Part 1 of our interview can be read here.
Airship Ambassador: Your background an initial interest was in visual effects. What kind of special effects are involved? How much CGI versus good old fashioned makeup and props magic, especially in the shootout near the end?
Jeremy Kelly-Bakker: 375 VFX shots… it was ridiculous. So much CG in that film, but we were determined to create another world and so we had to do the hard yards. The end fight was hilarious to be involved in and watch. It was a bunch of adults running around with plastic pistols and wooden rifles making funny jerking actions and pretending to shoot one another in complete silence. Everything was added in later. We had to tell a few people during filming to stop making gun noises as it ruined the take and we’d put the sound in later.
AA: With all the filming that needed to happen, what wound up on the (digital) cutting room floor? Any behind the scenes outtakes?
JKB: Not a huge amount was cut, to be honest. I think maybe a line or two but what we had in the script was fairly representative of what ended up on screen. Though a few bits and pieces were shuffled around in the edit.
AA: Matthew Salleh is the Producer. What were some memorable or infamous moments guiding the whole project from inception to delivery?
JKB: Matt is a real character and gave us a lot of freedom and trust to pull the story together; he certainly played a bit of a mentor role early on. There was one epic dummy spit from Matt during the mansion fight scene, we had a bunch of dudes in costume mucking about with swords and guns and they all got a bit carried away and noisy. Everyone was especially well behaved after the huge shouting down Matt gave them. It was pretty impressive.
AA: At so many levels, filmmaking can be very time consuming, detail oriented and expensive. What partnerships were formed to create this film?
JKB: The main partnership was between Roughcut productions (which encompassed Chris, Jim and myself as the creative team) and Urtext who managed the equipment like lights and cameras, as well as the insurance and managerial elements of the film. Not that those roles were always clearly defined, it was a case of us all being in it together. It was a truly collaborative process.
AA: Focusing on the ‘expensive” aspect, what was involved in fundraising and setting a budget?
JKB: Well, the first $1500 was put up by us 3 writers, which at the time as we were all poor unit students was quite a lot of money. Then we had a small fund raiser towards the end of production that paid for the hiring of the mansion location, topping our full budget of $1800.
AA: Chris Kellett is the director, who also worked on Priya. How did this film compare to other projects?
JKB: Chris’ project Priya actually came up in the middle of shooting Aurora, so production on Aurora halted for about 6 months while Chris completed that film. Its an Australian Bollywood film, Chris is a huge fan of Indian cinema so its an incredibly different film to Aurora. Very cute, colourful and happy, with a song and dance number. Aurora actually makes a very brief appearance in it on a cinema screen. The trailer is at www.priyafilm.com but I don’t think the full film is online as the rights are held by an Indian television station that play it occasionally. It must have been seen by millions of people by now.
AA: The actors include Mark Aitchison, Peter Rossi and Nikki Gaertner Eaton among others. How did you find and attract them to the project? What was their background?
JKB: Many of them actually came through the awesome Nick Buckland who played Raegon, the cranky mechanic. He was the first actor we cast and had a very good grasp on what we were trying to do. So he was hugely instrumental in gathering up many of the cast, all of them with varying degrees of acting experience. He quickly became Nick Buckland ‘the actor pimp’; coincidentally he now owns a casting agency. Go figure…
AA: The actions scenes included a bit of swordplay. Did Mark and Peter already know fencing and just need some choreography or was more training required?
JKB: Oh, they knew nothing. It was scary watching them duel as Peter had a very sharp sword and hadn’t slept that night and Marks sword was very flimsy. They had one or two training sessions but there was very little chance to get them together and practice. But they did a wonderful job of making it convincing considering we’d given them so little time to work at it.
AA: Christopher Larkin was responsible for the music, and there is a full soundtrack for the film, not just incidental background music. What was the process for creating all of that?
JKB: Chris Larkin is so talented; the man is going to be the next Hans Zimmer. Chris K and Chris L were constantly communicating throughout the entire post period, they were always on Skype reviewing themes, tempos and how the music drove certain scenes and such. The music you hear is a product of incredible discipline and process. Not only was Larkin ok with taking direction but he also was creative and driven enough to pioneer and fight for his own musical ideas which made it even better.
AA: That’s great that people worked to be part of the film and not just take it on as another job. In film, people see the actors bringing a story to life but there are many other people involved in making a film. Volunteers are the lifeblood of any independent and non-profit group. Where did your volunteers come from and what kind of work did they do for the film?
JKB: Volunteers came from all over the place, mostly friends and family. We have quite a few scenes with lots of people, so we’d have to do a pretty big extras call to fill market places, prisons and mansions full of folk. One of the slaves taken by Emerson in the tavern was a dark haired girl, but she vaguely had to appear in subsequent scenes and couldn’t make it. So we had to use a different girl each time. I think we had 3 girls playing the one slave in the end.
AA: With all that variety of people and schedules, what was the shooting of the film like? How much was inside studio work versus on location?
JKB: Shooting the film was great fun, not only was I there helping with set construction, costuming and VFX supervising but I also played the character of James. So there was never a dull moment. Amongst the cast and crew there was an incredible sense of camaraderie and collaboration. Everything was shot on location, I think we’d used 9 maybe 10 different locations by the time we finished shooting. Though nearly every scene had a couple of blue screened windows or even a completely reconstructed environment. But every where the crew goes is a pre-existing location with digital additions.
AA: With all of that travel for on-location shooting, among other things, what differences are there between shooting on a smaller budget versus the larger studio films? What freedoms and limitations are there?
JKB: Studio films are a whole different monster. We had a lot of freedom making Aurora but it was also very grueling. Everything you see on screen we had to do ourselves, and if there was something we didn’t know we had to learn it ourselves rather than be able to pay someone to do the job. Chris and I tackled nearly all the VFX with the help of a few wonderfully talented artists who lent us their time and energy. The two of us worked 15 hours a day, 7 days a week for a number of months while slamming through post production. So while we had the freedom to set our own deadlines and design our own shots it really only got completed because of the blood, sweat and tears that went into it.
We’ll take a break here in chatting with Jeremy Kelly-Bakker. Join us next time when we talk about fan reactions and next steps.
Click here to read the rest of the interview