‘Solitary’ is a contained sci-fi film about a man who wakes up inside a room to discover he’s a prisoner sent into space to form Earth’s first colony, and worse – his cellmate Alana is hell-bent on destroying everything.
Writer / director, Luke Armstrong and lead actor Johnny Sachon talk about their new dystopian sci-fi thriller on the Big Picture Film Club.
Solitary is available everywhere on August 31st on digital and disc in all major retailers.
Big Picture Film Club Co-Founder, Presh Williams, was a guest on the Unplug with Ani Podcast for her Ignite Season. Presh spoke about the origins of Big Picture Film Club, motivations and what to look forward to on the platform moving forward.
Unplug with Ani is a podcast hosted by Anisa Butt were she chats with a new guest every week about motivation, mindset, behaviour and relationships.
Dr Parvinder Shergill is a psychiatrist working within the National Health Service, she is also an actor, writer, producer & director. In her interview with us she discussed mental health portrayal in films, the Covid-19 pandemic, her acting journey and upcoming projects.
Ahead of the release of his latest film, Liselotte Vanophem sat down with Lorcan Finnegan to talk about Vivarium, filming techniques and the future.
Liselotte Vanophem: Hi Lorcan, how are you?
Lorcan Finnegan: Yeah, I’m fine. Busy with the interviews.
LV: Congratulations on the film. How did you come up with the story for this film?
LF: Well, in 2011 we made a short film called Foxes and it was a supernatural story about a young couple who were trapped in this ghost estate in Ireland that was left abandoned. Apart from them, there was nobody else there. That was more of a supernatural story but the stories and ideas of that film were something that we wanted to expand upon more metaphorically in a sci-fi, ‘twilight zone’ type of film. That’s what we develop into a long feature film. Vivarium is different from Foxes but it has some similar ideas.
LV: The cast consists of big names such as Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots but the actor who’s the most amazing one in this film is without a doubt Senan Jennings who plays the boy. How did you come across him?
LF: Getting the right actor for that part was always going to be challenging. We thought we were never going to find a little child who could do all of the things that we wrote about in the script. We got a bunch of self-tapes coming in and then I saw a lot of the actors as well. We were very lucky that we got Senan cause when he sent in his tape, it was so good. I asked him to do some other parts of the film and then he sent in another tape and again it was brilliant. We were like ‘ok, he got the part’.
He was great to work with. He was seven but when he read the
script, he completely understood it. After we told him that he got the part,
his mom said that they were going to supermarkets to watch people and copy
them. He just loved it.
LV: In this movie, Senan’s character shouts and screams a lot. How was it to make him do that on cue?
LF: Well, he just loved it. At some points, we were just trying to make him stop. I was worried about his throat and that he would lose his voice. He had no problem with it at all and he just went for it. That was another thing that he showed us during his auditioning tape.
LV: During this film, Imogen’s character needs to choose whether to let the boy live or die? What would you have done in that situation?
LF: I would save him as he’s still a living creature after all but it rationally also makes sense to not save him.
LV: How much input did the actors have regarding the lines and the script?
LF: Well, we talked a lot bout the script before shooting and made some changes to dialogue and we also cut some dialogue and scenes. We also wrote a few new scenes. When you’re developing a script, other people are involved and everyone has a few notes here and there and some input. Once we came to shoot it, we all kind of trusted each other and if the scene didn’t feel right then we would just change it and try something different.
LV: What was the first scene that you shot between the couple and the child because that probably must have been a very crucial one?
LF: It would probably have been the bedroom scenes during which the audience sees the boy for this first time. I remember Jesse saying that Senan was exactly as he imagined from the script but he never thought that we could find a kid who could do it.
LV: The houses in Yonder are the same. Green, neat and almost to perfect. How did you film them? Was it a green screen or on-location?
LF: Well, it’s a mixture of things. We’ve build sets with the facades of threes, houses, footpaths, gardens, and roads. Then we shot sets of that same thing to expand it to the back and then the set was scanned and made into 3D. A lot of it was 2D map paintings, sometimes it’s CGI and sometimes it’s 2D plates that are being composed together. It was a lot of different techniques that came together.
