At Big Picture Film Club’s First Look we take a sneak peak at a film’s premier screening, or trailer, and give you a glimpse of what to expect and what to look out for! This week’s First Look is Worm by Keir Burrows.
Anti Matter is a sci-fi noir take on the Alice in Wonderland tale. The film centres around, Ana, an Oxford Physics PhD student, who makes a groundbreaking scientific breakthrough – creating a ‘wormhole’. Things take a dramatic turn for the worst after her first experiment. Writer and director, Keir Burrows, excels in creating a tense environment where anything is possible, and everything is subject to question. As we follow Ana in her journey of understanding, the film aims to explore the questions – what makes us who we are?
Following the screening at Raindance, we had a brief chat with Keir, to find out more abut this intriguing film…
Big Picture Film Club: What was the inspiration behind Anti Matter?
Keir Burrows: Anti Matter started off as a short film script – what is now much of the opening act – wherein I wanted to see if I could bring an audience on a real-time journey of scientific discovery, trying to evoke the same responses in them that the scientists might be feeling as they slowly realised they were inventing a wormhole generator. After writing the short I realised I had the foundation for something bigger: I’d created a world and a means where I might explore some really interesting, I guess philosophical questions, about what makes us human, is there more to us than matter, this sort of thing. Ahh, I can’t say too much as it gives away the plot!
BPFC: In the spirit of science-fiction, the film creates a wonderful story based on pushing the limits of science as we know it. However, stylistically the film doesn’t feel like a fantasy / sci-fi film – was this a conscious decision?
KB: I guess it was a conscious decision in so far as we were working within the limits of our budget. The story, the ideas in Anti Matter, are quite big – this isn’t some single-location, chamber piece of science fiction. It has some scale. With a much bigger budget we might have set it in space, or the future, I don’t know, given it more traditional sci-fi flair. But we couldn’t, so instead we tried to go the other way, use the ancient architecture of Oxford, the simple garrett laboratory, conversations in dark pubs and so on, to tell the story.
Once the science is set up, we then make the film about people, and relationships, and the failing human mind. If you think of a movie like Inception – which is pure science fiction – Inception, that story could have been made on a micro-budget, with no-name actors, without the train in the middle of the city and everything scaled down, and it still would have been absolutely amazing. It was great not because of its budget or its wonderful cast, but because of the stunning concept and the smart storytelling. I’m hoping (ha!) that people enjoy Anti Matter in the same manner.
BPFC: The film deals heavily with quantum mechanics and particle physics – did you have to consult anyone for this?
KB: Did a crap-ton of research. Genuinely, I have a dozen fat books on these subjects – quantum mechanics and the like – weighing down my shelf. My wife is like, your movie is done can they go now? Hell no they make me look smart! So no, it was mostly self-navigated. I did both Chemistry and Physics at A-Level, so I had some basic grounding, it wasn’t a completely foreign language. Then with the writing it was a process of knowing where I needed to end up, using the internet to understand the questions I needed to ask, then delving into the journals to make sure I was being coherent. The sole aim being that every step of the journey my scientists take, everything they do, is logical and scientifically comprehensible, even if by necessity it’s all pure fiction.
BPFC: How has the feedback of the film been?
KB: Amazing. Ah, we’re glowing. Raindance was great, audiences really seemed to enjoy it – it’s nerve-wracking as all hell watching with a roomful of strangers, but it was very well received. Unexpectedly we’ve had a whole lot of really good reviews. I wasn’t expecting reviews, not from a film festival, and not as positive as this. Kudos to the whole team!
BPFC: What are your plans for the film moving forward?
KB: So we’ve had distribution offers, which we’re firming up, the hope is 2nd quarter next year, but I’ll let you know more when things are more concrete. And we’ll keep submitting to festivals of course – they’re always so much fun, getting to see Worm on a big screen. It’s what I started making movies for – that moment the lights go down, the score kicks in, the audience engages. It makes it all worthwhile.
BPFC: Who are your filmmaking inspirations?
KB: So Anti Matter is inspired in a big way by Chris Nolan’s work, definitely. The sort of stories I aspire to tell are big, complex tales, entertaining but with a human core, which is what he does. Visually Nolan as well, and David Fincher, whose mastery of every aspect of the entire form just blows me away. So aye, stylistically those two inspire me the most. John Carpenter for the way he stokes and manages suspense, Tarantino for his flair and wicked sense of humour, Danny Boyle for the glorious eclecticism of his career, Terence Malick for the poetry, Cuarón for the adventure, Innaritu for the soul, Kurosawa, Leone… Ah, there’s too many!