You are currently in pre-production of season 2 of your webseries Horizon
- so what's the series as such about, and what does season 2 hold in
follows the story of five friends who must rally together and attempt to
get to safety when an alien ship arrives over their home city. Its
intentions unclear, the group plan to head for a family farm-house in the
country, but along the way have to contend with a city in panic, looters
and the threat of military attack.
whole take on it originally began with “What would you do if this was
happening to you?” We didn’t want to make it an obvious alien invasion
story, there are a lot of tropes of the genre in there for sure, but we
intentionally draw out the mystery of why the ship is even there. It’s
more about the people on the ground and how we all react to this
life-changing event. So that was very much the focus of season 1 – this
group decide to get their loved ones together and get out of the city. We
only really hint at the larger plot beyond that.
2 is written to be the conclusion of the whole story, so it will answer
the question of why this ship is really here and, rather than running, our
group now have to take a much more pro-active role in stopping an event
that could change the world forever.
Now how did the project fall together in the
first place, and how did you get on board?
project started with our director and producer Paul Dudbridge. I’ve
known Paul for years and he is an extremely talented director and
camera-man. He first had the idea of making a web series and brought it to
myself and Chris Marshfield, who I often write with. He already knew he
wanted to do a sci-fi project, as he has a background in VFX and hasn’t
yet had a chance to utilise it on this scale. He also had a few plot
details and visuals already worked out, such as the idea of opening amidst
a car crash, and he asked if we wanted to help make the rest.
we jumped at it. We’re all big fans of commercial and genre cinema, but
you rarely get to make things like that as an indie film-maker, so this
was our chance. Also the idea of making it as a series was exciting, as
opposed to a one-off short film or feature, because we’d be able to
follow our group over a longer period of time and also leave people with
cliffhangers at the end of each episode. Those were really fun to come up
being an alien invasion story, is that at all a genre you can relate to,
and some of your genre favourites?
say so yes, my favourite genres are probably more gritty crime thrillers
and action, but I also love films like Independence Day and District
Chris and Paul are both big Star Trek fans from childhood so it’s
certainly something the three of us have always enjoyed watching. It was
fun to plan something like that that would take place in our home city of
Bristol too. Usually UFO’s are always attacking the US!
Other sources of
inspiration for cooking up Horizon in the first place?
big sci-fi films I’ve mentioned, but also a lot of the long running US
TV dramas like 24, Lost, The Walking Dead – all of us watch those shows
regularly, so I’d say they fed into our writing a lot. Not only in terms
of the cliffhanger endings, but also the idea of splitting up your core
group and visiting different characters in a new place each episode.
talk about your co-writers Paul Dudbridge and Chris Marshfield for a bit,
and what's your collaboration like?
collaboration was fantastic. We’re all close friends anyway so to write
together was a dream come true. Usually writing can be quite isolated, and
we would always share each other’s scripts for feedback, but this was
the first time we worked together throughout the process. We would
basically get together one evening and start by tossing ideas around,
based simply on what we would like to do or see, then we slowly whittled
that down into our story and individual episodes – then we would each go
away and write those before coming back together to compare and give
notes. It was fun working like this, I would sometimes get a text from
Paul say, asking me to set something up in one of my episodes because he
had an idea of how to pay it off in one of his later on! We all have our
own individual strengths and interests too – we joke that Paul is all
about the drama and I’m all about the action, and then Chris is great
with dialogue and character moments, so it was a nice combination.
Another thing that was nice about it is that we were writing, for the most
part, for specific actors and actresses that we already knew – so it was
great to already have their voices and strengths in mind.
always been a very special effects-intensive series - so how do you go
about that aspect of the series on a rather moderate budget, and will you
in any way up the ante in season 2?
VFX are definitely a crucial part of it – and it was our main motivation
for picking this genre as opposed to something like a zombie or horror
series, because there’s so much you can make now just on your laptop at
home. Just look at what Gareth Edwards did with Monsters – and two
films later he’s directing a Star
Wars! We have an FX guy, Al Tabrett,
we’d worked with before and he’s a big Star
Wars fan, so again we
wanted to make this as it would give him a chance to do all these things
he loves – build spaceships, blow up landmarks etc – but that he
hadn’t yet had the chance to do. I will say the downside of this is the
time it all takes, especially when it essentially comes down to one person
doing it in their spare time. Our post-production took around 18 months to
complete, and we had 140 VFX shots in total.
of this is definitely due to us getting a little carried away at the
writing stage! What you forget is yes there are obvious big numbers like
spaceship shots and fighter jets flying through the city – but all of
the little shots add up to, whether it’s muzzle flash on a gun, or
replacing a screen on a phone so it displays the right text. There were a
few tricks we had to use as well to get us out of trouble when say we lost
the light or the sky was too bright/overcast.
terms of upping the ante, this starts with the story. You have to conclude
things in a satisfactory way, but also without it being predictable. Just
having more explosions or space-ship shots won’t do that. Just like
season 1 we have a wish-list of things we’d like to do, but only if
there’s a place for it in the story. At the moment we actually have a
lot less VFX shots planned, but what we do have is crucial. We didn’t
plan for that, that’s just how it turned out as we were writing. It’s
sci-fi but it’s very much about the human drama as well.