LV: What was the hardest part for you to film for this movie cause it’s a very complex movie technical wise it seems?
LF: Yes, it was indeed a very technical film to make and a bit tricky as well. The trickiest scene was probably the one in which they’re trying to drive out of the place. We only had a certain amount of sets and then we had to switch to location as well. Trying to make the lighting the same. The aerial shots were also shot in a different location again. Then we combined all of that to make it feel like one sequence. That was something that we have been working on for a long time.
LV: If you look back on the film now, what’s the scene that still gets you the most?
LF: I think it would be the last scene between Imogen and the boy. I also like the scene very much during which they’re talking about the clouds. Also, all the scenes with Jonathan Aris were so much fun.
LV: What do you hope that people will take away with them after seeing this film?
LF: Well, I hope that they will think it’s the best film they’ve seen in their lives. In this film, there are a lot of metaphors that are wrapped in a sci-fi story. Some people seem to enjoy it as a pure sci-fi movie and other people see parts of their own lives in it. I enjoy getting to know people their interpretations of the story and how they relate to the story. I just hope people will enjoy it.
LV: One last question: What’s next for you?
LF: I’m working on a film called Nocebo which a supernatural revenge thriller about fashion and the exploitation of the east by the west. I’m also working on another project called Goliath which is a reimagining of the story of David and Goliath and is set in the dystopian near future. It’s about creating monsters, starting wars and stealing resources.
We sat down with the Jenna Suru, writer, director and lead actor in The Golden Age (L’Âge d’Or), a French-language period film about two lovers who head to St Tropez, France in the ’60s to embark on an artistic project.
Invasion Planet Earth (formerly Kaleidoscope Man) is a crowdfunded British Sci-Fi film from writer / director Simon Cox. The film follows Thomas Dunn (played by Simon Haycock) a man who has lost his faith, following the death of his young daughter. On the day he finds out his wife is pregnant again, aliens invade the Earth. We caught up with Danny Steel, who plays Floyd, in this Sci-Fi adventure to let us know what to expect and more about the film’s remarkable journey from a crowdfunding campaign to the cinema screen.
Presh Williams: The Kickstarter for the film campaign received phenomenal support (backed by almost 200 people). As an independent film production, how does that support make you feel about the public wanting to see this story come to life?
it’s so amazing to see the phenomenal amount of public support for the project – it shows there’s a huge audience for Sci-Fi and independently made cinema and encourages me to want to do more. There have been waves of support from all around the world, ever since I was involved I’ve met people passionate about this project! Simon (Cox) and I were talking about this and we spoke of how countless times we’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of people wanting to see the film to fruition.
PW: A lot of the film, as is the case with Sci-Fi films, relies on CGI. How was is it like working with writer/director, Simon Cox, to act out those scenes without actually knowing how the final cut of the film would look like?
I’ve worked in CGI previously and knew how it worked, however, I had, and have, a lot of faith in Simon and his vision. I knew from the moment we met over a coffee and he spoke of how he wanted ‘Invasion’ to look, I had 100% trust in him – I had a fair idea of how it could end up and having seen the final film, it has over achieved my own expectations!
PW: What was your favourite scene to film?
DS: I’d have to say the part where Europe is slowly being destroyed – we are watching it happen high up from the Spacecraft. None of us spoke, there was no dialogue in the scene and as the camera pans across all of us watching this horror down on Earth, in instinct I reached out and held Samantha’s (played by Sophie Anderson) hand. It wasn’t in the script that I do that but felt absolutely right to do that. There is an eerie silence as this was happening. We did this several times and I was allowing myself to go deeper each time. I was thinking about how relevant the scene is now in this awareness era of climate change and political uncertainty to show how it affects us all from a macro to a micro level has never been more important.
PW: Invasion Planet Earth does draw a lot of influence from 70s/80s Sci-Fi, what can people expect when they see the movie?
DS: Ha! I think people can expect to see homage’s to certain well-known films both in the style and narrative of ‘Invasion’. If you love these certain films (not mentioning any names here, you’ll love this one basically). Like any good story, ‘Invasion’ is a story of connection, of resilience and the power of a shared collective.
