I am really excited to bring you an interview with some of the people involved in the making of a great new horror short called Dead Air! From IMDB description:
Set on a plane traveling to a final gig, Dead Air tells the story of Monster Kitten, an all-female punk rock band who end up on a flight with some nasty little creatures with all hell breaking loose at 30,000 feet.
Geoff Harmer the Director (Overtime, Addict, Smile), Peter Hearn the Writer (Smile, Scrawl, Motto). Our Actresses Stacy Hart (Get Real, The Beach) as the drummer, Charlie Bond (Vendetta, Strippers vs Werewolves) as the singer, Johanna Stanton (Nightmare Box, Sinatra: All or Nothing at All) as the guitarist, and Kate Davies Speak (Horizon, Deadman Apocalypse) as the bassist. And our master puppeteers Andrew James Spooner (Muppets Most Wanted, Muppets Treasure Island), Tony Lymboura (Muppets Most Wanted, The Muppets Christmas Carol) and Nicola Buckmaster. And a special appearance by Dave (IMDb finds him to controversial to cover) as The Creature but he reminded me he is an actor, not a puppet.
GEOFF HARMER and PETER HEARN
How is the script going?
PH – The feature script? Well, there is a complete 125pg draft which is massive but a bit unwieldy and therefore I am in the process of writing a smaller, madder version, with fewer characters and a more contained feel. Funny thing with both, each version has a different lead, so to speak, even though it’s ultimately an ensemble piece and different people die at different times. It’s fun to approach the material from completely different angles, like a horror comedy Rashomon.
Why did you decide to do a short first?
GH – It was always intended to be a short film, the feature idea grew as the project progressed. When we first embarked on our journey, the project was a very different kettle of fish to what we ended up making. The original premise was a full-on zombie horror film set on a small passenger-carrying bi-plane. ‘Dead Air’ is still set on a plane, albeit a much larger one, and still handles the idea of infection, but that’s it. As Pete’s script grew in length and grandeur, we realized we were going to struggle to show everything we wanted in a 15-minute short film.
PH – I think in this day and age you need to show people what it’s going to look like and sometimes a script isn’t the best way of doing that. Plus we wanted to make it and if it just ends up as a short that goes no further at least it exists. So many features disappear because people cannot find the funding, we thought this was too good an idea to not film and share with the world. Next up, with some luck, the feature will follow.
How did you decide on the name for the airline?
PH – Crampton Air came from me knowing Geoff was a huge Barbara Crampton fan and throwing it his way. He liked it, I liked it. We thought it was a great homage to one of the most enduring ladies of horror. Who wouldn’t want an airline named after them?
When we came to put a name to the airline, I knew it had to be something special as well as an in-joke for the horror fans. Having been a fan of Barbara Crampton since Re-Animator and From Beyond, when Pete mentioned it, I just had to use it.
How did you decide on Dan Hall for composing the score?
I’ve known Dan for years, ever since he scored ‘Motto’ the semi-prequel to the Daisy Ridley horror feature ‘Scrawl’. He’s my go to, and now Geoff’s go to. I think this is the 5th, maybe 6th project we’ve collectively worked on with Dan.
Dan originally scored a piece of music for a teaser trailer I was putting together for another film idea that I was working on, called ‘Angel of Saigon’. His sweeping melodic score simply blew me away! I’ve never looked back since! I think it’s great that we’re into the same films and composers, which really helps when we discuss how the score will sound.
I saw that PANTYCHRIST will be doing the music for Monster Kitten, how did that come about and will there be any sound bytes from either them or Dan?
GH – Pantychrist came out of a call for punk bands, specifically female punk bands. Their music fit so so well. It was like it was made for the film.
Whilst we were shooting Dead Air, I played a few tracks from Pantychrist in between takes. I got a good vibe from it and it felt like the right attitude and sound for our band. I approached their Manager and he has been extremely helpful in working with us to get the right sound for our band. I’m blown away by their generosity!
DAN HALL (composer)
How did you get involved in scoring Dead Air?
Having worked for both Geoff and Pete on a number of projects already, it just seemed like it was a team dynamic that really worked so I don’t think whether we were working together again was ever questioned. At least not to my knowledge. That and I really liked the concept. I read the earlier drafts of the script very early on and I thought it would allow for some fun musical opportunities.
What influences did you draw from?
John Carpenter, Brad Fiedel, Vangelis – all those quirky 80s horror movies with great synth scores. Of course, there’s a hint of Gremlins in there as well. On the more modern side, listening to the score to Stranger Things and also Le Matos who did the score for Turbo Kid. Loads more to mention but those are the foremost.
