Last week we posted Part 1 of our interview with Sci-Fi London’s founder Louis Savy. In Part 2 the festival director talks about the primacy of story, Godzilla director Gareth Edwards, and using an old washing machine as a prop.
What are the biggest obstacles directors are faced with when working in Sci-Fi?
Going to festivals, which were not necessarily based on the science fiction genre, and meeting film makers, my question to them was usually “Have you made any science fiction?” and I started hearing “Well, I don’t have that kind of budget” and I’d just go “What budget? What do you mean?”
If you wanna make a Michael Bay film of course you need hundreds of millions of dollars. But if you look at Primer, Shane Carruth’s first film, which was apparently made for $7000… the time machine in that is an old washing machine - and actually they use the washing machine in the bit where they’re turning the thing on and it rattles uncontrollably and it’s shaking all over the place.
As well as the festival itself you also have a more practical competition running alongside it.
We introduced a film-making challenge to the festival - our 48-hour film challenge. We had 217 science fiction films made in one weekend back in April. And next week we’ve got a meeting at the BFI where we’re taking the top 20 of the teams and they’re pitching to us, we will then take 5 of them and over the next 4-5 months we will start developing scripts with them and then at the end of that we will pick one and make it.
And we’ve been living off the back of the challenge because in the first year there was a young effects artist called Gareth Edwards who had never made a film. And he decided to make a film for our challenge and he won.
That got Vertigo interested in him and they green-lit Monsters and off the back of Monsters he got $115 million to spend on his third film, second feature. I mean, it’s unbelievable… $115 million. And he’s just been offered a Star Wars movie and he’s also now working with Timur Bekmambetov, the big Russian producer/director who did Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Wanted, Apollo 18, Nightwatch…
So his career has just gone from nothing to working with Juliette Binoche and Brian Cranston and Kurosawa’s DoP. So, obviously we want to keep fostering that talent and there’s tons of talented people around. Give them a platform, get them to make science fiction films, I want the premieres, I want them to come back and be friends of the festival and all that.
What advice do you give younger filmmakers starting out?
We do talk to them a lot about the story. With any film it comes down to that. If you’ve got a good story and you can tell it with good actors and make it with decent sound, you don’t even have to shoot it well.
And as I say to all of the teams that take part in the 48-hour challenge, it doesn’t matter if you’ve won, on Monday when somebody asks “What did you do at the weekend?”, you go “I made a film. We got up and we did it and it was a science fiction film and we were really proud of what we did”.
You’re a busy man! What have your personal highlights been this year so far?
I think still the 48-hour challenge is the thing that just always knocks me out. Like I said, I don’t make the films so I kind of feel a little odd sometimes about waving the flag about how great it is but we facilitate it, we make it all happen and I’m very proud of that.
In the last six years we’ve had over a thousand films made. A thousand, brand new, original, science fiction films. Some of them are terrible but there are some that are absolutely outstanding and this year we hope that we will also be able to green light a feature off the back of it, which will be a Sci-Fi London co-production.
And is there anyone that you think we should watch for the future?
I think it’s all down to content. It’s down to the film that they make so there are some film makers who will make a great first film and a not so good second film and the other way around.
In terms of people to watch, I would say anyone in our top ten 48-hour challenge. I meanthose teams, they’re mostly all on the periphery. They’re runners, effects artists, DoPs… they’re all people at different levels of skill and experience within the film industry and when you see some of the work that they’ve produced in two days with no money they’re just incredibly talented. So those are the guys to really look out for.
Lastly, what advice would you give to somebody who wants to set up their own film festival?
Blimey! Don’t think you’ll get rich. Don’t do it for the money. Don’t do it because you think you’re gonna get a job out of it. Do it because you’ve got a love of the films that you wanna show and then try and find a way to make it happen.
It starts with the passion. It’s not a job.