What could draw the attention of a horror fan, who likes his scary movie a little bit (or a lot) funnier? Well, let’s try with: „An all-female rock band battle evil little creatures at 30,000 feet”. Catchy, right? This is the shortest possible description of a new short film (not done yet) entitled 'Dead Air’, that takes place onboard a Boeing 737. The plan is that this picture will be „a shop window for our Feature film of Dead Air„. People responsible for this production are Geoff Harmer (director) and Peter Hearn (writer), both from the UK.
First, something more about them:
Since shooting his first animation on Super8 Cine Film when he was 7 years old, Geoff Harmer has been hooked on making films. Whilst focusing on his love for directing, he has produced and directed many short films and a feature film. His last film 'Selfie’ has been a festival hit around the world with over 45 Official Nominations and 8 awards under its belt.
Peter Hearn is the writer/producer of 'Dead Air’, he also wrote 'Smile’ with Director Geoff Harmer and wrote 'King of the Spacemen’ for upcoming Director Sophie Roberts. As a Filmmaker, Hearn wrote and directed the award-winning horror 'Scrawl’ starring Star Wars The Force Awakens Daisy Ridley which has played festivals worldwide.
I talked with Geoff about 'Dead Air’ and his plans regarding this production, about his views on short films and special effects in today’s cinema – so sit comfortably with a cup of coffee and enjoy reading.
And if you find the idea of 'Dead Air’ interesting and worth watching on the screen, consider backing the project on Kickstarter. What am I saying, „consider”. Come on, do it, now! I mean, after the interview.
My first thought after reading the description of the film was the idea of Critters and Snakes on a Plane combined together. Am I on the right track? Or maybe you’ve had completely different inspirations?
Dead Air started off as a Zombie on a plane film. My original idea was to mess around with people’s thought processes on planes and then turn it into a Zombie nightmare. Peter stamped all over it and came up with something a lot more fun! We’re both in our early 40s and grew up watching the same horror movies like Vamp & From Beyond and reading the same magazines like Fangoria and Gorezone. We love the horror movies of the ’80s and early ’90s, give me an early Peter Jackson, Stuart Gordon or John Carpenter movie any day!
Our original pitch for Peter’s idea for the film was Spinal Tap versus Peter Jackson’s Braindead with a touch of Gremlins. After many drafts of the script, we now reckon it’s more like Josie and the Pussycats versus Peter Jackson’s Braindead with a dash of Critters.
Dead Air is supposed to be a short that would promote a future feature film of the same title… Could you tell us something more about your plans with this story? Also: are shorts equally important to you as long films, or is it just the way to promote yourself as a filmmaker?
Dead Air the short, is basically a truncated version of the middle act of the feature film. It works perfectly as a short film and stands on its own two feet, but the feature film is a lot grander in scale with a bigger cast. We don’t have one band in the feature… we have two. 😉
As for short films, I’m a huge advocate of them! So much so that I’m the Submissions Director of the Exit 6 Film Festival in the UK. I also travel the UK judging for other festivals. I believe they are very important to the industry and to the filmmaker. Pretty much every filmmaker today has made at least one short film. They can be used as calling cards, which is our intention with Dead Air, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes you have a story you want to tell, and it only amounts to a short amount of time to tell it. Not every story has to be told in 90 minutes or more. There are some AMAZING short films out there, I know, I’ve seen thousands of them!
In Dead Air, you’re planning to use practical effects instead of CGI. The latter kills the magic of the cinema? What’s your opinion on that?
