Live for Films reviewer, Richard Bodsworth, was kind enough to do this cracking interview with the creater of the very cool looking Mission X.
Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about Mission X?
The basic concept of Mission X is a story about a young film student (Grant), who gets an interview with a mercenary from Iraq (Ryan). He has a list of questions to ask the mercenary about war, missions etc. He chats while they drive around the city in a Hummer. Grant then realises that Ryan is recruiting ex soldiers and mercenaries for a revenge attack in the city the next day. One minute he is playing military games on Xbox Live, then the next he is going to go on a real mission himself. The gang base themselves in an old building before the attack, as they wait for the green light to go. Grant gets to chat to all the gang before they all go on this suicide mission.
So, is this your first feature film?
No, I shot a comedy film in Scotland, LA, Las Vegas several years ago. I don’t like the film, as it had too many cooks (producers) on board. The film was financed by a few London companies, and the financier of “Lock Stock” “Snatch”. Sensibility wise, I have moved on from silly caper comedies. It was called Pasty Faces. I don’t like it, but it was my film school, as I shot it in multiple locations with about 70 set ups a day on film. So although its not me anymore, technically it was not in vain. I learned a lot.
Considering the trouble you had with Pasty Faces would you ever do a multi financed project again?
Oh yes! If you want to work in Hollywood, that’s what it is all about. But I am a million times stronger than my first film, nobody intimidates me. So I can deal with the suits now. Also, when you do everything on a film like this, the industry respects you more, gives you more freedom. I want to have my indie company for small interesting character films in genres, but I also want to work with stars, so I will have to deal with boardrooms of people. It’s just not good to do that when you are first starting out.
I also noticed you acted in Pasty Faces. Is that something you want to continue or is directing your main passion?
Maybe small support parts in the future, but on a whole, the filmmaking is more interesting to me. At this level, I could rely on myself over a years shoot for “Mission X”, and I did start out in acting. I dont appear in the next horror film at all, and I would not be in a Mission X remake. Maybe a small role but would need all my focus to make the film. And of course, names and stars would be the main characters.
How did you get Mission X moving?
I had just lost £500,000 three weeks before a shoot in LA for a horror film called Death Movie. This had taken me two years to get the money for. It was not the first time money had fell. I had always regretted that I never shot my first flick like Robert Rodriguez, Chris Nolan, Kevin Smith, so I done a little research, and decided I would do “Mission X” with no money. If you take one scene in a film, that does not cost much to shoot. I think David Lynch started Inland Empire that way. I went to a college, searched for some talented students, and that is where I found Grant. He was dressed in military gear, had worked cameras for years, so I gave him a crash course in acting. He had a natural flair for it, but if you pick someone close to the character, its possible to direct them into it. I done the same with the cast of the cast, mixed with professionals I found online. I then blagged a military hummer, and we shot some dialogue in it a few weeks later. I took pics for the website, and people started to see the vision for it. They could see I was making this week by week without any budget, so got caught up on it. At first, I could not get a camera, then as I moved, I was offered dozens of cameras. The secret is to “move” People will follow you if your script is good, you have drive, and you know exactly where you are going with it.
With such a tight budget did you find you had to be more precise in your filming, especially action sequences?
When you have no money, its best to obviously set a story in the one place, like Reservoir Dogs was shot a lot in that building, or like Shallow Grave, Clerks. So I shot two days in a building where the guys hang out before the attack. But I also wanted cinematic action, and this had to be well planned out, especially when I needed the police to pass it. You can’t do action that will compete with Hollywood with no money. If you try to stick a DV on a dolly, blow up a car, stuff like that, it looks like a cheap film. I wanted to do the action a way that even if I had a £1m budget, I would shoot it in the same style. I had been watching Iraq videos, bodycams etc. I also knew we all get fascinated by reality police videos, so I thought that it would be pretty cool to shoot this kind of action in the heart of a city during an attack. I then saw Cloverfield during the shoot, and felt I was taking the right sort of approach for this style of film. Although that was ALL action driven. Its not an action movie, its a character story about these men, in the same way Reservoir Dogs only had a little action, but if you see guys with guns on a poster, you got to deliver what is on the tin too. I could not have done these scenes without my professional armour. He worked on “Outpost” and “Doomsday”. He was great. He loved my concept, passion for it, and how I wanted to do it, so he volunteered to help me. It was pretty nuts shooting AK-47’s in the centre of Glasgow on a Saturday morning. We caused a bit of a stir, but it was all very tightly controlled. We then shot below a shopping centre in Paisley. The Blair Witch style nature of the film means we could shoot very fast, as I had very tight windows to pull off the action.
