Your new movie Megan - in a few words, what is it about?
Relationships. Fundamentally this film is about the
relationship between the Callum Smith and Megan
characters, even though they are only seen together for
a short time in the film. Therefore, the relationship
had to both be believable and have a long lasting effect
on the audience. I think a relationship can only be
truly identified through crisis, that is why the films
setting is post-apocalyptic. The main character Callum
becomes separated from Megan when the apocalyptic event
occurs. In its aftermath he searches for Megan over
the period of five years. What sort of character would
not give up his quest despite the challengers that
surround him? Somebody who had developed a deep
relationship with another person. The two main leads in
the film, Dean Sills
[Dean Sills interview - click
here] and Carley Motley did a fantastic
job conveying this relationship across the few scenes
they are in, indeed the last scene is quite emotional.
To what extent can you identify with your movie's
central character Callum actually?
The sense I wanted to bring across in this film is
that the characters are ordinary everyday people. They
are not special forces, action hero types that you see
especially in zombie post-apocalyptic films. They have
ordinary lives, jobs and worries, but in my view these
sort of people would probably survive better in an
apocalyptic situation. That is why a lot of the opening
flashbacks are set in recognisable environments. Working
Men’s Clubs, houses and cars, places people will go to
regularly. The short film is just under twenty minutes
so there wasn’t much room in which to manoeuvre and
have a large character arc Callum could go on, but I do
feel there is a sense of change in the character as the
film progresses. He has to change in order to survive,
but there still remains a sense of decency in him. What
would you do if you had just killed someone? Obviously
you would be horrified.
Megan's lead Dean Sills
[Dean Sills interview - click
here] described your movie to me as "a zombie movie
without zombies" - at all a description you can
live with, and any zombie and post-apocalypse movies
that particularly inspired you to make Megan?
There is one zombie in the film but you do not see her
or him until the end (no spoilers here) but Dean is
right in the fact that we wanted to approach both the
zombie and post-apocalyptic genres in a different way.
The main example I give is Danny Boyles film 28 Days
Later, in which the structure is run away from the
zombies from point A to B. In Megan
the structure is
spilt between the present day (five years after the
apocalypse) which is shown in colour and various
flashbacks which are from a period before the apocalypse
as well as a week before the present day (this is shown
in black and white). In a sense Callum is remembering
what has happened over the years and how things have
shaped him. This film is therefore not a zombie gore
fest (I wouldn’t be interested in doing such a film)
but a film centres on character studies and memory. For
some reason, I cannot explain it, but I keep returning
to these elements in my films. The Railway
Carriage is about a character struggling with
memories in a surreal environment. Even my first short
film Guardians deals with two conflicting elements
which are fighting to take over the protagonist. In
reality an army sergeant tries to keep the protagonist
alive, while in purgatory the protagonist’s former
girlfriend who committed suicide tries to take him to
the afterlife with her. I have just realized all my
films use an extreme setting (Purgatory, a nightmare and
a post-apocalyptic world) in which to explore human
relationships. When it comes to inspirations, I looked
at a wide range of sources, but gaming seems to inspire
me nowadays. Games such as The Long Dark and the Fallout franchise
show a post-apocalyptic world
that has yet to be seen on screen. The Long Dark
is different from the norm because there are no human
characters (apart from the playable character) in the
game at all, rather there are random encounters with
wild animals. Thus the antagonist in the game is the
actual environment itself and thus there is a focus on
survival. Early on I wanted to make a film with this
ethos in mind and have the environment and surviving in
it a real noticeable element.
In terms of films, two stand out to me as key
inspirations. Maggie is a zombie film starring
Arnold Schwarzenegger. This dealt with a zombie
infection in a differing manner than the norm. The main
zombie in the film was the lead character’s own
daughter, posing the dilemma, should he hand her over to
the authorities or take care of her himself? The other
film is The Road. A fantastic post apocalypse film
which centered on a family relationship.
What can you tell us about your directorial approach
to your story and hand?
My Mother jokingly calls me an auteur whenever we
talk about Megan. I managed everything from
beginning to end. I came up with the story, wrote the
script, found the locations, and shot everything as
well. Dean Sills was a great help, giving feedback on
the script, securing locations and finding actors. Like The Railway
Carriage he is going to promote the
film. In terms of how I direct, I feel the best approach
is to try and make it enjoyable for the actors and crew.
