AIRLOCK (see the Teaser Trailer) is the shiny new science fiction online series By Distractedmedia.tv, the production company that brought us the YouTube online mini-series EVENT ZERO and the horror film THE TUNNEL. With us today to talk about this upcoming release are Enzo Tedeschi, writer of THE TUNNEL and producer of the series EVENT ZERO, and Matthew William Joyce, props-master of the movie and chief editor and founder of MACHETE GIRL MAGAZINE.
Konstantine: There’s a ton of things I’d like to ask you, but let’s start with the easiest: tell me about AIRLOCK.
Enzo: Sure. Airlock is our latest online show. It’s a science fiction piece, and is probably the most ambitious thing we’ve ever attempted in terms of scale, scope and budget. It revolves around the story of a remote space station and a derelict ghost ship that docks with it. The investigation into the apparent deaths of the ship’s crew quickly takes a turn when the whole operation is drawn into a deep-space refugee crisis they have been trying to steer clear of.
Konstantine: You are also working with Matthew William Joyce, who is props-master for the movie, also here with us today. What was the greatest challenge in the movie’s production, when it came to dealing with its effects and world-building? How much of the effects is pure CGI (besides the teaser trailer)?
Enzo: There is a significant chunk of CGI in Airlock, particularly the space exteriors of the ship and the station which are 100% CGI. The interiors will also be augmented. We’re talking set extensions, compositing of screens, and some pure CGI elements that the actors interact with. I think the biggest challenge is – and will continue to be – trying to keep it feeling like part of a coherent whole. It’s the point at which the writing, direction, production design and CGI all have to intersect perfectly without interfering with the story, and in some cases helping to progress it in no small way. It’s a very delicate balance.
Konstantine: Matthew, why don’t you tell us a few things about AIRLOCK?
Matthew: As I understand it, the whole production was a big risk and the first time that Screen Australia had funded a web series of this scale and you don’t often find Australian government bodies funding Sci-fi. So once I realised Airlock had been funded, I knew I had to be on it. So I messaged the producer who I knew through my housemate, letting him know of my skills and basically being a big enough pain until I scored the props job on Airlock. Having just worked on my own project making props, and then Alex Proyas’s “Gods of Egypt”, I was in a position to know that I could do a decent job on set.
Without giving too much of the story away, there is a space station and a spaceship and something has gone horribly wrong at the edge of space sometime in the year 3000 and something… there is an amazing mix of old and new between the two major different sets and it’s panning out to be a very exciting series and a web festival winner I think.
Konstantine: How much of AIRLOCK’s effects are CGI and what was the greatest challenge in producing the movie so far?
Matthew: From speaking with Enzo the producer and driving home with the Director Marc Furmie every other night, I gathered that they wanted to capture as much as they could in camera and that put a lot of pressure on the Art Department. It was tough with the budget we had available to come up with the sets and props that we did but a lot of the kudos goes to our Production Designer Rachele Wiggins and Art Director Ryan Osmond, both of whom I don’t think slept during the entire pre-production and production. They are superhuman as far as I’m concerned and the end result is the testament to their work.
We also had to set the stage for the VFX as well but primarily my job was to make the physical control panels for the doors and airlocks and handheld devices and grenades.
Konstantine: What, do you believe, is the greatest challenge when it comes to working on a series like AIRLOCK?
Enzo: It has to be said that every complication or challenge we have had on the show is directly linked to the budget. While we have a sizeable budget for an online production, it all gets sucked up very quickly when you start expanding your cast, building sets, creating big effects shots, etc. Just the crew alone that is required to keep something like this moving during production has been bigger than any of our other productions. And even then we were probably short a couple of crew that would have made things run a little smoother. So I’m going to say budget, because that literally affects everything, and we had challenges everywhere!
Konstantine: Matthew, I saw some of the set pieces that you have been working on for Machete Girl and Airlock on Facebook and they look downright impressive. With this in mind, how do you feel about big-budget releases being mostly replaced by CGI? Is prop scene-building a dying art, in your opinion?
Matthew: Unfortunately it does seem to be heading that way. 3D Printers are the biggest problem. They are killing of a lot of the jobs that would normally be done by prop makers. When it comes to VFX I believe that you have your film makers who go down that road and then others who want to capture more real elements in camera. The problem it seems is that the Art Department seem to be competing directly with VFX for their fair share of the budget these days and that can cause issues. I am still a strong believer in really great sets and capturing as much as you can in-camera. For one, it helps the actors give a more genuine performance because there’s a lot more to play with than just a green screen. I felt that the budget was fairly budgeted though on Airlock, much to experience of Enzo Tedeschi our producer.
