Anghenfil is a new motion capture production being made in England – and we’ve caught up with the man behind it.
Robin Bell (@robinbellwriter)
With more films seeking release every week in a busy market, how can low-budget, independent productions compete on the same level? One way filmmaker Ryan Garry is attempting this is the old maxim “if you can’t beat them, join them”. Ryan is a filmmaker from Merseyside who has had his work shown at BFI Southbank and organises many events for filmmakers in the north west. He is the writer/director of Anghenfil, an ambitious motion capture film that has been filming in and around that area. Filming locations have included Crank Caverns in St. Helens, the seaside town of West Kirby, and the Williamson Tunnels of Liverpool.
Anghenfil tells the story of a legendary monster who has reawoken from his centuries-long slumber to wreak havoc on a small British town. It is up to a new hero to emerge to battle this beast before he destroys the town and all its inhabitants. According to local legend, a great monster was slain in battle many centuries ago by a courageous hero. In the present day, however, while most in the small town of Anghenfil have heard the story of this monster, not many believe it. One day, that changes. This is the story of that day – the day the monster returns, the day a new hero emerges, and the day the fate of the town is sealed.
From the synopsis, it is obvious this isn’t your run of the mill British independent film. What sets it apart from the rest is its use of motion capture software normally reserved for Hollywood productions such as Star Wars or Planet Of The Apes. Director Ryan Garry says “it’s taken about a year to get to this stage, constantly testing and refining the technology to make sure it was screen ready.”
Motion capture isn’t usually seen in independent productions as the cost of it rules out many a small budget. Motion capture creations are usually reserved for such big hitters as James Cameron and the Marvel lot, who have recently brought Thanos and Alita: Battle Angel to the screens using these techniques. But, using commercially available equipment, Ryan Garry is determined to bring his motion capture creation to the screen. So, utilising the ethos of time instead of money invested, Ryan had to make sure he had a story that he could get behind and dedicate his time towards.
What, then, makes Anghenfil that particular story? “I wanted to make a feature film that had something – or things – unique about it, that I wasn’t seeing done all the time on other productions. Thus, I decided to put together this motion capture monster and – in essence – built a film around him. The plot built up from there – including the history of the monster, how he was killed, and how he’s now returned and is ready to get his revenge.
“There is another answer, though, to do with the theme of the film – which is something that’s quite relevant to today. You’ve got Brexit in this country, and Trump in the US – things that create a lot of division, whereas a key point in this film is overcoming more petty divisions and disagreements between us and uniting to fight a greater threat,” says Ryan. This shows that, like all good fantasy and science fiction, Anghenfil has relevant things to say about the our world right now, and that is why Ryan wants it to be seen by as wide an audience as possible. “I could’ve gone for an 18-type horror film, like an Evil Dead kind of thing set in the woods, but I’m more interested in getting a wider appeal. There’s loads of action – including a real jet I was going to be filming at Hooton Park [a local aerodrome], an armed response ambush, and a climactic final showdown. The film relies on a lot more than gore and jump scares for its appeal. I’m aiming for anyone with an interest in the fantasy or action genres.”
Cited as an influence is The Lord Of The Rings “in terms of the medieval fantasy inspiration, the motion capture aspect, and also one of the overarching themes of the series – about how courage is what drives the protagonists to complete their mission in spite of the dangers and obstacles of the world.” A further notable touchpoint is Jaws because of its “realistic depiction of a small town’s reaction to the arrival of some terrifying threat – in that film a shark, in this a legendary monster.” It’s obvious that Anghenfil has its sights aimed high. It even takes its influence from the biggest current franchise, the Marvel cinematic universe, which Ryan says is “really influential to me – I’ve tried to replicate some of the scale of those films in this one, despite the small budget. As I mentioned before, incorporating lots of different action scenes and contexts – sword battles, gun battles, fighter jets – as well as the motion capture, of course.”
Anghenfil is currently shooting around Merseyside and the north west, and you can keep up with the film’s progress on its official website at www.anghenfil.com, where you can also find a teaser trailer and some in-depth behind-the-scenes videos exploring the technical aspects of the film.