Interview With The Team Behind THE DARKEST DAWN

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While at London Comic Con, Hollywood News Source were lucky enough to sit down with Drew Casson and Jesse Cleverley the team behind The Darkest Dawn.

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You can learn about where you can purchase The Darkest Dawn at this link

Check out the Trailer below

 

Question The film is billed as The Darkest Dawn with no reference to a previous film but looking over the information it is a sequel can you explain it for people just coming to the franchise
Drew Casson My first feature entitled Hungerford after my hometown we completed back in 2014 which we premiered at the BFI (British Film Institute) which was just ridiculous and from that and the way we leave that story naturally we were having many discussions and thought we have to go and tell the rest of this now because we are kind of curious as to what happens. But what was kind of wicked is we had this kind of opportunity to tell a second standalone story but also weave the storyline that we had left in the first film into it and what was great was the idea of making something we could market as a standalone film and at the same time a sequel to the first film.
Jesse Cleverly The first film did really well, we won best Sci-Fi/Horror film at the Berlin Independent Film Festival, the actress won best actress at the Porto Film Festival, it was on at Shriek Fest. Drew was the youngest director to ever screen a film at the BFI so that felt like a success to us.
Question The film is billed to have some of the biggest names in British YouTube so could we highlight them?
Jesse Cleverly Stuart Ashens @Ashens

Bethan Leadley @musicalbethan

Cherry Wallis

And there is a smattering of other people

Question How did you fund this film was it the traditional studio model?
Jesse Cleverly So Wildseed Studios is a new studio that is being funded with the support of Pinewood Studios in the UK. The idea is that we will fund two of what will are calling microbusters movie, they are micro budget blockbusters. When you see the film you will see what we are talking about because the scale of it is ridiculous, in a good way. We believe that there is a new generation of British talent that is capable of creating World Class Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror but that up until now access to decent budgets and the ability to execute has meant that we as a country have concentrated on drama. We think that is changing and has changed when you see the film you will see that the special effects are ridiculous. We showed it to an American distributor the other day who overestimated the budget by 3.95 Million Dollars so I think that the value onscreen and the budget you spend are no longer connected.
Question So you said that the distributor overestimated the budget by that amount is that down to the British industry having to make more with less or is it more to do with the constant advance of technology i.e. being able to film projects on iPhones?
Drew Casson Bit of both I think, I like to think of myself as a filmmaker in the sense that I have my fingers in as many pies as possible I am not just solely focused on directing, I’m having conversations about the visual effects, I’m thinking about lighting, about the performance side of things, the script etc. So I’m kind of dabbling in all these different areas and then channelling that through one creative through line from literally beginning, middle and end. Someone asked me this the other day and I said it is becoming this universal kind of revolution in a way which is that I am lucky that I’m in this generation of this digital revolution that now you can go out and as you said buy an iPhone and the quality that my iPhone shoots in video is a joke so all of a sudden the lines are totally blurred between what you would consider a Hollywod movie or very expensive TV show and a indie movie or a low budget web series.
Jesse Cleverly And that’s a generational thing I think, there is a new generation and that is what Wildseed Studios have been set up to discover and enable is this new generation of filmmakers who can paint on these massive canvasses.
QUESTION So as a new production company you’re aware that the way in which people are consuming their content has changed. Can you tell us about your distribution approach
Jesse Cleverly Well obviously the talent we’ve cast in the film have 2.5 million subscribers between them across all platforms so that gives us direct access to people who we know love the talent in the film. That talent has grown up on free platforms like Youtube etc. but are all looking and indeed their fans are looking for what is next, you know, what is the premium evolution of this piece of talent I’ve grown to love on another platform. So we believe really that this is the premium evolution. We’re number 12 currently (at the time of the interview) on the iTunes pre-order chart so we’re ahead of Tim Burton, we’re ahead of Girl On A Train, we’re ahead of Spielberg, I would say that we cost 99 million dollars less (Casson laughs) than every other film around us on the iTunes pre-order chart
Question Speaking about the fact that you cast the film with Social Media stars was there no opportunity for a tie in with YouTube Red?
Jesse Cleverly We could have gone to Red (Youtube) but in the end I think that we felt like if we went with Youtube Red they will then own and control your film so we would rather be an independent film able to pick and choose platforms globally. You’re going from a world of 180 territories we could sell to, to one so for us we would much rather be picking the platforms territory by territory that we feel have got the audience there. I think what Red is doing is really interesting so it is not a diss on Red it is just to say that for us we felt that the genre movie audience that will really enjoy this film aren’t necessarily all on Red in a way that they are all on Sky Store which is one of the places the film will be.
Question You’ve explained the connection between Hungerford and The Darkest Dawn for those of us who are a little OCD who don’t want to watch a sequel before an original wherever possible do we need to see Hungerford, how much do we need to know?
Drew Casson Personally I don’t think you need the first film at all, personally I would recommend you go see it because it is a really great film but the beauty of it and I am proud of myself and everyone else involved is that it totally works as a standalone film which is kind of amazing that managed to deliver a totally standalone genre piece and a really kickass sequel.
Jesse Cleverly The first film is about a bunch of teenagers living in a shitty flat in a shitty town in England, right and experiencing this situation slowly coming alive around them. So you watch them go from very average normal teenagers facing the challenges of living in Britain today and then you watch them over the course of that film become something else. In the second film when you meet the cast we start with characters that were not even in the first film so the way into the film is a completely new set of characters. My feelings is you’ll watch the second film first because the profile is higher and what you will then do if you love the film is go “ooh I would love to see who they were before this shit started”. You could almost play the first film like DVD extras
Drew Casson You could.
   