I am not too forceful because the people I work with are
usually doing me a massive favour. I also like actors to
improvise if they think they can act out a scene better
than how it was set out in the script. The main problem
I had with the film was time. I only had a short amount
of time to shoot the film. That said I think it was
amazing what we managed to do over the course of the
shoots. I also tried to make each shot interesting and
also make the environment both realistic and a character
in its own sense as well. This film would not have
worked in the way it did if I had completely set it in a
house for example.
is set in a post-apocalyptic world - so how did
you manage to come up with just the right locations for
your presumably small budget, and what were the
advantages but also challenges filming there?
The film was mostly shot around where I live, which
is not known for its post apocalypse locations. The
places we managed to find were often hidden away. One
such location for example was on a former RAF base in
Sheffield. It has been closed since the 1970’s, it is
now a driving school. We found some fantastic buildings
on site, which included a hanger and ruined barracks
blocks, unfortunately the buildings were known to have
asbestos in them and both me and Dean didn’t want the
massive risk factor if we filmed inside them. There was
however a bunker on site which looked fantastic and is
seen half way through the film. Another amazing location
was at a paintball center only five minutes away from
where I live. It had all sorts there, so much so I felt
we could have filmed on that location for a week. There
were ruined buildings, old military land rovers,
helicopters and even a tank. Along with several churches
and a Working Men’s Club, I feel the choice of
locations should leave an impression with the audience.
Another amazing fact is that we got to film at these
amazing sites for free, which is down to Dean’s great
efforts in persuading organizations to allow us to film
What can you tell us about your key cast, and why exactly these people?
A big thank you to all the actors who were involved
in the film: Dean Sills, Carley Motley, Kuljit Singh,
Ross Marshall, Mitchell Hone and Samantha Senior Needes.
I cast these actors for the roles because they look
visually interesting. Kuljit for example played the
soldier in the film. He is only seen for a short time,
barely a minute, but he leaves a lasting impression. The
close-up shot of him wearing a facemask so the audience
can only see his eyes is quite powerful and has stayed
with me over the last two months. I would love to do
something else with him in the future. I think Dean and
Carley work well together and their relationship in the
film seems natural. Dean is also great at expressing
himself through body language, so I try and keep his
speaking parts to a minimum so his visual persona will
shine through. Ross Marshall was great as well and lent
a menacing aspect to the character he was playing. He
had never played a ukulele before but he really made it
his own in the scenes he is in. Again I would love to
work with him in the future, indeed a lot of people have
talked to me about the possibility of doing a sequel to Megan
concentrating on the character played by
Ross. Mitchel Hone has been in most of my films and I
feel he has progressed greatly from the first film which
was Guardians through to this film. I hope to make
a film where he is the lead character. Finally, Samantha
Senior Needes did a fantastic job in her role as a
public announcer. All the actors were all professional
and really wanted to do the roles I gave them. I would
love to work with all of them again.
Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set
There was not a lot of time to shoot everything on
set, so time was an issue. A lot of unforeseen events
also happened that could not have been helped. On one
shoot for example we were shooting scenes beside a fire,
and of course, a thunderstorm happened. Apart from these
hiccups the actors and crew were still cheerful despite
often waiting hours before I was ready for them. At the
end of each shoot I was exhausted but happy that
everyone was putting in 110% effort to make the best
film we possibly could.
The $64-question of course, when and where will Megan
be available to the general public?
is just being entered into several film festivals, so fingers crossed, you could see the film in
a few months anywhere in the world. Like my last film The Railway
Carriage (which is just about to be
released), the film will eventually go online a little
over a year after it was made, but you can still see
some short videos about it on my YouTube channel.
Any future projects you'd like to share?
Yes. Since finishing my degree I have had loads of
ideas of what to do next. At the moment I am working on
a film about The First World War, I’ve wanted to mark
the centenary somehow since 2014. After this next film I
would like to take a break from serious films and
perhaps try my hand at comedy.
Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
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If you want to see more about this film or any of my
other projects have a look at the links below.
Anything else you're dying to mention and I have
merely forgotten to ask?
Finally, I would like to give a big thank you to all
the crew who helped me. Jack Chell was the sound
recordist on location. Colin Bradley was the sound
engineer on the studio recordings we did for the public
broadcaster. Paul Hynes was the composer and created
some fantastic ambient scores to add emphasis to some of
the films key scenes. Steve Call helped out when we shot
the scenes with Dean Sills and Ross Marshall. Finally,
Callan Evans, somebody I have worked with before on my
short film The Railway
Carriage, did a fantastic
sound design for the film. He really created another
element to The Railway
Carriage and I had no
doubts that he would do a good job on Megan. I
would not have been able to make the film if it wasn’t
for their help.
Thanks for the interview!