Producing a science
fiction series like this, besides the special effects, what are the main
special effects were definitely the main challenge. It was a lot of work,
then of course there’s the render times. I think we actually destroyed
our FX artist’s graphics card through the whole process! Something might
take 48 hours to render and then you spot a small mistake and have to do
it all over. It takes a lot of patience and I have to credit not only Al
and our other FX artist Scott Martin, but also Paul the director who spent
a lot of time sat with them both working through it. I was actually
separate from a lot of that – I just got the easy bit which was swanning
in at the end of the process when a shot was done and saying yes or no!!
than that the other main challenge was simply juggling all of our actors
and locations in the time we had! We had a huge ensemble cast and shot in
more than ten separate locations around Bristol, plus our aim was to shoot
each episode in a day. So that’s between 5-10 pages of script a day, in
the month of January when you lose the light about 4pm! They were fast
moving and often long days. In fact one location, which was very expensive
to use, actually necessitated us shooting two episodes there in a day! The
crew were on-set for something like 16 hours. By the time Paul got home
and backed up all the data he actually had no time to sleep before meeting
up the next day for the next episode.
again, because it’s an indie project, you’re shooting around
people’s availability, so our 10 day schedule was spread throughout the
whole month as and when people were free. Pretty soon we’ll be doing it
all again for series 2!
You also play one of the leads in Horizon
- so what can you tell us about your character, what do you draw upon to
bring him to life, and how much of Simon Pearce can we find in Dan,
was Paul’s suggestion that I appear in the show. Though directing is
very much my main pursuit, acting has always been a hobby of mine. I
studied it through school and college and have done the odd guest spot on
some TV dramas and in short films. The month we shot series 1 it was
looking unlikely that I’d be able to direct any myself, as my other work
meant I wouldn’t have sufficient time to prep, so that’s when Paul
suggested I play Dan. I was initially a bit nervous about it – when
you’re not known for doing a particular role you’re opening yourself
up for a lot of critiscism and also I knew the calibre of the other people
we were bringing on board, so I didn’t want to do it unless I thought I
could do a decent job. Equally I knew the episodes and scenes we were
planning and how much fun that could be, so it was hard to say no! I’m
glad I agreed to do it ultimately as it was a very pleasurable experience
working with the rest of the cast and doing some acting again.
a character, Dan probably wasn’t too dissimilar to myself to be honest
– I don’t know if I’d hold up as well as he does given the
circumstances but like with the other characters we kind of wrote for the
actors who’d end up playing them. What was nice about it is that because
I look younger than my age I’m often cast, when I do act, as the sort of
geeky or nervous character, so to crawl out of up-turned cars and jump out
of explosions was a nice change of pace!
Jason Allen, Kate Marie Davies, Kessie
Bartlett, Paul Tonkin, Simon, Alicia Angel
like to think he’s quite relatable as a character for the audience
watching, like a lot of people he’s just trying to keep his head above
water and gets to use a bit of humour too which is fun to do amidst the
tension. He looks up a lot to his older brother and lead character Steven
(Paul Tonkin), so definitely is a little nervous when they’re forced to
separate but he holds his own for the sake of the people around him.
It’s going to be interesting to play him in series 2 given where we
leave him in the first series, but I won’t say too much more in case
people haven’t seen it!
What can you tell us about the rest of your
cast, and to what extent were you involved in the casting process?
and I collaborated closely on the cast from the beginning. We’ve been
lucky to build up a great network of talented cast and crew over the years
we’ve been making films in Bristol, and we talked extensively when we
started writing about who we wanted to use for this. Then we wrote those
parts specifically for them. It was also a nice chance to use some people
we knew of or had had recommended but perhaps hadn’t had the chance to
work with directly yet. We’re really looking forward to doing the same
on series 2, and it’s very gratifying the amount of CV’s and headshots
we’ve been sent since series 1 was released. It’s always nice to see
when people are enthusiastic about your work.
rest of the cast were great – not only in their roles but just as
people. Like I said we had to work very fast, there wasn’t a lot of time
to consult on scenes or discuss them on set, people had to be able to roll
with the punches and do all their homework beforehand and everyone in it
did a great job. We’d work with them all again in a heartbeat.
far as I know, Horizon season 2 is still raising funds as we speak
- so what can you tell us about your campaign?
is something I have been wary of in the past, simply because there’s so
many independent film projects out there vying for your attention and
offering the same things like DVDs or credits or whatever – but we felt
confident to do it with this because series 1 was and is already available
for free. We’re not asking for contributions based on concept art or a
brief teaser – people have an entire show they can watch and hopefully
get invested in. We have some great rewards on offer including a chance to
visit the set, come to the wrap party, get one of our clapper-boards, and
even appear in the show itself. For the low contribution of £10 we’ll
also send you the entire second series in advance before it goes on
also don’t think we’re asking too much for what is essentially an hour
of content. We haven’t upped the budget since series 1 – what we’re
asking for is about the same amount of money Paul and I spent the first
time around! We just can’t do it again!
funds are raised, what's the schedule - and any idea when the series might
be released onto the general public yet?
shoot episodes 1-3 in August of this year. The remaining 7 will be shot a
little later as they’ll need longer to prep – also we lose an actor in
September so we have to get all their stuff in the can before then! The
plan is to release the show in October 2017. But contributors/investors
will likely get an advance screening towards the end of September.
conjunction with the crowd-fund we’re also speaking to local businesses
about sponsorship and had a great meeting recently with a company in the
US who are keen to shop season 1 as a complete pilot to TV networks and
online video platforms, so the fund-raising will continue beyond
projects beyond Horizon?
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
of us has other projects that we’re developing right now, pre-dominantly
features – Paul has a great drama/thriller script called Breathe,
and Chris and I are currently working on a couple of action/thriller
scripts Burner and Reparation. Unlike Horizon these
projects take a little longer as you approach producing partners,
investors, sales agents who may be able to pre-sell it and so on… the
nice thing about a webseries is you can just make it and immediately put
it out to an audience!
website, Facebook, IndieGoGo, whatever else?
all of season 1 now at:
... and here's my latest short Watch Over Me:
for the interview!