Konstantine: Enzo, how did you get started into writing? Specifically, writing for movies?
Enzo: I started as an editor, which in drama is as much about carefully considering the flow of the information within the story as it is ‘cutting out the bad bits’. It’s a form of writing, as I see it. Many have said it before me that a film is written 3 times: script, then again during production, then again during the edit. It’s very true. I’ve seen it on everything I’ve done, and again now in the edit for Airlock. As I moved around in my career and started producing, the creative storytelling urge never really went away, so when it came time to have a go at our first feature, Julian and I decided to have a go at writing ourselves and see what happened. That was The Tunnel, and I’m pretty happy with where that ended up.
Konstantine: Matthew, tell us a few things about yourself.
Matthew: Firstly I love Sci-Fi, I can’t get enough. It was sort of an unspoken rule amongst the crew on Airlock that if you weren’t a total sci-fi geek then you were definitely in the wrong place. Some of my favorite memories are going to the drive-in with my dad in the early 80’s and watching films like the ‘Wrath of Khan’ back to back with ‘The Black Hole’, and being exposed to novels written by Asimov and Harry Harrison as a kid was what gave me such a vivid imagination growing up. Once I got my hands on an 8mm camera there was no turning back for me, I was hooked and ended up studying Acting at N.I.D.A. and the Actors Centre, and in 1996 after I was done with acting I started focusing on becoming a professional film maker.
Konstantine: What other movies have you worked on? In what capacity?
Enzo: My IMDB might be the best place to check that out, but I worked in the editorial dept for Shane Abbess’s Gabriel, as well as a few other assistant editing gigs while I was on my way up. A lot of my time as an editor was spent making a living in lifestyle television – travel and cooking shows and so-on. Countless shorts, too many to mention here. I probably can’t even remember the names of all of them!
Matthew: I’ve kept myself busy since 1996 working on over a hundred productions and some of my favorites were productions where I was either the producer or director. It pays to have the control. I’ve recently produced two Australian features called Turbines and Final Move and was one of the editors on Turbines. I’ve worked on three of the big budget productions that have come to fox studios in Sydney in various low level roles.
Konstantine: I have heard a lot of people complain about how ‘you can’t make a movie without at least a million’ and yet you made the Tunnel and Event Zero with barely a fraction of that and you are currently producing AIRLOCK with little more than half that much. What advice could you give to these disheartened producers/directors?
Enzo: In one way, they’re right. But in every other way, they’re not. It basically comes down to what your goals are and what you’re prepared to do. We have worked a lot in the micro-budget realm because we were focused on a certain level of output. We didn’t want to spend 5 years between projects. Since The Tunnel, Distracted Media has had a significant release almost every year – in 2014 we released a feature documentary as well. I also work on certain projects outside the company, namely the Food Matters documentaries. It’s hard work, and it takes its toll, so I don’t know that I’ll be able to keep this pace up very much longer. The worst possible thing you can do as an aspiring filmmaker is nothing. If you’re out there amongst it, you’re ahead. There is definitely something to be said for just getting out there and doing it. Even if you deem that attempt a failure, I guarantee you will be better off for it. But if you’re in indie film to make a bucket of cash or to take it easy, then you’re probably best off finding another line of work!
Konstantine: On a scale of 1 to 10, how hard was it to create the crashed train set for EVENT ZERO [see Event Zero Production on YouTube]? Also, when are you guys picking the series up again because the cliffhanger is killing me.
Enzo: Ha, you’d have to ask our art director Sam Boffa about the crashed train set. He had a teeny budget and he did it single-handedly. I’m sure it was pretty damn hard! I’m super-impressed with what he achieved, though. He worked hard to make that happen. As for the series, I’d love to pick it up again, but only time will tell if that’s going to be a possibility. Nothing will happen for at least another 12 months if it does.
Konstantine: What was your greatest challenge, when writing the script for TUNNEL?
Enzo: As a found-footage / docu-style film, making it believable was paramount. Ensuring that every action was reasonable for each character, and that we didn’t have a bunch of people walking around in that awful horror trope of doing things nobody would ever do that are bound to get them into trouble. I think the only conceit there is getting underground in the first place, but even there I think we set it up so that the desperation was believable enough that people went with it. From there on it was about creating likable and ‘real’ characters. To this day I get asked if the film is ‘actually real’, so I guess we can modestly say that we nailed that aspect!
Konstantine: How autobiographical is My Small Italian Shotgun Wedding [watch it in full on YouTube], exactly?
Enzo: Haha, there’s a blast from the past! You’ve done your homework! It isn’t autobiographical at all other than the fact that my background is Italian. I wish the answer was more entertaining for you.
