REDCON-1 is available now on DVD, Blu-Ray, Digiral & Netflix.
Chee Keong Cheung talks with BritFlicks about his brilliant action packed zombie gore feast, REDCON-1. If you're yet to see REDCON-1 then take a look, it's an unbelievable achievement for an independent film and shows what can be archived with dedication, determination and collaboration.
If Steven Seagal made a Zombie movie…. REDCON-1.
Q) Chee Keong Cheung tell us about REDCON-1?
REDCON-1 is an action/ horror/ war film which follows 8 special forces soldiers led by Captain Marcus Stanton (played by Oris Erhuero) who are sent into a quarantined zone in the UK amidst a viral outbreak to find a scientist who they believe may be responsible for the outbreak but also the key to finding a cure. Along the way let's just say things don't quite go as planned.
Q) How would you describe REDCON-1 in one short sentence?
A crazy, bloody action packed and intense rollercoaster ride.
Q) Where did the idea for REDCON-1 come from?
I was always a big fan of films such as Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later, Zak Snyder's Dawn of the Dead, John Carpenter's Escape From New York as well as war films such as Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down. The aim was to fuse the action and horror genres with the added twist of martial arts. Although independent I wanted the film to have a big budget blockbuster feel. The script was co-written by myself Mark Strange and Steve Horvath.
Q) How long did REDCON-1 take to make?
It's been a long journey. From idea to screen it's been over 7 years. Originally the aim was to set this up as a bigger budget proposition but for various reasons we couldn't find the right partner to make it happen without greatly compromising the vision. It can be a real challenge finding people to back an independent project. The industry norm is they want a big star to mitigate risk and help with sales.
Over the years along with my Producers in the UK, Mark Strange and Ioanna Karavela we had built up a good network of people from military vehicles, locations and extras across the country so we decided to take the leap and just make it. I was also fortunate to have some amazing creatives join the production and help support and realise the vision during the journey including storyboard artist David Russell (Wolverine, Return of the Jedi), editors Martin Hunter (Editor of Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket), Chris Gill (Editor of 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later).
Q) How did you cast REDCON-1?
It was a mixture of auditions and castings through our casting director Gaby Kester and also discussions with other Producers through suggestions and recommendations. I think I watched over 1500 showreels. From the 1500 we shortlisted to perhaps 100 people and then called them in to audition and read several scenes on camera. We also had a few actors do self-tapes. It's always great when you see the actors deliver the lines on the page and bring the script to life. As the film was an ensemble it was important to build a cast that could compliment each other.
The cast all took part in a week of military training and also a week of fight training. What was important was that the cast could do their own stunts. It was a physically demanding shoot and that was also a key factor. The lead of REDCON-1 is played by Oris Erhuero (Highlander: Endgame) alongside Mark Strange (IP Man 4), Carlos Gallardo (who was the original El Mariachi and also an Exec Producer on REDCON-1), Katarina Waters (former WWE and TNA wrestler), Akira Koieyama (Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist), Martyn Ford (Final Score) and Joshua Dickinson. We found a great young up and coming actress in Jasmine Mitchell also. I was fortunate with the amount of talent I had the chance to work with on REDCON-1.
Q) How many extras did you use?
We had over 1500 in total across the UK. We had originally put a post out on social media and various venues across the UK and BBC news picked up the story and I think we had over 6000 people contact us to be extras. The amount of local support was incredible from people of all walks of life. We had accountants, doctors, forensic detectives take part. A lot of friendships were made on set and it was great to see the bond formed. The great thing with film is its ability to connect with people and audiences. It was always very humbling to see the extras turn up on set. They were so generous with their time and also have been really instrumental in helping the film make it become the success it has been today, from joining us on the shoot to the promotional tours and turning up to support our theatrical screenings, organising events and taking part in our zombie walks and comic con. There's been a tremendous community spirit and I can't thank them enough.
Q) Where did you get the Bikers?
They were from the Millennium 2000 BC Bike Club. The contact was established through Mark Strange who was friends with the Chairman at the time, Martin Coach-Dolan. We were very grateful they came down to join us for that sequence at the end of the film which certainly added a great deal.
Q) Where was REDCON-1 shot?
REDCON-1 was all shot in the UK. We filmed in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Lancaster, Preston, Leyland, Manchester, Liverpool, Stafford, Rugby and London. It was quite an epic shoot. A lot of travelling and logistics involved but it was great having so many people from across the country get involved. My director of photography on the film was Lorenzo Levrini who was instrumental in helping to capture my vision for the film.
Q) What were the biggest challenges in making the film?
There were quite a few. I think given the budget limitations yet still trying to maintain that big wide expanse and scale onscreen certainly proved a challenge. On the bigger budget productions it can be easier when you have financial resources to solve problems but on an independent film you have to find more creative ways to approach things.
The film logistically was quite complex with the scale of extras, military vehicles, SFX, choreography of fights and closing roads down and moving from city to city. The weather at times did also cause a few issues for our exteriors but as with all things you have to find a way to keep moving forwards.
Q) What are you most proud of about the film?
Making any film is a challenge and I'm grateful and really proud that we managed to get the film made against the odds. Many people had said it wasn't possible. It's been a struggle but I'm proud to have been able to see it through each stage from conception, delivery to the marketing and release. I didn't want to be that filmmaker who kept talking about the film but instead wanted to go out and make it and I'm grateful that so many people came out to support the film both infront and behind the cameras.
I think we really pushed the boundaries of independent filmmaking and hope people enjoy the rollercoaster ride.
Q) It’s been a long journey for you and REDCON-1, how do you feel now the film is being released worldwide?
It's a great feeling. It took a lot longer than I would have liked but I've learnt so much along the way and built some great relationships. The film has personally helped open up a few doors for me in the industry. From our theatrical release in the UK to a theatrical release in Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, US & Mexico, it's very surreal but a great recognition of everyone's work on the film both in front and behind the cameras.
I've been very humbled by the continued support and belief from my US Producers including Carlos Gallardo, Kevin Eastman (co-creator of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) to Stephen L'Heureux (Producer Frank Miller's Sin City: A Dame to Kill For) who were there early on. I'm also very grateful for all the press coverage and support we have received including Britflicks who have been a great champion of independent British films.
Q) So Chee Keong Cheung, what’s next?
I'm currently reading a few scripts and have a few projects in the action space I'm developing and hope to be able to share more news with you soon.
Thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed.