Mol Smith's Time-travel sci-fi THE CHAIR TO EVERYWHERE is available now on Amazon Prime Video.
THE CHAIR TO EVERYWHERE Synopsis: A father and daughter invent a teleportation device designed to ultimately replace all other forms of transport on Earth. During one of the tests, the daughter disappears and fails to arrive at the receiving device. The father desperately tries to recover her with devastating consequences. A shocking mind-boggling twist in the tale of a story with many layers to excite, horrify, and explore the power of human love.
Mol Smith, can you give us a little bit of background about yourself?
I am an old git - 68 years old. I started making films in 2011 at aged 61 after a lifetime of various jobs but always wanting to be a story-teller.
At heart, I'm a story teller, and for 10 years before making films, I was a digital artist focusing on creating images of women merged with virtual 3D realities and/or 3D created artifacts, environments, and creatures. Each image tells a story encapsulated in the atmosphere and action of the single image.
I used women as central themes as I am attracted to the mystery, sensuality, and beauty of females, believing (politically incorrectly) they are stronger and profoundly superior to the male human.
I love to disrupt our thinking and the normal views we have. I want to entertain and I want people to think themselves into all kinds of weird and wonderful things, instead of being worn down by constant working for less and less money in a world with decreasing freedom.
Stories and films are our means to escape an often grim and unchangeable reality.
How did you get into film?
I turned to writing film scripts but like everyone else and their uncle, failed to find a film production company interested in making the movie. Like an innocent optimist, I thought, "It can't be very hard to make a movie..." And dived in, nose first, to suddenly and rapidly learn by exposure, mistakes, and endeavour how difficult it is with very small budgets.
The first film, TAINTED LOVE, I hired all the crew and actors, using the shooting period to help me understand the film making process. This cost me about £20,000 which I borrowed and paid back over 5 years. Big lesson here: "Don't borrow money to make films!"
Next time, I wrote another script, wanting to try and make a film for £1000.00. I realised by limiting the location/locations and the number of actors and crew, it was possible. I shot it all, lit it, directed it, and monitored the sound as it was captured by my lady partner, Lesley, who recorded the sound and held the boom pole. She was perfect, ensuring no hand noise is transferred to the stick. Patience helps secure good sound.
That film was called DARK MATTER. I have now completed six feature films and about a dozen shorts. Overall cost? About the same as a film student would pay for 3 years of learning how to make films. And I would say to any budding film maker, "Don't spend your money or get into debt paying £9000 a year to learn how to make films. Go buy a camera, a microphone and an editing suite and jump in and find out by doing it. You'll learn, faster, better, unforgettably, and come out in three years time with films under your belt and a thorough understanding of how to do it well, instead of a £40,000 tuition debt!". https://molsmith.wixsite.com/darkmatter
How you would you describe the films you make?
Em. Tough one. Most films are made to fit in with a single genre. It's understandable why. Distributors like to know their markets, and making a single genre film enables distributors to weigh up a film related to potential market opportunity. A film makes most money when it appeals to a maximum number of people. Online distribution platforms like Amazon Prime Video, for example, recently changed their algorithms so a film on their platform increases its earnings according to audience satisfaction. Films failing to appeal to the masses are slowly edged out and removed. I believe interesting stories are created by cross-genre styles. Cowboys and Aliens, for example, makes a novel and refreshing story-line. Horror and comedy work well together too. All my films are cross-genre and, by this virtue, do not appeal to large mass audiences, who I believe - without meaning to insult them - are conditioned by the current film making styles and distribution methods to expect a certain set of narrow presentations of film. My stories and thus my films try not to be restricted by narrow genre labelling, nor are they aimed at mass-media market audiences. My films are quirky in so far as they contain stories which surprise the viewer most when the story crosses from one genre to another, making it harder for an audience to anticipate the unfolding story and plot. Good examples I like are: The Forgotten (2004 film), starring Julianne Moore; Jacob's Ladder, 1990 American psychological horror film directed by Adrian Lyne; and more recently - a 2017 French-Spanish science fiction horror film, Cold Skin, directed by Xavier Gens and based on the 2002 novel of the same name by Albert Sánchez Piñol.
I write all my scripts based on the reliable actors I have come to know and have become close friends with, and based on the limited resources at my disposal. I see what bits I can pull together and then I write a script to merge those bits together in some kind of (hopefully) entertaining way. A feature film now costs me about £7000 to make, excluding the techie stuff (camera's, lenses, microphones, computers etc.) needed to produce a final result.
