Cult Faction’s Brett Summers caught up with director/producer Geoff Harmer and writer/producer Peter Hearn as their upcoming movie Dead Air is about to be unleashed to the world.
Q: What led you into film making?
Peter Hearn (PH) – Bill Paxton. I wanted to ‘die’ like he did in all his films, so trained as an actor, but soon found I enjoyed coming up with the ideas rather than performing them. I’d always been a writer since a young age, but found I had no one around me that could direct, so I stepped into those shoes, and for about 20 years wrote and directed a bunch of features and various shorts myself.
Geoff Harmer (GH) – My Dad showed me an old Super 8mm Cine film he had made with his friends back in the 60’s. It was a crazy experimental film called ‘Fairies’ with people running behind trees and a different person appearing the other side, amongst other nutty stuff! I was about 6 at the time and seeing this film felt magical to me. It wasn’t long before my folks bought a new reel of 50ft film and me and my dad started making our first animation together using Star Wars figures and Star Bird spaceships. It was titled ‘Monsters on Earth’. Never looked back.
Q: What influenced/impacted upon you growing up?
GH – Various things are various times. Star Wars was a huge thing for me, as I was there at the beginning back in ’77! But then by the mid-80’s, I was just film hungry! I had seen everything from The Thing, to Alien, to Zombie Flesh Eaters! But I snuck in to see Aliens on the big screen and that was a huge turning point for me.
PH – A bunch of things, but as a writer and director mainly Warner Bros cartoons & Kung Fu movies, Ealing Comedies, plus the looseness of Altman & the quirks of the Coens have led me to this point.
GH – I had done some work for some corporate video companies in the early 90’s, but nothing too serious back then. I’ve shot plenty of shorts over the years, and in 2012 I shot my first feature film ‘Addict’.
PH – On the periphery. I made a feature 18 years ago that garnered interest in the States, but nothing in the U.K. I made another feature about 6 years ago that had one of the biggest stars in the world before she became famous. That was Daisy Ridley, the film, still waiting for its release date in the states was Scrawl. Scrawl was the last film I directed.
Q: How was Dead Air conceived?
GH – I was shooting a Proof of Concept trailer for a feature film I have in the wings called ‘Angel of Saigon’. We were at local airfield that a friend of mine works at, and he offered me the chance to shoot on an old Russian Passenger Bi-Plane, the only stipulation was that it had to be a Zombie movie! I had recently met up with Pete, so I discussed my ideas and he took it from there.
PH – Meeting Geoff and talking ideas set on a plane. I needed to find a reason to have a bunch of people together on a small plane so came up with the band element. At this time it was a zombie film, so I needed them to get infected by something, and thought the best airborne virus would be a bunch of Critter-esque Gremlin creatures. Thus it was born.
PH – Money. Puppets. My vision getting huge.
GH – Money! Pete’s story kept getting bigger every time he wrote a new draft. What started off as a small plane with a small bunch of people, just grew into a larger group of people, with more gore, and lots of creatures!
Q: What were the next steps in your process?
PH – Geoff and I talked a lot about who the band were. There was always a female singer and a female drummer, but the other members started out as male.
GH – We had many Coffee Shop chats going over each iteration of the script, throwing ideas out, bringing in new ones, until we got to a point where we were both happy.
Q: How easy was it to transfer your vision into a script?
PH – Once I had the idea of the band and the critters, it was very simple. The initial draft took a weekend.
GH – Pete’s vision turned out to be rather different to what I had in my head at the very start. But I absolutely loved what he had put together.
Q: How important was crowd funding to your campaign?
PH – We wouldn’t have been able to do it without. We wanted to be able to pay cast and crew for their involvement as much as we could, so we needed a budget, and despite us both putting a lot of our own money in, this was never going to be enough.
GH – There was no way we were going to be able to make this film without extra funds. Both myself and Pete put a lot of our own money in to the film and we still didn’t even scratch the surface!
Q: How has crowd funding impacted the modern film maker?
GH – I think it has made previously impossible films made possible. Without crowd funding, Dead Air would not exist. I’m sure the same can be said for many other projects out there.
PH – It’s certainly made it easier to raise funds by having a built in fan base from day one, but as with any fund raising, it’s hard work, and ultimately you make yourself accountable for finishing the project.
PH – Yes and no. We had a very well known genre legend lined up, if we raised enough funding, but we couldn’t use their name for crowdfunding purposes, so ultimately we didn’t raise enough and didn’t get to use them. We did think about names with big followings for getting funding, but in the end went for the right people for the roles, rather than their social network draw.
GH – Having money from the crowd funding gave us the chance to approach people we may not have approached before.
Q: How was the casting process for Dead Air? Each member of the Monster Kitten has their own unique personality. Was this already in place or did casting impact on that?
