First of all, why don't you introduce yourself to those of us who don't
already know you?
name is Andrew Bellware. I run the company Pandora
Machine, which is the smallest micro-studio in New York City. We make science
have two backgrounds: theater and sound. Sometimes I've done theater
sound. I'm a founding member of a theater company here in New York called
and my post-production studio is located there too.
Let's start with your latest film Earthkiller - in a few
words, what is it about?
android wakes up on a space station that's under attack. But her memory
has been erased and she doesn't know which side she's on.
How did the project come into
being in the first place?
writer, Montserrat Mendez pitched that idea to me. I thought it was
awesome. He did three radically
different drafts. But who doesn't love an android-on-a-spacestation movie?
Nobody, that's who. So we mixed the drafts together and shot that.
For its limited budget, Earthkiller
is rather effects-driven. Why don't you talk about the special effects of Earthkiller
for a bit?
visual effects are mostly of a model of the Earthkiller Station, which was
designed and built by the brilliant Ian
We do all those effects in Blender 3d, which is an open-source 3D
animation program. Henry Steady did the animations of the dino-bots in the
A few words about your principal cast and
had Robin Kurtz playing the lead -- the android in Earthkiller. She
trained for months
to tone herself up for the role. Of course, she started in great shape.
She's a fantastic fight coordinator. And she absolutely can
beat you up.
Chapman built all our sets. He devised a very complicated way of creating
walls and floors and ceilings which could be folded up and lie flat on two
pallets for when we had to pack up after the weekend of shooting. And the
flats could unfold into a wide variety of sets. Really brilliant work.
had an ensemble cast for this picture. Maduka Steady is both a member of
the ensemble and a key member of the crew -- he was slate, sound, and then
in post-production he handled much of the editing and visual effects.
Any idea yet when and where Earthkiller
will be released?
No. I think maybe Thailand? I haven't been told yet.
Battle: New York, Day 2
Your last released film Battle: New
York, Day 2 - what can you tell us about that one?
producer's representative (which is like a sales rep for films), Ray
Haboush at Halcyon Pictures International, told me that we needed to make
a disaster picture. I pitched him the idea of a young woman in
post-apocalyptic New York with a crazy drunk guy fighting zombies. He
hated that idea. Then Montserrat Mendez (who wrote Earthkiller) said
"How about 'Day 2'? On day 1, aliens take over the Earth, on day 2 we
take it back."
Thinking that idea was awesome I pitched it to Ray and he loved it. Of
course then I just developed the idea of the woman and the crazy guy.
I especially liked about Battle: New York, Day 2 were these weird
giant wheels the invaders use - where did the inspiration for those come
was entirely an Ian Hubert design. We needed giant alien robots. He said
"How alien can they be?" And I told him to make it as alien as
came up with the notion of making the thing an enormous wheel.
Let's go back to the very beginnings of your
career as a filmmaker: How did you get into filmmaking in the first place,
and did you receive any formal training on the subject?
training? None at all. But I've worked on many movies as a sound guy. I've
always loved films, and I've always wanted to make movies.
debut feature was Hamlet, Prince of Denmark - what can you tell us
about that movie? And why Shakespeare? Why shoot it on a Pixelvision
camera? And why do it in just 5 days?
went to that Dov Sieman's 2-day film class. You know the one? It was a
pretty good class. He said "You have to have a great script. Not a good
script. A great
script." So I thought, what's a better script than Hamlet?
shot on Pixelvision because I couldn't afford film and at the time the
video camera which had the best "look" to it was that crazy Pixelvision. The image out of that thing was just dreamy and beautiful.
we shot in 5 days simply because I couldn't afford to shoot any longer!
But it was quite an educational experience.