I don't make films to make money. I make films because I wish to infect other peoples heads with what's in my head and hope they enjoy the ride. I don't make films to eat popcorn by but to enjoy when you want to escape reality and its harsh certainty that we live in a dog eat dog world where the ordinary individual (you and I) get thrown scraps from the table of the rich elite to just about keep them fed so they have enough strength in them to clean their (the elite rich) muddy boots. I lose money making films and I always will because what I make is not aimed at maximising profit, but instead - is aimed at maximising story-telling via film for the minimum cost per film. Like many other young people today, i was bullied as a lad. Books, films, comics all gave me an escape route. I'm trying to create escape routes for grown-ups.
Tell us about THE CHAIR TO EVERYWHERE
Sure. We had completed the feature film 'Abduction 2 - Revenge Of The Hive Queen', a sequel to Abduction (both horror comedies). Two of the support actors in Abduction 2 (Polly Tregear & Sean Botha) performed very well, despite not having the lead roles. As a kind of thank you to them, I said I would make a short film with them, where they could both play the lead roles. I wrote a 20 minute script. The issue then was, I bloody well liked the script.
It conjured up lots of different facets - some of which are very dear to my heart and mind. I couldn't resist rewriting the story to fill out more detail and thus I created a near 90 minute sci-fi film which is both provocative and quite daring in what it tries to do. First of all, everyone in it appears nude. Nudity itself should not be considered, in my mind, a titillating thing or something unfit for people younger than 18. If there are no sexual acts, its just us humans, our bodies. Nothing is pornographic or sensational about that. We look at faces everyday. I see no difference in looking at bums and boobs or willies in the same kind of non-sexual way. Of course, the rest of the world - especially in this current era, disagrees with me. The current trend is that if anything offends any single person, it should be censored out of existence. If this kind of western mind-set continues, just looking at another human being, clothed or not, is likely to get you hung. Oops. Am I ranting? Sorry. Anyway, I had the script, but the story needed four additional female actors and one other male actor. A tough one when casting and telling a potential actor they have to do most of their role stark-bollock-naked. I was lucky to find four brave young actors who were pretty, with cared-for-bodies, and good acting skills who gave me their complete trust and delivered out-standing performances. I would like to name them: Jennifer Leahey, Sara Parker, Carmen Silva, and Eloise O'Brian.
The film also required two non-human actors: two quantum chairs. Now, they don't sell these at Maplin, and Amazon don't seem to stock them either, so I had to make my own. I decided to go for a more steam-punk look. The chairs should look like something these two main characters could build themselves out of near ordinary everyday materials. The interesting bit, which was creating the electric arcing effects, I thought I could do easily in post editing. Boy, was I wrong about that one. The effects took many, many, dozens of hours, often requiring frame by frame fine adjustments. I nearly gave up once or twice. It took a full six months of daily editing to colour the film and edit in the effects.
I think if folks who like sci-fi movies watch it, understanding it is made on a very low budget, and not expecting the kind of mind-blowing CGI which is created by teams of highly skilled animators which costs millions, they will get a refreshing buzz out of the story, which is deceptive from beginning to end. What you see and think, well that's me misleading you to thump a great big surprise on you at the end. That's the kind of film I like and that is the kind of film I try to make.
Where did the idea come from?
The idea is not a new one. Most stories have pre-existing and immortal themes: Beauty and The Beast, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, King Kong (1930s) and his love of the character played by Fay Wray, all share the same underlying theme. THE CHAIR TO EVERYWHERE is visually in my mind like H.G. Well's The Time Machine but it's inspired by a short story (possibly a novel) written by Arthur C. Clark, the name of which escapes me as I read it when very young. But as a central theme, I wanted to show the deep love which can exist between a father and daughter. In the film, the pretty daughter is one-hundred percent behind her father and his efforts to create a safer form of travel since his wife and her mother was killed in an plane crash. During a test of the chairs, she disappears - leaving him to struggle to find a way to understand what's gone wrong and to get her back. I wrote the short script in one evening and after reading it, and thinking about it for a few days, rewrote the whole thing into an 84 minutes script in two evenings. When you have a good story you like, it talks itself into your mind. All one has to do is write it down.
How do you cast your films?