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Jesse Cleverly Because it is inevitably more of an origin story I suppose.
Drew Casson Yeah it is. That is quite interesting
Jesse Cleverly We made the films backwards, we made the sequel first (laughter)
Question Now that you have your own shared universe are you going to make that push, are we going to be seeing comic books, web content. With all the major studios moving forward with shared universes to increase the appeal of their films there is no reason why you couldn’t go down that route.
Jesse Cleverly I totally agree
Drew Casson It is funny because I’m a massive fan of the shared universes and the concept of watching a movie that then correlates to a comic book and then correlates to a web series, I just love that and that is the beauty of the industry that we’re in and certainly where the technology now is that you can do that. I would love to do a comic/graphic novel set.
Jesse Cleverly The universe is definitely deep enough to do it.
Drew Casson We’ve definitely established a world where a lot of interesting things can happen
Jesse Cleverly I used to run the department at the BBC that was in charge of trans-media storytelling so we are very interested in that side of it. So yes is the short answer we will definitely be looking into that. In a way because the project is so digital to begin with we’ve set up camp where must studios do little content extensions that is our base camp so in a way it is a very friendly place to do that stuff. In fact our spaceship attacked Comic Con in the Comic Con trailer so it is already virally leaking out.
Question Tell me about the first thing you directed, the very first thing.
Drew Casson Oh man, the first thing I ever directed, it is funny you say that the first thing I ever directed was myself in the sense that I picked up the camera when I was like 12. I didn’t have an editor around me or a composer, or visual effects artist or gaffer so I had to kind of teach myself the layman’s terms for all these different individual tasks so what I would do on a daily basis is pop the camera up on a tripod on a daily basis and shoot myself go back into the computer watch it internally then direct myself , “so next time Drew you got to do this…”. So I think the answer to your question is myself and through that I kind of learned what would look good for camera, what worked with other people, what didn’t.
Jesse Cleverly The first thing that Drew made that got really noticed was that Harry Potter fan film. The Harry Potter fan film that Drew made is still the most popular HP fan film on the web.
Drew Casson It is called VT as in Veneficus Terminus which is Latin if you just type in VT Harry Potter you should be able to find it.
Jesse Cleverly Warner Bros. thought it was so good that they were convinced it was a member of the crew moonlighting and sent a cease and desist notice and Drew’s reply to that was a letter from his headmaster giving his permission to use the school hall at which they went “Well alright. Maybe we won’t send our LA lawyers after you” to a 14 yr old living in Hungerford.
Question Looked like you dodged a bullet there

If I were to go and find the cast of The Darkest Dawn and ask what you were like to work with as a director what would they say

 

 