A few words on Apostasy,
which was, I've heard, based on Milton's Paradise Lost?
a helpful hint to filmmakers out there -- your movie’s title should not
be something most people can't pronounce, much less understand. Yes, it
was based on Paradise Lost. In fact, it has sizable chunks of Paradise
Lost in it. Why would anyone do such a thing?
came Pandora Machine, which also gave your company its name. What
can you tell us about that movie and its influence on your future output?
biggest influence that Pandora Machine had on our later output was that the
picture actually got sold! We just barely made our money back with that movie
but we had a big sale to Blockbuster Video here in North America. That movie saw
the very end of the "good times" in video distribution in the world.
of your company Pandora
Machine - what can you tell us about the philosophy behind it?
No. I'm not sure I have a philosophy behind it. We try to make movies that
are good. Is that a philosophy? As it turns out, making a movie that's
good is really hard. I think we're getting better at it.
Machine the movie was distributed by the slightly controversial low
budget film company The Asylum. How did that come about, and
what can you tell us about your experiences with the company?
like the Asylum guys. You know, most of the screaming on the internet has
to do with how they make mockbusters. Which, ironically, they don't do as
much anymore. Not deliberately at least. The irony is that essentially everyone
makes mockbusters -- whether it's deliberate or not. Look at our movie
Battle: New York, Day 2. That picture was just a straight-up alien
invasion flick (with a couple twists) but it came out just as Battle: LA
was going to video. Was it a mockbuster? Not on purpose. Did it get
marketed as a mockbuster? Hell yeah. And it got us sales which I'm sure we
wouldn't have gotten if it were just "Day 2".
thing about The Asylum is that they're just not into laying on the healthy
dose of BS that you get out of most film companies. So they don't spin
their PR the way you'd usually get. And they're very refreshingly up-front
about how their pictures are made and marketed. And of course, unlike most
indie producers, they're still in business.
like you to say a few words about each of your following films:
was probably our most expensive movie to make. We had a great experience
working with Ted Raimi. I really learned a lot from him. We shot a
substantial portion of that picture (including all the days with Ted) in
my parent's basement.
Vengeance - and what can you tell us about that film's Western
movie has a funny origin story. I saw that video by Muse -- Knights of
Cydonia. And I thought "Ooh, that's what I want to make." Our
producer, Laura Schlachtmeyer, said "Why don't we make a movie based
on the musical Sweeney
Todd?" Maduka Steady said "You know,
Todd is the Count of Monte Cristo." So we thought, hey let's
But, you know, in space.
then playwright Mac Rogers wrote the brilliant screenplay.
we'd known how much overseas buyers hated the Western genre we'd have
re-thought doing the picture that way. But hey, even Joss Whedon had
trouble with a space Western, right?
was a Josh James script. He's another New York playwright who's gone into
screenwriting. It's a pretty neat script. If I knew then what I know now we'd
have made the picture a bit better! The idea, which critics missed, is basically
on Precinct 13.
It sure was a lot of fun to make. And we sold that movie right away, not for a
whole lot of money, but right away.
picture had a fairly large ensemble, which was a new experience for me.
Sometimes shooting an ensemble can be a bit tricky because you have to find a
way to get everyone's dialog on-screen.
was a script we picked up by Eric Ian Steele off of InkTip.com. It's a nice
script. Well, actually, it was a nice BIG script but we made some of the
situations smaller in order to shoot it. I was trying to make a comic book with
that movie. I wanted it to have a painterly "larger than life" look.
upcoming Android Insurrection?
picture was written by David Ian Lee and Nat Cassidy -- they're both
playwrights and actors who have been in our last few movies. It's about a
team of robot hunters who have to rescue an android. We shot this movie in
a very documentary style -- almost every shot is handheld and we didn't
care if the focus shifted during shots.
You are currently
also writing a screenplay called Dragon Girl, right? Would you care
the dragon apocalypse in New York, a teenage girl tries to find her
brother. Armed only with a crossbow and her moxie. What else could you
possibly want in a motion picture?
Any other movies of yours you want to talk
about? Any future projects?
sales rep has told us explicitly to make a mockbuster as our next feature.
