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Saturday, 26 December 2015

Safe Haven (2015)

In moments when my mind begins to wander away from whatever task I may be doing (washing the dishes, walking my dogs, driving my car......), I often ponder some of my many entertaining 'What would happen if............?' scenarios. One particular favourite of mine is the 'What would happen to us all if the world did actually succumb to hell and a hand-basket?' The optimist in me would like to think that society would still find a way, not only to survive (with me as its heroic leader), but also to keep hold of some element of decency and humanity. Who knows, in the process possibly even learning from its illogical past mistakes and evolving into a fresh utopia? However, the realist in me thinks otherwise. I don't think it will actually matter what the reason is for the world going to crap; religious fundamentalism, nuclear war, social revolution, disease or a full-blown Zombie apocalypse, the result will be the same - we'll last about 20 minutes (with me as the heroic leader) before we start eating each other...... and I don't mean in the good way.

It seams that I'm not the only one who wonders what the future holds for humanity, be it a free loving Utopia or a free eating dystopia. After all, this theme has been something of a common staple for much of science fiction and Horror lore probably since time began, as well as occupying much of the cultural zeitgeist. This theme has seemingly been on the minds of group of filmmakers just down the road from me in Scotland because earlier this week I received a request from filmmaker Stuart Gilmartin asking if I would like to watch his short film from TACHY studios that contains a distinctly dystopian feel - Safe Haven.

Well it was the week leading up to Christmas and as my loyal reader will know, I'm a goodwill to all women sort of guy - yes I know that's not how the saying goes but I damn well know what I mean.... though unfortunately, so does the local magistrate. So regardless, I put aside the annoying factor that Stuart Gilmartin isn't a girl and decided to watch said film, and then do that thing I do so well. Unfortunately due to certain restraining orders I couldn't do that, so I instead watched the film and the put some thoughts on it onto my blog.

So what is the story I hear you ask - well, its a........

........dystopian story set in an unspecified time or place, that introduces the character of Jo, an inhabitant of one of many undisclosed bunkers that were built for children from privileged families after the world began to tear itself apart. 

Wanting to encapsulate the hope for the future survival of mankind within these children, the government envisioned that one day these children would rebuild the world around them, saving mankind from the ultimate extinction. 

Having been sheltered from the outside world for the greatest part of her life however, when Jo is released from the bunker, she quickly discovers that the role she has been preparing for, is very much irrelevant in this new world."

At around 25 minutes running time, Safe Haven is a hugely enjoyable slice of dystopian Scottish film making, nicely walking the line between some interesting philosophical considerations and some very good action set pieces. This episode is the first part of a larger story and thus serves as the introduction of both character and narrative - the second of those being something I found particularly interesting. Here webare introduced to a society where the world that we once knew is gone, seemingly forever. The reason for this dystopic occurrence is never fully explained, but merely hinted at, which in truth is always something I especially enjoy. A little mystery never hurt anyone, no matter what the 'The story needs a clear narrative and resolution' brigade would have you believe.

Safe Haven clearly wears its heart and influences on its sleeve with the odd nod and a wink to a number of origins whilst still remaining distinctly original in it's own thematic approach. Yes there some clear philosophical elements about both the individual and the role of elements of society, but don't worry those of you who like your dystopian narrative not to be overly preachy or ambitious because there are a number of genuinely atmospheric and exciting set pieces - for example, the scene where the two girls first encounter the marauding tribe is especially tense and exciting.

In truth, there is very very little to dislike about this film and a whole lot to like - it looks great and makes full convincing use of Fife's wonderful landscape. It is also genuinely atmospheric at certain points and the action scenes are suitably tense and violent - and a good dose of violence never hurt anyone.......right?

The two leads are very good, with Clare Ross excellent as Jo, effectively conveying her journey from initial optimism after being introduced to this brave new world, only to slowly realise the pain and horror that  in fact awaits. Chris Capaldi is good too as the enigmatic stranger who enters Jo's life - however, he is far too good looking for his own good and I'm pretty sure that i feel more than a little threatened by him.

I would recommend that if you get the chance to watch Safe Haven, then do so as soon as you can. I'm looking forward to seeing what Stuart and TACHY studios do with the rest of the story, whether it continues as a feature length film or a further series of shorts. In fact I enjoyed the film so much I decided to see if the man himself would be yet another in the long production line of individuals who have buckled under the pressure of a 5D interview. He foolishly agreed.

Another of the Interview bits........

Q) Before I ask you about Safe Haven, tell me about what set you on the road to film direction?

Hmmm, I'm not sure what exactly set me on the path, I always had an interest in stories more so than other things. As a kid I was always reading or listening to audio tapes or watching films. when I finally got my hands on a video camera I knew film making was what I wanted to do. Admittedly I tend to lean more to the Camera side of production than directing, although I have had my fair share of directing. As I often work with a small group of the same people it becomes easier as we all have particular skills that we can trust in and everyone pulls their weight. It's a great bunch.