Konstantine: Horror Haiku seems like a very interesting project. Can you tell us a few things about that?
Enzo: Yes, I love Horror Haiku! It’s a great little web series where people submit scary haikus, and the production team turn them into short films. I was introduced to the team over there by Bel Deliá, our lovely leading lady from The Tunnel, and they asked if Distracted Media might be interested in doing a guest episode. I jumped at the chance, and we ended up adapting a short and sweet little tale we found online, and I jumped into the director’s chair for that one. A little bit of fun goes a long way. [Watch Enzo’s guest episode]
Konstantine: In the interest of playing Devil’s Advocate: Your most famous work, EVENT ZERO and Tunnel are available online for free. The same thing goes for AIRLOCK, when it’s released. Do you believe this should be a future trend, as far as online film distribution is concerned? Or do you believe that this cannot be sustained, when it comes to bigger budget releases?
Enzo: I think every release needs to have a strategy that fits it. With The Tunnel, we were asking strangers on the internet to take a big chance on us, a bunch of unknowns, and fund our film. The least we could do is give it back to them for free. But because they had already paid for it, we weren’t in a position where we needed to recoup a huge budget at release, so it worked. Event Zero was commissioned by a network that specifically wanted to release the show on YouTube. I think one of the biggest problems facing the industry in the digital age is looking at release as a one-size-fits-all approach. That used to work, but now it has to be a tailored solution. So will it happen more in future? Yes. Should everyone be doing it? Probably not.
Konstantine: If by some stroke of impossible luck, both of you are provided with a monstrous budget and the ability to hire anyone you want for the production of your dream project, what would that be like?
Enzo: Martin Scorsese directing an epic science fiction script written by James Cameron, starring Al Pacino, Leonardo DiCaprio and Emilia Clarke, with cinematography by Roger Deakins and a score by Hans Zimmer.
No? Well then I have an epic science fiction story of my own that I’ve been nurturing for about 20 years. I’d write and direct it starring Tom Hardy and Olivia Wilde. That’d work.
Matthew: It’s going to be a sci-fi horror called “The Daywalkers”. I was inspired by Anne Rice’s idea of the daywalker vampires and by the movie directed by Tobe Hooper called Lifeforce (based on the Space Vampires) to write this futuristic feature over 8 years and then… Blade came out… so I put the script on the shelf for a while and came back to it over the years and refined it. It’s an epic adventure of a woman reincarnated in human form to do something… I can’t give it away but that she is guided by a group of “Daywalkers” who were considered a genetic aberration and were taken off-world by the Valreyush to cull the populations of Vampires on various worlds that the Valreyush had originally infected. The script is not in circulation.
Konstantine: Matthew, I’m also aware that you are the chief editor for the Machete Girl Magazine and that you are currently producing the Machete Girl web series? Could you give us a quick rundown of the story and the project?
Matthew: Oh my greatest joy and my greatest pain. Machete Girl was initially a feature film I wrote in the cyberpunk genre and I was inspired to turn it into an online magazine, which over the past four years has been downloaded over 2 million times. I knew at some point I would have to make something out of it and tell the story. So from late 2012, I started making small webisodes to show people what the series would be like on a budget of about $16,000 from my own pocket. I’m still working on getting the money to make a proper TV pilot. I’m looking at doing some amazing things with the series including reuniting the lead actors from the movie “The Last Starfighter” who will be playing the lead character’s parents. The year is 2043 and Chloe and her haxor friends are being exterminated in the confines of a corporate-controlled dystopian future.
[See Machete Girl, Hacker Chronicles Promo Video]
Konstantine: Tell me a few things about your side-job, as Director of Dark Media Press.
Matthew: Well I suppose managing a distribution company for my two magazines is tough at this stage. A lot of people say no to you, so I feel right at home where people often say the same to you in the film industry. I love the creative side as the editor of both magazines, one being the sci-fi/cyberpunk one and the other a political and cultural force of nature aimed at providing our poor over-saturated Murdoch Press citizens with some real investigating journalism. I did get to meet and talk to a couple of Prime Ministers here in Australia as a result of being involved in that sort of thing so I used the opportunity to tell them we need more money for the film industry.
Konstantine: I would also like to know more about the Australian Cyberpunk community in general.
Matthew: Let me separate the hackers from the Cyberpunks first of all.
I’d say that the hacking community in Australia is massive. Apart from producing some of the biggest Hollywood stars, we also produce some of the most talented hackers in the world, many of whom are quite happy being “Anonymous”. The Cyberpunk community is very disjointed, although we do put on events and inspire people to be interested in cyberpunk culture, cyberpunks themselves are a rare breed and I think I know most of them. Granted the Magazine has given me a lot of reach.
