How do you set about making a feature film by yourself – both creatively and financially? We ask Claire Daly.
Charlotte Harrison (@sometimesmovies)
It looks as if 2019 will be a big year for Capital Films. Founded in 2010 by Claire Daly and Steven Farah, who met whilst studying at the prestigious Oxford School of Drama, it’s a production and distribution company with a full slate of scripted and unscripted features. In 2012, Daly and Farah won the Best UK Scripted Pilot at The New York Television Festival with The New Bromantics. Since then, they’ve had a regular output of both film and television features. But 2017 saw them making their first feature film, which they hope to enter on the festival circuit of summer 2019.
Their film, Beyond Existence, has the kind of premise that is gripping from the outset. As Daly explains, “The lead character, Ellen (Amelia Clay), is a government agent who is forced to protect a professor (Gary MacKay) with a secret. They end up on the run, in a car chase, fleeing from a bounty hunter called the Mysterious Man (Vincent Vermignon) to save the human race.” There’s something familiar about the premise, in a good way. The kind of way you feel when you hear an idea that’s good and can’t quite believe you’ve not seen it before. A high concept movie with smarts, a science fiction indie movie belonging to a genre that is usually associated with bottomless budgets. Or as Daly mentions, Farah recently described it as “Interstellar meets Locke…on a much smaller budget!” Combining references to Christopher Nolan’s 2014 space opera and the 2013 Tom Hardy driving a car down the motorway movie may not make for the most likely of pairings, yet the more you hear about Beyond Existence the more the comparison seems a truly apt one.
The nod to Interstellar refers to the film’s concept, which poses the big question of what happens to our world when technology exceeds humanity? As Daly says, this wasn’t the film’s logline when they started working on the project three years ago, but it was “drawn out” over the process of making the film. Like Interstellar there’s a big philosophical message to contemplate, which Daly agrees has become inadvertently “timely”. Like all great sci-fi, it began with an initial concept that possesses an almost prophetic meaning when contemplating the technological advancement that has occurred in the past three years alone. The Locke link would be the tone of the film, how this story is told and plays out. Beyond Existence, like Locke, only has a few speaking parts – in the case of Beyond Existence, there are “seven or eight” and some “carefully chosen locations” to maximise their small budget.
Working with cinematographer Tim Knight, they gave themselves “one month to put it all together”. Filming lasted 12 days and there was an unsurprising intensity to proceedings, as they “couldn’t afford to roll over one day”. But, in many ways, self financing the film provided its own benefits, allowing the filmmakers to “pick a team we could truly trust … with a truly high commitment level”. Factors that would be understandably greatly appreciated considering what had gone on with their previous project. Daly and Farah, along with Beyond Existence director Schuman Hoque, had been “quite far into development” on another feature film called The Kings Men, but things fell through when they “couldn’t get that final bit of investment”. The reason that kept being given to them? “They just kept coming back to the fact that we hadn’t made a feature film before”.
After years of regularly getting close to starting the project, the trio decided to give something else a try. As Daly expands, “We just said, ‘Stuff this! Let’s make another film, one that we could do by investing in it ourselves.’” The next step was a bare bones idea by Hoque, that was then fuelled by a want to make something that “looked of much higher budget”. A couple of years on, and they’ve now got the picture locked and have just started to complete visual effects. After financing the film themselves, they’ve turned to crowdfunding via IndieGoGo for the final push to make the film’s special effects as impressive as possible. No additional filming is required. Instead, they want to “enhance not detract” what they have already achieved. With a tentative goal of completing the visual effects by the summer, the plan from there is to enter the film in this year’s festival circuit, with “an eye towards the big ones”.
Considering what they have achieved so far – making a feature film themselves, both creatively and financially – there’s little reason to doubt that they’ll manage it. It’s an achievement that is paralleled in Daly’s advice to any wannabe filmmakers out there. “Don’t wait around for the phone to ring, just do it. Learn on the job, find like-minded people and buddy up.”
Find more on the project at the Beyond Existence IndieGoGo page.