Indie filmmaker AD Lane discusses inspiration, acute pain and his 10-year passion project 'Invasion of the Not Quite Dead'.
1. Which stories - films/books/comics/TV shows - do you think have made the greatest impact on you?
I am pretty much the most cliched filmmaker going: I had a very lonely and unhappy childhood, so much so…the family TV would be my best friend. I’d live my life through other people, characters from TV shows, I would have my adventures and experiences through the films I watched on the big screen… so it’s safe to say that TV and film would always play a big role in my life…I’m quite dyslexic, so reading was never my thing, nor were comic books, but if I had to put out a few titles of what really inspired the younger version of me it would be ‘Back To The Future’: it gave me the strength to take on the school bullies, to not go through life being pushed around and to be in control of my destiny. Not only that, but to be fully in control of my destiny, so a lot of who I am and where I am now is from that film having such an impact on me.
Then we have a whole bunch of horror films I watched as a kid that gave me my edginess…Hammer Horror was such a big part of my childhood - as was having a babysitter who was obsessed with video nasties: her stories of banned films ignited a passion in me for the controversial.
2. When did you realise horror was your genre?
It’s funny but I’d say that nowadays horror is my least watched genre, mainly due to most films having really poor CGI gore, blood splatter, or over-the-top CGI imagery that just takes you out of the film, so for me it’s rare to get truly excited for a modern horror, but it does happen from time to time…My love will always remain dedicated to that of 70's & 80's primarily, with some 90's…but I will never forget the day I watched ‘Dawn of the Dead’ and even to this day I have a vision in my head of visiting our local video rental store and seeing the ‘Day of the Dead’ VHS box, and it always haunted me, in a good way. In fact all the horror films had an impact on me, and the times were very different in the 80’s: my dad would just rent them for me. So I wasn’t fazed by horror films or violence from a very young age. I guess Horror is my first love, and when I watched a documentary on ‘Day of the Dead’ and seeing Tom Savini make up the zombies, and seeing hundreds of zombies in an underground bunker eating food and laughing behind the scenes…that was when it hit me…I want to do that, I want to make a film that will bring a lot of people together to make something special, maybe not on the scale of what I’ve ended up doing, but the seed was planted.
3. Wes Craven or John Carpenter – or both?
I have a huge amount of respect for both, and it’s safe to say that Wes Craven would be in my top 5, but for me John Carpenter is the MAN, with ‘The Thing’ being my all-time favourite horror film, and with films like ‘They Live’, ‘Halloween’ and ‘Big Trouble in Little China’, he’s got more of my all-time favourites in his catalogue. But other inspirations for me are David Cronenberg and also David Lynch - this is where a lot of my love for surrealism and body horror comes into play, which is an area not normally associated with Carpenter.
4. Stephen King or James Herbert?
If this is a book question, PASS…haha. If this is a chance for me to talk more about my childhood, then Stephen King had a huge part to play with all the TV and movie adaptations. My all-time favourite filmmaker is Stanley Kubrick, and I adore his version of the King novel ‘The Shining’. I know King himself didn’t like it and so it was remade based more on his book, which I wasn’t a big fan of. So apart from that, yeah, I love a lot of the adaptations…it was again a huge part of my childhood.
5. You’ve been working on ‘Invasion of the Not Quite Dead’ for 10 years – can you remember what was the initial inspiration?
There have been a few initial inspirations, but the very first one would be recovering from an 11 month battle with a lodged kidney stone, 2003/2004, in and out of hospital in the most intense pain possible almost daily. After it passed, I had only one thought in my head: to go follow my dream of making a full length feature. So I enrolled in film school and the rest, as they say, is history…But to not be in pain, that’s my inspiration. But then you could say being in pain is also weirdly inspirational because you can draw on something nasty, that maybe you couldn’t if you weren’t in any pain…but what I found whilst on this journey is a lot of mental pain which did at times consume me to the point I actually didn’t know if I could make it back. My therapy was to put that into my film-making and transfer my pain to my characters.
And now inspiration to me is knowing that my journey has in some way inspired someone - that is incredible to me.
