (Remember the name Raphel means God has healed. Jesus is part of the holy trinity, being the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that make up YHWH or the Tetragrammaton. Jesus died upon the cross as Raphel died on the car in the shape of a cross to heal human beings of their sins. In the act of murder that takes place, they are cleansed and healed of their sins.)
The Monkeys question what they have done in finally killing one of their own. They put him out of our misery and the film ends.
So this film was regarded as silly, and it really is. We put a lot of effort into it, and despite the fact I’m a terrible cameraman, we managed to get something decent out of it.
I like to use religious symbolism in my work and in all honesty, there’s a lot more in here especially in pop culture references that I haven’t mentioned. Most of my work is stupid and convoluted, and I spend a lot of time working in things that most people either wouldn’t get or find inappropriate.
It was a pleasure working with everyone, and thankfully Liam had to deal with Bill Blight so I didn’t have to. The world was safe once more!
Dreamscape was one of the most emotionally complicated films of my life. It began with an ambitious, slightly less balding film maker starting out, eager to face the world with a fantastic new script for a science fiction horror. I had formed a close relationship with Dead Good Films Like and I had an aspiration to make a great film for them that they could release so I could finally pay my actors. Ah the dream. I was an unemployed deadbeat who pooled everything I had to make this film. Wow, did that backfire on me! – Or so I thought.
The script was called Spiral of Terror, and the run time was an estimated 45 minutes with around 10 to 15 minutes of padding to be added on with extra scenes and shots of the spaceships.
I had 15 actors who were locals and some members of my local filmmaking group who had signed up as cast. With a huge cast, I felt I’d be able to finally make something of real ‘merit’. With an eager cast, smashing script, AF101e on hand and delusions of grandeur, I was ready to make it big with this surefire winner!
The story was simple, the crew find a cursed knife on board a space freighter. The crew who went on board start dying of radiation sickness. As the story continues, more people die and are found smushed up as white powder like a man they find on the freighter. People assume it’s some form of illness. The knife starts summoning weird stuff and people start going mad as they are killed brutally. Eventually, everyone is killed except one crew member, a portal opens up and transfixed the person walks into the light. Focus on the knife glowing, fade to black. Sadly, what I created was not anything close to the final product I had envisioned.
Basically the film I wanted to make was standard indie crap horror. Just how I like it. The title theme I worked on a little with my brother but he did most of the technical stuff. We used art from my friend and longtime collaborator Sair Feather and made a title sequence. It was eerie. Weird and had small allusions to the title sequences I liked from the Alien films.
I originally shot a bit of work with Simon Goodway in my garage. I didn’t have a lot of space to play around with, so we had a day between two takes to shoot everything in my garage. We shot the scene from the front and the back with a day in between, and I’m surprised how well it goes together seamlessly. This filled me with confidence as I hadn’t expected things to work out so well. Simon was reliable and helpful and I couldn’t have handled the oncoming disaster without him.
Production day. None of my cast were showing up. I was thankful to have Zach Miller, Simon and Megan Reilly, but I was a mess. The night before several people had flaked out so I’d spent most of the night doing frenzied rewrites. Then ******* showed up. ******* Was my ex and she demanded the use of the AF101e camera and all my good lenses. The AF101e was my main filming camera. I couldn’t say no so I was left with a Lumix G5. Now the G5 isn’t a bad camera but if you are a film maker you’ll probably understand the primal screaming and tears of rage and frustration I had to hold back. No matter. I can handle this. Damn, we were down to 4 actors.
Then it happened. In desperation I contacted a guy I didn’t know, Shaun Woolls and I begged him to help. I needed to try and up the actors as I had to kill me differently now in the film. Shaun agreed to help me and was an absolute lifesaver. He saved my film. If I ever make it big, I’m gonna hire the guy because he has a great screen presence… To be honest I’m lucky because all my cast were great apart from me. I was a frenzied wreck, my character a shallow representation of myself, a reflection of the hatred and loathing I felt. I digress…
We shot a lot of the film and got things sorted out over the next few days. Furious rewrites, frenzied cackling and madness commenced as I crafted the main lounge into many different sets and messed around with lenses. I got a few cutaways and eventually we had a film. I was a nervous wreck on the verge of a breakdown. My noble cast coped really well with me,
Editing was quiet. I didn’t know what to do. I just felt broken and betrayed by the people who had promised to help me. The ones who showed up… They made it worthwhile. Megan. Zach, Simon and Shaun, thank you all. You helped me through this absolute hell. You are all amazing people and I love you to bits.
Music was odd, I didn’t score like normal. I think I put every bit of rage, frustration and pain into the Dreamscape score, it was orchestral, with weird pitch bending occasionally. I don’t know where it came from but the talents seem to be lost to me now. You can listen to the entire score below. Let me know in the comments what you think and I’ll try and get back to you.
Zach, being a long time collaborator on my projects continues to work with me occasionally making awesome and weird things here and there. He is in my short film I’ve made for Infinitrap.
Shaun came back and did some extra work with me, where I dressed up as Zach wearing a welding mask to kill him.
I’ve lost contact with both Simon and Megan, however both of them are fine people, and I couldn’t have done it without them. Maybe it’s the distance, maybe it’s the fact they were working with the definition of sheer frenzied insanity, we will never know…
What did I learn?
Making films isn’t easy.
You can’t always rely on other people.
Sometimes you have real friends when you need them.
You don’t need a good camera to make a film people will enjoy.
******* Is a pain in the neck.
Don’t freak out when things don’t go as planned.
A rewrite can be good if you are desperate.
Don’t give up.
Don’t give up. That’s a good one to remember if you’re making films. I have abandoned 3 or 4 big projects because they seemed like an impossible mountain to climb.
Dreamscape originally did well on YouTube and got over 5300 views before I took it down so I could reupload. The film people abandoned me for only got just over 30 and was removed quickly due to music copyright violations.
Two of my actors found out I loved rubber ducks.
The spaceship was made of a lightbulb spray paint and toilet tissue and is without doubt one of the cheapest things I’ve ever made. And it looks like it.
I hated the film for years until I realised it’s actually good.