PW: You’re follow up film that you are co-starring is quite different to Invasion Planet Earth, it’s called L’age D’or and based on 60s St Tropez. Can you tell us more about that film?
DS: In ‘L’Age D’Or‘ I play a French-speaking British musician who arrives in St Tropez in 1967 wanting to set up a band and explore life in the South of France. My character is an essential part of the narrative. The film is very big on the musical numbers and 60’s cover songs feature heavily throughout the film – as a huge music fan, this was great to film and be a part of (although no CGI was used this time!)
I’m also very excited to be in pre-production on a new horror ‘Creaks’, directed by award-winning director Joe Camereno and written by Anne-Sophie Marie, I play an eccentric Ghost Hunter we are looking at making this next year..watch this space!
Invasion Planet Earth will be in cinemas on 5th December 2019 at select cinemas within the U.K.
Writers, directors and stars Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe create a hilariously deadpan hellscape of competitive suburbia with a boldly stylized absurdist chain of events that unfurls with increasing fervour after one soccer mom gifts another her infant daughter just to be polite.
We sat down with the hilarious duo to discuss their latest film Greener Grass. watch the full interview below:
Comedy-Horror, Little Monsters, starring Lupita Nyong’o, tells the story of a washed-up musician, who teams up with a teacher and a kids show personality to protect young children from a sudden outbreak of zombies.
Little Monsters‘ writer / director, Abe Forsythe had a chat with Big Picture Film Club’s Liselotte Vanophem about his latest film discussing Lupita Nyong’o, Taylor Swift and working with children.
Liselotte Vanophem: Hi Abe, how are you?
Abe Forsythe: I’m doing fine, thank you. Been doing interviews all morning.
LV: Congratulations on Little Monsters. How did you come up with the peculiar story of this film?
AF: Well, it was based on my son’s first year of kindergarten. My son has multiple life-threating food allergies just like Felix in the movie. Before he went to school, he had never been out of my care. It was a terrifying thing when it happened. I had to trust his health and safety to someone else. Luckily he got the most incredible kindergarten teacher who wasn’t only able to look after his health but who also opened up his eyes to the world for the first time. It made me realize how important teachers are, specifically kindergarten teacher.
The story was also based on the time when I was on a school excursion with my son’s class and his teacher. It was me, the teacher and 25 five-year old children going to a zoo.
There was something that happened during that school excursion that gave the idea of “what if the animals were zombies?” and “if it was a zombie, how would you save those little children from a zombie apocalypse?”. Questions like “how would you stop them from being eaten?” and “how would you stop their mind from being corrupted?” also popped-up. The characters and the story of Little Monsters grew from there. It’s a love letter to my son and everything he taught me about the world through his eyes.
LV: He’s probably young to see it?
AF: Way too young. He’s eight now. He played a zombie in the movie and had a great time doing that. He saw parts of the film already and keeps on asking why he can’t see the full film. The whole point of this film is shielding your children from the horrors of the world.
LV: After you finished the story, how did the cast come together?
AF: I’ve worked already together with Alexander England, who plays Dave in this movie. I always knew that he would be the right person for that role and was cast first. We had nine names to play the role of Miss Caroline and a lot of them were really good. We just started pre-production and had seven weeks before shooting. My US casting agent was confident that we would get one of those people. We had to think about the one we really wanted.
For me, Lupita [Nyong’o] was the first person that came to mind. We weren’t fully confident that we would get her for this but we thought we would try. We did send the script to her agent. Timing-wise it was perfect because she was looking for something different. She wanted to do a comedy. Her agent put the script in front of her, she read it and responded. 24 hours later I was talking to her and 24 hours after that she was on board. It happened remarkably fast. She responded to the truth of the character and not because she wanted to go to Australia and do a zombie movie. It was an amazing turn out of events.
When she said yes, it was unexpected but so affirming for me and the crew because she responded to the things that I wanted to say with this movie. Both my cast and crew were incredible and of high calibre. For example, the make-up team who did the zombies already won an Oscar. We didn’t have a big budget by any means and people were just there because they believed in the movie.
