What’s Sublimate about?

Sublimate is a comedy/sci-fi/horror about a man that builds a machine that kills people with sound.  Underlying that is the idea of someone searching for recognition, which to some degree is something we can all relate to, even in spite of the main character’s desperate methods.  The film also taps into deeper ideas and themes about fake friendships, obsession, manipulation, broken dreams, and desperation for success.  Although it’s darkly comic and filled with weird characters and situations at its heart it poses a simple, and increasingly topical question: How far will someone go for success?

Where did you get such a crazy idea?

Roger is obsessed with the Biggles film from 1986 where the Nazi’s have a sound weapon that melts Tommies and many people say his techno ‘music’ is unpleasant to listen to, plus he was reading Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels where whole civilisations ‘Sublime’ he put these concepts together and came up with the basic idea of a man killing people with sound whilst trying to improve the human race.  After a drunken conversation in the pub the team ended up doing a short version for the 2015 Sci-fi London 48 Hour Challenge.  They knew they didn’t have the resources to compete with the high-end entries, so went the other way entirely and made it defiantly lo-fi, grungy and nihilistic.  It got a good reaction and when John suggested there was a feature in it, everyone thought he was insane. But he stuck with it, wrote a treatment that was basically a comedy about friendship and Roger added science, horror and nihilism.

Why did you appear in Sublimate yourselves?

Primarily scheduling, we knew we would always be around to compete the film, especially as we knew it was going to be a fragmented shoot over a period of months, and so tailored the characters, style and tone for ourselves, drawing on our own strengths and weaknesses.

What was it like co-directing Sublimate?

It was a fucking nightmare. You read a lot of stories about people co-directing and anticipating each other’s actions and decisions and it being an all peace and love, symbiotic relationship where there’s no tension or arguing, for us it was the exact opposite.  That said the tension and strain definitely informs the film in a lot of ways for example, when things are falling apart between Roger and John the characters, things were actually falling apart in real life.  In fact no one wants to be in the same room as Roger which should make Q&As interesting.

What camera(s) was Sublimate shot on?

Sublimate was shot primarily on a Canon C100 with a cheap (£250) but very sharp and cinematic Tamron (18-55mm) lens.  There’s also a bit of footage from a Sony PMW-200 (from when Alastair couldn’t be arsed to turn up one day) as well as GoPro 3 (and 4K GoPro 3+ drone footage Roger stole from another project he worked on) not to mention iPhone 6 footage in one of the film’s key sequences.

Why did you shoot Sublimate documentary style?

We thought it would be quicker and easier to shoot, but it wasn’t really.  We underestimated how tricky shooting complex sequences with practical make-up effects was to achieve and keep realistic.  That said we think the results are pretty awesome though, the effects are convincing and improvising dialogue took us in directions we hadn’t thought of and gave us a couple of alternative endings.  Post production was also a lot easier because there wasn’t a requirement for much sound design and people expect to see and hear a certain rawness in documentary style.

What challenges did you face?

There were lots of challenges as you’d expect when you make a film on a budget as meagre as ours but these challenges force you to think creatively.  For example, when an actor dropped out on the day of a shoot, Roger brought in a dog as a replacement, and that worked out pretty well.  When you’re working at a micro-budget level you have to think on your feet and quite often that’s how Roger came up with most of the creative and ingenious elements of the film.

What was the budget for Sublimate?

Depends if you take into account the repairs to the van someone crashed into a lamp post and the parking ticket he also got which he’s currently challenging. If he loses, that figure may rise a bit.  If Roger paid himself for all the work he did the budget would easily be fifty times what it was and if and the other people who helped out also got paid maybe fifty one times as much.

What were your influences for Sublimate?

The Biggles film from 1986 and any sort of ‘reality’ documentary TV program from First Dates to Louis Theroux with Nightmare Tenants and Evil Landlords being a favourite.  Obviously there were a lot of genre influences too.  Pi in terms of that obsession (and lo-fi-ness), early Cronenburg stuff, in particular The Fly in terms of the body horror and the Biggles film from 1986 for the death by sound.  Then there’s the found footage influence, so things like The Blair Witch Project and comedy faux documentaries such as Spinal Tap and in terms of approach we were also influenced by mumblecore filmmakers such as Joe Swanberg and the Duplass Brothers even though their films are shit their approach is very effective.

What will you do differently on your next film?

There is no next film.

What’s your next project?

Making artisan bread wraps and upcycled pallet wood furniture to sell at the local hipster market.