6. What has been the most fulfilling experience so far making the film?
I think that changes as time goes on. Making the film and directing incredible actors like Frank Jakeman, Marc Zammit, Neal Ward, Nina Stratford, Joe Riley, Lydia Kay, that has been incredibly rewarding. Having a bunch of people not only stick by you for years, but to know that they are giving the film everything they have is just amazing to me. But if I was to say what has been the most emotionally charged fulfilling moment so far, it was March 4th, 2017, when we premiered our new teaser trailer to a bunch of unsuspecting people over at Moonlight Drive-in Cinema. They were there to watch Matt Damon in ‘The Great Wall’, but they got to see our teaser first, and to just be teased ourselves and seeing it on the big screen was honestly the greatest feeling in the world…up there with getting married and having kids…roll on us seeing the final film up there soon.
7. And what has been the lowest moment and how did you overcome it?
The lowest moment was probably when my 2-week-old, Indie, was in the hospital, she had to have an emergency operation, and it was while people who were no longer connected to the film decided to launch an attack on me and the project - this had been an ongoing cyber bullying campaign on me and my project for years - but they hit their absolute lowest going after me when they knew my little one was being operated on. I called them out, without naming them, that if it didn’t stop, I would name them. I’ve not had a single thing from them in nearly 2 years…and again, ‘Back to the Future’ gave me the courage to do that…but that would be my absolute lowest. The project itself had caused me to have somewhat of a mental breakdown, that didn’t help, and I really felt like I was drowning in an abyss of self-pain/hate, so I did the only thing I could think of doing: I put it into my film…let the film absorb my mental pain, which is why the film has a very dark tone about it, but I think in a positive way: what I went through has now enhanced the film, and for me everything I do is about trying to bring something new to the table, to experiment and to push myself. So did I do it to myself? subconsciously? was I part of my own experiment?…
8. What are the most important storytelling lessons you’ve learnt in making the film?
Write about what you know, what you’ve experienced, people you know or have met, then take that and make it fit with your storytelling. For me, I took a lot of my pain, fear and anxiety, I would then put that into my storytelling. So it’s good to have a starting point: if you’ve never experienced politics, then maybe making a film about parliament is the wrong way to go, or if you hate football, making a film about it would be the wrong direction to go in, so for me with ‘Invasion’ a lot of it is from me, and that’s the best advice I could give people when writing their own stories. Unless you have an incredible imagination, in that case, don’t stop…
9. How have you inspired the actors and crew to stick with the project for so long?
I often wonder that myself, and people would always say, well the film is very different and unique, all of the main characters have career defining scenes, so I can only guess that they saw something very special in the film, hopefully in me too. I make sure that when people are connected to the film, they’re not just cast and crew, they become an extended part of my family: my wedding day was full of my film's backers, the cast, the crew. This isn’t just me making a film, but building a community of what I call a new generation of Goonies, people who may be slightly broken or need something in their life. A lot of the people connected to my film fit into that category, so there’s a few reasons why people may have stuck around for so long. My lead actor, Frank Jakeman, has stuck with me since 2009, we finally finished his scenes DECEMBER 2016. This guy is not only an incredible actor who will be in very high demand after ‘Invasion’ but he’s been an amazing friend, a real father figure to me, so there is a lot of love between me and those involved with this film, it’s really a project about family.
10. I remember watching Peter Jackson’s ‘Bad Taste’ and, even though it’s a great film, some of the effects are pretty bad (at one point someone off camera throws a bucket of fake blood into shot!). Your effects, on the other hand, look amazing. How have you managed so much gore with no CGI?
It’s been tricky but overall very fun to say, NO CGI whatsoever, from blowing a car up in Bulgaria, to having cars on fire, real blood splatter. Our Make Up FX artist Kate Griffiths is just incredible, a lot of the effects look so damned good because she doesn’t buy props, she goes to the butchers, so it makes everything look even more raw and real, because a lot of it is…
And the same troubles go with my determination to have part of the film look like the original ‘The Fog’ with mist everywhere. So all night shoots, and that’s like 30% of the film, has to have real fog/mist in the scenes, so that has been very challenging, and it’s all thanks to Danny Allen who is always designing better ways of channelling more and more smoke for us...And finally a big shout out to our cinematographer, Josh White, who has just made making the film an absolute pleasure. He’s creating some truly cinematic scenes, that pay homage to all the 80’s horror movies I loved as a kid…And that’s the other thing: we’re primarily a crew of 2-4 people…we wanted to prove that you don’t need a crew of large numbers to make something of quality. We hope that we can inspire a new generation of filmmakers to make a lot from very little.