LV: How many extra cast members did you have? Because by the end of the movie, there were a lot of zombies present.
We made the call for zombie extras and despite they weren’t getting paid for it, they got full zombie make up applied by Oscar winners. We reached out to people during a zombie walk through Sydney and some crew members went to hand out some flyers.
In the end, they were way better than some extras we paid because they just wanted to play a zombie in this movie. For me, it’s so much better to work with people like that because they gave it 110%. We got thousands of zombie extras in this movie and so we wouldn’t have been able to afford to pay a tenth of that.
LV: In this movie, Shake It Off from Taylor Swift is used many times. Whose idea was it to use that song?
AF: This song was part of my son’s kindergarten “end-of-the-year” show. A ukelele band and some children came out and they played that song on the Ukelele. I had never heard this song before or at least not like that. I remember turning to one of the parents and asking what that song was. They were like “Oh, it’s Shake It Off. A Taylor Swift song”. I went home and I put it in the script. It was so specific and it worked great for the story, especially hearing it being played on the Ukelele.
We tried for six months to get the rights of that song but we couldn’t get it through her either. The record label came back at some point and mentioned that using this song would cost a certain amount of money. We weren’t able to afford that. It was just a nightmare. When Lupita came on board, she mentioned that the song was one of the elements that appealed to her. It was also a very significant song in her life at one point. She, just like me, mentioned that she didn’t want to do the movie without that song in it.
Lupita said that she met Taylor once and that she was going to write her a letter. She wrote Taylor this e-mail and 24 hours later we had the rights to the song.
It was amazing! It just felt like it came all together: Me hearing that song at my son’s show, the connection I had to the song and Lupita coming on board. We wouldn’t have the song if it wasn’t for Lupita.
LV: There are a lot of things elements in this film: The many extras, the difficult make-up, etc. What was the hardest part of making this film?
AF: It was working with eleven five-year-old children. That by far was the hardest part. Though as well, that was also the whole point. We had to protect these children and engineer the events in this movie in a way that they could react to something that they saw for the first time. All the reactions are authentic and there are very few “take 2’s” in the movie.
It was important for me that the children were all five years old because that was the age my son was and it reflects how five-year-olds react. How and what they see in the world. We couldn’t fake that with children who were seven or eight who might look younger. When they become six, they just start to change.
LV: The schoolchildren you had for this movie was it a real class?
AF: No, we did ensemble the kids separately. We saw over 700 kids for those eleven roles and the casting took three months. We had those big workshops with them to prepare them to work on the movie and also testing their patience. Over those workshops, we just would lose kids because they didn’t the focus.
During the filming, we could only get the kids for four days and five hours each day. There also had to be a break in between those hours. Between nine and ten in the morning was when their focus was the best. They’ve woken up and had something to eat but they hadn’t been distracted yet by a lot. After that, we would gradually lose their attention. At the start of every day, we needed to be ready for that hour’s timeslot and just get everything that we wanted for them in that hour.
LV: Your son is in this movie as a zombie. Are you in it as well just like in your previous film Down Under?
AF: Oh no way! The only reason why I was an extra in my previous film is that it was a scene involving someone that never acted before. He has down syndrome and is also in Little Monsters. During one of the key scenes in Down Under, someone has to abuse this down syndrome character. The only reason why I put myself in that scene was that it would make him feel better as it was only his second day on set. As supposed to some stranger who you just met and who has to abuse you right after that. It was more out of necessity and I would never do it again.
LV: Let’s say that if your son comes to you in ten years or so and mentioned that he wants to be a filmmaker. What would you say to him?
AF: I had very supportive parents and were very encouraging me to become a filmmaker. I would be happy for my son to do whatever his passion takes him to. If you want to work in the film or entertainment industry, you have to be prepared for work long hours and also being broke. I’m trying to get my son into coding because he’s very interested in that. I always tell him that that’s going to be the future. I’m trying to push him into that area but at the same time, you also have to let them do whatever they want to do.
LV: So where did your passion for the film come from?