But the cyberpunks and phreaks are out there, you just need to know where to look. I’m doing what I can to promote the culture, including putting on events like the Global Cyber Day we have coming up and the cyberpunk nite club B1n4ry.
Konstantine: Which movies do you think have most influenced your personal style?
Matthew: I’m a huge fan of Kathryn Bigelow’s earlier work like Strange Days and the original Star Wars had me by the balls. I was greatly influenced by sci-fi anime as a kid, such as Star Blazers (Space Ship Yamato) and Robotech (Macross) and some of the early Studio Ghibli stuff where I was honored to meet one of the co-founders, Toshio Suzuki (Producer of Ghost in the Shell 2) in 2005 and get him very drunk. The promise of a Neuromancer movie has also kept my imagination active for quite a while and I eventually went to Chiba City near Tokyo where the story begins and there is a loud mouth Aussie in a pub. It was quite fun to imitate that with a copy of Neuromancer in my hand.
Konstantine: A question for prospective producers/filmmakers reading this: what’s it like, actually managing the production of a full-length feature film? What do you think are its greatest challenges?
Matthew: There are so many. To get to the point where you are actually trusted with a budget is a very hard thing to do in the first place. You really have to prove your worth. As a producer, everything is ultimately your fault and you end up not being liked but if you get the job done and you make the Independent Studio or the Mainstream Studio happy then you are on your way. Line producing is one of the toughest jobs I’ve ever had to do, sometimes also known as Unit Manager. You have to tackle everything one challenge at a time and you have to be ready to make decisions that can make or break the production at a moment’s notice. Learn to trust your crew and surround yourself with people you can work with, not with people have more IMDB credits than you or anyone with any sort of attitude. You really have to trust your gut and experience when creating a product such as a feature and if it’s your first time, dive in the deep end and make a lot of mistakes. It’s the only way to learn. No amount of film school will ever prepare you. You’ll find out pretty quickly if film-making is for you or not. For me no matter how many times I succeed or fail, it’s a calling. I can’t go a year without having worked on multiple projects.
Konstantine: I am also aware that you are the Judge for the Night of Horror and Fantastic Planet Film Festivals. Tell me a few things about your experiences while working in this capacity.
Matthew: I’ve been to film markets and festivals around Australia and the world and I gotta say having a couple of the greatest film festivals on your doorstep is just awesome. Fantastic Planet, for example, is Australia’s premiere international Sci-Fi festival and not only do we get to watch hundreds of awesome films as judges; we can also get drunk with the film makers along with anyone who wants to join in. We often have a few celebs that we get to know quite well and the festival director often ends up working with them. My favorite part is the drinking and judging of the films and seeing some obscure art house films with some of my favorite actors of all time in them. The friendships that we develop out of those festivals are just brilliant and we all keep tabs on each other via Facebook.
[See more about the Fantastic Planet Film Festival on YouTube]
Konstantine: With that in mind, why don’t you tell us all a few things about your very first project, the FIGHTING Trilogy?
Matthew: Ha! Genius investigator you are. My earliest films were shot on 8mm with my brothers and cousin and I made a ninja trilogy copying some of the worst ninja films ever made. It was great to learn some pretty cool techniques later on. One of my favorite things was to do the titles shaped in my grandmothers cutlery on the ground spelling “Fighting”. I use after effects for that shit now 😛
Konstantine: So you were in Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Granted, you didn‘t have too much screen time but I think we all want to know what that experience was like for you.
Matthew: As a kid being spoon-fed Star Wars Cereal in the 70’s and 80’s it was an absolute dream to be on Episode II despite the film not living up to my expectations. I got to meet and work with George Lucas, Susie Porter, Ewan McGregor and all the amazing talent and crew around me, and I had my 15 seconds in Star Wars with my own blaster as a human bounty hunter on Coruscant which was great. Of course those 15 seconds were 3 days work and because I was far too excited to sleep so on my last day I missed a queue and ended up with the 1st AD’s foot up my ass. It was however inspiring to be on set and many of the people I worked with on that film are friends and colleagues I work with now. Actually going from being a fan as a kid and getting to work on the project as an adult was magical for me. Once it was over, however, I had the biggest movie comedown you could imagine. So I’ve done everything from that point on to in a sense create my own work and make something just as good for the next generation.
Enzo Tedeschi is a writer and producer of numerous independent films and has been involved in too many short film projects too count. Find out more about his work by visiting his IMDb page.
Matthew William Joyce is a filmmaker, magazine editor, activist for Women’s Rights, Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and Education, and was born in Manly, Sydney Australia. Visit his website and IMDb page.