11. You’re pitching ‘Invasion of the Not Quite Dead’ as not quite a zombie movie – do you think zombies have been done to death?
I think it’ll always have an audience, but the last few years there has been a huge surge in zombie TV/films…I’m a big fan of ‘The Walking Dead’, but not so much a fan of modern zombie films, with the exception of a few. For me, the true zombie genre is Romero’s original trilogy - I’m also a huge fan of the ‘Return of the Living Dead’ franchise (first 3). It’s not for me to say it’s been overdone, but there’s only a handful I personally like. The irony is, the zombie genre isn’t particularly one of my favourite genres, with ‘Invasion’ it’s been about incorporating different genres. The idea to not go the copycat route came in university, during an assignment to make a short film, I thought why not make something that’s just slightly out of the box, so it’s not quite a zombie short film, haha, so in 2005 the idea to do something different began, 2 years before I put making ‘Invasion’ into motion…
12. Why do you think horror as a genre has such a devoted audience?
A lot of people love to be scared, in a safe environment that is. The best example I can give you is of my 4-year-old Daisy, she’s now at that age of loving things like old ‘Doctor Who’ and MST3K with the dinosaur episodes. She loves to be scared, but doesn’t like going to the toilet on her own now, but she won’t NOT watch the things that scare her. I think a lot of people maybe are somewhat morbid, or they feel better about their lives seeing someone go through hell. Some people just find horror films funny, and they’re maybe sick thinking like that, haha, who knows. It’s the one genre that would potentially excite the most amount of people…for a filmmaker it’s the most exciting one you can shoot: creating stunning light and smoke scenes, pushing actors to go past breaking point for a scene, to create your own sub-genre of monsters…I guess classic Doctor Who helped me want to create something of my own, now I’ve created the NOT QUITE DEAD…
13. What one piece of advice has stuck with you throughout your filmmaking experience and who gave it to you?
My mentor at the International Film School of Wales was none other than Oscar nominated Ken Russell, who later went on to become a friend and someone who passionately believed in my film and would join the project as a consulting producer.
When I first met Ken, it was in 2004, he came in and did a big seminar on his experience in the film business, which was more of a warning: if you get to the point of working for a studio, you’ll lose a lot of creative control. It was actually his seminar that stuck with me for ‘Invasion’ and how much I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose control of the film's vision. It’s why it’s taken so many years, my fight for full control over the film, and it was his advice during the seminar that started me on the journey I then went on.
14. Do you have any advice for someone who is about to embark on their own filmmaking odyssey?
I’ll keep this one simple: no matter how hard it gets, find a way not to quit. I’ve had to step down several times from my dream over the years, I’ve never once quit, but sometimes you have to admit something isn’t working and then regroup, figure it out. The longest gap once we began shooting was over a year and a half, I had to put family first, there was no alternative, but the biggest thing I can promote, is how I never quit, and that is the part I hope I’ll be remembered for…If I could have a single legacy it would be the guy who went to hell and back for his film over a 10 year period, but HE NEVER QUIT… so follow your dreams, and stick with it…one day it will be YOUR time.
15. In an ideal world what will you be doing ten years from now?
I would love to think the hard work of this last 10 years will have made life easier to get films made, so I’m hoping that I’ll have made a few more films, got a few ideas lined up. But maybe I’ll be ready to begin work on the sequel then? Or next year if my lead actor, Frank Jakeman, has anything to say about it…But in all seriousness, to just be happy and less stressed, maybe a 3rd child…but that’s the best thing about life: you just never know what is around the next corner…As long as I’m inspiring someone somewhere, I’ll be happy.
Find out more about 'Invasion of the Not Quite Dead' at the Indywood Studios website.
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