Welcome back to the conclusion of our chat with one Jeremy Kelly-Bakker, of the scriptwriters of the short steampunk film, Aurora, from Urtext Film Productions and Rough Cut Productions, both in Australia.
Part 1 of our interview can be read here.
Part 2 of our interview can be read here.
Airship Ambassador: This film took awhile to create and that means a lot of time and commitment from cast, crew and volunteers. What of schedule and scheduling issues did you and the crew face? How long did post production take compared to actual filming?
Jeremy Kelly-Bakker: It’s really hard to gauge how much time was put into the film. Shooting days were often 2-3 months apart due to sets not being ready or actors not being available on the same day. Chris also shot Priya which put things on hold for a long while. The post production was definitely the most intense and grueling part of the production, we were sinking about 100 hours a week into post for months on end. Part of it was us learning the techniques and then attempting them for the first time to create completed VFX shots.
AA: That’s a pretty major labor of love. What kind of effort goes into scouting for appropriate and usable locations, and then getting access to them for filming?
JKB: We spend weeks location scouting and ended up all over the place. Funnily enough, for what seems like a rather remote and frontier world, 4 of the locations were right in the city, which made recording sound an absolute nightmare at times because of planes and trucks. We were lucky to have some beautiful natural locations, too. The opening scene was shot in this gorgeous field at Myponga Beach about an hours drive out of the city. And the flashback to Emerson’s home was a really cute Bed and Breakfast by the coast.
AA: With so much location shooting, what was the mix of existing settings which only needed to be redressed, sets which needed to be physically built, and CGI/green screen?
JKB: Nearly all the sets had something done to them. The market place was shot in a working quarry we got permission to shoot in, that had one side blue screened for the background city while the market stalls were built against the sheer cliff. The mansion reveal shot is actually in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens and the mansion and mountains were all composited in later. The mansion interior is the Masons lodge in the centre of Adelaide and there was either an exit sign or fire hydrant in every single shot that need painting out. The ship is actually a pirate ship themed restaurant in the suburb of Glenelg called the Buffalo Restaurant; we would then string up our makeshift blue screens so we could put the appropriate background behind it for each scene.
AA: How has movie making changed over the years? Is it more accessible for people today?
JKB: It’s definitely becoming more and more accessible to people as it moves further and further into digital formats, and content to learn from is becoming more freely available on the internet. Though the core principles will always remain the same, it doesn’t matter how good your camera is, if you don’t understand how to light your shots or how they’re going to edit together it’s not going to make a good movie.
AA: What kind of marketing is done now post release to continue attracting new viewers?
JKB: So far it’s mostly been forums, while we’re attempting to spread the film to the various steampunk, sci fi and fantasy communities. What we really want is for it to spread through word of mouth, so someone likes it and shows their friends, who sends it to more friends and so on and so forth. We’ll know we’ve done ok when the film begins to turn up on sites without us having to do it ourselves. It’s started a little already, turning up on a few blogs and twitters but so far it’s been a bit of a slow burn. The main issue I think we have is it’s a 33 minute film where most youtube content is 3 minutes tops. Getting people to dedicate half an hour to an internet film is a huge ask and not very common. But I think as long as we’re persistent and the communities continue to enjoy what we’ve made and spread it further then we’ll get the kind of coverage we’re after.
AA: What are some memorable fan reactions to Aurora which you’ve heard about? Has anyone built a model of the Aurora yet?
JKB: Actually, I believe we were asked by one person for permission to recreate the Aurora in Second Life. I’ll be very keen to see what they come up with. I know building the ship took me ages but I guess we were designing it as we built it.
AA: Do people outside the steampunk and convention communities recognize you for Aurora? What kind of reactions have you received?
JKB: We haven’t actually managed to get it to any conventions yet. It’s a whole new ball game we’re only just starting to learn about. We only discovered SteamCon and DragonCon about two weeks after all entries had closed for both. Sadly here in Australia (Adelaide especially, it’s the smallest of the cities) we’re quite removed from convention culture which is a real shame as its something we’re very keen to get involved in. Peter Rossi (Emerson) has been recognized a few times down the street. Personally I can’t wait for the day I’m recognized for playing James, though my hair has been cut short and that’s not my natural accent as you could probably tell.
AA: As the word spreads, I’m sure that fame and recognition will find you! People continue to hear about Aurora every day. How are those new readers finding you – conventions, website, word of mouth, etc?
JKB: I think its been a mix of forums and word of mouth. But we’re really wanting to push it much further. Actually if you or anyone else has ideas of genre film festivals, conventions and gatherings it could go to we’d love to hear them! It’s a world we’ve been a little removed from as we’ve had our heads down making films, now we want to spread our work and we’re only just learning how. We’ve caught up a few times in the last few weeks to discuss the different avenues we can take to spread the word and keep the enthusiasm for the film and the world running strong. But all help is certainly appreciated.
AA: What kind of attention has Aurora generated?
JKB: Nothing huge as of yet. I think we’re around 10,000 views on youtube now which is great but still a drop in the ocean in terms of internet content. Mostly it’s been questions and responses from Forums we’ve posted on. All have been overwhelmingly positive and uplifting. The film has been online since the night of the premiere which was a little over a month ago, but we’re really wanting to build on that count as much as we can so hopefully when we do approach studios and funding bodies we can say “See these 1 million hits, that’s our existing fanbase”.
AA: Most of us won’t be able to make it to a public screening; how can people watch it at home? YouTube, Vimeo, dvd?
JKB: YouTube definitely. The whole film is online for free and we hope to generate as much enthusiasm and popularity for the idea as possible, so that hopefully one day we can see more of the Aurora crew. You can see it at www.youtube.com/aurorathefilm or at www.aurorathefilm.com.
AA: Any merchandise tie-ins for the diehard fans?
JKB: Aww man what I wouldn’t give for a toy Aurora, or a James action figure! Though I do have the 3D model on my computer. We have DVD’s and soundtrack CD’s and plenty of them. Though we haven’t really advertised them. I’d say we need to get around to that.
AA: Aurora models and action figures! Sign me up! Are there any plans for a sequel or spinoff? Will we get to see why Alina was taken from Emerson in the first place? Do the freed slaves become part of the crew? And what’s with the previous and unseen rum-running?
JKB: Oh you caught onto the rum running!? That’s brilliant! We threw a few lines in there, some reference earlier drafts and some were throw away lines we put in there to open up the world a bit. We wanted to hint at earlier adventures and hijinks so for anyone who enjoyed it could hear those and begin to expand the world a bit themselves. Many of these do in fact have interesting back stories but it’s even more interesting to hear what other people have come up with. As for the slaves, they do in fact find a home, which ties in strongly with Emerson’s wider journey. Making the transition from vengeful husband to reluctant saviour and folklore hero, but that’s another story. So we definitely have plans for something much larger so long as we have enough support and interest behind the concept.
AA: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview, and for sharing all of your hard work. Aurora was amazing to watch and engaging every time. Do you have any final thoughts to share with our readers?
JKB: Just if anyone has any questions or thoughts don’t be afraid to drop a comment in the youtube comments section. Or you can even email me direct at firstname.lastname@example.org. We try to get back to everyone and we’re always eager to hear what people have to say. And if you liked it then tell your friends, hopefully they’ll tell their friends, and then one day we’ll have enough backing to launch ‘Aurora – The Series‘ ! Hopefully this won’t be the last we see of the Aurora crew.