AF: Especially from the early Peter Jackson films and his Bad Taste. Basically everything before Lord of the Rings. I was like “That’s what I want to do”. It became an interest and now I don’t want to do anything else. As hard as the film industry is, it’s so much fun to get people together to work on something and to have a common goal. It’s working on projects that you’re passionate about instead of just doing it for the money.
LV: So how does it feel for you to see people their reaction after they watched your film?
AF: It just feels amazing! I was very proud of the last film I made because it was the exact kind of film I wanted to make. Even when you make something that you do believe in and you’re proud of, it’s still luck of the draw. To be able to travel around the world and share your film with people is just an amazing experience.
The fact that people are responding in their way to the universal things that my son taught me is just been wonderful. The point of making this movie was to show the best and the worst of human behaviour. I couldn’t show one without the other. Ultimately it’s a really sweet movie. I’m so very lucky to be in this position and I never take it for granted.
LV: Do you already have other films coming up?
AF: Yeah, I’m doing something that we will hopefully start shooting next year in Australia. It’s a sci-fi film but with characters that shouldn’t be in a sci-fi film. We use that genre to make a statement about how the world is right now. We have a bigger budget for that than we had for Little Monsters.
Following the success of “I, Daniel Blake”, director, Ken Loach and writer, Paul Laverty team up once again for their latest film. We joined them and the rest of the cast and crew at the UK Premiere of Sorry We Missed You.
The film, starring Kris Hitchen, Debbie Honeywood, Rhys Stone and Katie Proctor, tells the story of Ricky and his family who have been fighting an uphill struggle against debt since the 2008 financial crash. An opportunity to wrestle back some independence appears with a shiny new van and the chance to run a franchise as a self-employed delivery driver.
Sorry We Missed You will be released in UK cinemas 1st November.
Are you familiar with the Ann Freedman case, the $80 million forgery scandal that shook the art world? No? Well, then you should check out Driven to Abstraction the first chance you get. We sat down with director Daria Price and talked about this incredibly fascinating case, her new documentary, the art world and Price’s her love for the film industry.
Liselotte Vanophem: Hi Daria, welcome at the Raindance Film Festival. How do you feel about your film being screened here at the lovely festival?
Daria Price (Director): It’s very hard to know at festivals whether people will come to see it or not. I know a certain amount of people who are coming. I tried to get the word out to everyone. It’s very hard to do that when living in New York. I was trying to get the word out to art galleries and to places of which I thought they would be interested in seeing this film. I hope some strangers will come as well. One of the composers of the film just flew in from Padua and I have a few other friends coming as well. One of the participants in the film is going to be there as well.
LV: How did you become aware of the Ann Freedman case?
DP: Well, I’ve read an article in the New York Times from Patricia, who becomes one of the main characters in the film. I’ve always followed art forgery cases. I wrote a screenplay many years ago. One of the characters was a restoration expert and the two others were painters of which one of them was a bit of a forger. I had done an enormous amount of research because of that and it was like I already knew a whole lot about forgery. My eyes always fell on articles regarding art forgery and so I started to read multiple of those.
I always clipped articles. Something that my whole family does. I thought the story of Ann Freedman became a crazier and crazier story but it was a very difficult story to figure out how you would get into it. There’s always that “is she guilty or not guilty?” question. More than that, it was such an embarrassment for people in the art world, including completely innocent people. That’s what’s interesting about this case. Whether they were consciously tricked or whether it was just a sort of conspiracy. I became more and more interested in it and the story didn’t make a whole lot of sense in some ways. Then you find out that it wasn’t only Knoedler but also more of esteemed art galleries.
LV: As you said, some people didn’t want to participate in this film. Who was the first person you contacted that said yes to this?
DP: I’ve already been collecting for a couple of years articles about this case and then I started to do my own research so I could find out everything about it. Any filmmaker I knew said, “Do not make this film. It’s a great and fascinating story but you just can’t make it because everyone is going to run away if this would be true“. I went to speak with Patricia from the New York Times, who dug into the story and knew a lot about it, and when she agreed to participate that’s when I went “Ok, I should make this”. At least, it meant that I had a way in.