Q) What inspired the story of Safe Haven?

I never actually came up with the story, that was Craig Wallace, we both met on the set of another production and hit it off and quickly started working together, when he showed me the concept stuff I really like it, for me it didn't feel like it was a story that too far apart from a plausible future and it stemmed from a younger generations frustrations at the mess that was being made by those in power and feeling generally quite hopeless. To really answer the question though I've asked Craig to step in.

(Craig Wallace) - What Stuart has said pretty much says it, for me it was frustration seeing how bad the world was getting, politics, environment, religion, false ideals just being surrounded by so much crap that only seemed to get worse. safe haven was a glimpse of how I saw the world eventually going if we continue on the path we are on. In a way it was my way of venting these frustrations by writing a story set in the world I had seen. The character of Jo is almost a more naive version of myself, coming into a world she hasn't experienced much of, being made promises of security by people who quickly turn there backs on her when she no longer served a purpose. She is very much a pawn in someone else's game. I feel that's reflected in the story where everyone is out to get you, everyone has a secret and what passed as some level of society, is all built on lies and deceit.

Q) How much did the film cost to make & how was the money raised?

The film was made on about £500 and a lot of goodwill, the money was raised by the main crew, Myself, Craig Wallace, Allan Price and Simon Forrester all chipping in a bit of our own money. Most of the cash went on food for the week long shoot, as well as petrol for cast and crew, stuff for make up, it didn't go far. The pre production really made such a small budget plausible as we had scouted all the locations in advance, we had been and almost blocked things out before even turning up with actors. We spent months talking and story-boarding, doing the odd test shoot, rewriting and a lot more talking. We were lucky in that we managed to pull together all the kit we needed from stuff we already had so there were no hire costs to worry about.

Q) Some of the film locations are stunning? Where was it filmed?

I've got to say, we were really lucky with the weather, it was sunny almost all of the time, except when we came to shoot the stuff with the Tribe's camp. We shot the whole film in Scotland, mostly all in Fife, we shot at the Wemyss Caves, that supplied us the location that Dan and Jo take shelter in, as this is also right right beside the River Forth we were able get some nice locations there as well. The river was handy as we passed off as the sea. We also shot on an old abandoned railway line and Alva Glen in Alloa, the derelict buildings are a place that I've wanted to film in for a while so I'm glad to have ticket that off my list and we also set up camp in Townhill Woods for some of the stuff at night as well as the final setting for the films ending.

Q) What specific challenges & problems did you face while filming?

We had many, the film was originally meant to be a web series, and we actually began filming in November 2013 only for the whole thing to be scrapped when we lost our lead actor. So we ended up going back to the drawing board, rewriting and then re planning for a feature film, but we simply couldn't raise any funds, so finally settled on shooting the first 20 or so minutes in a hope we could get enough interest from the opening of the film to get people to invest in the project. Other issues, like other filmmakers trying to sabotage the production, that's a bit of a long story but a week before the shoot we almost had to pull the plug on it.

The toughest parts were shooting everything on location in environments that were over grown with no access to power or completely run down buildings that were falling to pieces. Scenes at night with very minimal equipment. But I think these are issues most filmmakers experience, the pre production was meticulous so we knew exactly what we were after and were able to flow quite well when the cameras began to roll. Sound was a massive issue as it was summer, a lot of our locations were in the countryside and it was right in the middle of harvest time, so we had loud beeping farm vehicles all day long, noisy planes over head, cars, etc. The entire film had to have ADR done on it.

Q) Hopefully it's not giving too much away when I say that the ending is somewhat open-ended. Is this the first of a series?

I touched on it briefly, but yes, this is essentially the first 20 odd minutes of what we had hoped to be a feature film, or three twenty five minute episodes. This part is very much an introduction to a lot of the characters and themes of the story and we hope it leaves people asking a lot of questions and wanting to see more. If it does well and gathers some momentum and a fan base, we'd like to think off the back of that we could find enough support to raise enough funding to go ahead and shoot the remaining parts of the story.

Q) What are your plans for the future?

Right now we have a feature film being developed along with one short film called “Smile” in post production, that should be out by the end of January. We also have another short film about to start pre production. We are hoping 2016 will be a busy year for us as we look to complete several of our own projects and hopefully work with other filmmakers around the country on their films as well. It's going to be an exciting year. 

I would like to thank Stuart Gilmartin for giving me some of his valuable time.

So, I hear you asking once again, just who are these TACHY studio people that you mentioned? Well I thought it best to let them answer for themselves.....

"TACHY Studios is a film & media company based in Scotland. To create, and collaborate on new and interesting projects and help to raise the bar of Scottish film. We are proud Scots, and we know that Scotland is filled with insanely talented people. We want people around the globe to realise this too, and if we believe that someone has an interesting story that deserves to be told, we want to be part of bringing those stories to fruition. :)"

So there you go.

You can find TACHY Studios on Facebook RIGHT HERE

The Facebook page for the film itself can be found RIGHT HERE

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