I try to use actors I already know in main roles and bring in fresh talent to act alongside them. I look for reliability above all. Bad acting can be improved by good direction, good acting partners, and through rehearsals and retakes: bad time keeping, poor communication, risk of not turning up... well, these things can break a film at any point during the process. I love other creatives so it’s important I love the people I work with. Shooting movies can be a very stressful and labour-intensive process. If you love the people you make a film with, it’s a big bonus to enjoy each other's company. We use Mandy mostly looking for new actors. I don't do mass auditions as I'm looking for someone whom I can meet and weigh up while they weigh up me. I don't do video auditions, either. You need to be in the same physical space as another person to get an instinctive 'feel' for them. I trust my instincts more than my brain.
How do you fund your films?
Mostly, I have to wait for the right moment. Here in wealthy Oxfordshire, quite a few old ladies and gents use rural countryside hole-in-the wall cash machines. I'm not physically very strong myself so I keep my eye out for a regular one who looks weaker than me. Once I spot them, it's on with the old balaclava, and a gentle push just as they reach for those twenty pound notes coming out of that tight little metal slot, means I can normally get £200 to £250.00 in one hit. A few nights over each month normally gets the budget safely tucked away. Did I tell you I was a story-teller? Of course, it's just dark humour. I fund all the films out of my own hard-earned money. Making low-budget movies does not make money. It loses money - big-time. Fortunately, I use investments and proceeds from some of my books to fund the movies.
You used to have your films on Amazon Prime Video?
Yes, a couple are still on there. Amazon started another purge a few months ago, slowly removing my films and other independent filmmakers films also, by the thousands. They don't tell you why. From what I have learned from others, it seems (in my opinion), they opened their platform to all film makers in the start to try and build up their library and of course their Prime Video subscription fund until they had sufficient resources to start making their own movies, which they are now doing. Once they thought they were in a position to compete with Netflix, wham, bang, thank you mam, good-bye all the smaller Indie film makers. It's bad news for people who not only like big budget films but love to find little gems in the lower budgeted movie area too. and its getting like that everywhere as the streaming platforms, at least three of them, dominate the market.
You have launched Onview Cinema and host your movies on your own streaming platform via Vimeo, was this easy to do?
Relatively so. Vimeo was not set up in the beginning to act as a streaming platform although they have their VOD platform, its not easy to put your own streaming platform on there. You have to hack it a bit and pile the films under an episodic kind of umbrella. The final presentation means building a second site outside of Vimeo, in this case - www.onviewcinema.com so subscribers can see posters of the films, see trailers, and get an idea what each film is about. I set it all up on Vimeo for now but I'm looking around at various platforms and companies for a better way. www.uscreen.tv/ is one possibility. Ideally (listen up fellow film makers) I need to get a good few Indie film makers to cooperate together so we can set up our very own streaming platform. Anyone out there interested should email me straight away (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Has it proved successful and financially viable?
Too early to tell. Only just started it and still adding content to it. I think it works out cheaper for folks who like our films. You subscribe, watch them all, unsubscribe, easy-peasy, and much cheaper than paying VOD fees to watch each film in isolation.
We see you have a close working relationship with director/actor Kemal Yildirim (Rose) and are once again collaborating with him on his next film WASTELANDS, how did get this partnership come about?
Yes. We are about two thirds through shooting WASTELANDS together. Kemal and I shoot all my films together now. This is his movie though and quite different to mine. His youth, knowledge, skill and friendship are invaluable to me. We met, I think, on facebook a good few years ago. He came over to the première for cast and crew of Dark Matter and we share a similar journey making films on low budgets. But his acting skills are as good as his film making, so we made a film where he starred as the main male character. Our friendship, when we are not dragging each other around the room about how best to shoot this scene or that one (just kidding), has grown ever honest and stronger since. We'll be making more films together and due to my age and a long term health problem, his stamina and abilities are aiding my quest to make more movies. i would be lost without him now.
What’s next for Mol Smith?
Death, maybe? But if not, more film making. I'm updating my technology these coming months while we finish shooting Kemal's film. I have scripts written and once I get all the new gear working, I'll start my next movie. I also want to get more into building an indie film streaming channel along with associations with other lower budget film makers, so I'm putting in a plug for that here. We can do it lads and ladies, build our own huge movie streaming channel. All it takes is transparency and trust. Drop me a line at email@example.com
Our official web site is: http://onviewfilms.net
THE CHAIR TO EVERYWHERE can be viewed on Amazon Prime Video HERE