Keir Burrows’ Anti Matter – available in most territories now, with a US release due in September – talks about the film’s beginnings, the ‘interesting’ approach to marketing the movie in different countries, and where he thinks the future of film distribution is headed.
Some filmmakers, for one reason or another, are forced to direct films outside of their personal interests or preferred genre. Have you been lucky enough to only work within the genre, and your preferred type of film?
Well, so far anyway, everything we’ve done – six shorts and one feature – we’ve gotten going on our own steam, y’know? I write and direct, my wife produces, so I’m telling exactly the stories I want to tell. It’s not a genre thing I don’t think. Anti Matter is hard sci-fi but none of the shorts were. My next two feature films, neither are sci-fi (one is horror, one’s a drama). So yeah, best-case scenario is I keep making my own films, my own stories. If the opportunity came along to work on something else, a franchise or a pre-existing material, I’d look at it carefully and see how or what I would be able to bring my own stories on.
How long did it take to put together the film – in terms of scripting, financing and casting – before shooting it?
Anti Matter started out as a short film script called Worm that I wrote around 2011. I never shot it as a short, I had other things that were better or easier to do at the time, I can’t remember now. A year later I turned it into a feature. Then spent a couple years developing the script, looking for finance. Once we decided, early 2014 I think, that we were going to up and do it with our own resources, it was then like an 8 month process, prepping everything, before we started. Remember, we were fitting this in around day jobs, a new child, it was very much a part time thing then. We began filming end of 2014. Taking advice from Chris Nolan, on the way he made his first film, Following, we broke the shoot up into a dozen small chunks – so we shot over almost a year, doing a day here, a weekend there. We did one big block, 13 days, for all the lab stuff.
How long has it been since it was completed?
Interesting question, I haven’t had that one yet. So… very last piece of footage was captured in August 2015. We had a very rough edit done by October. But then to get to the final edit, grade, VFX, sound mix… That final film was ready, maybe July 2016. We got our distribution deals in place by September 2016. It came out in the UK in July 2017, and in the US September 2017. Long process!
Is the film indicative of your original vision for it?
Also a good question. Nice one. It definitely exceed my expectations. I mean that as modestly as I can – we set out boldly, ambitiously, but also realistically. Imagining we would stumble through, it was as much about just making something as it was about what the final thing would be. When we actually had that first cut, and it wasn’t just coherent but, at least we thought so anyway, kind of good, I was over the moon. It had no right to be good, we had no money, no help, it should have sucked. So it’s better than I expected. Beyond that, yes, it’s close to how I imagined it. Probably weirder, more colourful, more graphic novel – than I set it out to be, I thought I’d be making something dry as a circuit board, like Primer. It’s a more strange thing than I expected.
Did you have to trim much from it in the editing room?
Yes indeed. Loads. First full cut of the film was 2h13m, final cut is half an hour shorter, 1h45m. That’s quite a lot – and it was only a few small scenes that went, so most of the trimming was taking out superfluous dialogue across the board.
How much say did you have in how the film was marketed?
None at all! No, the distributors make all the decisions on that, on a project at this level. It’s been interesting. Mostly we’ve been very happy, they have taken our concerns on board. The trailers have been great. But you know, in the UK the main art, posters and DVD etc, it has our actress Yaiza made out to be a robot, when there are no robots in the film at all. And in the US, they had her making skyscrapers explode, which also… isn’t a thing in the film. So it’s been a learning curve. But I’m easy. Fun to watch what people do with it.
Do you get to approve poster artwork?
As above! Ha, no.
Have you been lucky enough to work with a distributor that involves you in the entire process – right up until release?
Uncork’d in the US have been great, definitely. I mean we’re first-time filmmakers, we didn’t know what to expect, hardly know our arse from elbow. They’ve been great, honest and open and explained the process, answered all our dumb questions. It’s been good. Again, a fantastic learning process.
Who did you originally intend the film for and have you discovered another segment or demographic that – maybe even to your surprise – enjoys the film just as much?
I’ll have to get back to on this – film isn’t out yet in the US so we’re only beginning to get feedback, find out who is watching it.
VOD or theater. Where, if you had your choice, would you prefer your movies – not just this latest one, but all of them – be seen?
Ha, I can’t imagine there’s a single filmmaker who won’t answer theater to this question. It’s what you want. The big screen experience. If you’re making something for VOD only, it’s not cinema any more, it’s TV, TV movies. If that sounds snobby, it’s not meant as that, getting an audience is better than nothing, by a long shot. But I’m sure we all got in to this work because we love sitting in that big dark room watching cowboys, or monsters, or people fall in love, on a 40 foot screen. That’s where you want to be.
Where do you think the future is headed as far as film distribution is concerned?
We’re obsessed with change at the moment, with ‘disruption’ – it’s such an ingrained part of our business culture now that we expect it, we can’t imagine it not happening. But I just don’t see huge change ahead. Movies will still open in cinemas. DVDs will ever more be replaced by VOD but it’s ultimately a similar thing, just a different delivery system. I guess with VOD it’s good as cost to entry is far lower, and your reach is immediately massive, global. The downside being you’re competing against so many others. But if you love film, you’ll celebrate that, good stuff should rise to the top. But my thoughts are, ten, twenty years, it’s all going to be much the same as it is now. There isn’t a revolution on the horizon.
Do all these extra channels and platforms open doors for indie filmmakers?
Yes of course – as explained above.
If your movie was an answer to a question in a trivia contest what would you like the question to be?
Is there more to us than just matter?