LV: In this film, we also see Ann Freedman’s attorney. How was he?
DP: It took a long time to get him. It wasn’t like he said not but he just wasn’t available. He’s a very busy and successful lawyer. When I interviewed with him, he became the spokesman of that side of the story. I think he did a very good job. Lawyers tell the story that they want the world to believe. Many things didn’t end up in the film. We could have easily made another film about how an attorney can spin a story. He did have an answer for everything.
LV: People told you “maybe you shouldn’t make this film“?…
DP: Well not because they think it wasn’t a good idea but they just thought that it was impossible to make. Raising money for a documentary and getting access to the right people is a very hard thing to do. I wasn’t going to get access to some people because they were under indictment. Ann Freedman was another story because she was under a lot of legal threats and she ultimately didn’t want to go on camera.
LV: Were there any moments you thought “Ok, maybe thee’s people are right. Maybe I can’t make this movie”?
DP: I think as a filmmaker you always have those moments. You’re going “what on earth am I doing?”. The work kept going on forever and I was going broke. I tend to finish things I started. It’s maybe insane. I think that there were people that were kind of glad that I was making this film. Those people weren’t guilty of anything but they’ve been to Ann while her (fake) painting was sitting there. It wasn’t their job to say “hey, is that a real one?”. That’s not what happens in an art gallery. You’re sitting in Knoedler and so you’re not questioning whether something is real or not. Some people like it that I was making this film but they couldn’t decide whether they wanted to participate. It wasn’t going to them any good. It wasn’t also that they were so heroic that they were going to do it for history. I think in the end I got interesting people to talk about interesting situations.
LV: Before making this documentary, you were already collecting articles about this case. While filming this documentary, what was the biggest surprise for you regarding the case? What was something you didn’t know beforehand?
DP: As I started to interview people who also knew other things, I was learning more and more about it. Why wasn’t it so unusual that these art experts would not raise a red flag. Some of them did so it would be wrong that say that they never did it. People don’t buy houses for 15 million dollars without having a lawyer coming around and checking it out. These collectors were buying paintings for millions of dollars. A painting that has no papers attached to them. Anonymity is what every buyer wants and then sadly they pay the price for it. They would have that people don’t know that they just bought a fake painting for a lot of money. What happens then is that no one’s talking about that topic.
I think the biggest surprise was this whole thing with Ramiro Gonzales. She wasn’t even someone I was trying to get because she was under a lot of indictment. She wasn’t going to go on camera. She was sort of the least ambiguous character because she had admitted guilt. Then it turned out that she has been beaten up by her boyfriend. Things like that do change your attitude towards her. At first, people were angry at her because they thought that she had ruined the art world but eventually she was just another woman abused by her husband.
LV: This documentary now premiered at Raindance. Are you going to take it to other film festivals after this one?
DP: Yes, it goes to the Haifa International Film Festival in Israel and then we’re taking it to upstate New York to the Film Columbia festival. In November, it will be screened at the Fort Lauderdale Int Film Festival.
LV: Do you have any paintings from famous artists yourself?
DP: No, but I do have a lot of friends who are painters. A lot of the paintings that are in the background of the interviews in this documentary were made by my friends. There’s a certain look that a lot of documentaries have now and it’s a very beautiful look and very sophisticated but sometimes I have the feeling that where the interviews are being taken place has nothing to do with the documentary they’re making.
I wanted to give the people the feeling that they were always in the world of art. Not necessary in the world of the masters in the art industry because those paintings might have been fakes anyway. I wanted to put authentic work painted by contemporary working artists as the background of those interviews. You will get the feeling that you’re always surrounded by paintings and art. For me, it was really about creating the environment.
LV: Do you already have other projects coming up?
DP: I have other ideas. Making this documentary and promoting it is so time-consuming. After spending a lot of time making a film, you’re becoming your sales-person. You’re doing the festivals and you’re trying to find a distributor. I have no time to start making another project.
(This interview was written as part of Big Picture Film Club’s coverage of the Raindance Film Festival 2019)