PH – A lot of that came from the script first and the casting just added an extra layer. Stacy Hart, the drummer, had the role written specifically for her, which I based mainly off of her role in Selfie, as well as what Geoff had told me about her, because i didn’t actually meet her until the first day the band met. Charlie Bond added an extra element to the singer character that no one else was giving in the audition that made us think of that character a different way.
GH – For some of the parts, we already had some people in mind for the roles so approached them directly. We held auditions in London for some of the roles, which was an extremely rewarding experience. We met tons of great people during that process and we wanted to hire them all.
Q: What challenges did you face?
GH – Where do I start!! Money and Time are the first two major hurdles! Crowd Funding is a very time sapping and draining process! You need lots of help, and it can be a real rollercoaster of a ride! As for Production, the first issue was finding a way to line up everyone’s schedules so that we could shoot with the cast and crew that we wanted. This was a huge headache and took a long time to get right.
PH – Not enough money, time, puppets heads falling off, the usual.
Q: What preparations do you make before filming?
PH – Obviously a big part of the film was the plane and this was original a smaller biplane. As soon as the script got bigger, so did the plane and we were fortunate that Geoff knew the guys that ran Black Hangar Studios who had a Boeing sat outside their offices, along with another location that had a plane parked outside a cafe.
GH – As mentioned before, the scheduling was the biggest headache to pre-production. Making sure everything was in place, like Insurance, Catering, Equipment, Accommodation, Transport, etc. Juggling all that planning with just the two of us was a massive undertaking.
Q: How did filming go? Any challenges?
GH – Filming was lots of fun, but was quite intense. Imagine the cast and crew squeezing in to an old plane, then filling it with lights, cables, monitors, etc. It got very cramped! As we only had 6 days to shoot the film, we worked at break neck speed. We ended up running behind schedule on one day, so myself and Pete (with some assistance from Dan Palmer) sat and rejigged some elements of the script and schedule so we could get back on track without losing anything.
PH – Time. Money. Puppets heads falling off. Weddings. The usual.
GH – It was Pete’s suggestion to go with Puppets for our critters, which was a great call! But as a HUGE fan of Horror and Sci-Fi movies from the 70s and 80s, I wanted to align our film to the great practical fx movies I grew up with. That’s not to say we don’t like CGI, as we really do! Some parts of Dead Air are CG, but this is due to budget issues more than anything else. CGI is fab tool, when used for the right reasons. Over and unnecessary use of it is where it gets its bad name from.
PH – I wanted to work with muppeteers, plus I had just done a bunch of puppetry in the previous feature film and wanted more of that.
Q: Are practical effects a dying art?
PH – There are less people doing them, but in recent years more films have opted for them. All of those people now in power grew up in the same era as us, so practical effects are again in vogue. Give it 10 years and they’ll be out again.
GH – I agree with Pete, practical effects are coming back.
GH – There were plenty of high points, with the occasional low whilst going over the rushes. I get the same with most projects to be honest. I’m my own worst enemy!
PH – I would have loved it to be bloodier, but then I want Disney movies to be bloodier.
Q: You are currently in Post Production on Dead Air. How is that going?
PH – Slow. The post has taken a while as the editors all got busy at the same time and we had to go through a number until we reached someone who could edit it all together. Us.
GH – Very Slow! But things are ramping up at the moment, there is a huge light at the end of the tunnel which fills me with great joy! Frustratingly we are having to do another SMALL crowd funder to get some money to push us through the final stages. It’s at indiegogo from the 19th April until the 23rd May.
Q: What can we expect in the finished film?
GH – As long as this last crowd funder goes well, we should be done and dusted in the next 2 months!
Q: What have you learnt working on Dead Air?
GH – So much! I’ve learned how to work with Practical FX, Puppets and Puppeteers, huge Crew, and big (at least for me!) budgets! It was a fabulous experience that has given me a much better understanding of my craft. Huge respect to everyone that was involved with the production!
Q: What are your plans for its release?
GH – I want to get it out to our backers first, they deserve to see the film before anyone else. Then we’ll hit the festival circuit as hard as we can. From then on… who knows.
PH – We hope Festivals will love it as much as we do.
GH – Never give up. Start off small, so you get a feel for it, then go nuts! Try not let money hold you back, find alternative ways to do things. Finally, NETWORK! Find like-minded people! Go to short film festivals, watch what other people do and approach them!
PH – Don’t just talk, try doing it and see if you like. It’s not easy, sometimes you are out in all elements, but if you have a passion for it, it won’t matter if you are getting drenched or frozen. Don’t give up either. Giving up is easy, but if you do, you’ll never finish. You should always finish something you’ve started, even if it’s hard. You never know where that hard work will take you.
Q: Where can our readers find out more about Dead Air?
Our indiegogo is live at https://igg.me/at/DEADAIRF3
Our twitter, which is @deadairmovie, our Facebook which is @deadairmovie and our website www.deadairmovie.com