I have zero idea what that might be. My fear is that it takes us too long
to write a script. We'll see how that goes. Got any ideas? What big movies
are coming out in 12 months?
A close ally in pretty much
all of these films was Laura Schlachtmeyer. What can you tell us about her?
is an awesome producer. She comes from the world of theater too. In fact,
she won the New York Innovative Theater Award in 2011 for Outstanding Stage
Manager. The job of producer is basically
anything. If it means deciding the tone of a picture, then that's what the
producer does. If it's a matter of deciding whether we have Chinese food
or Italian food for lunch, then that's
the job. Since she can basically do anything, she's perfect.
Machine collaborators you'd like to talk about?
Maduka Steady is a huge force here. He's an actor, editor, animator,
writer, director, cameraman, you-name-it. He has a huge influence on our
work whether it's doing rewrites or making a sequence work in
post-production. He did a bunch of second-unit directing on Android
In fact, he made up a whole sequence where two guys get killed. Hmm... to
tell you the truth, I haven't seen that sequence yet...
much all of your Pandora Machine-movies
are of the of the science fiction variety. Is that
a genre especially dear to you, and why?
enjoy science fiction. And since so little of it is produced at this
independent level, we tend to get sales. Or at least we get more sales
than if we did 18th-century costume dramas. Because don't think for a
minute that if I could sell some Jane Austen movies I wouldn't jump on
science fiction is my first love. My favorite part is building completely
new and different worlds. I like the French term cinema fantastique.
While you are
running a micro budget-operation, an effects-heavy genre such as science fiction seems to demand
serious funding almost by definition. So
do you find your budgetary constraints merely limiting or in a way also
it's mostly limiting. Ha! We do have to figure out how to make a movie
interesting all the while staying indoors with a few actors. One thing
which makes that easier is having excellent actors. It's probably easier
for us in New York than anywhere else in the world just because there are
so many awesome actors here. And playwrights too. And actors who are
playwrights. Don't think we don't take advantage of the actors re-writing
their own lines in order to make the movie better -- because we do!
we do live in the golden age of what's
By that I mean that if you are
an expert in computer animation it doesn't really cost you much in the way
of cash to do computer animation. But that doesn't mean you don't have to
spend all kinds of time both learning what you're doing and then doing it.
is open source and free. It can do everything you want it to. But you have
to take the time to learn what you're doing. The same is true of cameras.
We have great and cheap cameras now. They're everywhere. But you still
need to know how to light and shoot quickly.
You also play in the band Tyrannosaurus
Mouse, right? A few words about that project of yours?
a sort of old-school art-rock band. If you want to know way
too much about the band and what we're doing,
is the place to go. You can also listen to our latest record there.
who inspire you?
have a soft spot in my heart for John Frankenheimer. I do love some big
ensemble movies like Ronin.
Of course Ridley Scott is awesome, so is John Carpenter.
Your favourite movies?
me give you two favorites that didn't do that well but I really liked.
David Twohy's Below
Chronicles of Riddick.
I thought both of those pictures were fantastically written and executed.
and of course, films you really deplore?
I hated A.I.
I felt like I was going to throw up when I saw Avatar
in the theater in 3D but that's because most 3D makes me want to barf --
on home video (in 2D) it wasn't too bad.
Facebook, blog, whatever else?
a big fan of "too much information." First of all we have a
which is where I try to keep all the information we need to make our
pictures. It goes very deep into processes, naming conventions, all the
boring stuff you have to do in order to make a feature.
blog is blog.pandoramachine.com
-- actually that's the official Pandora
Machine blog. I had to split my blogs up because sometimes I
really do put up too much information and it irritates my distributors. So
my other blog at blog.pleasurefortheempire.com
is my "personal" blog but it sometimes has Pandora
although it's mostly pictures of cats and other things.
Anything else you are
dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
dying to tell people to watch more indie movies. And demand them at your
local mom-and-pop video store! And if you still have any big chain video
stores left, go to them! Every night! Sigh.
for the interview!
for having me Michael!