BLOG We Are Monsters

I’m fascinated by the explosion in crowd-funding sites across the last year or so. Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and their ilk all do a great job of not only empowering artists of every type but of changing the old patronage model – where people paid money and dictated what the artist did – into something much more beneficial to both sides. You can choose what you donate to, meaning you find projects relevant to your interests and artists find an audience who are invested creatively as well as financially in what they’re doing.

One of the projects I’m keeping an eye on at the moment is a very cool looking new British monster movie called We Are Monsters. The campaign is active now and I talked to writer and director John Shackleton, who was also behind 2011’s Panic Button, about the project.

What’s the 25 word pitch for We Are Monsters?

“A suburban schoolgirl joins a mutant gang on a quest to discover their true identities. Uncovering a global conspiracy, they must fight to protect society.”

Tell us a little about We Are Monsters. What inspired it?

“21 years ago, I was travelling on a train in the Czech Republic when an image appeared in my mind of a man’s face, completely made out of hands, knuckles and fingers. At night in my Youth Hostel, I drew him and aptly named him DEXTROUS. I later worked on a series of characters each representing the human senses.

“Soon after, I studied film and TV and committed myself to a career as a filmmaker at the age of 19. Every five years or so, these characters have reared their ugly heads in my mind and it has not been until now, after successfully achieving my goal of Producing my first feature film Panic Button, that I have acquired the skills, know-how and contacts to really do them justice.

“I took my drawings to a concept artist who worked on Panic Button, as I could see from his portfolio that he had a penchant for monsters. As he realised the characters in 3D, fresh ideas became unlocked and in November 2011 I took a “taster” document with me to the American Film Market (AFM). The appetite and enthusiasm for We Are Monsters among sales agents and distributors was truly amazing.

“Conceived by a teenager about being teenager, this is a unique and personal story that I am still burning to tell, 22 years later.”

How has the story changed since that first image?

“The central protagonist has changed from Dexter to Lorna, but the essence of the story remains the same – a teenager runs away with a gang of mutants on a journey of self-discovery. The characters and story have undergone some major development and the context has altered dramatically, but the core idea and visuals remain the same.”

Who’s behind the camera?

“Our director of photography is Simon Poulter, who did Panic Button and Devil’s Bridge.  Our editor, John Gillanders, worked on Panic Button and Abraham’s Point, whilst our audio post is being done by Doug Sinclair and Paul McFadden who did Panic Button and have worked on Sherlock and Doctor Who. The production designer is John Bramble, who worked on Truth Or Dare and Strawberry Fields. Our unit producer is David Ball who worked on Day Of The Dead and Dust Devil and our stunt coordinator is Andy Bennett, who worked on The Woman In Black and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Finally, our storyboards are being done by Ben Oliver, whose  work has appeared in comics like X-Men, The Losers and Judge Dredd.”

Who’s been cast so far?

“Doug Jones of Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy and Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer (watch his interview about the role here). Offers are out to cast to lead roles through Jeremy Zimmermann casting.”

A movie like this rises and falls on its special effects. Who’s working on them for you?

“Monster effects are being handled by Neill Gorton of Millennium FX. They worked on The Wolfman, From Hell, Doctor Who and Chernobyl Diaries. We’re currently in discussions with various post houses regarding our VFX requirements.”

What stage is the movie at?

“Development, currently packaging for full production finance, aiming to shoot summer 2013.”

Tell us a little about Panic Button.

Panic Button was my first feature film, born out the success of a series of self-inflicted restrictions imposed on a short film. As an experiment, I started out with David Shillitoe with a simple concept (trapped in a private jet at 30,000ft with deadly repercussions to your Facebook activity playing out on the ground) and a bunch of new restraints – primarily single location, four main cast, sub £300k, to be made as locally as possible.

“The film screened at Cannes, found distribution and World Premiered at Film4 Frightfest 2011. It has now sold to 12 territories worldwide and was nominated for a welsh BAFTA.”

What led you to Kickstarter?

“My company Movie Mogul Ltd has invested over a year of time, effort and financial resources into the project’s development. Development finance is very expensive money and notoriously difficult to secure. We set out to engage with an audience, building support and notoriety for the film whilst attempting to raise significant development funds in parallel.”

How have you found working with it so far?

“Running a Kickstarter campaign has proved to be an intensive, all consuming, around-the-clock experience, largely due to the fact that when the UK sleeps, the US is in full swing! We’ve found fantastic support and enthusiasm for the film, both financial and practical, and we’ve even created several hardcore fans along the way! It is both exciting and humbling to connect with the films backers and find out more about them and hopefully to create the opportunity to share the production experience with them.”

Do you have anything on the slate for after We Are Monsters?

“I am developing some micro-budget ideas to produce as a company, whilst exploring the franchise potential of We Are Monsters.”

Thanks for talking to me, John.

The Kickstarter for We Are Monsters is active and can be found here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/justintagg/we-are-monsters-1

I’ll be following up with the project later in the year to see the finished result.