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Simon K Jones
Force: 27955 | Joined: 1st Jan 2002 | Posts: 11683
Last week we reviewed Soul Searcher, the impressive fantasy adventure from director Neil Oseman. Neil's presentation at the Sci-Fi London Festival impressed us so much we had to give Soul Searcher some coverage at FXhome.com, hence the recent review and the DVD competition (click here to enter!!).
We also asked him if he'd like to sit down and partake in an interview for the FXhome.com community. Being a top chap he kindly obliged, so read on to find out about the difficulties of working within the British film industry, the making of Soul Searcher and Neil's fantastic concepts for his next film...
What training did you have prior to working on your first feature, The Beacon?
I did a short 16mm training course when I was 18. At the time I was planning to go to university and study Film Production or something along those lines, but the DoP on the course told me that would be a waste of time, that no-one cares about degrees in this industry, and that what I needed was experience. That was the best advice I've ever been given.
A year later I went freelance. I was living in Hereford, which has a very small pool of media professionals, so in the space of my first three jobs I climbed from runner to director. After that I concentrated on DV lighting-camerawork and editing and directed my own shorts off my own back. So I'm primarily self-trained.
Of course, before all this I had made many, many amateur films with a Video-8 camera I got for my 15th birthday, so I had learnt the basics from doing that, and had something approaching a showreel to start out with.
Do you have a 'day job' in the film industry between working on personal projects like Soul Searcher and The Beacon?
I still making a living as a freelancer. Right now my main source of work is a new TV channel called theatre247.tv which involves shooting reports on opening nights of West End musicals. Free shows and free parties! What more could you want?
I do corporates from time to time too, occasional lectures in film-making and the odd indie short and feature here and there.
Soul Searcher had a long and at times difficult production. What kept you going?
Up to the start of principal photography, the fact that I believed it was going to be a really great film.
From the start of principal photography, it was the knowledge that if I left the country or killed myself then all the people who were giving their time for free to help out on the film would be really pissed off.
And, in post-production, the feeling that I'd come this far so it would be stupid not to see it through.
There's a clear love of 80s cinema in the film. What is it that draws you towards that era, and what were the particular influences?
I grew up with 80s films, simple as that. I think what I love about the era is that there were some really visually imaginative films, but they had to put it all on screen with traditional techniques. There's something about opticals and miniature work and back projection - it's like you can see the sweat that went into it. With CGI you can do anything and it all seems so easy. I'm sure it's not if you're the guy at the computer actually doing it, but that's the impression it gives.
The lighting and colour scheme was strongly influenced by Terminator 2 and Aliens, Highlander and The Crow were big influences too, plus we tried to get a bit of Back to the Future in there, and of course Ghostbusters.
Action and adventure movies in the 90s and 2000s have gone a very different route to the 80s classics. What do you think of the changes in those genres over the years?
After Jurassic Park we were inundated with appalling CGI in the cinemas which ruined a lot of the genre films of that time. And just as we were starting to come to terms with that, The Matrix happened and suddenly every film had crappy virtual camera stuff in it too.
How did you go about securing DVD distribution for Soul Searcher through Wysiwyg Films?
After spending a lot of money going to Cannes and realising just how horrific the film industry is, and all the meetings I had over there ultimately coming to nothing, I got an email from Wysiwyg after they spotted Soul Searcher on Mandy.com's film market.
You've been described as 'the UK's Robert Rodriguez'. What do you think about that comparison - and the implied responsibility?
On the one hand it's flattering. On the other hand I hope I don't start churning out rubbish like he's been doing since Desperado! All he seems to care about is making a film "cool". That's what I did with my first feature, and it carried on into Soul Searcher to some extent, but I'm maturing now and I'm really trying to get away from that and concentrate on the heart of the story with the next film.
I don't think there's any responsibility attached to the comparison. After all, he shook up Hollywood and became ridiculously successful. The film industry couldn't care less about me!
Do you think the British film industry is interested in supporting this kind of genre movie?
No. They're scared of spending the money, and never believe me when I tell them I can make these films for less than their formulaic Richard Curtis movies.
Has Soul Searcher 'opened doors' for you in the industry, particularly with regards to funding future projects?
No. It gets me into meetings, but no further. I've been trying to get my new film funded for over two years without success.
Can you tell us anything about this new project?
The Dark Side of the Earth, which might get funded when Hell freezes over, is set on an Earth that no longer spins, leaving one side in constant daylight and the other in perpetual night. A group of survivors from the daylight side build an airship to travel to the dark side and find Old Father Time, to ask him to start the world turning again. You can read all about my frustrations trying to get it off the ground at http://www.darksideoftheearth.com.
If you're for some reason not incredibly excited about The Dark Side of the Earth, check out some of this concept artwork (you can find more over at the official website):
We'd like to thank Neil for the great interview. Here's hoping that the British film industry will one day decide to try something different and support projects like The Dark Side of the Earth.