Interview with Filmmaker Alex Murray (SIGNAL DARK)

SIGNAL DARK was the winner of BEST DIRECTION at the June 2022 FANTASY/SCI-FI Festival.

What motivated you to make this film?

The motivation was simple…

We wanted to make a film and we wanted to make something that we would like to go and see.

Most movies will stick to a structure and hit the right beats at the right time, but we wanted to make something that was as unpredictable and compelling without the narrative being compromised and getting the audience lost.

With a combination of slow pacing, drip fed exposition and a focus on visual Storytelling.

I think we achieved that.

From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?

In summary, Pre-Production was around 6 months, Production was 2 weeks and Post production was 18 months. As with many self funded films we had to fit it around our lives and get the work done as and when we could.

It felt like working on a feature due to how ambitious we were being, but we knew what we wanted and what it would require. Like most productions, persistence and a clear vision was the key.

How would you describe your film in two words!?

Unsure footing

What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

VFX is a slow process to begin with, there are a so many jobs within this area that require detailed attention. Whether it’s in roto-scoping and paint outs, green-screen, building 3D CGI spaceships and creatures, or 2D compositing.

This kind of work is usually taken on by a dedicated team of at least ten people over a period of months… …but there was only two of us.

Doing the work when we could take time off, it made the post production process scattered, stretched and at times frustrating.

But we wanted to test our limits as film-makers and not play it safe.

We knew it would be difficult, but both my brother and I come from a VFX background, so had the experience and problem solving required to get over this hurdle.

It also helped tremendously that we shared a clear direction on what we wanted to create and had a team of people at every other stage of the process, whether that was Producing, Cinematography, Acting, Music and Sound Design who were amazing at their jobs.

What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Joy and surprise – in that order.

It was great to see people not only enjoying the film, but understanding what we were trying to achieve as film-makers.

While you’re script-writing and on production and even later on in post when you can see how the edit is coming together, you really have no idea how an audience will react or if they will pick up what you were trying to do, especially in a film where you’re trying to keep them in the dark.

So to see them enthusiastic and appreciative of not just the technical aspects of making the film but the themes you were trying to explore was fantastic.

Watch the Audience Feedback Video:

When did you realize that you wanted to make films?

I was watching Shawshank Redemption when I was 10.

By the end of the film I felt like I had been through every emotion a human could experience. I had this feeling that I wanted to be able to make other people ‘experience’ moments like that as well.

I think that was the spark where I fell in love with movies and storytelling.

What film have you seen the most in your life?

Alien or Aliens, it’s a tough call – but I have seen both so many times I can nearly quote the scripts word for word! – love those films

Bladerunner, Apocalypse Now and Godfather Part 1 and 2 come close too. Honestly I have so many favourites.

What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?

Since this is my first attempt at a festival run, I couldn’t say with any conviction what would need improving. However, first on my wish list would be feedback from established Film-makers.

I think hearing from people who really know their stuff would be helpful when working on future projects and maybe even networking with professionals who would like to work on your projects or vice versa.

You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?

It has been great so far – the platform is simple to navigate and easy to use.

It has made the whole process of doing a festival run straightforward.

I also like the fact you have links to all the festival web-pages, their rules and who they cater for all in one place.

What is your favorite meal?

Possibly an impossible question haha – Does Christmas dinner with all the trimmings count?

What is next for you? A new film?

A Feature film is the next step we intend to take. An Existential Horror Comedy with Sci-Fi elements.

Or ExHorrorComSci-Fi to abbreviate. I’m sure that’ll catch on 😉

We were ambitious with our short to test out limits. Now we know them, we think we can not only handle a feature but produce something that can be entertaining and commercially viable.

This way – we can make more films and make a career out of what we really love doing – telling stories.

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival www.wildsound.ca

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