 
Drew Casson Well I hope that they would say that I bring a lot of passion and a lot of generosity and a lot of bravery to the film and to the shoot and at the end of the day the only thing I really want to do is create a safe space for everybody because people work their best when they feel safe, it is when people are defending themselves on any level from ego to intelligence to whatever that your connection to everyone else gets marred by that but when you can tell somebody and introduce somebody into a space were they feel equal and respected and loved that is when the good work happens and luckily on this film everybody was totally game. So everyday everyone was bringing their game face again and again and again so that was how we managed to make a film of that kind of scale and quality and detail in a very small space of time really.
Jesse Cleverley If you took me out of the crew the average age would be about 23. So it is a really new paradigm we think.
Question It seems that you have a great studio relationship so maybe you could compare and contrast that to the problems that have arisen in the Divergent franchise with the last film being nixed and turned into a TV series which may or may not have any original cast members. How important do you think it is as a creator to search out that partner that will allow you to do what you want to do?
Drew Casson It is probably the most important thing in some many ways because if me and Jesse didn’t get along creatively (laughs) we would have some serious problems but what is great I think about our relationship is we have so much trust now over the years that I can present quite a radical thought to Jesse like I said in this film I thought we should crash a 747 in the first 10 minutes because that would be cool and at the same time it might hook the audience in and be useful as a storytelling device. It is stuff like that where you can choose either to flinch or hold your tongue and listen to see if there is more to it (To Jesse) How do you feel about it?
Jesse Cleverly Wildseed Movies and the company behind it which is Wildseed Studios our entire reason for being is to enable the creative vision of the most exciting creators that we can get our hands on. So we are not about controlling the creative process, we’re about helping the creator create the best possible version of their idea, so you know we work across a lot of different genre we’ve got a kid show on Disney at the moment called Counterfeit Cat which has just been nominated for a BAFTA and that was our first ever series. We’ve got a short that was just nominated for a BAFTA which was our first ever short so we believe in this market the best way to standout is to back the creative vision of the creator and it might not be that everyone loves everything but my feeling is that the more purely that you can deliver the creator’s vision to the screen the better chance you have of getting real fans. And that’s obviously in digital everything.
Question So new genre what would you like to direct? Outside of what you just did.
Drew Casson I’d like to do a kids film, I’d love to do either a kids animation or a kids live action film. I’ve spent two and a half years making this film and it is called The Darkest Dawn for a reason (Jesse laughs) it is pretty damn dark. It is a heavy day to work because the content that you are going to watch every day I’m emotionally engaged with and I couldn’t really detach myself from all of it, which I love and I knew that going in but at the same time (Jesse: it is gruelling) yes it is gruelling which is why I have so much respect for the guys who make The Walking Dead every time they have to go back it is like wow that is six months of filming people killing each other so now for me it is kind of feels natural to do something a lot lighter. Of course you can have elements of dark but I’d love to do some comedic stuff. Some of my favourite films in the world are kids movies so I’d love to dabble in that. It is just a totally different energy just a completely different creative energy.
Jesse Cleverly What is interesting to us is that we’re getting lots of approaches from different networks now who look at this film and go “So could you make The Walking Dead for us?” I mean not literally but there are a whole bunch of conversations that are available now where networks and platforms that thought they could never even attempt the scale or the impact of a show like The Walking Dead are now coming to us and asking what could we do. To us if someone gave us a quarter of a million pounds we’d go and make Star Wars because we just made 28 Days Later on the price that must films spend on ciabatta.
Question Do you see the rest of the industry going this way in the way that you have approached filmmaking here do you see that as something other people will pick up and start doing as well?
Drew Casson I really hope so, what an incredible opportunity where I like to think I could be at the forefront of something taking on what is known as one of the biggest industries in the world and you are going you have a set of rules that are now changing because of the little 22 year old over here that has never been to film school. So without sounding arrogant that’s an incredibly exciting amazing thing and I was saying to you (Jesse) that Gareth Edwards with what he did with Monsters.
Jesse Cleverly You know that is meaningful right we’re the only thing on that carousel that costs less than a hundred million (shows his phone and iphone pre-order chart) how much did we spend on marketing shall we say £200 it is a thing you know I used to work in theatres I used to work in the Royal Court theatre and worked with a director called Steven Daldry.

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