I was honored to be able to ask producer James Heath of Dresden Pictures some questions about the upcoming dark comedy film The Fitzroy. With just under 3 days left in the Kickstarter campaign the goal line is so close they can taste it! Give their project some love at http://www.thefitzroy.com/ks and I hope you enjoy the questions and answers below.
What is The Fitzroy going to be about?
It is a black surreal comedy set in a post-apocalyptic 1950’s. The film follows Bernard, the hapless bellboy of the UK’s last hotel, The Fitzroy, which just happens to be a marooned submarine.
Bernard is the hotel’s bellboy and general dogsbody. He’s the only one keeping the submarine afloat. All the hotel’s guests and owners are just trying to live out the apocalypse in as much comfort as they can. This is all fine and good until Bernard falls in love with one of the guests. Then all sorts of mayhem and murder ensue. Oh, and the council turn up to inspect the hotel.
What kind of a team do you have working on the film? How did you all end up working on this film?
The core team is made up of Andrew Harmer, the Writer & Director, and Liam Garvo & James Heath, the producers from Dresden Pictures. Andrew and James worked together a few years ago on a short film called ‘Beat it’ and kept in touch ever since. When Andrew showed James & Liam the script for ‘The Fitzroy’, they jumped at a chance to make the film. Ciro Candia is also on as Director of Photography and Natalie O’Connor as Production Designer, both of whom are core members of the team who have worked on previous Dresden Pictures productions.
Why are you doing a Kickstarter?
Various reasons really. Firstly the film isn’t your traditional safe bet of a film. It’s not particularly the kind of film that appeals to production companies. You know – it’s not a slasher or zombie film that’s guaranteed to make its money back. It is the kind of film we love though – fun and odd.
We really want The Fitzroy to be a film made by people who, like us, are film fans. We want them to be part of it and share the experience with them. For example, one of the rewards is to have yourself turned into an animated caricature that appears in the opening title.
The other great thing about raising the money like this is that we can keep complete creative control. We don’t have to answer to anyone and can do something a bit more unusual.
Have you been pleased with the results?
It’s been fantastic! There have definitely been highs and lows, but the highs certainly outweigh the lows. The positive reaction from everyone has been great and very humbling.
Will you be keeping your supporters updated on the film’s progress as it is made?
Certainly! We’ve been keen to engage the audience throughout the campaign and we want that to continue long after the Kickstarter campaign finishes, through the filmmaking process and then to the final delivery of the film.
We want to share this experience with everyone and hope they get as excited as we will. We’ll be doing behind the scenes filming and photography and be announcing big updates as and when they happen.
When did the story for the film develop? Is the script finished?
The story has developed over a few years. Originally it started life as a series of short films that would be ‘stitched’ together to make a feature length film. Each short would be based on one of the rooms in a hotel. Back then it was just an ordinary hotel in a post-apocalyptic world. Unfortunately that script just didn’t hold together, so I took one of the characters that was in quite a few of the shorts and expanded his story into a feature script.
That script is what became known as the first draft. During a very early meeting someone joked about placing it on a submarine – it was meant as a joke but it just fitted. So it was back to the computer for a major re-write.
That is how The Fitzroy came to be – we have since refined the script down and now have a shooting script ready to go, although I’m sure I will give it another couple of passes before we roll cameras.
Do you plan on distributing the films once it’s made? Will it be available to international audiences or just those in the UK?
There are a various distribution models we are looking at, but put simply, yes we are looking to distribute it to an international audience. The format that will take will depend upon how successful the film is…though we want everyone to see it of course!
Is there a story behind the Creepy Retro Monkey in your Kickstarter video?
Yes! He murders all the characters… Not really! You’ll have to wait and see if he pops up in the film! He’s also a kind of good luck mascot for us.
How long have you been a filmmaker?
I’ve been making short films and low budget music videos since my late teens – so quite a while. Almost half my life! Not sure I would describe myself as a filmmaker until I have made at least half a dozen features though.
What makes you so interested in telling stories through film?
I think I’m drawn to it because it’s a visual medium and so versatile. I love how it allows you to tell a story without words and you can capture and reflect human emotions. For me it’s easily the most effective (and fun) way to tell the kind of stories I want to tell.
What are your plans after The Fitzroy?
I really see this as the first (and one of the most important steps) in starting a lifelong career in making films and telling stories. Hopefully it will be the first of many!
James Heath currently producing ‘The Fitzroy’, a darkly comic feature about the last hotel at the end of the world, and raising fund for its production costs via Kickstarter at http://www.thefitzroy.com/ks.