And you plan to self distribute the film?
I had offers for UK self distribution. I had such a bad experience with distributors on my first film, that I have never wanted indie distribution. Hollywood, yes! If you have a budget film you need them, but not at this level. Indie distributors pay you nothing, and you can’t control your film, or earn from it, so it’s a no brainer. Filmmakers get conned that “You get your talent out there” if you go with a distributor. Well, if you have talent, and drive, you can show the industry direct, so there is no point giving it to a distributor for free, but that’s what happens. If you own a small film, you use the revenue from that to develop the bigger projects.
Do you think this is a new way for films to be screened?
The whole point of any theatrical sort of screening, whether cinemas, or DIY, is to get media interest, create word of mouth for the DVD and downloads. Even studios don’t earn from theatrical, so its all a marketing exercise. So any way you can get publicity is the best. You also get direct to your audience. Saying this, if you build a global fanbase, then in other projects you can get your content direct to them. To me, theatrical is an old model. The minute that we have that direct clean link from the computer to the wide screen TV’s in the world, then even top chain theatres are OVER! Whether a small film or a Hollywood film.
What advice would you give to beginner fimmakers?
Shoot!!! Don’t spend your life filling in applications. Why? The more you become a human metal detector that looks for money, the more you lose your morale. Especially when you start out. Why? Because you don’t really deserve a budget at the start. If you want to be a filmmaker, you can now. You can practise, and show if you have talent. You could not do that without money before digital cameras came along, now there is no excuses. Look At Chris Nolan. Following, The Dark Knight. Did he try and raise a lot of money for “Following” to show that he could direct the Dark Knight one day? No. He shot a black and white personal film over a year with £10,000. Another top Director. Rodriguez. He has his own studio, after a $7000 debut. Point is, everybody thinks you are not a filmmaker unless you have a budget. Filmmakers MAKE films, even if they don’t get the permission. You need to make yourself hot before financiers notice you. You do that by getting out there. I also see how it is so important to start out with no money, because it gives you a discipline that you will need in the industry. You also have to be a good blagger, be inventive, etc . But you can learn that. So set yourself a date, plan well, and shoot your feature every weekend, or once a month. Since I done this film, lots of doors are now opening that were closed. People invest in “action”, not “ideas”. You will also get inspired to move on if you have shot a few scenes for a feature. If you have a pile of rejection letters for money, that will not drive you forward.
If you could have directed any film, what would it be?
Probably Taxi Driver. Saying that, I could not have done it better, so maybe I would make a film that could have been better. Too many to mention. I believe I have a few scripts that could be big hits, so I am really passionate about making my own scripts. Got a pretty wild original hitman road movie I want to do.
I like the sound of that…
It’s a very offbeat story with a lot of layers to it. I think it will appeal to the global youth market because of the nature of the story. It has an original spin on the genre that has never been done before, but need to keep that under wraps until later. This is probably the type of movies I would really like to make.
What’s your favourite film of this year so far?
I liked The “Wrestler”, and “Moon”. Also looking forward to the French film “Mesrine”
What was the first film you owned?
That’s a tough one, hard to remember. I remember one of the first movies I saw in the cinema. It was a rerun of Kubrick 2001. My father took me to see it, sneaked me in. Half way through it I asked him what it was about, and he said, “don’t know son, drink your Kiora!
What have you got planned next?
Death Movie. I hate most horrors, so I wrote one that kills all the clichés. It also goes back to the spirit of 70’s horrors. Its very little to do with what you see, its about fearing fear, like our world society has become like. If that does well, then hopefully I could get the budget for a remake of “Mission X” This is when you do remake a film, when it has the potentially to take the spirit of the story, but also make it bigger, slicker too. Expand on it.
So we can’t expect a gang of big breasted teens investigating a haunted house then?
No. It starts with CSI gathering cameras around all the dead bodies in front of the screen, then it goes back 48 hours as they all get an invite. So the film teases you all the way through the film, milks what it was they maybe saw. I am also going to present this in a different way. There will be a site with multiple POVS, video diaries, so we don’t burn out the footage from the movie itself, as trailers show too much I think. However, I still will be throwing in a few big breasts in the mix too!! Gotta get a bit of the Corman and Meyer influence!
So finally, where and when can we see Mission X?
MISSION X had it’s first public screening at the CCA in Glasgow. 29th July. If you want to see it, go to the website. I plan to take it around Scotland, and Cineworld are considering a release.