How did you come up with the score for Dead Air?
I figured early on that this punk rock band on a plane was obviously going to need a punk rock-based score, and then it became apparent that there would be rock songs placed in the movie. So I had to rethink because you can’t contrast rock against rock. You need something that will accentuate those musical
transitions so when the song comes on you really notice. It’s not always the job of the score to ‘be noticed,’ but often just to serve the film well. So it was natural to go for synth because it already works well alongside rock, and then the B-movie leanings of Dead Air sort of pushed me gradually towards vintage sounding synths. Probably because of that nostalgic value I associate with watching low-budget, cult horror films when I was younger, and how I could see Dead Air fitting into that
What do you like about composing?
I think it’s just creating something that someone else might enjoy listening to essentially, or that fills a void in a project like this. The film was great fun before the music went in, but it’s a case of looking at it and thinking, can I elevate this project even further by including music and how do I go about doing
that? Can I ratchet up the tension, give it some emotional emphasis, make someone in the audience jump? That sort of thing. It’s a creative puzzle and I enjoy those.
Do you find composing for horror easier/trickier than anything else?
I don’t know if easier would be fair to say. I think I’ve gotten quite accustomed to working on horror type films with Geoff and Pete and other filmmakers before that, and as a result, I think I’m improving my methods. But the challenge is always there regardless of the genre. I think horror is particularly satisfying to work with though because of the extreme situations you find yourself scoring music too.
What would you like to tackle next?
I’m like many creatives out there and I sort of jump between different projects, some personal and others collaborations. I’d quite like to get back on the writing and finish a short script, maybe a novel. And while I’m doing that, I’ll wait for the next scoring project to appear.
Who is responsible for the makeup special effects and how did you decide on the looks?
PH – Tankfall FX did the makeup and we threw some ideas at them and they came back with the look of the monsters.
GH – Tankfall FX came up with a number of pencil designs after we passed a few ideas and references to them.
Why practical effects over CGI?
GH – Even as we started to work out how we were going to tell our story, we always had Practical Puppets in mind. Both having a huge love of the creature features from the 70’s through to the 90’s, we felt it was the right way to go. As our creatures we’re always quite small, we knew that we were looking at going down the same path as films like ‘Gremlins’ and ‘Critters’. There is a small, but very essential element of CGI in the film. Having an incredibly talented VFX artist on the case to put this work together is an absolute godsend.
PH – We have a great love for the practical, due to the era in which we grew up, but ultimately we have had to have a mix of practical and CGI as glowing eyes on set was a no go. I would say 85% is practical with some amazing touches of CGI by our amazing CGI artist. Think ‘Jurassic Park’ but instead of ‘Dinosaurs’ we had little creatures called ‘Dave’
How has the puppeteering changed from the 80’s and films like Gremlins?
ANDREW JAMES SPOONER
Well, on a purely technological level everything has improved. The mechanics and controls for animatronics have changed vastly. What would take maybe 3 or four people to control can now be done with one RC controller? The basics of rod puppets are the same, but new materials can make things much lighter, and with the advent of computers we can remove all the rods, wires and the like much more easily. We can achieve much more complicated, dynamic and exciting shots because we can shoot with all the puppeteers in the shot, and remove them digitally later. This was much harder in the past, so much more time was spent finding clever ways to hide the puppeteers so it could all be shot “in camera.” We still do this as much as we possible, but it’s not so much of a necessity.
Now a quick interview with the star (puppet actor) 😉
Dave: My Favorite horror movie? That’s easy! Mary Poppins! Some awful, stuck-up woman, falls from the sky and tells you to tidy your room and then go and fly kites! Fuck that.
Dave: I’d have to say, Geoff Harmer. But only because he’s standing behind me with a gun in my back. If he wasn’t here I’d say, Guillermo Del Toro.
Ouch! Geoff! Stop poking that thing in my back, you wanker.
Dave: When on set I like to have moisturizer at hand. My skin can get very dry. Oh! and a pint of blood from a freshly killed calf. Yums.
Dave: Trailer! You think these cheapskates would pony up for me to have a trailer! Nono. They just shoved me back in my box. NO AIR HOLES EITHER! They have no respect for artists.
I want to thank everyone involved so much for taking their valuable time to answer my questions! I will keep you all informed for when it is released. To say I am excited is an understatement, the premise is so fresh and there are so many great people coming together to make this film that I know it will be utterly fabulous!