Bad CGI most certainly kills the magic of the cinema, but I’m sure the same can be said of bad prosthetics. I much prefer to see practical FX, films like John Carpenter’s The Thing and Cameron’s Aliens are superb examples of great practical work. But films these days do need a little helping hand with CGI. Everyone was saying how great Mad Max Fury Road was because it had no CGI, it actually had lots of CGI, but it was used in the way it should be! Adding additional scenery and atmospherics, wire removal, etc. I was gutted when I saw that the amazing work Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jnr had done on The Thing sequel, had all been replaced by inferior CGI FX. That sort of thing is really sad. With Dead Air, we’re using a local company called TankFall FX to do all our Practical FX with a team of students at Wimbledon College of Arts working on our little creatures. We may need some CG touch-ups, but I’m hoping to avoid it all in favour of keeping our gorefest real.
Looking at the storyline’s outline, I have a sneaking suspicion (well, more like certainty) that in this particular comedy horror, the comedy part will be in the foreground – do you feel more comfortable in making such productions, or maybe you prefer to shoot „serious” horrors, like Selfie?
I love making serious horror flicks, watching Selfie with an audience is such a delight to me! I love watching everyone jump and scream. But sitting with an audience and hearing them laugh at the right moments in a comedy you have made is probably more satisfying. Comedy is a very hard thing to get right, Horror, on the other hand, is a little simpler. You have these set of rules that work to get everyone creeped out, or getting them jumping out of their seat, so as long as you apply them right, you’ll get the desired effect. Comedy is much more subjective, what one person finds funny may not be what the next person will. Combining Horror with Comedy is harder to get right, but I’m confident we are going to nail it. I’ve actually made more comedies than horrors, so I certainly feel quite comfortable shooting Dead Air.
Tell me something about your casting procedure. How does it look in your case?
Some of the roles in Dead Air we kinda knew who we wanted and just approached them direct. Other roles we were unsure as to who would be best to make those characters soar. We did a casting call and got over 100 people apply, which was great. We whittled it down to about 6 or 7 potentials, we then auditioned them, some in person, some via self-tapes, some via Skype. It was a tough process, as there were a couple of people that were absolutely great, almost perfect for the roles, but you can’t have everyone so we had to think about the dynamics of the band. How do they all fit together as well as on an individual basis. It would have been great to have had group auditions, but this would have been a logistical nightmare considering our time frame.
I have to admit that among the actors from Dead Air cast, I know only Kate Marie Davies, just like, well, almost everyone who’s interested in scary movies and has got a Twitter account. Was it hard to tempt her to be a part of the crew?
I’m not a Twitter fiend, to be honest, so I wasn’t aware of her until Peter sent me the trailer to 'Escape From Cannibal Farm’. I really liked it, so I got in contact with Kate and asked her if she would read for us, which she did. She actually read for the role of the Singer, but when it came to putting the right people into the right roles, we just felt she would do the Bassist character more justice. We’re really pleased she accepted the role.
There’s also one actor whose name is kept secret. Why?
Ah… we have a Hollywood Genre Legend on board! I approached them last year, they read our script, loved it and said that they were in! Fucking exciting! But, we’ve been asked to keep their participation quiet until the film is financed. I totally get it and completely understand their position. You are gonna love it when we are able to tell everyone who it is. I’m finding it hard to conceal my excitement!!
One of the rewards, that costs 500 quids, is the possibility of taking part in your film as an actor. An extra or is there any chance for something more serious?
We have 2 characters up for grabs. They are non-speaking roles but get full camera attention. They should get a laugh too! If those perks don’t go… then you may see me or Pete in there! So if you don’t want that to happen… someone please go get those perks!!
The goal is to gather 20 000 pounds. Why not more, why not less?
£20000 is the minimum we need to make the film, it’s a simple as that. We would love more for sure, as there are some elements that would be that much better with more money thrown at them. But I wanted to make sure that we only asked initially for the lowest amount needed that would see this film get made, properly. We’re not cutting any corners here, we’re doing our best to make sure that every penny donated will show up on the screen.
There is also information that this project will be funded only if it reaches its goal. Let’s assume for a while that it fails. Then what?
We won’t let it fail. But IF it does, then we’ll find another way of getting it made. We are not going to give up on it, it’s too much of a cool project to let it go.