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FXhome.com was indirectly involved with Project One from the very beginning, forging the link between its co-creators Joby Stephens and Adam Kirley. “In 2002 we met when helping another FXhome member on a fanfilm,” recalls Joby, “we discovered we didn’t live very far from each other and had similar ideas and how they could be achieved for little money.”
Key to Project One was that it should pursue a stealth approach rather than the usual all-guns-blazing antics seen in short films. “With little to no dialogue holding up the story we had to rely on camera technique, editing and our other strengths,” explains Joby.
Taking inspiration from the world of video games, the team set about designing memorable set pieces based around specific locations. As the budget didn’t allow for construction, finding the right forest, house and warehouse was crucial. “I would drive around the counties of south England,” says Joby of the scouting, “and found that if you ask around nicely there’s usually someone that wants to help. Ask the landowner, inform the police – do everything you can to make things work on your side and not against you.”
Preparation for the shoot required hours of no-budget begging to acquire props and costumes. “What do all action films need? Guns – lots of guns,” says Joby. “A few companies finally gave in and a couple of weeks later I received a massive parcel full of broken rifles and warehouse rejects.” After a little self-assembly, Project One was fully armed and ready to go.
In the wilderness
When the first shots were filmed in June 2004, nobody expected it to be two years until the movie would be shown to audiences. The shoot went smoothly, with regular FXhomer Matt Plummer filling the role of the kidnapped scientist. “I’d worked with Joby before, both on my projects and his, so working on Project One happened pretty naturally,” he explains, continuing, “There was a call-out for a skinny, pasty male and I just fit the profile.”
The cooperative nature of the shoot originated with the co-directing adopted by Adam and Joby, who had never worked together so closely. “It actually went a lot easier than we both expected,” insists Adam, negating any possibility of juicy on-set rivalry, “as we had talked a lot about the project over many months, planning almost every shot ahead of time. This made life on set easier as we both had the same vision for the film.” Joby confirms this, detailing how different styles can work together to strengthen the end result. “Adam concentrated on the action and stunts and I feel I concentrated on the camera side and editing,” he explains. “We’d always try to film all the different ideas, and took on board other people’s as well.”
Many of the shots were ambitious and potentially dangerous for a low-budget production, filmed in decaying, middle-of-nowhere locations and with physical demands for the cast (“For a lot of the earlier shots I didn’t leave the floor!” laughs Matt). “We were fortunate as this is the industry I work in,” Adam says, “so I was able to supply a lot of the stunt equipment myself which cut the cost of hiring it in.”
Having a professional stuntman play your covert operative is a good move, as evidenced by the impressive leaps, jumps, falls and fights sprinkled throughout Project One. Owners of the DVD get to see exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of Adam at work, leaping from tall trees and falling from windows. Of course, you’d expect nothing less from a man that is currently working on the new James Bond movie and was seen last year in none other than Batman Begins and Sahara.
Throwing it all away
A rough edit was ready in early 2005 and it was clear something was wrong. “The original ending wasn’t good enough,” states Joby with the confidence of a man who knows the problem has already been fixed. “Basically, a re-shoot was needed because we still had something to prove and knew we could do a lot better. We went for it in every way.”
A phone conversation with Adam led to the entire final act being discarded and replaced with a far more ambitious finale of full-on action. Unfortunately, during the intervening period the original locations had all been destroyed to make way for a block of flats, resulting in a month of searching for somewhere suitable for the climactic scenes.
A few hundred miles later and Project One underwent re-shoots in July with new vehicles, air mortars and camera equipment adding to the production value. “The vehicle is a rare military unit known as the ‘Vampire’,” reveals Joby, “you’ve probably never seen one before as it was built to be used in the Gulf War and those that weren’t destroyed after the conflict were placed under the Official Secrets Act.”
As well as featuring a vehicle that officially doesn’t exist, the re-shoot benefited from the use of a jib and dolly track, opening up many new cinematographic possibilities. “We had to be very careful, as we hadn’t used any jib or tracking during the 2004 shoot,” Joby explains, “and we didn’t want it to be obvious that it had been twelve months since the prior filming.”
Footage in the can, Joby once again turned editing. With assistance from Ruth Harris on sound and Matt on visual effects, work progressed slowly but surely. “The first footage to be worked on arrived during the era of Chromanator,” reminisces Matt, “so some of the footage was actually re-timed with that. A year later the majority of the effects were done with beta versions of the new range, mainly VisionLab. The programs made it all very easy – there’s some great before-and-after clips on the DVD.”
Finally the focus turned towards an often-overlooked aspect in movies of this scale: the music. “For us to make it our project and own full copyright, an original score was needed,” explains Joby, recalling how Nightcast composer Robin Hoffman created an early temp score to aid editing, presumably having temporarily escaped from Sollthar’s clutches. “Sadly he was too busy to compose the full score, but he pointed me in the right direction and I found Siddhartha Barnhoorn. Thousands of email notes were exchanged and the score began to take shape.”
The score was ready by March 2006 as well as some additional effects shots that had been enhanced with the latest version of VisionLab, now well past the beta period and into its full release, emphasising just how long the Project One production had taken. A month later the teaser trailer was released on FXhome.com.
With the project finally complete, the team can move on to fresh pastures – one of which will hopefully be Shadow, the feature film inspiration for Project One’s prequel story. Project One will not be shown in the FXhome.com cinema for at least another year, so as not to conflict with film festival rules. For now, the official DVD is the only way to see the fruit of the team’s labours.
”Any profit made from sales of the P1 DVD will go straight towards the next film,” promises Joby. “I’ve spent hundreds of hours getting this DVD bursting with making-of extras, stunt footage, out-takes, commentaries, deleted scenes and concept art. The before-and-after clips are worth the cover price alone, and really show off the software that helped us achieve the results.”
Despite its long gestation, the cast and crew all seem to look back on the Project One experience with satisfaction. “I’m very pleased personally that it happened this way,” says Joby of the extended production, noting the music as a particular highlight. “Sid’s score is brilliant,” he enthuses, ”I’ve even caught myself whistling ‘Shadow’s Theme’.”
“Raising the bar that Joby set all those years back with Crawling Space was never something he took lightly,” muses Matt, “and I think he’s done it. The Project One shooting experience was a good one, and I think the end result is definitely something that everyone involved should be proud of.” And this coming from a man that spent most of the time with a bag on his head being dragged, thrown about and generally clobbered.
Many thanks to the Project One team for taking the time to answer our questions – if any FXhomers buy the Project One DVD, don’t forget to let us know what you think of it. I’m sure Joby would be more than happy to answer any questions you have after viewing the movie and extra features. Project One is a slick and satisfying short action film that neatly sidesteps many of the problems that usually afflict no-budget production – here’s hoping that DVD sales will enable them to raise their game to the next level!
Want to know more?
Click here to buy the Project One DVD!
Check out the FXhome.com exclusive Project One teaser trailer!
Visit the official Project One website
Read more about stuntman and co-director Adam Kirley
Watch Joby’s other films at FXhome.com
Watch Matt's other films at FXhome.com